Saturday, August 17, 2013

AB Sartain Continue To Stonewall The LCWR About Just What It Is The Vatican Is Upset About

Franciscan Sister Ilia Delio gave a superb speech with a lot of food for thought at the annual LCWR convention.  Not so much AB Sartain

The LCWR had their annual meeting this week in Orlando, Florida.  I turns out it might have been the best place to hold their meeting as it was attended by the Vatican appointed overseer Archbishop Sartain of Seattle and he did his best to come across as friendly as any Disney character.  Unfortunately, sources cited by the National Catholic Reporter indicate his responses to some very pertinent questions were more like Mickey Mouse.  It seems no matter how often LCWR leadership ask him for details about their alleged doctrinal indiscretions he has no specifics.  The following is an extract from an article by NCR's Joshua McElwee which hi lites some of the responses of LCWR members to Sartain's talk.
.....Before Sartain’s talk Thursday, LCWR leaders hosted an earlier three-hour closed-door meeting with their members. According to several sisters, that meeting was the first opportunity of this year’s assembly for LCWR members to ask the organization’s three presidents how discussions with Sartain over the mandate have been going since April 2012.
Meetings between Sartain and LCWR leaders in the 18 months since publishing of the mandate have taken place outside public scrutiny, and neither Sartain nor the sisters have publicly detailed the number or content of their meetings.
According to knowledgable sources, LCWR members were told Thursday that their leadership had met with Sartain four times over the past year: Once following last year’s LCWR assembly in St. Louis, once in November in Baltimore during the annual U.S. bishops’ meeting, once in May during the group’s annual visit to Rome, and once more this summer.
Each time, the LCWR leaders told their members Thursday, Sartain did not detail the Vatican’s specific concerns with LCWR. 
In their first meeting last August, Sartain also reportedly said he had not been sufficiently educated on the renewal of religious life that followed the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Those renewal efforts, which lasted for decades, are widely viewed by women religious as momentous achievements.
In their closed session with members Thursday, the LCWR board also shared a report of its May meeting in Rome with members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Several sisters said they were told that the LCWR’s response to the doctrinal assessment had contained “deficiencies,” but these were not spelled out. 
When meeting in the closed-door session with Sartain Thursday, several sisters reportedly asked the archbishop to spell out the alleged deficiencies, but he did not do so.
I'm seriously at a loss as to how the LCWR can respond to allegations which are not spelled out.  What are they supposed to do...punt?  The fact this has been going on for 18 months is pretty insulting.  I almost feel sorry for 'brother' Sartain.  He too is being used, but at least in his case, this idiot song and dance might result in further advancement.  For the LCWR it has to be engendering further anger and confusion.  How do they follow the 'magisterium' with any kind of integrity when said magisterium refuses to act like adults or treat the LCWR as adults.  This is the kind of thing defective parents pull on kids because the kids are totally dependent on them and they can get away with it.  Members of the LCWR are not dependent on the CDF or a certain subset of American cardinals and I don't honestly don't know why the LCWR keeps putting up with this kind of treatment.  It's way past time for the CDF to get specific, but I think this CDF won't get specific because in reality this entire fiasco was a case of Cardinal Levada abusing his office for the sake of certain other American Cardinals---the ones who are in the back pocket of the Republican party.  That very party that lost on Obamacare because of the LCWR influenced Catholic Health Care Association.  Which would mean this whole thing is not about doctrine, it's about politics.  Which would mean that Sartain is stuck with a bogus investigation that can't possibly have any kind of face saving exit strategy.  So he gives advice like this:
"Sartain told the sisters their role “is to be thinking with the church and fidelity to the magisterium of the church."
And answers direct questions like this:
"According to one member, common themes in the questions asked of Sartain by LCWR members Thursday included:
Frustration of the sisters’ congregations on the slowness of receiving information regarding how Sartain’s role at LCWR would continue;
A feeling that the reputation of U.S. sisters had been unfairly tarnished;
Sharp disagreement with allegations by Vatican officials that LCWR does not adequately communicate with bishops in Rome.
To the last point, Sartain reportedly said that Vatican officials “going forward hope to have better communication with LCWR.” (An interesting statement since the Vatican has been the one who consistently refused to meet with LCWR leadership in Rome.)
And then he gave this suggestion:
Instead of choosing only one speaker to address its members, Sartain suggested they select respondents as well, including at least one who would put in a positive light the official teachings of the church. (As if members of the LCWR don't know Catholic teachings.)
We may never get an official statement from either AB Sartain or the LCWR since both sides agreed to maintain silence on what transpired during Sartain's talk and the subsequent question and answer session.  The LCWR has stated they are thinking of releasing a statement at the end of the weekend, but I doubt it will say a whole lot.  Both sides seem willing to keep up this shadow boxing that gets no where. It may be that both sides are waiting for Pope Francis to make a decision on who will lead the CDF, and it could be it's current head, AB Mueller, is not precisely enthusiastic about pursuing this investigation if he's not going to have his job in a few months.  But whatever the case, one hopes this refusal to deal with the alleged issues does not keep up for the next three and a half years because no one will save face in that case.  Rather both sides will look less than adult.  
I can't help but wonder what Cardinal Braz de Aviz thinks of this whole charade given he has publicly stated he did not like the fact his dicastery was kept totally out the CDF loop. I can't imagine he's impressed with how this is playing out because the LCWR has loads of influence on religious women in the global church.  I suspect if it was up to him the whole thing would have done and over with a long time ago.  Unfortunately for everyone it's not up to him.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Of Band Aids and Banks.

The question for Pope Francis is will there be any surgery or just love, care, and band aids.

After I wrote my last post, I found myself incapable of writing much of anything else.  Part of my problem was utter chaos at my place of employment, a situation I knew would develop and fruitlessly tried to divert.  That took a lot of mental energy, but finally, I think a better path was taken--at least better than the first easy solution which would have been a band aid that only covered the dysfunction while not treating it.  I now wonder if the election of Francis really isn't just another band aid solution.  But first off some other thoughts about another story.

Pope Francis has furthered Pope Benedict's attempts to clean up the IOR, but I fear that too many of Francis' appointments include Opus Dei members or sympathizers.  Anyone who does any serious research into the decades of financial corruption at the Vatican can't help but notice how many Opus Dei or OD sympathizers were at the heart of some of the worst of those events.  I actually broke out laughing when Francis actually cited the Free Masons as one of his 'lobbies' involved at the Vatican when in point of fact the P2 Masonic Lodge involved in the Banco Ambrosio scandal had more than it's share of members who were listed as both OD and as high level Masons. Seems there is nothing like secret societies for engaging in shady business deals and other 'secret' stuff.  The more of these groups one belongs to the merrier it is.  The Catholicism of the 20th century has been rife with creation of lay apostolates with charisms that bring them into contact with rich or powerful people ostensibly for the purpose of evangelization, but too often function more as brokerage firms for people with 'special needs'.

Given this it wasn't particularly shocking to learn that Msgr Nunzio Scarano, he who is currently in an Italian prison for various misuses of the Vatican bank, was a member of yet another small group with connections to the wealthy and allegedly criminal wealthy.  The following is from a CNA account:

...Italian newspaper “Il Mattino” reports that Msgr. Scarano was entrusted with the management of a network of real estate activities for the spiritual family “L'opera del gregge del Bamin Gesù,” or “The works of the flock of the infant Jesus.”

“The Flock,” as it is known, was a sort of spiritual family formed in Salerno by a group of priests aged 40-50 who gathered around a visionary known by his first name, Caterina.

Msgr. Scarano is known to have been a member of The Flock, which was officially an association of prayer yet acted primarily as a private limited company managing a series of economic activities....

What ever the Flock was, it's most likely it's resident visionary had visions of investments of all sorts dancing in his head rather than visions of the baby Jesu.  Ahemmm.

In short, it bothers me that Pope Francis continues to stock his commissions with fervent OD members when I think he would be much better off stocking his commissions with agnostic secularists whose sole concern is ethical bank management.  They would be much more trustworthy in separating what is Caesar's from what is God's.  Mixing the two has never done the Vatican much good----except for the fact lay Apostolates like OD and the Neo Cats are very good at upholding the necessity of the ordained priesthood, which brings me back to thoughts of bandaids.

Finally, I would like to hi light the current post at Iglesia Descalza.  Rebel Girl has a translation of an article by José María Castillo that is a reflection on the origin of the priesthood and it's future in Catholicism.  I find myself agreeing with Castillo that the future does not look encouraging for the our current priestly caste:

.....Of course, the end of the clergy can't be improvised. The change will probably happen not because of decisions coming from Rome but because life and the turn history takes will lead us to that -- to a Church composed of communities of believers, aware of their responsibility, united with their bishops (led by the Bishop of Rome), respecting the diverse peoples, nations, and cultures. And concerned above all with making the memory of Jesus visible and obvious. There are already many communities all over the world where, due to the lack of clergy, lay people are the ones who celebrate the Eucharist all by themselves. Because there are many Christians who are persuaded that the celebration of the Eucharist isn't a privilege of the priests but a right of the community. The process is underway. And I believe nobody will stop it....

I wish Pope Francis would read those last three sentences.  There's a piece of me that thinks he really is sort of a band aid elected to the Papacy to both cover over the deficiencies in the cultic priesthood and to continue it's current manifestation. If so Pope Francis will prove to be way too little way too late.  The process away from the cultic celibate priesthood is well underway and not even a charismatic pope like Francis is going to stop it.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Pope Franics Is Not All That Evolved On Issues Of Sex And Gender

Thought I'd put up a bit of a plug for a truly deep woman theologian.  It's sort of a post card to Pope Francis from the margins of Catholic theology.

There certainly has been a lot of gigabytes used up on Pope Francis' impromptu interview on his way back to Rome.  Not surprisingly the comments concerning Msgr Ricca and the 'gay lobby' have so far generated the most commentary.  Personally I think that will change as more people take in some of the other statements Francis made, such as his comments on women's place in the Church. I think it was because I red flagged on these comments that I did not view Francis' statements on gays as particularly noteworthy.  To me all he seemed to be saying was that celibate gay priests should not be marginalized just because they are gay or have made mistakes (sins not crimes).  This may signal less pressure on gay priests to leave and a more open stance towards gay seminarians per se, but not a whole lot more than that.  I certainly did not see where these comments will have much effect at all on GLBT laity one way or the other.  I don't see where they can precisely because Pope Francis seems blind to the Church's rejection of any notion of a positive contribution for the feminine. To this point his stated idea of the contribution of the feminine is wrapped up in Marian theology and childbearing and housekeeping and he has so far admitted to being influenced only by his mother and some 'grandmothers'.  The fact he stated we need to work on a deeper theology of women was mind blowing to me.  Women have been doing feminine theology for well over half a century--the very half century he's been a priest.  Which makes me wonder just who he envisions doing this 'deeper theology of women', and I'm afraid he means male clerics--preferably Jesuit.

None of what I've just written contradicts the fact I still see Pope Francis as very close to if not at Stage 6 spirituality.  Even the most spiritually advanced folks I have met have had their blind spots and cultural filters.  It's the nature of the human game. I can see Francis making real change in Church governance and reprioritizing the instituional mission while never even conceiving of changing the teachings on sex and gender.  Given all that, I found this article in SpiegelOnLine with conservative gay theologian David Berger most in line with my own response. Berger was a prominent lay theologian at Rome's Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas who came out of the closet in 2010 in frustration over the hypocrisy of Rome's gay clergy.  I've re posted this interview in full:

Gay Comments: Pope Francis Not as Liberal as He Seems

Annette Langer - SpiegelOnLine - 7/31/13
Pope Francis has sparked enthusiasm with his call for greater tolerance toward gays. But it's too soon to celebrate, says theologian David Berger. The pope's warning not to engage in gay propaganda puts him on par with homophobes like Russian President Vladimir Putin, he contends.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: On the flight from Brazil to Europe, Pope Francis was unexpectedly candid. "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?" he said, causing many commentators to rejoice. Was this really such a big sensation?

Berger: It is incredibly naïve to liken it to a dam bursting. What are gays or lesbians to think when someone tells them: I don't want you to be discriminated against, but you are not allowed to live out your "tendency" anyway? According to doctrine, the homosexual act is still a sin. Here lies the central problem and the reason I feel further marginalized as a Catholic.
  SPIEGEL ONLINE: Nevertheless, Francis has explicitly opposed the exclusion of gays. Has he been urged by his advisors to do this or is a genuine concern of his?

Berger: I don't believe that it was a PR move. But he also didn't say anything revolutionary. The notion that gays shouldn't be discriminated against is already in the catechism. But when Francis says in the same breath that gays should please not advertise their sexual orientation, he puts himself in a category with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who supports laws against "homosexual propaganda." 
(No Pope Francis is not another homophobic Putin. This may be a perfect example of the conservative bent to see things a little too black and white.)
SPIEGEL ONLINE: So this wasn't a call for greater openness of the Church?

Berger: I would like to see more openness. But there would have to be fundamental doctrinal revisions for that -- and I don't see that happening. Take Francis' categoric rejection of the ordination of women. "This door is closed," he said. This shows that when it comes to liberality, the pope is committed to the old gender roles. That's why I don't think he will be able to stop the ranks of priests from shrinking dramatically. (Yes, this Pope is definitely committed to the older gender roles.  Not surprising since it is precisely the older gender roles which prop up all the theology about the hierarchy in the Church he leads.)

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is there really a so-called gay lobby in the Vatican?

Berger: There are loose networks that maintain connections in order to have sex without being discovered. But there is no organized group that advocates gay rights and wants to change the Church's doctrine. During my time in Rome, I rather experienced the opposite. Most gay priests are very pious, well-behaved people --organizing an uprising couldn't be further from their minds.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Defensive personalities who can be blackmailed because of their sexual orientation?

Berger: Sure, it's always about power. It is common knowledge in the Catholic Church that supervisors put pressure on gay priests in order to exploit them for their own interests. (And that some less scrupulous people will use the threat of exposure as gay to intimidate all priests--gay or straight.  This must have been especially effective in the Benedict papacy.)

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Since Bergoglio became pope, Italian gay activists say their relationship with the Church has already improved.

Berger: Francis's remarks may well bring about improvement in the predominantly Catholic countries. But in Germany we are having this discussion on a different level. As a gay man in Italy, you are satisfied just to get the crumbs that fall from the table of the lord. There, gentle discrimination is already a step forward. It's completely different in Berlin or in Cologne: We have no need to eat the crumbs. Either we sit at the table or we will not take part in the dinner. (I think this is very true and that Pope Francis is going to be somewhat blind sided by this difference.  And not just over the gay issue, but also over the divorced/remarried issue.)

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Francis says that any form of lobbying is harmful, making reference to the Freemasons and other political forces in the Vatican. Where does the pope stand theologically?

Berger: While John Paul II and Benedict XVI could be gauged, that's not possible with Francis. His theology is rather a kind of folk Catholicism of Latin American origin. Much of what is currently fascinating believers is really the Catholic version of the rites of popular evangelical sects. For example, when he asks people at his discretion to bless him before he does it himself, he is acting out a blessing rite of the Pentecostals. (Exactly, and this is one reason I think Pope Francis will elevate the Catholic Charismatic movement to new heights--it's the Catholic version of Pentecostal and Evangelical protestantism.)

SPIEGEL ONLINE: You get the feeling that the new pope expresses himself without much precision and sometimes contradictorily, which leads to misunderstandings.

Berger: Yes, that's right. Benedict XVI spoke as he would have written. Almost everything he said was well thought out in every detail. Francis's statements often contradict each other. So he first said that atheists are devils, only to say shortly later that they are just as good as Christians. Then it was up to his spokesman to correct the statements and put them into perspective accordingly. From an intellectual perspective, the election of Francis is a fiasco for the Catholic Church. But the general public is presumably already won over by his charisma. (That's probably a little strong, but then Berger seems to be another of those conservative gay men who think Pope Benedict's theology was the cat's meow.)
  SPIEGEL ONLINE: What about the celibacy rules under Francis?

Berger: There is currently a lot of movement on this, which is also supported by conservative forces. But from a pedagogical standpoint, nothing will really change. The prohibition of sex remains the most important factor of the Church's power. (That's certainly true in it's need to control the faith of individuals. It's proven ineffective in the Church's attempt to control the politics of any 21st century democracy.)


Pope Francis' trip to Brazil has to be judged a success for his nascent papacy.  It was sort of a no brainer.  It might have been a bit different if WYD had been held in say Austria or Ireland.  It seemed that as the week progressed Francis unveiled more and more of his thinking and his blue print for the Church.  For me, his most important speech was the one he gave to the organizing committee of CELAM.  It was his longest and most detailed speech.  He did not deviate very much from it's text.  I kept this speech in mind as I read through the transcript of his news conference on the plane back to Rome.  Maybe that's why I didn't find his gay comments to be particularly liberating.

Where as Francis has a well developed spirituality when it comes to the mission of the Christian individual and how the Church should support that mission, that outreach to the poor and marginalized he repeatedly delineates, he has a very traditional and not so developed view of personal morality and internal Church organization.  In these latter two cases he is not going to change any traditional view of sexuality or gender definition.  To do so is to remove the actual foundational rock of the institutional clerical church.  That foundational rock is not Peter, it's the fact Peter was male. If one were to really look at someone other than Jesus as the foundational rock of the Church, logic would dictate it was Mary.  In the case of the incarnated Jesus, the hen came before the egg.  Unfortunately, while Pope Francis can state that Mary is more important to the Church than any of the Apostles, that importance will never be ascribed to women in the same way the maleness of Jesus and the Apostles has been weaved into our theology of the priesthood and the over all primacy of men in the general scheme of things.  This maleness is so overwhelming it has even allowed an all male power structure to clothe it's institutional face as a boat or something.   Every time some priest or pope uses the term "Holy Mother' Church I want to scream:  "No, No, No, it's neither Holy nor feminine!  It's corrupt and utterly masculine!"  

Unfortunately, Pope Francis has spent his entire adult life in this exclusively male culture.  He's lived and breathed it, and climbed it's rocky slopes until he's reached it's pinnacle. I doubt he's really had much time to seriously question it's underlying patriarchal assumptions.  Until that happens there can be no 'deep theology of women' coming from Rome or anywhere else in the official Catholic world.  The LCWR has seen the truth of the that fact.  So have specific female theologians like Margaret Farley and Elizabeth Johnson.  

There's a part of me that hopes Pope Francis is experiencing a little cognitive dissonance over the Church's official positions on women and gays as he takes in the views from the top of the pinnacle.  I would hope he looks down the slope he climbed and discerns that he crawled over lots of marginalized folks to get to the top.  I would hope that might be part of why he can forgive a gay priest his youthful indiscretions and now say 'who am I to judge'---at least not judge gay priests who are genuinely seeking God.  They are after all, his brother priests.  

As for women, well according to Francis, JPII had the final say on that. Brotherly solidarity, or papal solidarity in this case, still trumps cognitive dissonance, but that dissonance is there in his speeches.  He keeps calling for more feminine input, ever for a deeper theology of women, and he's placed women on his commissions. Eventually he may see that these kinds of band aids will not cover the wound patriarchy has inflicted on the Church's soul, nor solve his cognitive dissonance problem.  In the meantime the right wing can breathe easy on the fronts of Catholic sexual morality and gender hierarchy.  Straight male thinking still rules.