Sometimes I come across articles that leave me pondering for quite awhile. This happened to me the other day when I came across an article written by Susan Shields for the website "Council for Secular Humanism". Ms. Shields an ex member of Mother Teresa's Sister's of Charity. I'm going to quote the part that caused me a certain amount of mental angst:
Three of Mother Teresa's teachings that are fundamental to her religious congregation are all the more dangerous because they are believed so sincerely by her sisters. Most basic is the belief that if a sister obeys she is doing God's will. Another is the belief that the sisters have leverage over God by choosing to suffer. Their suffering makes God very happy. He then dispenses more graces to humanity. The third is the belief that any attachment to human beings, even the poor being served, supposedly interferes with love of God and must be vigilantly avoided or immediately uprooted. The efforts to prevent any attachments cause continual chaos and confusion, movement and change in the congregation. Mother Teresa did not invent these beliefs - they were prevalent in religious congregations before Vatican II - but she did everything in her power (which was great) to enforce them.
Once a sister has accepted these fallacies she will do almost anything. She can allow her health to be destroyed, neglect those she vowed to serve, and switch off her feelings and independent thought. She can turn a blind eye to suffering, inform on her fellow sisters, tell lies with ease, and ignore public laws and regulations. (These behaviors are endemic to every single one of the right wing traditional apostolates approved of and singled out for praise by the Vatican in the last forty years.)
Women from many nations joined Mother Teresa in the expectation that they would help the poor and come closer to God themselves. When I left, there were more than 3,000 sisters in approximately 400 houses scattered throughout the world. Many of these sisters who trusted Mother Teresa to guide them have become broken people. In the face of overwhelming evidence, some of them have finally admitted that their trust has been betrayed, that God could not possibly be giving the orders they hear. It is difficult for them to decide to leave - their self-confidence has been destroyed, and they have no education beyond what they brought with them when they joined. I was one of the lucky ones who mustered enough courage to walk away......
Taken together these three beliefs describe a very sad definition of the path to holiness. They also describe logical extensions of the belief that man's material existence has meaning only in terms of his soul and that since the fall of Adam and Eve, our bodies are condemned to suffering in order to appease God and purify our immortal souls from the filthy stains of material existence.
Take the first one for example: "the belief that as long as a sister obeys she is doing God's will."
There's no question that with in the Sisters of Charity, as it is in Opus Dei, the Legionaries, or any number of other twentieth century apostalates, obedience to the will of the founder was equated with obedience to God. This was not just an attitude freely assumed by members, it was promulgated by the founders themselves and they were backed by the Papacy. Why wouldn't they be? This demand for obedience to the founder is exactly what the Vatican demands of every Catholic with regards to the Pope.
The problem is neither the Pope nor any given founder is God. Jesus did not say God is obedience, He said God is love. Every parent has experienced the fact that our children can still love us dearly without feeling the need to obey every jot and tittle of what we say. And if a parent matures with their child in parenting, one finds that they actually love their children more when those children think for themselves, act decently on their own initiative, and stop demanding approval for everything they do.
None of those free acts of a maturing child is an assault on the fundamental parent/child relationship. It is instead both a deepening and a broadening of the relationship. What a parent really learns as their child matures, is the reason for and nature of, forgiveness. Forgiveness is not a 'get out of hell' free card. Nor is it a reset button to engage in the same failed strategy. It's an opportunity to change direction, learn a lesson and grow some more. Parental forgiveness is often the weedkiller in our children's garden of life
The second belief is in some respects even more damaging than the first: "the belief that the sisters have leverage over God by choosing to suffer. Their suffering makes God very happy. He then dispenses more graces to humanity." There are so many fallacies here. No human person has the capacity to leverage God. That's a description of a very small god, but it gets worse. The thought that this god is happy being leveraged by our suffering makes him an even smaller God. That he would then dispense more grace to humanity because of his happiness with our suffering makes him very very minuscule on the god scale. Puts him about as far up the god scale as the parent who beats their child to get the rush when they cry and then gives the child candy to shut them up until the next time. It's called abuse dynamics.
Then we come to the third belief: "that any attachment to human beings, even the poor being served, supposedly interferes with love of God and must be vigilantly avoided or immediately uprooted". For Mother Teresa and the Sisters of Charity this belief can be restated as the love of the concept of poverty as a path to holiness. Their ministry actually has very little to do with an effective realtional love with the poor. It has to do with their individual choice to live in, and surround themselves with institutional poverty.
This is probably why Mother Teresa never built a world class hospital with all of her hundreds of millions in donations, or did a great deal to eradicate poverty in the areas in which her convents and clinics operated. These initiatives served as way stations for sufferers in which her sisters were given the opportunity to evangelize and 'save' souls. It was this that took precedence over alleviating suffering or providing real medicine. The truth is she didn't need a world class hospital to evangelize and save souls--she needed hundreds of convents and that's precisely what she built.
In honesty, Mother Teresa never claimed to be in the business of lifting the yoke of poverty or eradicating disease in the areas in which her enterprises operated. She forthrightly said she was in the business of Catholic evangelization and the saving of souls. The poor people she worked with were not victims of choices not their own. Instead they had been given a wonderful opportunity from God to both achieve her definition of holiness, and offer their unchosen suffering for others. And of course, they provided the means by which she and her fellow sisters could achieve their definition of holy poverty. In this respect, she would have been working against her definition of their best interests to do otherwise.
Not one of these three beliefs are espoused by LCWR congregations, which makes me wonder if that's not part of the problem they are having with the Vatican. There's nothing like making poverty a short ticket to heaven to soothe the consciences of people whose own greed makes that poverty possible. No wonder Mother Teresa had many good things to say about the Duvalier's in Haiti. Just think of all the opportunity the Duvalier's provided for the people of Haiti to experience holy poverty.
I think progressive Catholics need to put some time and effort in understanding this dynamic in the traditional and conservative Catholic mind set. Ignoring it will not make it go away nor lessen it's influence in the Vatican and subsequently on Catholic laity.
Catholicism is revealed religion. God reveals what is ultimate reality, the real shape and dynamics of things, including human beings.ReplyDelete
This revelation happens through sacred scripture and tradition, interpreted by the magisterium (he who hears you hears Me).
Jesus Christ (God) obeyed his creature father and mother. Give unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar. Honor your father and your mother.
Jesus (God) said renounce yourself, take up your cross and follow me.
Jesus (God) said he who does not renounce everything he has cannot be my disciple.(Luke 14:33)
And all of these have reason and are logical because God is creator, conservator, and last end. We disappear back to nothingness if he does not support us. He also loves us so he wants the best for us, to live our lives as he wants us to live, which is always the best. Also if you analyze human beings they become happy when they give of themselves.
If God is not a person, if he does not have intelligence and will, nor a plan and a design, then it is understandable that human beings can think whatever they want, and do whatever they think is right according to their limited sights. But since God has revealed our reality, then it is correct to abide by it, to understand deeply it logic and reason, and to dance with it.
Anonymous, I am not really sure what you are trying to say. May I ask you, how has God revealed Himself to you in your life?ReplyDelete
Also, in your answer, describe how God reveals to you what is Truth and what is false.
Another important question, if I may ask of you. In what context did Jesus say to "renounce yourself, take up your cross and follow me?"
Did Jesus mean that if you had a leader over you, aside from Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit, telling you what to renounce, that you should renounce Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit in yourself and follow the leader instead ?
In your answer, please tell me if taking up your cross means renouncing God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, your Free Will from God?
And lastly, have you ever been in love? Tell me if it is logical or not.
Anon, like butterfly, I'm a little confused as to your point, but I'll make a stab at it.ReplyDelete
I think you are saying the God has revealed all the truth He is going to reveal and the magesterium exists as the only entity given authority to reflect on all the previously revealed truth.
I disagree. If there is one thing that God has revealed it's the He works tirelessly to further mankind along understanding ever more of His relationship with us and the truth of our reality and place with in it.
Another thing that has been revealed is that this truth is rarely given by those with in the religious structure. It is almost always revealed by those outside the religious structure. Jesus Himself is the ultimate example of that.
As long as you are quoting scripture, think about this one from John Chapter 16
"I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.
5 But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming."
"I disagree. If there is one thing that God has revealed it's the He works tirelessly to further mankind along understanding ever more of His relationship with us and the truth of our reality and place with in it.ReplyDelete
Another thing that has been revealed is that this truth is rarely given by those with in the religious structure. It is almost always revealed by those outside the religious structure. Jesus Himself is the ultimate example of that."
These words about the nature of God are written by a creature of God using his/her own limited intelligence,
God created us. Not the other way around. We did not create him.
The so-called 'Magisterium' of the Church has set itself up as if it was the sole radio frequency to God....and only they have the 'call letters'.ReplyDelete
Nowhere is anything remotely close to this uttered by Christ, overtly much less implicitly. And it should be very clearly noted that it is this same 'Magisterium' which has, time & again, treated every legitimate message from Mary as if it were from Satan.
....note well that the focus of such messages has always been (1) the Vatican must repent & reform, and (2) an end-run around the failed evangelization of the Vatican (e.g. Mexico...)
They would have you believe that all such messages from true prophets & messengers sent by God must first be approved by Rome, and then put through the "spin' cycle to sanitize the message.
One should remember that Christ foretold this in Matthew 23:29-36
(cont.) Have you ever been to a profession of vows for any religions community (men or women)?ReplyDelete
Regardless of which order it is, there is one common phrase used - pronounced over the professed by the Bishop, Abbot, or Superior:
"...if you faithfully obey the rule of the order & your superiors, I promise you eternal life..."
Or similar words to that effect.
Christ said: "Follow Me" and..."I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father bu by Me". He made it quite clear that by, in, & through following Him - which means to follow His teachings (i.e. the Gospel) is the way to Salvation. Even then - though He will never fail us, we can fail Him.
Christ did NOT say anything even remotely implying that: "....if you obey everything Fr/Sr/Bro So-and-So says (no matter what)you are guaranteed Heaven".
Of course that mad construct applies to the demi-god founders of the various "groups" you named too:)
Anon, your statement about Marian visions and statements is so on target.ReplyDelete
Always they must be run through the Vatican spin cycle even though they always they call that very Vatican to accountability.
I find it fascinating in this context that Cardinal Schonberg is supporting the Medjugorge apparition and visionaries while the Vatican is not.
Cardinal Schonberg is not stupid. For many Catholics, irrespective of politics or spiritual point of view, Medjugorge is a much more powerful symbol of truth than the Vatican.