Monday, February 25, 2013

Conservatives Circle The Wagons Now That Another Of Their Champions Has Fallen On His Crozier

Cardinal O'Brien in the much happier days of Pope Benedict's visit to Scotland.

Damian Thompson is a conservative Catholic who writes for Britian's Telegraph.  He is a High Church kind of conservative Catholic and not necessarily an American type Catholic neocon.  He is beside himself over the sudden resignation of Scotland's culture warrior Cardinal Keith O'Brien.  Here is his take on O'Brien's resignation:

Cardinal O'Brien resigns after gay allegations – and won't vote for next Pope. This is a shocking crisis for the Church

Damian Thompson - The Telegraph - 2/25/2012   

 Let's spell this out bluntly. The most senior Catholic cleric in Britain, Cardinal Keith O'Brien of St Andrews and Edinburgh, has been forced to resign ahead of schedule following allegations that he made homosexual advances to younger clergy in his diocese – and isn't now expected to attend the conclave to elect the next Pope. There will now be no Briton in the Sistine Chapel when voting takes place. O'Brien's early resignation is believed to have been at the personal insistence of Benedict XVI, in one of his last acts as Pope.

The Cardinal denies the allegations, whose publication has been carefully timed – but his decision will remind the cardinals meeting in Rome next month that allegations against its clergy have now permeated the entire institution.
The next Pope's first priority must be to restore confidence in the sexual probity of the Church. Who on earth is going to be able to do that?
Watch out for real fireworks in Scotland, where tribal Catholicism is dying off. Cardinal O'Brien was a firebrand on the subject of gay sex and the unsuitability of homosexuals for clerical office; his counterpart in Glasgow, Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, is even more outspoken, recently suggesting that a Scottish MP's death was hastened by his homosexuality.
If the charges against O'Brien have any substance to them, then the public credibility of the Scottish Catholic Church will collapse. And the rejoicing of the enemies of conservative Catholicism, who are especially vocal in Scotland, will be deafening.


I spent a part of my life working for a gold mine in which I had to baby sit what were essentially huge pressure cookers. There was an optimum amount of pressure at which the extraction of gold from the concentrate worked best.  Part of my job was to monitor that pressure.  If the pressure got too high a 'pop off' valve would burst and we would have a huge mess.  The only thing we could do was shut down the pumps and wait for the pressure to blow off.  Since part of the process involved cyanide, depending on where the condensed steam dropped, we would have to evacuate the plant which in turn meant shutting down the mills.  Needless to say, no body appreciated it when one of us working that part of the plant lost control of our pressure cookers.  It seems to me the Vatican under the last two popes have created a monstrous pressure cooker and have lost control, the pop off valve has blown, and the evacuations are commencing.

I can appreciate that a conservative like Damian Thompson is truly afraid of what Cardinal O'Brien's resignation portends for conservative Catholicism.  I don't think he begins to understand how much pressure conservative Catholicism places on it's clergy.  The biggest forces driving this pressure are sexual purity codes and a concept of priesthood that demands perfection from imperfect men.  Eventually something had to blow because when the expectations don't meet performance, and those same expectations mitigate against personal honesty, the pressure keeps building and building.  Powerful blocked forces will always seek an outlet for expression.  It is almost impossible to reverse this process once it has begun.  It's time the Church step back and assess the sources of the pressure.  It's time to turn off the pumps, let the pressure expend itself, and start over.

Ironically Cardinal O'Brien gave an interview last week in which he correctly targeted one of the sources of excess pressure and that is the celibate nature of the priesthood.  If it's true the God writes straight with crooked lines, then God truly has his hand on Cardinal O'Brien's. Enforced celibacy does not work well at all for most priests, and neither does the emphasis on sexual purity for laity, gay or straight.  It's one thing to teach that sexuality is a gift from God and should be treated as such, it's another thing entirely to mandate conformance to the minutia of Catholic sexual teaching on secular societies.  Cardinal O'Brien was a very outspoken agitator in the Church's crusade to bring secular culture in line with Catholic sexual teaching. Unfortunately for him, the time for this kind of pressure is long past.  It's no longer a time for legislating rules, it's a time for modeling and mentoring a more evolved sexual ethic which places the dignity of the other in the place of prominence.  This is where society is moving and this is why his alleged behavior would have been severely punished in secular society.  Sexually harassing supervisors are no longer tolerated in secular society.  Sexual encounters based in power differentials are no longer tolerated in secular society.  Whatever one might want to say about the sexual mores between consenting adults, sex as an exercise of power is now taboo.  To me this is real progress up the sexual evolutionary ladder, but it's a concept almost totally foreign to a sexual ethic based solely in biological procreation.  This is another lesson in the Cardinal O'Brien story, and one I think he himself actually understands.

When one's Catholicism demands perfection from others while compartmenalizing one's own imperfection there is eventually going to be serious problems.  These problems may not manifest in the individual themselves, but they will most certainly manifest in any organization that person belongs to and feels the right to critique.  Both of the recent popes have allowed one small minority of very conservative Catholics to twist the Church to their own needs.  I don't doubt for one second that those needs corresponded on some level with the needs of both popes, but this isn't a healthy direction for most of the Church.  Catholicism needs to step back and do some serious evaluation.  The 'reform of the reform' set a series of expectations in motion that have finally over pressured the entire Catholic system.  That seriously needs to be looked at because our priesthood is paying the heaviest price.  

We are not done with the revelations.  Once this phenomenon starts it can't be stopped.  In the end this will be a good thing for the Church, but right now it is utterly disheartening.  Exactly as it was for me when one day I came out of the control room to see a monstrous cloud of cyanide steam enveloping my area.  I thank God that in three + years it only happened once.  I learned to keep a very close eye on the pressure gauges.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Another Cardinal, Another Abuse Story

The following story brings up memories of the George Reker mess, or Marcial Maciel for that matter.  The story is believable if one ascribes to Richard Sipe's theories of clerical grooming, and unfortunately most likely true, given there are four accusers.  It will be interesting to see how Pope Benedict handles this or if he pushes it off on his successor.  Cardinal O'Brien did not attend the mornings Mass at his cathedral.  He was supposed to give a farewell homily for Pope Benedict.  The UK's Guardian Observer broke this story yesterday and it has gone viral.

UK's top cardinal accused of 'inappropriate acts' by priests

Cardinal Keith O'Brien
Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Britain's most senior Catholic clergyman. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Three priests and a former priest in Scotland have reported the most senior Catholic clergyman in Britain, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, to the Vatican over allegations of inappropriate behaviour stretching back 30 years.
The four, from the diocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh, have complained to nuncio Antonio Mennini, the Vatican's ambassador to Britain, and demanded O'Brien's immediate resignation. A spokesman for the cardinal said that the claims were contested.

O'Brien, who is due to retire next month, has been an outspoken opponent of gay rights, condemning homosexuality as immoral, opposing gay adoption, and most recently arguing that same-sex marriages would be "harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of those involved". Last year he was named "bigot of the year" by the gay rights charity Stonewall. (Hypocrite of the year may be more accurate.

One of the complainants, it is understood, alleges that the cardinal developed an inappropriate relationship with him, resulting in a need for long-term psychological counselling.
The four submitted statements containing their claims to the nuncio's office the week before Pope Benedict's resignation on 11 February. They fear that, if O'Brien travels to the forthcoming papal conclave to elect a new pope, the church will not fully address their complaints.
"It tends to cover up and protect the system at all costs," said one of the complainants. "The church is beautiful, but it has a dark side and that has to do with accountability. If the system is to be improved, maybe it needs to be dismantled a bit."

The revelation of the priests' complaints will be met with consternation in the Vatican. Allegations of sexual abuse by members of the church have dogged the papacy of Benedict XVI, who is to step down as pope at the end of this month. Following the announcement, rumours have swirled in Rome that Benedict's shock move may be connected to further scandals to come.
The four priests asked a senior figure in the diocese to act as their representative to the nuncio's office. Through this representative, the nuncio replied, in emails seen by the Observer, that he appreciated their courage.

It is understood that the first allegation against the cardinal dates back to 1980. The complainant, who is now married, was then a 20-year-old seminarian at St Andrew's College, Drygrange, where O'Brien was his "spiritual director". The Observer understands that the statement claims O'Brien made an inappropriate approach after night prayers.
The seminarian says he was too frightened to report the incident, but says his personality changed afterwards, and his teachers regularly noted that he seemed depressed. He was ordained, but he told the nuncio in his statement that he resigned when O'Brien was promoted to bishop. "I knew then he would always have power over me. It was assumed I left the priesthood to get married. I did not. I left to preserve my integrity." (Integrity, there's another word that apparently has no Latin translation.)

In a second statement, "Priest A" describes being happily settled in a parish when he claims he was visited by O'Brien and inappropriate contact between the two took place.

In a third statement, "Priest B" claims that he was starting his ministry in the 1980s when he was invited to spend a week "getting to know" O'Brien at the archbishop's residence. His statement alleges that he found himself dealing with what he describes as unwanted behaviour by the cardinal after a late-night drinking session.

"Priest C" was a young priest the cardinal was counselling over personal problems. Priest C's statement claims that O'Brien used night prayers as an excuse for inappropriate contact.
The cardinal maintained contact with Priest C over a period of time, and the statement to the nuncio's office alleges that he engineered at least one other intimate situation. O'Brien is, says Priest C, very charismatic, and being sought out by the superior who was supposed to be guiding him was both troubling and flattering.
Those involved believe the cardinal abused his position. "You have to understand," explains the ex-priest, "the relationship between a bishop and a priest. At your ordination, you take a vow to be obedient to him.
"He's more than your boss, more than the CEO of your company. He has immense power over you. He can move you, freeze you out, bring you into the fold … he controls every aspect of your life. You can't just kick him in the balls."

All four have been reluctant to raise their concerns. They are, though, concerned that the church will ignore their complaints, and want the conclave electing the new pope to be "clean". According to canon law, no cardinal who is eligible to vote can be prevented from doing so.


I'm beginning to think Robert Mickens observation that if all Cardinals who had allegations of covering up abuse, financial shenanigans, or sexual misdeeds were barred from the Conclave, it really could be held in a broom closet.

Richard Sipe has long maintained this is how business is done.  Bishops and Archbishops trolling the waters amongst the newly ordained or amongst seminarians to find appropriate candidates for 'personal secretaries' and other chancellery positions.  In 2008 he submitted a letter to Pope Benedict about another American Cardinal credibly accused of the same behavior as Cardinal Keith O'Brien. To this point the Vatican has not responded to any of the numerous reports about the behavior of this Cardinal and he too is eligible to vote in this upcoming Conclave.

I have read many many right wing comments that ascribe this kind of thing to the 'evil gays'.  In reality it's not about the evil gays so much as it is about the evil system that allows for and essentially promotes this kind of abusive activity by purposefully ignoring it.  And it is first and formost abusive because it is a willful exercise of supervisory power against a helpless subordinate.  Call it the Catholic Clerical form of the kind of sexual harassment many many female workers have endured under their own male bosses.  The major difference is this is occurring in an all male environment and by definition has to be homosexual.  Same sort of thing happens in prisons all the time.  It's predatory abusive sexuality that has a homosexual expression. In the Catholic clerical culture there are many other real pressures on these young men not to divulge what has happened so they know there is very little that will ever be officially done to their abusers.  It took 50 years for Maciel's abuse victims to finally be acknowledged.

I guess I think there is Karmic justice in these allegations against Cardinal O'Brien. His stunningly ignorant take on GLBT issues deserved a Karmic reply, very much like George Rekers got his own Karmic send up.  I personally am so glad GLBT people have made so many strides in the last twenty five years, because my hope is this kind of 'gay lobby' will no longer find a place to operate in a secret clerical system.  Gay men now have far more options than they had when being a priest was one of the few.  As much as conservatives want to rant and rant about the 'gay agenda' in society, I hope someday they understand that it is just this 'gay agenda' that will have been most responsible for stopping the abuse endemic to the clerical system.


 Cardinal O'Brien has resigned and will not be attending the Conclave.  His stated reason is not to distract from Pope Benedict XVI or the election of Benedict's successor.  He has not specifically responded to the allegations by the four men, but apologized for any wrongs he may have committed.  I have to wonder if American Cardinals Mahony and Rigali will take note.  At least Cardinal O'Brien got real about celibate clergy before his own alleged indiscretions underlined his point.

Why I Should Be Pope And Not Fr. James Martin

Seriously guys, you need to think waaaay outside the box.  Ignore the self promoting Jesuit and elect the honest self promoting female blogger.

Over at America Magazine Fr James Martin has begun his campaign to become pope.  What's next, Stephen Colbert?  I just got to thinking if he can campaign then so can I. Ergo, I have taken his self reported qualifications and juxtaposed mine against his.  I of course have more qualifications, or will when I'm elected.  See who you think should be pope.

Here are twelve (pretty good) reasons why you should elect me pope, which I’m calling:
Twelve (Pretty Good) Reasons Why You Should Elect Me Pope. (Not him, me.)

1. I’m a man. That’s half the battle, right? (Been there, done that for far too long, and not always successfully I might add.  Time for a woman.)

2. I’m baptized. And I’ve got the papers to prove it. No birther controversy here. (Me too.)

3. I speak several languages. Not well but, you know, who does really? I speak English, as you can see from this little essay. And guess what: Bonjour! That’s right: French! I started studying français when I was in seventh grade. (Notice I used the little thingy under the “c.”) That means I can talk to pretty much all of West Africa and France: that’s a lot of Catholics. Unfortunately, if I have to use the subjunctive or the pluperfect we’re out of luck, but all I have to do is avoid saying, “If I were” in any of my encyclicals and we’re golden. But there’s more: Hola! That’s right: I speak Spanish. More or less. Or, “Mas o menos,” as we say in the biz. Now, in this case, I can’t really handle the past or future tenses, but that’s okay, because that means I’ll be speaking all about the present—which will make me sound forceful and confident. You know, “Now is the time!” Or “Ahora es la…well, ora, I guess.” Anyway, there are lots and lots of Spanish-speaking Catholics and once they hear my rendition of “De Colores,” they’ll be sold on the Servant of the Servants of God muy rapido. (Ok Ok, I don't speak French, but my daughter does, and guess what, you don't have one of those. Plus Yo hablo espanol.  I also can not really handle past or future tenses, but I can ask "Donde esta la cuarto de bano?" which every woman knows is the really really important question.)

4. I’m half Italian. I almost forgot: Ciao! I’m half Italian. On my mom’s side. So once I’m the Bishop of Rome I’ll easily be able to deal with any problems in the curia, because all the Italian curial officials will instantly recognize me as a paesan. Scandals? Finito! Mismanagement? Basta! (That’s Italian for “done” and “over,” in case yours is rustissimo.) My election will also satisfy anyone looking for an Italian pope: i.e., all the Italian cardinals, who you definitely want on your side. The other half of me, by the way, is Irish, which goes a long way in the States, believe you me. (Ha, I have you here.  I'm half POLISH and all Vatican curia understand what that means. Lots of travel and really big road shows.)

5. I worked in Africa. I almost forgot my other language. Jambo! That’s right! I speak Swahili. Or Kiswahili. (That’s Swahili for Swahili.) Well, at least I used to. I worked in Kenya for two years. So for all those people who want a pope from the developing world, well, I’m not exactly from there, but there are three babies who were named after me while I was working in Kenya. (They’re not mine, if that’s a worry). That’s got to count for something.
Now that you know that I speak English and Spanish and French and Swahili, you’re probably thinking, “Gee, why not Jim as the Pontifex Maximus?” Why not share that thought with the guy in red sitting next to you? (Ok, you might have me here, but I have had a subscription to National Geographic. Besides, as a woman I might just as well come from a third world country.)
6. Books. You probably want a pope who is literate but maybe not someone who spends so much time writing books, what with all the stuff he has to deal with. I know that this was sometimes a criticism of Pope Benedict XVI—not that I’m casting any stones! But I’ve already written my books, so when I’m in the Vatican I’ll be 100% on the job. 9 to 5. Weekends too, if things ever get really busy. Sundays of course I’ll be available for Masses. (I don't write books, I just blog which makes me ideal in the modern world of social communications. Plus I am thinking about getting started thinking about a twitter account. Plus I too will be available to attend Mass on Sundays, and if elected would ordain myself so as to be able to say Mass on Sunday--in understandable English.)

7. Business Experience! Speaking of jobs—guess what?--I’ve got a degree from the Wharton School. That’s one of the big business schools here in the States. Plus I worked at General Electric for six years. So here’s some good news: say arrivederci to any managerial problems in the curia. Ever heard of Management by Objectives? The marginal propensity to consume? The “Four Ps” of marketing? You will after I’m Supreme Pontiff. That place will run like a top. A top that makes money, too. (I too have worked in a few business fields and know exactly how to say "You're Fired". Plus I am a very good golfer which is vastly more important than some piddly degree from Wharton.)

8. I’m ordained. I almost forgot: I’m already an ordained priest. That means that, since I meet all the other requirements, the only thing that left is for me to be willing to be ordained a bishop. And guess what: I’m willing. Now let me anticipate a minor objection. I’ll bet that you know that I took a vow as a Jesuit not to “strive for or ambition” any high office in the church, but I’ve got a nice, easy, canonically doable way around that roadblock. Once you elect me pope, I’ll be my own superior! After I put on those white robes, I can just call up the Jesuit superior general and say, “Hey, how about letting me accept that ordination as bishop and my election as pope?” And I figure he’ll have to say yes because he takes orders from me. Problem solved. Besides I’m not striving or ambitioning anyway. I’m campaigning. (I've already written how I will solve the ordination thingy.  As far as the ambition thingy, since I am already part of the 47%, it goes without saying, I have no ambition.)

9. Educated. The Jesuit training process is really, really, really long. I can’t even remember how many years I was in studies. That means that I studied philosophy (good to know), theology (really good to know) and a whole lot of other stuff like church history, which I think would be pretty helpful as pope. And guess what? I know Ancient Greek, too. That really impresses the scholarly types in the church. E.g., when scholars ask me, “What translation of the New Testament are you using?,” I’ll say, “My translation.” They love that kind of thing. Plus, that appeals to the Ancient-Greek-speaking demographic that the church may have given up on. (Ok, Ok, I studied biology and psychology so I know a lot of Greek words like schizophrenia and oedipal complex.  I've read the bible, well most of it, but I also know how to let the real professionals do their thing without the need to do it for them. Just sayin'.)

10) Willing to travel. Okay, I admit it. I’m not all crazy about air travel, what with all the delays and having to take your shoes off and sitting next to someone who keeps coughing up a lung, but it just dawned on me that this won’t be a problem at all. The Pontiff has his own airplane: Shepherd One. So once you install free movies in my gold-and-white plane I’m golden. I’ll go wherever you want me to go. To the ends of the earth, if need be. As long as I get an extra bag of peanuts. (Me too, I love to travel.  Only thing is I would need to change the name of the plane to Shepherdess One, which would be no big deal as it's only three letters. Actually, I could do that myself.  I don't eat peanuts so I would leave a smaller carbon footprint.)

11) Humility. I can already predict what your last objection is: my campaigning for pope may make me seem a tad less humble than you might hope for. But isn’t the fact that I’m willing to campaign a sign of my humility? A less humble guy would assume that everyone already knows that he’d be a good candidate and so wouldn’t say anything out of his pride. Kind of counterintuitive, huh? Ergo: Since I’m campaigning, I’m tops when it comes to humility. (What kind of convoluted Jesuitical self justified thinking is this drivel?  As a psychologist, I no longer can tolerate this kind of double think in myself.  Ergo, I am campaigning and don't claim one ounce of humility.  Like Cardinal Mahony I will learn humility on the job.)

12) Cool Name. Everyone knows that the first big decision the pope makes is his choice of name. Plus, I know everyone’s always worried about continuity. With that in mind (I like to think ahead, which is a good trait) I’ve already picked my name. As you know, Pope Paul VI’s successor chose the name “John Paul I,” to show his continuity with Pope John XXIII and Paul VI. Everyone was pretty impressed with that. Next you had John Paul II. More continuity. And of course next we had (or have, depending on when you’re reading this) Benedict XVI. If you elect me, and I hope you will, after I say “Accepto” (see I speak a little Latin too) I would choose my name: John Paul Benedict I. That takes care of everyone from John XXIII to Benedict. Continuity plus. Of course saying “JPB1” might take some getting used to but Catholics are pretty flexible, and I'll bet before long there will be lots of babies baptized John Paul Benedict. (In spite of not particularly being enamored with the name, I would choose Hildegard I in solidarity with her frequent attempts to get her version of the Vatican to clean up it's act.  I would also put an axe in the center of my Coat of Arms just in case the curia needed a reminder of my motto 'eadshay illway ollray'  It's in pig Latin by the way, in which I am very fluent and because too many of the curia seem to be pigs.)

Anyway, I hope that helps you make a tough decision easier, Your Eminences. Did I leave anything out? Well, I’m a fast typist, I can draw pretty well and I tell some really funny jokes. For example, here’ s a good one: “What did the Jesuit say when he was elected pope.”
There’s only one way to find out. (I too am a fast typer, except for the over strike thing, and I can draw pretty well, and my daughter thinks I'm funny.  Plus I am owned by three cats and that's a biggy in cat loving Italy.  So my joke would be  'What did the cat lady say when she was elected pope?'  You would never get the answer because the cat lady would have died from the shock of it all.)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Problem With Throwing A Pebble In A Stagnant Pond

Benedict may have thought he was just dropping a pebble in the stagnant Catholic pond, but now that little pebble has brought up tons of filth from the bottom of the stagnant pond and no one can control the global ripple effects--not even the Vatican.

Der Spiegel OnLine has posted an extensive and excellent article looking at Pope Benedict's resignation and it's potential impact on the Church.  I have posted the first page below, but encourage readers to read the entire article.  Links to the rest of the article are posted at the end of this excerpt.

Zero Hour at the Vatican: A Bitter Struggle for Control of the Catholic Church

Naked and goaded viciously by hornets and wasps, his blood sucked by loathsome worms. Such was the fate of a pope in Dante's "Divine Comedy" who "by his cowardice made the great refusal."
Benedict XVI, in short, knew what could happen to one who rebelled against a centuries-old tradition in a church in which suffering is far from foreign. But he also knew that it wasn't just a matter of his own suffering -- it was a matter of the exhaustion, weakness and sickness of the church at large. The pope from Bavaria has given up. Nevertheless, when he announced his resignation last Monday, hastily and almost casually mumbling the words as if he were saying a rosary, as if he were returning the keys to a rental car rather than the keys to St. Peter, there was still a sense of how deeply his move has shaken the Catholic empire. (I was struck by this tone as well, as if in minimizing his announcement Benedict was attempting to minimize it's impact.)

Archbishop of Berlin Rainer Maria Woelki calls it a "demystification of the papal office." Already, he says, the pope's resignation has changed the church.
So was it an act of liberation? A handful of bishops have, cautiously, made their voices heard. Gebhard Fürst, the bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart in southwestern Germany, called for reforms to promote the advancement of women. Although he didn't demand that women be allowed to become priests, Fürst did suggest that more women assume leadership positions in the church.  (Isolated bishops from all over the globe are now cautiously suggesting changes, as well as a Cardinal.)

German bishops will convene for their spring meeting in the southwestern city of Trier this week. Conflicting groups are already taking shape within the German church, with fundamentalists battling reformers, and with everyone anxiously determined to preserve or expand his vested rights under a new pontiff.
And the desire for change is palpable. "A pope can be a theologian, a minister or a general," says a prominent German cardinal, and he makes it clear that he has seen enough of philosopher-popes for now. "A general is needed to lead the universal church." (Already the German Bishops have cleared the way for use of contraception for rape victims.)

Silent Battle
A shift is taking place in the otherwise immovable Catholic Church. A global struggle has begun over the prerogative of interpretation, opportunities, legacy and positions -- a silent battle for Rome.
The ultimate effects of the pope's resignation are thus far impossible to predict. But it is clear that previous certainties will now be up for debate -- certainties that were once just as firm as the understanding that the position of pope was for life.

In the modern age, a pope has never resigned from the office, one that some believe is the most important on earth. There hasn't been an ex-pontiff since the last years of the Schism, after Gregory XII and the Avignon pope agreed to resign to reunite the church. That was the last time that an ex-pope spent the rest of his days strolling around the Vatican gardens as nothing but a simple brother. Never before has the decision of a single pope presented such a challenge to the Catholic Church as this one. Zero hour has begun at the Vatican. The pope's resignation was certainly "great" within Dante's meaning. But it was not made through cowardice. On the contrary, it was probably the most courageous step in a long-drifting papacy marred by scandals and misunderstandings.

With his revolt against tradition and the church machinery, Benedict XVI may have brought more change to the church than he did in the seven years and 10 months of his papal reign.
Benedict has repeatedly raged against a "dictatorship of relativism, which does not recognize anything for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires." And this is the man who is now weakening the office of pope, making it dependent on human deficits and efficiency?

If, as Benedict implied in his statement of resignation, the office is too difficult for one man in the modern world, power must then be ceded to Catholic bishops and to world regions. If the Petrine office can be vacated like a seat in parliament, then it's time to put an end to the church's rigid stance on other questions of doctrine. Why exactly should spouses remain together until death if the pope can simply resign from his post?

More Dirt
And if Benedict now assumes the right of resignation, shouldn't every future pope expect to face demands for his resignation, not unlike a politician, when he becomes infirm or is deficient in the discharge of his office?
It's no surprise that some at the Vatican have a bad feeling about the questions that will face Rome in the coming weeks. The pope's decision to elevate his person above his position presents a challenge to the entire Vatican system. Last week, a prelate suggested shunting the ex-pope to a monastery in Germany, in other words, as far away from Rome as possible. (It is just as easy to make the case that Benedict elevated the position above his person. In either case, it is a direct challenge to the entire Vatican system.)

Pope Benedict had hoped to bring the listing ship of the Catholic Church back onto an even keel with clear directives, even if that meant a shrinking crew. He sought to counteract the church's general dissolution by focusing on core issues. He had hoped to revive faith with reason or, to use the Greek term, logos.
Instead, more and more dirt came to light, and Benedict was confronted with a growing lack of understanding. After an endless series of scandals, he must have realized that the office was too much for him.
 "It was," the Italian recipient of the Nobel Prize in literature Dario Fo said on Thursday, "the attrition in the curia, Vatileaks and all the sharks who surrounded the pope, spied on and betrayed him. Age certainly isn't the only thing that burdens him."

On Ash Wednesday, when everything was almost over, Benedict XVI is sitting, hunched over, in St. Peter's Basilica, dressed entirely in purple, the liturgical color of atonement. He seems tiny under the bronze canopy by Bernini. Gregorian chants mingle with calls from the nave. "Viva il Papa," say the faithful, as they stand up and applaud for several minutes. They form a cordon through which he is rolled toward the exit in the wheeled platform he uses because of knee pain. He seems calm and tired, but also relieved. He apologizes for his mistakes. He can do that now, because he has nothing left to lose. In stepping down from his post, the pope seems strong, almost modern. Benedict has also lightened the load for his successors. Now, future popes will not have to face being dragged out of his Vatican office on a stretcher, like someone dying in a hospice.
There is something rebellious about Benedict's action. If it is God who calls someone to the throne, abandoning the post voluntarily can be seen acting against God's will.

A Series of Last Words
Pope Paul VI once compared his job to fatherhood -- something that was impossible to give up. "One does not step down from the cross," John Paul II reportedly said. The traditional view is that the body of the pope is not his alone. As with an absolute monarch, the office and the body are inseparable.
There were signs, but few interpreted them as such. During a visit to the Italian region of Abruzzo, why did Benedict lay the pallium, the papal woolen cloak, in front of the altar containing the relics of St. Celestine? Celestine was the only one of his predecessors who had voluntarily resigned, an act for which Dante had apparently banished him to hell. Did Benedict see the hermit pope as a kindred spirit?

But no one was paying attention, just as no one had paid attention to the pope in light of the commotion surrounding the church. Benedict spoke quietly and softly, and yet his words were chosen as carefully as if they were to be set in stone. For those who listened, his message was clear: It was a series of last words.
This was especially evident in the way he addressed German Catholics. On his visit to Germany, he warned of the need to take greater care of God's creation, one of several forays into ecology. In Freiburg, he advocated "de-secularization" and called upon Catholics not to adhere to structures. But there was no response to his efforts. The German episcopate also ignored the "Year of Faith" he proclaimed to mark the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council.
 Tired and worn down, he completed his final tasks. He made his longtime confidant and loyal friend Georg Gänswein an archbishop, and he ensured that a conservative dogmatist, Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller of the Bavarian city of Regensburg, would assume leadership of the Vatican's doctrinal office. (If the new pope wishes to insure his autonomy, he must accept the resignations of these two men.)

At the very beginning of his term in office, Benedict spoke of the "yoke of Christ" that he was now assuming, and of the willingness to suffer. But even then, in his inaugural mass, he said ominously: "Pray for me that I may not flee for fear of the wolves."........The rest of this extensive and worthwhile article can be accessed here: 


Whatever Pope Benedict thought would happen when he dropped his boulder into the Catholic pond, I don't think he calculated how big the ripples would be.  He may have deluded himself into thinking he was only dropping a pebble.  It was no pebble and the ripple effects are washing up all over the global church.

There are still approximately two weeks before the conclave begins, and in virtual reality that is an eternity.  With the German bishops approving birth control for rape victims, Cardinal Keith O'Brien of Great Britian advocating for married priests, and more than one ranking prelate discussing updated notions of governance and collegiality,  I am beginning to get a ripple of hope.  No matter who comes out of the conclave as pope, at least the electors will have been exposed to something other than the thinking of the last two papacies.  Maybe we will even begin to see these Cardinals catch on to the fact the Church is not just wallowing in Roman corruption but it is bleeding educated committed believers by the literal millions.  Brazil for instance, is in free fall, and Brazil leads the way in Catholic trends in South America.  Worse than the loss of the educated middle class, is the across the board loss of women.  Lose the women and you have lost your religious future.

The Der Spiegel article called this the Vatican's Zero Hour, and that is a very important concept in physics.  When one drops a rock in a pond one creates a zero point in the very center of the concentric circles.  Zero points can be points of dynamic change--especially out on the margins and in the center--which means things are not going to be the same ever again.  

For a man who did his best to teach the Church never changes, he made the one decision which will see to it that it does. Pope Benedict may very well have unleashed the winds of change rather than just tossed a pebble in a pond.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Did The Cardinals Inquisition Result In Pope Benedict's Resignation?

Right idea, wrong three cardinals.


A very interesting article in the Telegraph UK which points to the fact the upcoming conclave is not going to be quite the unified love fest as was the last conclave. Whatever one thinks about a sitting pope resigning, one can't deny it has allowed some truth to spew forth from the Vatican sewer. I have excerpted the last half of the article for it's information on the report from the three cardinals Benedict commissioned to investigate the Vatileaks scandal. The first half deals with cardinals tainted by the sexual abuse scandal, a subject which is hardly news to American Catholics. Numerous global news agencies speculate it was the information in the cardinal's report which precipitated Pope Benedict's decision to resign.

Vatican conclave tainted by scandal before it even begins

..........The sex abuse scandals that rocked the Catholic Church over the last decade were so extensive that it was not surprising so many cardinal electors were mired in controversy, said Robert Mickens, a veteran Vatican analyst for The Tablet, the British Catholic weekly.
“If they banned all the cardinals who have mismanaged sex abuse or have been involved in other unsavoury business, they’d end up holding the conclave in a broom cupboard,” he told The Daily Telegraph.
“But under Vatican laws, cardinals cannot be excluded from the conclave for any reason, even excommunication.” (Robert Mickens is just telling it the way it is.)

The airing of dirty laundry came as Vatican analysts said the cardinals would be desperate to elect as Pope a colleague who has been untouched by allegations of infighting, intrigue and dirty tricks campaigns between senior figures in the Holy See. (That should narrow down the field considerably.)

Evidence of poisonous feuding between rival power blocks was allegedly uncovered by three cardinals, including a senior member of Opus Dei, who were commissioned by Benedict to investigate the theft of confidential documents by the pope’s butler, amid suspicions that he did not act alone.

Their dossier, which was presented to the Pope in December, found evidence that there was a powerful gay lobby within the Holy See hierarchy, according to Ignazio Ingrao, a prominent Vatican analyst.
“The part of the report that shocked the Pope the most was that which brought to light the existence of a network of alliances and acts of blackmail of a homosexual nature in several areas of the Curia (the powerful Vatican bureaucracy),” he wrote on Thursday in Panorama, a respected news magazine.

The cardinals’ secret dossier was based on dozens of interviews conducted over eight months with cardinals, archbishops, bishops and priests from many nationalities.
Its findings will have a direct bearing on the conclave, argued Mr Ingrao. “The report will in effect be the 118th cardinal inside the conclave. It will be passed by Benedict to his successor and in all probability there will be a meeting between ‘the two Popes’ after the election (to discuss it).”

One of Italy’s biggest daily newspapers, La Repubblica, ran a strikingly similar front-page report alleging jockeying for power and blackmail against gay clerics.
Allegations of widespread homosexuality among the clergy in Rome have been made by an Italian investigative journalist, Carmelo Abbate, in a book entitled “Sex and the Vatican”.
Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, refused to comment on the reports.


 A gay lobby found with in the Vatican being blackmailed by outsiders is not particularly shocking.  It is almost inevitable given the official stances taken by Pope Benedict/Cardinal Ratzinger in the last thirty years on homosexuality.  I've always believed defusing the blackmail potential was a big reason the US Military repealed DADT.  This very same type of thing was a big reason J Edgar Hoover was able to keep himself in power for so long as head of the FBI.  The Vatican is one of the few places left in western culture where gay blackmail still holds huge potential.  For me it's a real reason for cardinals to rethink the Church approach to the GLBT community, and yet, I can also see where this story would play right into the hands of Opus Dei.  Elect an Opus Dei pope and this kind of thing will be cleaned up in the Vatican curia. Zero tolerance and all that jazz.  Sorry, I doubt very much that would happen anymore than the Church has stopped allowing gay men into the seminary.  This particular corporate practice has been going on for too long and been too lucrative for too many powerful clergy for me to believe Opus Dei is really interested in killing this particular goose.  The only way this goose is ever cooked is to recognize there is relational validity for gays to be in monogamous relationships with each other.  In other words, if one legitimizes gay relationships the black mail potential is totally diffused.  This would also necessitate relaxing clerical celibacy which is a source of blackmail in it's own right.

I have written before that I was hugely interested in what the report from Pope Benedict's three cardinals would reveal.  I suspected it had a whole lot more in it than the ridiculous idea the lay butler and the lay IT guy were solely responsible for Vatileaks.  It's beginning to look more and more like the Vatican is a cess pool of factions all backstabbing and blackmailing each other, and this apparently involves more than the Bertone vs Sodano factions or the Opus Dei vs Religious Order factions.  Machiavelli would be proud.  So would the CIA, the KGB and J Edgar for that matter.
This upcoming conclave may be a fork in the road for the 'princes of the Church'.  They can elect a pope who will let the spirit of Machiavelli continue to run the Church, or they can, as a body, start to do something about cleaning up the corruption before they crucify one of their number with a papacy still bubbling with corrupted sex, power, and money.  Whatever happens, this conclave is not shaping up to be a unified love fest.

Monday, February 18, 2013

There Are Reasons For The Slide In Mainstream Religious Participation And The Failure To Communicate To The Modern World

Secular Jesus has all the answers for the angst in modern spiritual seekers.

The following is an excerpt of an article Rob Dreher wrote for the American Conservative in response to a NY Times opinion piece written by Russ Douthat, entitled 'The End of a Catholic Moment'.  Douthat's article is a lament for the loss of influence of Roman Catholic thinking in both US political parties.  It's an interesting read in it's own right, but I found Dreher's response much more fruitful.  Hence I have taken some paragraphs from the last half of his post because I think he makes a very important observation.  This is an especially important observation for all mainstream religions, but maybe particularly for Catholicism.

Leaving Benedict’s resignation aside, who will argue with O’Neill that our culture is hostile to the idea of vocation — and, more broadly, with the idea of sacrificing individual desire to higher truths, or causes? Our entire culture is built around the apotheosis of the Self, of the self’s will, the self’s desires, the self’s autonomy. This has required a progressive liberation of the Self from rules, mores, institutions, and customs that bind the Self. We are well within a cultural era in which truth is believed — whether or not people recognize it — to be determined by emotion far more than reason. (I would rephrase these sentences.  The self has been liberated from external norms which had previously been taught and enforced by external authority. In many cases the self's freely given acceptance of norms is not only based in 'emotion' but from an intellectual pursuit of rationality not based in an ill defined 'faith'.

I don’t entirely condemn this, because in some cases, it has resulted in a more humane condition, and in any case I am as personally formed by and implicated in this condition as anybody else. (Me too.) The point here is neither to condemn nor to praise, but simply to recognize it for what it is. This is not something temporary or sudden, but rather the culmination of centuries of social development in the West. Philosopher Charles Taylor, in A Secular Age, writes of the rise of “expressive individualism” as central to our collective understanding of the moral order now embedded in our culture. Taylor observes that the emergence of expressive individualism — that is, the emancipation of the Self — has been a gradual process in the West since the Enlightenment, but really took off after World War II, and, with the Sexual Revolution, became general in society. “This is obviously a profound shift,” he writes. He describes the religious manifestation of this shift thus: (It's not just a profound shift, but indicative of an evolution in how man sees himself in relation to virtually everything heretofor taken for granted as it was passed on from the culture to the child.)
The religious life or practice that I become part of must not only be my choice, but it must speak to me, it must make sense in terms of my spiritual development as I understand this. This takes us farther. The choice of denomination was understood to take place within a fixed cadre, say that of the apostles’ creed, the faith of the broader “church”. Within this framework of belief, I choose the church in which I feel most comfortable. But if the focus is going now to be on my spiritual path, thus on what insights come to me in the subtler languages that I find meaningful, then maintaining this or any other framework becomes increasingly difficult.
The end result of this process has been the severing of what was widely considered to be the necessary connection between faith and civilizational order. Taylor says religious conservatives still assume this connection, and much of their (our) political anxiety is a reaction to this cultural revolution. (This most certainly seems to be true for Pope Benedict who consistently preached civilization will fail without recognizing it's foundation in religion--specifically Catholicism for European civilization.)

This is why, on same-sex marriage, both sides talk past each other. We religious conservatives believe that the secular order must be dictated by the sacred order, however attenuated. Many others — most others, I would say — believe that there is no such thing as a sacred order, at least not one knowable to and share-able by all. The desiring Self is the sacred thing — something I say not as a criticism, but as an observation. In this worldview — which I believe is thoroughly mainstream — to deny the legitimacy of the Self’s desires is felt as a denial of personhood, and of rights. The moral order, then, must be built around the ongoing expansion of individual rights, especially when it comes to sex and sexuality, because Truth emerges from the individual’s heart, not from an external source of authority, such as the Catholic Church. We can’t have a meaningful conversation because we cannot agree on the source of moral order. (I'm not sure 'self desire' is how I would phrase this process.  I think for many people the better expression would 'self discernment'.)


 I appreciate Dreher's piece for a number of reasons, one of which is he gets to a real problem in communication between religious conservatives and progressives.  We really do talk at cross purposes because we are starting from different places.  If Dreher is right about conservatives needing to place a sacred order on civilization and progressives needing to put the rights and dignity of the self as foundational for civilation, then we need to really define the terms 'sacred' and 'self'.  It may not be that these two terms are oppositional and necessarily lead the spiritual seeker to completely different end points.  Another question one might ask is why has the evolution of human thinking led to prioritizing the rights and responsiblities of the 'self' over and above traditional ideas of the 'sacred'?  Or in my lexicon, why is self discernment replacing externally derived truths?

I think it's because we are beginning to intuit some of the right questions about ourselves as self aware conscious beings.  One of the teachings of Jesus that has always intrigued me is why He boiled down the 10 commandments to two and these two commandments are recorded almost verbatim in all three Synoptic Gospels.  The following is Mathew 22: 37-40.

37 He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  38 This is the greatest and the first commandment. 39 The second is like it:* You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” 

What I find interesting is Jesus does not reference anything about our physicality. He is expressing his greatest commandments in context of our self aware conscious attributes--mind, heart, and soul.  He does not teach from the perspective of humanity as essentially physical beings.  He teaches from the perspective of humanity as spiritual beings.  The original 10 commandments however, have their basis in humanity as physical beings and deal with how humanity should correctly order that physical expression in a material reality. It is in the ten commandments that we find restrictions in acting out our physical existence and it's not surprising two of them deal with the utmost tangible expression of our physicality--sex--and how that needs to be ordered for the good of civilization.

Jesus' two great commandments place the spiritual reality of the self and it's ability to express love as the transcendent commandments which encompass and fulfills all the rest. His starting point is the eternal spiritual nature of humanity and not it's physical expression.  We may be experiencing a physical existence, but we need to bring our truth, that we are eternal spiritual beings, into this reality and make it a sacred place based in love--to bring the Kingdom to earth, as it is in heaven.  Spiritual consciousness communicates in and through love and that does not change because spiritual beings become physical--unless we choose to let the unique problems of physical existence triumph over love.  And we have for eons because physical reality presents it's own unique set of circumstances.

I also think Jesus went to some lengths to place His teachings in context of living a coherent Way.  This Way was intended to minimize the 'unique set of circumstances' that make physical reality so challenging for inherently spiritual beings, and whose biggest challenge is how that self awareness necessarily develops in a biological reality.  It's not so much about a mythical original sin as it is being born in the real truth of original ignorance, totally dependent on others for both physical and social survival.

I think the loss of influence for mainstream religions will continue as long as they persist in teaching a paradigm that humanity itself is moving beyond.  They need to stop defining humanity as finite expressions of a corrupt physical existence and start teaching from the truth.  We are eternal spiritual beings who happen to find ourselves living in a material reality.  Jesus most certainly showed the Way to deal with this and it's our choice as to whether we ever find the truth in what He taught.  It would make things easier in this discernment if our religious leadership understood most of us don't need reams of rules on how to negotiate this reality when only two would do the trick.  What we need is more leaders who understand those two and actually live them.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Why I Doubt The Next Pope Will Come From Africa

Ghana's Cardinal Peter Turkson most likely won't be the next Pope and not just because he's made some serious blunders--like seemingly campaigning for the office.

Although I am perfectly aware that Africa is where it's at in terms of Catholic numbers and vibrancy and that the First World is where Catholic numbers and vibrancy are quickly filling the trash bin of history, I doubt very much the next pope will come from Africa.  I think that for a number of reasons, but the main reason is that while the Church is dieing in the pews in the First World, the Vatican Curia is swamped with first world cardinals.  It is still their church complete with their pope retiring with in their walls.  Africa represents a number of problems for the current Pope Benedict influenced curia.

The first of those problems is the concept of celibacy.  It's a concept that doesn't fly in Africa and is too closely linked with homosexuality.  The 'house keeper' phenomenon has already taken out more than one African bishop and is rumored to be rampant and a major problem in priestly discipline at all levels. Africa is a highly patriarchal continent in which producing male heirs is still a number one priority for males.  Celibacy is also an issue when dealing with Islamic expansion as celibacy is not an issue at all in Islam and so an Imam's male virility is never in question.

The second problem involves indigenous shamanic practices and the attendant spiritual cosmology which lends itself to accusations of witchcraft, possession, and strange healing strategies, such as the one that AIDS in men could be cured by intercourse with a female virgin. Even though Catholic Masses have been allowed a cultural latitude no longer allowed in the West, the inroads of Evangelical Churches continue unabated precisely because the theology lines up more closely with Indigenous practices.  A Vatican curia which prides itself on it's European cultural sophistication is unlikely to entertain notions of 'Catholic shamanism'. I should add here that shamanism is distinct in practice and paradigm from Catholic mysticism.

A third problem is the that Catholic social activism is in some senses substituting for workable governments in some areas.  This is ably articulated by Nigerian Bishop, Matthew Kukah in an article from UK's Guardian:

....But not everyone agrees that the ever-higher profile of the church in Africa is a good thing. Some critics, even within the Catholic church, fear that the church is exceeding its proper role and attempting to act as a substitute for functioning institutions of state.
"The problem in our situation is that religion has become an excuse for the total collapse of the architecture of state," says Matthew Kukah, Bishop of Sokoto in Nigeria.

"In Nigeria the judiciary, the law enforcement agencies, the entire ruling elite is corrupt. The opening of the political space at the end of military rule has been accompanied by the insatiable expression of greed by political elite, who have turned out far more corrupt than the military ever were. And people like me are being called upon to help rebuild the society. I am not an elected official, this is not my role.
"There were times when religion responded to the social situation such as we found in South Africa under apartheid. But overthrowing apartheid is not the same as ridding the countries of corruption. Those are not things religion has the capacity to do."

What Bishop Kukah doesn't say is that replacing secular governments with Christian or Islamic theocracies is the agenda of more than one fantical religious movement and this is a situation which does not bode well for the continent.  Africa seems caught between government by corrupt corporate oligarchy or government by non elected religious authority. Given the already extensive influence of the Church in African development, it may be counterproductive for African Catholicism for an African pope at this particular time.

Two of the three listed reasons would be enough for conservatives to look elsewhere for the next pope.  Conservative prelates do not seem the least bit interested in changing priestly discipline regarding marriage, and the idea of fighting off Evangelical poaching by making Catholicism more 'populist' does not seem to be in the cards at all, not when the last two papacies have moved in the exact opposite direction.  As for the third issue, that might actually appeal to a certain Catholic mindset and certain secretive Catholic organizations.

To conclude, I think the time is not quite ripe for an African Pope.  That does not mean I think a Pope from the South is impossible.  I think we could very easily have a pope from Latin America or perhaps even Cardinal Tagle from the Philippines.  What we do not need is a pope from inside the Curia.  We just had that and he proved completely inept at dealing with the Curia precisely because he relied on his Curial connections, even though as time went on their incompetence became a major issue for his papacy. It was their loyalty that mattered, and that is understandable in a corrupt and competitive beauracracy, and precisely the reason we don't need another pope from the Curia.  It can not fix itself.

I find it quite easy to believe that the real tipping point for Benedict's resignation was the report generated by the three non voting elderly cardinals he assigned to investigate Vatileaks.  Blaming the lay butler and the lay IT tech might have relieved some clerical minds, but it also points out how truly untouchable Vatican Cardinals are in fact.  One of the tasks the new Pope must take on is why Curial Cardinals are so teflon coated.  He may not like the answer, and I'm pretty sure if he asks, the safely retired Benedict will give it to him.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Power Of Human Consciousness

There might be more to this than coincidence

Human consciousness is a force, and it's real, and it sometimes manifests in 'striking' ways.  Yesterday the world's consciousness was focused on the Vatican and lo and behold it's struck by lightening.  Pope Benedict's resignation was a bolt out of the blue itself.  There was a time in my life I would have passed this event off as coincidence but not anymore.  Here's a story and it's about one of my eye opening experiences in the real time effects of the spiritual reality.

Just about a decade ago I attended my first Sun Dance on the Pine Ridge reservation.  I was a complete novice having never been to a Sun Dance and having only anecdotal stories from which to understand the event.  The first evening was spent around a campfire with one of the Dance Intercessors discussing how atypical antipsychotics interfered with spiritual ability.  Joe obviously knew a whole lot about atypical antipsychotics and their effects.  He went on at some length about how western psychiatry didn't know what they were on about and couldn't tell spiritual phenomenon from a load of hay.  Or words to that effect. The last thing I expected was to be sitting around a campfire with a Native elder who was critiquing western psychiatry in psychiatric lingo and talking about quantum singularities, collective consciousness, and quantum entanglement.  

When I asked him why he was bothering with us when we weren't dancing, were basically spectators, and he had fifty dancers to worry about he said "There are orbs all around your group. You were singled out. I had to satisfy myself as to who you were." 

That brought us up short because we had been taking orb photographs for months.  So we asked him if he could actually see orbs, and he laughed and laughed.  He then said, "It's not surprising to me that whites need some kind of technology for them to 'see' what we 'see' naturally. It's how you are all programmed to think and view the world. You can't do anything without technology. Yes I see what you call orbs. It's how we know who should dance and who needs more preparation or who the ancestors are pointing out."  I was stunned. But it got more interesting.

On the second morning the intercessors started watching the sky and talking about the need for 'purification' of the dance grounds.  Apparently there had been some alcohol brought in the previous evening or some bickering amongst the dancers, or arguments amongst the kitchen staff or all of the above.  Anyway things were 'out of balance' and needed purifying and that usually meant a rain storm.  A gentle one if things were close to balanced, a more vigorous one if things were really out of balance. 

I am not believing what I'm hearing.  The implication is the weather will respond to the needs of the Sun Dance. Not going there.  I sort of laughed the notion off, but the Intercessors were dead serious and eventually pinned the kitchen staff as the real problem. A kitchen staff fighting amongst themselves while preparing the food put their bad energy in everything they cooked. This was not so bad for the dancers, since they didn't eat for four days, but it was very bad for the drummers.  We would have to have a big storm.  

My friend and I take off for Chadron, NE on a mercy run about noon.  We were kind of laughing about how disappointed the Intercessors would be when a storm didn't show up because there was not one cloud in the sky and it was 95 degrees. We were gone for about an hour and a half.  On our way back we are about ten miles from the camp ground when we drive around a corner in the road and see a huge rainbow that seems to be settled right over the camp ground.  It's lit up against a background of very dark clouds.  It seems a localized storm of some sort had rolled in from the East.  We however, are struck with the magnificence of the rainbow and not really thinking about the mornings' talk about 'purification'.  

I had to turn onto a sort of 'road' that went through a plowed wheat field in order to get down to the camp ground.  The 'road' was a sea of red clay, obviously having been hit be a ton of rain. It wound up being some of the slickest driving I had ever done in my life, and that was in four wheel drive and in four low. We crept/slopt up to the edge of the precipice we had to drive down and got our first look at the camp ground below us.  It had literally been hit by what looked to have been a tornado. The only two tents left standing were ours, every other tent was blown half a county away. The kitchen tent, which was a very large, very heavy military affair, was obliterated. It took a direct hit with wind gusts estimated to be over 85 miles an hour.  The storm dropped over an inch of rain and lasted about five minutes.  There was not a dry thing in the camp including our sleeping bags.  Our tents survived the wind but were still filled with three to four inches of rain.  It looked like a war zone.

A halt was called in the Dance and the dancers were allowed out of the compound to help relatives get some semblance of order back to the camp.  The kitchen tent was beyond repair and one of the cooks, the not so nice one, had been transported to the hospital with a broken leg and would not be back.  It was quite a scene.  I became a true believer in the power of directed consciousness.   The next two and a half days were pleasant and uneventful with a number of impressive healings occurring the next day.  Very pure grounds helped.  

The Intercessors saw the storm as a product of their tradition, in that these kinds of storms always come when needed, coupled with the power of the "Four Directions and Other Side Camp" who work closely with the medicine people for the good of the tribe, and finally, the collective conscious need of the people.  In Catholic terminology it would be the impact of traditional sacramental practice, the Communion of Saints and Angels, and the earthly participants--the pew potatoes-- all working together to bring what's needed.  Not necessarily what is wanted, but what is needed.  Purification is critical because otherwise things get chaotic and out of balance.

So I see last night's demonstration at the Vatican as a very good sign.  St Peter's was purified and the Communion of Saints and Angels gave notice that they are paying attention.  They should, it's their Church too.  Now the collective consciousness of the earth bound church just needs to focus on electing the pope that's needed, not necessarily the one that's wanted.

Here's my little bit of advice for whoever is elected.  Native elders have a saying:  "The people know what's wrong and the people know how to fix it."  What they mean by this is when left to their own devices, the people will identify and fix what needs fixing.  They may not know how they know what's wrong or where the solution comes from, but they will know it and the solutions will come. I hope the next Pope takes this little concept into consideration because it honors the People of God and will take a huge load of his shoulders.  He just needs to trust in the collective consciousness of the People of God and the answers to the problems will be found. Otherwise, the purifications will keep on coming and they may not be so gentle.


Monday, February 11, 2013

A Photo Of Interest

Lightening striking St Peter's the evening of Pope Benedict's resignation.  Reality mirrors Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel.  God must approve Benedict's decision. 
(pic ANSA)

A Truly Historic Announcement

"Well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of St Peter ...
"As from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours (1900 GMT) the See of Rome, the See of St. Peter will be vacant and a conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is." 

Whatever one makes of the resignation of Pope Benedict, one has to admit this is historic. For the first time in forever I slept in this morning and when I turned on my computer and saw the headline on Yahoo I was stunned, and yet not that surprised, not really. When I look at the past year, there were signs this was coming. Pope Benedict reacted slowly and with confusion to the Vatileaks affair.  He called a consistory on very short notice which elevated some of his favorite sons to the College of Cardinals.  He promoted Georg Ganswein to Archbishop and I am sure will appoint him to Regensburg before February 28th. He forgave his butler.  He released a series of motu proprios.  He appointed another German in his image and likeness to head the CDF.  He seemed to be sweeping his desk clean, finishing his bucket list.  He had stated a number of years ago that he would consider resignation if the office got too difficult.  He is being true to his own vision of the papacy.

A number of comments on various blogs speculate that Benedict will meddle in the election of his successor.  I don't think he will because he's already appointed his successor to the one office he truly cared about, and that's the head of the CDF.  If the last fifty or so years have shown anything, it's that the real power behind the throne is the CDF.  It began with the meddling of Cardinal Ottaviani in the documents of Vatican II and continued through 28 years of Cardinal Ratzinger, then Cardinal Levada,  and now the strong arm tactics of Gerhard Mueller. Benedict has the man in place to protect the theological path of the Church--which has always been Benedict's first concern--and that was closely followed by how that theology played out in the liturgyOn these two tasks of asserting his conservative theology and having that theology play out in the liturgy, his work is done.  He can retire to write his own legacy

Part of that legacy, whether he intended this or not, is that he has made the point in spades that the office of Pope is just that, an office.  It's not an ascension to a semi divine all knowing ontologically different human state.  The Pope is not Jesus Christ with a private hotline to the Holy Spirit.  The Pope is just another man who can get old and tired and admit the office is too much.  It maybe this one act which will cement Benedict's legacy.  It maybe this one act for which the Holy Spirit had anything at all to do with his election to the Papacy.

The next Pope will have to deal with the mess in the curia.  Benedict's legacy will also include little things like a Vatican Bank without leadership, ATM's that have been shutdown because of the Vatican Bank, the demoralization in diplomatic corps, the overweaning influence of parallel churches like Opus Dei and the Neo Cats, the prevalence of corruption in high office, the Italian influence on how the curia does it's business and on and on and on.  But the first thing the new pope will have to deal with is Benedict's legacy of clerical abuse.

Benedict did not deal particularly well with clerical abuse as Pope, and did a dismal job as head of the CDF.  I always thought it was karmic that his papacy was so tainted by his own job performance as head of the CDF. If Benedict thinks retirement will protect him from the lawyers at the Hague, he may be mistaken.  In any event it is imperative the next pope have clean hands when it comes to clerical abuse.  That leaves out almost all American Cardinals.  Thank God.

This has been a stunning and historic day.  It seems I have had the privilege of living through a lot of stunning and historic days for Roman Catholicism.  As Benedict stated in his retirement announcement "today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith" is changing faster than anyone man can hope to keep up with, and in the end that may be his last and final message for his successor.  Collegiality was a good idea after all.  It's all just too much for one man.