Friday, September 30, 2011

Pope Benedict's Thoughts In German Speeches Lead To Some Thoughts About Circling Drains

The following is an excerpt from an article on the Italian Blog Chiesa.Espressonline, written by Sandro Magister.  I found it a pretty good synopsis of the main points Benedict made in his some eighteen speeches and homilies during his trip to Germany.  Sandro Magister is sort of Italy's version of John Allen.  I frequently read the English version of Magister's blog to get another perspective on All Things Vatican, but especially the thinking of Pope Benedict.....

.......But the speeches of Benedict XVI that will prompt the most discussion are perhaps the ones that he addressed to Catholics in Germany, and, through them, to Western Catholicism as a whole.

In a Germany marked, not only among the Protestants but also among the Catholics, by persistent anti-Roman sentiments and by recurrent pressures for disciplinary and practical reforms – like the abolition of clerical celibacy, priesthood for women, communion for the divorced and remarried, the "democratic" election of bishops – Benedict XVI did not in any way give in to these demands, or even mention them, but rather obliged everyone, including those who make them, to consider the seriousness of what is at stake.

The German Catholic Church – the pope pointed out – is a "superbly organized" force. Even the reforms that are constantly solicited belong to this structural environment. "But behind the structures," the pope asked, "is there also a corresponding spiritual strength, the strength of faith in the living God?"

For Benedict XVI, "we have more than enough by way of structure but not enough by way of Spirit." Because "the real crisis facing the Church in the western world is a crisis of faith." And therefore "If we do not find a way of genuinely renewing our faith, all structural reform will remain ineffective." (I happen to agree with Benedict on this point, but I also think we are coming at it from two very different starting points.  I think the current structures with their methodology for handing on the faith are the biggest impediment to spiritual renewal in the West.  Benedict seems to think spiritual renewal will ipso facto transcend the fact he has no intention of reforming the religious structure.)

Here the pope was speaking to the Council of the Central Committee of German Catholics, but he also said similar things in the homily at the Mass celebrated in Freiburg on Sunday, September 25, and at the following meeting with Catholics "active in the Church and society."

Instead of reforms of institutions and structures, which for him would be a sterile accommodation of the Church to the world, Benedict XVI preached an interior, spiritual reform, centered on that supreme "scandal" of the cross "which cannot be eliminated unless one were to eliminate Christianity itself": a scandal unfortunately "overshadowed in recent times by other painful scandals on the part of the preachers of the faith" stained with sexual abuse against minors.

The pope cautioned against an exclusively individual faith, restricted to the private sphere. He insisted on the indissoluble bond that unites each Christian with the next, in the universal Church. (But one does not need to go through some clerical system in order to recognize that indissoluble bond.)

But he also outlined the future, in Germany and in the West, made up not of great masses of faithful, but of "small communities of believers," which he has called on other occasions "creative minorities," capable, in a pluralistic society, of "[making] others curious to seek the light." (This is also a point made frequently on this blog and in the comments section, but again, I doubt we are operating from the same starting point.)

To these restless seekers of light, in the homily of the Mass celebrated in Freiburg, the pope even gave precedence "in the kingdom of God" with respect to believers by habit:

"Agnostics, who are constantly exercised by the question of God, those who long for a pure heart but suffer on account of their sin, are closer to the Kingdom of God than believers whose life of faith is 'routine' and who regard the Church merely as an institution, without letting it touch their hearts, or letting the faith touch their hearts."

Not only that. In his speech to Catholics active in the Church and society, Benedict XVI called for a purification of the Church, not only from the "excesses" of its organizational structures, but also from wealth and power in general, from its "material and political burdens." He recalled that this was the case in the Old Testament for the priestly tribe of Levi, which did not possess an earthly inheritance, but "only God himself, his word and his signs." (This did not include the Temple High Priests, who pretty much swam in wealth and political power. )

Joseph Ratzinger has always balanced these kinds of statements with others that are complementary. And he did so this time as well.

For example, with regard to the "faithful by routine" preceded in the kingdom of God by the agnostics who seek God, it must be noted that in another moment of his voyage – at the vigil with young people – the pope reiterated that all of the baptized, even the most lukewarm and habitual, are nonetheless called "saints" by the apostle Paul: and not because they are good and perfect, but because they are all loved by God and called by him to be sanctified.

And with regard to a Church stripped of possessions and earthly powers, it must be noted that Benedict XVI also insisted several times in Germany on the need for a vigorous "public presence" of this same Church, unimaginable without a material "body" to substantiate faith with works. (Which would be doubly true for it's global headquarters.)

But the fact remains that never before this voyage had Benedict XVI insisted so emphatically on the spiritual element. Never had he given such prominence to the ideal of a Church poor in structures, in possessions, in power.

But at the same time, never before his speech to the Bundestag had Pope Benedict so vigorously asserted Christianity as being the foundation of the juridical culture of the West, and of all humanity. And the Church as being the great defender of this civilization today, in an age that has lost sight of its foundations.


I think where I disagree most with Pope Benedict is in how I conceptualize the living Church.  I think one can't have a living anything without it evolving, growing, the current generation moving beyond it's progenitors, and on and on.  If nature show us anything, it shows us that those living systems that don't or can't evolve, don't survive.  This propels me to ask certain questions about any system.  When I see dysfunction and stagnation I ask, what are the environmental impediments to forward progress, to reaching a healthy equilibrium.  Most often in social organisms, it's leadership, leadership structures, the environment that creates, and/or a refusal to consider accommodating to changing circumstances.  

As an example, the organization I currently work for is repeating the same mistakes that caused it's current crisis, and calling it change for the future.  What is really happening is that it is asking it's employees to buckle down and personally transcend it's mistakes.  This is not change.  This is squeezing the last drop of energy out of a corporate system precisely to avoid making any meaningful sweeping changes that might have the potential of renewing the system and it's constituent parts--of giving it a long term viable future.  In this particular case, the equivalent of our pope and college of cardinals give us upbeat and energetic bishops who say all the rights things, and intend to implement all the right things, only to find out they will not ever be given the authority to effect any of those saying and things.  It's a sad phenomenon to see.  It's repeated itself over and over again, and each time it does, we circle the drain further down the sink.    

And this is exactly what Benedict is calling for with his continual references to lack of faith and spirituality in the Catholic West.  He is asking the constituent  parts to transcend the errors and mistakes of a totally dysfunctional systemHe is attempting to squeeze the last bit of spiritual energy out of the Catholic West in order to keep the clerical system in place--untouched and unreformed.  It won't work.  Catholicism will continue to circle the drain, ever lower and lower and lower.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Conspiracies Galore

I want to thank Betty Clermont for giving me the heads up on this particular NCR article by John Allen.  I haven't reprinted the entire article, just a number of hugely interesting paragraphs.  The article deals with the appointment of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano as the new nuncio to the US.  I am just stunned with how Allen's description of Vigano's career epitomizes the teachings of Jesus Christ.---OK not really, not at all in fact.

......Though Washington has long been seen as the capstone of a prestigious career, by most accounts it wasn’t Viganò’s first choice. Instead, it’s a sort of consolation prize for coming out on the wrong end of a bruising Vatican power struggle.

Since 2009, Viganò had served as secretary general, or No. 2 official, of the Governatorate of the Vatican City State, responsible for administration of the 108-acre Vatican territory and its personnel. It’s a key role in Vatican money management, and Viganò carved out a reputation as a strong, but also strong-willed and sometimes polarizing, financial reformer.

Insiders say that Viganò had hoped to take over the top job at the Governatorate when Italian Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, 76, steps down in October
It wasn’t an unrealistic aim, given Viganò’s reputation for streamlining the city state’s notoriously cumbersome bureaucracy. Observers say he established a centralized procurement procedure to obtain better discounts from suppliers (among other things, negotiating a new deal with Vodafone Italia to provide cell phone services for Vatican personnel), required rational cost estimates for projects, and demanded that each project have a manager accountable for coming in under budget. After 10 months, Viganò saved enough on running the Vatican Gardens alone that he was able to fund an update of the Vatican’s entire heating system.

Overall, Viganò reportedly turned a $9.5 million deficit into a $40 million surplus, which won him Benedict’s thanks during an audience this spring in which Viganò presented the pontiff with the books. (It seems we have a good steward for a change.  Really though, given the time frame, this is a staggering turn around.  I can't help but wonder how much of it was due to stopping things like graft and financial corruption.)

All that seemingly set up Viganò for a key insider role. Benedict has launched what aides informally describe as a comprehensive “glasnost” of Vatican finances, among other things bringing in a respected lay economist, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, to reform the Vatican Bank, and creating a new watchdog agency to monitor Vatican compliance with international standards of transparency and efforts against money-laundering.  (Uhmmm, Tedeschi is himself being investigated for improprieties in running the Vatican Bank.  Improprieties like money laundering and lack of transparency.  Benedict's new watch dog agency is a direct result of those Tedeschi 'reforms'.)

In fact, however, Viganò’s rising star apparently ran afoul of internal tensions, for reasons both ideological and personal.
Before his job in the Governatorate, Viganò held a key post in the Secretariat of State responsible for assignments to Vatican embassies around the world. That ended in 2009, when a well-known French traditionalist priest, Fr. Claude Barthe, published an essay including Viganò and his nephew, Msgr. Carlo Maria Polvani, who also works in the Vatican, on a list of officials allegedly undercutting Benedict’s efforts to promote a revival of Catholic tradition. (Barthe charged that Polvani is “an old-style admirer of Che Guevara.”)
In Vatican politics, the circles around the secretary of state are regarded as the moderate, pragmatic camp, which has often bred suspicion among more doctrinally-oriented figures concerned with fidelity to Catholic tradition. (Who in their own turn breed paranoia amongst everyone not considered pure enough to be one of them.)
Some observers believe the essay by Barthe, whose liturgical writings have won praise from Benedict, was responsible for Viganò’s transfer to the Governatorate. Once there, Viganò’s efforts to take control of financial management created new controversy -- this time not for doctrinal reasons, but on the basis of complaints from department heads about alleged micromanagement and a lack of collaboration. (I can't help but wonder if all that 'micromanagement' was to keep their discontented fingers out of the financial cookie jar.)

Last year, those tensions were widely held responsible for a series of anonymous e-mails, sent to cardinals and to Vatican embassies, accusing Viganò of nepotism in promoting the career of his nephew. The anti-Viganò drumbeat culminated in a piece in the Italian newspaper Il Giornale, published under a pseudonym, that accused Viganò of attempting to seize control of the Vatican’s security services. According to the essay, that effort had been turned back by the secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
(Appears poor Archbishop Vigano is just a font of paranoia for his always anonymous attackers.)

If a recent report in the Italian magazine Panorama is to be believed, Viganò also has fans willing to play rough. It claims that Bertone recently received a letter containing a veiled death threat, supporting Viganò’s work at the Governatorate and accusing Bertone of “not knowing how to take decisions and of choosing aides on the basis of personal friendships.” (Why does all this remind me of a good Mafia movie?)

Vatican sources say that Benedict, who has repeatedly expressed warnings about ecclesiastical careerism, has found this public fray distasteful. (I actually find it pathetic, immature, and twisted, but then I sometimes am not exactly PC or even polite.)

As the carping played out, sources say, insiders floated the idea of sending Viganò to the United States as a face-saving solution. Those sources say Viganò wrote to Benedict to express his desire not to go overseas; the pope apparently replied on Aug. 13, asking him to go to America anyway, stressing the importance of having someone “of merit” on the scene for the 2012 elections.....(Better that than floating face down in the Tiber.)


I am at a loss as to understand why John Allen wrote this piece the way he did.  Let me indulge in conspiracy theory.  I wonder if Vigano was not a fan of, nor connected with, Opus Dei and didn't like the way OD handles it's portion of the Vatican pie.  Gotti Tedeschi is both and Allen sort of left out that critical piece of information about Tedeschi's little problem with Italian banking regulators.

I had no idea who Father Claude Barthe was so of course I googled.  He is a priest ordained by Archbishop LeFebre who returned to the Roman fold, but has an indult to say only the Traditional Latin Mass.  His big conspiracy is that by supporting Benedict's 'reform of the reform' and it's Latinizing of the Novus Ordo coupled with adding the Traditional Latin Mass in every parish, eventually there will be very little difference in the two Masses.  Especially if most of the rubrics of the NO are changed to those of the TLM.  This means communion rails and it's kneeler, no lay people behind said communion rail, reversing the altar, and tons of Latin hymns and Gregorian chant.  This will be seen to result in vocations to the priesthood by the bucketful,  a return to Traditional Catholic piety,  and lots of money flowing into diocesan and Vatican coffers.  (Maybe this isn't really a conspiracy theory as much as it is an utter fantasy.)

In any event it does seem the Father Barthe has some pull with Benedict XVI, and things do seem to be progressing pretty much a long the path described in the linked article about Barthe.  Bishop Olmstead in Phoenix readily sprang to mindBut wait, Olmstead is also Opus Dei.  Oh my God, I've found a conspiracy between Vaticanista traditionalists, money,  and Opus Dei.  

I get it now, Vigano had to go because he was actually saving money and being an honest steward.  Unfortunately for him,  the Vatican Tradition is to waste money, launder money, and bilk the laity for even more money, some of which goes to launder the unbelievably expensive TLM vestments lavish amounts of money are wasted on.  It's a perfect circle.

And if this isn't enough to disgust a good Catholic with Vatican insider politics, there's always this article about the Catholic Internet news agency Zenit and the zealous traditional clone of Opus Dei, The Legionaires of Christ. It seems the editor of Zenit, Jesus Colina,  is stepping down because he can't seem to get the Legion to be more transparent in their accounting methods regarding Zenit, and the Legion doesn't trust him for insisting they do. Which means no one trusts anyone.  Wow more paranoia and conspiracy.  Dan Brown would love it----except as fun as this Vatican conspiracy stuff is, I don't get what it has to do with Jesus.


Monday, September 26, 2011

A Papal Appeal To Family Unity And Talk Of Retirement

Talk about 'Rock Star' status.  I just can't fathom Jesus ever allowing such a display for Himself.

I've been reading Vatican Insider coverage of Pope Benedict's trip to Germany and found the following article.  Of course this was yesterday, and today VI says No way, No how, but I wonder.  The following was edited for length.

Media say Pope may resign in April

Andrea Tornielli -  Vatican Insider - 9/25/2011
There is one front page news story that will certainly not go unnoticed: that is, that the Pope is thinking about resigning during the Spring of 2012. Journalist Antonio Socci has confirmed the same in the Italian daily, Libero.
"For now,” Socci writes, “he is saying that this may be true (Joseph Ratzinger’s personal assumption), but I hope the story does not reach the news. But this rumor is circulating high up in the Vatican and therefore deserves close attention. The Pope has not rejected the possibility of his resignation when he turns 85 in April next year.”
Socci recalls that the assumption he will resign, without any hitches, was the same thing Ratzinger talked about in an interview in the book “Luce del mondo” (Light of the World), when, in response to a question by interviewer Peter Seewald, he said: “When a Pope arrives at a clear awareness that he no longer has the physical, mental, or psychological capacity to carry out the task that has been entrusted to him, then he has the right, and in some cases, even the duty to resign.” Furthermore, in another passage, Benedict XVI wondered if he would be able to “withstand it all, just from the physical point of view.”
Socci makes the following observation in today’s edition of Libero: “Today, Pope Benedict seems to be in really good form; just the same, there’s the issue of his age and just how much energy he has left.” But the writer/journalist also recalls another passage from the same book interview, which has to do with the attacks and controversies related to the pedophile priests' scandal: “When there is a great menace, one cannot simply run away from it. That is why, right now, it is definitely not the time to resign.”
“It is actually at moments like these that one needs to resist and overcome difficult situations. One can only resign at a time when things are calm, or simply, when nothing more can be done about it. But one cannot run away right when the threat is alive and say, ‘Let somebody else take care of it.”......
  ......Anyone who knows Ratzinger would confirm that the answer he gave to Seewald, is what he feels would be best, in the event of him becoming physically, mentally, or psychologically incapacitated. However, such a possibility seems, at the moment, somewhat remote. In fact, one is immediately struck by the contrast between the front page story in Libero and the images coming from Germany, where Benedict XVI is concluding an historic trip, during which he made 18 speeches in four days. Many of these put him under considerable pressure, especially as they were entirely written by him. The German press was astonished at the old Pontiff’s endurance, which he demonstrated by the fact that he was able to manage all the exhaustion from moving around; he did not sleep more than one night in a single bed. And he was successful in carrying out a packed schedule of engagements, meetings, vigils, and celebrations. 


It is not hard to believe that an 85 year old Benedict might seriously want to retire to Bavaria and spend his last years quietly writing.  Unfortunately it is more believable that the elder circle in the Vatican absolutely do not want this to happen, and like with John Paul II there will be no retirement of Benedict XVI.  I actually find this abusive, but it's entirely consistent with the history of the Vatican of the last 150 years.  The symbol of the papacy is far more important than the practical effectiveness of it's occupant.  What would all those traditionalists do with the fact of two elected popes living at the same time? 

I am personally stuck on such burning questions as to whether Benedict would get to vote or even be in the electoral college.  His retirement and 'advice' from inside the conclave might be the most effective way to see to it that his 'reform of the reform' continues on after him.  No wonder I'm stuck. 

In Benedict's busy weekend, there were a couple of statements that I found more interesting than others Two came in his last homily.  Again from Vatican Insider.

Benedict XVI issued an unusual and sincere warning, a provocative message that should be read very carefully: it is better to be a searching agnostic than a fake believer. During the mass that was celebrated this morning at the airport in Freiburg, in the last day of his German visit, Benedict XVI praised the "agnostics who cannot find peace due to their questions about God, people who suffer because of our sins and are desirous of a pure heart."

They are "closer to the Kingdom of God than "routine" believers who only see the apparatus of the Church without their hearts being touched by faith."....

And later on Benedict says this:

"The renewal of the Church," Ratzinger warned, "can only come about through the willingness to convert and through a renewal of faith.” The German Pope, aware that the ill-feeling towards the Vatican's failure to respond to requests for renewal, is most felt in his homeland, Germany and in Austria, warned that "the Church in Germany will overcome the great challenges of the present and future and will remain yeast in society, if the priests, consecrated persons and lay believers in Christ, loyal to their own specific vocation, work together in unity." 

And then this in another homily:

"It is true that there is a growing aversion towards the Catholic Church, and that the number of people leaving the Church is constantly growing, but one of the reasons for this, is that people have “wrong ideas” about the Church and “focus on its negative aspects,” “when staying with Christ, means staying with the Church.”  (Sigh....) 

Benedict stressed conversion a lot in his many talks and homilies, just as he also stressed unification with Rome.  As the above quotes demonstrate he even makes a connection between Catholics who are now agnostics and who suffer 'because of our sins and are desirous of a pure heart".  But then to have him call for conversion to the very system that produced all those once Catholic now agnostic searchers is precisely what drives me crazy with his papacy.  It's the classic behavior of an abusive parent.  The real conversion needs to go the other way around.  The Church in Germany and Austria is well past any notion of 'coming home' to an unreformed and unconverted parent.  The 'hug/slap' thing only works so long before the recipient of such 'attention' says:  "See ya buy, call me when you've really changed.  We'll talk then."

If Benedict can't see this, than he really should retire because Papa Ratzinger is not the man who can put this German family back together.  

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Just For Fun

Or he was just another Californian

There were 3 good arguments that Jesus was Black:

1. He called everyone brother
2. He liked Gospel
3. He didn't get a fair trial

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was Jewish:

1. He went into His Father's business
2. He lived at home until he was 33
3. He was sure his Mother was a virgin and his Mother was sure He was God

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was Italian:

1. He talked with His hands
2. He had wine with His meals
3. He used olive oil

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was a Californian:

1. He never cut His hair
2. He walked around barefoot all the time
3. He started a new religion

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was an American Indian: 

1. He was at peace with nature
2. He ate a lot of fish
3. He talked about the Great Spirit

But then there were 3 equally good arguments that Jesus was Irish: 

1. He never got married..
2. He was always telling stories.
3. He loved green pastures.

But the most compelling evidence of all - 3 proofs that Jesus was a woman: 

1. He fed a crowd at a moment's notice when there was virtually no food
2. He kept trying to get a message across to a bunch of men who just didn't get it
3. And even when He was dead, He had to get up because there was still work to do

Can I get an AMEN

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pope Benedict Teaches One Thing And Bishop Olmstead Does His Own Thing

No more of this kind of thing in Phoenix--except for official special occasions.  Kind of like cake and ice cream special kinds of occasions I guess.

While Pope Benedict was in Germany advising the government leaders and politicians in  Bundestag on how not to abuse power, his handpicked bishop for Phoenix, AZ was abusing his power.  The funny thing about this is when I was reading Benedict's speech I kept substituting the word bishop for politician.  Other than that little trick of my mind, I did find Pope Benedict's speech very well articulated and definitely challenging, but in a good way.  But then on the hand, we have Archbishop Olmstead, who has exercised his personal authority to decree that Communion will no longer be given under both species.  I suspect this signals more changes are coming in the distribution of communion for Phoenix Catholics.  Olmstead is lucky he isn't a politician, because his political success would be short lived.  Unfortunately for the Catholics of Phoenix, all the cautions Benedict gives to German politicians don't apply to Benedict's own self serving bishops.  The following is from

 .......The change in practice by the Phoenix Diocese stirred an immediate controversy among priests, deacons and laypeople. Wine will be limited to only special occasions.

"The majority of priests were stunned and aghast at the announcement, and I hear some are planning to meet to see how best to respond," said the Rev. James Turner, pastor of St. Thomas More in Glendale. "While the bishop has the authority to make this policy change, there is no scriptural, theological or sacramental rationale that makes any sense." (No, but DSM IV probably has a rationale that makes sense.)

But the Rev. John Ehrich, pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle in Phoenix, said the liturgical law of the church provides for only specific circumstances under which both forms of Communion may be distributed.
"Bishop Olmsted is merely expecting the priests to follow the teaching of the church in this matter," he said, adding that he imposed restrictions at his parish four years ago.

Sister Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is not aware of another U.S. diocese enacting such a restriction, although she noted that local bishops have the authority to do so.
The Rev. Al Schifano, a top church official in the Diocese of Tucson, said that Bishop Gerald Kicanas encourages Communion using both bread and wine and that the diocese will not change that under the new Mass translations.

The Rev. Anthony Ruff, a professor at St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn., called the move a step backward.
 "It's sad to see," he said, because the move separates the church further ecumenically from others and gives up "the gains we've made in the last half-century in our understanding of liturgy and sacraments."

Catholic members of the community were as divided as the priests.

"I would think these church leaders would be more concerned about the droves of people leaving the Catholic Church as well as the worsening shortage of priests," said Dennis Kavanaugh, an attorney who attends Resurrection parish in Tempe. "These issues are much more substantial to the long-term health of the church rather than reinstating medieval rituals and directives."

Judi Wilson of Blessed Sacrament parish in Scottsdale said she will miss taking Communion wine, but she noted that the church teaches that Christ is fully available in bread or wine.
"It wouldn't make any difference," she said. "I will look forward to those times we can take the wine."

According to the diocese, the change was announced at a recent meeting of diocesan priests with Olmsted. A diocese statement said new rules will be drafted and a time frame determined in the next few months.
Some priests said the date initially was supposed to coincide with the new Mass translation, which is set to debut Nov. 27. But negative reaction from some priests may have persuaded the bishop to hold off.
Olmsted declined a request for an interview. The diocese issued a statement and a question-and-answer sheet to explain the move.

New norms, or guidelines, that came out this year, the statement said, expanded the offering of Communion under the form of wine for most of the world, "but in the Diocese of Phoenix, the new norms call for the practice of less frequent distribution of Holy Communion under both kinds than the faithful may have been accustomed."

The option of offering both bread and wine for Communion has been in place since 1975. Catholics never have been obligated to take both and, until 1975, the practice had been forbidden since the mid-1500s. The church teaches that Christ and the full blessings of Communion are present in either form.

According to the diocesan statement, the United States is one of only a few countries where offering wine became common at Masses, often distributed with the help of non-ordained parishioners.

The Rev. John Muir, a priest at the Newman Center in Tempe who is part of the diocese Office for Worship, said the change actually is a return to general practice of the church worldwide.
The use of consecrated wine for Communion "is a beautiful gift," he said, "to be given the right way, at the right time, with the right sacramental power." (That is of course, the whole issue.)

He added, "Nothing in reality is being taken away. Catholics believe they receive the Precious Blood (the consecrated wine) under the species of bread."

It does appear that Bishop Olmstead is bound and determined to get lay people away from his sacred altar.  First those altar girls, and now those lay people who distribute wine at communion.  "Nothing in reality is being taken away", says Fr John Muir.  Whose reality is that Fr. Muir?  Your reality with your 'right sacramental power', or the lay reality where real lay people are being reduced to passive mumblers in their pews ala the Golden era of 1950?
I will hardly be surprised when the next change coming out of Phoenix is a ban on Communion in the hand.  Can't be having unconsecrated lay hands touching any part of Jesus.  Certainly not lay Eucharistic Ministers and most certainly not run of the mill lay Catholics who probably aren't worthy of reception anyway.  Not in Olmstead's world.  Not in Fr Muir's view of reality.  Bring on the Communion rails which will certainly serve to remind lay folks they do not have the 'right sacramental power'.

The funny thing is,  lay Catholics are beginning to grasp the fact they do have the 'right sacramental power'.  What's more than that, they are beginning to realize the only reason they've been kept from exercising that power is because they have acquiesced in their own dis empowerment.  They didn't have enough education to question what they were being told---or not being told.  That's no longer the case.

I just think it's incredibly ironic that as Pope Benedict warns politicians about relying exclusively on scientific positivism in defining secular governments, Olmstead is asking his flock to rely on it's exact opposite, religious revelation, to justify imposing his own view of reality on the Catholics of Phoenix.  It's no wonder Catholics suffer from cognitive dissonance. It's tough trying to integrate totally different definitions of reality.  It's enough to make a person decide to go their own way, as most of our youth have opted to do.  Eventually all the churches in the West are going to have to start looking at why they are so quickly becoming irrelevant.  I suspect we will find the answers have nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus and every thing to do with failures of our current cast of professional religious. Exactly like the failures of our current cast of professional politicians.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fr Hans Kung On Benedict's Trip To Germany

If these keep rolling in Germany and Austria we could see a case of 'de ja vu'.

Once again I offer an excerpt from a longer article in the German ezine Spiegel On Line.  This time it's a fairly long interview with Fr Hans Kung.  The part I want to concentrate on concerns reform in the Church, what is needed, and why it's not happening.  The entire article can be accessed here.

.....SPIEGEL: You don't just want to reduce the power of the pope. You are also calling for an end to celibacy, you want women to be ordained as priests and you want the Church to lift its ban on birth control. Catholics loyal to the pope say that these elements are part of the core values of the Catholic Church. If you peel all of this away, how much of the Church is left?

Küng: What remains is the same Catholic Church that used to exist -- and which was better. I'm not saying that the papacy should be abolished. But we need offices that serve the congregations, and we need the kind of papacy that was practiced by John XXIII. He didn't seek to dominate. Instead, he simply demonstrated that he was there for everyone, including other churches. He laid the groundwork for the Council and a new dawning of ecumenical Christianity. He allowed a new church to come alive.

SPIEGEL: Many in the Catholic Church says that if all the reforms you call for were implemented, you would be making the church more Protestant and abandoning its Catholic nature.

Küng: The Church will undoubtedly become somewhat more Protestant. But we will always preserve our unique nature. Our global way of thinking, our universality, differentiates us from a certain narrowness in the Protestant regional churches. It should remain that way, just as the office (of the pope) should be retained. But if everything is concentrated in the office, we'll end up with a medieval vicar, a prince-bishop and the pope as absolute monarch, who simultaneously embodies the executive, the legislative and the judiciary -- in contradiction to modern democracy and the Gospel.

SPIEGEL: You and Benedict are traveling along two different paths. You want to reform the Church to keep it alive. The pope is trying to seal off the Church from the outside world and increasingly restrict it to a conservative core, which may possibly survive.

Küng: Indeed. In the past, the Roman system was compared with the communist system, one in which one person had all the say. Today I wonder if we are not perhaps in a phase of "Putinization" of the Catholic Church. Of course I don't want to compare the Holy Father, as a person, with the unholy Russian statesman. But there are many structural and political similarities. Putin also inherited a legacy of democratic reforms. But he did everything he could to reverse them. In the Church, we had the Council, which initiated renewal and ecumenical understanding. Even pessimists couldn't have imagined that such setbacks were possible after that. The Polish pope's restoration policy, beginning in the 1980s, made it possible for the like-minded head of the highly secretive Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), once known as the Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition -- and it's still an inquisition, despite its new name -- to be elected pope.

SPIEGEL: That's an audacious comparison.

Küng: It shouldn't, of course, be overstretched. But unfortunately, even as we acknowledge the positive things, the negative developments that are taking place cannot be overlooked. Practically speaking, both Ratzinger and Putin placed their former associates in key positions and sidelined those they didn't like. One could also draw other parallels: the disempowerment of the Russian parliament and the Vatican Synod of Bishops; the degradation of Russian provincial governors and of Catholic bishops to make them nothing but recipients of orders; a conformist "nomenclature"; and a resistance to real reforms. Ratzinger promoted his assistant from his days as head of the CDF to cardinal secretary of state, which makes him the pope's deputy. (Putinization maybe just another word for rule by loyal cronies.  It is not a particularly mature form of governance, but it is a popular form for running high school cliques.)

SPIEGEL: What's wrong with that?

Küng: The fact that, under the German pope, a small, primarily Italian clique of yes-men, people with no sympathy for the calls for reform, were able to come into power. They are partly responsible for the stagnation that stifles every attempt at modernization of the church system.

SPIEGEL: What do conditions at the Vatican have to do with the state of the Church in Germany?

Küng: A massive system of power politics is behind all the Roman amiability, liturgical displays of splendor and pseudo-statehood. The Vatican controls the appointment of bishops and theology professorships, only allowing those who conform to its policies to attain these positions. Its nuncios monitor the bishops' conferences and constantly report back to headquarters. Denunciators are back in business in this system. Every reform-oriented pastor in Germany, and every bishop, must fear the possibility of being denounced in Rome....... (One can hope and pray they get over their fear and act like mature adults.)


Here's another article well worth the read.  It 's a translation of a speech give by former Benedictine Abbot Giovanni Franzoni.  Franzoni was one of the youngest clerics with voting privileges at Vatican II.  He has a very interesting perspective on what happened to Vatican II.  He makes the same point I've always felt, that JPII/Ratzinger have just accelerated the reversal begun during the Council itself with decisions of Paul VI.  Then as now the three bones of contention were papal power vs collegiality, the role of laity vs the role of the ordained, and reinforcing the reductionist biology of morality based in Natural law.  In short, it was to protect the power and authority of the clerical pyramid--even in the lay bedroom.  Here's a paragraph to give you an idea of where Giovanni Franzoni takes things:

When, in November 1964, the Council was finally getting ready to formally approve the Constitution on the Church, Pope Montini forced them to add a "prior explanatory note" to the text of the third chapter of Lumen Gentium, precisely the one that dealt with the issue of collegiality, that is, the relationship between papal primacy and power of the episcopal college. The note reiterates papal power in an exasperating way, giving it an interpretation that, in retrospect, renders meaningless the episcopal collegiality that was affirmed in Lumen Gentium (to be precise, I recall that the conciliar text never uses the noun "collegiality" but speaks of college of bishops). It repeats a hundred times that this college can do nothing "without its head," or without the Pope. With few exceptions, the Roman Curia has always maintained that the prior note was an act of the Council. But it wasn't; it was a papal act, the full responsibility of Paul VI. The Council simply took note, but formally, without making the text its own.

Have a good read.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Today's Catholic Church

This is not the pope mobile Benedict will use in Germany.  It's worth blowing up the photo and reading the decals.  You will laugh.

The German news magazine Der Spiegel is running a series of articles about the state of the German Catholic Church in anticipation of Pope Benedict's trip to Germany.  Benedict's trip is scheduled to start on Thursday and ends Sunday.  As the Der Spiegel article notes, this is not going to be the kind of unified warm German welcome Pope Benedict received in 2005.  Six years of Benedict's constant appeasement of right wing causes and groups, coupled with the abuse crisis, has resulted in a Church where the vast majority of the laity are at odds with their Vatican appointed conservative hierarchy.  The following is an excerpt from the last article and deals with the current atmosphere in the German Church.  It ain't pretty.  Here are the links to all four articles: 

....The deterioration of the climate among the faithful is also evident in the aggressive criticism with which Christians, ranging from the conservative to the reactionary, pounce on almost anyone who does not wholeheartedly support the orthodox camp.

'Shadow Catholics'
Jesuit priest Mertes, who exposed sexual abuse at Berlin's Canisius College high school, speaks of "shadow Catholics" who vilify their opponents with denunciations and vile attacks. "Parts of the hierarchy knuckle under to these loudmouths, because they're afraid of being berated themselves," he told SPIEGEL in a recent interview.
(Fr Mertes has been subjected to the same kinds of vilification that Fr Tom Doyle has here in the States.  Germany also has their version of Battlin' Bill Donohue and The Catholic League.)
Perhaps the most active mouthpiece of this movement is the website, where generally anonymous authors berate their respective enemies on a daily basis. In their world, Mertes is a "decadent German Jesuit" and "abuse propagandist" whose only goal is to harm the holy church.  (This certainly sounds familiar.)

The gay theologian David Berger, a member of the orthodox Catholic scene himself for years, has been called a "professional faggot," among other insults, after having published a tell-all book about conservative Catholicism. His home address soon appeared on Berger considered stopping his critical remarks about the church, but then he decided against the idea. "Then the gay-baiters would have achieved what they wanted," he says. SPIEGEL is also regularly assailed as a "Kirchenkampf magazine" -- a reference to the struggle between the Nazi regime and the Catholic Church -- which supposedly agitates against true Christians "in the style of Goebbels."  (Who is really operating in the 'style of Goebbels' when one accuses another of using the tactics they themselves are using in making the accusation?)

Are reformist Catholics fighting a lost cause? Have their conservative opponents already won the battle for control of the faith they supposedly share?

Subjected to Hate Mail
Monika Grütters is a member of the German Bundestag for the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU). On a morning two weeks before the pope's visit, she is sitting in her office, talking about how difficult it is to be a devout Catholic.

Every year, in the first week of January, she and about 50 other national politicians attend a retreat at the Maria Laach monastery in the Eifel Mountains of western Germany. On Sundays, Grütters attends mass at St. Ludwig's church in Berlin's Wilmersdorf neighborhood. "Four open-minded, humorous, down-to-earth Franciscans have created a meeting place for spiritual Berlin there," she says. The five services held at the church each weekend are always full, and when a minister recently spoke of "reforms that are urgently needed" in the Catholic Church in his sermon, he received spontaneous, vigorous applause from the congregation.

Grütters rummages angrily through a stack of letters and printed emails. "Here!" she says. She has been showered with a stream of insults, merely because she told the Berlin daily newspaper Der Tagesspiegel that she hoped that rumors about Berlin Archbishop Woelki's ties to Opus Dei were untrue. "It would be devastating," she told the newspaper.

In one of the letters, she is berated as a "zeitgeist dominatrix." Devout Catholics write that they will do their best to ensure that she no longer appears on the list for a Bundestag mandate at the next election. Others have written directly to the CDU's leader, Chancellor Angela Merkel, demanding that the party leadership bring exclusion proceedings against Grütters unless she resigns her seat immediately.

"In such a large organization as the Catholic Church, the diversity of opinions can and should be equally large," says the Catholic politician. "But the large number of open-minded, future-oriented Catholics and reform-oriented lay people cannot allow themselves to be intimidated by the energetic presence of the conservatives and traditionalists, their level of organization and the ruthlessness of some." (The greater issue may be that the Vatican itself is terrified of these organized and ruthless groups.)

Growing Fear
Jesuit priest Mertes, with whom Grütters is in contact, finds it "tragic that such circles within the Church have been promoted by the hierarchy in recent years, thereby attaining a high institutional legitimacy." Mertes believes that it is high time that the issue be discussed with the bishops and other hierarchies.

Many pastors in Cologne have been trying to do this for years. In early September, five of them met in an apartment in the Ehrenfeld neighborhood. They spent hours discussing their disappointments, the dark power of the clergy, the tone of orders within their diocese and the many taboo subjects. They also talked about the fear that pervades the atmosphere in their church.

Pastor Michael Jung from Meckenheim, on the edge of the Eifel Mountains, was one of the five pastors. In a letter to Cardinal Meisner, he had politely asked for more transparency and dialogue in connection with the upcoming consolidation of parishes. It was apparently a mistake, given that transparency and dialogue are not welcome concepts in the Cologne archdiocese. Only a week after sending the letter, Jung was asked to resign from his position as pastor -- at 41. "There is a growing fear among employees and priests of being shot down," says Jung.  (Ah yes, the always useful 'Bishop Morris' solution.)
Even trivial matters are sometimes exaggerated in the conservative religious community. Did the priest read the archbishop's pastoral letter out loud, or did he merely offer his interpretation of it? Does he wear sweaters and jeans, or does he consistently wear a priest's collar? In German rectories, and not just in the Cologne archdiocese, self-proclaimed "faith police" use even such minor external details to monitor the purity of doctrine.

Is this today's Catholic Church?  (Unfortunately it is.)


What a sad state Catholicism finds itself in.  I wonder how Pope Benedict can seriously babble on in his sermons about Jesus's love and mercy and hope, when he secretly rules the Church through fear tactics and shadow groups striking in the night.  What does any of this have to do with the message of the Prince of Peace?  What's next a personal prelature for traditionalist ninjas with a special charism to strike quickly, quietly, and lethally at all prelates liberal? Off hand I can think of one Archbishop who has the right attitude to lead this new charism of consecrated ninjas.  Imagine the movie.  Mel Gibson could write, direct, and star in it.  Opus Dei could produce it.  SSPX could bless it.  Angelo Sodano could write glowing reviews.

I'm really interested in watching some of the EWTN coverage of this papal trip.  Will they or won't they cover the protests?  Will they or won't they admit Benedict's audience for Bundestag is stacked with special invitees to fill the seats vacated by the 100 or so members who are protesting the fact Benedict is even allowed to speak?  This is another situation in which Benedict is conveniently considered a 'Head of State' rather than a religious leader. That little parcel of land St Peter's sits on sure has it's benefits.  One hopes the folks in the Hague are computing the fact the German Government is treating Benedict as a Head of State and not the leader of a decentralized religious organization.

In the meantime, the monarchical leader of the Diocese of Kansas City/St Joseph has decided the real show must go on, in spite of the fact he was forced to testify to a grand jury about his complete mishandling of a clerical child porn addict: 

KC diocese moves forward with annual money appeal

I guess all those attorneys employed by the diocese need to get paid. Which leads me to wonder why it is that only the attorneys of abuse victims are considered money grubbing opportunists?  Last I checked the big law firms employed by dioceses weren't working pro bono or for the Greater Glory of God.  I guess this too is today's Catholic Church.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

What Is The Goal Of Catholic Spirituality?

This is a photo taken at the Shrine at Chimayo, New Mexico.  An interior shot would have been nice to have, but I was pretty sure hell awaited me if I violated their no photo policy.

Catholica Australia has a great thread going about the spiritual goal of Catholicism.  I have my own thoughts about what that might be, but I'm more interested in what readers of this blog think.  In my own journey, one of the things that has made Jesus unique amongst spiritual teachers is both his emphasis on love, and how that manifests in healing.  I suspect that's why I was thrown head long into Native American Spirituality, because that spirituality also places healing very high up the list of spiritual manifestation.  I wrote earlier this year about the placebo effect.  It seems that the placebo effect is a more random application of what is a direct intention in some spiritual practices.  That actually makes some sense, given that Western science,  the philosophical paradigm we mostly operate from,  is essentially based on the probability curve.  In other words, a spiritual/quantum type of healing happens, but rather than being expressed as the fruit of a spiritual system, it's manifested as a function of randomness.  One would hope that eventually those of us who call ourselves Christian will understand healing is much more effective from a position of love, rather than randomness.  But healing is only one aspect of spirituality.  Compassion and love are the real issues.

In any event, here is the link to the Catholica thread.  Please feel free to comment on this same question on this blog.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cardinal Schonborn More Or Less Says No, But I Still Take Hope

Who are the ants making this picture?  Twitter and Flickr users.  Not too many of them up in my neck of the woods.  The one of Europe is pretty cool too.


Vienna cardinal takes tough line on priest revolt

The head of Vienna's Roman Catholic community ruled out sweeping changes demanded by dissident priests and said there could be "serious conflict" if they defied Church teaching on celibacy or give communion to remarried divorcees.

Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn said he would not lead his diocese into a schism with leaders in the Vatican by letting priests flout Church rules after a group of priests issued a "Call to Disobedience" manifesto to try to press reform. (Interesting phrasing--leaders in the Vatican.)

In weekend interviews with Austrian radio and television, Schoenborn backed celibacy for priests, limiting ordination to men and preserving marriage as a life-long commitment.

"If in our diocese here I would step out of line with the community of the Catholic Church then I would lead our diocese into a schism. I am not ready for this and I think no Austrian bishop is ready for this," he said on Saturday. (More interesting phrasing.  He could have said "I would never do this", but he didn't.)

Late on Friday, he again warned dissident priests that they faced consequences if they stuck to their revolt.
"If it comes to actions that clearly contradict Catholic teaching on faith then it can lead to serious conflict," he said, adding it was not too late to reach common ground in a second round of talks due later this year. (Another interesting phrase, he could have said "contradict Catholic discipline" but he didn't.)

"All possibilities are open. I am counting on dialogue and cooperation," he said.

Dissidents led by parish priest Helmut Schueller have issued the manifesto and say they hope the campaign will persuade Schoenborn to push reforms with Pope Benedict and the Vatican.
The dissidents, who have broad public backing in opinion polls, say they will break Church rules by giving communion to Protestants and remarried divorced Catholics or by allowing lay people to preach and head parishes without a priest.

They oppose the current drive to group several parishes together because of a shortage of priests.
"We are now really going to step on the gas," Hans-Peter Hurka, head of the Catholic reform group "We are the Church," told newspaper Der Standard this week, announcing plans to have hundreds of demonstrators march on bishops' offices.

"It is like in Egypt. There will be a revolution of Church people in Austria. We will make St. Stephen's Square (before the cathedral in Vienna) into Tahrir Square," another activist, Anton Achleitner, said, referring to the square where Egyptians staged protests that ended the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak.

The dispute has come to a head just before Pope Benedict's September 22-25 visit to neighbouring Germany. Benedict, 84, grew up in Bavarian villages close to the Austrian border.
Catholic reform groups in Germany have made similar demands, and a prominent retired Irish bishop, Edward Daly, called on Tuesday for an end to compulsory celibacy for priests, saying it was pushing new recruits away.


Cardinal Schonborn is playing a very careful strategy.  I keep thinking back to yesterday's posted article from Vatican Insider.  If Cardinals like Schonborn and Martini have serious support in the global church, a schism in Austria- or elsewhere-would not be a welcome event.  Cardinal Schonborn' statement is carefully worded to make the distinction between the universal Church and 'leaders in the Vatican'.  I think I get where he might be going.

The global world is in serious straights.  The one global organization which might still have the moral standing to make a difference is the Roman Catholic Church.  It can't effectively do that if it splinters into more sects, especially nationally driven sects.  I'm aware of the fact I might have written something about an autochthonuos American Church, but in the bigger global picture, that was not terribly strategic on my part. I'm not talking about a global strategy ala JPII where Catholicism becomes a kind of uber theocracy, or the kind of strategy being employed by the dominionists to turn the US into a Christian theocracy.  I'm talking about a global strategy that provides a consistent helping hand for refugees and immigrants--the least of the least. A hand that isn't colored by national drum beating, that doesn't need to bring 'help' via a military presence.  A hand that takes events like the upcoming Assisi meeting and lives that kind of spirituality as a matter of course, not a one time single event.

Three of the more pressing problems facing the Church are the clerical abuse scandal, the hemorhaging of cradle Catholics across the globe, and the uber traditionalists who want to retreat into fortress Catholicism.
By the time Pope Benedict is done, the uber traditionalists will have their own personal forts where they can live out their theology of fear through the certitude of answers the pre Vat II Church excelled at.  The rest of us can move on, but not all that effectively if we separate into national or regional churches.

I've written previously that the trend in spirituality is towards the recognition that on a fundamental level we are all one.  We are in the mess we have made of our world by own free choice and we are all together in that mess.  Nothing is separate from it's constituent parts.  Nothing happens in some sort of holy vacuum.  No one, not even Benedict, has the whole Truth.  All we really have are pieces of a puzzle that none of us has the pay grade to claim we've put all together.  We never will as long as our perception is limited by this reality.
We are like ants crawling across a painting.  We can claim knowledge of the color in the area we are in, but we are totally blind to and unaware of the beauty of the Mona Lisa for which our colors are a part. Imagine the hubris to remove the colors of other ants when you have no idea what the painting describes. 

I don't read these words of Cardinal Schonborn as capitulation to the Vatican.  I think he's working a bigger strategy and he wants to avoid a tactical schism for the sake of the bigger strategy.  He's given plenty of hints of what that strategy will include and it won't be more Latin in exchange for less transparency.

I think Pope Benedict will have a much different experience in Germany than he did in Spain during the heavily orchestrated World Youth Day.  He's going to see for himself that he hasn't quite rubbed out the ants who believe Vatican II had serious things to say.  We may have walked off of the painting, but we haven't forgotten the colors. 


Friday, September 16, 2011

Rumblings About Clerical Celibacy In Rome Give Me Real Hope

Or maybe a rethink of some of those 'no's'

Celibacy is becoming a hot topic in Vatican circles, not just in Austria.  The following is excerpted from a Vatican Insider article by Giacomo Galeazzi.  Although it started out reporting on the current call for married priests in Ireland, it ended with two very interesting paragraphs--which in the interests of clarity I have broken  into more paragraphs.  Translations do have their drawbacks.

....According to the Archbishop of Vienna Christof Schoenborn, priestly celibacy, which is “unique to the Catholic Church,” partly explains the acts of paedophilia committed by priests. The cardinal blames “both the education of priests and the consequences of the sexual revolution of ’68, as well as celibacy as affecting their personal development,” encouraging “a change of vision.” Schonborn presented an appeal by Austrian Catholic authorities to the Curia, asking for the abolition of compulsory celibacy, the return of married priests to work, the opening of the diaconate to women and the ordination of the so-called “Viri probati”. (Older married men.)

At the same as the Austrian appeal was being made, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini added the abolition of ecclesiastical celibacy to the agenda of the Church worldwide. In response to the global whirlwind of the sex abuse scandals involving the clergy, the Sacred College and national communities (especially the Church in Northern Europe and the Third World) were engaged in lengthy discussions about whether priests should be allowed to marry or not. 

“What can the Church do to avoid new case of violence and sexual abuse in the future?” Cardinal Martini asked himself last year. “The Holy Father’s judgement is always clear, the former Archbishop of Milan added, today, given the fact that our duty towards youngsters and the abuse committed against them scandalously contradict each other, we cannot pull back now, we have to find new solutions.” 

“Fundamental questions need to be asked,” and this also involves “a re-examination of whether priestly celibacy as a form of life should remain compulsory.” 

“Central questions regarding sexuality need to be re-examined in the context of today’s generations, the human sciences and the Bible’s teachings,” because “only an open discussion can give the Church back its authority, correct failures and reinforce the Church’s service to man.” “The idea of celibacy as compulsory for priests should be reconsidered,” Cardinal Martini stressed to the Austrian daily “Die Presse”. “The fundamental questions regarding sexuality must be reconsidered by engaging in dialogue with the new generations,” Cardinal Martini clarified, explaining that “we must ask ourselves the fundamental questions again, in order to regain the faith lost.”

And according to a survey, 92% of Swiss citizens are against the ban on marriage. “Hopefully this scandal will reopen the debate on compulsory celibacy for the diocesan clergy, as soon as possible, the Dominican Frei Betto, one of the fathers of the theology of freedom commented.

"According to the Church, marriage is a sacrament, just as the priestly order is a sacrament. Marriage and priesthood are not incompatible. It is the sexual taboo inside the Church that is contributing to the creation of a cultural background which favours aberrations such as paedophilia.” 

Frei Betto hopes “that the Church changes its law on compulsory celibacy for priest as soon as possible.” Even scandals, he said, can “prove to be useful” in order to make further steps towards the improvement of church life. “Priestly celibacy is not a dogma, but an ecclesiastical law that can be changed on the basis of historical, social and cultural facts," Frei Betto stressed. 

Mark’s Gospel, for example, describes how Jesus healed Peter’s mother in law, a sign that the apostle was married. And Peter is not only one of the twelve apostles but the one chosen by Jesus as the first Pope.” Exponents of neo liberalism in the South American Church have called upon Benedict XVI on many occasions to convene a new Council, to abolish celibacy amongst other things.


This is the first time I have read that Cardinal Schonborn himself broached in the Vatican the topics covered in the Austrian priests Call for Disobedience.  I wish this article had given a date for this move on Schonborn's part.  Cardinal Martini's comments are important in their own right because he most definitely takes the conversation beyond priestly discipline and into questions of sexual morality. And then add the comments of Frei Betto and I'm almost at a loss for words. Almost.

One of the words that cropped up more than once in this article is 'neo liberalism'.  Since it came up with regards to South American bishops, I wonder if it's sort of Catholic PC for proponents of liberation theology or maybe a new word for Spirit of Vatican II Catholics, a kind of complimentary word to neo conservatives. I think it intrigued me because I don't know that I've ever seen it before.  If it makes the Vatican happier to deal with 'neo liberals' rather than disobedient dissenters and self centered heretics, I can get on board with that.  It certainly beats CINO or Cafeteria Catholic.  What ever it takes to move forward is fine by me.

There was an extended period of time in the last two years where I seriously wondered if I was going to have the patience to outlast what seemed to be Vatican intransigence to deal with the problems effecting the Church in the West and South America.  The issue that made this period of official obduracy so difficult was that I never believed the exodus of clergy and laity out of Catholicism was due to a lack of faith in Jesus or the influence of secularism, but it was due to the very real feeling of not being heard and that leading to feelings of powerlessness and that finally leading to indifference.  I also never lost sight of the fact that abuse victims were treated exactly the same, had many more legitimate reasons not to be treated this way, and that indifference was not an option for them.  There were many times I wondered why I kept on keeping on.

Except, I knew it would eventually start to change.  I truly felt there were Cardinals and Bishops and members of the Curia who were as concerned about the direction of the Church as I was and high on my list was Cardinal Schonborn, and Cardinal Martini, and Archbishop Martin.  This article describes a serious start in changing the future of the Church.  Benedict will get his special prelatures for all his special little groups of Traditionalists,  and being Personal Prelatures or Ordinariates they will get to keep their own unique view of Catholicism.  I have no problem with that.  There can still be unity in diversity.  In the meantime the rest of the Church can get on with the business of the future.  That future is starting to look a lot brighter.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Stories From The Crazy World Of Clerical Catholicism

I just think the world of Fr Tom Doyle. Once again he has taken up his pen and used it like a sword.  This time he is taking on the case of Fr. Roy BourgeiousDoyle is acting as Bourgeious' Canon Lawyer in defending Fr Roy's priestly status with the Maryknollers, who are marching like good soldiers to the Vatican's demands.  The following is excerpted from NCR's coverage.  In this piece Fr Doyle contrasts the Vatican response to clerical support for women's ordination vs it's response to clerical sexual abusers.  For me personally, this huge discrepancy in the Vatican's treatment of these two issues has been a huge red flag pointing to how screwed up the thinking actually is in the Vatican.  Fr Tom doesn't appear to be any more impressed with this fact than I am.

......In one of several documents filed with Dougherty between Aug. 15 and Aug. 30, Doyle explains that Bourgeois’ defense is based on two rationales: first, Bourgeois’ right to not violate his conscience and, second, his conviction that ordination of women is not an infallible teaching.

Doyle said Bourgeois believes the teaching is not “so essential to the core beliefs of Catholic Christians that to question or reject it is tantamount to a rejection of the fundamental teachings of Jesus Christ which form the core of Catholicism as a people of God.” (I too have never understood how a discipline attached to the priesthood has risen in importance to a core dogma like that of the Resurrection.  Mind blowing.)

Bourgeois’ view of women’s ordination “is shared by countless others, including scripture scholars, theologians and church historians from among the ranks of the laity, priesthood and episcopacy,” Doyle said.
Bourgeois formed his views, Doyle said, “in an unselfish and honest manner, well-aware of the consequences of taking a position that is contrary to the present and past pope as well as most (at least) of the Vatican curia.” At the same time, argues Doyle, there is “no evidence of either consensus or unanimity among theologians, scripture scholars and bishops” that the ban on women’s ordination is “solidly grounded” in either tradition or teaching of the church, as asserted by the late Pope John Paul II in his 1994 apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. (I'm not sure scripture and tradition were on JPII's mind.  I think it had way more to do with the power and infallible authority of the Papacy as defined by Vat I.)

“There is a massive body of scholarly work,” writes Doyle, “that credibly challenges the assertion that Jesus ordained anyone as priests and an equally credible and persuasive body of scholarly work that can find no consistent and continuous theological tradition that would support the preclusion of women from sacred orders, other than the tradition that official power in the church has been held by men.”

Doyle also challenged imposition of the punishment of automatic excommunication, saying it did not conform to the requirements of canon law in this case because Bourgeois’ actions do not involve a “malicious disregard” for church authority but rather his belief “that to act contrary to the dictates of his conscience … would be tantamount to a serious sin on his part.” 

In a separate document, Doyle submitted a list of quotes from St. Thomas Aquinas, Vatican documents, and the Gospel of Matthew upholding the primacy of conscience in Catholic teaching.

In the same vein, said Doyle, Bourgeois’ actions have not “gravely harmed” anyone, nor has anyone lost belief in God or been “so physically or emotionally damaged that he or she has been deprived of the ability to lead a happy and productive life” because of Bourgeois’ convictions or actions.

In contrast, Doyle notes some 20 members of the hierarchy in the United States, 15 in Europe and three in Canada, including some cardinals, “have been confirmed by credible sources to have committed the canonical delict named in canon 1395.2, that is, the sexual molestation of minors, or the crime mentioned in Title V of the Papal Instruction Crimen Sollicitationis, in force until May 18, 2001, namely sex with men.”

Those infractions, said Doyle, carry a punishment up to and including dismissal from the clerical state.
Yet no member of the hierarchy to date has undergone even a papal investigation, said Doyle, “much less any form of penal sanction. … To this date no archbishop, cardinal or bishop who has violated both canon law and civil law by sheltering known sexual abusers among the clergy or by knowingly reassigning known molesters to other assignments where they could and often did continue to violate the vulnerable, has been asked to resign, much less face justified canonical investigation and prosecution.”

Even among the thousands of priests across the globe who have been credibly accused of molesting minors or convicted in criminal proceedings, not one has been excommunicated, said Doyle, though most have been removed from the clergy ranks.

“The contrast is striking: Thirty-eight bishops who have committed grave sexual crimes which have resulted in serious emotional and spiritual damage to innocent Catholics have faced no disciplinary action, while four bishops who have followed their consciences and publicly questioned Vatican practices or doctrine out of concern for the spiritual welfare of the faithful have not only been humiliated but removed from office.”

Doyle concludes by asking on Bourgeois’ behalf that the process that has arrived at an ultimatum “be seriously and fearlessly re-evaluated” by outside theologians against the backdrop of concerns raised in his correspondence.  (Like this will ever happen.)


For myself, the Vatican's insistence that supporting the ordination of women is an equivalent canonical crime to the criminal sexual abuse of minors, is the straw that broke my Catholic back.  When I compare the treatment of Australia's Bishop Morris to the treatment given abuser bishops like Thomas Dupre of Springfield MA I literally brain lock.  I get angry.  I have to stop my Catholic self from trying to make sane an insane propositionIt is truly insane to equate questioning a discipline to sexually violating the innocence of children.  I can not really fathom what kind of mind creates this kind of equivalence. I can think of no other situation which so clearly shows the innate sickness in the Vatican clerical culture.

I hope Frs Doyle and Bourgeious enjoy some sort of success with their attempt to get the Maryknollers to think before they mindlessly obey, but I don't hold out much hope that will ever happen.  What I take hope from is the rising frequency of clerical voices who are saying enough of this kind of insanity.  Today's NCR and other publications are carrying multiple stories about bishops and priests who are finally voicing objections to current Vatican policies regarding priestly discipline.  It's about time.  Unfortunately it's probably too late.  In the time it's taken for these men to find their voices, the Vatican has been left far too free to propagate the kinds of thinking Fr Doyle is attacking in his defense of Fr Bourgeious, and that's left millions of Catholics no choice but to exercise the primacy of their consciences and leave the Church.  The sad part is the men who currently populate the Vatican will never be able to deal with the fact they are the prime movers for this vast exodus.  They are far too blinded by their own peculiar insane clerical culture.

There are two other stories which also speak to this clerical insanity.  The first is the continuing Archbishop Hepworth story going on down in the land of Oz.  Cardinal Pell has found the situation too enticing to keep quiet and has leveled veiled accusations at Archbishop Wilson of Melbourne.  Pell is implying Wilson was purposely dragging his feet in dealing with Hepworth's allegations. Not surprising really, since Pell and Hepworth are true 'smells and bells' kinds of clerics and have done quite a few things together.  This, a long with some grandstanding by an Aussie politician, has forced Wilson into issuing a letter explaining his side of things. This should all make for a very interesting ad limina visit to Pope Benedict in October. 

The second story is the controversy over Fr Frank Pavone, head of Priests for Life, and Bishop Patrick Zurek of Amarillo, Texas. Fr Frank's vocal supporters, including the histrionic right to life folks with Operation Rescue, are more less accusing Zurek of purposely sabotaging a potent right to life organization for the sake of money. estimated 100 million over 18 years is a lot of money.  It's hard to see where this kind of money might have been spent since PFL doesn't seem to have done a whole lot with it except to use some of it to raise even more of it.  Fr Pavone is another one of EWTN's talking clerical heads who may have let his head get too big for his clerical collar--or so implies the Bishop of Amarillo.  In any event, the citizens of Amarillo can rejoice in the fact Operation Rescue is set to use all kinds of visual media to parade their aborted fetus photos all over town and sky.  Said reason for this visual extravaganza is to support Fr. Pavone.  Pavone for his part has appealed to Rome to circumvent Zurek's order for him to return to diocesan priestly duties.  And for good measure, Pavone has also decided to ask for incardination in another diocese.  So much for obedience and submission to the will of one's bishop. Maybe Bishop Zurek has a point about Fr Pavone's head size relative to his collar size.  

I suppose I shouldn't find this so ironic, but Fr Pavone, like Fr Bourgeious, is appealing his recall on the grounds of supremacy of personal conscienceAnd so in the crazy world of Catholic clericalism we come full circle---no matter if the starting point is on the left or the right.