Tuesday, June 28, 2011

John Allen Declares The Progressive vs Conservative Wars Are Over---Guess Who Lost?

As the gay marriage vote comes in, Archbishop Dolan hides his unhappy face and prays it isn't so.


Readers may notice the side of the blog is now a little different.  I had intended to add a couple of more blog feeds to the side.  I was talking with my daughter at the same time and mindlessly managed to delete that whole section.  I remember distinctly a time when I was good at multi tasking, but back then I used to be able to put names with faces as well.  So much for all those quantum physicists who maintain that time is an illusion.

The reason I was even fiddling with the side of the blog was to add a feed for Vatican Insider.  VI is an Italian effort and it's pretty slick. I encourage readers to check it out.  It's like a hall of fame publication for global papal correspondents which means John Allen is on the roster.  He has an article which posted on 6/21 about Archbishop Dolan and Dolan's powerful status as the voice of American Catholicism. Given the gay marriage vote that happened in Dolan's Archdiocese on 6/24 maybe Allen should have waited a bit before he posted his article.   But being things are as they are I found this following part very interesting:

Beyond his charm and media savvy, what makes Dolan truly interesting for Catholics all over the world is that he’s the apotheosis of one option for the future of the Church: “Affirmative Orthodoxy.”

If generals are always fighting the last war, journalists are forever handicapping the last election. For the past fifty years, the conventional journalistic way of sizing up Catholicism has been in terms of a struggle between left and right. After more than thirty years of bishops’ appointments by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, however, that contest is largely over at the leadership level.  (I would agree with this.  It's doubly true since hardly anyone is following anymore.)

Instead, the real battle for the future runs between different currents in the broad conservative camp – between cultural warriors who see the outside world primarily as a threat, and evangelists who see it as missionary terrain. The first instinct is a prescription for pulling back, the other for meeting the world halfway.

In that tug-of-war, Dolan embodies the open, positive version of Catholic conservatism that I’ve called “Affirmative Orthodoxy”. Both parts of the formula are important. It’s “orthodox,” meaning a tenacious defense of Catholic thought, speech and practice. It’s also “affirmative,” in the sense of presenting Catholic identity in a positive key. The emphasis is on what Catholicism embraces and affirms, what it says “yes” to, rather than what it opposes and condemns. (If Dolan's version is open and positive, I'd really hate to see the closed negative version.)

Dolan is Affirmative Orthodoxy on steroids. No one can question his commitment to Catholic teaching, and most regard him intellectually and politically as a neo-conservative. He’s equally legendary, however, for a deep conviction that most of life’s problems can be solved by sitting down over a couple of beers and talking things out. If faced with a choice between reconciliation and recrimination, Dolan will invariably prefer the former.(And when things aren't reconciled to his point of view, he will do the recrimination thing--or as with the case of Bishop DiMarzio, appoint someone make the strong arm attempt at 'reconciliation'.)


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So John Allen has decreed the war between progressives and conservatives is over and that the conservatives have won, and that now it's just a matter of which conservative point of view will take the ascendancy. Hmmm.  I beg to differ.  Oh I don't disagree that the battles for Roman Catholicism will be fought amongst the conservatives.  Allen at least has the part about all the bishops which have been appointed by the last two papacies correct.  They were hand picked precisely because they are conservatives.  Allen seems to say the choice we have now is between happy face lock step authoritarian conservatives and sour face lock step authoritarian conservatives.  Some choice.  I happen to think Mathew Fox is much closer to the truth.  The current curial church  is actually schismatic.  Vatican II expressly called for collegiality and consultation between the Vatican curia and national bishops conferences and much more lay involvement.  We don't have anything close to that intent, and since Councils are supposed to trump popes, this Vatican is in schism.  But back to Dolan.

I think Dolan knows his stock took a hit with the gay marriage vote in New York.  That victory, orchestrated as it was by lay Catholics--his lay Catholics, is indicative of sea change in American Catholicism.  Lay Catholics are not paying attention to their bishops.  Not the happy faced ones, and not the sour faced ones.  The cafeteria is not just open, it's spawning numerous franchises. In spite of John Allens positive PR,  Dolan is not the face of a resurgent positive orthodoxy, he is the posterior of a positive disintegration. 

Religious Dispatches has an interview with Mathew Fox about his new book "The Pope's War".  It's mostly a rehash of what he's said before, but his answer to the last question sort of sums up my own thoughts as they pertain to the recent vote in Dolan's Archdiocese:

Polls here in America have shown that a majority of laypeople in the pews of the Catholic Church are supportive of marriage equality for gay and lesbian people. Nearly three-quarters, in fact, favor either marriage or civil unions for gays and lesbians. Will the Vatican ever catch up with its flock?

I think the Vatican in its present state is beyond redemption. I think it is a very closed boy’s club. I have a section in the book on bullying. Ratzinger is a bully. I know him. He was in a 12-year battle with me before he won, I guess, and expelled me. Part of bullying, according to the studies that I’ve found, is that the bully likes a wolf pack. That wolf pack is the Curia (the central governing body of the Roman Catholic Church). It’s interesting that he appointed 24 cardinals in December and ten of them are in the Curia. They have lots of power and it’s a very tight circle, which is of course why they don’t want women in the club, it’s a boy’s club.
The point I make in the book is that the laypeople have to take over the church, period. It’s not going to be reformed from the inside, or from the top down, at all. It’s rancid, and so, these people have to assert themselves and that’s the next step, for laypeople to realize it’s their church. They should only hire ministers who are willing to serve and not to be served, and that means starting over.

Archbishop Dolan and the USCCB are maybe beginning to get the picture that they can no longer deliver the votes and that the vast majority of their flock is not listening to their moral advice on all things sexual.  That should send them a very big message because it's a short step from ignoring them politically on sexual morality to ignoring them completely.  Catholics are being forced to make choices about how they personally relate to the Church and how they want their faith to be expressed, both privately and publicly.  In the future we will see more and more Catholics opting out of Roman Catholicism and into some form of lay driven catholicism.  That small c catholicism may not have the buildings and assets of the big C Catholicism, but it will have the most spiritually driven and openly inclusive people--- and that could turn out to be a very amazing thing indeed.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Welcoming Relationship Is No Easy Task When Rules Define The Relationship

I can laugh at this only because a relationship with another kind of priest forced me to deal with all the traditional Catholic character builders.


The following is an edited article written by Michael O'Loughlin which makes a really important point about the power of relationship with in Roman Catholicism.  I know in my own spiritual path, in the final analysis it's not the theology or sacramentality that keeps me keepin' on.  It's the people and relationships I have made a long the way. They were the kind of relationships that brought the Gospel message alive for me and challenged me to really think about the difficulty in living the The Way. As time went on, I realized relationship in all it's facets was a critical concept to understand.  It's a conceptual understanding Roman Catholicism needs to put back into it's spiritual equation.

Relationships and the Church: How to Create a Welcoming Catholicism

Michael O'Loughlin - Huffington Post - 6/21/2011

A friend once remarked that every view of the church, whether colored with praise, criticism, admiration or disdain, is the articulation of a personal relationship with the person or persons who have come to represent church in an individual's life. He said that during his career as a Catholic priest, he spoke with countless numbers of people who trace back their love of the church to caring nuns or priests. Sadly, he also heard from those who spend years and lifetimes holding on to anger and resentment because of the unkind words or actions of others who represent the church to them.

Now consider for a moment the words and actions of two of America's most notable Catholic figures: New York's Archbishop Timothy Dolan used increasingly incendiary language to fight the legalization of same-sex marriage, and Boston's Archbishop Sean O'Malley directed his officials to postpone a Mass celebrating a theme of "All Are Welcome" at a parish that is home to many gay and lesbian Catholics....

......An archbishop's preaching easily personifies "church" to many people, and Dolan employed language that left some feeling abandoned, isolated, and hurt. When asked to comment on parishioners who walked out during the service, Dolan coolly responded, "We're used to that. People have been walking away from God's law. They even walked away from Jesus so we're kind of used to that." (Dolan's principle use of relationship is to the law.  Jesus is second.)

In Boston, St. Cecilia's parish planned a Mass of welcome, set to coincide with the city's gay pride celebrations. When local right-wing bloggers found out, they launched a mean-spirited campaign to cancel the Mass. The chancery then directed the parish to postpone it. Parishioners, with the encouragement of their pastor, held a prayer service on the sidewalk in front of the church, reminding participants that all are welcome in Christ's church. O'Malley, who has tried valiantly though ineffectively to promote respect for gay and lesbian people while calling their actions sinful, used his office literally to shut a marginalized group of faithful Catholics out of the church and relegate them to the sidewalk.

Why are the words and actions of these two archbishops so troubling? If my friend is correct that personal relationships have an abundance of power in shaping one's views about the church, then there is trouble ahead for the Catholic church. Americans today have siblings, parents, friends and co-workers who are openly gay and lesbian. Christians are increasingly willing to live their lives fully and wholly, rather than hide their orientation to fit in at their churches.

Rightly or wrongly, Dolan and O'Malley, and others in positions of authority in any denomination, most easily personify church to the faithful.......

..........What is the antidote to this institutional downward spiral, where the church is viewed not as the defender of the weak and vulnerable, but as the enforcer of an antiquated morality? The hope lies in the truth that relationships hold unparalleled power in helping individuals find self-acceptance through God's radically unconditional love.......

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For too many of our religious leaders, insisting our relationship to religious dogma and doctrine supersedes our relationship with people is the lazy way out.  This  is true even when this notion of doctrinely defined type of relating is aimed at our relationship with God.  If God truly meant that we were to place relating to an intellectual defined construct of Him over our need to learn to love through relationship with each other, He would never have bothered to incarnate in the much more immediate human form of Jesus.
When God chose to become human and to relate to us as human, God chose to put his human creation on the more difficult relational path.

The real message in Archbishop Dolan and Cardinal O'Malley's actions is that our relationship to Catholic law is more important than our relationship to fellow members of the Body of Christ.  This is precisely the opposite of what Jesus actually taught.  What makes this attitude more unwelcoming for gays is that the Church's relationship towards them becomes defined by sin.  Gays the are related to as sin, and because this is so, it doesn't matter to the official relationship if gays don't commit any of the sins by which the Church chooses to define them.  Hate the sin, love the sinner  is an impossible thing to do when sin defines both sides of this equation.  Even in this constantly used facile statement, by definition we are relating to the sin because we are told to love the sinner.  If we were going to be more generous this should state 'hate the sin, love the person'.  No other class of Catholic is defined this way.  No wonder gays have a tough time finding a healthy way to relate to the Church.

But gays are only one class of person the Church relates to in a legalistic rather than personal way.  Women are another class.  Women are 'ruled out' out of things far more than they are 'ruled into' things. The latest example being the Vatican decree that altar girls are not to serve at the Extraordinary form of the Mass.  By any reasonable standard of relationship, the legal structure of the Church relates to women as 'less than' men.
It's no wonder our younger generations, who have grown up being taught to relate to people as people, are rejecting institutional Catholicism which still insists on relating to it's flock through rules and regulations.  

The exact same process of relating via rules explains the hierarchy's usual method of dealing with abuse victims. The rules say priests are more important than laity, especially children, and so the Church has used every legal strategy imaginable to protect the more important 'class' of Catholic over the least important 'class' of Catholic. A truly authoritarian structure based in hierarchical definitions of importance never places much value on the 'least' of it's defined classes.  Human dignity is parceled out according to the given food chain.  It is never an intrinsic identity.  It is an earned identity.  This style of relationship is absolutely contradictory to the message and teachings of Jesus.  He flipped the criteria on which we are to relate to each other.  Even the very least of us, at least by worldly definition, are worthy of full human dignity, are worthy of being related to as full children of God, are fully human before we are anything else, and in fact come first in Jesus' relational scheme of things. As such no one belongs on the side walk looking in.  We belong around the altar sharing in this truth.  It may not be what most of us want to believe, but it's exactly what Jesus demands of us.  For some of us this whole notion seems to be a cross to heavy to carry, and that is really sad.







 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bishop DiMarzio Throws A Hissy Fit Over The Gay Marriage Vote In New York



It sounds like Bishop DiMarzio never learned to deal with not getting his own way.  Perhaps he should have a random tantrum fruit cup and call it a day.  Well, maybe not a fruit cup, maybe the cranky pants french toast. But I suspect there's more to his tantrum than just losing a political battle.  Perhaps it's how the USCCB lost this particular battle.  But first DiMarzio's tantrum.

Today, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature have deconstructed the single most important institution in human history. Republicans and Democrats alike succumbed to powerful political elites and have passed legislation that will undermine our families and as a consequence, our society. (I kind of thought war did that, but what do I know?

With this vote, Governor Cuomo has opened a new front in the culture wars that are tearing at the fabric of our nation. At a time when so many New Yorkers are struggling to stay in their homes and find jobs, we should be working together to solve these problems. However, the politicians have curried favor with wealthy donors who are proponents of a divisive agenda in order to advance their own careers and futures.  (Well, maybe NOM should change it's name to National Organization for Jobs.)

What is needed in our state is leadership and not political gamesmanship. (What if your political gamesmanship had won, would you still call this political gamesmanship?)

In light of these disturbing developments and in protest for this decision, I have asked all Catholic schools to refuse any distinction or honors bestowed upon them this year by the governor or any member of the legislature who voted to support this legislation. Furthermore, I have asked all pastors and principals to not invite any state legislator to speak or be present at any parish or school celebration. (The ole 'take you ball and run home' response.)

The above request is intended as a protest of the corrupt political process in New York State. More than half of all New Yorkers oppose this legislation. Yet, the governor and the state legislature have demonized people of faith, whether they be Muslims, Jews, or Christians, and identified them as bigots and prejudiced, and voted in favor of same-sex “marriage.” It is mystifying that this bill would be passed on the last day of an extended session under the cover of darkness. (Only because your side held up the vote for ever and ever and ever.)

This issue has been framed as upholding marriage equality. This is not the case since one of the principal purposes of marriage is to bring new life into the world. This cannot happen in same-sex marriage. It is not a civil rights issue, but rather a human rights issue upholding the age-old understanding of marriage. Our political leaders do not believe their own rhetoric. If they did, how in good conscience could they carve out any exemption for institutions that would be proponents of bigotry and prejudice?  (Yes it can.  Lesbians do it all the time, but then your real issues aren't with lesbians, are they?  And you and your fellow bishops were the ones who insisted legislators carve out exemptions the make you the proponents of bigotry and prejudice.)

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It seems I keep writing that in this incoming new understanding of human consciousness that the traditionalists will get sillier and sillier as they get more and more desperate.  DiMarzio must be pretty desperate because this tantrum is pretty silly.  Especially the last line of his diatribe.  It could be that I am totally misunderstanding his point, but I've read this a number of times and keep coming up with the same understanding.  It's their own insistence on these religious exemptions that make them look like bigots and maybe that's because they are bigots. The USCCB could have just trusted that the State of New York had enough sense to make the legal separation of sacramental marriage vs civil marriage two distinct concepts.  It is after all, federal as well as state law.  Traditionally, these two views of marriage were separate, and in fact the state recognized marriage as a contract long before the Church recognized it as a sacrament.  But then what do laity know?

I would like to give DiMarzio credit for enforcing his blanket ban on Republican and Democratic politicians on church property, but I suspect certain politicians who voted 'right' will be allowed to give and accept awards.  My guess is these will be for pro life kinds of things.  DiMarzio wouldn't want to look too hypocritical.  I also suspect his fellow members in the USCCB are not too happy with his single sided broadside blast.  It makes them all look like proponents of bigotry and prejudice.  Maybe they are---at least the ones who aren't retired.


And one last little correction.  DiMarzio states in this tantrum "more than half of all New Yorkers oppose this legislation." That's not true.  Here's the headline from an article in the January 27, 2011 New York Daily News:

Gay marriage supported by record number of New York voters: 56% according to new poll  ----This is the NY Daily News, not the NY Times.


But there was something else I wondered about. Why was DiMarzio so insistent that big money paved the way. I took this to mean bigger money than the Roman Catholic Church had brought in for the support of Republican legislators. Turns out this was true. Big, usually Republican money, did, in fact play a very big part. And Democratic Governor Cuomo was the real leader in this effort. The following is from Boston.com

....Would the donors win over the deciding Senate Republicans? It sounded improbable: top Republican moneymen helping a Democratic rival with one of his biggest legislative goals.
But the donors in the room — the billionaire Paul Singer, whose son is gay, joined by the hedge fund managers Cliff Asness and Dan Loeb — had the influence and the money to insulate nervous senators from conservative backlash if they supported the marriage measure. And they were inclined to see the issue as one of personal freedom, consistent with their more libertarian views.
Within days, the wealthy Republicans sent back word: They were on board. Each of them cut six-figure checks to the lobbying campaign that eventually totaled more than $1 million.

I also think the Boston.com article hits on the real reason for DiMarzio's tantrum as the article goes on to say this:

The story of how same-sex marriage became legal in New York is about shifting public sentiment and individual lawmakers moved by emotional appeals from gay couples.
But, behind the scenes, it was really about a Republican Party reckoning with a profoundly changing power dynamic, where Wall Street donors and gay-rights advocates demonstrated more might and muscle than a Roman Catholic hierarchy and an ineffective opposition.

The days of Roman Catholic Bishops having a huge say in how the United States of America politically operates is over. The game has changed and they are not the players they once were--even in the Republican party. This is all probably indicative of how the abuse crisis has affected their moral voice, but more than that, I think it's indicative of how far out of touch they are with where society is moving. It isn't about sexual acts. Married heterosexual couples engage in contraception and the same kinds of sexual acts as gay couples. Maybe, finally, it's about validating love. That's a good thing. That's a Jesus thing. 


 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Another Day, Another Country, Another Story Of The Heart Break Of Clerical Pedophelia

This 'technicolor eccentric' was also a sadistic pedophile.


There's a truly sad story making the rounds in Britain and Ireland involving the missionary religious order the Rosminians.  The story is about Fr Kit Cunningham who had spent ten years in Tanzania and reportedly sexually abused a number of the boys he was supposed to supervise.  He subsequently became pastor of an influential parish in London and presented an entirely different face.  The following article from the Guardian UK written by Peter Stanford eloquently describes the confusion Cunningham's truth wreaked on his flock, friends, and admirers.  This aspect of the abuse crisis is rarely discussed, which is unfortunate, because this damage is very real.

He was my priest and my friend. Then I found out he was a paedophile

All journalists like seeing their articles discussed on television, even when they're being challenged, but the sight of John Poppleton holding a copy of an obituary I wrote earlier this year for the Guardian made me feel profoundly ashamed.

The subject was Father Kit Cunningham, the Catholic priest who had married us, baptised my son (who shares his Christian name) and was a family friend for 20 years. "A Technicolor eccentric, and widely loved as a consequence," the obituary read.

"I find this," Poppleton said, brandishing the newspaper cutting to camera as if it were contaminated, "offensive. This priest was a monster."

Poppleton had been repeatedly sexually abused as a young boy by Fr Kit, an experience that he says "broke me down and broke my spirit". The abuse took place at St Michael's, Soni, in the 1960s, in what was then Tanganyika, now Tanzania. Four of the priests who taught there, all members of the Rosminian order, and including Fr Kit, perpetrated physical and sexual abuse that made this boarding school, according to Poppleton, "a loveless, violent and sad hellhole"
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He is not alone in his trauma. In Abused: Breaking the Silence, a documentary to be shown on BBC1 on Tuesday, reporter Olenka Frenkiel hears from other former pupils at Soni about how they were subjected to a regime of sexual abuse from which they were powerless to escape. Some of them, grown men, break down in tears on camera as they recall being photographed naked, hauled out of bed at night to have their genitals fondled, and worse.

I say worse because I struggle to repeat what I heard, and to reconcile the Fr Kit that Poppleton describes with the amiable, kindly, dedicated parish priest I knew for the years, long after Soni, when he was rector of St Etheldreda's, the oldest Catholic church in London.

In my obituary of him in January, I wrote as I found. A week after publication I received an email. "It is good that he is remembered for his good," my correspondent began, "but there are many who will remember the other side of Kit… a sexual, physical and mental abuser. It would be good if you just let him rest in peace, but I finally reacted as there was too much praise going on for this deviated creep."

Deviated creep? In almost three decades of writing about the church, and a lifetime as part of it, I thought I knew how to read a priest. Since the 1990s, when the scandal of paedophile priests first emerged in the public domain, a question mark has been hanging over almost every cleric as a result of the church's cover-up. Almost every priest, but not, for me, foolishly imagining myself a seasoned observer, over Fr Kit. His vices appeared pretty obvious – drink, obsessive attention to restoring his church, and what looked like an overly close friendship with the (female) parish secretary, who shared his love of wine. But here was a letter telling me Fr Kit was a paedophile.

My first (shameful) instinct was to wonder if my correspondent might be mistaken, but he had included in his note a means of testing his claim. "Suffice it to say," he wrote of Fr Kit, "he returned his MBE to the Queen last year when his past demons came to haunt him." That was something I could check easily. It was true.

A correspondence developed. I am not going to name the other party because he made clear he didn't want that. He is not part of the group of 22 ex-pupils of Soni pursuing a legal case for compensation against the Rosminians. But he was abused there, as was his brother, or so he believes. The two have never discussed it.

As part of that correspondence, I saw the letters of apology written by Fr Kit before his death, and by the other accused (all of whom are still alive, and living in a comfortable retirement home run by the Rosminians in the home counties). They are also shown in the documentary. All are general in tone and claim not to remember specifics or individuals. Perhaps they have blotted them out, or perhaps they have been told by a lawyer not to incriminate themselves. "Poor", "vague", "not from the heart" are the onscreen reactions to these mea culpas from their victims. "I'd like to hear a lot more," one comments.

In one sense the story of Soni is another appalling example of a by now sadly familiar tale. I say that not to play down the suffering of the victims, but rather to acknowledge that the torment of Poppleton and his fellow pupils at St Michael's mirrors the experience of many others, widely reported, at the hands of abusive paedophile priests.

There have also been repeated public expressions of regret by the Catholic authorities as these scandals have emerged all round the globe, revealing this as an endemic problem in the church rather than, as Pope John Paul II originally suggested in 2002, a case of a few bad apples.

Bishops and cardinals have pledged to confront past wrongs, to work with victims to address their pain and to set up procedures to make sure nothing of this kind ever happens again. However, Frenkiel points out in her film that on the day that Pope Benedict XVI, during his visit to Britain last September, was in Westminster Cathedral expressing his "deep sorrow to innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes", the Rosminian order was writing to refuse to pay any compensation for what it has openly acknowledged are the crimes of four of its own priests.

There is a running debate that takes place at the gates of my children's Catholic primary school. "What are we doing?" parents ask each other, "sending our children to a school run by the Catholic church when we are reading about the abuse in its schools elsewhere that it has covered up?" (Parents are asking this same question in Kansas City-St Joseph too.)

The ready answer – and I have been as ready as anyone else to utter it – is that most allegations concern episodes several decades ago, our school is a warm, loving, nurturing place, governed by extremely strict rules of conduct (I am the safeguarding governor) and that, more broadly, Catholicism in Britain has set up a system to ensure no abuser will ever again use the church to prey on children.

Then I found out about Father Kit and it has shaken me out of my complacency and shaken my faith – shaken it because here is a religious order still reluctant to own up to the damage its members have done. The Rosminians appear, to this Catholic at least, to be placing defending the institution – ie their order, its good name and its properties – above a heartfelt acceptance of the catalogue of depression, broken marriages and suicide attempts recounted by victims in the documentary. Yes, I know that compensation money doesn't wipe the slate clean, but it is the most common way our society has of shouldering the blame.

And shaken it too because I felt that Fr Kit was a priest I could trust. If he kept his "dark side" so well hidden, if the church authorities allowed him to keep it so well hidden that even the Queen awarded him an MBE, what of all the other priests I admire for their work with the poor and marginalised? Who can I trust now when my children go into the sacristy to be altar-servers? And if I am struggling to trust priests, what on earth am I doing in the church at all? (Coming face to face with the certain knowledge the clerical system must be reformed or expunged from the Church.)

Such questions might nag away slightly less insistently if I thought the Catholic authorities were genuinely trying to understand the root causes of this scandal. But this month the quasi-official Catholic Truth Society published a booklet on clerical sex-abuse that blames it on the "permissive society" of the 1960s. So while everyone else took sexual liberation to mean you didn't have to wait until you were married, priests took it as licence to abuse children?

When I think about Fr Kit today, as well as a powerful feeling of betrayal, happy memories of time in his company continue to crowd in, making me feel as if I am part of that culture of cover-up and denial of abuse. It is probably a process that everyone goes through who discovers, out of the blue, that a trusted family friend is an abuser. How to reconcile my image, there in our wedding pictures, of genial Fr Kit with the younger, slimmer version photographed at Soni in old home-movie footage, unmistakable in his TV-screen specs, but soon to abuse another helpless boy? So far, it has proved impossible.

The church would urge greater understanding of human frailty and forgiveness. On a broader canvas, that distinctive demand for forgiveness in a secular society that is ever more punitive keeps me going to mass every Sunday. But for forgiveness, there must also be genuine acknowledgement of the damage done. Privately returning your MBE when on your deathbed, without explanation, doesn't quite count. Neither does refusing compensation, or holding a memorial service for Fr Kit where not a word of this scandal was breathed.
As an institution, despite claiming to have turned over a new leaf, the church – still, falteringly and often uncomfortably my church – emerges from this particular story as failing distressingly to practise what it preaches.

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And so another parish in another part of the world tries to come to grips with a charismatic pedophile priest and a Church body that refuses to acknowledge it's complicity in said priest's activities, refuses to offer justice to victims, refuses to deal in any remotely pastoral actions, and leaves even more victims in it's wakeIn the meantime the Vatican organizes more dog and pony shows in preparation for the Pope's visit to Germany.  Germany, of course, is another country dealing with the aftermath of it's own clerical abuse scandals.  I'm sure the Vatican is working over time attempting to grease wheels for this particular dog and pony show.


 Eventually, I hope enough lay Catholics and priests of integrity can understand there will be no real healing for anyone until there is reform in the clerical system.  Until then, the abuses, the cover ups, the corruption, the denials, the blaming of everyone else, and the apologies given in the place of real justice will continue.  Until the laity take the priesthood off the pedestal and really look at priests as human beings and not the mini gods who grace our family tables and baptize our children, well meaning Catholic laity will continue to be duped by the anti social narcissists who get through to ordination. And at that point these 'priests' will be free to plunder as they see fit because no one who should hold them accountable, will hold them accountable.  That just has to stop.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Latin To The Rescue In A Divided Kansas City-St Joseph Diocese

According to the Kansas City-St Joseph worship committee, this activity will bring unity to a very divided diocese.  I'm not kidding.


I am finally at a loss for words.  In the interests of unity and prayers for Bishop Finn's intentions and to shine light in all the darkness, the Diocese of Kansas City-St Joseph is inviting one and all to a.......Latin Mass.  The following is the full text of an email sent out by the Diocesan Worship Office.

The Holy Mass is being celebrated principally to give much glory to God through the ancient and sacred liturgy that is the Extraordinary Form, with all beauty and reverence. But it is also purposed to promote unity, which is borne of a common history or tradition - hence why we have opted for a Solemn High (Traditional) Mass.


So whether one identifies as a "charismatic" or a "traditionalist" or something in between, we can all appreciate that which has been celebrated by the Catholic Church for hundreds of years. How glorious will it be to see those of your fold theretofore unacquainted, alas even divided by the aforesaid labels, kneeling next to one another in the pews! Amidst all the discord and disunity during this present darkness, let there be light!

Toward this end, we have quite intentionally arranged for three priests of somewhat disparate callings to unite in the celebration of this Holy Mass. Specifically, Canon William Avis of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest will celebrate the Mass, assisted by Fr. John Fongemie of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (deacon) and Fr. Evan Harkins of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph (subdeacon). Deacon Wehner, Director of Sacred Liturgy for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, will serve as Master of Ceremonies. Seeing these priests come together for a common end - namely, the greater glory of God - will do more for unification of the flock than a myriad private prayers.

I really hope you can help me in publicizing this event. Because this Mass is being offered for the intentions of Bishop Finn and for unity among his flock, and because footage of the Mass is potentially to be acquired by EWTN, we are really hoping for a full house.

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The next time I read some traditionalist spouting off about how the left uses the sexual abuse crisis for their own 'agenda', I will point them to this article.  Forget about any abuse victims or irritated parents, if enough 'unifiers' show up, EWTN might even televise it.  Imagine that.

This reminds me of the school of thinking which believes if you throw a big enough show, the masses will be distracted and over look administrative malfeasance.  This is actually kind of apropos since that was ancient Rome's favorite trick and the current Kansas City Catholic emperor is doing his best to return things to ancient imperial Rome and all for the glory of God.  I did notice though, that Finn himself is not celebrating this Solemn High Mass, which means he's giving up a chance to actually wear his cappa magna.  But this is the line that got me laughing hysterically:
   
"Seeing these priests come together for a common end - namely, the greater glory of God - will do more for unification of the flock than a myriad private prayers."

Nice to know that four priests mumbling Latin is worth more than a 'myriad' of private prayers, and that just 'seeing' these priests come together, is all the laity need do.  Don't have to pray or anything, just come and see and oh yea, kneel on cue--EWTN cameras don't need to catch pew potatoes fumbling through the kneeling parts.

In the meantime there are hurting and angry parents in the Diocese of Kansas City-St Joseph.  Parents whose children were exploited for the sexual pleasure of one priest.  There could be victims of something other than Ratigan's prurient photography that no one knows anything about, and yet Finn's diocese engages in Latin spectacle as a healing strategy.  I keep thinking this has got to be a joke, but the fact it's not is almost incomprehensible.

It's beginning to look more and more like conservative Catholic bishops are indeed waging a war against their own laity.  I say keep it up because the time is getting closer and closer when laity who have sat in the pews hoping for sanity will eventually realize they are not going to get any sanity.  They are only going to get deeper levels of insanity--

And speaking of insanity,  there is another situation I've recently blogged about that also has it's insane moments.  Check out this link from some other pastoral puppies following in the Black Sheep Dogs' paw prints.  Warning, be prepared to howl.  

Social Justice For A Beloved Priest Leads To Confrontation With A Bishop



Yesterday the National Catholic Reporter had a story about a parish in California which has had enough of the pastoral actions of their current parish priest.  Saint Joseph the Worker Church is in the Diocese of Oakland under Bishop Salvatore Cordileone.  Cordileone is in the USCCB's very right wing,  Raymond Burke having been one of his co consecrators.  He followed Archbishop Vigneron after Vigneron's appointment to the Archdiocese of Detroit.  Readers are probably more familiar with Cordileone as one of the driving forces behind the Catholic involvement in California's prop 8.  Cordileone once proposed to the USCCB that contraceptive use be raised to the level of actions constituting grave matter.  His proposal was defeated, leaving contraception objectively immoral.  He's definitely in the Burkian wing of the USCCB.

St Joseph the Worker Church has never been in the Burkian wing of the Catholic Church and neither is their current pastor:  Here's an excerpt from the NCR article:

During his homily, Cordileone spoke about the call to “live in communion and harmony,” referring to the day’s Second Reading, but he did not make any specific reference to the growing conflict within the parish.
Nor did he come outside after Mass to address the assembled group. In fact, when some of the demonstrators entered the church after the Spanish-language liturgy to speak with him as he greeted other parishioners, the police were called. (That's not too pastoral.)

At issue are a number of actions taken by Direen since he became pastor two years ago. These include disbanding the parish and finance councils, limiting participation of El Consejo Latino (the Spanish-speaking advisory council), removing the social justice committee from a list of parish ministries, turning the parish’s primary meeting space into a religious gifts store, and asking a respected resident priest to move.

The breaking point came three weeks ago when he told the pastor emeritus, Fr. George Crespin, to leave the parish by the end of the month. Crespin has lived at the parish for 30 years, first while serving as diocesan chancellor and later as pastor. He retired in 2005, but continued to minister to the parish’s large Latino population. (Shades of AB Vigneron throwing Bishop Gumbleton out of St. Leo's in Detroit.)


Unhappy parishioners insist that Crespin’s eviction is just the latest example of the pastor’s arbitrary decision-making. In meetings held at a community center blocks from the parish church, parishioners said they want a pastor who respects them, involves them in discerning the direction of parish life, and has an open style of communication. (Treats them like adults in other words.)

“We want a good pastor,” said Vivian Zelaya. “We don’t want to lose our church.”
Some English-speaking parishioners, including several parish lay leaders, have left the parish in the last 18 months because of their unhappiness with the pastor and there is fear that many Hispanic parishioners will also migrate to neighboring parishes.

St. Joseph the Worker Parish has a long history of civic involvement. It provided a safe haven for Cesar Chavez, founder of the United Farm Workers, when he was receiving death threats, and was a sanctuary church for Central American refugees.


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

It doesn't seem to me that calling the police on one's parishioners demonstrates a working relationship, but then I've been heavily trained in the art of de escalating situations and resorting to the police is usually considered failure to de escalate. This does not seem to be a good situation at all, but from anecdotal stories from around the US, it's not novel.  Priests are taking back 'their' parishes, and they are not being subtle about it.  St Joseph's is novel only because a significant portion of the laity are upset enough to act, but even that took the forced removal of their previous priest, a man who had been in place for thirty some years.

Thirty years is a long time.  I can see where that might be just a tad bit intimidating for the man slated to replace him.  But pretty much destroying that man's previous efforts is not how one replaces an icon.  It's how one wages war.  This particular parish has a history of fighting such battles, taking on city and federal government, immigration enforcers, and big farming.  I will follow this story with interest because now St Joseph's is following it's historic call for social justice by taking on Church authorities.  So far the Church hasn't responded any better than the government did with Caesar Chavez.  

Cordileone might want to rethink his options before his purposeful silence precipitates more action.  Parishes are communities first and property second.  When push comes to shove, people will defend their community because it's the community that really gives them their identity, not the property.  St Joseph's has an identity and a history for which they can be justifiably proud. I suspect it's an identity and history which won't be overcome by crozier rattling and longer Adoration hours--or the presence of police.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

John Corapi's Religious Superior Speaks Out ---The Story Gets Even Stranger

This is not John Corapi.  It's Anton Lavey founder of the Church of Satan.  Why would John Corapi emulate this look?



Levay resemblance aside, the Corapi thing is really getting under my skin.  I sense there is quite a bit more to this story than any of us know.  Today I read this article from Corpus Christi's retired Bishop Gracida. Gracida is a right wing nut  who graced the Diocese of Corpus Christi with Corapi and the religious association, the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, to which Corapi is ostensibly attached.  In it Gracida waxes way too eloquently about Corapi and throws Corapi's accuser to the dogs.  He also mentions a civil action Corapi has initiated.  I knew this would flush out more information.  What follows is an excerpt which includes the thoughts of a SOLT spokesman.  It was posted on the National Catholic Register.  This publication was owned by the Legion, but now it's owned by EWTN.

.....Posted on YouTube and on the website of Santa Cruz Media, the company led by Father Corapi that distributes his bestselling catechetical materials, the announcement shocked his many supporters, some of whom had vented their anger at the priest’s religious superiors and at EWTN and other media outlets, which suspended his programs after the allegations against him became public. The Register is a service of EWTN.
Raising more questions than it answered, the message did not state the precise reason why Father Corapi chose to resign from the priesthood, rather than waiting for the outcome of SOLT’s investigation of the alleged misconduct.

However, Father Gerard Sheehan, regional priest-servant of SOLT and Father Corapi’s religious superior in the U.S., confirmed June 19 that the order’s investigation faced complications created by a civil suit filed by Father Corapi against the former employee who had accused him of sexual misconduct.


“When she left the company, she signed a contract that she would not reveal anything that happened to her while she was at Santa Cruz Media. Father Corapi paid her for this. Father was suing her for a breach of contract,” said Father Sheehan, though he did not specify why Father Corapi had initiated the non-disclosure agreement. (Isn't this interesting.  Why would Corapi need such an agreement?)

The civil suit against the former employee created a problem for SOLT investigators.
“In canon law, there can’t be any pressure on witnesses; they have to be completely free to speak. The investigation was compromised because of the pressure on the witnesses. There were other witnesses that also had signed non-disclosure agreements,” said Father Sheehan.  (Seems dear old ex Fr. Corapi was being very pro active for some reason.)

“The canon lawyers were in a difficult situation, and Father does have his civil rights and he decided to follow his legal counsel, which he had a right to do,” he said. “We tried to continue the investigation without speaking to the principal witnesses.” (That would be quite difficult.)

The investigation was halted after Father Corapi “sent us a letter resigning from active ministry and religious life. I have written him a letter asking him to confirm that decision. If so, we will help him with this process of leaving religious life,” said Father Sheehan.

He expressed disappointment that Father Corapi chose not to remain in SOLT and to refuse the order’s invitation for him to live in community, leaving his Montana home. Father Sheehan said he had tried to arrange a meeting with Father Corapi before any final decision was announced, but had not heard back from him. Father Sheehan said that SOLT would issue a statement shortly.

“We wanted him to come back to the community, and that would have meant leaving everything he has. It would have been a drastic change for him,” Father Sheehan said. “We will continue to move pastorally and charitably, taking steps to protect his good name.”  (Yea I'm sure leaving his White Fish, MT residence for dear old dusty Texas would be hard.)

Father Corapi’s YouTube message did not address his relationship with SOLT religious authorities. Though his statement reads “I love the Catholic Church and accept what has transpired,” it offered a conflicted message on the respect due the Catholic hierarchy.


On the one hand, Father Corapi affirmed the right of the bishops to implement new guidelines for addressing clerical misconduct. Yet, he persistently attacked the logic and integrity of those guidelines, and sharply criticized Bishop William Mulvey of Corpus Christi, Texas, for taking action to forcibly remove him from active ministry. (Poor Bishop Mulvey got stuck with Gracida's problem child.)

Speaking of Gracida, his post assumes Corapi will wait until the suspension is lifted and come back as a full time priest. Ahemmmm.  But, in the meantime Corapi can, well, do this:

......Now, until his suspension is lifted, he is free from the Church’s prohibition on clerics participating in the political life of the nation.  Given his past outspoken criticism of the current slide of our government to become more and more like the socialist governments of Europe, I think that we can expect to hear The Black Sheep Dog speak out more openly on the burning issues we will face in the election year of 2012.  I know from my own experience that God sometimes “writes straight with crooked lines” as the Portuguese put it, and so perhaps God is using this new (unwanted) freedom from ecclesiastical restraint to permit The Black Sheep Dog to say some important things in the next 16 months on those burning issues.

Ooohh, I think I see the plan.  Forget little ole EWTN, Fox News is calling.  Take that Glen Beck.  This is just a guess, I don't have any inside information.  So to speak.

There is however, a couple of other things I find quite interesting.  Corapi applied for trademark rights to the name 'Black Sheep Dog' in April of 2010That's over a year ago.  Hmmm. Well maybe it's just because he knew the name of his forthcoming autobiography was going to be Black Sheep Dog and he wanted to protect movie and souvenir rights--or something.  We do know when the embattled Fr Eutenuer visited Corapi up in White Fish last July, right before Euteneur resigned from Human Life International--in disgraceful circumstances--that Corapi more or less left him to fend for himself.  So much for being a spiritual advisor to a priest who was in serious trouble in his guise as a 'spiritual warrior' and exorcist.  

The similarities between these two priests is uncanny.  Both exaggerated their military careers, both became EWTN talking heads, both have accusations of sexual impropriety with women, and one was the other's spiritual advisor.  Makes one wonder if there are other connections between the two erstwhile spiritual warriors that we know nothing about.  

Whatever Corapi intends, whether it's just plain ole American commercialism or something else, you can not take the anti social personality out of the anti social person.  Corapi's history seems not to be the exception to this rule, his ordination by JPII not withstanding.  There was no miracle that day.  I feel really bad for conservative Catholics who bought in to the shtick these guys gave them on EWTN.  There is a difference between acting and being.  I just think Roman Catholicism is going to be paying a huge price for a long time because of the fact too many people can't seem to get this difference.  There really is a huge difference between acting and being and good actors make that difference hard to see--that's why they are good actors.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The New Catholic Equation: (Corapi + Dolan)/Satan = A Double Dose Of $hearing The $heep

This about says it all.


Looks to me like the question being passed around in some clerical circles is "how much $$$ can we get from 'true Catholics'.  This has given us the campaign in New York State led by Archbishop Dolan to use the gay marriage issue to shill for dollars, and in Minnesota, and Madison, and Seattle, and Washington, and well, just about everywhere a member of the USCCB in need of money resides.  And now we have the extremely unique 'blacksheepdog' campaign of the newly self disclosed ex priest John Corapi and his campaign to reinvent himself for a 'broader audience'. Whoaaa,broader audience? Perhaps Corapi has decided Dolan and the USCCB is the bigger, badder, blacker sheep dog on the block and it is in his best interests to look in other greener pastures for $heep to fleece.


Thanks to Bilgrimage, I have spent the better part of my afternoon reading up on these two stories as I wait for my laundry to get done.  It's been a long time since I've had such a fun time doing laundry. Seriously, I must state I have gone past the point of taking any of this stuff, well, seriously.  It's partly Mary Hunt's fault.  Over on Religious Dispatches she totally skewers Dolan's blog blatherings.  What really started me laughing is the idea I myself already had that Dolan is fond of using the logic inversion:  (remember that word inversion, it'll come again)

"Most troubling in this high-strung piece (“please, not here,” he squeals several times) is what feminist theologian and philosopher Mary Daly called “reversals” or “inversions”—the intellectual strategy of turning things upside down and inside out so as to end up with the very opposite of what is intended. For example, Dolan describes how China and North Korea supposedly “‘redefine’ rights, relationships, value, and natural law” on a regular basis via “communiqu├ęs from the government,” versus how we exalted Westerners handle the issues. In doing so, he describes exactly how the Vatican operates.

Another reversal is his take on certain rights “like that of a child to be raised in a family with a mom and a dad.” He offers not the slightest hint of irony about the right of a child to be raised by two moms or two dads, or one mom or one dad, or any other permutation of the many ways good people try to provide for children that he actively seeks to thwart. (Or even for instance in Catholic orphanages.)
 
Incredibly, he asserts that “our beliefs should not be viewed as discrimination against homosexual people.” (What are they then?) Again, without even a tad of self-consciousness he states: “The Church affirms the basic human rights of gay men and women” while passing completely over the right to same-sex marriage, adoption, and discrimination-free jobs—all of which the Roman Catholic institution has distinguished itself by opposing..... (And then asserts claims of religious freedom to actually practice--not that this is bigotry or anything.)

......As I said, Dolan’s post is simply a last-ditch effort by the Catholic lobby to rally support to prevent the New York State Legislature from voting for marriage equality. It is not a deeply-reasoned theological argument that deserves an equally deeply-reasoned response. To claim otherwise is to buy into the smoke and mirrors that some religious professional employ to ply their trade 

And speaking of smoke and mirrors and how they are employed by religious professionals, that brings me to ex Father Corapi:

 I will not try to fight this irrational and unjust situation for the simple reason that I don’t want to be placed in an adversarial posture against the Church. For 20 years I did my best to guard and feed the sheep. Now, based on a totally unsubstantiated, undocumented allegation from a demonstrably troubled person I was thrown out like yesterday’s garbage. I accept that. Perhaps I deserve that. (Can anyone say 'inversion'?)

I can’t do what I can’t do. I can only do what I can do. I shall continue, black sheep that I am, to speak; and sheep dog that I am, to guard the sheep—this time around not just in the Church, but also in the entire world. I am, indeed, not ready to be extinguished. Under the name “The Black Sheep Dog,” I shall be with you through radio broadcasts and writing. My autobiography, “The Black Sheep Dog,” is almost ready for publication. My topics will be broader than in the past, and my audience likewise is apt to be broader. I’ll do what I can under the circumstances. (Doesn't this just make a good sheep want to bleat over the trials and tribulations of it's blacksheepdog?)

Inversion is the kind of the thing that is supposed to be the mark of evil and all things Satanic.  The notion of Corapi being under attack from Satan seems to be the preferred excuse for those Catholic sheep Corapi used to call 'faithful Catholics' but now calls his 'fans'.  Somehow I am supposed to buy into the logic that becoming a self proclaimed ex priest is the way a faithful priest fends off Satanic attack coming from the hierarchy and church said ex priest used to preach was the path to personal salvation and our only defense against Satan. Got that?

It seems fairly obvious Corapi and Dolan are card carrying members from the inversion school of logic. Then again none of this is about logic or faithful Catholicism or truth or Jesus's mission and teaching.  It's about $$$ and how to get fearful people of faith to part with it.  So maybe in the end it really is about inversion, and not particularly funny.


"Why Do You Fear? Is Your Faith So Weak?"

Sometimes fear can be a great motivator for some spectacular feats--like running on water, or meaningful change in the Church


Although I am sure the leadership of the American Catholic Conference will be shortly releasing it's synopsis of the conference, there is already in place the letter written by whose 300+ German theologians earlier in the spring.  There are now some 60,000 signatures attached to it.  The following is the full letter, and this link will take you to the English version of the homepage, where you will find another link that let's you too, become a signatory.

CHURCH 2011: THE NEED FOR A NEW
BEGINNING

Memorandum of professors of theology on the crisis of the Catholic Church
The Church in 2011: A Necessary New Departure


It is over a year since cases of sexual abuse of children and youth by priests
and religious at the Canisius School in Berlin were made public. A year has
followed that has plunged the Catholic Church in Germany into an
unprecedented crisis. The picture emerging today is very mixed. Much has
been undertaken to do justice to the victims, to respond to all the wrong that
has been done, and to search out the causes of abuse, cover-up, and double
standards within the Church’s own ranks. After their initial horror, many
responsible Christians, women and men, in ministry and outside of ministry,
have come to realize that deep-reaching reforms are necessary. The appeal for
an open dialogue on structures of power and communication, on the form of
ecclesial office, and on the participation of the faithful in taking
responsibility, on morality and sexuality have awakened expectations, but
also fears. Could it happen that what might be the last chance for a departure
from paralysis and resignation be missed by sitting out or minimizing the
crisis? For some, the disquiet of an open dialogue without taboos is not a
comfortable prospect – especially since the papal visit [to Germany] will soon
take place. Yet the alternative would even be worse: a “peace of the cemetery”
because the last hopes have been extinguished
.

The deep crisis of our Church demands that we address also those
problems which, at first glance, are not immediately linked to the abuse
scandal and its cover-up that lasted for decades. As theology professors,
women and men, we can no longer keep silent. We recognize our
responsibility to contribute to a truly new beginning: 2011 must be the year of
a new departure for the Church. In the past year, more Christians than ever
before have left the Catholic Church. They have officially terminated their
public membership, or they have privatized their spiritual life in order to
protect it from the institution. The Church must understand these signs and
must itself depart from ossified structures in order to recover new vitality and
credibility.

The renewal of church structures will succeed, not with an anxious
separation from society, but only with the courage for self-criticism and the
acceptance of critical impulses – including those from the outside. This is one
of the lessons of the last year: the abuse crisis would not have been dealt with
so decisively without the critical accompaniment of the larger public. Only
through open communication can the Church win back trust. The Church
will become credible only when the image it has of itself does not completely
diverge from the image others have of it.
We address all those who have not
yet given up hope for a new beginning within the Church and are committing
themselves to this. We build upon the signals of a new departure and
dialogue which some bishops have given in recent months in speeches,
homilies, and interviews.

The Church does not exist for its own sake. The church has the mission to
announce the liberating and loving God of Jesus Christ to all people. The
Church can do this only when it is itself a locus and a credible witness for the
liberative good news of the Gospel. The Church’s speaking and acting, its
rules and structures – its entire engagement with people within and outside
the Church – is under the claim of recognizing and promoting the freedom of
human beings as creatures of God. Unconditional respect for each person,
respect for freedom of conscience, commitment to the law and justice,
solidarity with the poor and oppressed: these are the theological foundational
standards which arise from the Church’s obligation to the Gospel. Through
these, love of God and neighbour are made concrete.

Finding our orientation in the biblical message of freedom implies a
differentiated relationship to modern society. In many respects, it surpasses
the Church when the recognition of each person’s freedom, maturity, and
responsibility is concerned.
The Church can learn from this, as already the
Second Vatican Council emphasized. In other respects, critique of
contemporary society from the spirit of the Gospel is indispensable, as when
people are judged only by their productivity, when mutual solidarity is
crushed, or when the dignity of the human person is violated.

It remains the case in every instance, however, that the Gospel’s message of
freedom is the standard for a credible Church, for its action and its social
shape. The concrete challenges which the Church must face are by no means
new. And yet, it is hard to make out any traces of future-oriented reforms.
Open dialogue on these questions must take place in the following spheres of
action.

1. Structures of Participation: In all areas of church life, participation of
the faithful is a touchstone for the credibility of the Gospel’s message of
freedom. According to the ancient legal principle “What applies to all should
be decided by all,” more synodal structures are needed at all levels of the
Church. The faithful should be involved in the process of appointing
important office-holders (bishop, parish priest). Whatever can be decided
locally should be decided there. Decisions must be transparent.

2. Parish Community: Christian communities should be places where
people share spiritual and material goods with one another. But the life of the
parish community life is eroding at present. Under the pressure of the
shortage of priests, ever larger administrative entities (“XXL Size” Parishes)
are constructed in which neighbourliness and sense of belonging can hardly
be experienced any longer. Historical identities and social networks achieved
over time are given up. Priests are overburdened and burn out. The faithful
stay away when they are not trusted to share responsibility and to participate
in more democratic structures in the leadership of their parish communities.
Ministry within the Church must serve the life of the communities – not the
other way around. The Church also needs married priests and women in
ordained ministry.

3. Legal culture: The recognition of the dignity and freedom of every
human person becomes evident especially when conflicts are worked out
fairly and with mutual respect. Canon law deserves its name only when the
faithful can truly make use of their rights
. It is urgent that the protection of
rights and the legal culture within the church be improved. A first step is the
creation of institutional structures of an administrative justice system in the
Church.

4. Freedom of Conscience: Respect for individual conscience means
placing trust in people’s ability to make decisions and carry responsibility. It
is also the task of the Church to support this capability; this task must not
revert to paternalism.
It is especially important to take this seriously in the
realm of personal life decisions and individual life styles. The Church’s
esteem for marriage and for the unmarried form of life goes without saying.
But this does not require the exclusion of people who responsibly live out
love, faithfulness, and mutual care in same-sex partnerships or in a
remarriage after divorce.

5. Reconciliation: Solidarity with “sinners” presupposes that we take
seriously the sin within our own ranks. Self-righteous moral rigourism ill
befits the Church. The Church cannot preach reconciliation with God if it
does not create by its own actions the conditions for reconciliation with those
whom the Church has wronged: by violence, by withholding law, by turning
the biblical message of freedom into a rigorous morality without mercy
.

6. Worship: The liturgy lives from the active participation of all the
faithful. Contemporary experiences and forms of expression must have their
place in it. The Eucharist and other celebrations of the sacraments must not
become frozen in traditionalism. Cultural diversity enriches liturgical life;
this is not compatible with a tendency toward centralized uniformity
. Only
when the celebration of faith takes account of concrete life situations will the
Church’s message reach people.

The dialogue process that has already begun in the Church can lead to
liberation and a new departure only when all participants are ready to take up
the pressing questions. Through a free and fair exchange of arguments
solutions have to be sought that lead the Church out of its crippling
preoccupation with itself.
The tempest of the last year must not be followed
by a period of rest! In the present situation, this could only be the “quiet of
the grave.” Anxiety has never been a good counsellor in times of crisis.
Christian women and men are compelled by the Gospel to look to the future
with courage, and walk on water as Peter did, spurred by the word of Jesus:
“Why do you have fear? Is your faith so weak?”

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

I think the one thing not being asked for in these reform movements is the one thing that most definitely needs to happen, and that's the dissolution of the Vatican Bank.  JPI certainly targeted this bank as the most needed 'reform of the reform'.  I agree. The Roman Catholic Church has no gospel reason to be involved in banking precisely because it is the single biggest connection to the kind of corruption which corrodes the soul of this Church.  I've often thought if Jesus came back today, he would take out the Vatican bank just as he did the money changers in the Temple.  Should Benedict dare to follow JPI's foot steps in this regard, really clean up the Vatican Bank by getting rid of it and it's tainted assets, I would seriously take notice.  

This is a fairly straight forward reform which touches on no doctrine, no dogma, no creedal statements, but it does impact directly on the soul of the institution.  While I signed the above letter, I would ask they add just one more paragraph, a paragraph number 7 requesting the dissolution of the Vatican Bank.  I think then we might see some cardinals (and others) running on water out of sheer terror at this kind of reform of the core of 'their Church'.

At the request of a commenter, here is an active link to the signatory page. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Reflections On The American Catholic Conference

OOPS, Wrong Conference.


I've found it fascinating to read the conservative response to the American Catholic Conference.  If there is any sense of Jesus Christ in these responses I didn't find it.  It's like Jesus doesn't count in comparison to the Pope and the infallible magisterium.  And in all honesty I don't find that surprising because Catholics have been enculturated for eons to look to Rome before looking to Jesus.  Or more precisely look to the collar before reading the Gospels.  Indoctrination dies hard, and when it's coupled with fear of about everything, it dies even harder.  I suspect this tendency is in play to some extent in all of us.  But the conservative comments all reminded me of something my freshman college roommate once yelled at me.  She was somewhat irritated at the time.  She said "If you're going to be tactless, at least be nice about it."  There was not much nice about the conservative response to the ACC, and it was pretty tactless.  

I even got an email from one of the Ave Maria crowd informing me of all that was wrong with the ACC and why I should never even consider supporting it.  I responded to it by telling the sender his email was now designated as SPAM. I read this one right after the one from my daughter explaining that she almost sent the Helena Police Department out looking for me since I hadn't answered my cell phone in three days, and my work phone went right to voice mail.  I don't know what happened with the work phone, but I do know what happened with the cell phone.  The only reason I didn't get a visit from the HPD is that I had updated this blog on Sunday.  When I finally called her she was tactless and not nice about it.  Oh well, stuff happens. It was nice to know she cared enough to almost send the very best.  Can't say the same for the conservative spammer.

I've been interested in reading the editor of Catholica Australia Brian Coyne's response to the ACC.  The following is an excerpt of his take a day after the conference:

WILL THIS BE SOME SORT OF WATERSHED or TURNING POINT CONFERENCE: I have to confess I'm in two minds. Certainly at the level of having any impact on the American Bishops or the Vatican, or any hope of reversing the Reform-of-the-Reform agenda of those who've taken over the institutional agenda I honestly think it has all been "pissing in the wind". It will not have the slightest impact. If anything this conference has driven home to me that the prospects of a return to the spirit of Vatican II in the Church are more remote than ever. Young people have deserted the Church in greater numbers than any other demographic. This was a conference basically comprising what was the former leadership elite in the lay Church who were energised by John XXIII and the whole message of the Vatican II but who today feel totally let down by those who have betrayed that spirit despite all their nice and Orwellian "newspeak" use of language to suggest they are upholding the Spirit of that Council. (I'm not sure if it's Orwellian or shades of Goebels.)

At a second level the Conference did fill me with enormous hope. Here at last you have a strong and visible and highly educated sector of the popular who have at last stood up and said "enough is enough — we're not putting up with bullshit and crap from the bishops or even the pope anymore. If they (the bishops and popes) want to continue treating us as 'little people' and 'simple people', we're not playing that game anymore. The Conference was, I sense, the beginning at least of the articulation of any alternative agenda — and one that does remain authentically true to what was discerned by the majority of the listening bishops at Vatican II. The gzillion dollar question and great unknown right at this moment is how this will eventually manifest itself in society? No young people will be taking it up — at least in the short term — but neither will the majority of young people be taking up what Benedict and nutter/conservative/insecure elements put up. Benedict and the bishops who believe their evangelization initiatives and language are going to attract the great unwashed masses of young people back to what they have to offer are totally deluded. (That's one of my major concerns as well, what's the point of any reform if younger generations aren't going to buy into it period. Thirty five years of JPII/Benny have utterly lost the vast majority of these generations to any concept of Catholicism.)

As James (a really astute Catholica commenter) has written in many posts over a lengthy period of time, secular society has taken over many of the great social justice and moral questions and is the great educator in society now. I frankly do not see society become less moral or less spiritual. Certainly it might becoming less religious but that is probably a very good thing. Will some new "structured" or "institutional" gathering arise? I honestly don't know the answer to that. At one level I sense there is a deep drive in humanity for a sense of community and identity that drives people to want to congregate and worship together as well as combine their energies in good works and social justice initiatives. That might be the factor that is more important in causing some new structure to coalesce rather than any sense that the great majority in the future want to recite some "common creed".

The only thing I am certain of these days is that Benedict and his bishop and "conservative movement" friends have about as much chance of reversing the decline in participation figures as any of us have of flying to Mars in the next ten years. He will achieve his dream of building a "smaller, purer Church" but it will be largely irrelevant in guiding the course of human civilisation let alone getting anyone to heaven.

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I really believe Brian's point about younger generations is the crux of any reform or re evangelization movement.  Tweaking or even breaking the system is not going to be enough.  It's going to take people actually demonstrating that Jesus Christ had something relevant to teach them, and that's going to take individuals who prove that in their lives.  It's going to take people willing to walk the talk one person at a time. Just as it was in the beginning, it is now, and ever shall be.  And that's the way it was always meant to be.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Detroit Priests Call Archbishop Vigneron's Bluff

Father Wurn is in big trouble with Archbishop Vigneron.  Notice the non clercical person in the back wearing a stole. It's not liturgically kosher.  Oh my.

Archbishop blasts Ferndale priest's leading of liberal Mass; orders review of his actions

By Nira Warikoo - Detroit Free Press - June 12, 2011
The top Catholic leader in Michigan slammed a big liberal Mass today in Detroit, saying it had significant abuses and he ordered a review of a Ferndale priest who led the services before 1,5000 Catholics, a church spokesman said. (If he had condescended to say Mass himself he wouldn't have had to worry.)

Defying Archbishop of Detroit Allen Vigneron, a Catholic priest from Ferndale led a Mass today in Cobo Center that was organized by the American Catholic Council, a controversial umberalla group of liberal Catholics. And dozens of Catholic priests and deacons from metro Detroit attended the Mass, said organizers. (Uh Oh, not good for the AB of Detroit.  How many can he afford to actually discipline?)

Rev. Bob Wurm, 78, a retired Catholic priest, presided over the Mass and Eucharistic prayer to some 1,500 assembled inside Cobo Center today. He and others participated despite a strict order from Archbiship Allen Vigneron for priests and deacons to not take part in today's Mass because it was led by groups considered heretical by the Catholic Church and could violate Church law. Vigneron warned in a letter that clergy could be punished and defrocked for participating in the Mass.

Now, the Archdiocese of Detroit said it will conduct a review of the priest’s actions.
“There were several, serious liturgical abuses at that service,” said Ned McGrath, spokesman for the Archdiocese. “It’s disheartening that a Detroit priest would preside over a service with so many…serious liturgical abuses. There will be — has to be — a careful and thorough review.” (So what were these serious abuses?  Ohh, I know, they're an official secret to protect Fr. Wurn's reputation.)

Wurn told the Free Press afterwards he was aware that Archbishiop Allen Vigneron had explicilty warned all priests and deacons to not participate. But Wurm said he's not worried being punished.
"I don't see that happening," Wurm said. "I'm older than he (Vigneron) is."

Wurm criticized Vigneron's letter that told clergy to stay away.
"He was making a big mistake," Wurm said. (In poker this would be 'calling Vigneron's bluff' and raising the stakes.)

Catholics at the conference defended their conference and Mass, saying they are in accordance with the laws and values of Catholicism.

“He didn’t violate Canon law,” John Hushon, of Florida, a lead organizer of the conference, said. “We went right down the straight and narrow.”

The Mass was part of a weekend conference that's drawn some 2,000 liberal Catholics from around the world who are upset at the rightward turn of the Catholic Church. They want lay people to have more say in church decision making. Many also want discussion about women, gay, and married priests, and greater accountability on the issue of child abuse by priests. The conference came on the 35th anniversary of a conference in Detroit led by the late Cardinal John Dearden, former Archbishop of Detroit, a leader seen as progressive by liberal Catholics. To them, he represented the spirit of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, which they say recent leadership has abandoned.

"Too many Catholics feel there is no hope," co-organizer Janet Hauter said during the Mass to the crowd.
Members of the crowd at the Mass all wore stoles, usually only worn by clergy, to symbolize equality and the idea that all Catholics, not just its leaders, represent the Church. On the red stoles, there was a drawing of a dove with the words:
"Come Holy Spirit. Fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love."
(Oh, I bet this sent the Liturgy Police into apoplexy.  Should they blow their cover and refuse to wear a stole, or commit liturgical sin for the greater glory of God?)

The liberal conference also adopted day a 10-point of bill of rights and responsibilities that calls for more democratization. Discussions continue tonight and Monday. Participants said this weekend’s conference energized them to go back to individual parishes to fight for change.

“I’m disturbed by what’s taking place,” said Robert Livingston, 72, of Berkley. “The Church is going backwards. It’s more feudal, more authoritative.”
But church officials say that the liberal conference featured speakers who have teachings that violate Catholic doctrine.

A conservative conference endorsed by the Archdiocese, Call To Holiness, was held over the weekend in Livonia and put more of an emphasis on social issues. They said their conference was legitimate, unlike the liberal one, because it was endorsed by the Archbishop and was loyal to Rome.
Speakers at the conservative conference railed against abortion, contraception, yoga and the gay rights movement. (Yoga?  Is yoga now up there in the sin pantheon with abortion, gays, and condoms?)

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Looks like Archbishop Vigneron has a problem on his hands.  What ever will he do.  His bluff has been called and the bet raised.  Is he enough of a poker player to know when to fold em?  This one will be fun to follow.  I wondered when he pronounced his intentions before hand if he wasn't setting himself up for more than he wanted, but I guess it's too late now.

Actually I'm still trying to get my head around the yoga thing.  I guess the holier than thou at the approved Detroit conference needed something new to get all worked up about.  Abortion, and contraception, and gay rights must be kind of stale by now, even for them.  Bring on yoga.  Wouldn't this be anti Hindu or something?

I wasn't too sure much real action would come out of this conference in Detroit.  Progressives are not noted for being actively controversial, Anthony Weiner not withstanding, but maybe when we are pushed to the edges of absurdity we can do more than laugh or scream.  It seems to me Vigneron has pushed his priests too close to the edge and they took action.  Good for them and good for Fr. Wurn.  And I did like the stole idea, no matter how liturgically incorrect such attire is for lay folk.