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 That was later rescinded to twenty five years.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.


  1. Well I guess that blows my idea of Mother Theresa being saintly right out the VII window, along with JPII, and while we're at it - get rid of the entire VII window and close it up shut....

    I suppose praying for a good and caring Pope is asking for too much at this point? Even Peter who denied Jesus, eventually came around to see things Jesus' way, and the good guys usually paid for their salvation with blood. Nowadays, paying for one's salvation is better paid with money or other secret deals for indulgences like the good ole days when Church folk tortured heretics or chained them up and then sent them to the secular authorities to take care of them.

    I have to shake my head often whenever I read anything going on in the Catholic Church today. The pious pomp and 20 foot long red silk capes worn by AB Burke, to Beney XVI with his Wizard of Oz Dorothean ruby red slippers, see through long dress, new designer cross labeled and fur lined capes that resemble my Christmas tree skirt, just makes me look twice and wonder. And this, while the world is probably entering its most dangerous time in history with the potential for enormous loss of life due to war and various calamities going on recently or currently like famine, disease, floods, fires, earthquakes, global warming. But, who is looking at any of this with any in-depth reasoning with faith when there is so much to do to glorify one's office or wardrobe first?

    Am I getting too cynical, or am I just getting too much wisdom for reading too much from all kinds of sources, including the New Testament?

    Good thing I still know how to pray, and who to pray to, or I know, I'd be doomed too like the rest of all those "sexual sinners."

    Poor Mother Theresa and the millions of dollars in the NY Bank account. Did she know the money was there? Before I slammed the Saint gate shut on her I'd want to know where the money came from and where it was supposed to have gone and if she knew where the money was going. But Colleen, the way you tell the story, and you may be right, it seems the Church has been putting on quite a sham for a long, long time, while putting on a Holy show for all us little folk that are so slow and gullible, and such awful sinners needing correction!

  2. You are going to love this one:

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Wearing ornate liturgical vestments symbolizes the spiritual transformation of the person wearing the clothes, not his love of fashion, the Vatican newspaper said. "The priest does not choose such ornaments because of an aesthetic vice -- he does it to put on the new clothes of Christ," said an article in the June 26 edition of L'Osservatore Romano. Liturgical vestments represent "dressing oneself anew in Christ" in which the priest "transcends his identity to become someone else," to become one with Christ through a process of interior transformation and inner renewal, it said. la la la la la ...

    Well now, there we have it ... the real honest to god truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth so help them God, straight from the horses orfice, the la la la true reason for all the really pretty duds that them thar boys are always showin off ... its cuz they dun gone an got themselves a bigger dose of spiritualizin than the rest uf uz and they wantz the whole durned wurld to know it.

    To change the subject now:
    Has anyone ever wondered how it could be st peter at the pealry gate, when st peter was not even born when the pearly gates were created?

    Is this another of those "myseries" that the church has given us to contemplate?

  3. Well Carl, I was considering getting a new wardrobe and maybe wearing it to Church. A long red silk cape that my husband can carry down the aisle. It will symbolize our new higher spirituality and identity, just the Pope does with his example. We'll have to forego feeding the poor for the entire year in order to have this new cape however. Oh well, it is for the Lord! Praise & honor and glory and all that stuff!!!!

  4. 'Has anyone ever wondered how it could be st peter at the pealry gate, when st peter was not even born when the pearly gates were created?'

    It's one of those quantum physics things where all time is in the now. One of the things I am reallyh working on is what I really believe about life after death. All my psychic buddies who talk to dead people say don't get to vested in Pearly Gates. You have a tought adjusment period. It ain't about the gates, it's about how you really lived your life. Apparently our definition of really and their definition of really ain't the same thing.

  5. Hate to break this to you Carl, but CNS is part of a family of websites linked to the same conservative funding as in Canada. The site which if you trace it back directs you to a CIA site.

    Butterfly, if you think the Vatican branch of the Church is interested in anything other than keeping mostly white rich families at the top of the food chain you haven't been connecting the dots. Hence all the 'saintly' support for fascist dictators who tow the rich white line. Communism was a threat only because it made the wrong whites rich and it was used to make the wrong orientals and Hispanics rich. You know, the ones who wouldn't recognize the supremacy of the rich white folks. Institutional Catholicism gave up being the Church of Jesus the minute the head honchos found themselves with a viable state.

    Mother Theresa was an incredibely giving person but warped by her need to hero worship her ecclesiastical betters. It's no wonder she went through a terminal 50 year dark night of the soul after her first transcendant encounters. She sold out and never got the message.

  6. Colleen, your last sentence reminds me of the old story of the cleric on the train addressed by a fellow passenger: Your reverence, what is the way to heaven?

    Exasperated cleric replied, "Turn to the right and keep straight on."

  7. Sceptic, that's a great line and pretty much sums up the core message coming from the Vatican.--Turn to the right and keep straight on.

  8. Colleen, my comment was a sarcasm, tongue in cheek, and for the first time I was not angry or sullen about this witness, but was joyfully laughing at the obvious ridiculousness of the pomp & finery contrasted next to the true image and message of Jesus Christ. Anyway, I was laughing hysterically when I wrote the comment, which is a real breakthrough for me.

    As for connecting the dots, I don't have the information you have about Mother Theresa, nor the years of knowing the inside workings of the Church that you have to be able to form a complete picture yet to get that entire connection that you have now about her. The lines aren't blurred, there is a need for more dots in order to connect.

    What you have touched upon about Mother Theresa makes sense in your last comment. The Church in its authoritarian present form, as we have discussed before, seems to disregard the Holy Spirit and hamper one's ability rather than enable one and the entire body of faithful to bring the Kingdom of God here. Mother Theresa then is a tragic example of someone who could have truly been a saint, had she not been hampered by her own Church. She is in a real way the epitome of someone with the potential for Saintliness, as we all are, but the Holy Spirit could not get in if the window in the Church to which she belonged was shut against it. Does that make better sense now?

  9. RE: "Wearing ornate liturgical vestments symbolizes the spiritual transformation of the person wearing the clothes, not his love of fashion, the Vatican newspaper said. "The priest does not choose such ornaments because of an aesthetic vice -- he does it to put on the new clothes of Christ"

    I hate to sound like a protestant bible thumper, but it just amazes me how they can so directly contradict the Founder of the faith (Matt 6) --

    "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about... what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?

    "Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? ...

    "Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.

    "If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?"

    The priest who said my Mass last Sunday wore vestments. But they did not distract from the powerful message of his homily: that we are unimaginably loved by God. I agree that vestments can enhance spiritual awareness, but not when they become exaggerated or obsessive. Jesus did not wear a 20-foot silk cape!

  10. RE: Colleen said:
    ”Mother Theresa was an incredibely giving person but warped by her need to hero worship her ecclesiastical betters. It's no wonder she went through a terminal 50 year dark night of the soul after her first transcendant encounters. She sold out and never got the message.”

    I think you may be onto something here, that her deference to the hierarchy may have limited the growth of her spiritual awareness.

    This spirit-limiting mentality is echoed by orthodox Roman bloggers I’ve encountered who insist that Mychal Judge can not be a real saint because he was “disobedient” to magisterial teachings on same-sex relationships. They discount the several medically documented miraculous healings through his intercession as “not confirmed by Rome.” They remind me of the quote by Jesus (in Thomas), “Behold, the kingdom of heaven is poured out upon the earth, yet men see it not.”

    Here’s one more important aspect to this whole saint-making business, which is discussed on my site,

    For most of the church’s history, saints were declared by popular acclamation of the faithful. Rome only took control of canonization in the 14th century. But the older tradition of popular acclamation of saints, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is still recognized in the Orthodox churches today.”

    Thus consistent with the older tradition, Mychal Judge and Mother Teresa may both be properly styled as Saints. In the end, God makes saints, not Rome.

  11. You're so right Jim. In the end it's God who makes saints and people recognize it and acclaim it.

    When the Church formalized the process it was only a matter of time before it became politicized,or when particular 'saints' became poster children for the truth of magesterial teachings.

    I can vividly recall one of the first communications I ever recieved from Thomas More. It concerned his sainthood. He said it only mattered to him what God said about him and that although it was an honor to have been canonized, like it had been an honor to be knighted, it didn't effect him one way or the other on his side of things.

    Other things effected him on his side of things and one of them was my--as he put it--ignorant hero worshipping which got in the way of developing an effective and useful relationship. This was only the first of many spritual lessons in which my 'ignorance' or 'pig headedness' was addressed.

    After reading your blog I sometimes wish I had Mychal Judge as a mentor. Thomas can be incredibely funny, but he's not fond of dissembling and beating around the semantics bush. Which is to say he's not fond of Pentagon speak or certain hierarchical pronouncements.

  12. Colleen,

    Thank you for sharing your encounters with St. Thomas More. I don’t have the psychic sensitivities you have, but I’ve also encountered the other side from time to time. I’ll share two such encounters, both with Mychal Judge.

    In 2004, while praying and wrestling over a particular issue, Mychal became clearly present. His message was, “Just trust in God. He’ll let you know what to do next.”

    I didn’t physically see or hear him, but knew this was his authentic presence. And it was clear he wasn’t just speaking about that particular issue at hand; he was speaking about how to approach all of life generally.

    A year later, I was driving myself crazy analyzing scripture with regard to the legitimacy of the Roman authority versus Old Catholics. Again Mychal’s presence became clear, and his message was, “What did I tell you about just trusting in God ? These things you worry about aren’t important to God. When you die, He’s not going to ask if you went to this or that church. He’s going to ask if you loved, and if you faithfully used the many gifts He gave you.”

    I’ve never publicly spoken about these encounters, but I think you’ll appreciate them. I have no doubt they were genuine, and that God appointed Mychal to be my saint-guide.

    OK, we’re on a roll. Some more confessions --

    I’d never heard of Fr. Mychal Judge before 9/11. In the summer of 2001, I’d been away from the Church for many years, having been deeply wounded as a child. Yet I still believed in God, and wanted to believe in God’s love.

    On Sept. 11, 2001, horrified by the images of collapsing buildings and thousands of people perishing, I marched myself right up to Sacred Heart church and began pleading before the Blessed Sacrament for God’s mercy upon the innocent. Later that night, I first heard of Fr. Mychal -- and saw that iconic photo of his body being carried out of Ground Zero.

    I began praying to Fr. Mychal, and almost immediately, my childhood wounds were healed. I was granted the gifts of a strong faith and a certainty of God’s love for me.

    Many hundreds of others experienced similar reversions to faith through Mychal Judge on 9/11. It turns out that very many were blessed by his intercessions that day.

    I truly believe that God granted Mychal a glorious death so that his holy life would become known to the whole world, and so that he could intercede for many more people than he could in this life (also true of Jesus).

    None of this is about mere hero-worship. As Fr. Mychal’s close friend, Fr. Brian Jordon said, the best way to honor Mychal’s memory is not to light candles in front of his icon, but to draw inspiration and live the fullest possible lives we can live.

    Many other things happened since then which have confirmed that God intended for Mychal to be my guiding saint, including my involvement in the miraculous healing of a critically injured firefighter through Mychal’s intercession last year.

    So when I say, God makes Saints, not Rome, I know this first hand. We can see why the early church fathers trusted the faithful laity to discern exactly who is worthy of being designated a Saint.

    Mychal Judge, Mother Teresa, and many uncanonized others are already Saints. May they, “on whose constant intercession we rely for help,” pray for us !

    -- John K = John M. Kelley = jmKelley

  13. CNS ... CIA ....
    does that mean my cover is blown?

    Butterfly, not to worry, my sources within the Vatican smuggled out information that the Vatican thrift store has several capes at thrift store prices. I understand they are seconds, rejected because they were only 19' long.

  14. Thanks Carl.. I can't wait to parade around in it!

  15. Carl, it means the CIA is putting resources into fanning the abortion and gay issues via conservative church publications. I think sometimes the CIA sees itself like the Pope, accountable in theory but not in practice.

    Butterfly, I really have a great visual of you in your cappa magna as you drag your husband down the aisle behind you.

  16. John, I appreciate your stories, as you might well suspect. Thomas has repeatedly told me that same thing you understood from Fr.Mychal, and that's if you don't get the love thing, the Church thing isn't going to get you very far on the otherside.

    Here's another Thomas story. I have a very close friend who decided to see if she could work with Thomas. I tried to warn her, but she wouldn't listen. So she sits at her keyboard and he starts writing like crazy, all of it in old English. She had to use a very old Webster's dictionary to get a lot of the words she was using, but there was one word she just couldn't understand: gibbet.
    Given the whole ICEL thing, I can't stop laughing about his use of the word gibbet. Maybe he was being prophetic.

    Anyway she stopped the contact over another incident which proved to her he was too real. Thomas set up a real life situation in which he made a point about her ego. It was really funny, but to close to home I guess.

  17. "Enlightened Catholicism" sounds suspiciously like a code name for liberalism, folks.

    Concerning Mother Theresa's saintliness and Pope John Paul's papal credentials, I'll give God the final word and keep my mouth closed, because neither one of them, whom I admired greatly, answers to me. Obviously, that's far more than many of you seem to have been able to manage.

    Ignorance (of Catholicism) is, apparently, bliss, for some. Happy Advocating, devils.

  18. Vatican II said this in it's Constitution Dei Verbum:
    it is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her
    certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both
    sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated
    with the same sense of loyalty and reverence."

    Vatican II showed that traditions should be kept with loyalty.