Monday, October 20, 2008

Some Negative Brain Storming

I had meant to write on my concept of Homo Transcendent and then remembered I had this conference to go to. The conference was on a different form of therapy which is based on observing a graded anxiety scale clients will exhibit as they proceed through a therapeutic session, how to deal with the anxiety, and what that anxiety is telling both the client and the therapist.

I thought the first day was both interesting and informative, and then was blown out of the water on the second day. I'm still processing the information contained in the second day, because it's critical to my understanding of why people have so much difficulty with manifesting Stage IV spirituality. But the information also addressed some other stumbling blocks I myself have encountered and shed light on some cryptic comments Jesus seems to have thrown out in His teachings. Comments such as "Unless you become as little children, you shall not enter the kingdom."

I used to think that particular comment referred to returning to a state of innocence, non judgment, and open curiosity. I now think it may refer to something else as well, and that's the part I don't have quite straight in my head--at least not enough to articulate it coherently.

It doesn't help that I've been getting way too much information from the Angelic realm about why I had to go to this conference. The conference wasn't a big deal to me because I wasn't expecting any really personally relevant information. Boy was I wrong.

I think I can put something coherent together for tomorrow. In the meantime, I came across the following article by Frank Purcell on the Catholica website. His 'negative brainstorming' points out some serious problems in the way Institutional Catholicism is operated, but also underscores the fear based refusal to change inherent in the Stage II spirituality of institutional religions. I really think Jesus had something more in mind when He taught about the Kingdom of His father and bringing it on Earth as it is in heaven. I don't think He meant to equate His Father's kingdom with the Vatican. I think He was referring to something else entirely. Something the current Hierarchy can't really conceive of much less help bring into existence. Anyway here's an insightful article.

Some "negative brainstorming"…

The Catholic Church in Québec is collapsing. "Today less than 5 percent of Catholics go to Mass on Sundays. There are few religious marriages, most funerals are civil, and baptisms are increasingly rare".

This has all happened since the 1960's according to a report on 8th October in Chiesa Online
French-Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet sees secularism as the underlying cause of all this. Secularism certainly poses challenges, but I am not convinced that the explanation is that simple. In Australia which is facing a similar collapse, the Census reports that spiritual belief and spirituality are far from dead? Perhaps the Church itself and its leadership have to accept some of the blame?
(This truly points to the existence of Stage III spirituality and the inability of Stage II institutions to meet the needs of these folks. Cardinal Oullet can call it secularism or what ever else meets his fancy, but the fact is Stage III doesn't represent a disbelief in God so much as it represents a rejection of an inadequate Catholic presentation about God.)

To explore that, let's do a bit of negative brainstorming. Let's ask ourselves "What should the church in Australia do to ensure that it ceases to exist within the next 30 years?" Here are the fruits of my attempt…

Ensure only male celibates ordained

First of all, the Bishops must continue to insist that only male celibates be ordained for the priesthood. Even with some overseas recruitment, the Eucharist will disappear from Catholicism in rural areas even before the 30 years are up. Already one rural diocese has 16 parishes without priests. Fr Peter Jennings recent article on the situation in outback NSW is testimony to the 'success' the bishops are having with their current policy. They are well on course to be able to sell off lots of church properties in the next 30 years. Meantime, as the paedophilia scandal continues to grab headlines, let the Bishops continue to postpone any serious review of the possible relationship between compulsory celibacy and the incidence of paedophilia among our celibate clergy. That continuing scandal really helps to slow vocations to the priesthood and maintains the momentum of the collapse. (The abuse scandal and the Institutional Church's response to it, is the biggest symptom of the fear this Institution is experiencing in the face of Stage III spirituality. This fear is on the existential level. I'd have existential fear too, if I really looked at the demise of the Church in the West.)

Refuse to allow any debate about the possibility of ordination of women…

Secondly, the Bishops must continue to refuse to allow any serious debate on the theological barriers to the ordination of women. Women are the main, and largely, un-paid pastoral work-force in the Australian Church. Many of them, especially younger women have already gone. They know that there is no place for them in the serious decision making of the Church. As long as the bishops continue to keep them out of the key decision-making bodies in the Church, our all-male cultural leadership will continue to alienate and marginalise them. Women play a key role in setting the spiritual climate within the home, so keep on alienating them and the next generation of Catholics in Australia will be gone within another 30 years. (Well stated.)

Continue to focus on sexuality as the key doctrine of Christianity…

Thirdly, the Bishops must continue to focus on sexuality as if it were the key doctrine of Christianity. Continue to ignore Christ's compassion for the prostitutes, adulterers and tax-collectors of his day. Refuse to listen to gay and lesbian Catholics and their experience. Continue to call any woman who has an abortion a murderer. This is especially effective with Catholics who have actually found themselves in a situation where they have had to choose and know the complexity and difficulty involved. Even when they opt for life, they know how hard it is to condemn a woman who has made another decision. The last thing the bishops should do is show a bit of compassion and uncertainty and join in a search with other Christians and people of good will for ways of handling this difficult issue. (Nothing drives me crazier than this penchant to make official teaching all about sexuality. What ever happened to spirituality? I forgot, that went with all those people who left the pews to search for God on their own.)

Ignore the fact that Australian culture is democratic…

Finally, the bishops should continue to ignore the fact that Australian culture is democratic. Our system of Church governance is authoritarian and patronising. When Australians think of democracy they are not rejecting hierarchical authority. Representative democracy is a form of hierarchical authority. But the heart of democracy for Australians is that anyone with authority is accountable to the community. The Bishops must keep on refusing to be accountable to maintain the continuing erosion of the Church's credibility at all levels. The repeated insistence that the Church is not a democracy essentially means that the Bishops will not be accountable. This is likely to be the most effective way of ensuring the collapse of Catholicism in Australia and other developed countries where experience has taught that good governance depends on good accountability at all levels. (We here in the States are certainly reaping the rewards for dropping our vigilance when it comes to accountability in government, the financial sector, and the church.)

Negative brain-storming is a useful exercise to highlight challenges facing the Church. It can have a few lessons for the Bishops. Unless our bishops tackle the issues of Eucharistic ministry, review any possible links between compulsory celibacy and paedophilia, open up discussion on the place of women in the Church, accept accountability for finances and provide avenues for fair and open appeals on administrative decisions, the collapse will continue. It won't be the end of the world, but think of the many people who will no longer hear the Good News of the Kingdom. After all, that's what we are supposed to be on about.

Perhaps the central question then is what qualities do we need in the Bishops called to lead the renewal of the Australian Church? Most organisations advertise for senior managers. There is always a job description available and a list of the qualities needed for a possible recruit. If bishops were recruited in the same way we might see an encouraging start to our recovery.


The concept of writing a job description and recruiting our pastoral leaders just like a business is kind of an interesting concept. The only problem is the same dynamics inherent in the Hierarchy are also in play in corporations and government. Way too many brown noses clutter the facial landscape.

In the main I like Frank's assessment. The current policies taken to their logical conclusion will result in a very small remnant trying to maintain a very large bureaucracy. The Church may be expanding in the South, but it's financed in the North. This isn't a very difficult puzzle to put together, my quandary is why won't the Church deal with this mass exodus in the North, and the answer seems to be it's inability to deal with a Stage III spiritual culture. I guess it's better to let the pews empty than be forced into admitting their are some logical and unjust inconsistencies in the dogma and doctrine of the Church.

I firmly believe that peace, love, joy and hope will triumph, that the Spirit is still moving profoundly and that Jesus lives. I also know that all of this action may not happen in the Institutional Church and the future of the Good News probably exists in the laity and not the Vatican. We may be truly looking at the second fall of Rome. Such is life in the 21st century.


  1. Right Colleen - "whatever happened to spirituality." Instead what we have is all this talk about the sins of the flesh. It's like a flesh eating disease gobbling up spirituality.

    I've often wondered what that meant too "Unless you become as little children, you shall not enter the kingdom." Maybe it means to listen to our parents - our spiritual parents - Jesus' Father - Our Father. Could it also mean to be "born again of the spirit?" It could mean being totally dependent on God for all our needs, knowing we'll be taken care of.

    And you are right about Stage III spirituality "doesn't represent a disbelief in God so much as it represents a rejection of an inadequate Catholic presentation about God." But it also means an inadequate presentation by all of the world's religions too.

    Interesting that Frank Purcell in the negative brainstorming essentially says that in 30 years the Church will no longer exist if it continues on the current path. Interesting too is that the Christian fundamentalist say that Benedict is the 2nd to the last Pope. Only one more to go and that's it they say.

    There does seem to be a lot of negative brainstorming going on these days.

    I'm going to think something positive and it will be someone else's negative. It's a bi-polar world we're living in, both/and, up/down, inside/out, black/white, right/wrong, strong/weak, winners/losers. The Kingdom of Heaven is not in a bipolar world though.

    Colleen, am looking forward to your insight and positive spiritual-storming.

  2. Colleen, your last two posts are synchronistic. The stages no doubt are part of the whole issue for the laity, I believe that there is another unrelated force that is driving the bishopric and the Vatican.

    We have a bishopric that has become totally non-pastoral, and is now totally political. As I look at the actions of the bishopric from a political perspective, their actions become uncannily predictable. Predictable, because they are almost indistinguishable from the actions of political leadership of our country, and for that matter every other country as well.

    I'm beginning to think that trying to apply the stages to the bishopric and the Vatican is giving them far too much credit.

    If on the other hand we view them as politicians only, devoid of anything other than religion in name only, then their actions make perfect sense.

  3. Carl, I have to agree with you about the hierarchy being political, totally. Talk about synchronistic, I just posted re: Pope Pius XII on NCR today saying that same thing - that Benedict was being political about pushing for Pius's Sainthood.