Sunday, August 14, 2011

Rome Calls Two To The Woodshed

Bishop Raul Vera Lopez will be off to see the Powers that Be about the same time Archbishop Chaput is installed in Philadelphia by those same Powers.

In July I ran two stories on two different men, Cardinal Jose Policarpo of Lisbon, Portugal and Bishop Raul Vera Lopez of the Diocese of Saltillo, Mexico.  Vatican Insider is currently running two pieces about these men and how they have been called to the Vatican woodshed.  In Policarpo's case, his trip was over statements he made about the lack of theological reasons for the prohibition on ordaining women, and in Lopez's case, his trip involves both his support for a gay and lesbian group and  for a human rights campaign to de criminalize abortion in all States in Mexico.  The following is an excerpt from the Vat Insider article on Cardinal Policarpo.

...Now, the Portuguese daily paper reveals a behind the scenes description of what happened over the past weeks, stating that the Lisbon patriarch was summoned by the Papal Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone. The conversation took place in Castel Gandolfo in the first half of July, while the Portuguese cardinal was in Rome to participate to a plenary session of the newly formed Papal Council for the new evangelization. Publico writes that Policarpo was treated with extreme kindness “because the Vatican was afraid he would react negatively to a strong reprimand.” (How sweet, Bishop Ruiz will not be so lucky.)

On July 2, a few days before the meeting with Bertone, Policarpo had received, through a papal nuncio in Lisbon, a letter by cardinal William Levada, prefect of the former Holy Office. According to a testimony obtained by Publico, the letter apparently had him very worried. For this reason, on 6 July, the patriarch wrote a clarification statement. The Portuguese daily paper, however, highlights that this was not the first time Policarpo had made statements of this kind about women priests: however, it was the first time that his words had been reported by the international press.

António Marujo’s article provides several of the cardinal’s statements as examples. In 1999, a year after his appointment as Lisbon patriarch of the diocesan center, Policarpo led people to believe that the matter of women priests had not been settled at all and that what was needed, was a period of maturing of the communities and the Church, since today the idea of “women carrying out duties that were unthinkable thirty years ago is now accepted within the Church.” (Notice phrasing:  Policarpo led people to believe.....)

On May 2003, in Vienna, the cardinal responded in a similar fashion to a question during a press conference in which mention was made to a letter sent by Pope John Paul II in 1994 and the Congregation’s subsequent clarification of the Doctrine of the Faith. Policarpo explained that in his opinion the matter “is not settled that way; from a theological point of view, there is no fundamental obstacle; there is this tradition, let’s call it that way... it was never done any other way”. In that same interview, the Lisbon patriarch stated that at the present time it was not appropriate to raise the issue because it would have triggered “a series of reactions,” but he concluded saying that “If God wishes it to happen, and if it God’s plan, it will happen.”

The document of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith to which reference is made, was the answer to a doubt published by the former Holy Office (at the time led by cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who had archbishop Tarcisio Bertone as his right hand). It asked if “the doctrine, according to which, the Church cannot ordain women priests, as proposed in the apostolic Letter Ordinatio sacerdotalis” had to be “deemed definitive” and “part of the deposit of faith.” The answer, approved by Pope Wojtyla, was “affirmative.” The Congregation at the time explained that “this doctrine requires a permanent confirmation because, based God’s Word, written and constantly kept and applied in the Tradition of the Church since its origins, it was infallibly proposed by the ordinary and universal teachings of the Church” and thus, “it must be followed always, everywhere and by every faithful person, since it belongs to the deposit of faith. (I can't wait until the Vatican updates the Nicene Creed to include this gem in our deposit of faith.  That would certainly stop all the talk about women's ordination.)


Bishop Lopez will undoubtedly receive a very different reception when he makes his trip to the woodshed.  In his case Chaput's CNA Spanish affiliate has combined with Life Site news to lead the charge against Lopez, and it doesn't appear anyone holds more sway in the Vatican right now that Chaput.  Why would Lopez all of a sudden merit such a spot light from two North American Catholic propaganda outlets?  The answer more likely lies in Ruiz's stances on social justice and his avid support for married deacons than it does on his support for gay dignity in the church or the decriminalization of abortion. Hence, we have this from the Vat Insider article:

He remained close to the poor ever since his work in Ciudad Altamirano, where he became priest in 1988. In 1995 he became one of Samuel Ruiz’s (bishop of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas at the time) possible successors. On 14 August 1995, the Pope appointed him coadjutor bishop with the right to succession. (Samuel Ruiz was another Mexican bishop beloved by his people but not so much the JPII Vatican.)
He finally settled in Southwest Mexico in 1994, when the Country was still under the influence of the guerrilla movement of the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (Zapatista Army of National Liberation). By appointing him, the Vatican wanted to achieve the quick replacement of Samuel Ruiz and to pull the reins in on the indigenous theology project in Mexico which was at its peak at the time. This was about the time that the Vatican began to show its concern.
But the attempt failed. Not long after his arrival in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Vera became one of the most radical defenders of the actions of permanent married deacons (as substitutes of presbyters) and of the diffusion of what Rome calls the “Diaconal Church”. The Vatican saw this as an organised attempt to do away with clerical celibacy. (Again another glaring example of how the all male celibate priesthood is more important than Jesus Christ Himself.  Sure does make one wonder why?)
This change forced the Apostolic See to appoint him Bishop of Saltillo (on 30 December 1999), before confirming his succession of Samuel Ruiz who was replaced by Felipe Arizmendi Esquivel.
Vera’s appointment, however, did not put an end his social demands. He used his position to defend exploited mineworkers and the needs of the families of individuals who had disappeared, mostly because of drug traffickers.
Furthermore, Raúl Vera applied the pastoral care model of San Cristóbal to Saltillo, widely promoting the ordination of permanent married deacons who according to him “are able to perform the work of priests in the most remote communities.” His incessant, quasi political proselytism and his stance with regard to certain matters have not warmly welcomed by Mexico and Rome. (Yes, only right wing 'quasi political proselytism' is permitted.--Try this article by Frank Cocozzelli on Archbishop Chaput.

Vatican Insider is an interesting read.  I am predisposed to think it has plenty of Opus Dei money behind it. It has a most definite political slant.  Couple this with the seeming unending influence of Archbishop Chaput in global Catholic affairs and I can't help but wonder who really is running Roman Catholicism.  

Lately, Benedict's papacy is beginning to look a great deal like JPII's papacy, and I'm not talking liturgically and theologically.  I see those as fog for another agenda. For some reason it is critically important for the real power in the Vatican to maintain an all male celibate priesthood with a large percentage of closeted gays.  It's way too obvious that the quickest way to get to the woodshed is by advocating, even gently advocating, positions which threaten the celibate priesthood or the position of gays in the Church.  Forget sexual abuse, our worst criminal enabling bishops are either in the Vatican curia or free to wander the globe with no accountability to anyone.  If the people of Ireland are curious as to the where abouts of Cloyne's Bishop Magee, they should reflect on the anonymous cushy lifestyle lived in his later years by American Archbishop Marcinkus.  He of the Banko Ambrosia scandal.

Yesterday I wrote the current version of the clerical system is spiritually bankrupt.  Actually it appears more and more as if it's running a serious deficit and has no desire to impose a debt ceiling.  Maybe because it's real energy is locked up in the same financial morass that is taking down Western economies.  That would be the energy of unfettered greed, not spiritual holiness. 



Saturday, August 13, 2011

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

The Great and Powerful have brought back indulgences for WYD. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Wither Goeth Catholic Ireland?

This is a great read on this Sunday commemorating the Transfiguration of Jesus.  The following article from the Irish Independent asks an important question in spite of all the fun:  How will Catholic Ireland transfigure itself in order to find a future which transcends it's "Roman" Catholic past?  And to be even handed, there is this far less humorous post from the Sydney Morning Herald

Stifled by weight of Rome's pomp, power and stubborn patriarchy

By Carol Hunt - Irish Independent - Sunday, July 31, 2011
WHAT with the Taoiseach being compared to Hitler, the Vatican throwing a hissy fit and the rest of the world enthralled at little Catholic Ireland standing up to the big boys in Rome, perhaps it's time we asked: "What would St Patrick do?"

Not the snake-slaying, shamrock-waving bishop of later invention, but the Patrick of humanity and pragmatism, with all his foibles, failings, loss of faith, love of women and bloody awful Latin.

Because, since the Taoiseach fired the first official salvo against Rome, the Irish Church seems to have been mobilising itself for a schismatic war. As Catholic commentator David Quinn noted: "It is as though we are now being asked to choose between the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, and the Irish Catholic Church. Catholics in the past have had to make a similar choice. How will we choose?"

Bishop Willie Walsh, Fr Enda McDonagh, and the Jesuit theologian Fr Gerry O'Hanlon, among others, have advocated the idea of an Irish synod involving clergy and laity -- and, God bless us, women too -- to map out the future of the church. As O'Hanlon has noted: "It will not do any more for priests, bishops, cardinals, the Pope to simply tell us what to think, what to do. People rightly want a say." Is this heresy, or just a return to the church of our ancestors?

Well, it's probably fair to say that the idea would go down like a cup of cold sick in the Vatican. God knows what would happen if some of those more outspoken Irish clergy (like the ones who called the new translation of the missal sent from Rome "elitist" and "sexist") got together with a disillusioned, increasingly secular and very angry Irish populace. Ninety-five theses? I bet they could come up with 195. Are we about to have our own Reformation?

Well, we weren't always good Roman Catholics. Though historians no more accept the idea of a unified "Celtic Church" than they do a united Celtic people, it wasn't until the Synod of Whitby in 664, about 150 years after the death of St Patrick (who, if he was sent to "Romanise" us -- very doubtful, he was later confused with Bishop Palladius who got short shrift from the Irish -- failed miserably) that the highly individual, monastic, forgiving and relatively egalitarian Irish Church submitted somewhat to Roman law.

According to one historian: "Irish Christianity was pure, spiritual, intensely personal, dedicated only to the absolute word of God. Rome's was materialistic, tightly organised, widely social in intent, intolerantly conformist."

But after the decline of the Roman Empire, the so-called Golden Age of Irish monasticism blossomed when we modestly declared that our monks, abbots and abbesses (mixed religious communities existed) "saved civilisation". Celibacy was a choice, not a necessity, and many church offices were handed from father to son -- and even sometimes, it was rumoured, to daughter. ("How The Irish Saved Civilization" is one of my all time favorite books.)

But then came the Vikings, disorder, disruption and the implementation of Gregorian reforms. From 1111 a series of synods changed the monastic Irish Church into a parish-based system. They still weren't overfond of celibacy though, or of sending cash to Rome. And consequently the (forged?) papal bull of Pope Adrian I was used by the Angevin King Henry II as an excuse to invade Ireland.

Chronicler Gerald of Wales complained: "Of all peoples it [Irish Catholics] is the least instructed in the rudiments of the Faith. They do not pay tithes or first fruits or contract marriages. They do not avoid incest. They do not attend God's church with holy reverence."

Oh dear. Well, Gerald had a habit of exaggerating, but it can still be said quite truthfully that the official reason for the Norman invasion of Ireland was to turn us all into good Roman Catholics. Now, how ironic is that?

Did it succeed? Well yes, up to a point -- in that the hierarchical structure of the Roman Church most definitely replaced the Irish monastic one. But now that the great days of the learned monks had ended, the general mass of people never bothered with all that Roman theological stuff, preferring a mix of ancient pagan beliefs and rituals combined with an Irish style Catholicism. Celebrations at holy wells, harvest bonfires and wild Irish wakes co-existed with a soft Catholicism practised under the Penal Laws. Mass and confession weren't such a big deal for the average Irish peasant. And anyway, there were never enough priests to go around. Hanging was a pretty good deterrent to vocations.

It wasn't until after the great famine that Roman Catholic Ireland as we know it was eventually established. The old superstitions had failed to protect the people from catastrophe, and the newly emancipated, increasingly middle-class Roman Church (heavily influenced by Victorian attitudes to sexuality) was well set to step into the breach.

The "devotional revolution" commandeered by the Roman-trained Cardinal Paul Cullen revolutionised the Irish Church. The British cheerfully handed control of new schools and hospitals to the clergy -- a cynical move as they knew the threat of eternal damnation from a bishop was a most excellent deterrent against sin.

We had so many "Mammy vocations" that we began to export our religious abroad. Mass attendance increased exponentially. And national identity became inextricably linked with Roman Catholicism. So when the British finally left, the real victor was not so much the Irish people but the Roman Catholic Church.

Perhaps future historians will look back on the 20th century as an unfortunate period when the Irish replaced one foreign overlord for another, with disastrous consequences.

Perhaps the Irish clergy calling for a national synod to discuss the future of the Catholic Church will realise that whereas Ireland has given so much to Rome, Rome has given little in return -- bar contempt for our laws, our women and children and our young, struggling Republic.

There are still many Irish people who sincerely desire to maintain a spiritual, Catholic religion. Yet they are finding it impossible to do so under the weight of Roman pomp, power and stubborn patriarchy.

Yet community, spirituality and ritual are still very important to many Irish Catholics. Do Wiccans Have Hymns? asked writer Barbara Scully in a blog post last week where she articulated the innate desire of many lapsed Catholics to be members of a church that valued community, equality, spirituality, ritual and support rather than the inflexible "doctrinal truths", invented over the centuries by Rome.

She is not a "secular-atheist or pseudo-rationalist", and neither are the majority of the Roman Church's critics in Ireland and abroad. Nor are they so ignorant as to be blindly led by some imagined "hysterical anti-Catholic media agenda".

What would the humble, nomadic Patrick we know from his Confession do? Would he support the Church of Rome in its attempts to retain control of its empire? Or would he advocate a return to the simple, spiritual yet pragmatic practices of the early Irish Church?

What do you think?  (Well, since you've asked, see below.)


I think Catholicism has somewhat lost the idea of 'simple, spiritual yet pragmatic practices'.  I think if one reads the Gospels with the idea that Jesus practiced a 'simple, spiritual yet pragmatic' ministry, one has a good idea of where Catholicism should move in the future.  It should certainly move away from 'pomp, power, and stubborn patriarchy'.  Instead we are moving in the exact opposite direction with huge mega parishes, more pomp, and desperate attempts to hold onto secular power and influence.  It surely doesn't look like we will see much movement from Rome in the direction of a simpler pragmatic spirituality.  Instead we get World Youth Day, which is neither simple nor devoid of pomp.

World Youth Day will be held in Madrid in the middle of this month.  In all the press about Ireland, I think it's also important to remember that Catholicism in the other crown jewel of the Vatican--Spain, is also suffering from a serious down turn in participation and has it's own anger level directed at Rome.  The Zapatero government of Spain was taking on Rome long before Enda Kenny came on the Irish scene.  WYD is most likely being held in Spain this year so the Church can be seen flexing it's Spanish muscles as a visual reminder to the Zapatero government that Rome is still a player in Spain.  The truth is more likely that those Spanish Catholic muscles are pretty soft, and WYD will not be the steroid shot that produces any lasting effect.  Just as I doubt the 2012 Eucharistic Congress to be held in Ireland is going to save the Catholic Church from Irish civilization.

Pomp, power, and stubborn patriarchy just doesn't cut the mustard in most of the developed world.  That world has moved on.  But as Carol Hunt points out in this article, that doesn't mean the developed world has stopped needing real spirituality, or real communion, or meaningful ritual. It prefers a more simple and pragmatic form of spirituality.  Hollywood produces more than enough pomp and magic and Hogwarts sequels for the average person.  

Religious escapism isn't what most people are seeking.  They are seeking answers to serious questions that make some sense in a world being consumed with consuming,  it's resources gobbled up by fewer and fewer people.  Instead Rome offers advice from the indicted head of the Vatican Bank advising white Europeans to have more babies in order to produce more consumers in order to pay for the upkeep of the elder generations whose very existence is the reason for the current economic crisis.  I'll grant you that's a somewhat simplistic solution to our economic woes.  Have more babies.  Not consume less or regulate the out of control banking system, or figure out a way to share wealth or adjust for changing life styles,  just have more babies.  Wow. 

You go Ireland, maybe it is your destiny to save civilization from this kind of Roman thinking.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Thoughts On Catholic Guilt, Cognitive Dissonance, and Secularism

Paul Tillich probably had more influence on my idea of God than his Catholic contemporary Pope Paul VI.

 A person's level of education has a huge impact on their attitude towards social and cultural issues.  It's long been known that raising the educational level of women is the best method of controlling exploding population growth.  However education also has a big impact on adherence to religious authority.  This was originally seen in Catholicism back in the mid 1800's when the education level of men in Europe began to rise across the socioeconomic spectrum and their exodus out the doors of Catholic churches began in earnest.  Here's a short article which gives some stats which strongly indicate if Catholicism wants to hang on to educated sectors of the population, it has to keep moving towards inclusion and not exclusion, and it has to seriously search for answers which transcend and incorporate secular advances rather than continue fighting a losing war with 'secularism'.

By Cathy Lynn Grossman
USA Today

(RNS) The old wisdom: The more educated you are, the less likely you will be religious. But a new study says education doesn't drive people away from God -- it gives them a more liberal attitude about who's going to heaven.

Each year of education ups the odds by 15 percent that people will say there's "truth in more than one religion," says University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor Philip Schwadel in an article for the Review of Religious Research. Schwadel, an associate professor of sociology, looked at 1,800 U.S. adults' reported religious beliefs and practices and their education.

People change their perspective because, as people move through high school and college, they acquire an ever-wider range of friendships, including people with different beliefs than their own, Schwadel says. "People don't want to say their friends are going to hell," he says. (It's probably a little more global than just "I don't want to say my friends are going to hell." It also has to do with dropping any ten year old notions of a score board toting vengeful God and moving towards a deeper understanding of Divinity)

For each additional year of education beyond seventh grade, Americans are:

  • 15 percent more likely to have attended religious services in the past week.
  • 14 percent more likely to say they believe in a "higher power" than in a personal God. "More than 90 percent believe in some sort of divinity," Schwadel says.
  • 13 percent more likely to switch to a mainline Protestant denomination that is "less strict, less likely to impose rules of behavior on your daily life" than their childhood religion.
  • 13 percent less likely to say the Bible is the "actual word of God." The educated, like most folks in general, tend to say the Bible is the "inspired word" of God, Schwadel says.


Last night I was reading Eugene Cullen Kennedy's piece at the NCR about pre Vatican II notions of guilt and how those notions won't play in the future.  As usual his column was trolled by the more vicious of the Catholic right, which for me, makes reading the comment section a true exercise in developing emotional control and staying open to the Spirit. I freely admit I'm not very good with this task at this time in this context, and in fact am seriously considering not reading Kennedy's or Jamie Manson's comment sections because I quickly jet past my tolerance level.  

Last night though, I was glad I somehow found the fortitude to stick with the comments, because I came across a couple of comments which made me take a second look at those who are heavily vested in the 'reform of the reform'.  It dawned on me that they have never had to overcome the mental associations of guilt and sin connected to the old Latin Mass, weekly confessions, and other pious practices.  They can look at these rituals free of the lousy guilt based theology those of us in the older generations had to endure.  The reason they can do this is because they were not brought up in that Catholic miasma and ironically have the Eugene Cullen Kennedy's of the Catholic world to thank for that fact.  Someday I hope they understand enough to thank the theologians they now feel free to bash.  Previous to Vatican II,  and the work of these theologians, they would never ever have given themselves the freedom to bash any cleric or any theologian or any other professed religious for fear of going directly to hell without passing Go.  Additionally they would have been stuck in a world of cognitive dissonance which constantly pitted their religious understanding against their real world education.  It's precisely at this stage when it's very easy to throw the baby out with the bath water, which I suppose is why so many Catholics of my generation have taken decades to even consider returning to the Church.  Which brings me to the 'evils of secularism'.

Back in the day when I was seriously considering pursuing a career in theology, I took a class called Christian Secularity.  The class dealt specifically with questions raised by science and culture which impacted on traditional Church teaching and whether the two could be reconciled.  It was this class which introduced me to Thomas Merton, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Paul Tillich, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I can't imagine too many Catholic colleges would dare teach this as an undergraduate class in today's environment. It was a riveting class for those of us who took it because the only synthesis we could find that reconciled the two was the Christian notion of hope combined with the secular notion of social evolution.  It was the idea that man, through his capacity to connect with the Spirit, could find solutions to the massive problems man's intellect created.  I guess one could call this solution a form of reality based active mysticism.  Solutions would not be found in pious passive mysticism locked in cloistered convents and monasteries, but in real time active mysticism ordered towards discovering solutions, not praying away evil.  It was not a closed solution based on traditional answers to poorly formed questions, but an open ended and trust filled faith in the continued evolution towards manifesting the Kingdom on Earth.  God's Will would be done if we trusted our capacity to hear and execute the solutions.  For me it was an invigorating vision.

This is still what I am all about and it's becoming the shared goal of many mystics and spiritual people from all religious traditions.  It has the potential to synthesise knowledge and education with spiritual insight and human development.  Unfortunately it can't be contained in rigid doctrinal formulas--whether of science or religion--and it can't be entirely subject to religious authority.  It can only be fostered by religious authority and that in my humble opinion, is where the mission of Catholicism must go in the future.  It must foster it's mystics, and stop dictating their solutions. That takes real faith in the People of God.  It takes deep trust in the goodness of God.  It takes a true capacity to love enough to include as many people as possible because one never knows whose head the solutions reside in,  and love is the Ground of Being from which the solutions will be found.  Jesus said so.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Sex In The 21st Century Is Not About Biology, It's About The Spiritual Power Of Love

I can easily imagine God was a hard act to follow.

Over at his Wild Reed blog, Michael Bayley has a really important post regarding a paper written by Catholic moral theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether.  The following is the final three paragraphs Michael excerpted, and I reprint them here because they make some extremely important points.  I encourage readers to read the entire extract on Michael's blog.  In the initial paragraphs, RRR brilliantly explains the Augustinian tradition which has come down through the centuries and is the basis for what still passes for Catholic sexual morality.  I've written many time before that we need to develop a sexual morality based on right relationship, but this piece by RRR seems to state parts of my position far better than I have.

.....We should see sexuality as an integral part of our total psychosomatic being, not something that can be separated out and repressed without damage to our fullness of being. We should recognize that the love-relational purpose of sex has its own integrity and goodness as the creation and expression of bonding, affection, and commitment. It is not dependent on procreation for its justification, and indeed today out of many thousands of sexual acts in the lifetime of any person, only a small percentage can be intentionally reproductive. The defense of marriage between sterile people, sex after menopause, and the acceptance of birth control, including the so-called rhythm method – all tacitly accept the autonomous love-relational purpose of sex.

Once one has accepted any non-procreative sex to be moral for heterosexuals, one can no longer define homosexuality as immoral because it is non-procreative. One cannot even say that homosexuals avoid the responsibility to raise children, since celibates also do not raise children, while many homosexuals are raising natural or adopted children. Once one has accepted the understanding of humanity in which men and women are complex psychological wholes, not stereotypic opposites, and that the goodness of relationship lies in mutual support of the wholeness of each, not the mutual deficiency of masculine-feminine interdependence, then the difference between loving and bonding with someone of the same sex as yourself or someone of the other sex can no longer be rigidly distinguished. Both are relationships with another person, with all the complex problems of developing a healthy mutuality, rather than pathological dependency and exploitive misuse of each other. (Incomplete or immature sexual relationships almost always result in the perceived exploitative use of one person by the other.)

There has emerged among Catholic moral theologians in the last twenty years a comprehensive effort to revise the traditional Catholic view of sexuality, although these moral theologians are currently very much under fire from the Vatican, which recognizes that its system of social and ecclesiastical control rests on the older definition of sexual sin. The Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA) report Human Sexuality, published in 1977 represents this alternative tradition of Catholic moral theology. The starting point of the moral system developed in this report is that sexual morality or immorality is an expression of moral or immoral human relationality. Relationships are moral when they are mutual, supportive of the full personal growth of each person, committed, and faithful. Relations are immoral when they are abusive, violent, exploitive, keep people in truncated stages of development, and lead to lying, deceit, and betrayal.

This norm of sexual morality, based on moral relationality, eliminates the neat boundaries between moral and immoral sex defined by heterosexual marriage and procreation. Such a norm makes for much stricter judgments about sexual morality in some cases. Much of the sexuality promoted in patriarchal marriage, which, for example, saw the husband as having a right to force his wife to have sex with him, would be regarded as immoral by such a standard. What is moral or immoral sexually becomes more a question of a scale of values than of clear boundaries. No one achieves perfectly mutual love, and perhaps few relationships are totally evil. Rather, such a norm promotes a developmental goal. We are to grow toward healthy, loving, mutual, and faithful relationships, away from abusive and dishonest ones. The morality of homosexual or heterosexual relations is judged by the same standard, rather than by different standards. (These concepts surrounding relational notions of moral sexuality are critical for the raising of healthy children.)


 There is one line in these paragraphs which speak volumes about how difficult it is going to be to ever effect serious reform in the hierarchical structure of the Church.  I have it in red, in italics, and bold.  It is this line:
although these theologians are currently very much under fire from the Vatican, which recognizes that its system of social and ecclesiastical control rests on the older definition of sexual sin.

When an institution controls the bedroom, and they do it through a system of sin which places sex in a very much inferior position relative to their own supposed sexless selves, they have a great deal of power if their followers believe it.  This is why Archbishop Chaput can truthfully say that gay marriage is the single most important issue of his time.  Gay marriage is based on a relational concept of sexual morality and as such it undercuts the entire thinking that places sexless celibate males closer to heaven than the rutting laity. Gay marriage is a critical and actually nuclear issue for the Vatican.  They must fight it for the very survival of their entire claim to sole authority.  Their own complicity in covering up their own sexual abuse is very much tied to the notion that their virginal sexless being validates their sacerdotal power.  They are holy almost strictly because they do not engage in sex, not because of any other activity like actually doing what Jesus did, or living the Way as Jesus taught it.   It's much easier to refrain from sex, or pretend that's the case, than it is to actually live and do as Jesus did.

This will be a very long battle and we have only begun to fight it---and the Vatican is and will continue to fight back.  It won't be enough for 90% of the laity to reject Humanae Vitae or +60%  to accept gay marriage.  It will take a significant portion of our priests and bishops to stand up and affirm the relational qualities of sexuality and reject the authority they have over laity on the basis of their having rejected sex.  Spiritually healthy sex isn't about biological sex, it's about affirming a committed loving relationship.  Until we get that notion down, we won't ever be able to integrate our sexuality with our spirituality.  

Saturday, July 30, 2011

CNA's Spanish Affiliate Is Running Another "Bishop Morris" Campaign

CNA has rallied the troops in Mexico to go after Bishop Raul Vera Lopez -seen in this photo with recently deceased human rights activist Bishop Samuel Ruiz.  Hmmmm why do I wonder if this crusade has zero to do with gay rights and everything to do with other human rights issues in Mexico?

The following article from CNA caught my eye this morning, not because it describes a bishop under Vatican investigation precipitated by fundamentalist Catholics---that's hardly novel.  What made this article eye catching was the reaction of Bishop Vera:

Mexican bishop confirms Vatican inquiry into his support for homosexual group

.- Bishop Raul Vera Lopez of Saltillo, Mexico has told a Mexican newspaper he has received “a series of questions” from the Vatican about his support for the San Elredo community, which holds positions on homosexuality that are contrary to Church teaching.

“There has been a call from the Vatican and I am ready to clear things up … I have to respond to a series of questions that Vatican City has sent me about my work with homosexuals,” Bishop Vera told the newspaper Zocalo.

He said the Vatican inquiry has come about “because a Catholic agency based in Peru, ACI Prensa, has made false claims that I promote homosexual relations.”
ACI Prensa is Catholic News Agency's Spanish-language sister publication.  (Oh my goodness, is Bishop Vera actually calling out a Chaput News Agency story?  This is novel.)

He accused ACI Prensa of distorting his work. “They allege that I am against the magisterium of the Church and unfortunately they are driven by prejudice and phobias against the homosexual community.
The request for clarification from the Holy See, he insisted, “is because this Catholic news agency has said outrageous things.” (No...not CNA.)

Bishop Vera told the newspaper, “In the Diocese of Saltillo, we have very clear objectives. We work with (the gay community) to help them recover their human dignity, which is frequently attacked at home and in society, and they are treated like scum.”  (And quite frequently in Chaput News Agency publications.)

“I am not against the magisterium of the Church, nor do I promote dishonesty. It would go against my principles to promote depravity and immorality,” he said.
In response to the Vatican inquiry, the coordinator of the San Elredo community, Noe Ruiz, told Zocalo the group would be willing to leave the diocese in order to prevent the work of Bishop Vera from being hindered.
“If tomorrow they come tell Bishop Raul Vera, ‘You are endangering your work in Saltillo because of such a small community, a network of barely 600 people,’ it would not be worth the risk,” he said.

In March of this year, Bishop Vera published a statement on the diocesan website expressing support for the “sexual, family and religious diversity forum.” The event was aimed at “eradicating what some sectors of the Church believe about homosexuality” — especially the belief “that homosexual actions are contrary to God.”
Father Robert Coogan, the American priest who founded San Elredo, maintained that the group’s work is not contrary to the teachings of the Church.

He added: “How can a person with same-sex attraction have a fulfilling life? And the only answer the Catechism gives is to tell them to be celibate, and that is not enough."


Good luck to Bishop Vera.  Since no prelate seems to stand higher in the Vatican's scheme of things than Archbishop Chaput, I suspect Vera will be very lucky to keep his diocese.  I certainly support his view on the veracity of the news coverage of CNA and it's Spanish affiliate.  CNA is a propaganda outlet under the cover of a Catholic news outlet.  I'm pretty sure Opus Dei probably has more than one finger in it, although not quite as overt as the Legion fingers all over Zenit.  At least Zenit is useful for publishing and translating the full texts of Papal speechesWhile I always read Zenit translations with caution, Zenit is a useful source of information.  I am not quite sure what CNA is good for except to get a feel for the radical right.  Here's a taste of their definition of inclusiveness.  It's a comment left after another CNA article about Bishop Vera.  (CNA has run three articles on this situation in the last two weeks.  Here's a link to the first one.)

"Mexico has enough problems, it does not need a pro-gay Bishop or his defenders.   He & they, should be removed immediately as an example to other spineless prelates !   Unity of the faithful is primary to the inclusiveness of the deviates !"

Nice comment that, expresses a profound understanding of Christian love.  But I'm wondering why CNA has seen fit to publish three articles about a situation in a smaller Mexican diocese.  Then I remembered this quote from Chaput in John Allen's extensive interview

Gay marriage?
This is the issue of our time....
WHAT!!!!  Gay marriage is the issue of our time?  Where is that true?  In the Church?  I would think abuse, corruption, fiscal malfeasance, and the incredible exodus of laity are the issues of our time.  In society?  I would think the iniquitous distribution of wealth, corporate exploitation, global warming, human poverty, war, and disease are vastly more important issues.  In the family?  No, that would be heterosexual divorce,  unwed parents and the aforementioned social ills relating to disease and poverty.  If gay marriage isn't the issue of our time in the church, society, or family then just where is it the issue of our time?  In the minds of those who do not want their followers to see any of those other issues.  Those very issues where they have failed mightily and in some cases purposefully enabled that failure for their own ends.  

So I am not surprised that CNA has chosen to run three articles about a gay ministry in a Mexican diocese at the exact time the rest of the Catholic world has been focused on Ireland and the fact the Irish government is taking on the Vatican.  I am not surprised CNA is running these articles when the rest of the Christian world is debating white European Christian terrorism.  I am not surprised CNA is running these articles when the US is debating the insanity of the manufactured debt ceiling crisis which has the potential to send the whole world back into another devastating recession.  I will grant this, gay marriage is the issue in our time for those who desperately need a scapegoat to divert chunks of the population from considering the real issues facing humanity in our time.  It stinks to high heaven and I can't imagine heaven enjoys the smell.

God Bless Bishop Vera and may He grant Bishop Vera success in his quest to free himself and his diocese from the tyranny of CNA and it's purposefully misled readership.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fr Mychal Judge Nominated For The Congressional Gold Medal

I saw this live on TV and lost it.  This was a man for all seasons in our time.  He has more than merited  the secular honor, but the religious equivalent will not be his in this current Church climate.  God Bless Mychal Judge.

ACTION ALERT! Father Mychal Judge has been nominated for The Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of his heroic life and death. This is the nation's highest and oldest honor, first awarded to George Washington in 1776. Please contact members of Congress to urge them to support this award. See details here

Mychal's Prayer:
Lord, take me where You want me to go,
let me meet who You want me to meet,
tell me what You want me to say,
and keep me out of Your way.

In view of some things going on in my life at this moment, it's really interesting to me I caught this prayer of Mychal's today.  Just one more proof God is good and things are really moving in terms of an enlightened Catholic consciousness.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

USCCB On The Debt Ceiling Crisis: A Return To A More Traditional Political Stance

This aspect of the Republican party platform does not have the USCCB seal of approval

Today the USCCB sent out a letter with their views on the current budget debate-- or budget war or political grandstanding or political death march or economic suicide or whatever it is that congress is engaged in.  Here's a small part of it, but it did my heart good to read it:

"A just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons. It requires shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues, eliminating unnecessary military and other spending, and addressing the long-term costs of health insurance and retirement programs fairly." (The bold emphasis is in the original text)

 The entire letter is worth reading if only because it's close to being progressive and it reflects actual Catholic teaching on social justice.  Plus it's Christian as well as Catholic.  (The two are not always the same.)  Unfortunately, unless the USCCB is joined by LCWR, Congress probably won't pay much attention.  It seems religious women have more of an impact in Congress than Catholic bishops.  Maybe that's because religious women tend to be in life's trenches with the laity far more than most Catholic bishops.

My own personal opinion of this idiocy is that Barak Obama would have made a very good Nixon like corporate Republican.  I always suspected he was going to be far more Bill Clinton that JFK, but the reality seems to indicate he's actually closer to Nixon than Clinton.  Which says what about how far right this country has swung.  It's so far to the right,  mainstream Republicans couldn't find their way back into their own home  with satellite navigation.

Which brought back memories of the USCCB in the 70's and 80's, when they really were progressive social justice Catholics who thought more like Jesus and less like Robert P George.  That was before St Ronald Reagan recognised their influence and then had his heart to wallet talk with Blessed JPII.  From then on things swung to the right faster than one could say Archbishop Chaput.

Anyway this got me thinking what it would take for progressives to get any kind of foothold and start swinging things back towards JFK and away from Ayn Rand.  Since God is good,  I came across these thoughts at the end of this article on the debt crisis by Robert Borosage:

 "Progressives need to learn not so much from the Tea Party as from their own history and build an independent movement to stand with working Americans. Unlike the Tea Party fringe, a progressive movement has the advantage of mobilizing Americans around values and the policy priorities that are supported by a broad majority. It can organize to hold legislators in both parties accountable, demanding that they stand up for the many, not the privileged few. Today, a range of groups are doing just that, calling on members to inundate Congress with demands that Medicare and Social Security be protected, and that the rich pay their fair share of any deal. The challenge for the movement is whether it can gear up to run its own challengers in Democratic primaries against incumbents who are more responsive to their contributors than their constituents. The American Dream Movement, championed by Van Jones,, the Center for Community Change, the Campaign for America's Future that I help direct and others, is beginning to build that uprising.

There is much talk about new centrist third parties, about the need for bipartisan compromise to get things done. But when the Democratic position is to embrace $2.7 trillion in cuts from discretionary spending, divorced from any demand for progressive tax reform or any growth strategy that will rebuild the middle class, the "center" has been wrenched so far to the right that it is at odds with the common sense of most Americans. We need a citizen's movement willing to challenge money politics, clean out the corrupt stables in Washington, and demand a politics that works for working people."

If the USCCB got on board with this idea it would only be in their best interests.  For starters, abortion numbers will go way up if the Tea Party gets it's way and millions more Americans will die from lack of lack of medical coverage, lack of any ability to access preventative medicine, lack of decent food and housing, stress from joblessness, suicide,  and any number of other ways life provides for those who can't fend for themselves.  Really, it would be the pro life thing to do.  They've at least made a start.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Breaking News: Vatican Recalls Apostolic Nuncio To Ireland

Irish Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe  Leanza is being 'recalled' to the Vatican to answer questions from some other inquiring minds.

The following announcement is taken from the Vatican Radio website, English version.  Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has been heard loud and clear in Vatican City.

Cloyne Report: recalling of Nuncio denotes seriousness of situation
On Monday the Vatican Press Office released a statement announcing that the Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, has been recalled to Rome for consultations.

The press release states : “Following the publication on 13 July, of the Irish government’s Commission of Inquiry Report into allegations of abuse of minors by clergy of the diocese of Cloyne, otherwise known as the ‘Cloyne Report’ and, in particular, the reactions that have followed, the Secretary of State has recalled the Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, HE Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza for consultations”.

In response to journalists questions, Fr. Ciro Benedettini, vice director of the Vatican Press Office outlined the following points:
- The recalling of the Nuncio is intended primarily to allow the Secretary of State and other Dicasteries involved to consult with those working on the ground in order to prepare the official answer of the Holy See to the Irish Government following the Cloyne Report.

- The recalling of the Nuncio, a measure rarely used by the Holy See, denotes the seriousness of the situation, and the desire of the Holy See to deal with it objectivity and with determination, as well as a certain note of surprise and regret regarding some excessive reactions.

- The recalling of the Nuncio should be interpreted in line with the Holy See’s desire for a serious and effective cooperation.

 There is more background information on this decision an article in the UK Daily Mail.  I found these paragraphs most interesting:

The decision to recall Monsignor Leanza was taken by the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone after he had been informed of the attack by Mr Kenny during his holiday in the Alps.

A Vatican source said: 'His Eminence although on his summer break had asked to be kept informed of developments in Ireland and he like other senior Curia figures was surprised at the attack by the Irish prime minister.

'He consulted with them and with the Pope's private Secretary and it was decided that Monsignor Leanza should be called back so he could explain in first hand the report and the reaction.

'The Holy See does take the situation in Ireland very seriously and is keen to show it wants to rebuild relations with the faithful following the abuse cases.'

To recall an ambassador is not the same as requesting they come back to head quarters for consultation.  Recall is a term generally used when an ambassador's government is making a strong statement of disapproval of a given direction taken by the host government.  Secretary of State Cardinal Bertone may say he was surprised at the tone of Enda Kenny's speech, but I imagine the truer words would be 'very angered by'.
If the Holy See is truly interested in rebuilding relations with the Irish faithful, they could start by 'recalling' a few other Irish bishops including one with a red hat, and stop the shunning of Archbishop Martin of Dublin.  
I doubt we will see that level of seriousness.


Repeat 10 Times Daily - " I Am Not The One Who Is Mad Here."

This is a series of five stained glass panels by Fr. Dan Hillen, entitled 'We Are Not Alone'.  They were donated by Dr and Mrs Leroy Byrd to Holy Family Hospital, Spokane WA.  Rest in peace Dan.

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has generated a great deal of discussion and debate from his speech to the Irish Dael, July 20.  When I originally read his speech, there were a couple of sections that really stood out for me, but one actually brought tears to my eyes.  It was this section:

"This Roman Clericalism must be devastating for good priests .... some of them old ... others struggling to keep their humanity .... even their sanity ........ as they work so hard ..... to be the keepers of the Church's light and goodness within their parishes ...... communities... the human heart."

I've been very close friends with priests who have lived the exact struggle described here by Kenny.  Some even went so far as to literally question their sanity as so many of the reasons they chose to become priests were shelved, dumped off the table, twisted to mean something far different than they thought.  It didn't help that my birthday, which was the day before Kenny gave his speech,  is also the same date my very close friend/priest died. I can state with certainty that he died in absolute turmoil about his priesthood, having gotten to the point where he questioned if there was any truth in it at all.  In any event, there was one comment to the NCR article from Tom Doyle on Kenny's speech that addresses the statement above.  It was written by a priest, but it really speaks for many of us.

written by Fr. Anthony

I read out Enda's speech at Mass at the weekend. The congregation applauded!
There were many tearful moments for me personally in that speech. When Enda stated that teenagers are still children, I wept. Bertone attempted to say that the vast majority of abuse victims were teenagers and tried to lump the blame on gay men. The US Bishops blamed "Woodstock." Liberals, secularists, the post Vatican II Church, the Media, - all got the blame from these clericalists.

Enda named the culprits and shamed them - all of those involved in the culture of CLERICALISM! The soutane wearers, the thurible wafters!! Those who have replaced the gospel of compassion with this obnoxious, anti-kingdom religious theatre. (I love this line.)

It didnt escape me that while all of this was going on in Ireland, last week, here on NCR, the two Chaput threads were filling with triumphalistic, nauseous remarks, glorifying yet another clericalist being prepared for a red hat in Philadelphia. Sad, sad short-sighted people.

I loved Enda's comments about decent clergy who must have been questioning their own sanity over the years. Yes, Enda, we did! We have watched the Gospel being replaced by dogma. We have watched good men and women being sacked and excommunicated while wickedness has been rewarded.

I watched them undermining Oscar Romero and Helder Camera while extolling the "virtues" of Opus Dei and Legionnaire's founders - the money men! I wondered if I was going insane. Enda got it spot on there!

I now watch them revising history, especially that of Vatican II Council, attempting to tell the world that what was said and written then, was not actually what was meant. That the call for collegiality - and the overwhelming votes FOR such things as Mass in the vernacular, increased participation for the laity, a renewed focus on the gospel - that the Council actually meant the OPPOSITE to all of these things. Yes, Enda, I thought I was going mad. (He was not the only priest who thought this.)

When the Synod of Bishops met in Rome to discuss how to get the Eucharist to the poorer areas of the world, - didnt speak about the role of women, nor the permanent diaconate, nor married clergy (unless you are an Anglican!!), voted for the status quo with the addendum that we might want to consider reopening Junior Seminaries (WHAT?????!!!!) - they should have been sacked for deleriction of duty. Instead, Benedict treated them all to a sumptious banquet declaring, "It was not unintended that Jesus chose the imagery of a banquet as presaging Heaven..." That was all I needed to know about these clerics. They showed utter contempt for the poor. Jesus would have walked through their fine dining room and wrecked it that day.

So, thank you, Enda Kenny. Thank you the 2500 priests, victims of clergy abuse and ordinary Catholics from around the world who have written to Enda since his speech to thank him. Vatican II will not go away, the Holy Spirit will not be defeated. Enda, ad multos annos!

As one writer stated on here, "Repeat ten times daily - I am not the one who is mad here!!"


I could write reams and reams on this comment, but I choose instead to let it stand alone, because that is unfortunately the state of mind of far too many of our good priests.  They are not alone. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

What Does Sir Rupert Murdoch Tell Us About The Vatican's Relationship With Money?

It could be that today's nouveau riche won't be all that interested in the traditional honors scrambled after by yesterday's nouveau riche.

There's been interesting fall out from some international stories in the last couple of weeks.  Some of those stories have intersecting points of interest for the Church.  One such story is the scandal surrounding Rupert Murdoch's news empire.  Back in 1998, Murdoch was made a Knight Commander of St Gregory under the sponsorship of Cardinal Mahoney of LA.  At that time Murdoch's then wife Anna was a Catholic and she herself was made a Dame of the Order. These honorary papal knighthoods are interesting in and of themselves, at least as to who is in and who is out, but now some folks think there should be some accountability for membership--and I'm not talking accountability in the financial sense.  The following is from Britian's Catholic Herald:

Debate: Should Rupert Murdoch’s papal knighthood be rescinded?

In 1998 Rupert Murdoch was made a Knight Commander of St Gregory. He had apparently been recommended for the honour by Cardinal Roger Mahony, after giving money to a Church education fund. A year later he donated $10 million to help build Los Angeles Catholic cathedral.

Is it right that papal knighthoods should be awarded in this way? The honour is supposed to recognise a person’s service to the Church. Certainly, Murdoch’s money has helped the Church; but surely there are many, many faithful Catholics, whose tireless service to the Church goes unacknowledged, who deserve to be honoured much more.

And is Rupert Murdoch a person the Church should celebrate? He owns – or did own – a newspaper that lost its moral bearings; he ought to bear some responsibility for that.
On the other hand, rescinding his papal knighthood might be difficult to justify. Other papal knights may also have flaws. Where do you set the bar?
So, should Rupert Murdoch’s papal knighthood be rescinded? Or is it fair to honour someone who has helped the Church financially?


First off I have no doubt Rupert Murdoch will retain his knightly status.  Back in 1831 when Pope Gregory  XVI initiated this entirely lay knightly order, he said this in the inaugural brief:    

"gentlemen of proven loyalty to the Holy See who, by reason of their nobility of birth and the renown of their deeds or the degree of their munificence, are deemed worthy to be honoured by a public expression of esteem on the part of the Holy See"

I wrote yesterday that the Holy See has been right on top the changing economic scene in Europe, and back in 1831 the handwriting was on the wall via old noble money and the burgeoning upstart nouveau riche.  Hence one could achieve Papal Knighthood through the age old notion of noble birth or by the new reality of donating loads of money.  For the Vatican, selling papal nobility kept them connected with the changing scene of wealth and power, and nothing has changed about that 'mission'.

There will be no real reform of Catholicism as a spiritual system until leadership changes it's relationship with money.  Catholicism has to stop rewarding billionaires for donating millions to build cathedrals.  They could start altering this relationship by taking the very tiny step of looking at how those billionaires made the money they donate.  Murdoch has done more to destroy the integrity of Western news media than any other single individual.  He has done more to lower the level of discourse in the West by promoting the soft porn of his tabloids right thru to the ideological venom which now passes for cable news in the US.  If his business practices are seriously being held up as some sort of Catholic notion of chivalrous behavior, it's a form of chivalry with zero basis in the Gospels.

If readers take the time to read some of the comments after the Herald article they might catch a glimmer of where common ground can be found in Catholicism.  It's this notion of how the Vatican relates to wealth.  I don't think we can even begin to address the other multiple expressions of abuse until we start seriously demanding accountabilty for how our leadership relates to the wealth of the world.  There is a spiritual way and a worldly way.  The vast majority of Catholic history has been thoroughly polluted by relating to wealth in the worldly way.  It's past time to try a different path.