Friday, July 25, 2008

Seriously, A Different Take On Humanae Vitae

The following is an article from Catholic News Agency, more or less written by Cardinal Stafford on the effects of the dissent around the encyclical on the brotherhood of priests in Baltimore.

Priests still suffering from effects of Humanae Vitae dissenters, Vatican cardinal says
Cardinal James Francis Stafford

Rome, Jul 25, 2008 / 04:08 am (CNA).- Today marks the 40th anniversary of the often debated papal encyclical Humanae Vitae, in which Pope Paul VI reaffirmed the Church’s teaching against contraception. Looking back at the events as he experienced them, Cardinal James Francis Stafford writes that the reaction by dissenters to the papal document involved a level of infidelity which divided the ranks of the clergy to such an extent that they have still not recovered.

The recounting of the events of 1968 by Cardinal Stafford-who was the Archbishop of Baltimore at the time of the encyclical’s release-is eloquent, laced with scriptural allusions and the insights of a scholar. He set out to peer into the summer of 1968, “a record of God’s hottest hour,” as he dubs it, at the request of L’Osservatore Romano and has made his submission available to CNA.

{This statement is completely wrong. Cardinal Stafford was conscecrated as an auxilliary bishop in Baltimore in 1976. He was subsequently appointed as the Archbishop of Denver. I hate using CNA for a source. Their writers are awful.}

This “is not an easy or welcome task. But since it may help some followers of Jesus to live what Pope Paul VI called a more ‘disciplined’ life (HV 21), I will explore that event,” the cardinal writes.

Before launching into the retelling of the trial surrounding the dissent of priests to Humanae Vitae, Cardinal Stafford lends his readers some of his scholarly wisdom.

“Lead us not into temptation” is the sixth petition of the Our Father. Πειρασμός (Peirasmòs), the Greek word used in this passage for ‘temptation’, means a trial or test. Disciples petition God to be protected against the supreme test of ungodly powers. The trial is related to Jesus’s cup in Gethsemane, the same cup which his disciples would also taste (Mk 10: 35-45). The dark side of the interior of the cup is an abyss. It reveals the awful consequences of God’s judgment upon sinful humanity. In August, 1968, the weight of the evangelical Πειρασμός fell on many priests, including myself,” the cardinal began.

“The summer of 1968 is a record of God’s hottest hour. The memories are not forgotten; they are painful. They remain vivid like a tornado in the plains of Colorado. They inhabit the whirlwind where God’s wrath dwells. In 1968 something terrible happened in the Church. Within the ministerial priesthood ruptures developed everywhere among friends which never healed. And the wounds continue to affect the whole Church. The dissent, together with the leaders’ manipulation of the anger they fomented, became a supreme test. It changed fundamental relationships within the Church. It was a Πειρασμός for many."

{A number of other things also happened in 1968, things like the assasinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, the escalation of the war in Viet Nam, the major race riots, the scintillating democratic convention in Daly town, and huge student demonstrations all over the world. But I forget, this is Cardinal Stafford's personal cup we're reading about here.}

An insider’s view of Paul VI’s Commission
The American cardinal then delved into some of the inner-workings of the Vatican that he was privy to in the years leading up to the issuing of Humanae Vitae. In particular, he recalled that, Cardinal Lawrence J. Shehan, the sixth Archbishop of Baltimore, who was his ecclesiastical superior at the time, was a member of the Papal Commission for the Study of Problems of the Family, Population, and Birth Rates, first established by Blessed Pope John XXIII in 1963 during the Second Vatican Council.

As Pope Paul’s commission prepared to deliberate about the Church’s teaching on contraception, Cardinal Shehan “sent confidential letters to various persons of the Church of Baltimore seeking their advice. I received such a letter,” Stafford writes.

“My response drew upon experience, both personal and pastoral. Family and education had given me a Christian understanding of sex. Yet, in many ways, Cardinal Stafford explains that, “Not one of my professional acquaintances anticipated the crisis of trust which was just around the corner in the relations between men and women.” It wasn’t until a 1961 encounter with a 16 year-old parishioner who was a drug user that he came to the realization of what he had to tell Cardinal Shehan about contraception. {I wonder what kind of bubble these professionals lived in. Even my mother saw that the days when a woman was stuck in a horrific marriage were coming to an end.}

“A sixteen-year old had been jailed in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. At the time of my late afternoon visit to him, he was experiencing drug withdrawal unattended and alone in a tiny cell. His screams filled the corridors and adjoining cells. Through the iron bars dividing us, I was horror-stricken watching him in his torment. The abyss he was looking into was unimaginably terrifying. In this drugged youth writhing in agony on the floor next to an open toilet I saw the bitter fruits of the estrangement of men and women. His mother, separated from her husband, lived with her younger children in a sweltering third floor flat on Light St. in old South Baltimore. The father was non-existent for them. The failure of men in their paternal and spousal roles was unfolding before my eyes and ears. Since then more and more American men have refused to accept responsibility for their sexuality.” {Which is precisely one of the major reasons why women took to taking the pill. The male propensity to dump their responsibilities had always been prevalent amongst the poor.}

This experience, Stafford explained in a confidential letter to Cardinal Shehan resulted in an insight “which was elliptical: the gift of love should be allowed to be fruitful. These two fixed points are constant. This simple idea lit up everything like lightning in a storm. I wrote about it more formally to the Cardinal: the unitive and procreative meanings of marriage cannot be separated. Consequently, to deprive a conjugal act deliberately of its fertility is intrinsically wrong. To encourage or approve such an abuse would lead to the eclipse of fatherhood and to disrespect for women.” {I'm sorry, but I have never been able to get my head around this logic. The major assumption seems to be that people are incapable of demonstrating legitimate love unless they are engaged in making babies. This has to be the direct result of male celibates experiencing sexual arousal primarily in the form of unattached lust, which by definition objectifies the woman.}

For reasons unknown, this idea failed to sway Cardinal Shehan who sided with the majority of the papal commission, which advised that the Church’s teaching on contraception be changed in light of new circumstances. {Interestingly enough, the only archbishop who was on the commission and didn't bother to show for the vote was Karol Wojtyla, and he may not have attended any of the meetings, although he is reputed to have been one of the voices who swayed PPVI to stick with prior teaching. His objection was apparently over the impact the change would have on the laity's perceptions of Papal infallibility.}

“This sets the scene for the tragic drama following the actual date of the publication of the encyclical letter on July 29, 1968,” Cardinal Stafford writes.
Following the publication of Humanae Vitae, Stafford recalls the way the rejection of the Pope’s encyclical unfolded.

“Rev. Charles E. Curran, instructor of moral theology of The Catholic University of America … and nine other professors of theology of the Catholic University met, by evident prearrangement, in Caldwell Hall to receive, again by prearrangement with the Washington Post, the encyclical, part by part, as it came from the press. The story further indicated that by nine o’clock that night, they had received the whole encyclical, had read it, had analyzed it, criticized it, and had composed their six-hundred word ‘Statement of Dissent.’ Then they began that long series of telephone calls to ‘theologians’ throughout the East, which went on, according to the Post, until 3:30 A.M., seeking authorization, to attach their names as endorsers (signers was the term used) of the statement, although those to whom they had telephoned could not have had an opportunity to see either the encyclical or their statement. Meanwhile, they had arranged through one of the local television stations to have the statement broadcast that night.”

Cardinal Shehan was “scornful” of the reaction. “In 1982 he wrote, ‘The first thing that we have to note about the whole performance is this: so far as I have been able to discern, never in the recorded history of the Church has a solemn proclamation of a Pope been received by any group of Catholic people with so much disrespect and contempt’.” {This was Cardinal Shehan's public position. His private position was totally different. Cardinal Shehan wasn't the only Archbishop who was sending mixed messages, the public one for Rome, and the private one for pastoral counseling.}

The test in Baltimore
“The personal Πειρασμός, the test, began,” writes Stafford, who was a priest of the Diocese of Baltimore at the time.
He remembers that the trial began with a phone call inviting him to St. William of York parish in southwest Baltimore to discuss the encyclical. “The meeting was set for Sunday evening, August 4. I agreed to come. Eventually a large number of priests were gathered in the rectory’s basement. I knew them all,” Stafford relates.

Although he expected a chance to read the papal document and discuss it, nothing of the sort happened. Instead, one pastor/ leader, assisted by some priests from the local seminary read the Washington statement aloud. Then the leader asked each of us to agree to have our names attached to it. No time was allowed for discussion, reflection, or prayer. Each priest was required individually to give a verbal ‘yes’ or ‘no’.” {One has to remember that the laity weren't given a chance to read it or vote on it. We were given only the choice to follow it. It's hard for me to generate much sympathy for poor Cardinal Stafford.}

“I could not sign it,” states Cardinal Stafford. ‘My earlier letter to Cardinal Shehan came to mind. I remained convinced of the truth of my judgement and conclusions.” … However, Stafford says that no one else there held his convictions; “Everyone agreed to sign. There were no abstentions. As the last called upon, I felt isolated. The basement became suffocating.”

What happened next involved was unprecedented in the history of the Baltimore presbyterate, according to Stafford. “They had planned carefully how to exert what amounted to emotional and intellectual coercion. … The priest/leader, drawing upon some scatological language from his Marine Corp past in the II World War responded contemptuously to my decision. He tried to force me to change. He became visibly angry and verbally abusive. The underlying, ‘fraternal’ violence became more evident. He questioned and then derided my integrity. He taunted me to risk my ecclesiastical ‘future,’ although his reference was more anatomically specific. The abuse went on.” {At least you weren't threatened with eternal damnation for commiting a gravely immoral act.}

“We all had been subjected to a new thing in the Church, something unexpected. A pastor and several seminary professors had abused rhetoric to undermine the truth within the evangelical community. When opposed, they assumed the role of Job’s friends. Their contempt became a nightmare,” Stafford observes.

The aftermath of dissent
This type of abuse was paralleled in the secular history of the time as well, says the cardinal, citing an encounter from April 1968 with the same priest who would a few months later lead the dissent meeting at St. William of York.

As the riots in Baltimore raged following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Father Stafford called the pastor to see if he might need food, medical assistance, or other help from the city. When the pastor answered the phone, Stafford could hear “disillusionment and fear” in the priest’s voice as he described how, “Everything has been set ablaze.”

The memory of this incident prompted Stafford to realize that, “Ecclesial dissent can become a kind of spiritual violence in its form and content. …Violence and truth don’t mix. … The violence of the priests’ August gathering gave rise to its own ferocious acrimony. Conversations among the clergy, where they existed, became contaminated with fear. Suspicions among priests were chronic. …The Archdiocesan priesthood lost something of the fraternal whole which Baltimore priests had known for generations.” {Apparently this climate of fear and mistrust was accelerated under JPII and now we have archbishops authorizing secret surveillance of their religious empoyees. Things have certainly improved.}

“Something else happened among priests on that violent August night,” explains Cardinal Stafford, “Friendship in the Church sustained a direct hit.”

A lesson learned
In spite of all the damage done by the dissent, Stafford stresses that, “that night was not a total loss.” “Paradoxically, in the hot, August night a new sign shown unexpectedly on the path to future life. It read, ‘Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered’.” {Am I to understand this to mean that obedience trumps love and obedience is the major lesson I should take from the life of Christ?}

“I did not become ‘ashamed of the Gospel’ that night and found ‘sweet delight in what is right.’ It was not a bad lesson. Ecclesial obedience ran the distance,” the American cardinal writes.
The lesson to be learned from this is that, “Contemporary obedience of disciples to the Successor of Peter cannot be separated from the poverty of spirit and purity of heart modeled and won by the Word on the Cross,” writes Stafford. {Now I get it. I'm to equate obedience to the Papacy with modeling the life of Christ. According to Cardinal Stafford they 'cannot be separated'.
Cardinal Stafford closes his reflections by giving his honest assessment of where the Church stands after the decades of dissent.
“Diocesan presbyterates have not recovered from the July/August nights in 1968. Many in consecrated life also failed the evangelical test. Since January 2002, the abyss has opened up elsewhere. The whole people of God, including children and adolescents, now must look into the abyss and see what dread beasts are at its bottom. Each of us shudders before the wrath of God, each weeps in sorrow for our sins and each begs for the Father’s merciful remembrance of Christ’s obedience.” {And now the pedophelia scandal is attributed to clerical dissent with Humanae Vitae. Must be some form of proportionalism or something.}


I think I've read the above article a half a dozen times and am still not sure what point I'm supposed to take from it except that total obedience to the Papacy is equal to total obedience to Christ. I guess instead of a Holy Trinity, we now have a Holy Foursome.

It's hard for me to have much sympathy for the plight of Cardinal Stafford, but I will give him a great deal of credit for operating in total integrity. One of the things which really impacted my perception of the hierarchy was all the double messages they sent during this time. It was hard to take any public pronouncement seriously when the grapevine and actual pastoral practice was so opposite. The public face of many in the hierarchy was the primacy of obedience to the papacy where the private pastoral face was the primacy of individual conscience. Humanae Vitae put many true Vatican II bishops in a horrible bind between their personal conscience on this issue and the institutional demand for obedience with in the ranks.

If Humanae Vitae has proven anything, it's how destating the effects can be when a pronouncement is patently out of sync with the majority of the people of God, and most especially when it's out of sync with the majority of the clergy. I also think that Humanae Vitae brought out another conflict. Many, many people percieved that relaxing the ban on artifial birth control was an act of compassion, and when one reaches that understanding, teaching compliance to the ban as an act of obedience holds little water.

The spin now is to couple Paul's writing with John Paul's theology of the body and try to raise this encyclical to new levels of spiritually brilliant insight. The truth is it was never prophetic insight, it was rehash of old arguments based in the notion that sex exists primarily for procreation with a token argument about unity. The only thing unifying about Humanae Vitae is that to practice NFP both partners have to be totally unified in agreeing to engage in the practice to avoid conception. I see this as just another one of those hypocritical theological arguments which thinks up a 'new' process in order to circumvent some other absolute traditional and scriptural truth. Just like the annulment process. In my book, birth control is birth control and divorce is divorce, and as many angels as want to can dance on the head of a pin.


  1. Hi again Colleen, Your comment: {Apparently this climate of fear and mistrust was accelerated under JPII and now we have archbishops authorizing secret surveillance of their religious empoyees. Things have certainly improved.}

    This is for what purpose for the archbishops? They don't seem to be too Christ centered to be employing such militaristic tactics. In the case of Burke vs Sr. Louise Lears video surveillance took place to then charge her. What's up the archbishop's sleeve depends on the archbishop and his agenda or theology.

    I was thinking about NCRcafe and I wrote a letter to cafe management asking them "What's going on?" I asked them to please email the reason why there have been no new comments posted in almost a week.

    My feeling on this after thinking more about it is that the Defers have decided that they can't get through to us and have given up on us and are going on to the bigger fish which is the publication itself. Whereas the trads would hammer at us, they are now focused on hammering the publication and possibly try to shut it down. Perhaps they've been sending in so much hate mail, as you said before, that their computers and staff can't handle the volume?

    Maybe at the NCR publication they are having their own divisions schisms now too?

    Anyway, it feels as if something has died at ncrcafe with no new comments.

  2. Has anyone noticed the desperation in all of these events? Spam attacks, scapegoating, covert survellience, litigation, excommunication, political manipulation, bribery, nonsensical rhetoric, all are acts of desperation that are the symptomatic of a dying institution.

    Karen Bishop has mentioned numerous times that these events are symptomatic of the widening gap between those who choose to live in the light of love and those who continue to choose to follow the path of darkness. The latter are desperately trying not just to hang on to the old ways, but to force the rest of us to do the same so that they wont have to admit their error.

    The perspective that the article totally missed, Humanae Vitae was a gift of the Holy Spirit to demonstrate the fallacy of papal infallibility. It worked beautifully. The pedophile scandal was a gift of the Holy Spirit to reveal to us the depths of corruption and depravity that permeate the Magisterium. It also worked beautifully. The veil of secrecy that has sheltered the Vatican for millenia is dissolving daily. Over the last 40 years, confidence in the leadership of the church has evaporated not because of Humanae Vitae itself, but because it allowed us to see how much corruption there is in the leadership of the church.

  3. Paul VI never submitted Humanae Vitae to the full college of Bishops because there were serious doubts the bishops would approve it. So he went ahead and published it on his own.

    This raises some interesting questions. Are the restrictions in Humanae Vitae considered infallibly binding or merely advisory? Can a doctrine be considered binding if there is disagreement between the pope and the majority of bishops? Not to mention the majority of the faithful?

    The ultramontanists will argue that Humanae Vitae is a binding dogma of morals by virtue of the pope’s individual power to speak infallibly on such matters, even overriding the college of Bishops.

    However, if you ask them about earlier papal pronouncements and encyclicals, such as those regarding the nature of the solar system, or Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors -- considered in their time to be binding matters of faith and morals -- the ultramontanists will split legal hairs to explain why these papal pronouncements are not infallible dogmas while Humanae Vitae is. “Situational ethics” indeed !

    Interestingly, Paul’s successor, John Paul I, planned to reverse Paul VI’s restrictions on contraception in short order, but never lived to do so (which may have contributed to his sudden, untimely death). John Paul I, ne Albino Luciani, had been a life-long champion of rejected children, building a record number of orphanages and promoting expanded adoptions. He recognized the value of contraception in limiting the numbers of uncared-for children while discouraging abortions. And he recognized the unitive value of sexual expression even distinct from its procreative value.

    -- John K

  4. Coleen, this is not related to Humanae Vita (I dont think), but I would like your take on it.

    As you know, I pay attention to the "coincidences" especially when nature gives one. I've always paid close attention to animal spirits and there messages.

    Last night when I was walking, the same path I have walked daily for 3+ years, two copperheads were on the path, 1 dead, recently killed, one very much alive. This is the first time I've crossed paths with one of these snakes in decades.

    The live one was stretched out straight and motionless in the open across the path in front of me. It was pointing west. When I tried to coax if off the path with a stick, at first it didnt move, then it struck at the stick three times before finally leaving the path. These snakes are rarely found in the open, much less stretched out like this. Being exposed in the open is a behavior that is very out of character for them. A nasty disposition on the other hand, they are infamous for that.

    Any thoughts?

  5. Butterfly, I've been wondering, too, if there's some high-level pressure to attack NCR. I have been having the same feeling that, having tried unsuccessfully to shut the conversation down by singling out targets on the cafe, those intent on censorship may have turned to more powerful channels.

    I get the strong feeling we're right on the cusp of a movement of tremendous suppression that will cross denominational boundaries, and that is all about trying to maintain the dominance of men who present themselves as straight in the clerical structures of the churches. I think we may see more and more overt attempts to oppress dissenters and shut down dissenting voices.

    Carl, I see the desperation, too, and I think it's going to be more apparent as the gloves come off and the oppression becomes more overt now.

    JM, interesting information about JPI's own background, which I hadn't read elsewhere. Makes me admire him even more.

    Colleen, I think you are now hosting the new NCR cafe :-). Where else can we go for dialogue?

    Did you all notice the similarity between Stafford's presentation of the 1960s, and Ratzinger's? Ratzinger has always maintained that what led him back to the fold--as in the yes-father fold of theologians--was the student unrest at Tubingen in the 1960s.

    Stafford is essentially saying the same thing. A false alternative is set up between wild social chaos and the church that serenely says the same thing over and over. Seems like a very self-serving presentation of what happened in the 1960s.

  6. Carl, that's very interesting. The snake represents rebirth into new levels of creativity and wisdom. This was emphasized by having both a dead snake and a live snake.

    The Western direction means moving into the feminine traits of intuition, dreaming, and higher compassion, vision quests and journeys.

    The three strikes is also a number associated with mystical transformation, or moving up the spiritual food chain.

    If I were you I'd be looking for transformative change in creative, spiritual ways. A transition of sorts from one spiritual understanding to higher spiritual understanding.

    This morning before I signed on I had 6 deer in my front yard. I live in a mobile home park in the middle of the city, so this is a little unusual. One was a five point buck in velvet, one a spike with one spike broken and sideways, one a barren doe, and one a doe with two fawns. They came from the North and went South. I have never seen a group of mixed deer quite like this in the middle of the summer. Usually the sexes are separate, especially does with young fawns. The fawns were still in spots.

    It'll take me all day to figure out what this means!

  7. William, interesting analogy, gloves coming off. Started me thinking. This is not just about what is going on within the church, but we are seeing increasingly agressive attempts by the leadership to exert its authority into the population in general.

    One thing they are ignoring is the inbred revulsion we have in this country for anything that restricts freedom. You would think that the response within the US catholic population to Humanae Vitae would have awakened them to that, but apparantely not. Roughly
    70 percent of our population is non-catholic and the vast majority of them believe that the catholic church is the beast of revelation and that the pope is the antichrist. When the gloves come off, it is not inconceivable that those same gloves could become very dangerous projectiles redirected back at the Vatican.

  8. I've been thinking about the NCR issue.

    I ran across a post on one of the tables that stated the the banter between HT and me was irrelevant to the issues of the local congregation. On another post HT indicated that he is largely alienated in his diocese. Interesting. There are so many divisions in so many areas of the church, including the bishopric, I'm inclinded to think that the dialogue on NCR Cafe in the grand scheme is really not that significant "right now".

    NCR reporting of the Sr Louise incident on the other hand has generated a lot of heat on the St. Louis diocese, and is taking a lot of heat from the diocese as well. Yesterday I read an article where the St. Louis diocese issued a response to NCR's reporting, basically blasting them for poor journalistic integrity. Their silence may be more a reflection of that than anything else.

    Bad journalism or coverup? It is eerily reminiscent of Watergate, which interestingly enough happened at the same time as Humanae Vitae, and ultimately destroyed confidence in the US presidency. Do you suppose we are seeing a similar event being played out now within the church?

    There is an NCR article on the Canadian poll stating the majority of anglicans are in favor of women priests etc. Even though I considered the angicans to be a little more evolved than the catholic church on this issue, after reading the posts, it appears that the anglican church is being torn apart just as much as the catholic church is.

    There was also an article on beliefnet indicating that the ACLU is now involved in an attempt to remove prayer from military academy meals.

    It seems the harder the the religious right pushes, the harder they are getting pushed.

  9. Carl, you say, "This is not just about what is going on within the church, but we are seeing increasingly agressive attempts by the leadership to exert its authority into the population in general."

    Yes, I think that's absolutely right. The choice to hold WYD next in Madrid is a deliberate in-your-face tactic to encourage the kind of challenges to secular government that have already been mounted against the Spanish government.

    Everywhere you turn, this is now going on, from the Philippines, where they're trying to keep contraceptives unavailable, to Spain and Italy, where they've staged those big "pro-family" gatherings, to our country, where the religious right not only hopes to turn back Roe v. Wade, but also to outlaw contraception and return women to the kitchen and nursery.

    I, too, would have hoped that the reaction to Humanae vitae could have paved the way for a direct challenge to clericalism. But instead, we seem to have a church that is ever more clericalized, with the attitude in the center that anyone who doesn't like it can just leave.

    I think we're going to be living through some interesting days in the near future. My bones tell me there are some turning points at hand, and much is going to be unsettled--and much will also be unmasked. But along with the unmasking will come some really overt attempts to control and coerce, and to grab the reins of power from secular governments, when this seems feasible.

  10. I keep asking myself what's really going on here? If you look at the sexual morality teachings the end result is more babies. NFP gives one a token feeling that they have some control and freedom from the baby thing, but morally you still have to approach it as a procreative act and stay open to the possibilities. Why is making babies central to the agenda?

    The demonstrations in the Phillipines are most interesting. The form of birth control used by the poor in the Phillipines is abortion. Almost 1/3 of poor women surveyed by reproductive workers admit they have had one or more abortions. The interesting thing is the the rich upper middle class, who are supplying the money for this current Church crusade, can't believe this is happening even when the poor in their own parishes tell them.

    Bill, you and I are on the same wave length when it comes to WYD in Madrid. It will be more or less used as a weapon against the Zapatero government.

    Ostensibly the Church's agenda is to keep Christ in European culture, but why join hands with godless capitalism? Because that's where your money is coming from?

    Why is the Catholic mass of humanity being educated to stay within family confines, drilled to obedience, and not just expected, but demanded to be open to reproduction? None of these have anthing to do with the tenets of core Christianity. Jesus actually said give up your families and follow me.

    Why the sudden need to see Satan operating everywhere and in everything? Because the Satan card is a really good one to pull when you're losing control. The ultimate last ditch atavistic fear card?

    What does Benedict really think he is working towards in all of his geopolitical maneuvering? The Kingdom of God on Earth, or is he still playing the weird geopolitical games JPII did. The one in which JP saw the Roman Catholic Church as the third player with a legitimate world view for the good of humanity--and the worldwide infrastructure to pull it off. The first power being the Capitalist West and the Second being Marxist/Lenninism. JPII was certainly effective in bringing down Marxist/Lenninism, but also seems to have unleashed even more world domination by capitalist interests at the heads of Western Governments.

    The problem with JP's analysis is he didn't know what to do about China and must have thought the Islamic world was in the pockets of his allied Western Political Operatives. Big mistake that. Western Capitalism has always reinvigorated it's capitalist financial monopoly through the war machine, and there must always be an enemy over which to justify the military largesse for the masses whose tax pockets are being picked. Iraq is almost too blatant to believe.

    What is Benedict's real agenda? One can never forget that in both Benedict and JPII there is this weird pious streak along side their intellects. For JPII it was his fascination with Fatima, and now Benedict is off to Lourdes. Perhaps in those visions from illiterate peasants we might find the clues to the Vatican agenda.

  11. I found this video link on the Conversations with God page on Beliefnet. It is really amazing,

  12. Carl, thanks for the link. That was beautiful... I bawled my eyes out - perhaps I'm wishing for a reunion someday with my pet who was almost as big as this lion.

  13. Bill - "But along with the unmasking will come some really overt attempts to control and coerce, and to grab the reins of power from secular governments, when this seems feasible."

    That is an awful thought to think that the American Revolution, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, the Constitution, could be dumped for some form of government in cahoots with the Church. But, this is in essence what has been done during the Bush years in office. It reminds me that Hitler who was Catholic was not excommunicated, but the communist were excommunicated and GW Bush and the war-mongerers and their ilk seem to be the preferred leaders for the trads and the Def while Obama and the Democrats are labeled as the source to all our problems of lower morals. Interesting how they are using each other and undermining each other at the same time.

    I am thinking that the reason for the Church to be against contraception is to increase the Catholic population. That might be the only way they'll get new "recruits" or baptized and indoctrinated to hate freedom of conscience.

  14. Butterfly, what did you think about the lioness? Wasnt that amazing that she did not attack.

    Colleen, in some traditions, the west signifies the harvest, a time to gather the fruits of our labor in preparation for the winter rest, which goes along with what you said.

    Deer signify gentleness. Interesting that there were two males in the herd, as males typically are solitary and stay seperate from the herd and from other males. Interesting too, the diversity in the group you saw. The north to south direction is also interesting, as north is the rest and south is growth, where the spring rebirth bears fruit. It also represents a metaphysical journey away from darkness into the light.

    As you said, a lot to ponder, and my sense is both of these are events are prophetic, for us individually and for the church as a whole.

    William, John what is your take on this?

  15. Carl,

    I am an avid outdoors person -- wilderness camping, hiking, canoeing, etc. And I have a general Franciscan sense of nature, always feeling closer to God and my true Self in the wilderness. But I don't have any developed skill in interpreting signs of nature, so I'm more ears than feedback on these matters.

    The film was touching. Lions are highly social animals, so I'm not completely surprised he bonded with the boys, or that he conveyed to the lioness that these were friends.

    However, no state today (and probably no European country) allows private holding of wild animals (licenses for zoos and wildlife rehabilitators excepted). It's not fair for the animals, and it's not safe for the public. Many or most wild animals will revert to their instinctual behavior when they mature, notwithstanding good human intentions.

    This lion was fortunate he was able to survive on his own in the wild. Many reintroduced animals can not survive, especially if they were removed from their mothers at a young age. Most hunting skills are learned. And these boys were very lucky the lion remembered them. Many humans would have been attacked under the same circumstances.

  16. John, it was still a cool video. We used to live next door to a raptor rehabilitator and when my daughter was about eight she got to feed a mature Bald Eagle. She was awed and a little terrified. The Eagle opened up to it's full wing span when she brought by a bucket of live mice. The wing span was quite a bit longer than she was tall. It's a memory she will never forget.

    Carl, the dialogue in the NCR may be more significant than we think. The Cafe has spawned more and more progressive chat rooms. Something one didn't see three or four years ago, and it's sort of a central starting point for conversations on websites all over the world. It always amazes me how many people outside the US are reading this blog. The Internet is a fascinating tool. Truly a universal tool.

  17. Carl, my thoughts about the lioness were first of her acceptance of her mate's friends and second, both lions must have just eaten a very big meal.

    I am wondering if they left a heap of food around for the lion to eat before the lion picked up on his friends scent.

  18. John, all of those things that you say have been the way in the past, which is why this situation is so amazing. The fact that it happened differently, I take as a sign that the transformations we are each working for are unfolding.

  19. I've had sporadic computer problems for days now--strange ones that seem to originate with my service provider. So only now able to log on and catch up.

    Butterfly, I agree that it would be bizarre if the church could have such decisive influence in our ostensibly secular-pluralistic society.

    But I do think that the influence of the church as an institutional power reaches deep into our economic and governmental structures. Somehow, the Catholic church is seen as a bastion of the "values" that neocons believe are being whittled away at in contemporary society.

    As a result, it's hard to get balanced media coverage, even to get the media to touch stories they know about, which reflect negatively on the church. The primary reason the 2002 abuse story broke open was 1) the paper in Boston dared to defy the church to report on the story, and 2) the discovery process in the litigation phase showed so many links around the nation that it was impossible to ignore the story.

    Which, in a way, points to the power the church has had everywhere in the nation to keep these stories hidden for a long time!

    Colleen, the Satan remark touches home in a powerful way. As you know, Steve's father is now dying. As this happens, one of his siblings is concerned to keep Satan out of the family's house, and wanted a crucifix taped onto his headboard yesterday for that purpose.

    At one level, it makes sense that people rely on tried and true symbols and rituals at such a difficult time. But to conclude that Satan has power in a house where people have prayed for generations, and that death is somehow an opportunity for Satan to come through the door: this is theological troubling, and is causing Steve a lot of pain.

    I think the past two papacies have done a superb job of reintroducing the Satan scare to the church. And I think we may see people reverting to many of those rituals of demonization and expulsion that have been so troubling before at change points in Christian history.

    Carl, I think your question to me may be about the video? I found it deeply moving. I think there are interconnections in nature that we just can't see, with our eyes that have been blinded by rationalism. And I think animals are more intelligent and often more altruistic than the dominion theologies have let us realize.