Monday, December 26, 2011

Pope Benedict And The State Of The Church

Love this photo.  Poor bishops and archbishops stuck in the second row on inferior chairs.  No wonder some people so desperately want that red hat.  It's the only way to get a good front row seat.

 The following excerpt is from Pope Benedict's Christmas message to the Vatican curia.  It's a sort of his State of the Church message.  The full speech can be read here, courtesy of Rocco Palma's Whispers in the Loggia Blog.

.....As this year draws to a close, Europe is undergoing an economic and financial crisis, which is ultimately based on the ethical crisis looming over the Old Continent. Even if such values as solidarity, commitment to one’s neighbour and responsibility towards the poor and suffering are largely uncontroversial, still the motivation is often lacking for individuals and large sectors of society to practise renunciation and make sacrifices. Perception and will do not necessarily go hand in hand. In defending personal interests, the will obscures perception, and perception thus weakened is unable to stiffen the will. In this sense, some quite fundamental questions emerge from this crisis: where is the light that is capable of illuminating our perception not merely with general ideas, but with concrete imperatives? Where is the force that draws the will upwards? These are questions that must be answered by our proclamation of the Gospel, by the new evangelization, so that message may become event, so that proclamation may lead to life.

The key theme of this year, and of the years ahead, is this: how do we proclaim the Gospel today? How can faith as a living force become a reality today? The ecclesial events of the outgoing year were all ultimately related to this theme. There were the journeys to Croatia, to the World Youth Day in Spain, to my home country of Germany, and finally to Africa – Benin – for the consignment of the Post-Synodal document on justice, peace and reconciliation, which should now lead to concrete results in the various local churches. Equally memorable were the journeys to Venice, to San Marino, to the Eucharistic Congress in Ancona, and to Calabria. And finally there was the important day of encounter in Assisi for religions and for people who in whatever way are searching for truth and peace, representing a new step forward in the pilgrimage towards truth and peace. The establishment of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization is at the same time a pointer towards next year’s Synod on the same theme. The Year of Faith, commemorating the beginning of the Council fifty years ago, also belongs in this context. Each of these events had its own particular characteristics. In Germany, where the Reformation began, the ecumenical question, with all its trials and hopes, naturally assumed particular importance. 

Intimately linked to this, at the focal point of the debate, the question that arises repeatedly is this: what is reform of the Church? How does it take place? What are its paths and its goals? Not only faithful believers but also outside observers are noticing with concern that regular churchgoers are growing older all the time and that their number is constantly diminishing; that recruitment of priests is stagnating; that scepticism and unbelief are growing. What, then, are we to do? There are endless debates over what must be done in order to reverse the trend. There is no doubt that a variety of things need to be done. But action alone fails to resolve the matter. The essence of the crisis of the Church in Europe is the crisis of faith. If we find no answer to this, if faith does not take on new life, deep conviction and real strength from the encounter with Jesus Christ, then all other reforms will remain ineffective.
On this point, the encounter with Africa’s joyful passion for faith brought great encouragement. None of the faith fatigue that is so prevalent here, none of the oft-encountered sense of having had enough of Christianity was detectable there. Amid all the problems, sufferings and trials that Africa clearly experiences, one could still sense the people’s joy in being Christian, buoyed up by inner happiness at knowing Christ and belonging to his Church. From this joy comes also the strength to serve Christ in hard-pressed situations of human suffering, the strength to put oneself at his disposal, without looking round for one’s own advantage. Encountering this faith that is so ready to sacrifice and so full of happiness is a powerful remedy against fatigue with Christianity such as we are experiencing in Europe today.  (Faith fatigue in Europe has a lot to do with the blatant hypocrisy and self survivalism of Christian leadership. Both Roman Catholic and Protestant leadership sold out to the fascist dictators that tore Europe to shreds.  That was only the latest sell out in a long historic line of sell outs.  The same 'fatigue' is showing in South and Central America and for the same reasons.)


Pope Benedict's message then goes on to extol the virtues of World Youth Day.  He mentions five things that impressed him in Madrid:  1) The universal 'catholicity' of the participants.  WYD was a statement about the global Church.  2)The volunteerism and sense of self sacrifice of youth leaders. 3) Eucharistic Adoration.  4) The more central place of Confession. 5) A sense of joy.

I wasn't the least bit surprised that the bulk of his talk dealt with World Youth Day and his trip to Africa because in his opening paragraphs he concedes the Church in the first world is old and dieing off, the seminaries are hardly full, and skepticism reigns supreme.  He even goes so far as the concede the need for reform, but gives no direction for that reform.  Instead he switches his talk to the wonders of the thoroughly orchestrated WYD.  Benedict also fails to mention in the West, it is amongst the generations attracted to WYD that the church has failed most miserably--unlike in Africa. But then in it's purest form, it has always been among the poor and disenfranchised that Christianity has thrived.  It is at it's core a spirituality by a poor and marginalized Man for the poor and marginalized.  The real question is how do you make Christianity relevant to people who don't have any particular need to hear it's core message?  I guess that's where Eucharistic Adoration comes in.  On the other hand, I imagine Benedict would have a tough time preaching the truth of the marginalized/poverty thing while sitting on his throne in the splendors of the Vatican with his hierarchy ranked by chair and row in front of him.  

Pope Benedict gave a number of well thought out and interesting speeches and homilies during this Advent and Christmas season.  I just have a real problem hearing his words on St Francis of Assisi when they are juxtaposed against such incredible wealth.  By the way I'm not meaning to imply that Benedict is obsessed by wealth because in fact, I don't think he is at all.  Comfort maybe, but not wealth. I don't see wallowing in wealth as being particularly high on his bucket list. What I do see though, is a man who seems to be getting more unsure of himself as he spends more time in the Papacy. I do believe he sees the incongruities between the Church on the ground in Benin, and the hierarchical church with which he was surrounded as he gave this speech.  I think he knows where Jesus is most apt to be alive and well, and it wasn't sitting in front of him.  I just don't think he has the energy or will to do anything about that perception.  I think he was telling us that.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas to one and all.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Religious Right Definition Of Marriage: One Man With One Woman At One Time

I can't help but wonder if Sarah Palin carried Newt's marriage record if she would have ever been considered for VP.

I came across this bit of information on Religion Dispatches.  Joanna Brooks writes that according to the head of South Carolina's Southern Baptist Convention, Christian conservatives will have an easier time fumbling (compromising themselves) their way through the fact Newt is a serial monogamist, than they will that Mitt is a Mormon.

.....But just as Romney’s numbers were picking up again and I was preparing to sound a note of caution about over-hyping anti-Mormonism, this little gem came across the wire: the new head of South Carolina’s Southern Baptist Convention (the largest religious group in the state) says that for many faith-motivated voters, Mitt Romney’s Mormonism would be a greater moral problem that Newt Gingrich’s serial adultery.
Rev. Brad Atkins told a local South Carolina newspaper franchise that conservatives could “process and pray” their way through Gingrich’s adultery but will “struggle to understand how anyone could be a Mormon and call themselves a Christian.”

This just days after Romney scored an endorsement from South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.
Conservative pastors are pitting the specter of popular anti-Mormon sentiment against the Republican establishment, and legitimizing that sentiment in the process. It’s quite a spectacle, and quite a mess the GOP has on its hands. Is this what happens when you outsource a political party’s grassroots operation to the religious right?


I don't know why anyone would be surprised the religious right is trashing Mitt Romney for not being a Christian.  All one has to do is look at what the religious right has done with President Obama.  For many of Newt's followers President Obama is a Muslim who was never an American citizen.  Quite a convoluted way of avoiding the whole issue of Obama is of mixed race.

I don't believe the issue has anything to do with who is actually Christian, but whether they belong to the tribe.  In this sense Newt has always belonged to this particular tribe, and so of course the tribe will overlook his multiple marriages, but can't quite get over Mitt's non tribal Mormonism.  Newt seems to hold the position of the brother who went off to college and that no one quite gets anymore.  Never the less, he is still the brother.  Mitt on the other hand, is foreign to the family and therefor all the values and ideals held by the family.  Almost as bad as that Obama guy.  Joanna is right, the Republican nomination process is becoming a spectacular mess and one that's getting queasier and queasier to watch.

But the other thing I found queasy in this article is how plastic the need for the 'one man one woman' definition of marriage seems to be for the religious right.  I guess it really means one man with one woman at one time.  The least they could do is add that to the definition of marriage.  They would look far less hypocritical.  As it stands now they just look provincial and tribal.  Maybe in the final analysis that's the whole message of the current Republican party.  It's certainly one of the strongest messages being sent by Roman Catholic leadership, no matter if it's dressed up as Catholic identity and religious freedom.  It's still fearful provincial tribalism rejecting the truth the real world is bigger and more diverse than they can handle. 


Monday, December 19, 2011

To What Traditional Family Is Archbishop Nienstedt Referring?

Too bad for Archbishop Nienstedt, but this is not the traditional kind of family he wants to defend.

Here is the prayer that Archbishop Nienstedt is requesting be read at Masses in the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St Paul.  It's his idea of calling on God to defend traditional marriage from gays horning in on the idea.  The man seems to me to have a real problem with gays, or...... in his ability to find a different issue on which to advance his career for the red gallero.  Abortion, after all,  is pretty much used up.
Heavenly Father,
Through the powerful intercession of the Holy Family, grant to this local Church the many graces we need to foster, strengthen, and support faith-filled, holy marriages and holy families. (Problem here is Jesus had a step father and was conceived of an unwed mother.  In it's time, neither situation was considered 'holy' or particularly traditional.)
May the vocation of married life, a true calling to share in your own divine and creative life, be recognized by all believers as a source of blessing and joy, and a revelation of your own divine goodness. (Nothing here to preclude gays from sharing in the blessings and joy and revelation of God's divine goodness.)
Grant to us all the gift of courage to proclaim and defend your plan for marriage, which is the union of one man and one woman in a lifelong, exclusive relationship of loving trust, compassion, and generosity, open to the conception of children. (No.  Marriage has not always been this way. It's a fairly recent invention.  King David had some fifty wives, (plus one serious male lover named Jonathon.)  Jesus had no wives, and His mother Mary had a husband with whom she was never open to the conception of children. I am seriously not getting how the Holy Family has anything to do with Nienstedt's notion of the traditional family.)
We make our prayer through Jesus Christ, who is Lord forever and ever.  (But unmarried for ever and ever.)


Seriously, I think there are times cats and dogs make more sense to me than some Catholic Archbishops.  And cats and dogs are not nearly so duplicitous.

And Now For Some Humorous Truth

 The Story of Adam & Eve's Pets

Adam and Eve said, 'Lord, when we were in the garden, you walked with us every day. Now we do not see you any more. We are lonesome here, and it is difficult for us to remember how much you love us.'

And God said, I will create a companion for you that will be with you and who will be a reflection of my love for you, so that you will love me even when you cannot see me. Regardless of how selfish or childish or unlovable you may be, this new companion will accept you as you are and will love you as I do, in spite of yourselves.'

And God created a new animal to be a companion for Adam and Eve.

And it was a good animal and God was pleased..

And the new animal was pleased to be with Adam and Eve and he wagged his tail.

And Adam said, 'Lord, I have already named all the animals in the Kingdom and I cannot think of a name for this new animal.'

And God said, 'I have created this new animal to be a reflection of my love for you, his name will be a reflection of my own name, and you will call him DOG.

And Dog lived with Adam and Eve and
was a companion to them and loved them.
And they were comforted.

And God was pleased.
And Dog was content and wagged his tail.

After a while, it came to pass that an angel came to the Lord and said, 'Lord, Adam and Eve have become filled with pride. They strut and preen like peacocks and they believe they are worthy of adoration. Dog has indeed taught them that they are loved, but perhaps too well.

And God said, I will create for them a companion who will be with them and who will see them as they are. The companion will remind them of their limitations, so they will know that they are not always worthy of adoration.

And God created CAT to be a companion to Adam and Eve.

And Cat would not obey them. And when Adam and Eve gazed into Cat's eyes, they were reminded that they were not the supreme beings.

And Adam and Eve learned humility.

And they were greatly improved.

And God was pleased..

And Dog was happy.

And Cat . . .

didn't give a shit one way or the other.
A shout out to my good and lasting friend Barb for emailing this gem.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Couple Of Eye Popping, Jaw Dropping Stories, And One That's Just Sort Of Depressing

This is a delightful send up of one of NOM's more pathetic commercial efforts:  "The Gathering Storm"

I've read some articles the last couple of days that have truly left me speechless with bugged eyes.  Here's the latest on the Penn State mess.  Jerry Sandusky's defense team is going to use the 'hygiene defense'.  Jerry was only teaching those young boys shower hygiene.  Well, maybe Jerry used a condom as part of his shower curriculum. 

I guess I just can't fathom the kind of desperate narcissism implied in this defense.  Jerry Sandusky allegedly raped a boy in the Penn State football locker room because that locker room represented Jerry's ultimate place of power.  Jerry's alleged shower activities were not about hygiene.  They were all about his very real power over dependent young males.

Then there is the always insightful and relevant Maggie Gallagher and NOM.  Seems Maggie is beyond joy that Republican front runner Newt has signed her NOM Marriage pledge.  Just to keep things updated, Maggie started the National Organization For Marriage and had a lot to do with the Marriage Pledge, but now NOM is run by Brian S Brown.  Brown is a career 'marriage supporter', having come from a pro marriage group in Connecticut.  And like Maggie, Brian is such a pro marriage careerist that he won't tell us who those five major financial supporters of NOM actually are, although one is reputed to be closely affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church---like sitting in cathedral chairs closely affiliated.

Anyway, NOM is now targeting Ron Paul as the only Republican candidate who is anti marriage because Ron hasn't signed their pledge. Hmmm.  Ron has been married 54 years to the same woman and seems to have the well tested understanding that no body else's marriage really effects his.  Newt, on the other hand, just seems to be testing marriage partners, but somehow signing NOM's pledge makes Newt more pro marriage than Ron.  This is a classic case of actually 'walking the talk' having zero meaning relative to just 'talking the talk'.  But then Newt himself has said that it doesn't matter what he actually does, only what he says.  Seems to be the operative paradigm for NOM---and some other organizations that come readily to mind.  So in this way of thinking, as one commenter observed on Maggie Gallagher's post, it would be authentically meaningful for Cardinal Bernie Law to endorse a day care center. 

And we see this same Newt philosophy of talking the talk, forget the walk, playing out in this article from John Allen on the papacy of Pope Benedict.  John thinks Pope Benedict will go down in history as one of the great teaching popes of all time.  Allen is  probably right, but for the wrong reasons.  Teaching and writing are a whole lot easier than really living what you are teaching.  There's a cost to be paid for living what Christ taught, and that cost is living on the margins of society with little in the way of temporal wealth, power, and status.  These are the inbuilt price of Jesus' teachings because it's virtually impossible to understand the full meaning of His teachings while hanging on to temporal wealth, power, and status.  There are multiple gospel stories which spell out this fact.  A person can not transcend material reality by hanging onto it's most addictive parts.

For me personally, I find a lot of what Benedict writes to be worthwhile in a sort of academic sense, but almost none of it from a spiritual sense.  This is precisely because Benedict lives the way he does--in an island of temporal wealth, power, and status.  It's easy to see where belief in his Catholic Jesus has taken Benedict to the apex of Catholic power as countenanced by his Catholic Jesus.  For myself, I'm waiting for Benedict to actually heal a blind man or something.  I've long since lost any expectation that anything truly transcendent can come from belief in Benedict's version Catholic Jesus.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Real Catholicism, Or Just Plain Social Compliance?

That is ultimately the decision we all come to terms with-or maybe just avoid.  I happen to think we choose and make real what is our ultimate decision.  For me the ultimate does not suck.  It actually can be made manifest in this all too often sucky reality.

The following is taken from Clerical Whispers.  It brings up some important questions.  I've been thinking about some of these questions for a long time.  I suspect a lot of priests and run of the mill lay Catholics have as well.  Ultimately the real questions, as our teachers present them to us, seem to revolve around the idea of Magic Church and Magic Jesus, or real life experiences with real life questions. The most meaningful answer is all about our own path,  and not about absolute tangible consensus answers.  I wish it was different, but it's not.

A friend has pointed me to an article by Lynne Kelleher in the Irish Independent, which was taken up by an American blogger calling himself The Deacon’s Bench.

The article quoted Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin as suggesting that Ireland’s lapsed Catholics should have the maturity to leave the Church.

In an obvious reference to “cultural Catholics” who  want to be married in a church and have their children baptised for purely social reasons, the archbishop is alleged to have said: 

“It requires maturity on those people who want their children to become members of the Church community and maturity on those people who say ‘I don’t believe in God. I really shouldn’t be hanging on to the vestiges of faith when I don’t really believe in it.’”

He was followed by Fr Michael Drumm from the Catholic Schools Partnership who said that the Church in Ireland would be firmer in future with parents wanting to have their children baptised as Catholics.

The blog led to some interesting comments in the posts that followed: a fellow US Catholic deacon stated that “in a few cases I’ve refused to marry a couple or baptise an infant until the adults involved demonstrated that their faith would be meaningful and practised”. 

Yet another deacon related that he was asked by his parish priest to baptise the baby of a non-churchgoing, unmarried mother and also give her instruction – and that she did come to Mass sometimes afterwards.

Generally the responses were evenly divided between those who agreed (cautiously) with Archbishop Martin and who felt that if it were known that the family did not intend to raise their child as a Catholic, baptism should be delayed until their attitude had changed; and those who felt this attitude lacked compassion: lost or wavering sheep should be welcomed and supported, not shunned. (Inevitably, a few posts said the Irish Church was in no position to preach to anyone, given her recent history etc).

I am never sure which way to jump in this debate – and priestly responses vary. 

One priest I know always baptises on request with no questions asked, believing he should give non-practising parents the benefit of the doubt; yet another used to firmly insist on attendance at sessions of instruction beforehand, as a way of showing parental commitment.

I also recall an elderly priest, on the occasion of a First Communion family jamboree, telling me with sadness that he did not expect to see the parents or child again in the church – and he was proved right.

If I were a priest I would want to point out that baptism shouldn’t be done just to please the grandparents; that First Communion is more than an occasion to buy an expensive dress for family photographs; and that a church wedding shouldn’t be requested in order to have a tasteful backdrop.

But what if this puts off the enquirers from coming to church again? 

Is mercy rather than justice required here?
I first want to apologize for not posting for awhile.   Life has it's ups and downs and I was trying to determine if I was in an up or down.  I think ultimately for me it's an up, but for others it may be a down.  That kind of thing is always in the hearts of the beholder.  It's the same thing with this article.  I don't think it's a matter of mercy or justice, it's a matter of belief or knowing.  If the priest believes and knows what he is doing in Baptism or Marriage makes a real difference, he will follow through with the Sacrament.  If one doesn't believe, then it doesn't matter.
But what if belief matters? What if one's belief is all the difference in the world?  What if the more we believe the more things change?  I sometimes think that the fear of the right wing is more believable than the hope of the non right.  I would say left wing but that's not true.  The left is not moving on hope, but reacting against fear.  
It seems to me we can let fear rule, or we can move beyond fear.  To do that is to give up the ego.  It's to stop worrying about survival and trust we do survive beyond our material self.  Jesus was all about going beyond survival and for two thousand years we've done our best to prove He was wrong.  He wasn't and we are .  It ultimately doesn't matter what any priest decides.  It only matters how people live the experience.  That has zero to do with control and everything to do with faith.  Unfortunately the Roman Catholic Church had decided control is more important than faith and that's really sad.  More than that it spells the end of it's existence.  

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Leonardo Boff On The Shamanic Dimension

This short video is well worth watching because in it the Dalai Lama gives Leonardo Boff a lesson in          shamanic wisdom.

The following article was posted on  It describes far better than I could, what my own path has been about for the last thirty five years.  For those who don't know, Boff was one of the original Liberation Theologians targeted by Ratzinger's CDF.  He was silenced in 1985 for his book:  Church: Charism and Power, and threatened again in 1992 for his participation in the Eco Summit in Rio de Janeiro.  At that point he left his Franciscan order and the Roman Catholic Church. He was highly involved in the Base Christian Community movement in Brazil and other parts of Latin America.  The BCC movement had over one million communities in Latin America, the Philippines, and Africa and was a huge inspiration for Liberation Theologians.  BCC's are still a vibrant part of the Church in some parts of the Catholic world, but their autonomy was seriously impacted by JPII through the appointment of more conservative bishops.  The Vatican was not particularly enamored of the blurring of the roles between priest and laity and the potential for 'Marxism' which was seen to be a major issue with these lay led communities. I've often thought the BCC movement was and is a precursor to what a reformed Catholicism will eventually look like.

In this article Boff describes the shaman dimension in it's ability to make intuitive connections, to see wholeness where others see division, and to foster the sense we are all one and part of something much bigger than just us human types.  If humanity is ever going to get off the continual path of self destruction, more of us need to see the world through shamanic eyes.  Jesus certainly did.

06/12/2011 - Leonardo Boff
The concept of sustainability, considered in its widest sense and not reduced just to development, embraces all actions focused on maintaining the existence of other beings, because they have the right to coexist with us. And only starting from this premise of coexistence do we utilize, with sobriety and respect, a part of them to satisfy our needs, while also preserving them for future generations. (The Shamanic mind always factors in future generations--always.)

The universe also fits within this concept. From the new cosmology, we now know that we are made of the dust of stars and that passing through us is the mysterious Basic Energy that nourishes everything and which unfolds into the four forces –gravitational, electromagnetic, nuclear strong and weak– that, by always acting together, maintain us as we are.

As conscious and intelligent beings, we have our place and our function within the cosmologic process. Although we are not the center of everything, we certainly are one of those forward points through which the universe turns into itself, that is to say, the universe becomes conscious. The weak anthropological principle allows us say that, for us to be what we are, all the energies and processes of evolution had to organize themselves in such an articulated and subtle manner that our appearance was possible. Otherwise, I would not be writing here.

Through us, the universe and the Earth look at and contemplate themselves. The capacity to see appeared 600 million years ago. Until then, the Earth was blind. The profound and starry sky, the Iguaçu Falls, where I am now, the green of the nearby jungles, could not be seen. Through our sight, the Earth and the universe can see all of this indescribable beauty.

The original peoples, from the Andean to the samis of the Arctic, felt one with the universe, as brothers and sisters of the stars, making a great cosmic family. We have lost that feeling of mutual belonging. They felt that the cosmic forces balanced the paths of all beings and acted within them. To live in consonance with these fundamental energies was to have a sustainable life, filled with meaning.

We know from quantum physics that consciousness and the material world are connected and that the manner a scientist chooses to make his observation affects the observed object. Observer and observed object are inseparably linked. Hence the inclusion of consciousness in scientific theories and in the very cosmic reality is a fact that has already been assimilated by a large part of the scientific community. We form, in effect, a complex and diversified whole. (Unfortunately I'm not sure Roman Catholic teaching authority knows how to handle this basic fact that human consciousness does in fact have a great deal to do with creating reality--both personal and collective.)

The figures of the shamans are well- known. They were always present in the ancient world and are now retuning with renewed vigor, as quantum physicist P. Drouot has shown in his book, The shaman, the physicist and the mystic (El chamán, el físico y el místico, Vergara, 2001) for which I was honored to prepare a prologue. The shaman lives a singular state of consciousness that allows him to enter into intimate contact with the cosmic energies. The shaman understands the call of the mountains, the lakes, the woods and the jungles, the call of the animals and of human beings. The shaman knows how to direct such energies towards healing ends and to harmonize them with the whole.

Inside each of us lies the shaman dimension. That shaman energy causes us to stand speechless in the face of the immensity of the sea, to sense the eyes of another person, to be entranced on seeing a newborn child. We need to liberate the shaman dimension within us, so as to enter into harmony with all around us, and to feel at peace. (And to take responsibility for the world we are creating.)

Could not our desire to travel with the spacecrafts in cosmic space perhaps be the archetypical desire to search for our stellar origins, and the desire to return to our place of birth? Several astronauts have expressed similar ideas. This unstoppable search for equilibrium with the entire universe and to feel that we are part of the universe pertains to the intelligible notion of sustainability.

Sustainability includes valuation of this human and spiritual capital. Its effect is to generate within us respect, and a sense of sacredness, before all realities, values that nourish the profound ecology and which help us to respect and live in symbiosis with Mother Earth. This attitude is urgently needed, to moderate the destructive forces that have overtaken us in recent decades.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Has Newt Left His Compassionate Conservatism For Paranoid Tea Partyism?

This all happened before Newt converted to Catholicism and while he was practicing his 'compassionate conservatism'.

The following short excerpt is taken from a much longer Salon article by Gary Kamiya, "The infantile style in American politics".  I want to thank Bill Lyndsy who linked to this article in his most recent post on the current Republican front runner -drum roll please- Newt Gingrich.  Bill wonders where Newt's spirituality and politics begin and end.  Good question and one that seems really hard to answer.  Newt has said he's psychologically a Protestant but appreciates the depth of Catholicism and likes to read the Psalms. One could say that religious eclecticism is indicative of a savvy politician.  But what there can be no dispute about, is the fact Newt is pandering heavily to the Tea Party and the very right wing of the Republican party, and seems to be heavily funded by the same sources that fund those factions.  

Kamiya's article deals with the seeming irrational paranoia that washes over the conservative parts of the US in cyclical waves.  What we are now seeing in US politics is the mainstreaming of what use to be the margins of the conservative movement.  It's not that conservative paranoia is new.  What's new is there is a whole lot more money behind this movement and consequently it has a much much louder voice.  Like McCarthyism of the 50's, it has no sense of decency:

"In 1954, during the Army-McCarthy hearings, Army lawyer Joseph Welch asked McCarthy, “Have you no decency, sir, at long last? Have you no sense of decency?” McCarthy was crushed; his reign of terror was over. It appeared that the American right was a spent force. Hofstadter, however, had the wisdom to see deeper. At the end of “The Pseudo-Conservative Revolt — 1954,” he wrote, “[I]n a populist culture like ours, which seems to lack a responsible elite with political and moral autonomy, and in which it is possible to exploit the wildest currents of public sentiment for private purposes, it is at least conceivable that a highly organized, vocal, active and well-financed minority could create a political climate in which the rational pursuit of our well-being and safety would become impossible.” "

Given the performance of the Republican Party over the last three years, it's pretty apparent we have at least one party that is no longer capable of rational pursuit of the common good, well being, and safety of the US. I'm not intending to imply that the Democrats are the party of rationality and reasonableness, but at least they have tried to find some common ground, even going so far as to seem more Republican than Reagan Republicans, but it's been to no avail.  I fail to see where the new Catholic Newt is going to have any meaningful impact on making the current Republican Party useful in governing this country, at least the Newt of this current reincarnation.

To be honest, I don't think effective governance is what this paranoid parody of the Republican party is interested in.  It's interests lie not in any common good, but in promoting a form of 'self stimulation', in which they set up issues, often peripheral but well funded,  in which their adherents can engage in angry frustrated head banging. In Catholicism we have a sort of reverse thing going on because the conservatives have all the institutional power.  In this case our paranoid conservative hierarchy set up issues, also often peripheral and also well funded by the same people, in which progressives can engage in their own version of  angry head banging.  I know this all too well, because I frequently have a head ache.  The best of the best of these issues are the unsolvable peripheral ones which get both sides head banging, issues like abortion.  In the meantime, the common good swirls down Wall Street drains along with our health care and pension funds.

What I found most salient about Kamiya's article is that what he is describing are the traits of people who have had childhoods steeped in fear,  and have carried that fear into adulthood with little in the way of mature coping strategies. If there has been very little learned in the realm of mature coping strategies, there isn't going to be very much of that skill to use in adulthood.  It's almost counter intuitive to think that keeping oneself in a constant state of anger and pain is soothing, but it is, if that's what your brain has been trained to think is normal. 

When I train new employees for the psychiatric residential program where I work, I try to make the point that it's much easier to 'control' behavior when one gives up the thought of controlling clients and replaces it with compassion for the clients.  This change in attitude sets up a whole different relational environment in which healing has a chance to replace externally controlling behavior. What we find is it takes our youngest clients, the ones coming from the children's system, about a month or so to stop trying to trigger us into engaging in controlling behavior and for them to stop the vast majority of their repetitive self soothing behavior.  In other words, the head banging stops when compassion, not coercion, rules.  It is not an easy thing to do, but the rewards are priceless.

I remember the days when Newt was considered a compassionate conservative--which doesn't necessarily have to be an oxymoron.  If he really wants to lead the Republican Party out of it's current mess, he needs to meditate on the power of compassion while he's listening to his wife sing at the noon Mass in the choir at the Washington Cathedral. Who knows, he might even find himself experiencing a real conversion.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Bishop Eddie Long Leaves His Pulpit Still Singing The Collection Basket Blues

Bishop Eddie got some seven figures in Faith Based Intiative $$$ from this ex pres.

I like to keep up with the Bishop Eddie Long story to remind myself that clerical racketeering and sexual abuse is not limited to certain personality disordered Roman Catholic clergy. The same can be said of all the various True Believers who insist on maintaining their blindness and deafness in the face of mountains of evidence which have long since convinced many of us to stop enabling our own fleecing.

I posted on Bishop Long when the allegations surfaced last year which accused him of sexual dalliances with teen age males in his Congregation.  He subsequently settled with five victims for an undisclosed amount of money--rumored to be in the 25 million range- plus the proverbial gag orders.  For Jesus' representatives like Bishop Eddie, silence is more golden than gold. 

There have always been accusations of financial impropriety around his ministry including allegations of running a Ponzi scheme with another friend.  A scheme which Bishop Eddie pushed from the pulpit of New Life Ministries, and then just lately,  the news of the on again, off again, on again divorce from his second wife.  Anyway, according to beleaguered Bishop Eddie, he just needs a break from the evil media and some time to spend fixing his family problems.  The following is from the website, which is affiliated with The Church Folk Revolution.

Eddie Long took the stage at 8:00 AM. Everyone surrounded the pulpit and he continuously wiped away tears. He told us over 5 times that him and Vanessa still love each other. He said, about New Birth: "We are a family. She is your mother, and I am your father." (Except, mother still wants to divorce the father.)

He talked about the impact the allegations have had on his family for years, including long before this last year. He said the greatest thing the church can do is continue to show up, and continue to give money. We don't need to listen to the media. (Or to those father has abused with in 'the family'.)

He compares his situation with the Israeli battles where Moses had to keep his hands raised and Aaron would hold up his arms when Moses was tired. He said the battle has lasted longer than originally thought, and he needs us to hold up his arms.

Eddie Long said he needs to take time away to take care of his family and we shouldn't worry. He always puts good people in front of us. He said to still believe in all the prophecies of 2011 and that he already had all of 2012's lesson plans laid out.

The attacks from the media were taking a toll. There are things he'd like to say but can't because he's been advised not to, but he said the divorce has nothing to do with infidelity or the allegations. He said he is not Superman and he doesn't want to be compared to him. He then said he would pray for our families, and he wanted us to pray for his.


In reading other commentary on Bishop Long's 'sabbatical' I was literally sickened by all the people claiming they would pray for dear old Bishop Eddie, but who somehow didn't feel the need to pray for any of Bishop Eddie's victims.  It never ceases to amaze me just how well these 'men of god' can play the victim card and how the media never reports facts, just attacks them and 'takes a toll'.  So off into the sunset of reparitive family therapy goes Bishop Eddie all the while singing the collection plate blues, and lest any of his flock forget him, he has already laid out the entire homiletic for 2012.  Good Oh.

The good thing about all this was the time I spent reading the exposes of the various other Eddie Longs on the Church Folk Revolution and pimppreacher websites.  It was a good reminder that Catholic flocks aren't the only ones being fleeced by their shepherds.  The only difference between Bishop Eddie and some of our least and dimmest is Eddie is new clerical wealth and ours are old old clerical wealth.  The hope lies in the fact that some of the flock these prosperity frauds have used and abused are now beginning to organize to stop the abuse and greed--especially in the African American Church.  Here's part of a flyer given out at Bishop Eddie's last hurrah and tear fest:

......Politicians and preachers have a long - too long - uninterrupted record of doing nothing to advance the welfare of the masses of the Black community.  The people must now rise up to 'occupy the pulpits' the tithe money bank accounts and the portfolios of the clergy class. And use the land, real estate and financial resources of the Black Church (multiplied- billions) to assume full responsibility for the social, economic, financial and spiritual redemption of the total African American Community.  Sermons and 'salvation-for-a fee have not, can not, and will not SAVE the black community....

If there is a moral to Bishop Eddie's story it lies in the fact Christians of all persuasion are beginning to understand we can't bring in the Kingdom of God on Earth by making unaccountable kings out of narcissists masquerading as God's self anointed representatives. We just make those self anointed representatives hellaciously rich at our expense.


Friday, December 2, 2011

Catholic Pride? In What Pray Tell

Archbishop Dolan gives a rousing pep talk to Team Bishop, while the rest of the American Catholic world yawns.

Michael Sean Winters has finally gone where I thought he would go in his one track mindless need to believe that the Obama Whitehouse is at war with team Bishops over contraception and religious freedom.  He wants us to believe our Catholic pride will kick in and we will support team Bishop.  Even if, no matter what, on account of, just because we are Catholic.  I don't even support the Detroit Redwings that mindlessly.
The following is an excerpt of his latest silliness.  The link is at the bottom of this excerpt.

One of the more interesting developments in the debate about whether or not to expand the conscience exemptions regarding mandated insurance coverage for procedures the Catholic Church finds morally objectionable, such as contraception, sterilization and some drugs the Church considers abortifacients, is the fact that so many Catholics who do not share those moral objections are nonetheless vociferous in urging a broader exemption. Friends who denounce the bishops as naïve or willing tools of the GOP, who think that contraception is fine, or who otherwise seldom miss the opportunity to trash the hierarchy, nonetheless find themselves disturbed by the idea that the federal government would force Catholic institutions to abide by rules that conflict with the dictates of the Church. (He has way different Catholic friends than I do. Mine think the bishops are demanding the exemption to enforce the ideas in Humanae Vitae on Catholics and non Catholics alike.)

Some of this concern manifests an understandable awareness that if the government can mandate contraception today, it might mandate abortion coverage tomorrow. Many Catholics who are not morally troubled by contraception remain morally troubled by abortion. Some also perceive the essential religious liberty issues at stake. Unlike those champions of the “wall of separation” like the ACLU, who now can’t climb over that wall fast enough in order to tell Notre Dame or Catholic Charities what insurance plans they must buy, these Catholics recognize that the government should be wary of intruding into the religious sphere. (The government is not mandating that people have to use contraception.  They are mandating it be available as a normal medical choice.)

But, there is a yet deeper issue, and one that I suspect has not occurred to the people at the White House advising the President. It has to do with Catholic pride. There was a time when Catholics had to build their own schools because mainstream schools like Harvard did not welcome Catholics and public schools forced Catholic students to pray with Protestant texts like the King James Bible. The vast array of Catholic social service agencies often began as a ministry to immigrant co-religionists who faced all manner of hostility and little succor from the government. To the great credit of the Church, those ministries continued even when they were no longer primarily serving Catholics.

Those institutions were built by our ancestors, who often had only their pennies to contribute. They are “ours” not only in a legal sense but in a cultural sense. And, Catholics do not take kindly to institutions their forbears built because the mainstream culture would not admit them to their institutions, now being ordered to change their ways by the same people whose forbears kept Catholics out in the first place....

At this point, Micheal Sean Winters then goes on at some length to compare his burgeoning Catholic Pride with the White Pride movement in the South in the seventies over blatant discrimination in private Christian schools.  You can finish his entire article here.


Mr Winters has certainly been beating the drum for his wishful thinking that Catholics will march in prideful lockstep against our own consciences and interests in order to support team Bishop against the anti Catholic Obama administration.  MSW also seems to think Prez Obama will lose Pennsylvania if he doesn't cave into to team Bishop. This wishful thought is truly indicative of how far out of touch MSW has become.  Pennsylvania Catholics have absolutely zero reason to support team Bishop given the repeated abuse Pennsylvania Catholics have taken from their own Bishops in Philadelphia and Scranton and Pittsburgh.  

MSW is also attempting to confuse us poor sheople by sloppy writing.  HHS is not mandating contraception.  It is mandating contraception coverage because the use of birth control is an almost universal medical option amongst the US population, including the vast vast majority of Catholics.  The tiny minority who do not believe in contraceptive use will be perfectly free not to use contraception--and it is a very tiny minority.  Just because some of that minority happens to be male Roman Catholic Bishops does not give them the right to deny coverage to every American who happens to work for them, or in Catholic hospitals, or the students who attend Catholic colleges.  

What MSW needs to do is review the theology concerning the importance of the 'reception' of a teaching.  It goes back a very long way and has a whole host of theologians from the last one thousand years who have maintained that a doctrine or teaching which is not accepted-or received- by the faithful is not binding on the conscience of Catholics. It may be a teaching given by legitimate authority, promulgated by that authority, but if it is not held to be valid by the faithful, it is not a binding teaching.  Humanae Vitae qualifies in spades as a teaching not accepted by the Faithful and not binding. I personally have no desire to punish the Obama White House over a teaching that Catholics have soundly rejected just because team Bishop says so.  Team Bishop has been telling us not to use birth control since 1968 and the laity haven't paid much attention, so why in the world would any of us determine our vote on the basis of it?

It's all crazy.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Hopes And Concerns Of Cardinal Burke

This classic clerical ensemble is just a bit too monochromatic for my taste, and sort of queenly what with the apron and all the lace. It's hard to see the male Jesus in all this lace and finery.

Cardinal Burke reflects on his first year in the Sacred College
.- Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, one of the Catholic Church's top U.S.-born clerics, is marking the first anniversary of his November 2010 elevation to the Sacred College of Cardinals.

"Well, it’s been a very fast-moving year," Cardinal Burke told CNA in his Roman apartment just yards from the Vatican, where he serves as head of the Church's highest court.

"But, it’s been a very good year, I'd have to say. And I’ve certainly come to understand more fully what it is to give this service to the Holy Father and hope that I am doing it better.".....

......Cardinal Burke, 63, has had a remarkable journey from America's rural Midwest—where he grew up as the youngest of six children—to his current post as Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.

"I never dreamed of it, to be honest with you," he said, reflecting on God's guidance of his path to the Vatican.

"I grew up, thanks be to God, in a very good Catholic home," he recalled. "We were small dairy farmers in Wisconsin, which was a very common situation in that part of the world. But I see how God has been at work all along, and I marvel at it."

While much has changed since those days, his life as a cardinal is "not unrelated to what my parents were trying to teach me from the time I was little."

"And, the truth of the matter is that the older I get, the more I appreciate those first lessons that were taught to me, that early formation in the faith."...
(You may have gotten chronologically older, but the question is did you really get much older?).....

.....A patriot with an obvious love for the United States, the Rome-based cardinal remains invested in the struggle for his country's culture.

"It is a war," he stated, describing the battle lines between "a culture of secularization which is quite strong in our nation," and "the Christian culture which has marked the life of the United States strongly during the first 200 years of its history."

He says it is "critical at this time that Christians stand up for the natural moral law," especially in defense of life and the family.

"If Christians do not stand strong, give a strong witness and insist on what is right and good for us both as and individuals and society," he warned, "this secularization will in fact predominate and it will destroy us."

Cardinal Burke favors realism over pessimism, and believes "things are getting better" in America, particularly among the young. (This is just the most egregious of a number of wishful thinking beliefs.)

"I think that sometimes the young people understand much better the bankruptcy of a totally secularized culture because they’ve grown up with it," he observed.

Many youth "have seen their families broken" and "have been exposed to all the evils of pornography," leading them to conclude that the secularization project "is going nowhere and that it will destroy them" if left unchecked. (Maybe the Roman press hasn't covered Occupy Wall Street.)

But the cardinal also thinks persecution may be looming for the U.S. Church.

"Yes, I think we’re well on the way to it," he said, pointing to areas of social outreach - such as adoption and foster care - where the Church has had to withdraw rather than compromise its principles. (The Church Chose to give up government monies as a government contractor of these services.  Nothing forced them to remove themselves totally from these areas of social outreach.  Apparently they would rather spend their own money lobbying than for taking care of children.)

This trend could reach a point where the Church, "even by announcing her own teaching," is accused of "engaging in illegal activity, for instance, in its teaching on human sexuality."

Asked if he could envision U.S. Catholics ever being arrested for preaching their faith, he replied: "I can see it happening, yes.".... (This is not realism. This is teen age paranoia.)

........Above all, the cardinal hopes for a "new evangelization" of the United States - starting with faithful families, strong religious education, and reverent liturgical worship.

The family, he noted, is where a child "first learns the truths of the faith, first prayers, first practices his or her life in Christ." But the Mass itself is the "source of our solid teaching, of our solid witness," and also "the most beautiful and fullest expression we give to that teaching."

Cardinal Burke is also responsible for overseeing the Church's liturgy as a member of the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship.

He is grateful to Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI for giving the Church "a font of solid direction" regarding worship, based on the Second Vatican Council's vision of a "God-centered liturgy and not a man-centered liturgy.(Priest centered liturgy is what he means.)

That intention was not always realized, he said, since the council's call for liturgical reform coincided with a "cultural revolution."

Many congregations lost their "fundamental sense that the liturgy is Jesus Christ himself acting, God himself acting in our midst to sanctify us." )

Cardinal Burke said greater access to the traditional Latin Mass, now know as the "extraordinary form" of the Roman rite, has helped correct the problem.

"The celebration of the Mass in the extraordinary form is now less and less contested," he noted, "and people are seeing the great beauty of the rite as it was celebrated practically since the time if Pope Gregory the Great" in the sixth century. (Try since Trent and limit your observations strictly to the Roman Church.  The TLM was never a big deal for most laity.  It was the theology of the TLM that was the big deal and now we've had that jammed down our throats in English--well, sort of English.)

Many Catholics now see that the Church's "ordinary form" of Mass, celebrated in modern languages, "could be enriched by elements of that long tradition."

In time, Cardinal Burke expects the Western Church's ancient and modern forms of Mass to be combined in one normative rite, a move he suggests the Pope also favors.

"It seems to me that is what he has in mind is that this mutual enrichment would seem to naturally produce a new form of the Roman rite – the 'reform of the reform,' if we may – all of which I would welcome and look forward to its advent." (If this is part and parcel of the New Evangelization, or the direction the new translation is to take the Church, it's another attack on collegiality and transparency.  Of course losing those two notions is also part of the "reform of the reform."

Cardinal Burke's main role, however, is to uphold the Church's legal system. He describes canon law as "the fundamental discipline which makes possible our life in the Church," since it is "not a society of angels" but a communion of men and women who require norms for living.

He acknowledges that canon law fell out of fashion beginning in the late 1960s, during a period where many Catholics bristled at the notion of such rules.

"The whole euphoria that set in within society – and in the Church itself – was that this was the age of freedom, the age of love, and so, in those years nobody talked anymore about ‘sin,’ this was considered to be negative talk." (And you were in high school and all this sexual talk scared you and you have never gotten past this.  Wonder why that is?)

But since "human nature didn’t actually change," the "lack of attention to discipline and to law" produced a great deal of "bad fruit."
One consequence, the cardinal believes, was the mishandling of clerical abuse accusations.

"Absolutely, there’s no question in my mind about that," said Cardinal Burke. He pointed out that both the 1917 and 1983 canon law codes put "a discipline in place" to confront an "evil" the Church had faced before.

"All of that was in place," he reflected, "but, first of all, it wasn’t known in the sense that people were not studying the law, were not paying attention to it, and so, if it wasn’t known or studied then it wasn’t being applied."(Nice try Cardinal, but you conveniently left out that Canon Law required Pontifical Secrecy.  The problem stemmed precisely from the fact that Canon Law was applied.)

Historically, he believes, it was an "unfortunate coincidence" that a cultural upheaval accompanied Blessed Pope John XXIII’s call for a reform of canon law.

"This added to the notion that we didn’t really have a law anymore – then the attitude developed that we don’t need it."

Bl. John Paul II resolved the situation after his election in 1978, implementing a new code of law by 1983. Cardinal Burke remains "deeply grateful" for the late Pope's action.

Since he is a cardinal, he could someday cast his vote for a future Pope. But could divine providence ever call the son of a Midwestern farming family to the papacy himself?

"Oh, I don’t believe so," Cardinal Burke laughed.

"I hope that the present Holy Father lives a long time. He’s a tremendous gift to the Church and that’s my great prayer – that the Lord gives him many more years."


I almost feel sad for Cardinal Burke.  It's actually easier for me to identify with him than it is his counter parts Cardinal George in Chicago or Cardinal Pell in the land of OZ.  George and Pell comes across as narcissistic opportunists, Burke comes across as a man who lost himself between God and gonads in his teen age years.  This isn't to say Burke can't wreak a pot of full of damage by meddling in American politics from Rome.  I left out the part in this article where he attacks Kathleen Sebelius as part of his 'our Church is under attack' delusion; or that he isn't capable of leading and not just abetting the attack on Vatican II theology.  Maybe it 's just that I personally can't take this man very seriously.

I swear that every time I see a photo of Burke I flash on a little boy pretending to say Mass. Back in the fifties when all us Catholics went to parochial school we all play acted priests or nuns-- some of us both priests and nuns.  They were our everyday authority figures so that should come as no surprise.  Most of us moved on beyond all that and it wasn't because of the cultural revolution of the sixties.  It was just because we grew up.  I swear for some reason Burke got stuck back there in the fifties and can't find his way out.  The truth is he has no incentive to find his way out,  because he's done well for himself through that part of the Church stuck in the fifties. And especially well since Benedict has been running the Church, which has really been the last twenty five years or so.

There's just over twenty years difference in age between Burke and Benedict.  Burke could have been one of those rebellious students that drove Benedict out of Tubingen, but he's the exact opposite of those students. This makes Burke utterly reliable and that quality far surpasses any other quality Burke might lack.  In Benedict's Church there is no one better than Burke for the responsibility of running the Church's legal structure.  Unfortunately like many teenagers, Burke is far better at seeing what is wrong with others, than he is in seeing what's wrong with himselfOh, but then that also describes a signature trait of a narcissist.  I guess that explains all the gold in the above picture.