Saturday, February 22, 2014

Of Vatican Miracles And Mounting Frustration With The Vatican And Vatican Miracles

Paul VI never made the cover of Rolling Stone, but he made Time's cover more than once.  This is the one for when he issued Humanae Vitae.

I didn't intend to go two weeks without posting, but it looks like I certainly managed to do so.  For some reason time just seems to be going ultra fast for me lately.  I keep track of dates and appointments on a 5 week white board and today marks the end of five weeks.  It seems like maybe two weeks since I last changed all the dates.  Maybe this is God's way of  packing more life in a short amount of time.  I would hope I'm experiencing aging at the same rate.  If I age two weeks for every five, I could be around a lot longer than I think.  It's a miracle.

Speaking of miracles, the Vatican has just announced one for Paul VI.  It involves the cure of an unspecified problem with a fetus who upon birth did not exhibit the expected birth defect.  The Vatican makes no bones about this miracle validating Paul VI's issuance of Humanae Vitae:  "The Postulator of the Pope Paul VI’s cause said this was an extraordinary and supernatural event which took place through the intercession of the late Pope. It was in line with his magisterium and the contents of the “Humanae Vitae” encyclical, i.e. the defence of life, “but also the defence of the family, because that document discusses married love, not just unborn life. This healing is in harmony with Montini’s teaching.”"  I certainly hope this blatant politicizing of a miracle and the canonization process of a pope doesn't portend miracles for every contentious issue promulgated by any pope in the last two hundred years.  I anxiously await the next PVI miracle.  If there is any justice or honesty, it will be the full cure of AIDS in a gay man.

Pope Francis has aslo been on my radar these past two weeks.  I was hoping the latest meeting of the C8 would end with the announcement of the names on the commission on clerical abuse, and maybe more information concerning it's mandate.  There was no such announcement.  This commission is still a matter of one sound bite from Cardinal O'Malley and absolutely no walk.  The voices for justice, like Betty Clermont's, in this area are now getting louder and their arguments harder to refute the longer Francis fails to act.  It's been almost a full year and Francis has yet to act in any meaningful way on clerical abuse.  He is repeating the sad pattern he had with this issue in Buenos Aires.  As Gerry Slevin also points out, so far the priority has been all about putting the Vatican's money in order rather than giving the victims of the Catholic priesthood some justice.

Today Pope Francis installed 19 more Cardinals in the presence of his predecessor Emeritus Pope Benedict.  To my knowledge this is the first major Vatican ceremony for which both popes have been present.  Kudos to Benedict for not making himself a visible lightening rod for his flock of Vatican II reformers.  However, in many ways Benedict really hasn't had to be very visible because Francis has gone to some length to assure us all he is in continuity with Benedicts' thinking and policies. Francis has not broken with Benedict at all.  He has chosen to maintain his distance by emphasizing points of Benedict's writings which Benedict's vatican did not emphasize and by symbolic changes rather than disagreeing with the over all reform of the reform.  For all the hand wringing on the uber right, Francis has not so far been some ogre out to target the Traditional Latin Mass crowd.  He just hasn't emphasized it in his own practice.

As his first year anniversary approaches, I have to admit I find Pope Francis something of an enigma.  I was much more on board the first three or four months of his papacy and now find myself wondering more and more if he really knows where he wants to take the Church.  Consultation is great, but action is better.  He does things that I find confusing.  First he is spending millions and millions on all kinds of outside big name consulting firms while simultaneously laying off Vatican staff and freezing their wages to save money.  This is the behavior of a vulture capitalist, not a follower of Saint Francis.

I'm also not understanding how the Vatican can release a statement stating this: The Catholic Church, on her part, in condemning every form of violence perpetrated in the name of religious belief, will not cease in her commitment to peace and reconciliation, through interreligious dialogue and the many charitable works which provide daily assistance and comfort to the suffering throughout the world.”"  and yet not say anything to Nigerian and Ugandan bishops who are all on board with directing the exact kind of  language at gays that was used against Jews in Nazi Germany.  It's head scratching to me because I'm of the opinion that when one says they 'condemn every form of violence perpetrated in the name of religious belief' they actually mean it.  Apparently not in the case of gays and lesbians, at least not in the Vatican under Pope Francis.

Then finally, I have been frustrated with the Synod on the Family.  This just doesn't include the multitude of ways various national bishops groups have interpreted the Vatican's request for information from a survey the Vatican designed--very poorly I might add--it also includes frustration with how many different groups of cardinals are getting their fingers in the pot before the bishops synod actually convenes.  The reason I find this frustrating is this seems to be a circling of the big wagons in response to the fact what data has been released shows the laity is not on board with Catholic teaching, and most especially not on board with Humanae Vitae.  And this brings me back to the new miracle attributed to Paul VI.  Our powers that be can not seriously think this kind of appeal to piety is going to prompt 78% of global Catholics to stop using artificial contraception.  

Given this kind of dissent, maybe it is a good idea to circle the red hatted wagons before the purple ones have a say or bring with them evidence of a global rejection of a doctrine that neither the folksy talk of this Pope or the erudite defense of the retired Pope or the miracle of a dead pope is going to persuade laity to accept.


  1. sylvesterpatsteffenFebruary 23, 2014 at 3:22 AM

    "I do not have much hope in the all male hierarchy of the RCC to become mature enough in my lifetime to relieve the anxiety of future generations of women for their liberty, their freedom."
    About the fetal miracle? Question: one wonders if the "miracle" isn't the mysterious way of fetal stem cells doing what they're supposed to do. One is tempted to wonder also if church's political self-interests bear on the postulators conclusion of the "cure of an unspecified problem". Tying it to "Humanae Vitae"? Indeed.

  2. I just found this blog, and thought the above post was spot on. Then I found it is written by colkoch, looks like I have a lot of catching up to do. Thanks so much from your new follower.

  3. Pope Francis is doing the 'evangelizating' aspect of Benedict's theologizing. He's the spoonful of sugar which is intended to make the medicine go down. The synod on the family will tell us a whole lot about Francis' statements about giving national bishops conferences more latitude in discipline and doctrine. I am looking forward to observing what the Northern European bishops conferences do during this upcoming synod. I think they have already laid down a glove. We'll see who picks it up.

  4. I too am utterly at a loss to explain why Sodano is visible at all. OK not really, I just don't like the implications because the implication is that Francis is remaking the Vatican City States into a Potemkin village.

    I'll believe all the financial reform is real when Francis announces the closure of all off shore dealings. So far not a peep about that.

  5. Welcome Kathy. There is a bit to read I guess. It's hard for me to believe I've been at this for six or so years. The comments are the best thing though, just like at NCR.

  6. DrRosemaryEileenMcHughFebruary 23, 2014 at 7:42 AM

    Hello! I just came upon your blog. I am looking forward to following it. Thankyou.

  7. sylvesterpatsteffenFebruary 23, 2014 at 7:55 AM

    The pope's seeming favorable bend toward Cardinal Walter Kasper may be a harbinger of the direction his evangelization will take. About Kaspar's book "Mercy" (coming April 2014, info@Paulist Press) Francis says this: "This book has done me so much good."

  8. Everything that I need to know about Francis is demonstrated in the oath of secrecy that the cardinals take. Is this not verbal proof that the veil of criminal secrecy surrounding the sex abuse scandals will continue? He has the power to get rid of this secrecy crap, but continues to enable it. Francis is nothing new at all. A big disappointment.

  9. Colleen, i have finally learned not to put my faith (and trust) into the church. this has taken most of my life. i recommend the journey. all best wishes to you, keep up the good work!

  10. Excellent post, Colleen. Kudos for pointing out: "not saying anything to Nigerian and Ugandan bishops who are all on board with directing the exact kind of language at gays that was used against Jews in Nazi Germany." Just more hypocrisy. Thanks for all your wonderful writings.

  11. Gerald,
    "The Vatican is locked into an ideology of a semi-divine infallible pope and falls back on it when under siege." It backs them right into a corner without any room to manipulate.

    Until people can admit their own and societal mistakes and learn form the mistakes, there will be no real progress into a more ethical world. Slickness in the end will be understood for what it is: Hypocrisy (and always has been in the Vatican.)

  12. sylvesterpatsteffenFebruary 23, 2014 at 6:46 PM

    But the timing of this is so transparent in its political intent that it demeans the whole sainthood thing.

  13. Glad you found it and you are most certainly welcome to join the fun.

  14. It's sort of synchronistic you brought this up. When I read the NCR article on the ceremony, the first thing I wanted to see is if Francis had changed the wording of the oath. Nope, we still have the secrecy crap and it was a big disappointment.

  15. Thanks Betty. Your latest at Open Tabernacle was your usual exceptional and thoroughly linked work.

  16. The Magisterium is not high on my trust list either. The People of God Church is a different story.

  17. Doesn't it though. This has the smell of FOX's Greg Burke all over it. Just too freaking convenient given the information coming in from the surveys.

  18. I'll have to see if I can get Kasper's book. I wonder though, if Francis doesn't hope Kasper can keep the lid on the rest of the German Bishops Conference.

  19. Notably, Catholic doctrine also teaches that LGBT people are to be treated with
    dignity and respect, a sentiment Kaigama tried to express.

    “As a priest and by my Christian values it not a crime to be gay or
    heterosexual," Kaigama told SaharaTV.

    "I will treat [a gay person] with great understanding and love, with great
    compassion."healing," said Archbishop Ntagali.

  20. The sense of the People of God has already said no to the Church's teaching on BC. Now we have this "miracle" attempting to define the people as wrong and the pope who should have allowed BC will be defined now by these MEN as a Saint. There is no devils advocate procedure.

    Well what else should we expect after the rush to make an enabler of child and sexual abuse as a whole a saint. I think the People of God are changing their own idea about sainthood. How about a Saint Martin Luther King, a Saint Gandhi, a Saint Dorthea Dix, and a Saint Martin Burber and etc.....

  21. wonderfully stated!

  22. sylvesterpatsteffenFebruary 25, 2014 at 8:51 PM

    Church artifice of self-serving political theater is mind-blowing.

  23. The Methodists in Nigeria have joined in:

    "The Catholic Diocese of Abeokuta and the
    Methodist Church of Nigeria, Remo Central Diocese in Ogun State, on Tuesday, backed President Goodluck Jonathan over the law prohibiting same-sex marriage in the country.

    The Catholics and Methodists also said that the President should not yield to pressures from the Western
    countries and the international community to reverse the already signed law....

    While the Diocesan Administrator of the Catholic Diocese of Abeokuta, Most Rev. Monsignor Christopher Ajala, spoke in Abeokuta, the Bishop of the Diocese of Remo Central of the Methodist Church Nigeria, Rt. Revd. Job Ohu, spoke in Isara.

    Ajala and Ohu stressed that Jonathan should not allow himself to be intimidated by the current outcry from the Western countries against the enactment of the anti-gay law in Nigeria.

    The two clerics commended Jonathan for signing the bill prohibiting same-sex marriage in Nigeria, despite the opposition from the Western world.

    Ajala said that same-sex marriage was against God’s injunction and would deny the marriage institution its significance.

    He said anyone engaged in such act must be suffering from medical disorder and should be subjected to examination.

    That is downright creepy - it's how the U.S.S.R. treated dissidents:manmy of them Christians. Comment is, as they say, needless.

  24. To be gay is next door to being a crime now - as Card. Kaigama should know.

  25. One of the odder consequences of Putin's position is that he is now becoming something of a hero among some Christians who object to "teh gai". Weird, that.

  26. I keep going back to the fact some of this African angst certainly serves to deflect attention away from the polygamy issues. I remarked on another post a couple weeks ago that the African bishops are careful to define marriage as between a man and a woman. They don't say 'one man and one woman'. This is just one more reason I find the deafening silence from the Vatican intolerable.....not too mention the complicity of the US right in this whole scene.

  27. Have enjoyed your comments Dr. McHugh on NCR. dennis

  28. Yes, really mind blowing!!! NP television had a 90 minute discussion on Front Line last night airing on several of its stations entitled "Secrets of the Vatican." Jason Berry was the coproducer or editor. It is worth a viewing. It is on again tonight at 5:00 or 5;30 on some stations also at 9 pm all Pacific time. You can watch the whole show on your computer at:

    I also heard a historian on an NPR radio station today discussing the history of Pius XI and his relationship to Mussolini and Fascism, but only heard a part as I was driving. The problems in this authoritarian leadership will become ever more public. The People of God are seeing who the modern day Pharisees really are. dennis

  29. First of all as a physician, I would like to know the real details of the "miracle" that is being used for political purposes. Second, the intrauterine development of a fetus has nothing to do with the use of BC pills on a daily basis as these pills primarily work to prevent ovulation and there is a secondary effect on the uterine lining with some of them. This effect is called an abortion by people who understand little or nothing about the science concerned as over 60% of all human blastocysts in women on no birth control are never implanted. The vatican circus has been reconvened, or is it a continuous show??.