Monday, June 30, 2008

Playing The Devil's Advocate

One of the things which has been on my mind lately is the use of symbolism with in the JPII/Benedict XVI papacies. Benedict seems to be making his symbolic statements with Liturgical ritual and vestments. As Bill Lyndsey points out in a comment on another post, it's now gotten to the point where L'Osservatore Romano has taken to apologizing and explaining for this penchant of Benedict's. He's not being ostentatious, He's dressing in Christ.

John Paul II made most of his statements with his Saint factory and it's quite a statement. 438 of them with the likes of Pius IX, he who epitoimized antisemitism in the guise of 'caring for their souls' while giving us the infallibility doctrine and Vatican I; Jose Maria Echeverria whose legacy is Opus Dei and all it's fascist connections and secrecy; and let's not forget Cardinal Stepanic whose performance in World War II was abysmal as he rooted on his Franciscans in their various campaigns to support their Nazi bretheren with genocide.

Each of these saints is a political statement underlining the fact that their are certain elements within the Church which certainly see themselves as superior to other forms of humanity. I think more attention needs to be given to JPII's saint factory before we add him to the ranks of saints. One of the changes he made in order to get the factory to full production was to remove the office of Devil's Advocate. This one move pretty much took away any meaningful neutral examination of the life of a given person. The other thing he did was to actively interfere in the process. The most glaring examples were to fast track Mother Theresa and then demand that the cause for Bishop Oscar Romero not be opened until fifty years had passed. That was later rescinded to twenty five years. It doesn't take a genius to see that Bishop Romero and Mother Theresa were on the opposite sides of the political spectrum and whose side JPII was on.

Personally, I think moving forward on both JPII and Mother Theresa should be approached with caution. There are skeletons in both their closets which need examining and both of them are products of a purposeful myth making which overlook some of their less saintly attributes.

For instance, in Mother Theresa's case, her order had 50 million dollars in one New York City account at the same time her religious and lay apostalates working in the field, were reusing needles because they had no money. Stories about the true state of affairs in her orphanages are reminiscent of Romania, and she personally was not big on the concept of alleviating pain in terminal patients with palliatives. She believed our lot in life was to suffer and share in Jesus's suffering. I guess that's all right if that's what you believe, but to have it forced on you is an entirely different matter. This reluctance to administer pain medication was a real issue for medical volunteers working in her facilities. At the same time that Bishop Romero was being gunned down in El Salvador, Mother Theresa was gushing over the likes of Papa Doc Duvalier and castigating liberation theology, while not looking too closely at where her large donations were coming from or how much of this money was being diverted to the Vatican. And we are talking millions and millions here. I doubt many of her donors would have been happy knowing that the money they thought was going to her missions was actually going to JPII and his coffers.

But she did get the abortion issue right, even if she pretty much missed the boat on social just issues and so the saint factory pushes her along, virtually unscrutinized.

JP II's legacy is even more mixed and I doubt we'll ever know the full extent of the Vatican's complicity with certain CIA projects, especially in Central and South America. We know he was acting in consort with the CIA in Poland, and I constantly give him kudos for being instrumental in ending communism, but at the same time, he was also supporting a lot of right wing fascist dictatorships in the third world whose legacy's are nothing to write home to Jesus about. It looks to me like one couldn't get too far out on the rightwing of things for his tastes. I'm not sure that qualifies him for sainthood at all.

Of course both Mother Theresa and JP II benefit from the myth making of the media so I fully suspect both will be cannonized. Their individual myths are too great an advertising opportunity for the Vatican to pass up, but I'm not convinced the reality of their lives actually lives up to the sainted myths. Someday maybe Bishop Romero will get his due as well, but I think we'll have to wait for a different kind of papacy. In the meantime sainthood seems reserved for those on the right path.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

F17A Stealth Fighter

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush administration has launched a "significant escalation" of covert operations in Iran, sending U.S. commandos to spy on the country's nuclear facilities and undermine the Islamic republic's government, journalist Seymour Hersh said Sunday.

An Iranian flag flies outside the building containing the reactor of Bushehr nuclear power plant, south of Tehran.

White House, CIA and State Department officials declined comment on Hersh's report, which appears in this week's issue of The New Yorker.
Hersh told CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" that Congress has authorized up to $400 million to fund the secret campaign, which involves U.S. special operations troops and Iranian dissidents. {How did our respective elective representatives vote on this bill? Did Obama vote 'Present', and McCain vote 'Yes'?}

President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have rejected findings from U.S. intelligence agencies that Iran has halted a clandestine effort to build a nuclear bomb and "do not want to leave Iran in place with a nuclear program," Hersh said.

"They believe that their mission is to make sure that before they get out of office next year, either Iran is attacked or it stops its weapons program," Hersh said. {One has to suppose that Iran being attacked is the more sure bet for these two.}

The new article, "Preparing the Battlefield," is the latest in a series of articles accusing the Bush administration of preparing for war with Iran.

He based the report on accounts from current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. Watch Hersh discuss what he says are the administration's plans for Iran
"As usual with his quarterly pieces, we'll decline to comment," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe told CNN. {This comment is not a denial.}

"The CIA, as a rule, does not comment on allegations regarding covert operations," CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said. {This is true, but it's also not a denial. We are talking military intervention with another country--again.}

Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad, denied U.S. raids were being launched from Iraq, where American commanders believe Iran is stoking sectarian warfare and fomenting attacks on U.S. troops.

"I can tell you flatly that U.S. forces are not operating across the Iraqi border into Iran, in the south or anywhere else," Crocker said. {But what about Afghanistan?}

Hersh said U.S. efforts were staged from Afghanistan, which also shares a border with Iran.

He said the program resulted in "a dramatic increase in kinetic events and chaos" inside Iran, including attacks by Kurdish separatists in the country's north and a May attack on a mosque in Shiraz that killed 13 people. {Good from Bush's standpoint, I guess our clandestine interference is resulting in more death.}

The United States has said it is trying to isolate Iran diplomatically in order to get it to come clean about its nuclear ambitions. But Bush has said "all options" are open in dealing with the issue. {That also includes a pre-emptive strike, otherwise know as agressive war making.}

Iran insists its nuclear program is aimed at providing civilian electric power, and refuses to comply with U.N. Security Council demands that it halt uranium enrichment work.
U.N. nuclear inspectors say Tehran held back critical information that could determine whether it is trying to make nuclear weapons. {This is just enough of a question of motive for Bush to act. I have to say North Korea appears to have backed down, why don't we let similar 'diplomacy' have the same effect in Iran?}

Israel, which is believed to have its own nuclear arsenal, conducted a military exercise in the eastern Mediterranean in early June involving dozens of warplanes and aerial tankers.
The distance involved in the exercise was roughly the same as would be involved in a possible strike on the Iranian nuclear fuel plant at Natanz, Iran, a U.S. military official said. {That must just be a coincidence, (not) and by the way, nobody doubts Israel has their own nuclear weapons. That's the principle reason Iran wants them.}

In 1981, Israeli warplanes destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor.

Iran's parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, warned other countries against moves that would "cost them heavily." In comments that appeared in the semi-official Mehr news agency Sunday, an Iranian general said his troops were digging more than 320,000 graves to bury troops from any invading force with "the respect they deserve." {This is a wonderful propaganda statement to let us know how many foot troops will be killed if we invade. About three times more than we would have available.}

"Under the law of war and armed conflict, necessary preparations must be made for the burial of soldiers of aggressor nations," said Maj. Gen. Mirfaisal Baqerzadeh, an Iranian officer in charge of identifying soldiers missing in action.
This kind of makes one wonder just what GW and BXVI were discussing in the Vatican Gardens a couple of weeks ago. Makes one wonder why all the protocal changes to give these two gentlemen such privacy. They both seem to have the same agenda and that's the salvation of Western culture from the hordes of Islam. They both seem to combine their own versions of Faith and reason. Might that combination lead to another war. This time one with Iran and with Benedict strangely silent, and Israel the excuse. Seems the West has used Jews for the excuse for their wars before. With them or against them, the Jews seem to be the straw that stirs the drink. I wonder why that is?
Frankly, this article scares me because it baldly states that Bush will act before he's replaced. Do McCain or Obama really want to have to deal with three wars? Do the people behind Bush really fear that neither McCain nor Obama will follow their agenda? This is truly scarey stuff.
I will be praying that reason will prevail and Bush will be stopped.

Divorced and Remarried Catholics and Spiritual Communion

Pope rules out Berlusconi's plea for Communion
Pope Benedict XVI has called for only the "pure of heart" to receive Holy Communion.The pope spoke out just a day after Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, joked with his local priest in Sardinia that the church should change the rules so that he could receive the Eucharist. {When we will get the rules for what constitutes a pure enough heart?}
"When are you going to change this rule that stops me taking communion?" Mr Berlusconi asked the bishop administering wafers to the faithful.The Catholic Church considers marriage to be sacrosanct and Mr Berlusconi, who has divorced and remarried, is therefore ineligible for communion.Bishop Sebastiano Sanguinetti drily replied: "You can change the law, you have friends in higher places than me", before moving on. {Friendship implies equality between the parties. I don't see any equality in the above photo.}
However, Mr Berlusconi's chances seem slim after the pope underlined the importance of approaching communion in the right way."I want to invite shepherds and the faithful to renew their attention on how they prepare to receive the Eucharist," the pope said by videolink to an audience in Montreal."Despite our weakness and our sins, Christ wants to invite us into his home and asks us to start our healing. We must do everything in our power to receive him into a pure heart, and to re-find in the sacrament of pardon a pureness that sin has stained." {There seems to be an inherent contradiction in the theology of the Eucharist. It's either healing or it isn't. It's either spiritual food for sinners or a reward for a pure heart. It can be 'both/and' but not apparently under this pope.}
However, the pope did say that even people who are ineligible to receive communion can find healing by attending the church service. Mr Berlusconi's confessor, Father Gabriele Corsani, yesterday denied that he had ever secretly given the prime minister communion."This is nonsense," he said. "He has never asked me to. He knows it is a rule and he is very attentive to it. Receiving communion is taking Jesus into your heart. However, there does exist also that which is called spiritual communion, which one can do without receiving the Eucharist."At the moment of communion, at the funeral of his mother, I saw him tranquil in prayer on his knees as if he had received it." {Here's a very interesting concept fraught with theological difficulties.}
Since the Eucharistic Congress held in Montreal last week, the concept of Spiritual Communion is making a comeback. It's an interesting concept. As far as I can tell from a limited search, St. Alphonsus de' Ligouri believed in the concept and coined this prayer:
"My Jesus, I believe that Thou art present in the Blessed Sacrament. I love Thee above all things and I desire Thee in my soul. Since I cannot now receive Thee sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though thou wert already there, I embrace Thee and unite myself wholly to Thee; permit not that I should ever be separated from Thee."
This was the only reference to the concept in the entire EWTN library. Most other cites I found referred you to the Ligouri prayer after saying something to the effect that Spiritual Communion is close to the real thing but not quite. Kind of a stop gap measure until one can be physically present at Mass or has reconciled themselves for some reason by recieving the sacrement of penance. Close but no cigar.
Berlusconi is serious about trying to do something with the regulation that prevents divorced and remarried Catholics from recieving communion. He sees this denial as a denial of the love with in the second marriage. Many of these marriages are far more healthy and holy than their first marriage. People do learn from their mistakes and become better people and better partners and learn to love more deeply.
Divorce and remarriage seems by Church definition to be a unique state of unforgiveable sin. Penance doesn't work unless you are willing to denounce the love for your partner, and/or refrain from sex. Technically the 'confess on Saturday recieve on Sunday and then love him/her again on Monday' approach fails to meet the test of a true desire not to repeat the sin and invalidates the confession. Which brings me to the whole annulment issue. The Church's theological loophole which has historically been arbitrarily applied.
I wonder why Berlusconi doesn't try the annulment approach. It's not as if the guy can't afford it--or maybe it is. Maybe he's taken a look at how much political pressure the Church put Spain's Zapatero under, and doesn't want to give some Church tribunal a club to force him to conform his government to Vatican whims. Maybe that price is too high. Maybe that's why he continues to advocate for change while making Spiritual Communions and maybe he's absolutely right.
The sacrament of marriage is instituted not by the priest, who is only a witness for the church, but by the couple themselves. If that's the case, why does the Church have any say in it's dissolution? The ending, like the beginning, should be between the couple and God. At most the priest would only be a witness to this truth, not a judge.
The whole annulment procedure disempowers the couple, and underlines that disempowerment by making them the a unique class further down the spiritual food chain. Even pedophile priests were allowed communion and most of them continue to retain their faculties, but then I guess this just goes to show that the further up the spiritual food chain you are the more you can get away with sacramentally. Apparently Jesus overlooks pedophilia but not remarriage. In my reading of the gospels it seems to be the other way around.
So that leaves Spiritual Communion for a whole bunch of lay Catholics. My own personal experience is that Spiritual Communion is a real deal. It's my Communion of choice until the Church changes the energy it's erected around the entrance doors to the material reception. Thank you Jesus for treating this form of communion equally with the other, since your Church is leaving many of us with no other choice. And that will continue in material fact, as well as in doctrinal fact.
Spiritual Communion will be the only choice way too many of us will have if the hierarchy insists on the current form of celibate priesthood. The flip side to this is that the more people experience the REALITY of Spiritual Communion the less reason they will have to put up with the whims of the institution. You don't need a Pope, Bishop or Priest to experience a Spiritual Communion. It's a right of Baptism.
Personally I see this renewal of relying on Spiritual Communion as a bone to divorced and remarried Catholics as a huge mistake. One that could ultimatley lead not to the dissolution of the second marriage, which is the intent of the excusionary rule, but to the dissolution of the Institutional Church itself. God sure seems to work in mysterious ways.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Scandal and Disunity? Burke vs Robinson

Archbishop Burke practicing for new job in Rome.

The following is an excerpt from a commentary by Fr. Thomas Doyle on the speaking tour of Bishop Geoffrey Robinson. The entire commentary can be read here:

12. Without wanting to sound arrogant or smug, I believe that those of us who have been on the inside of the clerical world have a more painful appreciation of Geoff Robinson’s witness to the victims, their supporters, Catholics and the public in general. He had been in the seminary system and therefore the clerical world since age 12. He spent over a decade of his life studying in Rome without the opportunity to return to visit his homeland. He was named a bishop in 1984 and at that time entered the inner circle of the clerical-hierarchical elite. Nearly all of his years as a bishop have been during the pontificate of John Paul II who insisted on total personal loyalty from bishops and unquestioning assent to his version of orthodoxy. Truly, the clerical world has been Geoff Robinson’s past, present and future. It was profoundly instrumental in forging his identity and value system. With this contextual background his public witness is nothing short of amazing and even shocking. While many bishops have agreed with him and have privately criticized the Church’s and the Vatican’s response to the abuse crisis, only two have publicly spoken out clearly and unequivocally, Tom Gumbleton and Geoff Robinson. Both have incurred an official rebuke from the Vatican and both have been left to stand alone by their “brother” bishops. Geoff (and Tom as well) has stood strong in spite of the public opposition of the bishops of Australia, the U.S. and the Vatican. He has not only publicly sided with the victims but he has called into question two of the pillars that support the hierarchical world of image and control: the exercise of power and the traditional understanding of human sexuality. {This public silence really bothers me. Why don't more bishops speak up? Maybe the Vatican would punish them and take their diocese away from them, but is losing your diocese worse than losing your soul?}

13. To fully appreciate Geoff’s challenge one must understand that the hierarchical governmental system with its monarchical style and appended aristocracy is officially taught to be of divine origin. In plain English this means that the Higher Power, the creator and sustainer of the universe, had decided about 2000 years ago that “He” would communicate with humankind through a male and celibate dominated power structure that would be essentially stratified but also contradictory to the words and actions of the embodiment of this Higher Power in human history, namely Jesus Christ. Christ, on the one hand made it quite clear that he had no use for arrogant churchmen and that his Father’s love extended equally to the marginalized and disenfranchised as well as to the privileged. Yet the institutional Church wishes us to believe that on the other hand Jesus decided to start up a church that would be run like monarchy with people whom God loved more in leadership positions over those whom He loved a little less, namely the “lower” clergy and the laity. {Well stated Tom, how can a reasonable person read the New Testament and then see Jesus reflected in the magesterium? I think it's called brain washing.}

14. By calling into question the Church’s use of power Geoff has challenged not only the political structure of the Church but the very belief that this structure was founded by God and therefore must be retained without question. {Geoffrey Robinson has certainly committed the big no no. How disturbing this must be to his fellow bishops. What if the laity actually hear what Geoff is saying.}

15. The institutional Church has consistently resisted any questioning of its interpretation of the meaning of human sexuality. There are two kinds of sex: procreational sexual intercourse by married people which is acceptable, though virginity is better, and every other conceivable kind of sexual expression, gesture or thought which is gravely sinful. The Church’s sexual teaching has been controlled by male celibate clerics who are forbidden to have any experience with it yet who believe have the God-given calling to dictate to everyone else, including married people, the when, how and why of sex. With the Church’s history of a distorted and misshapen philosophy of human sexuality as a backdrop, Geoff’s challenge is nothing short of an astounding prophetic gesture.
{What a succinct statement on the Church's attitude towards sex. Stated that starkly it does sort of beggar the imagination.}

16. I have found it difficult if not impossible to conceive of the office of bishop as being divinely inspired and created and equally impossible to believe that individual bishops are selected through some arcane action of the Holy Spirit of the Higher Power. I have not had an experience of bishops as pastors living and acting in the image of Christ the Good Shepherd. Yet Tom Gumbleton and Geoff Robinson have given me hope that the compassionate and courageous spirit of Jesus Christ, infused in the Church’s official leaders, is not mere myth. Their witness to Christ, though they are only two, goes a long way to overcome the constant spectacle we have been subjected to in America of clerics concerned only with their image and their power and with no remote conception of the devastation caused by the clergy sexual and spiritual abuse debacle. {Me too. Prophetic voices, both of them.}

17. Cardinal Re and the various U.S. bishops who wrote letters to Geoff all parroted the same baseless concern: his words were causing confusion and sowing disunity. It is is clear that none of these men have had the experience Geoff has had in ministering to the victims of the Church’s dysfunctional clerical system. In all probability none have taken the time to read his book. Their concerns illustrate just how far out of touch the Vatican and most of the U.S. bishops are from the faithful, whom they claim they are trying to protect and whose support they need to sustain their lifestyles. If anything, the confusion has been caused by the bishops’ and the Vatican’s self-serving response to the plight of people savaged by sexual abuse. Geoff may be a sign of disunity with the bishops but for many he is a sign of hope because while he may be at variance with the bishops he certainly is one with the victims of the Church’s sexual and spiritual abuse. To get the point, one need only ask that simple question: What would Jesus do? It would seem that Geoff Robinson asked himself that question…and had the courage to live out the answer. {I'm glad Tom places this obstinance as a lifestyle issue. Preserving the Bishop lifestyle certainly seems to cause far more damage to children than espousing a cerain other 'lifestyle' I can think of.}


It's probably no accident that this commentary from Tom Doyle becomes available on the same day that we hear of the transfer of Archbishop Burke to Rome to head up the Church's version of the Supreme Court. America's chief excommunicator now becomes the world's chief excommunicator. I read one commentary in which an abuse survivor thinks the promotion is intended to get Burke out of the country to avoid prosecution for hiding abusive priests, a la Cardinal Law. I tend to doubt that, but it is interesting that America now has three Cardinals leading Prefectures in Rome: Cardinal Levada is head of the Congregation for Doctrine and Faith, Cardinal Stafford is head of the Major Penitentiary, and now Burke as head of the Apostolic Signature, and then there's Cardinal Law who does whatever he does. One wonders how long it will be before Cardinal Mahoney gets a palatial estate in Rome.

The sad thing for American Catholics of the progressive stripe, is all of the replacements for these gentleman were even more 'traditional'. Those men would be Niederauer in San Francisco for Levada, Chaput in Denver for Stafford, and Sean Brady in Boston for Law. If I was in the Archdiocese of St Louis I wouldn't be holding my breath that things are going to get more progressive and inclusive any time soon.

True to form, at the same time that Burke is getting his promotion he also censured and placed a nun under interdict for consorting with the women'spriest movement, and publicly protested the fact that the St Louis Dispatch had the audacity to run an add for church services by two women priests under the Catholic services section of the newspaper. He also publicly castigated the two female priests, who he had previously excommunicated. Unfortunatley for AB Burke, he has zero impact on what the St Louis Dispatch chooses to print. Those willful rotten secularists won't listen to him--neither will those schizmatic women, and for that matter, all those traitorist Poles at St Stanislas Kostka and their swelling ranks of disenfranchized and marginalized Catholics.

How dare Bishop Geoffrey Robinson add to his list of woes by confusing and scandalizing us laity. Of course now Burke has the power to get together with Stafford and Levada and do something about bishops like Robinson and Gumbleton, and I'm sure they will put their heads together and come up with something. Makes me proud to be an American Catholic. Just as proud as Australian Catholics will be when Cardinal Pell is given his own palatial appointment in Rome.

I don't imagine Tom Doyle will be far from their thoughts either. His entire commentary is well worth reading, but this last part I have excerpted is brilliant. His short description of the official Catholic teaching about sex is wonderful. If you can't maintain your virginity, then I guess you'll just have to give up your shot at sanctity and get married and make babies. Every time I make this exact point with Holy Married Catholics, they ignore it. It's like they can't compute that their Holy Married state is a second class status. That no matter how many times they engage in sexual activity designed strictly to procreate they are further from the path walked by Jesus as officially taught by the Church they love. I hope someday they can see that the battle for sanity being waged by Bishops Robinson and Gumbleton is about freeing them as well. That they too are victims of a form of sexual abuse perpetrated on them by men who have self determined they are the Voice of God. Maybe the time is coming when they find out they aren't the Voice of God.

Friday, June 27, 2008

SSPX, Prada Shoes, and Palliums

Pallium of Pope Innocent III

SSPX Rejects Vatican Offer

The leader of a breakaway traditionalist Catholic group has rejected a Vatican offer to rejoin Rome, accusing Pope Benedict of trying to silence dissenting voices.
Bishop Bernard Fellay, head of the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) that broke with Rome 20 years ago, said conditions set by the Vatican amounted to muzzling the traditionalists who claim to be the only true Catholics since Church reforms in the 1960s. {This isn't cafeteria catholicism, this is pride on a grand scale.}

Keen to end this schism, Benedict agreed last year to their demand to restore the old Latin Mass. But he insists they must accept the reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) before he can lift excommunication decrees against them.

"Rome is telling us, okay, we are ready to lift the excommunications, but you cannot continue this way," Fellay said in a sermon last Friday now posted as an audio file on the U.S.-based Voice of Catholic Radio website.
"So we have no choice... we are continuing what we've done," the Swiss-born Fellay said in English at an SSPX seminary in Winona, Minnesota. "They just say 'shut up' ... we are not going ... to shut up."

The Milan daily Il Giornale reported on Monday the Vatican had told the SSPX it must pledge to respect the pope and accept him as the Church's final doctrinal authority.
Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi told the Paris Catholic daily La Croix: "The pope wants to extend his hand so they can return, but for that to happen, this offer must be received in an attitude and spirit of charity and communion."

Lombardi did not spell out the consequences of rejecting the offer, but Il Giornale's well-informed Vatican expert Andrea Tornielli wrote: "Such favorable conditions for a return to full communion will in all probability not come again."

The SSPX claims about a million followers worldwide, many of them in France. It split off when its founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, consecrated four traditionalist bishops -- including Fellay -- in 1988 against orders from Pope John Paul.

Since then, it has regularly appealed to the Vatican to withdraw the excommunications and allow it to return to the 1.1-billion strong Church. But its leaders often publicly denounce the pope.
Fellay said the pope must restore other Church traditions besides the old Latin Mass before the SSPX could return. It is particularly critical of the Vatican Council's reconciliation with Judaism and call to cooperation with other Christians. {In other words we must return to anti semitism and stop trying for Christian unity except on their terms.}

"The new Mass is the tip of the iceberg of Vatican II and of these modern ideas." Adding the old Mass to the "iceberg of Vatican II" did not change the reforms hidden below, he said. {Apparently to save these chosen few, Benedict will have to declare Vatican II null and void.}

Vatican watchers say the ultimatum could split SSPX into a hard core of rebels and a larger group ready to return to Rome now that it has allowed wider use of the old Latin Mass.
"Most people want a reverent Mass and sound preaching. They care little for the loftier theological arguments," Rev. John Zuhlsdorf, a prominent conservative Catholic blogger, wrote in an analysis. "The identity of the SSPX is at stake now."
The ultimatum's deadline of June 30 is the 20th anniversary of the bishops' ordinations that sealed the schism. {This is a sad statement coming from one of their clerical sympathizers. It seems to perfectly reflect the attitude of the upper clergy associated with this movement, and since when is anti semitism a lofty theological argument?}


I think it's kind of amazing that Benedict and Cardinal Hoyos are perfectly willing to saddle the other 1.1 billion Catholics with a Latin Mass for which the vast majority of parishes can no longer do justice, for the sake of these 1 million self appointed true Catholics. The moto proprio of Benedict's was no small concession, given that very few others seemed to be demanding a Latin Mass. Now that SSPX has rejected this offer as placating them for their silence, I guess we now know the whole movement had a lot more to do with anti semitism and the repeal of Vatican II than with transcendant Latin worship. I wonder how Benedict feels about all of this.

It could be that Benedict just used the SSPX to get his own liturgical way. He may have attempted to make it look like the reintroduction of the Latin Mass was a charitable offer to a wayward group, rather than a personal imposition on the rest of the Church. It appears he picked the wrong wayward group for his charitable offer, but he did get to impose his personal liturgical preference on the rest of the Church.

In my book the fact the rejection of reconcilliation was based in anti semitism does not reflect well on Benedict. I find it hard to swallow that the Vatican wasn't well aware of the anti semitism and fascism of the leadership of SSPX. It takes a person all of about 10 minutes in a google search to pick that up. It takes less time than that to see the blatant egoism in the clerical leadership of this group. In their estimation the last true pope was Pius XII, and since he happens to be long dead, the True Church resides in the SSPX. Well something resides in the SSPX, I'm just not sure it has anything to do with the true church of Christ.

I also came across a couple of other interesting articles. L'Osservatorre Romano has felt it important to let us know that Benedict does not wear Prada shoes. The article also doesn't tell us what he does wear and what they cost. It also goes on to say that all the fancy liturgical vestments he's drawn out of the Vatican archives are in the spirit of maintaining a hermeneutic of continuity with the historical tradition of the liturgy and the papacy. It's not about a personal preference for ostentatious display. One truly hopes anti semitism isn't the next thing he takes from the past, although I guess he's actually kind of done that with the Good Friday prayer for the Jews. It's watered down, but it's still there.

I also learned that he's adopting a new pallium at the same time he's giving out palliums to 45 metropolitan bishops. Bishop Neinstedt of Minneapolis is one of the recipients. For those who don't know, palliums are like super stoles and indicate exalted rank with in the church. Obviously the pope's pallium is singular. In recent history it features five embroidered crosses with nails through them. I'm sure we all care, but if you do, you can learn more here:

Neinstedt is really earning his pallium. He's been in office a little over a month and has already set the Metropolitan diocese of Minneapolis/St. Paul back fifty some years. His latest coup was canceling the gay and lesbian outreach service by the Parish of St. Joan of Arc--and they weren't even planning on having a layman, or a gayman for that matter, deliver the sermon. The doors are certainly closing to all kinds of Catholics in Minneapolis. Sort of like SSPX is slamming the door on the Vatican. Where is Christ in all of this? Must be brushing up on His latin or knowledge of historical liturgical vestments or forging identity papers to prove He's not Jewish.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Howling With The Lone Wolves

An excerpt from an article on Catholica Australia by Tom McMahon. It can be read in full here:

"Much has been favorably written about Bishop Robinson's presentation and there is his book on SEX and POWER in the Roman Catholic Church; I listened to his powerful and carefully prepared expose, with much of my energy observing the audience and their reactions to the classical lecture by an expert parent figure and the classical children who listen with diligence; People seemed to be mesmerized by the fact that a cleric was raising issues that exposed the internal dysfunctionality of the institutional church. The American Catholic does not want to wash the church's dirty linen in public and I wondered how many there were willing and capable of taking Robinson's message to a confrontation with roman powers … how many will sign their John Hancock on a protest letter to Archbishop Neidenaur for his cowardly condemnation of Robinson? As an innocent bystander who has educated myself in clerical abuse I sensed there was little anger in the room. Anger is the gasoline that powers the engine of doing something; the chaotic collapse of the roman priesthood is catastrophic and episcopal leadership is bankrupt … caput!

Did anyone think of a study group to pursue further what the bishop addressed or to discuss his book? Where does one go from here? Or do we wait for the Wizards of Oz to recomb their hair and form another committee? The parish is paralyzed with ignorance and fear and complacent docile membership. America would still be a colony of England if there never had been a Boston Tea Party and a king would rule France today if it weren't for the storming of the Bastille … and the peasants only had pitchforks! As I write I recall Fr. Bill O'Donnell leading a procession of 60 clerics out of the funeral of a priest who had jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge; Willie turned to me and in loud voice … really loud … shouted out "the man jumps off the god damn Golden Gate Bridge and they haven't got the guts to acknowledge such … we're in serious trouble" Ah Willie, how do we get your spirit back? (Crude language at times does get a bit of attention!)

Crisis for me indicates a possible new direction. The word sex to me is a neutral; society has two genders, male and female and daily as a male I have sexual encounters and social exchanges for which I will not be arrested. For decades in the Roman priesthood I witnessed male clerics abusing women by ignoring them or using them around the parish as lowly serfs. Genital activity is a different breed of cat; abuse by male genitals on innocent children is ugly and criminally insane. I wait for the day the hierarchy admits to using street language to give us the horrible picture of now deceased Oakland's Monsignor George Francis repeatedly fucking a four-year-old girl and then blessing her with holy water. Don't get off the subject by talking about the man being pathologically sick … yes, sick, sick, sick! As well as the system that produced this demented Frankenstein. Meditate for two minutes on the criminal activity and perhaps one can appreciate the anger that is forever stored in the victim. Where is the anger of the people?

I appreciate Geoffrey Robinson's honesty and I sensed in him, especially in his refusal to quit his lecture tour, a suppressed anger that was gilded with protecting the office of priest and bishop. Like an upset terrier we heard a bishop in clerical collar yapping at the heels of an offending pathological brute … and the people clapped Robinson on, hoping to mark their calendars for the next talk by a gladiator champion. Catholics are nice guys and polite women … for heaven's sake McMahon do you have to use four letter words; you have been an angry boy since seminary days. An angry Jesus paid a heavy price when he took on the temple gang. The American bishops in collusion with Rome are a secret mafia family that is up to no good."


A little background on Tom McMahon, he is a married priest in his early eighties who lives in the San Francisco area. He's a licensed therapist. He contributes to other progressive publications and websites and pulls no punches in his assessement of the current state of Catholicism. Catholica Australia runs a weekly commentary from Tom and it's worth checking out, because Tom is still on pilgrimage and his writing reflects this.

Now my own thoughts. I think Tom has put his finger on one of the reasons that the left wing of the Church is more or less ignored. We're too polite. Still too caught up in the respect and awe and submissive attitudes we were taught in our youth. We're still waiting for the Champions from the hierarchy to lead us onward, like the obedient Christian soldiers we've been trianed to be. We apparently aren't called the Church Militant for nothing. We seem to need someone in authority to empower us, instead of empowering ourselves.

So we do in some ways, clap on our heroes like the Bishops Robinson and Gumbleton, but all the while we secretly know they will have as much impact as gnats, and so while they may deserve our applause, we with hold our active commitment.

John Paul II seems to have begun the pull back from Vatican II before we laity really got a chance to assimilate we ARE the people of God. Benedict XVI is fully committed to making sure we never remember. Bring on the Latin, archaic English, and cappa magnas.

In the West, active participation has sunk to abysmal levels. The numbers look better in the States because they are bolstered by the Hispanic influx, but Hispanics seem to have a different mind set than those of us enculturated in Irish/American Catholicism. Over the long course of their interaction with colonialism they seem to have developed a Catholicism which is much more indifferent to the whims of the hierarchy, and far more personal and familial, taking much of their wisdom from the stories and elders with in their families and cultures. The articles in the NCR from Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes reflect this source of spirituality and wisdom. I'd like to take excerpt from one of her articles:, which is pertinent to this discussion because it deals with evil and how one confronts evil.

"Returning to the real center; that’s what the Master said to the devil who offered him all the kingdoms of earth if only the Master would fall down and worship him. The Christ said it pretty clearly: No, you withered thing. No worshipping flecks of evil. Only The One. No other.

No demon can withstand such constant return to center, to goodness, to a considered consciousness and particularly to being called out and named with such clarity. Evil must shatter eventually.

In Matthew’s story 4:1-11, about the devil taking Jesus to the highest mountain peak, saying all this will be his if he will only bow down to the devil, Jesus strongly refutes the devil. Then we’re shown one outcome of raising one’s voice to evil clearly, vociferously, with certainty and repeatedly:

Then the devil left ... and behold, angels came and ministered.

The old people say, too, call a spade a spade and run to the center in order to destabilize evil. The biblical story shows not only Yeshua raising his voice against the devil, but also a recapitulation of previous strong statements found in Deuteronomy. Yeshua standing, in a sense, on the voice of the ancients poured into modern times, drawing strength to speak from the ground notes of long ago.

It is clear, though not all ideals can be reached overnight, that many fall into the maw before we can force the issues. We are not working toward perfection, but toward progression. Though raising our voices might endanger us, it also calls others forward too, emboldened others, calls others to look and see, calls others not to stand down but to join.

I wrote in Women Who Run With the Wolves about finding one’s own pack, quoting the poet Charles Simic: "He who cannot howl, will not find his pack.” The same is true, I think, when evil is on foot overland, and it’s time for calling the angels."

"He who cannot howl, will not find his pack." I really think, as much as the vision of Vatican II still lives in any of us, it's time to stop clapping, and join our Champions in howling. A committed pack can take down anything---even a hierarchy which operates like the mafia.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

In Honor Of My First Otherside Mentor

St. Thomas More: A Man for This Season
“Precisely because of the witness which he bore, even at the price of his life, to the primacy of truth over power, Saint Thomas More is venerated as an imperishable example of moral integrity. And even outside the Church, particularly among those with responsibility for the destinies of peoples, he is acknowledged as a source of inspiration for a political system which has as its supreme goal the service of the human person.”So wrote the late Servant of God John Paul II in a tribute, no much more, an apostolic letter issued “Motuu Propio” (on his own authority) concerning the man whose inspiring life, fidelity to his Catholic Christian faith, unjust persecution and Martyrs death we in the Western Catholic Church commemorate on this date. (I forgot his feast day was Monday, so this is two days late.)

The England of the sixteenth century was in the midst of a serious crisis of politics, culture and faith, not unlike the times in which we now live. In 1534 all citizens who were of age were required to take an oath called “The Act of Succession”. It acknowledged that King Henry VIII was married to Anne Boleyn, even though he was not. His desire to divorce Catherine was not sufficient to make that marriage null and his attempt to use his political power to change the truth was objectively unsuccessful. So, the King went further, he used the power of his office to promulgate an unjust positive Law by which he proclaimed that he and Anne were lawfully married. It went further. He also declared himself to be the Supreme Head of the Church in England, thus abrogating to himself the authority to determine that his lawful marital bond was dissolved and denying the authority of the successor of the Apostle Peter. The Holy Father had refused to collaborate with Henry’s demand that he grant him an annulment from his lawful marriage so that he could pursue a different woman as his wife. He would not affirm Henry’s decision to place his disordered desires over the objective truth. {Henry might have had a randy personality, but the real issue was his percieved need for a male heir, and Catherine was near menopause by this time. The Holy Father was far more interested in placating Spain than he was England and Catherine was a Spanish princess. Thomas was well aware of these issues, and of the politics of the Vatican.}

The King knew Thomas More quite well.He admired his knowledge of the law, his studies and publications, and his demonstrated integrity which was so evident in his warm and faithful family life and accomplished career in public service. In addition to the Law, Thomas had studied literature, history, theology and philosophy at Oxford. He was elected to the Parliament of England in 1504 and held several other elective and appointed offices. They placed him in our equivalent of both legislative and judicial service. In spite of Thomas having made known to the King that he could not agree with the dissolution of his lawful marriage to Catherine, the King appointed this man of law, learning and letters to be the Lord Chancellor of England in 1529.Thomas was the first layman to ever occupy such a high political position in the realm. {Thomas was a very good friend of Henry VIII, and was given the position of Lord Chancellor on the advice of Cardinal Woolsey, who also recognized Thomas's integrity and brilliance.}

His beloved England was in the midst of difficult economic problems and he had deep concerns for his countrymen, especially for the poor, the weak and vulnerable. He pursued justice through his political office and sought to serve the King while remaining faithful to the higher law. He knew the order of truth and he applied a hierarchy of values in both his personal life and his public life.

In 1532, knowing that he could not enforce the declaration of his temporal King to usurp the authority of the Church, he resigned his political position. He tried to do so with the kind of integrity that had characterized his entire life. He withdrew from public life and bore the ridicule and taunts of those who once praised him. He had lost his prestige and his considerable financial resources, but he gained the peace which always comes through fidelity to the Lord. His hopes for a life with his family, lived in simplicity and fidelity to the Church, were short lived. The King, insisted that Thomas take the oath under the “Act of Succession”, thereby acknowledging the legitimacy of his “marriage” to Anne and his authority over the Church. Thomas would not do so because he refused to violate his truly formed conscience. So, the King had his former counselor imprisoned in the Tower of London. There he underwent intense tortures of both body and soul. These came even from some within his own family and circle of friends who failed to understand his actions. {This is not true. Henry never had Thomas tortured because of their friendship. This reluctance on the part of Henry irritated those on the commission who were to 'convince' Thomas to take the oath. The commission did however grant his family permission to see him, but only if they tried to convince him to take the oath. This scene is really well done in the movie A Man For All Seasons.}

At the time, few would have even noticed if Thomas had succumbed to the Royal request. He probably could have even justified the action through the exercise of his well honed rhetorical and logical skills by calling it a merely perfunctory action. He could have had his substantial properties restored if he had just sworn that oath, others would say, in order to provide material safety for his beloved family. Instead, this man who loved life, loved his family, loved his career and properly loved the world and all of its goods, loved the Lord first and would not compromise.He was an ordinary Christian who shows us ordinary Christians the way to living a unity of life in the midst of the creeping darkness and distractions of our own age. {Thomas More had a world wide reputation and it was this reputation which made his refusal to take the oath such a thorn in the side to Henry. Had Thomas been just an ordinary Christian he would never have been imprisoned and beheaded. Henry could not afford to ignore Thomas's refusal to take the oath anymore than GW can afford to ignore the acts of Dick Cheney.}

How did he do it? Quite simply, he prayed. He was a man who loved the Lord in the Heart of the Catholic Church. His very real and sincerely lived piety has filled the books written about him and the writings he left for our own growth and edification. He also practiced regular ascetical disciplines which he always offered in love to the Lord. In fact, even while he suffered in that Tower, awaiting a Martyrs death, he continued the regimen.

During that brief time which he had with his family, after attempting to quietly resign rather than violate his formed conscience and before he was imprisoned, when his wife or children complained about their lack he would tell them that they could not expect to “go to heaven in featherbeds”.

That is the lesson of his life and of his Martyrs death. He became conformed to the Lord Jesus and, as a result, he still beckons millions, across the expanse of time unto today, to follow his example as he followed the example of the Lord. Our readings in the Divine Office, the Liturgy of the Hours, offer us a tender letter on his Feast, written by the Saint to his beloved daughter Margaret as he awaited his martyrdom.His only concern was for her to grow in her relationship with the Lord. He had loved her so in life that he wanted that love to continue in the life to come.

This champion of heroic courage in the face of a State which has lost its soul never wavered in his fidelity to the Truth. He would not betray the truth or compromise it on the altar of public opinion or for political opportunism. He knew that to do so would not only have dishonored God and led his family and so many others astray, but that it would have given tacit assent to the emerging despotism of his age.

Thomas used the occasion of the Courtroom, where he had practiced his trade, to defend the Truth and its obligations in the temporal order. In the eloquent words of the Servant of God, John Paul II, who proclaimed him not only the Patron of all lawyers but the Patron of all politicians, “he made an impassioned defense of his own convictions on the indissolubility of marriage, the respect due to the juridical patrimony of Christian civilization, and the freedom of the Church in her relations with the State.”He was found “guilty”, this man of truth and he still brings shame upon every unjust tribunal and misuse of governmental power. St. Thomas More was martyred for the Catholic Christian faith. He was beheaded by the minions of a temporal leader who had abused his office and wielded the awful sword, the power of the State. {Technically he was beheaded for treason, not Catholicism. His trial was based on invented charges that he publically denied the validity of the act of succession and his death was a foregone conclusion. The irony of this is that Thomas maintained absolute silence on this issue in order to keep his life, but when faced with the trumped up inevitable he did speak, and he did speak eloquently.}

Thomas faced his executioners with the very same dignity he had shown in life, speaking with humor and affection to them even before they beheaded him. After his death it was found that he had left these words in the margin of his Book of Hours:“Give me your grace, good Lord, to set the world at have my mind well united to you; to not depend on the changing opinions of that I may think joyfully of the things of God and tenderly implore his help. So that I may lean on God’s strength and make an effort to love him... So as to thank Him ceaselessly for his benefits; so as to redeem the time I have wasted...”

On this day, we Catholics, indeed all faithful Christians in the west, face a similar challenge to that which faced St. Thomas More. The attacks on true marriage are well underway. We are being invited to compromise for our own convenience and tempted to accept the rulings of Judicial Oligarchs and Alchemists who think that they can change the nature of this institution by the stroke of a pen. Their collaborators in political office, some of whom are apostate Catholics, are now beginning to wield the figurative sword of temporal power against us. The truths taught by the Church, and revealed within the common patrimony of the Natural Law which is knowable by all men and women, concerning the dignity and inviolability of ever human life at every age and stage, are now being denied by those in control of the power of the State. The blood of the unborn continues to flow.This man named Thomas More has been properly called a “man for all Seasons. On his Feast day I propose he is certainly a man for this season. St. Thomas More, pray for us. {There is not one single Catholic in the West who is facing execution because their consciencence objects to abortion or gay marriage. This ending paragraph is pure hyperbole and an insult to Thomas More.}


I edited out a lot of the above piece in the interests of trying to stick to facts, while at the same time removing a lot of the sentiment expressed in the final paragraph. The reality is that to some extent Thomas More was a conundrum to his family, his friends, his fellow scholars, his King, and himself. Henry never could figure out why Thomas would lose his life over a papacy that Thomas himself considered deeply flawed and corrupt, and badly in need of reform.

I suspect it had a lot to do with Lutheranism. Thomas was not fond of Luther, nor of his movement. Although reform minded himself, Thomas believed reform had to be accomplished with in Church structure and not schizmatically from without. He banned all of Luther's writings and then took him on in a street pamphlet battle as Luther's followers smuggled this material into London. I've read these pamphlets and Thomas was well acquainted with London gutter speak. He published under a pseudonym so as not to offend the Kind and his own office as Lord Chancellor. He also had a six of Luther's followers burned at the stake by his direct order.

I don't know that Thomas was influenced so much by the notion of Truth, as he was the protection of societal order. In his view, the rise of protestantism represented the worst prospects for societal order, as up until this point Catholicism was the cornerstone on which his society had rested. He never signed Henry's oath because of the preamble which placed Henry above the Pope in religious matters in England. In reality he recognized Anne Bolyen as England's queen, sending her a letter of congratulations, but refused to attend her coronation. A slight which irritated Henry no end but was in perfect keeping with Thomas's view of personal loyalty. He was always personally loyal to the previous queen Catherine of Aragon.

Thomas was very pious and some of his best writings were done in prison and focus on the Eucharist. It's interesting because Thomas, as a lay person, was only able to recieve communion on Easter Sunday. Although he originally studied for the priesthood, he did not feel he had a call to celibacy and this too must have caused him some serious angst. He wore a hair shirt his entire adult life and practiced self flagellation. Neither of these practices were known by his family until his death. They were apparently his dirtly little secret.

Thomas More is the only Christian saint who has a statue in the Kremlin. Apparently Stalin saw Thomas's book Utopia as a source of inspiration for communism. It's kind of fascinating how Thomas's life and writings have appealed to so many diverse political persuasions. No doubt John Paul was correct in making him the patron saint of politicians. He's a Man For All Political Points Of View.

He was also interested in the mentally ill and the psychically gifted. I suspect he had a lot of innerdemensional advice that he only alludes too. In utopia the main character Rafael Hythloday has a name and surname that are direct references to the Archangel Rafael. I've often wondered if his interest in both the mentally ill and the psychically gifted weren't his scholarly way to try and figure out what might have been happening to him. It was not unusual for him to take inmates out of Bedlam and host them in his house. His wife Alice should also have been canonnized as she not only had to put up with his house guests, but the zoo he kept which included a monkey free to roam the manor house.

Thomas led an interesting if conflicted life, and he is highly active from the other side. I've had contact with him for 35 years and it's been fruitful and really fun. The sense of humor he was reputed to have had in life comes out in the afterlife as well. But he's typical Socratic teacher. I once asked him what the deal was with reincarnation and he replied that if I really understood what living the love of Christ meant, reincarnation would be a moot topic. It took me awhile to understand he didn't really answer my question. When I went back and questioned him further, he said, if I didn't get my understanding of Christ as the way, the truth, and the light, better than I had currently managed, it would be in my best interests to hope like hell reincarnation was a fact. I actually suspect reincarnation is a fact, and Thomas has opted out, still recuperating from his last lifetime, a no, he still won't give me a direct answer.

One last thought, Thomas has never gone on much about the papacy and obedience, but he has gone on endlessly about the Spiritual energy which is available in the Church's sacramental system. He once said the church could afford to lose everything but it's sacramental system and the Mass itself because that is it's true patrimony. The rest is men being men.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Suffering With Spiritual Culture Shock

The above right is a picture of Archbishop Burke at a confirmation at St. Francis DeSales traditional parish in St. Louis. He celebrated a Papal High Mass in Latin complete with canopy and cappa magna. For a description of the ceremony and more photos check this out: The left photo is of a traditional Souix Sundancer who is pierced in the chest and connected to the Sundance tree. This photo was taken in the late 60's, but things haven't changed---except you can no longer take photos at Sundances, so I have none of my own. But back to Archbishop Burke.

I guess this whole pomp and circumstances trend is baffling to me. Why in this world, or any other world, would God need to be worshipped by a celebrant dragging a twenty foot silk cape behind him, under a canopy carried by four accolytes, surrounded by a cloud of incense. Who is really being worshipped here? Is this a Mass, a Shakespearean drama, or a princely outing where the peasants are overawed by the splendor and pomp? The cynic in me thinks that because it features AB Burke it's a political statement about absolute power in the hands of the hierarchy.

I admit, I'm probably a little jaded about this because I just got back from a completely different spiritual ceremony. Yes, there was some costuming and there was a lot of cedar incensing and purifying, and there was a lot of singing, and there were a lot of sacramentals including staffs, and there were processions. In fact there were a lot of superficial similarities, but then there were also profound differences. The Sundance ceremony was enacted by people who ranged in age from 10 to 71 both male and female. Most of them go without food and water for four days and three nights, not two hours. The men voluntarily undergo piercing because they believe their flesh is the only thing of the Creator's which is theirs to offer, their only real personal possession. The ceremonial leaders also pierce, and their costuming is no different than any other dancer's. It's not really a show, four days is a long time. As the days progress it becomes a real endurance test for participants and supporters, but it also transports you to a different, sort of timeless, reality. A reality where healing in a profound way takes place. And yet the cynic in me wonders about this extreme as well, and wonders whether God needs any form of ceremony, or is it only mankind who needs these ceremonies. But the spiritual energy at a Sundance is different because the mindset is different. Here's a true story of one man's attempt at finding forgiveness and healing.
One of the dancers has a personal commitment to stand in the dance circle for the entire four day ceremony. He pierces and attaches himself to the tree in the early morning of the first day and then tears from the tree in the afternoon of the fourth day. He's out there day and night for the entire ceremony, only leaving the circle for bathroom breaks, and he must be escorted out for that. In other words he's totally exposed for the entire ceremony.

I've been told he's a convicted pedophile and that this is his way to atone for his crimes, reconcile with his victims, and keep his urges under control. As far as his Sundance community knows, he's been entirely successful in the ten years or so he's been dancing at this Sundance. They would know because they keep a very close eye on him. He's a part of their 'family' and they are obligated to help him, without judgment, but also without any blinders about the nature of his affliction.

I've watched this dancer do this for four years, and although I don't really know him in any meaningful sense, I really like him. There's an honest innocence about him, which is endearing, and a dedication to his recovery which can't be denied. You can't stand exposed like he does for four days and be in denial about your truth. This year, when he finally tore off from the tree, there was spontaneous applause--a huge no no--and tears and smiles all around. There was not one single person, dancer or supporter, who wanted this man to fail. In some weird way he stood out there representing the worst in all of us, and the potential for the grace and forgiveness we all need. He was smiling from ear to ear when he walked out of the circle, having completed his own therapeutic spiritual ritual, chastened, exhausted, sunburned, and triumphant. It was a sacramental moment.

Then I get to come home and view AB Burke in full regalia and read how our hierarchy is still hiding unrepentant pedophiles. I'm suffering serious cognitive dissonance---a true spiritual culture shock. I have to keep reminding myself that there really are bishops like Geofrey Robinson who really do get it. It's just that some days that's hard to do.
My mind keeps going back to the Sundancer and the way the two traditions differ so vastly in how they deal with issues of human frailty and failure. Although I could never recommend a Sundance as a therapeutic tool for pedophilia, nobody doubts that it works for this particular man. He's not a young man, and he's not in any kind of physical shape, and he's diabetic to boot. Somehow he makes it through all four days and is a better man for it. It takes real trust in the tenants of your spiritual tradition to risk the potential health hazards inherent in this form of spirituality, especially in view of the fact we all know people die. It doesn't happen very often, but it does happen. Dancers know they are truly risking their health and their lives committing to the Sundance. But they do it anyway because the communication they recieve from the Creator is worth any physical risk. Their is no priest standing in for them with God, they seek Him on their own, and many of the prayers they dance are danced for others.
It's a humbling experience in a completely different way, from the humbling experience implied in cappa magnas, and matching socks and shoes and that's why I'm suffering from spiritual culture shock.

Monday, June 23, 2008

It was kind of a shock to come home last night and find myself deleted from the internet. It was the result of changing email addresses which meant I never got the notice that my subscription to blogtoolkit was running out. Since all of my data was erased, I decided I would switch servers to blogspot and essentially start over. It's going to take me awhile to get the hang of this program, so bear with me. I guess I'm not too surprised that I would get home from attending a Sundance only to find out my blog would have a new beginning. That's essentially what Sundance is about--new beginnings.

This particular Sundance is celebrated for returning military veterans. Natives have traditionally been represented in the military in numbers which far surpass their representation in the general population, and the Souix know as much about treating PTSD as the Veterans hospitals do. This year they did a "Washing of the Hands" ceremony for an Iraqui vet who was having PTSD issues. This ceremony essentially recognizes the fact that it is really the tribe who sends their men and women off to war, and it is the tribe's responsibility to acknowledge that by accepting the pain and guilt of the returning warriors on themselves. It's a very powerful and symbolic ceremony. The washing of the warriors hands is always done by the women of the tribe in recognition of the fact the warrior was acting on behalf of them and their children.

The ceremony does not downplay the spiritual damage war inflicts on the participants, and makes no distinction between combatant military roles and noncombatant military roles. All are equally culpable and all are equally spiritually damaged even if the actual experiences are vastly different.

In the old days, warriors were not allowed into the main camp until they had undergone a sort of spiritual debriefing and this particular ceremony had been performed. It was considered spiritually damaging to shed the blood of others even in a good cause, and until the warriors had been purified they could not bring their energy into the camp. The movie scenes with whooping, jubilant, warriors returning in triumph to their camps is all movie fiction. Combatants returned to a camp which was isolated from the main camp and concentrated on purifying their spirits. In general war was not celebrated by plains tribes the way we have been conditioned to believe.

The young Iraqui vet spoke very eloquently about his isolation and loneliness while in Iraq and how different military culture was from tribal culture. I got the sense he expected a kind of 'band of brothers' engaged in a noble venture, and found something else entirely. He freely admitted that when he came back he drank himself into oblivion, abused his wife and family, and generally went into an intoxicated state of denial. He decided at some point to return to the spiritual path and danced all four days of this Sundance, piercing on three separate occasions. His tears at the end of the Washing of the Hands ceremony were shared by all kinds of other folks, dancers and spectators, and most especially by the elder Viet Nam vets. The elder Viet Nam vets were the ones who initially found the courage to admit that PTSD was not a function of weakness but a consequence of combat participation. These were the men who revived the Washing of the Hands ceremony. These are the men who understood that combat experience is just as devastating to those left behind and returned to, as it is the combatants themselves. These are men of true courage and wisdom and they have made it a point to give returning Iraqi vets and their families the support and encouragement they themselves did not find on their return.

Catholicism, and Christianity in general could take a real lesson from the Washing of the Hands ceremony. Essentially this is a symbolic act in which the community accepts the fact that they have as much blood on their hands as the warriors do on theirs. It is a fundamental truth that everyone is a participant in war, and everyone should accept the consequences of the decision to go to war. It's not the soldiers alone who are the 'baby killers', it's all of us. While this ceremony seems to bring real healing for the combatants, it also is a very sobering reminder to the rest of us about where our culpability lies and how fruitless and harmful it is for us to scapegoat our warriors as we essentially did with Viet Nam vets.

During the ceremony I tried to picture GW and Cheney out the in the Sundance circle washing the hands of returning vets with their tears. It proved to be an impossible task.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Change of Adress

I've had to change blog addresses--not particularly happy about that, but sometimes change is good. I really hope I don't lose my base readers and really really hope you can find me at my new address. Bear with me as it will take some time to get used to the possibilities inherent in this new address. The Sundance was, as always, a unique spiritual experience. More about that tomorrow.