Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Marcial Maciel, Michael Jackson And Dark Fantasies

The death of Michael Jackson and all the attendant press coverage has intrigued me because some of his story parallels the life of Fr. Maciel of the Legion of Christ. It's pretty mind blowing to see the effects charismatic pedophiles have on people around them, and how some of those people can be so completely blinded by the light of that charisma. Both Jackson and Maciel had their share of very high profile defenders and enablers who couldn't seem to see through the charisma no matter how credible, consistent, and long term the accusations of pedophilic behavior were detailed.

Another common denominator for both men was the amount of money they had access to, and the numbers of other wealthy supporters they could consistently rely on. Great wealth allows access to all kinds of strategies which support private obsessions. It buys both silence or intimidation depending on which strategy will work. Michael Jackson's use of both financial strategies is fairly common knowledge. Maciel's is not.

This is a major reason why the Vatican must insist on transparency in Legion finances. My educated guess is there is most likely substantial sums of money spent by the Legion to keep Maciel's truth from exposure. The rank and file have a right to know the truth of this because it was their efforts which fueled the wealth Maciel could draw on. It is inconceivable to me that Maciel did not employ the same kinds of strategies that Michael Jackson and his people employed. Each man had way too much to lose and neither one was capable of controlling his impulses. When one can't control the impulses one has to control the environment in which the consequences get played out. Money is very useful for that.

Both men were also drug addicts, although it seems Maciel was better at controlling his addictions than Michael Jackson was at controlling his. Either that or we just don't have the information on Maciel that has come out about Michael Jackson. It may also be that Maciel ran in a circle in which drug use and addiction was not nearly as prevalent nor as accepted. Maciel had a greater need to conform on this issue, as he ran in the circles of ecclesiastical and old world wealth. No such pressure existed for Michael Jackson.

In many respects both men created a fantasy world around themselves which served to both enable procurement of boys, but also underscored their rationalizations for why they did what they did. I was asked last night if I though Michael Jackson was a pedophile and I replied, "Absolutely, but not in his mind. In his mind he was just a twelve year old having sleep overs with other twelve year olds and they played doctor and discovered some stuff about sexuality. It was all just innocent play, and no adults were allowed." Hence he built fortress Neverland. Maciel built the 'Legionares' and seminaries just as strictly under his control as Neverland was under Michael Jackson's.

I strongly suspect that Jackson never forced himself on any young boy, but that doesn't mean he didn't purposefully lead them to agree to where he wanted them to go. Maciel was different. From reports I've read from his accusers, he didn't spend near the time grooming his victims that Jackson did, and his rationalizations were more power based in that he expressly used his position over them to demand obedience. Maciel had Legionaries in training, Michael had 'friends'. I suspect there will be far more ambivalence in Michael Jackson's victims toward Jackson, than the outright hostility shown by some of Maciel's victims towards him. Neither set of victims will have an easy time processing what happened to them. Abuse, even if it's sugar coated, is still abuse.

One account I read this weekend described Michael Jackson as a 'dancing personality disorder'. That's pretty apt. Michael sure had his share of identifiable personality disorders. Maciel could just as easily be described as a 'praying personality disorder' because he shared some of those same readily identifiable personality disorders. Both of these men needed serious help, not the boat loads of enablers who profited from being in the flame of their charisma. The inner circle of Legionare priests may not think of themselves in the same terms as Michael Jackson's inner circle, but there isn't much difference. Neither inner circle seems to have seriously tried to bring either man to any kind of accountability. Maybe they suspected neither man would listen and knew they were easily replaced. That's all too true, but it still begs the question as to why no one ever seriously tried to expose these guys. When does protecting fans or faithful from scandal become active compliance in an on going evil? Lots of people seem to have been unable to come to grips with that question.

Marcial Maciel had the support and encouragement of an entire Church institution in which to live out his fantasy. He died in old age, still surrounded by his supporters, having had decades to wreak his particular combination of personality disorders on unsuspecting faithful. The lasting legacy of his particular fantasy is the Legionnaires, Regnum Christi and his particular brand of orthodoxy.

Michael Jackson found no such similar situation. He certainly tried, but the entertainment industry is far more fickle than the Roman Catholic priesthood. In the end he died relatively young and mostly isolated and alone. His lasting legacy is his music and his escalating weirdness as his unchecked combination of personality disorders left their mark. Both men have left their legacies in total disarray. The Legionnaires are under a Vatican investigation with the potential dissolution of the order not out of the question. It will take years to sort out the legal mess left by Michael Jackson, right down to the biological parentage of his three children. Which I guess proves as in life, so in death.

I don't know who the real Marcial Maciel was because I haven't been able to find much about his early life. I do know who the real Michael Jackson was and where so much of his fractured personality stopped maturing. We have a pretty good clue on video. It was when he was about twelve and had the hit song 'Ben' from the movie of the same name. It's a plaintive song which he sang in all innocence about a deep lasting friendship with a rat. It propelled him to fame and freed him from his parents and brothers. Unfortunately freedom from our personal demons is not always what it's cracked up to be. If we're too young to work through the demons, we just find others and those tend to be much stronger and even more controlling.

If there's a lesson in these two stories it's that personality disorders can be very powerful in their consequences. They are not infrequently accompanied by great talent and charisma and those two things function as the best defense mechanisms in the world. Michael Jackson and Marcial Maciel may have come from two entirely different cultures but their personality disorders played out eerily similarly. It's always a mistake to conflate talent and charisma to the point where it blinds one to the total package and that maybe the biggest lesson in these two stories.

Monday, June 29, 2009

New Encyclical Introduced With Same Old Issues--Relativism, Abortion, And Gay Marriage

In preview of new encyclical, Benedict reprises 'dictatorship of relativism' speech
by John L Allen Jr on Jun. 29, 2009 NCR

By the time Pope Benedict XVI’s new social encyclical appears in early July, it may well seem largely anti-climactic. Extracts have already appeared in the Italian press, and yesterday the pontiff actually scooped himself by devoting his remarks for the close of his “Pauline Year” to the theme of Caritas in Veritate, “Charity in Truth,” also the title of his long-awaited meditation on the economy.

In effect, what Benedict laid out last night likely amounts to the theological and spiritual substructure of the encyclical, minus the specific economic prescriptions.
The core of what Benedict said, during an ecumenical vespers service at the grand basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, is that building a better world requires forming better people. Structural reform thus presupposes personal moral and spiritual renewal, including a life devoted to prayer and the sacraments. (I agree with this 100%, I also suspect Benedict and I would disagree somewhat as to how this might be accomplished.)

In a passage evocative of then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s famous “dictatorship of relativism” homily four years ago, Benedict urged Christians to be “non-conformists,” refusing to accept the values of secular modernity. In particular, Benedict XVI rejected a “do-it-yourself” version of Catholic teaching, insisting upon opposition to abortion and gay marriage as part of what it means to have an “adult faith.” (This is all about Church teaching authority, not secularism.)

Standing just a few feet away from what Christian tradition regards as the tomb of St. Paul, the pope also revealed that carbon-14 testing has confirmed that the fragments of bone contained within the sarcophagus belong to a man of the first or second century – thereby confirming, Benedict said, “the unanimous and uncontested tradition” that the sarcophagus contains “the mortal remains of the apostle Paul.” (It confirms nothing of the sort.)

The vespers service yesterday evening closed a “Pauline Year” opened last June 28 by Benedict XVI to commemorate the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of St. Paul, the “apostle to the gentiles.”

The idea that a better world must be built on better people is likely to be a core theme in Caritas in Veritate, and the pope dealt with it at length yesterday.

“Paul tells us [that] the world cannot be renewed without new human beings,” Benedict said. “Only if there are new human beings will there be a new world, a renewed and better world.”

From that premise, Benedict said that personal spiritual renewal requires “non-conformism,” an unwillingness to “submit oneself to the scheme of the current epoch.” Doing so, the pope said, requires a new way of thinking at odds with the values of the world, shaped by encounter with the “new man” of Jesus Christ.

“The way of thinking of the old man, the common way of thinking, is generally directed toward possessions, well-being, influence, success, fame, and so on,” Benedict said. “Thus in the last analysis, the ‘I’ remains the precise center of the world. We have to learn to think in a more profound manner,” the pope said, based on the desires of God rather than the self.
Benedict recalled Paul’s insistence upon an “adult faith,” mocking the use of that phrase to justify dissent from official Catholic doctrine. (Perhaps the Vatican could show us the way by divesting of their private bank and letting go of the pomp and circumstance favored by this Pope.)

“The phrase ‘an adult faith’ in recent decades has become a diffuse slogan,” the pope said. “It’s often used to mean someone who no longer listens to the church and its pastors, but who chooses autonomously what to believe and not to believe – a ‘do-it-yourself’ faith. This is then presented as the ‘courage’ to express oneself against the magisterium of the church.” (Or it may be that people are transcending the need to have every jot and tittle of their lives controlled by the Church. Maybe they are transcending the letter of the teachings in favor of the spirit.)

“In reality, however, courage isn’t needed for that, because one can always be sure of public applause,” the pope said. “What takes courage is adhering to the faith of the church, even if it contradicts the ‘scheme’ of the contemporary world.”

Benedict specifically highlighted opposition to abortion and gay marriage as part of that package.
“Part of an adult faith, for example, is a commitment to the inviolability of human life from its first moment, radically opposing the principle of violence, precisely in the defense of the most defenseless of human creatures,” the pope said.

“Part of an adult faith is also recognizing marriage between a man and a woman for life as part of the design of the Creator, newly reestablished by Christ,” he said.

Those comments came as part of a meditation on chapter four of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, the same New Testament passage underlying then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s homily just before the conclave that elected him to the papacy four years ago in which he identified a “dictatorship of relativism” as the central challenge to the faith today. (The central challenge to the faith today is institutional irrelevancy.)

Yet Benedict insisted that what it means to be a “new person” in Christ is not primarily about what someone opposes, but what he or she supports. In that regard, the pope said, the test of one’s commitment to truth, or veritas, is one's love, caritas.

“Love is the test of truth,” the pope said. “Ever more we must be measured by this criterion, that truth becomes love and that love makes us truthful.” (He's got this one right.)

Benedict argued that because Christ’s love extends to the entire universe, Christian concern for the world must likewise have a cosmic dimension. Though the pontiff did not develop the point last night, on previous occasions that insight have provided the basis for a strong environmental message. (This is absolutely true. There is no question about this, just a lack of understanding.)

“The crucified Christ embraces the entire universe in all of its dimensions,” Benedict said.
Benedict closed by urging a life of prayer and participation in the sacraments as a remedy to what he called the “interior emptiness” of modern life, reflected among other things, the pope said, in drug use.


This is another one of those talks by Benedict which gives me heartburn. He says somethings which are so on target and then torpedoes them with abortion, relativism, gay marriage, and Catholic identity issues. He speaks about an adult faith and then defines that faith on sexual issues. Where are my tums?

The world does not need a crusade against gay marriage, it need heterosexuals to take marriage and their children more responsibly. An adult faith recognizes the importance of love and responsibility in all relationships without the need to condemn any. An adult faith recognizes the sanctity of all life and has the courage to be a total pacifist in all situations, denying the concept of self defense and just war theory. This is after all exactly what Jesus taught and Jesus lived.

The New Man that Benedict speaks of is slowly coming forth. It can be seen in the youth of the world who understand globalization and are beginning to transcend nationalism, seeking the common good for all. This also means transcending the need to witness to religious absolutism.

They understand in a much deeper way than older generations that all people and all interactions are by nature inner connected. They understand this inner connectedness is mirrored in our economic systems and technology. Some of them also know this inner connectedness operates on the quantum level and that spirituality can open the doors to experiencing this truth consciously with the potential to transcend the technology.

They can imagine a world in which what Jesus did becomes available to those who live His way. Rather than an isolated exception, His demonstrated ability becomes a normal part of reality. They can see Him not just as a religious figure, or God's Son, but the prototypical New Man who points the way to discovering new human potentials.

Benedict has this much right, the price to access these potentials is rejecting the world centered ego which is focused on personal gratification beyond survival needs. This is the core foundation of any legitimate spiritual endeavor which is capable of manifesting from the quantum level. Take no more than you need, do no harm, recognize the rights of others, and learn to love open to similarities while not condemning differences.

None of this is easy, and most of it is counter intuitive. It is however, the definition of an adult faith. One can choose to express that adult faith through the Catholic Church and find great sustenance for that adult faith. The maturation into that adult faith is not found strictly in religious observance, it is hammered out in living life and making choices. That's why we have free will. It's in the choices we make and the consequences they bring that determine how we relate to God and each other. Living life is an ever changing verb acted out in relationship, not a static noun. When it's done well, living is synonymous with growth.

Pope Benedict seems to be trying to put old wine into new wine skins. This has been a failing strategy for the Church for quite a long while. Pope John XXIII saw this clearly, but what he didn't see, or didn't understand, is that some of his clergy were too vested in the old wine and the old wine skins. Catholicism is not alone. Too many religious traditions are hanging on to old wine in changing world circumstances and a changing world consciousness.
I take hope from the story of the marriage feast at Cana. When the host let the wine run out a woman stepped up and her son, the New Man, transformed ordinary water into incredible wine. I really believe for humanity, the old wine is running out and the best wine is yet to come.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Return Of The King

What Christopher Ferrara says Traditionalists need is the return of a real King.
Traditionalist and Catholic writer Joseph Ferrara has posted an article on the ordinations of SSPX priests on the Remnant website.
It's an interesting piece in that he makes the case that it is not Pope Benedict that is frustrating progress with the SSPX, it's the Vatican bureaucracy. He is waiting for the return of the Pope as King. The following extract which is from the end of this extensive article expresses this point. This seems to be his way of maintaining union with the Papacy by differentiating the person and office of the Pope from the Vatican.

“The Vatican” and the Uncrowned King

In The Great Façade I presented the truth that traditionalists have always known: for more than forty years this thing called “the Vatican” has maintained the false impression that the entire practice of the Faith must be “adjusted” to suit a “new orientation” supposedly dictated by the Council, when in fact the Council did not oblige Catholics to believe or to practice a single thing they did not believe or practice before the Council. When Pope Benedict declared in his letter to the world’s bishops in conjunction with Summorum Pontificum that use of the 1962 Missal “was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted,” he revealed the Great Façade for what it is. And yet, despite the Pope’s stunning admission of this immense fraud upon the faithful, and despite his courageous acts in favor Tradition, it seems “the Vatican” remains firmly in place as de facto ruler of the Church, with the Pope subsisting more or less as the prisoner of an ever more complex bureaucratic machine and its disastrous deviations. (It's amazing how people can view the same things so differently. I don't exactly see things the same way.)

In candor, however, it must be said that if Pope Benedict is a prisoner of “the Vatican” it is because he has declined to exercise to the fullest the power of the Keys that Christ entrusted to Peter and his successors. Perhaps Benedict has been deterred by the great outcry against the “unilateral” decisions he has already made in favor of Tradition, which even the world knows are but a glimmering of what a Pope can accomplish if he is determined to reform the Church. We cannot forget that he himself asked us to “pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves.” (I must be reading a different version of Acts because I don't see Peter exercising near the authority of James. Peter seems to be stuck in the middle between the Pauline and Jerusalem Churches. Hmmm, maybe Benedict is exercising his entrusted authority.)

By the power of the Keys, Benedict could open the door of the labyrinthine bureaucratic dungeon to which the Popes’ own subjects have effectively confined them since the Council, slam the door behind him, regain control of the Apostolic Palace, and put his subjects back in their proper places—where they were before Vatican II, when Popes were feared as well as loved and the Secretary of State had not yet been elevated (by the curial “reform” of Cardinal Villot) to the status of a virtual vice-pope. (Except that Pope Benedict has a Secretary of State whose main qualification seems to be his long friendship and collaboration with Benedict in the CDF, not the Secretariat of State.)

Pope Benedict will remain prisoner of the ascendant Vatican bureaucracy to the extent he declines to assert that supreme monarchical authority signified by the triple tiara surmounting the Keys in every papal coat of arms before his own—yes, including those of John Paul II and Paul VI. As “the Vatican” explains on its website, while even those two tragic Popes “left the ‘tiara’ and the crossed keys as the emblem of the Apostolic See,” Pope Benedict “decided not to include the tiara in his official personal coat of arms. He replaced it with a simple mitre…” The Pope has symbolically renounced the papal crown.

Yet it will take nothing less than an exercise of the crown rights of a king to undo all the harm the ministers of “the Vatican” and legions of modernists abroad have inflicted on the commonwealth of the Church over four decades of insurrection. But, to recall Archbishop Lefebvre’s famous words concerning the doctrine on the Social Kingship of Christ in the post-conciliar epoch, “they have uncrowned Him.”

And so have they uncrowned His vicar, reducing him to the dean of a “college of bishops” that governs the Church collectively—especially within “the Vatican”—according to the conciliar pseudo-doctrine of “collegiality.” Surrounded by collegial advisors and confronted by collegial bishops’ conferences that openly reject the very idea of a monarchical papacy, the Pope has consented to his own uncrowning. This is precisely as demanded by the spirit of an age that hates kings as much as it hates the Church whose earthly head nonetheless remains a king by the will of its kingly Founder, even if a Pope should willingly lay down the crown he has been given to wear. For as Dietrich von Hildebrand observed at the very beginning of the post-conciliar crisis, “the spirit of our epoch is slowly seeping into the Church herself, and many have failed to see the apocalyptic decline of our time.” (Jesus rejected the idea of temporal power quite explicitly, so it's hard to imagine the idea of a monarchical papacy is what He had in mind for Peter---or his successors.)

Pope Benedict XVI gave glory to God and made history with his liberation of the traditional Mass from its criminal captivity by “the Vatican.” In ordering remission of the excommunications of the Society’s bishops, His Holiness rectified a grave injustice likewise perpetrated by “the Vatican” (whose Congregation for Bishops, not the late Pope, imposed the penalty ferendae sententiae). With these brave deeds, for which the world despises him, Pope Benedict has at least begun the inevitable restoration of the Church that will culminate with the consecration of Russia and the triumph of the Immaculate Heart. Nevertheless, only a king can restore a ruined kingdom. Like the denizens of the troubled realm of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, the members of the Catholic Church still await the return of the king.


It looks to me that this is going to be the new strategy of the SSPX. They've never been at odds with the Pope, only with the 'criminal captivity' of the Pope by the apostate legions of the Vatican bureaucracy. It's not that this is a novel strategy in that progressives are pretty sure Vatican II was hijacked by conservative elements with in the Vatican such as Cardinal Ottaviani. It's probably indicative of just how little control the Pope actually has over the Vatican in that both sides are employing the same strategy. Or maybe it's just a matter of perception and all Popes deflect criticism of their actual power by letting everyone think they are 'prisoners' of their own bureaucracy.

Earlier in the article Christopher Ferrara makes a much more cogent case for the SSPX. At least it's more cogent than his final argument in that he compares the status of the SSPX with the official Chinese Catholic Church. Ferrara maintains that Pope Benedict's constant capitulation to the demands of the Patriotic Catholic Association with it's illicitly ordained bishops is in direct contrast to the way the Church has historically treated the SSPX and their illicitly ordained bishops. He has a point. I too have thought it interesting that the Vatican is seemingly bending over backwards to the PCA at the expense of the underground Chinese church. To this date these efforts have not resulted in any meaningful forward progress between the PCA recognizing the primacy of Rome over the state of China. In the meantime the persecutions of the underground Church with their validly ordained bishops continue.

In the article Ferrara cites the recently retired Cardinal Archbishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Zen, who fears continued compromise will only result in a situation in which Catholics of China will be in a position where their bishops are using Rome to justify Communist dictates, while the underground Church continues in persecution. He's probably correct.

Ferrara has a good point here, but the problem is endemic to his whole argument about a monarchical Pope. Once the Papacy started down the political road, it was doomed to play politics. In the interests of political recognition from China it's much easier to turn your back on the minority underground Church than take on the approved if canonically illicit official church. Doing so could actually result in even more persecution of the underground Church. Canonically Mr. Ferrara has a point, but in the real world, no one is actively physically persecuting members of SSPX. Most of the persecution SSPX receives is of their own making.

In the meantime SSPX has motored on and ordained more priests. These are considered illegitimate ordinations as opposed to illicit or invalid. Apparently Benedict chose to reiterate his letter of March 10th which stated that SSPX has no canonical standing and there for do not exercise legitimate ministries. The Vatican also stated that there would be no interdiction in the ordinations in the interests of rapprochement. What ever any of this means, it's beyond me. I only know if it were women or married men being ordained, there would be no such murky double speak. In that respect SSPX is getting some of the China treatment.

Reading Mr. Ferrara's entire missive really does give one a sense of just how far apart Traditionalists and progressives really are. This isn't just a difference of opinion, it really is about living on two different planets with two completely different world views. What's a Vatican and a Pope to do?

The problem for Mr. Ferrara is when Aragorn took up his Kingship in Middle Earth, he was also a certified healer, reader of souls, and a charismatic leader who treated all his subjects equally. This doesn't describe a Pope, it describes Someone else entirely. I think Mr. Ferrara has to wait before his concept of the King returns.

Friday, June 26, 2009

28th Anniversery Of Medjugorge

The reported apparitions at Medjugorge continue to this day, twenty eight years after the first apparition. To detractors, this consistent continuous experience is reason enough to dismiss Medjugorge because other Marian visionaries did not have the same kind of long term relationship. To other people this same relationship is only indicative of Mary's sense of our need for her continuing personal involvement in today's world. Her message almost always focuses on the power of love and opening ones self up to the love of God in order that His love will flow through one towards others. Here is the message from yesterday:

Message of the Queen of Peace, June 25th, 2009.

“Dear children! Rejoice with me, convert in joy and give thanks to God for the gift of my presence among you. Pray that, in your hearts, God may be in the center of your life and with your life witness, little children, so that every creature may feel God’s love. Be my extended hands for every creature, so that it may draw closer to the God of love. I bless you with my motherly blessing. Thank you for having responded to my call.”

What makes Medjugorge interesting to me, aside from conversion stories from my friends who have made pilgrimages there, is that Mary's messages tend to be very positive, focused on peace, love, and joy. She frequently speaks to the necessity for a conversion of the heart which transforms personal trials into compassion for others. It is in a sense, a more universal message than other apparitions, not solely concerned with underscoring Catholic identity issues. To be sure though, there is an emphasis on the Rosary, Mass, and Reconciliation, but these are presented more as a means to an end, rather than an end in themselves. These can be pointless exercises if one's heart is hardened to the core message of becoming a vessel of love in the lives of others. Medjugorge is about conversion, not necessarily obedience.

The Vatican has neither condemned nor endorsed the apparitions at Medjugorge. Part of that is because of the attitude of the local ordinaries, and part of it because it's still an ongoing phenomenon, but it's also because it's hard to argue with the positive experiences which so many people have expressed. Something is going on in Medjugorge and for the vast majority of people it's a positive something.

Yes, there have been issues, and all is not peace, love, and joy. Yet, this is true for any spiritual site which draws these kinds of numbers--an estimated 40 million in these 28 years. That's a lot of money and money draws all kinds of predators and some of them wear Roman collars. Mary speaks frequently about praying for them too, and extending compassion where it may most be needed. So while Medjugorge may indeed by a site of supernatural phenomenon, it's also most certainly a human phenomenon.

My own take is positive. Over the years the messages from the seers have evolved from a somewhat literal interpretation of what is said and what they have seen to a far more nuanced message. This is to be expected if the visionaries themselves are evolving as spiritual beings. It's been my own path as well, which has gone from a more Catholic centered experience of sacramental spirituality to one which is open to the foundational experience of love found in all valid spiritual systems. I've moved from the need for a group religious cohesiveness to an understanding that my task is to take my Catholic understanding of spirituality and meld it with others. This melding has not lessened my Catholicism, it has enhanced my understanding of the power of human consciousness when it's dedicated to the highest spiritual aspirations.

It doesn't really matter if the seers say Mary asks us to become hands of God's love for fellow humans, or or the Sioux elder Fool's Crow says we must become as hollow bones so the love of the Great Spirit will flow through us unimpeded. The message is the same. God is love, we are made in that image, and we are here to be empty vessels of that love. It is in that state that the Holy Spirit's action is made manifest in this reality because the real power of the Holy Spirit is love. As it was in the beginning, so it is for ever. (no matter how difficult this is to live.)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Lie That Private Health Insurers Can't Compete With A Public Option

The following is an excerpt from an article by Robert Creamer written for Huffington Post. In it Creamer takes on the lie that private health insurance companies can't compete with a public option. This lie is heavily backed by some blue dog democrats, the Republican party, the Chamber of Commerce, and most of the medical industry. Regular ole Americans support this option by a 76% majority (Wall Street Journal Poll) across all political lines.

But left to their own devices, private insurance companies have an ever-present incentive to minimize their own risk of paying out for health care to their policyholders. That's why they try to select only customers who are well and get rid of those who are sick. That's why it's in their interest to spend millions on armies of people whose only job is to deny claims -- a task that has no value in the broader scheme of the health care system, but makes perfect sense from the standpoint of a private insurance company. That's why they don't want to take people with pre-existing conditions -- because they are more likely to get sick. (This refusal to pay legitimate claims is killing hospitals and care givers and bankrupting Americans who can't pay these denied claims. This is placing profit above both care givers and recipients.)

And, private insurers are not in business to provide health care coverage for every American, or to slow the growth of health care costs. They are in business to maximize return for their investors and the pay of their top management. So when left to their own devices, private insurers generate huge profits and pay their CEO's tens of millions of dollars.

The entry of a public insurance option into the health insurance marketplace would change the rules of the game. If consumers had a public option, who in their right mind would sign up with a company that would discontinue your policy if you got cancer or had a heart attack? Who would join a plan where they had to pay for bloated executive salaries -- or had to regularly do battle with an insurance bureaucrat in order to get a claim paid? Why do seniors like Medicare? They don't have to contend with these kinds of problems. They have secure, reliable health insurance.

So to compete, private insurance companies would be forced to change the way they do business. They would have to end all of those practices that American consumers have grown to hate, cut administrative costs -- maybe even cut CEO pay. Of course since the CEO of Cigna makes $26 million -- 65 times the salary of the President of the United States -- he could afford several million dollars in belt-tightening.
They could compete - but they would have to change the way they compete. That's what they are fighting tooth and nail to avoid - and that's also the whole point of health care reform: to change the incentives that determine how the players in the health insurance market do business day to day.


Catholic bishops are supporting health care reform because they are both care providers through the Catholic medical system and their people are care consumers. The current health insurance system is an obstacle on both fronts. A heavily backed public option would deal with both issues. In this sense their interest is an economical interest. It is however, an issue which has much larger social justice implications. It also has serious implications for our own democracy.

I've known all along that it is the health care, energy, and banking reforms that will be the real test of the change Barack Obama promised. In both cases he has huge popular support that crosses political lines, but also in both cases he is facing the largest and best funded lobbying blocks. If Congress caves in to the lobbyists, which it seems they are doing, there will be no change and America will have to deal with the fact we have only an illusion of a democracy. On these core economic issues we are no better than Iran's illusion of democracy. We are not about all people, we are only about the wealth of some people. Maybe that's a truth the rest of the world sees far clearer than those of us in the United States.

Reforming health care is a no longer a political issue. Republicans, Independents, and Democrats all support it. No congressman stands to lose any political capital by supporting a public option. What they will lose is the economic capital of the health industry lobby. What scares me is that the talk coming from Washington is all internal and ignores the external reality of the population. When Dianne Feinstien says she is 'concerned' that the president doesn't have the votes in the Democratic caucus, she might just as well say, "I'm concerned we've been bought".

Of course that would be an admission that corporate money influences elected officials far more than popular vote. Can't be having that.

Hopefully the health care reform debate will let independent bloggers shine. It will give bloggers the chance to go over bills and look for the watering down which will make reform nothing more then the status quo in new clothes. They will be able to organize protests should that become necessary. If Americans can't hold their democratically elected representatives accountable to them over health care, a huge domestic issue, then we don't have a democracy. We have a corporate theocracy based in greed and we can expect no significant reform in banking, energy, or immigration.

That's an issue all the bishops should be able to rally around. It strikes me that their real task is not to put the Catholic version of God back in American culture, but to take on the god of greed which underpins our corporate/political culture. That would be a real and meaningful battle which would impact not just the lives of all Americans, but of the greater global community. They'd have a lot of popular support but just like elected representatives, it would cost them a lot of money. The question is will they fight for health care reform with same urgency they took on Notre Dame? Since they are vested players in American health care the answer to this question will speak volumes.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Launch Of The 'Reformed' New Anglican Church In America.

Former Episcopalians launch Anglican Church in North America
Bedford, Texas, Jun 24, 2009 / 04:21 am (CNA).-

Former Episcopalian leaders from across North America gathered in Bedford, Texas on Monday to launch the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), described as an “alternative” to the U.S. Episcopal Church within the Anglican Communion.

The new denomination claims 100,000 members from several varieties of Anglican spirituality described as evangelical, charismatic or catholic. A union of eight groups, it is seeking recognition as part of the Anglican Communion.

The new denomination's constitution emphasizes biblical authority, church discipline and evangelical missionary outreach.

The Episcopal Church has been afflicted by controversies over theological and moral issues, including the authority of Scripture, the ordination of women and the ordination of an openly homosexual man as bishop.

Former Episcopalian Bishop of Pittsburgh Robert Duncan leads the group, which expected 300 delegates including 50 bishops for its meeting.

Bishop Duncan addressed a crowd of leaders in St. Vincent’s Cathedral, telling them that it is a “new day” in which God the Father is “drawing His children together again in a surprising and sovereign move of the Holy Spirit. He is again Re-forming His Church."

According to the Anglican news site VirtueOnline.org, the bishop warned those gathered that Satan will attempt to “lure us back to old ways and old hurts and old fights.”

On the topic of women’s ordination, Bishop Duncan said that Anglicans should be “in mission together until God sorts us out. It is not perfect, but it is enough.”

Discussing conflicts with the Episcopal Church, he said that many of those gathered have lost “properties, sacred treasures, incomes, pensions, standing and friends.” He called for a return to “muscular Christianity,” saying, “No cross, no crown. No pain, no gain.” (No limp wristed touchy feely kumbaya love everyone Christianity for these Anglicans.)

Jim Naughton, canon for communications for the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, D.C., was critical of the endeavor.

“There's already a crowded marketplace on the right wing of the American religious spectrum. I think the challenge is to move beyond the events that spawned them,” he told USA Today.

Many overseas Anglican churches have sent observers to the assembly. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, head prelate in the Anglican Church, has sent retired Seychelles Bishop Santosh Marray to the gathering as a pastoral visitor.

Ecumenical speakers such as Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in California and Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America will offer keynote addresses later in the week. (Check this link out for an interesting take on Rick Warren's presence at this event.)

Jeff Walton, the Institute on Religion and Democracy’s Director of Anglican Action, said that the ACNA event was “remarkable” because it is uniting multiple churches rather than splitting off from an existing church. (Mr. Walton's remarkable event has been IRD's target for a very long time and not just in the Episcopalian church.)

“After over 30 years of splintering, traditionalist Anglicans are setting aside many of their differences in order to pursue common mission,” he said. “This is clearly not a schismatic quest for purity by a small group of discontents. Rather, it is a theologically diverse group that sees how much is held in common.” (What it has in common is not theological at all. It's the culture war issues of abortion, gay marriage, the supremacy of male leadership in the family and society, and a biblical exegesis which supports all of the above. All of those are important because the issue is not about the secular democracy we know. The ultimate goal is the Christian democracy they want.


I can't help but ask the question: "Where is Jesus in all these Anglican schisms over gay rights, abortion, and women's place in society?" I've seen plenty of old testament references to Leviticus etc. and New Testament references to specific passages of Paul, but very very few actual words of Jesus himself. Maybe that's because Jesus's words weren't all that specific which means we are to take them as applying to all. For folks who don't like that notion of 'all' it makes more sense to find other biblical quotes which are highly specific and apply them selectively.

Cardinal DiNardo recently spoke at another Texas gathering for disaffected Anglicans. These are disaffected Anglicans who participate in their own rubrics under a pastoral provision which allows them their Anglican Use in sacraments and the Mass while being united to Rome. This provision was issued by the Vatican to take in Anglicans and Episcopalians whose consciences wouldn't allow them to be led by women priests. They added more numbers to their ranks when Gene Robinson was made a bishop in New Hampshire. Apparently only closeted hypocritical gays can become bishops for these tender consciences. Truth holds too much scandal I guess.

The Anglican Church has been splintering since 1976 and this current conglomeration of splintered groups now calling itself the Anglican Church in North America is essentially composed of all those splinter groups who have more in theological common with Protestant Evangelicals than with Roman Catholics. Hence the appearance of Rick Warren. I'm sure there are also plenty of Prayer Warriors or Bishop Duncan wouldn't have mentioned Satan leading them back into their old ways. This is unity in fear and not unity in Christ.

Of course, these groups represent the twenty percent or so disaffected conservative Anglicans, the other eighty percent seem content to muddle their way through the challenges of multi culturalism. It's just that the conservatives have the mega phone and the money interests to ensure their view dominates.

As to the Catholic version of Anglicanism, it's married priesthood is sending a very mixed message to other Catholic priests. It's pretty obvious these converts haven't had a conversion to Catholicism for any other reason than it's stances on women priests and openly gay clergy. This is not about an invitation to unity because it divides the priesthood. How does it make sense to kick our married priests out for violating their vows and turn around and invite in married Anglican priests who betrayed their vows. Leads me to wonder how much God really has to do with the priesthood of either religion. Seems like attitudes towards gays and women have a whole lot more to do with it.

In the meantime the real beneficiaries of all this unity are certain neo con and Evangelical leaders who are hell bent on destroying the social justice voices of mainline churches and Catholicism in particular. The more infighting and hypocritical embarrassment they can generate, the better. Wait until Catholic bishops really get going on the need for universal health care and immigration reform. All those anti abortion people who so supported them in their insane attack on Notre Dame will attack them for their positions on immigration and universal health care, and they will be backed by groups like the Institute for Religion in Democracy.

Ultimately none of this has anything to do with Jesus and everything to do with which issues the Churches will be allowed to speak on. Right now it's gay marriage, abortion, and female complementarity. Should the bishops stray from the sex issues they will be attacked and marginalized as incompetent in political affairs which should be left to the laity. It's already beginning.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Catholic Church in Guatemala reeling from Evangelical conversions
Guatemala City, Guatemala, Jun 23, 2009 / 12:35 am (CNA).-

A recent report from a Catholic charity indicates that the Catholic Church in Guatemala is being seriously threatened by the growth of Evangelical sects that try to win converts with offers of money and other goods.

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), a Catholic Charity that works with oppressed and suffering Christians throughout the world, found that half of the people of Guatemala are now Evangelical, and new churches are appearing rapidly.

ACN issued the report after a 17-day trip that included 10 of the country’s 14 dioceses. The report describes how the new Evangelical churches far outnumber Catholic churches.

One example reported by a recent fact-finding trip was a 30-mile-drive through the northern part of the country, which yielded 10 Evangelical chapels or churches and only four Catholic ones.

According to the report, some radical leaders in the country have been bribing the poor to attend their church services, offering food, medicine and jobs. In addition, some Evangelical leaders are targeting the Catholic Church to recruit new members, attacking important Catholic teachings and exaggerating clergy scandals.

The report suggests that this type of recruiting occurs especially in poor areas after natural disasters or during other times in which the people are most affected by poverty and economic need. “It seems that what attracts people to sects is not so much a matter of faith but a matter of economics. It is the promise of getting rich quick,” says the document.

Now, concerns are growing that the Catholic Church in Guatemala may disappear into obscurity, unless efforts are made to prevent the massive numbers of converts to other Christian denominations.

ACN Latin America projects coordinator Xavier Legorreta said that although Guatemala has had strong Evangelical communities for years, the rate of their growth is surprising. “We were shocked by the sheer number of new Evangelical churches that we saw during the trip – they seemed to have mushroomed all over the place,” he said.

The ACN report goes on to talk about the major publicity campaigns being run by the Evangelicals, noting that the sects often receive strong financial backing from wealthy organizations in the United States. With posters and signs across the region, Legorreta believes the Evangelical leaders are getting their message through to the people.

“Everywhere, Evangelical Christianity is being promoted – on television, radio, billboards – even on the front of pharmacies in the main streets,” he said.

In response to the discoveries outlined by the report, ACN is working with the Guatemalan bishops on a plan to print and distribute more Catholic Bibles throughout the country. Legorreta reports that the local bishops are aware of the problem in their country and say they are “ready and waiting to help.”

Recognizing the importance of teaching the Catholic faith clearly, he added, “Bible formation is absolutely key to this – not only in Guatemala but all over the continent.”


Of a number of things that surprise me about this exodus of Guatemalan Catholics to Evangelical sects, the first is the similarity in recruiting strategy used by Catholic missionaries. They too used medicine, food, and occupational education to entice their original indigenous converts. This may be a case of Evangelicals taking up where the Catholic Church dropped the ball. I fail to see how providing Catholic bibles is going to change this trend.

I realize this is a Catholic News Agency article, but I would have liked a lot more information concerning the Church's failures which are fueling this exodus. It can't be just a matter of Evangelical media advertising, and wealthy American backers. That's too facile. I suspect it has a whole lot more to do with Evangelicals practicing a form of home grown ministry with a great deal of community support in a smaller church setting. These are very similar to Catholic base communities, but with one glaring difference. Evangelicals promise heaven on the basis of being saved in Jesus, and Catholicism makes that 'saving' a whole lot more complicated. When one adds the Pentecostals and their spirit driven faith to the Evangelical notions of one shot salvation, Catholicism faces a formidable challenge. This is especially true amongst indigenous poor, whose physical and emotional survival is rooted in their communities. The priest shortage is making it virtually impossible for Catholicism to match this kind of community involvement.

Other authors who are familiar with this situation think the fact the Church has turned in a very conservative direction is adding fuel to the fire. The Church is viewed as having turned it's back on social justice issues, concentrating on quashing liberation theology as more important. This is not to say that liberation theology held the answers. It primarily focused on attacking social structures, rather than transforming them from with in. Pentecostals especially, are all about transforming selves and communities from with in. Whether they have any success is yet to be seen, but there is no question their message is being heard, and in some quarters is perceived to be a threat. It's hard to sell things to people who don't care if they have them. Evangelicals on the other hand do seem to be stressing a Western form of consumerism as indicative of God's favor. Subsequently they seem to be making more inroads into the middle and upper classes.

While we in the North continue to quibble over abortion and gay marriage because we have that luxury, the Church faces it's biggest challenge in Central and South America. It may be that seriously addressing these Southern issues will precipitate the change that the North has been unable to achieve. Maintaining the status quo will also maintain the exodus to Evangelical and Pentecostal sects. So far the Vatican has done little to address the problem. That may change as more and more Latin American bishops watch their flocks dwindle to half of what they once were. I seriously doubt they really think Catholic bibles are the answer. I suspect they are 'ready and willing to help' but they haven't been given the green light they need. They may find out they need to get going anyway or there won't be much left to get going for.

In a side note, I see where Fr. Jenkins has announced that Notre Dame's 1.5 billion dollar capital campaign has reached it's goal two years early. So much for the Cardinal Newman Society's campaign to seriously impact their funding. Needless to say CNA has not reported on this Catholic story.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Benedict writes a letter to the world's priests and sends a pretty powerful message to the world's laity.

Friday, Pope Benedict initiated the year of the priest. I conjunction with that he sent a letter to the priests of the world. It's an extensive letter which Zenit has translated into English, and you can access here. For the purposes of this post, I am extracting two sections, one deals with the priesthood itself and the other deals with the priesthood expressed in community.

It strikes me that this letter of Pope Benedict's is a treasure trove of his thinking on the Church and it's future. In some respects it's depressing as hell, and in other respects he presents some curious thinking. Here is the first part:

"There are also, sad to say, situations which can never be sufficiently deplored where the Church herself suffers as a consequence of infidelity on the part of some of her ministers. Then it is the world which finds grounds for scandal and rejection. What is most helpful to the Church in such cases is not only a frank and complete acknowledgement of the weaknesses of her ministers, but also a joyful and renewed realisation of the greatness of God's gift, embodied in the splendid example of generous pastors, religious afire with love for God and for souls, and insightful, patient spiritual guides. ( This is a classic 'but' statement in that what comes after the interjection, is what we are expected to remember. Yes, Yes priests have given great scandal and we should be frank about that, but......)

Here the teaching and example of St. John Mary Vianney can serve as a significant point of reference for us all. The Cure of Ars was quite humble, yet as a priest he was conscious of being an immense gift to his people: "A good shepherd, a pastor after God's heart, is the greatest treasure which the good Lord can grant to a parish, and one of the most precious gifts of divine mercy". He spoke of the priesthood as if incapable of fathoming the grandeur of the gift and task entrusted to a human creature: "O, how great is the priest! ... If he realised what he is, he would die. ... God obeys him: he utters a few words and the Lord descends from heaven at his voice, to be contained within a small host". (This is a pretty narcissitic statement, and essentially describes high magic--words compelling a spirit to act.)

Explaining to his parishioners the importance of the Sacraments, he would say: "Without the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we would not have the Lord. Who put Him there in that tabernacle? The priest. Who welcomed your soul at the beginning of your life? The priest. Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for its journey? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, bathing it one last time in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest, always the priest. And if this soul should happen to die [as a result of sin], who will raise it up, who will restore its calm and peace? Again, the priest. ... After God, the priest is everything! ... Only in heaven will he fully realise what he is". (Priest as God's jailer is an interesting concept. Lot of power in that thought.)

These words, welling up from the priestly heart of the holy pastor, might sound excessive. Yet they reveal the high esteem in which he held the Sacrament of the Priesthood. He seemed overwhelmed by a boundless sense of responsibility: "Were we to fully realise what a priest is on earth, we would die: not of fright, but of love. ... Without the priest, the passion and death of our Lord would be of no avail. It is the priest who continues the work of redemption on earth. ... What use would be a house filled with gold, were there no one to open its door? The priest holds the key to the treasures of heaven: it is he who opens the door: he is the steward of the good Lord; the administrator of His goods. ... Leave a parish for twenty years without a priest, and they will end by worshipping the beasts there. ... The priest is not a priest for himself, he is a priest for you". (I understand these quotes are from an entirely different time frame and sound psychotic to modern culture. Since Pope Benedict seems to know this, as he himself says, it's excessive, why use them?)

The letter continues on in this vein for some length, spending a great deal of time on the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which Benedict refers to as the Sacrament of Penance, which should tip one to the theology behind the discussion. The three evangelical counsels that the Pope refers to at the beginning of this next extract are poverty, chastity, and obedience:

"In this context of a spirituality nourished by the practice of the evangelical counsels, I would like to invite all priests, during this Year dedicated to them, to welcome the new springtime which the Spirit is now bringing about in the Church, not least through the ecclesial movements and the new communities. (This new spring time, and the new ecclesial movements do not refer to Call to Action, Voice of the Faithful, or Pax Christi.)

"In his gifts the Spirit is multifaceted. ... He breathes where He wills. He does so unexpectedly, in unexpected places, and in ways previously unheard of, ... but he also shows us that He works with a view to the one body and in the unity of the one body". In this regard, the statement of the Decree "Presbyterorum Ordinis" continues to be timely: "While testing the spirits to discover if they be of God, priests must discover with faith, recognise with joy and foster diligently the many and varied charismatic gifts of the laity, whether these be of a humble or more exalted kind". ( I wonder how many priests in the West see this passage as something of a curve ball.)

These gifts, which awaken in many people the desire for a deeper spiritual life, can benefit not only the lay faithful but the clergy as well. The communion between ordained and charismatic ministries can provide "a helpful impulse to a renewed commitment by the Church in proclaiming and bearing witness to the Gospel of hope and charity in every corner of the world". (These are just fascinating paragraphs from a Pope who preaches faith must be informed by reason. Maybe he's had the same kind of experience another famous theologian had--Thomas Aquinas. After his great mystical experience Aquinas is reputed to have said "all that I have written is like straw to me compared to what I have seen.")

I would also like to add, echoing the Apostolic Exhortation "Pastores Dabo Vobis" of Pope John Paul II, that the ordained ministry has a radical "communitarian form" and can be exercised only in the communion of priests with their bishop. This communion between priests and their bishop, grounded in the Sacrament of Holy Orders and made manifest in Eucharistic concelebration, needs to be translated into various concrete expressions of an effective and affective priestly fraternity. Only thus will priests be able to live fully the gift of celibacy and build thriving Christian communities in which the miracles which accompanied the first preaching of the Gospel can be repeated. (This has to be a direct message for South American and African priests who are having their issues with celibacy.)


I think this year of the priesthood, and this particular letter, may be the most important signals the Church has been given as to Benedict's understanding of Church, and what we can expect from him in the future. It completely dovetails with what he laid out in his homily at JP II's funeral. The only major difference is this interesting inclusion of charismatic gifts and their importance to the Church. This aspect has to be a direct message for the Southern Church who are hemorrhaging Catholics to the Evangelical movements--movements who claim to have a monopoly on the gifts of the spirit.

From the tone of this letter, we can expect no change in celibacy, no real change in transparency in the management of the priesthood, no change in the Trentan theology of the priesthood, no change in how the laity is perceived, no change in direction with regards to 'secular relativism', no change in governance, and a continued repression of the theology of Vatican II. The magical priesthood will stay magically above us with their ordained power to command God to appear on our behalf.

This means the seminaries will continue to present the Church with a certain percentage of well educated but emotionally and spiritually stunted priests. Young men will continue to be indoctrinated into a stage II kind of spirituality which is incapable of fostering meaningful internal spiritual maturity because the theology is based almost exclusively on externals.

If this trend continues uninterrupted, there will be very few Catholics with access to any of the sacraments. Maybe Benedict is working on a moto proprio to command God to Grace the Mass and other sacraments by satellite TV and email. I can certainly think of a number of bishops who would really get off on this notion of being international TV bishops and Face book stars. What a concept. Come Holy Spirit, fill the airwaves.

Back in the real world, Iran is presenting a very important lesson about this notion of divinely empowered clergy and how devastating it is to women, youth, human rights, and the spiritual life of a people. Instead of waxing eloquently about the Cure' of Ars, perhaps Benedict should pay very close attention to Iran. There are important messages there about just how far a cleric can control people by claiming to speak for God before those people see it's not about God, it's about misusing religious belief to maintain power. For more on those notions, as it applies to the US, see this article.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Liturgy Wars Aren't Just About Words

Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera is the not exactly progressive leader of the CDW who is overseeing the English translations of the Roman ritual.

I've been fascinated with the liturgy wars over the English language version of the Mass since the late 90's. My interest was never so much in how the new English version was worded, but in the people and faces whose clout transformed ICEL from a representational group from various English Bishops conferences to nothing more than Vatican rubber stampers. The politics behind the scenes have been intriguing to say the least.

The following is an excerpt from John Allen's recent comment on the appointment of Dominican theologian Augustine Di Noia, an American, as Secretary for the Congregation For Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, commonly known as the CDW. The CDW is the Vatican agency which is over seeing ICEL and the implementation of the new translation.

"During the 1990s, the Congregation for Divine Worship played a key role in a string of high-profile battles over liturgical policy, generally pushing bishops’ conferences around the world to adopt a more traditional, Roman-centered approach to liturgical translation and celebration. That effort forms part of a broader concern for revitalizing a strong sense of Catholic identity, which Benedict XVI and his advisors have identified as the top priority of this pontificate. (By 2001 this wasn't a Vatican push, this was a Vatican demand and for all practical purposes the respective English conferences had lost any meaningful input.)

The “liturgy wars,” as they came to be known, were especially intense in English-language zones, in part because of the broad influence of the English language around the world, including swaths of Asia and Africa. (It also had an awful lot to do with the fact English speaking conferences represent democratic societies with all their notions of liberty and equality.)

Among other things, the push on liturgy has resulted in a new translation of the Roman Missal, the main collection of prayers for the Catholic Mass. Having already approved several components of the Missal, the bishops will vote on several others in San Antonio and a few remaining items later this fall. Final Vatican approval of the entire Missal is anticipated in 2010.

The new Missal has long been controversial for what some see as its preference for archaic and unfamiliar language. Virtually every expert agrees that when it eventually appears, there will be a need for considerable education among both priests and people in the pews about how the text ought to be understood and applied, including the theological logic for the choices made. (It's probably not going to come as a shock that in some cases theologians consider some translations pretty close to heresy. The over all emphasis is one of personal devotion and not communal celebration.)


John Allen posted the above before the just concluded San Antonio meeting. This later post records some of what happened when aspects of the new translation were to be voted on. As happened last year, the bishops could not come to a majority and the issue will be decided by mail-in votes from the bishops who could not attend in person. It's pretty obvious these English translations are still a divisive issue amongst American bishops, and they are hardly the only English speaking conference for which this is true.

Back in November the new Mass translation was inadvertently put in play in South African parishes and the response was very negative from both pastors and people. Like my own objections, it wasn't so much about clumsy archaic English, but the imposition of a liturgical view loved by older conservatives in Rome but not shared by the entire church:

In a recent editorial, The Southern Cross said that since the changes were introduced in late 2008 the newspaper had received "a flood of letters."

"The anger of the people in the pews and many priests (and some bishops) seems to be rooted not so much in what they feel are anachronistic and clumsy translations - vexing though they appear to be to many - but in what they see as an arbitrary imposition of liturgical values that are foreign to them by faceless bureaucrats in distant Rome," the editorial said.

In a January 18 letter to The Southern Cross, Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg said his first reaction to the new texts "was that it was a purely arbitrary decision to demand that the English text had to faithfully represent the Latin in the first place, that many of the changes made no sense, and that some of the formulations were simply bad English."

"In view of fully conveying what actually happened, it must be understood that this new translation was imposed on us by the Vatican and the group with which it worked at that level," Bishop Dowling said."

Bishop Dowling is giving first vent to what will probably be the reaction of many US bishops. "We didn't ask for this. It was jammed down our throats, and now we have to jam it down your throats."
At least it will be an honest sentiment.
If you are interested in some of the history and an analysis (liberal) of some of the changes check out this link. What you will notice is that all the major community prayers have gone back to being I, me, my, statements. At the consecration of the wine you will also notice that Jesus no longer died for the sake of all people, just many people. Which I suppose will be taken by some to mean Jesus didn't die for divorced people, gay people, pro choice people, Jewish people, protestants, Muslims, Buddhist's, Hindus, or any other group who isn't a card carrying Catholic.

And that of course is the whole point of this exercise in language and thought control--shoring up Catholic identity at the expense of global communion and inter faith ecumenism. The ironic thing is if the intent was to be true to the original words of Jesus the translation should have been from Aramaic to English. Instead we are getting a translation faithful to the Latin used at the Council of Trent. Maybe that's because so many of our conservative leaders still like the vestments from that particular period. ( Talk about the excesses of me, myself, and I. wow.)

Friday, June 19, 2009

I Pray For The People Of Iran, That They May NOT Be Slaughtered

4:16 PM ET -- "Maybe I will be one of the people who is going to get killed."
A blog post in Persian, translated by the NIAC.

"I will participate in the demonstrations tomorrow. Maybe they will turn violent. Maybe I will be one of the people who is going to get killed. I'm listening to all my favorite music. I even want to dance to a few songs. I always wanted to have very narrow eyebrows. Yes, maybe I will go to the salon before I go tomorrow! There are a few great movie scenes that I also have to see. I should drop by the library, too. It's worth to read the poems of Forough and Shamloo again. All family pictures have to be reviewed, too. I have to call my friends as well to say goodbye. All I have are two bookshelves which I told my family who should receive them. I'm two units away from getting my bachelors degree but who cares about that. My mind is very chaotic. I wrote these random sentences for the next generation so they know we were not just emotional and under peer pressure. So they know that we did everything we could to create a better future for them. So they know that our ancestors surrendered to Arabs and Mongols but did not surrender to despotism. This note is dedicated to tomorrow's children..."


I've heard this over and over again from Native American Elders. "We do this for our children to the seventh generation. Our children and their children and their children's children will make our lives meaningful, as we have hopefully made our parents and our grandparents and their parent lives meaningful".
God Bless the people of Iran. Anyone who thinks Islam has no spiritual message needs to reread this email. "This note is dedicated to tomorrow's children." It's exactly what we should all be doing, acting on behalf of tomorrow's children. It doesn't matter if they are our children or not, because all of them are our children and we are responsible for the culture and planet we leave them. May Iran find a better future, one without blood shed, but if it should come to pass that old energy keeps it's power on the basis of bloodshed, may that sacrificed blood bear fruit. Allah-ho-Akbar.

American Bishops Should Hang Their Heads And Cry

Bishops gear up to oppose same-sex marriage
by John L Allen Jr on Jun. 17, 2009 NCR Today

Facing a growing political ferment across America around same-sex marriage, including six states that have recognized homosexual marriage and others that have adopted domestic partnership acts, the U.S. bishops this afternoon pondered how to get out their message in defense of traditional heterosexual marriage.

The Ad-Hoc Committee in Defense of Marriage presented four key points the bishops hope to make:

• Marriage is inherently related to the sexual difference between men and women.

• Marriage is ordered to the good of children. (“A culture that welcomes the child is a culture that welcomes hope,” said Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, chair of the ad-hoc committee.)

• Marriage by its nature is restricted to one man and one woman, and saying so is not a matter of unjust discrimination. (“The church deplores all violence and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons, but to treat marriage differently is not unjust discrimination,” Kurtz said. “It stems from the nature of marriage itself, and the state has a positive duty to uphold this fundamental institution.”)

• Legalizing same-sex marriage has consequences for religious freedom, such as the prospect that people opposed in conscience might be compelled into cooperation with it. (Kurtz said there are already plenty of “real-life examples” of that coercion.)

Kurtz presented these points to the fully body of bishops this afternoon. He said the committee is contracting with professional communications firms to try to package these points successfully, including the production of a series of videos and brochures.

Kurtz said the bishops hope to make their pitch to two key groups: Young adults aged 18-29, with a special focus on Latinos; and priests and catechists across the country. Those choices, Kurtz said, were shaped by consultations the ad-hoc committee has carried out, which, he said, revealed that “priests often hesitant to preach about defense of marriage.”

In discussing these efforts, Kurtz offered a special thank-you to the Knights of Columbus, which has provided funding for the Ad-Hoc Committee in Defense of Marriage.

Archbishop Michael Sheehan of Santa Fe, New Mexico, pointed out that efforts in his state to resist same-sex legislation were buoyed by cooperation with Evangelicals and other Christian groups such as Baptists. Kurtz agreed, saying such ecumenical alliances tend to be especially effective on the state level.

Kurtz also brought the conference up to date on efforts to draft a pastoral letter on marriage from the U.S. bishops. He said that a final draft of the document should be presented to the full body of bishops at their November meeting.


There are a number of things in the above article I find very disturbing, but two stand out for they amply demonstrate that the USCCB sees itself as political PACT. The first is the use of media experts to target specific audiences. In this case specifically targeting Hispanics and young Catholics. The second is to disingenuously call the POLITICAL alliance amongst Evangelicals, Mormons, and some Catholics an ecumenical alliance. It has nothing to do with ecumenism and everything to do with upholding the preferential status of heterosexual males in the general culture. PUHLEASE.

Targeting Hispanic Catholics with this message is a blatant appeal to machismo. This is certainly not the attitude with in Hispanic culture the Church should be cultivating. The good bishop of Santa Fe should spend some time in his local police precinct and learn just how difficult it is to get the concept across to macho Hispanic men that it is not legal in this country to beat the crap out of your wife and kids or to rape your wife. I know, I've been in those trenches. I've had Hispanic men spew all over my office about just how 'effeminate' American culture is that they have denied men the right to punish their wives. In this culture Traditional Marriage is not an equal proposition.

Targeting youth with this message is targeting youth with the absolute wrong message. The USCCB should instead be targeting our heterosexual youth with the notion that marriage is a good and stable thing to do because it will enhance and ennoble their experience of life. It makes no sense to teach them that they must work to defeat gay marriage when too many of them are not marrying period.

The combination of Evangelicals, Mormons, and Catholics, (and all their money) may have worked in California, but it has failed to impact the state legislatures that have passed equal marriage laws in this legislative session. Americans seem to have decided that this unholy alliance of powerful religious groups is inherently bad for American culture. States seem to have come to the conclusion that their marriage laws are their business and allowing themselves to be manipulated by outside interests does not reflect the will of their people. Good for them.

Then there is the issue of the amount of money which will be spent on this crusade while Catholic Social services are facing drastic cuts in services and staff. And this at the exact time demand for these services is sky rocketing. What in the world does this actually say about the USCCB commitment to the poor? Is it really more important to spend large amounts of money preventing gays from legalizing their love relationships than it is helping the millions of Americans who need social services---Americans who have children and can't feed them, house them, care for them. Is stopping gay marriage more important than helping these children?

I read this article and I have to admit I was stunned to think that the USCCB would be this blatant, with their priorities this skewed. Why is gay marriage such an issue to these men? It has no effect on heterosexual marriage what so ever. Why put all this time, money, and effort into this crusade when heterosexual serial monogamy is the far bigger threat to heterosexual marriage?

I'm beginning to think it's because too many of them are gay themselves and they truly see homosexuality as God calling them to live a life of dedicated celibacy. If that's true then gays who desire to live with a partner are violating this God given call to celibacy. Partnered gays are mocking God, and by extension mocking the choice these bishops have made regarding their own sexuality. This idea of 'I'm gay because God wants me to be celibate' is a logical extension of Catholic spiritual thinking, but it is beyond wrong to legislate that kind of thinking for a multicultural pluralistic society and to attempt to do it on a pack of outright lies.

Finally, I will no longer have anything to do with the Knights of Columbus. They have become little more than an adjunct PACT for the Evangelical right.