Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Secularism Is Not The Problem, A Maturing Laity VS A Controlling Parental Hierarchy Is The Problem

The past couple of days I've been pondering Benedict's rebuke of Cardinal Schonborn. I've read some comments that think that because the good Cardinal wasn't rebuked for his musings on celibacy and gay relationships that this could be a signal that the Vatican might be considering some re evaluation of these kinds of doctrine. I don't buy it. These musings were ignored for the same reason my parents used to ignore the content of what we children said if in their opinion we demonstrated bad attitude. Most of the time it didn't matter if our observations were essentially correct. If stating those observations threatened the family status quo, especially the decision making hierarchy, we heard about our insubordination, not the correctness of what we were insubordinate about.

I don't know about other families, but in mine, if you were perceived to be insubordinate in presenting your ideas it was a sure bet your idea would never be acknowledged much less implemented. In my family, my parents were quite capable of slicing off the nose to protect the face. In my own family case, it wasn't just a matter of running a family it was a matter of running a family ranch. That gave us plenty of opportunity to be insubordinate in suggesting our ideas and plenty of opportunity to be summarily sentenced to stacking bales or some other equally odious task. Not surprising then I have a well developed back and shoulders.

I keep looking at the issues that are really causing angst within the Western Church and am struck with how many of them are the identical issues which cause angst in parents of teen age and younger adult children. Sex, relationships, money, transparency, and obedience. The trouble is a lot of Western Catholics have matured beyond young adulthood and yet the teaching authority of the Church is still attempting to use the same kinds of controlling techniques parents who haven't adjusted to the idea their children are growing up use to keep those children in line. Techniques which serve to underscore parental control and family hierarchy while freezing children in pre pubescent obedience. Bishops are taking to denying the Eucharist the way some parents threaten keys to the car.

Benedict's New Evangelization will fail miserably if it starts from the premise that the loss of influence for the Church is a product of secularization. This is tantamount to a parent blaming peer pressure or high school culture for the fact their children are just growing up. There's no question some teen agers get lost in the process of maturing, but most teen agers don't get lost, and generally survive the process as better more mature thoughtful people. Good parents learn to accept and adjust to maturing children. They even learn to relish the challenges posed by those children because there is also much growth to be found for parents in this process. In fact one of the most important lessons parents can show adult children is that growth and maturation is a continual process. It never has to end. It's what keeps us young at heart.

Holy Mother Church is walking a path similar to the over controlling mother. In the end the only children left to see to her needs will be her dysfuntional immature bachelor sons and her carbon copy passive agressive daughters.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Consiglieri Sodano greets Don Benedicto at this year's Vatican Easter Mass.

I'm not trying to divert good conversation from yesterday's blog by posting again today. I do feel compelled to publish the following two articles because they demonstrate just how far Catholicism in it's Vatican face has sunk. Thanks to Bill Lindsey for the first article and TheraP for the second.

Made in his own image: The Catholic Church faces another scandal
The Independent - Peter Popham - Monday, 28 June 2010

There is a cruel paradox in the career of the man who, in September, will become only the second pope in history to visit Britain. When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope in April 2005, he set about purifying the Catholic Church and returning it to its core values. He also pledged to get his charismatic predecessor, John Paul II, canonised as quickly as possible.
But as a new church scandal exploded last week, hard on the heels of the paedophilia storm, this one involving allegations of massive corruption at the heart of the Roman Curia, Pope Benedict's papal career risks being eclipsed by the dark shadow of John Paul's legacy.

Nobody doubts that the Pope would like the church to be a cleaner, leaner, quieter, purer institution, purged of paedophile priests and greedy careerists; he said as much again last week. But this man, who proposes himself as a new broom and wags his finger at those who take a permissive, typically Italian view of venality, has been at the heart of the church for half a lifetime. All these people are his old colleagues. If this is Sodom, he has been a citizen in good standing for 40 years.

Take the man at the centre of the latest storm, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe. Aged 67, he was born on the outskirts of Naples and was raised speaking the gritty local dialect, incomprehensible to outsiders. Referred to by Italian newspapers as "l'impresario di Dio", "God's wheeler-dealer", today he is the much-beloved archbishop of the same city: an impressively fat, prosperous looking prelate, who likes nothing better than immersing himself in his crowds of Neapolitan fans, slapping backs and kissing babies. Neapolitans affectionately call their archbishop "O'guapo", local slang for "the boss" – the kindly mafia capo whom people go to with their problems instead of phoning the police. But although no one is accusing him of complicity with the city's fearsome Camorra mafia (Roberto Saviano, author of Gomorrah, a book about the Camorra, leapt to his defence), the crimes of which he is accused are of a type which any mafioso would understand.

Sepe, who is still very young for a cardinal, received spectacular promotions from John Paul II which climaxed when he was given the job of running the church's Jubilee celebrations in 2000. A showman after the late-Pope's heart, he threw a carnival such as Rome has not seen since the days of Nero, and was rewarded for his success with the juicy job of running a church agency called Propaganda Fide, with a Roman property portfolio said to be worth €9bn (£6bn).
Now prosecutors claim that he sold property from that portfolio to a top politician at half its market value in return for his agency receiving special favours from the government. In classic clientelismo style: you scratch the politician's back, and he scratches yours. Except that in this case the alleged perpetrator was one of the most illustrious figures in the Catholic Church.
Pope Benedict, Vatican watchers say, spotted Cardinal Sepe's frailties early on, which is why, in 2006, he unceremoniously removed him from Propaganda Fide – a job that an incumbent would normally expect to hold indefinitely – and packed him off home to Naples.

The cardinal denies that version of what happened as flatly as he denies the corruption charges. Last week he said of the change in his fortunes: "The Holy Father asked me with great insistence to stay in Rome, but my heart was beating for Naples." But apropos of his legal difficulties, he also speaks darkly of enemies "who wanted to strike me, both inside and outside the church".
It is hard to think of two men of God more different than Sepe and Ratzinger: the meaty, glad-handing Mediterranean man of the people, and the ascetic, book-loving Bavarian introvert. In a church regulated according to the Pope's wishes, it's also hard to imagine a man like Sepe obtaining much preferment. But the uncomfortable fact for Benedict is that the two men have one vital thing in common: both of them were chosen and promoted by John Paul II. And it is over his ambiguous legacy that an epic battle is now being fought behind the closed doors of the Vatican.

He may be physically slight, but this Pope is no pushover. Once, when a CNN reporter pursued him with an awkward question, he slapped him on the wrist rather than answer. As John Paul II's "enforcer of the faith" for nearly 30 years, he was ruthless in purging anyone and everyone with whom he disagreed – liberal theologians, those who lobbied the cause of gays in the church, the propounders of liberation theology, and easy-going Catholics who wanted the church to get on closer terms with other faiths. Anyone who he thought was trying to muddy the pure waters of faith with modern ideas was in deep trouble.

Since becoming Pope, he has kept up the hard line, favouring the return of Latin and of priests who turn their back on the congregation during Mass, the end of guitar-strumming populism, and the fashioning of a church that might have fewer members but is purer and less contaminated by the secular world. But Pope Benedict is meeting fierce resistance from within the church, in particular from some senior churchmen like Cardinal Sepe – those most lavishly favoured by John Paul II. Skeletons are tumbling out of the cupboard.

First it was the nightmare of priestly paedophilia: early this year, lawyers acting for US victims of paedophile priests accused Benedict of having been complicit in the cover-up of the crimes, and of having shown no sympathy for the victims. Since then, the Pope has been rowing back hard. En route by air to Lisbon last month he made the announcement that indicated a radical change of tack on the paedophilia crisis. During the flight, he told reporters: "Today the greatest persecution of the church does not come from outside, but from the sin inside the church itself. The church thus has a deep need to relearn penance, to accept purification, to learn on the one hand forgiveness but also the necessity of justice."

He has subsequently reinforced the message and, for the first time, offered humble apologies to the victims. He seems to be winning the public relations battle. But if we believe him to be sincere, he now finds himself in a very difficult situation. He is, according to one Vatican expert, "surrounded by people who share his politics and his conservative theology, but who don't share his views about paedophilia". He will also have to come clean about how his own views have changed. And he has so far shown no sign of being prepared to take either of those steps.
The Pope is a sort of monarch, but his power is severely constrained by the men who were his colleagues when he was still a cardinal. Within the Curia, the church's governing body, Benedict is surrounded by old men like himself who have been together for many decades. All of them, we can assume, have plenty of dirt on all the others.

All these men share broad agreement on the big doctrinal issues facing the church. Arch-conservatives all, like John Paul II, they are united in believing that no concessions should be made to the changing times – no movement on abortion, contraception, stem cells and the other "sanctity of life" issues; nor on the stigma attached to homosexuality, the rules on celibacy or the ban on women priests. They are also united in believing that the church is under siege from the godless compulsions of modern consumer society. The church's enemies, they agree, are without.
But on the question of priestly paedophilia, several are very vulnerable. One of them, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, has been one of the most powerful men in the church for decades. From 1990 to 2006, this fleshy son of a Piedmontese politician was Pope John Paul II's secretary of state, the most important post in the Vatican below the pontiff. Relieved of that job by Benedict he is now, aged 82, dean of the College of Cardinals and still has great power. But he has been tainted by the current scandal. Particularly problematic are his relations with a veritable monster of the modern church, the late Mexican prelate, Marcial Maciel.

Maciel was the founder of a highly conservative order called the Legion of Christ, but it has gradually emerged over the years – particularly since his death in 2008 – that he was much else besides: a morphine addict for decades who sexually abused his own seminarians, fathered several children by two mistresses, and then went on to abuse and rape those children.
Yet Maciel was greatly favoured by John Paul II, remaining persona grata at the Vatican until nearly the end of his life, and Sodano, like other senior members of the Curia (though not Ratzinger) received large cash gifts from him. Sodano repaid Maciel generously by killing a Vatican investigation into his misdeeds in 1998.

Another close ally of Benedict, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the man who replaced Sodano as secretary of state and is much mocked in Vatican circles for his alleged lack of brain- power, has also been badly tarnished by his friendship with Maciel. In 2004, when he was Archbishop of Genoa, he wrote a preface to a book-length interview with Maciel entitled "My Life is Christ", in which he praised "the frankness of one who lives his mission ... with his sights and his heart fixed on Christ Jesus".

Benedict is not tainted in the same way. But although he obtained Maciel's removal from the Legion of Christ in 2006, critics accuse him of featherbedding this dreadful man right to the end. Jason Berry, the American Catholic journalist, who has done most to expose Maciel's crimes over the years, argues that until Benedict sacks Sodano and Bertone, the Maciel shadow will still hang heavy on him. (I too have made this point. Until Benedict does something about Sodano and Bertone, reform is all smoke and mirrors.)

The problem for the current Pope is that he was there, in the inner circle, throughout the years that Maciel was John Paul II's favourite. And – according to the damaging testimony of a former cardinal – he also went along with the prevailing attitude of his fellow cardinals towards priestly paedophilia in general.

It emerged in April that Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, a Colombian who for 10 years was in charge of the Vatican department that supervises the clergy, wrote in 2001 with gushing approval to the Bishop of Bayeux, who went to jail rather than give French authorities information about a priest who had raped a minor. "I congratulate you for not turning in a priest to the civil administration," he wrote. "I am delighted to have a colleague ... who ... has preferred prison to turning in his son-priest."

The Vatican confirmed the authenticity of the letter, which had been posted on a French website. But then Castrillon Hoyos himself added a crucial detail. In a radio interview he said the letter was the outcome of a high-level meeting of cardinals at which Ratzinger had been present. "It was a meeting of cardinals," he told RCN radio. "Therefore the current Pope, who at the time was a cardinal, was present."

If the Pope wants to purge paedophilia from the church he must confront the compromised figures within the Curia and dismiss them. But whether that is politically possible is an open question. Sodano, Bertone and friends will fight like tigers to retain their privileges. There is also the question of whether Benedict has the personal, managerial talents to pull it off. When I asked one German expert on the Vatican for his assessment, he merely laughed. "No he doesn't," he said. "He's just a professor!"

When Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope five years ago, he was seen as a figure who would guarantee continuity after the 26-year reign of the Polish Pope. After all, it was John Paul II who had persuaded Ratzinger to leave his job as Archbishop of Munich and come to Rome to be his chief doctrinal advisor.

With the death of John Paul, the Catholic Church lost its greatest communicator, the man who had travelled more than any pope in history, who inspired eastern Europe's revolt against Communism and enjoyed enormous popularity even among non-Catholics. At his funeral thousands chorused, "Santo subito!" – "Make him a saint immediately!" He is not a saint yet, but he is on the fast track. And, in death, he remains a focus of devotion.

Nobody expected Cardinal Ratzinger to be able to replicate that performance, this introverted, book-loving German with his grand piano, cats and fondness for archaic vestments. But he was seen as the right man to protect Wojtyla's heritage and steer him safely towards sainthood.
Instead the chickens of John Paul's papacy are coming home to roost – the poisonous legacy of Maciel, one of whose brutalised sons spoke about his bizarre and hideous childhood for the first time last week, and all the other paedophile cases that festered during his long reign. And now the alleged venality of Cardinal Sepe has added more pollution to the air.

Both Maciel and Sepe were highly favoured by Pope John Paul II. Their worldliness resonated with the extrovert ex-actor and footballer; for him they brought vitality and energy into the church, not to mention a great deal of money. And he didn't care to look too closely at what else they brought.

Pope Benedict XVI would like the Catholic Church to be very different from the one that ballooned out of all proportion under John Paul, purer, more beautiful, more austere. But far from moulding the church in his own image, he now risks having his own heritage fatally compromised by the sins of the Holy Father. Tasked with fostering John Paul's legacy, he risks being flattened by it.


This next article brings the answer to a question I posed back in April when Cardinal Schoenborn discussed the actions of Cardinal Sodano. I wrote then that if Benedict was serious about reform, we know by how the Vatican eventually reacted to Schoenborn. Now we have the answer:

Vatican Rebukes Austrian Cardinal
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: June 28, 2010 Filed at 12:02 p.m. ET

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- The Vatican issued an unprecedented public rebuke Monday of a leading cardinal who had questioned the church's policy of celibacy and openly criticized the retired Vatican No. 2 for his handling of clerical sex abuse cases.

In a statement, the Vatican said only the pope can make such accusations against a cardinal, not another so-called prince of the church. (I wonder which Canon Law says only a pope can make accusations against a cardinal?)

In April, Vienna's archbishop, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, accused the former Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, of blocking a probe into a sex abuse scandal that rocked Austria's church 15 years ago.

Schoenborn also accused Sodano of causing ''massive harm'' to victims when he dismissed claims of clerical abuse as ''petty gossip'' on Easter Sunday.

Schoenborn has been a leading figure in the abuse crisis, forcefully denouncing abuse, presiding over service of reparations for victims and openly calling for an honest examination of issues like celibacy.

Schoenborn's comments about Sodano were remarkable in that they were directed at Pope John Paul II's No. 2, who has already come under fire for his alleged stonewalling of a Vatican investigation into the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, who was found to have abused seminarians and fathered at least three children.

Sodano still wields enormous influence in Vatican circles as the dean of the College of Cardinals.
Such a public and formal reprimand of a cardinal is extremely rare -- particularly for one like Schoenborn, who has long been close to Benedict, his onetime professor, and is seen as a possible papal contender himself.

The Vatican on Monday sought to clarify Sodano's ''petty gossip'' comment, noting that the pope himself had used the same phrase a week earlier, referring to the need to have ''courage to not be intimidated by the petty gossip of dominant opinions.''

The phrase, and Sodano's repetition of it, had sparked widespread criticism that the Vatican simply didn't appreciate the significance of the clerical abuse scandal. It suggested that the pope himself and his collaborators believed that the hundreds of reports that were flooding in of children being raped and sodomized by priests, and the questions that were being asked about the Vatican's handling of such cases, were mere gossip, not serious crimes.

The Vatican said that interpretation was ''erroneous,'' although it didn't explain what the pontiff or Sodano meant by the phrase. The Vatican said both men felt compassion for victims and condemnation for those behind the abuse.

The Holy See issued the statement after Schoenborn met with the pontiff in a private audience Monday. The audience was then broadened to include Sodano and the current Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

The Vatican communique said Schoenborn had wanted to ''clarify the exact sense of his recent comments'' concerning celibacy and Sodano. It said Schoenborn ''expressed his displeasure for the interpretations.''

When asked by The Associated Press for further comment, Schoenborn's spokesman said the cardinal would not be available for an interview. (How utterly surprising.)

Previously, cardinals who have stepped out of line questioning church policy or doctrine have quietly issued their own mea culpas.

Schoenborn made the comments April 28 to a select group of Austrian journalists. The comments were later summarized by the Catholic news agency Kathpress and picked up by media around the world.

In the discussion, Schoenborn blamed Sodano for having blocked an investigation of sex abuse allegations against the late Austrian Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer.

The scandal surrounding the late Vienna archbishop broke in 1995, when a former student at a boy's seminary in the town of Hollabrunn alleged that he abused him repeatedly in the early 1970s. Other accusations followed. Groer stepped down shortly after the first allegations surfaced -- officially due to old age. He died in 2003 but never admitted any guilt.

Schoenborn, who succeeded Groer as Vienna archbishop, said the pope -- known then as Joseph Ratzinger and head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- had immediately pushed for an investigative commission when abuse allegations against Groer arose.
However, he said, others in the Vatican -- described by Schoenborn as the ''diplomatic track,'' meaning the secretariat of state, a clear reference to Sodano -- did not let this happen.
His comments were intended to defend the pope at a time when Benedict himself was coming under fire for his handling of abuse cases both during his time as archbishop of Munich and as the head of the Vatican's doctrine office.

The Vatican statement Monday recalled that ''in the church, only the pope has the competence to deal with accusations against a cardinal; other instances can have a consultation function, but always with the necessary respect for the people involved.'' (I guess the necessary level of respect means ignoring what ever crimes Cardinals commit.)

In other comments on April 28, Schoenborn was quoted as saying the quality of a gay relationship should be taken into greater consideration, the church needed a new perspective on the remarriage of divorcees, and it was no secret the Vatican government was ''in urgent need of reform.''


So much for reform of the Vatican. So much for the voice of Cardinal Schonborn. So much for meaningful change in Catholicism under Benedict.
Dan Brown's fiction had it all wrong. Mario Puzo's fiction seems much closer to the reality. I am beginning to wonder if the real target in the Belgium raids isn't Cardinal Daneels. I can't help remembering that Cardinal Schonborn's original musings were over Sodano's protection of the late Cardinal Groer. It seems the Vatican does not like it's Cardinal Princes treated like actual human beings much less criminals. Since the Vatican tends to loudly protest and project the most when it is has the most to fear I can't help but wonder why the Belgium raid has generated so much fear that this weekend was the time Benedict felt compelled to call Cardinal Schonborn to task. Anyway it's a sad day all the way around.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

This past week I've been reflecting quite a bit on the difference between traditional Catholic truth as opposed to enshrined ignorance. It's led me to look at some fundamental assumptions about core doctrine. One of those core doctrines is the doctrine of the soul. The following is taken from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

In Sacred Scripture the term "soul" often refers to human life or the entire human person. But "soul" also refers to the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him, that by which he is most especially in God's image: "soul" signifies the spiritual principle in man.

The human body shares in the dignity of "the image of God": it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit:

Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator. For this reason man may not despise his bodily life. Rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day.

The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the "form" of the body: i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature.

The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God—it is not "produced" by the parents—and also that it is immortal: it does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection.

Sometimes the soul is distinguished from the spirit: St. Paul for instance prays that God may sanctify his people "wholly," with "spirit and soul and body" kept sound and blameless at the Lord's coming. The Church teaches that this distinction does not introduce a duality into the soul. "Spirit" signifies that from creation man is ordered to a supernatural end and that his soul can gratuitously be raised beyond all it deserves to communion with God.

I've read and reread the above and have discerned very little core truth about this notion of soul. It boils down to some ill defined animus that is eternal and will be united with it's body at the Second Coming. Other than this it says very little of practical use about the soul, and yet, it is my duty as a Catholic to save my soul from the ignorance and sin of my earthly body. The soul apparently animates this potential den of iniquity called the body and then becomes totally dependent on the choices of the body for it's eventual judgment.

Not having gotten a great deal of enlightenment from the above I then went to Catholic Answers.

After reading numerous questions I learned the following: Thomas Aquinas felt ensoulment occurred some time after conception--40 days for boys, 80 days for girls, but still believed abortion was homicide. I learned this one numerous times. It seems this teaching of Aquinas is a serious problem for serious Catholic questioners. The answer is that we are to accept the current arbitrary date of conception for Aquinas's arbitrary dates because scientific reason tells us that girls really are as human as boys all through pregnancy and so conception is a better arbitrary date for ensoulment. Or something along these lines.

I learned animals and plants have souls but they are material souls and do not survive death. Material souls are apparently a function of the biological process of life, not a spiritual infusion from God. I learned the difference between material and spiritual souls is the ability of spiritual souls for self reflection, for abstract thinking and for love. I learned that the Buddhist concept of Nirvana and reincarnation are totally wrong, (mostly based on Revelations and a few other biblical passages), that New Agers have basically zero correct about the soul, that contrary to some great fictional literature, it is not possible to sell one's soul to the devil, and that when Jesus spoke about Himself as always existing, that only applied to His soul. Ours has a starting but not an ending point and it most certainly can wind up eternally in hell based on the decisions of it's material representation.

What I learned more than anything is that Catholic teaching on the soul is at best nebulous and at worst purposeful in rejecting any experience of the concept from any other spiritual tradition. Why do I go into all of this? Because I strongly believe it is the obvious holes in this notion of soul/body paradigm which is driving people to search for truth else where. People are experiencing things that just scream for a better understanding of the totality of the human being. Science is discovering more and more about the brain body connection which is not meaningfully addressed by Catholic teaching. Quantum physics is postulating a notion of reality which blows a great deal of this neo platonic postulating out of the water. Jesus's life and teachings seem to affirm there is more to being human that taught in the Old Testament. His Resurrection and Transfiguration showed potentials for a human experience which went far beyond the accepted limits of physical expression.

One of the major assumptions Catholics are asked to accept is that the things Jesus did are reserved to Jesus. The rest of us have to wait for the Second Coming and even then only if we've been good boys and girls. (Apparently when Jesus said we could do what He did, He was just kidding.) What if this is all wrong and Jesus actually came to show us our existing potentials and the way to unlock them? What if when He told us to look within for the Father, He meant go deeper into what self aware human consciousness is capable of because there we will be closer to the Creator's design for creation---and to the truth of ourselves.

What if we turn things around a bit and ask if consciousness created the evolution of the human body in order to have a vehicle in which to experience material existence? What if in fact the conscious and self aware soul somehow creates or directs the body which houses it and the price of that incarnation is being subject to the physical laws of neural and physical development--which would then mean that original ignorance is the price for a material experience. It could be with a different starting point we would come to some very different understandings about material reality and what Jesus was on about.

In the future I will definitely be doing some speculation from this different starting point and this will include looking at the world view of the shamanic tradition. In that vein, I really connected with the NCR article with Fr. Paul F Knitter on 'double belonging'. Buddhism has a great deal of insight, which I have found inspirational even though my own 'double belonging' lies with a different mix of traditions. I suspect getting the whole picture is going to require entertaining the insight of many spiritual paths which is to be expected if the Buddhist and shamanic traditions are correct in stating we are all innerconnnected at the core existential level.
May the comments flow until next time.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Visions of Change

First things first. My days as a daily blogger have ended. Although I will continue to post sporadically, after 650 some posts I have more or less come to a place where I need to move on.

Part of that is economics and part of it is spreading my wings. I feel called back, but also forward, to do what is essentially my primary vocation, and that's not necessarily writing.

These past three years have been really rewarding for me. They have also been truly 'enlightening', in the good sense of that word. The conversations in the comments have led me to countless hours of research and even more countless hours of productive thought. I have been led to other blogs whose content have had a profound effect on my life. I thank each and everyone of you who have added your energy and thought to this effort of mine. Your energy kept me going much much longer than I had ever intended. It's now time to take that energy and spread it into different areas. Hopefully I'll be able to maintain Enlightened Catholicism on at least a weekly basis--most probably weekends. So onto this weeks installment.

One of the metaphors a couple of my Native mentors would use had to do with why it was so difficult to effect change on the rez. They compared the current rez system to a diseased forest. When individual trees escape a diseased forest and then return healthy, there is nothing in the diseased forest to support the healthy tree, and so it to succumbs to the disease. Only those trees which have adapted survival strategies are able to survive. In the rez system the adaptive strategies are actually maladaptive strategies that only further the disease process. Each generation becomes less and less connected to the original primal health.

In this same vein on a more personal level, it's seen in the concept of the 'dry drunk'. The underlying pathology which fostered the drinking is still present in the sober individual, so a drunk mean controlling man becomes a sober mean controlling man. As one medicine man observed, our women prefer the drunk because at least then there is the appearance of an excuse for the mean controlling behavior. Real change can not happen unless there is a real change in the person, not just one behavior. Change involves all aspects of the personality. That means the mental, the physical, the emotional, and the spiritual aspects must all be impacted before there is real lasting change. The question then becomes, how do you achieve that?

In the Native tradition elders would send the seeker on a vision quest. The belief is that change can not be achieved if it is not based on a personal vision. It's the strength of the vision which gives the energy to achieve the change. Frequently the vision sends the seeker on a quest, and the quest becomes a kind of all consuming treasure hunt with many clues found and many tasks completed. Eventually it dawns on one--here I'm speaking personally--that the real end goal of this vision is that it is the process of questing itself which is the lesson. It's always fascinated me that the coyote is such an instrumental animal in many native traditions and always embodies the same message: Coyote is about lessons in which coyote is both the messenger and the message. We keep getting coyote lessons because we fail to see the path is about being the path.

Catholicism and Christianity in general is a diseased forest. If it wasn't, this statistic quoted in John McNeill's latest post would not be true: "In a recent poll among young Christians in the USA between the ages of 16 and 29, 91 percent said that their first association with Christianity is that it is anti-gay."

It beggars the imagination to believe that while Jesus was hanging on the Cross he had a vision in which His church would be primarily associated in the minds of it's youngest generations with anti gay bigotry. The fact we have gotten this far away from His central vision of love says a great deal about how diseased the Christian culture has become. We don't need to recapture Benedict's vision of the priesthood. We need to rediscover Jesus's original vision about love. We need to get back to our real roots, not the perverted vision handed down by the Council of Trent.

Vatican II fathers saw this need, but what they didn't see (and most of us don't) was that Coyote was lurking in the shadows of their vision. They missed the part about the messenger being the message and their vision was lost. They went home and left the Vatican to interpret and enact their vision. The Vatican unfortunately was full of bureaucrats and not true spiritual visionaries. It was full of disease, not medicine people. The individual healthy trees were overcome by the diseased forest and now the primary message of Christ has been supplanted with gay bigotry. The primary association with the Catholic priesthood is sexual abuse.

If Catholicism wants to change these two facts we need to try to recapture Jesus's original vision and work to bring that vision meaningfully into the post modern reality. That won't be done by papal decree. It will only be done through personal vision, communal dreams and the understanding that visions and dreams are not static events. They are the first steps in an endless and ever evolving process.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Chapel Altar and accoutrement's are the work of a deceased friend of mine. He was one of the 'felt banner' school of the "Spirit of Vatican II" kind of priest. Not the kind of priest I suspect Benedict has in mind in the following article. In my opinion this vision of the "Sacred Heart" is incredibly powerful. This link will take you to more of his work.

Priests are a gift from the Heart of Christ, Pope Benedict says
Vatican City, Jun 13, 2010 / 10:58 am (CNA/EWTN News).-
Thousands of pilgrims and faithful gathered at noon Sunday in St. Peter’s Square to pray the Angelus with the Holy Father. Before the prayer, he said that the fruits of the recently ended Year for Priests could never be measured, but are already visible and will continue to be ever more so.
“The priest is a gift from the heart of Christ, a gift for the Church and for the world. From the heart of the Son of God, overflowing with love, all the goods of the Church spring forth,” proclaimed Pope Benedict XVI. “One of those goods is the vocations of those men who, conquered by the Lord Jesus, leave everything behind to dedicate themselves completely to the Christian community, following the example of the Good Shepherd.”

The Holy Father described the priest as having been formed by “the same charity of Christ, that love which compelled him to give his life for his friends and to forgive his enemies.”
“Therefore,” he continued, “priests are the primary builders of the civilization of love.”

Benedict XVI exhorted priests to always seek the intercession of St. John Marie Vianney, whose prayer, the “Act of Love,” was prayed frequently during the Year for Priests, and “continues to fuel our dialogue with God.”

The pontiff also spoke about the close of the Year for Priests, which took place this past week and culminated with the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He emphasized “the unforgettable days in the presence of more than 15,000 priests from around the world.”
The feast of the Sacred Heart is traditionally a “day of priestly holiness,” but this time it was especially so, Benedict XVI remarked. (This statement ignores the fact the original vision of the Sacred Heart was given to a nun.)

Pope Benedict concluded his comments by noting that, in contemplating history, “one observes so many pages of authentic social and spiritual renewal which have been written by the decisive contribution of Catholic priests.” These were inspired “only by their passion for the Gospel and for mankind, for his true civil and religious freedom.”

“So many initiatives that promote the entire human being have begun with the intuition of a priestly heart,” he exclaimed. (But not necessarily an ordained 'priestly' heart.)

The Pope then prayed the Angelus, greeted those present in various languages, and imparted his apostolic blessing.


I have been really lucky in my life in knowing dozens of good priests. I have also known a few of the abuser type. Sometimes these priests have been very much Benedict's idea of a John Vianney kind of priest, that is until you really go to know them. Their piety and humility turned out not to be so much a product of the certainty of their belief as it had been the uncertainty in their belief.

Two priests especially come to mind who represented priestly polar opposites but shared the a kind of mysticism--and liked each other a great deal. Father Kirchen was an academic, classic languages specifically, who spent his retirement working with the homeless and elderly, virtually ignoring the middle class college students he had spent the vast majority of his life teaching. I was privileged to spend time with him while I was a student strictly because I had a car. It was a sort of utilitarian relationship. He gave me the opportunity to do a charitable thing and I saved him hours of walking. It also gave him the opportunity to tell me which recent movies had been condemned by the Church and remind me it was a mortal sin to see such movies since I now knew they were condemned. I didn't have the heart to tell him I usually got his information too late to do me any good--or that I had seen some of these movies with the second priest I'll write about. I would have a hard time keeping a straight face, fully understanding that in Fr. Kirchen's scheme of things, getting the information late was a good thing. Ignorance is bliss and mitigates mortal sin.

He once told me he was a much better priest working in retirement than he had been as a professor. He said something to the effect that those who had nothing or little time left had a much deeper understanding of what Christ was about than those who thought they would have everything and the time to get it. Wink wink nudge nudge. I subsequently turned a blind eye to the fact I knew he was more or less stealing food from the food service to give to the homeless and the bed bound--an activity he could never have conceived of doing when he was head of the seminary program. Fr. Kirchen said an incredible Mass, but so many students were so intimidated by him it was sparsely attended. That was truly unfortunate. His was a case of his Vatican I personality killing the truth of his Vatican II priesthood.

Fr. Kirchen's accomplice in his redistribution of food service wealth scheme was the other priest in this story. Fr Dan Hillen was not just a truly accomplished artist, he was also the kind of priest Fr. Kirchen was sure was subverting his Church. He once said had he known Fr. Dan would turn out the way he seemingly had, he would never have given him a passing grade in Latin. The two of them laughed and laughed, both knowing that Fr. Dan was the kind of son Fr. Kirchen might have had. He called him Danny, a name Dan did not tolerate coming from anyone else. These two priests were the equivalent of ecclesiastical night and day. And their core they did share the energy of the Sacred Heart and they knew it. Fr. Dan could execute in his art the vision of Fr. Kirchen's view of Christ because they shared that same view. Just as that same energy led them to share the same food redistribution scheme.

Like most priests the Mass was central for them. Neither could understand how it was that I found both their Masses an equal spiritual experience. The truth was they both saw my attitude as somewhat insulting or at best naive. Almost everything about their Masses was quite different, to say the least. One was all Latin magic and mysticism and one was all about community and at times intimate sharing. The differences were enough to make me wonder about me.

One day I'm in Fr. Dan's studio and he's playing around with a crystal roundel and it catches the light and refracts a rainbow on the table. It suddenly was 'crystal' clear. It was the same Light just refracted in different colors. There truly is, at it's core, a mystical unity in Catholic diversity. One color is not superior to another color in God's rainbow. One color doesn't hold more truth. They all hold the same truth, and that truth is constant and inexplicable. It is capable of taking two very different priests and overcoming their theological differences, uniting them in the same schemes concocted for God's needy.

Fr. Kirchen was a slightly older German contemporary of Pope Benedict. Lately I've wondered what Fr. Kirchen would make of the Year of the Priest. I strongly suspect Fr. Kirchen's retirement years might have seriously mitigated his appreciation of the Fr. Vianey concept of the priesthood. Fr. Kirchen was pious and at times naive, but never blind. When he took his priesthood out into the real world he found a different color priesthood.

Fr. Dan always lived his priesthood more in the real world and was ultimately blindsided by JPII's Catholicism. It's this version of Catholicism which now serves as the real world for the Roman Catholic priesthood. I don't think for one minute Fr. Kirchen would approve of furthering his version of priesthood at the expense of Dan's version. Fr. Kirchen would walk into the chapel pictured above and instantly recognize the vision of a kindred soul, just as he did in life. I really wonder if Pope Benedict could do the same and that to me is very very sad.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Pope Benedict's Real Message Is In It's Targeted Audience

Pope Benedict has a very small target group in mind for his Catholic message and doesn't seem to be overly concerned that it misses most of his flock in the West. What is that about?

I've been wondering lately what it is about Pope Benedict's recent homilies, especially those he gave for the end of the Year of the Priest, which has left me feeling completely alienated. It's not just the message. It's more than that and this feeling has been building for a long time.

When broken down effective communication has three components, the message, the messenger, and the audience. Usually the message is the key component and it's effective transmission is facilitated by the passion of the speaker and the ability of the audience to hear the message. My problem with Benedict lies in all three areas, but the most critical factor is the last of the three. I am not in the audience Benedict is addressing. He is tailoring his message to a very specific audience and in language which is designed to appeal to that very specific audience. He is purposely preaching to his theological choir, which means he is purposely ignoring the vast majority of Western Catholics. He is leaving no hope of any dialogue with anyone who is not in his choir.

Benedict is not preaching the universal Good News of Jesus Christ which Jesus intended for all mankind. He is preaching a version of Roman Catholicism which purposely cuts out the vast majority of the West. It's as if he has single handedly judged the vast majority of the West has already condemned itself to hell and no longer deserves the Church's attention or concern.
Benedict is not evangelizing anyone. How do you evangelize when you only address those in your fold? How do you spread the Good News when you use language designed to reinforce the views of your chosen fold by demonizing those not in the fold? What Benedict is doing is hardly Christ like. It's not preaching. It's more like cheer leading.

And sometimes the blame game he engages in is subtle. Take for instance this frequently cited quote from his recent homily to the the gathering of priests in Rome:

"It was to be expected that this new radiance of the priesthood would not be pleasing to the "enemy"; he would have rather preferred to see it disappear, so that God would ultimately be driven out of the world.

And so it happened that, in this very year of joy for the sacrament of the priesthood, the sins of priests came to light – particularly the abuse of the little ones, in which the priesthood, whose task is to manifest God’s concern for our good, turns into its very opposite."

What he is ever so subtly saying is that the victims who came forward were the tools the devil used to attack the 'new radiance of the priesthood'. He is re blaming the victims for bringing shame to the priesthood. I guess if these victims weren't under the control of the 'enemy' they would have waited until after Benedict was done with his year long priestly PR campaign.

I'm getting tired of this notion that popes can't admit personal mistakes without influencing the aura of infallibility surrounding the papacy, and by extension the Vatican and bishops and everything they say and do. I can't ignore the historical fact that they themselves were the only ones who assigned such status to themselves. Maybe that's exactly why Benedict's message is targeting such a limited audience in Western society. Not too many people living in Western democracies actually buy into the notion of the self appointed divine king. Not even the corporate version as BP's Tony Hayward is finding out.

As long as Benedict continues to occupy the Chair of Peter it's pretty obvious he will continue to preach to a very limited Catholic audience in the West. His eyes are most certainly on the South and he is making a very obvious attempt to keep the South in a Colonial form of Catholicism by damning most of the cultural progress of the West. The same phenomenon is happening in the Anglican Church now that Rowan Williams has opted for unified central authority as more important in Anglicanism than local expression.

So who benefits by underscoring obedience to and dependence on unelected centralized authority? Certainly not Jesus who taught service to others as opposed to power over others. The Tony Hayward's of the world most certainly do. The opulently housed and clothed colonial clerics most certainly do. Those who aspire to that kind of material wealth and power most certainly do. In the end that's the message I personally got from the 'Year of the Priest'. Pope Benedict's Catholicism is still all about reserving power to celibate males and keeping clerical privilege in tact. As long as that message supports the exploitation of humanity it will find plenty of economic support. Benedict still believes clericalism will be able to sustain itself. That may prove to be a papal error of historic proportions and disprove infallibility once and for all.

Friday, June 11, 2010

It's All The Devil's Fault

The Devil's priestly victims gather to listen to the chief victim.

Pope sees the Devil behind timing of sex abuse crisis
by John L Allen Jr - National Catholic Reporter - Jun. 11, 2010

Since the Catholic sexual abuse crisis erupted a decade ago, there have been numerous attempts to explain its causes, from a lack of fidelity to an over-emphasis on celibacy and clerical privilege. This morning in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI pointed to a deeper unseen force lurking behind the crisis, especially its timing: the Devil.

It’s no accident, the pope implied, that precisely as the Catholic church was celebrating a “Year for Priests” in 2009-2010, the sexual abuse crisis once again took on massive global proportions.
“It was to be expected that this new radiance of the priesthood would not be pleasing to the ‘enemy,’” Benedict XVI said. “He would have rather preferred to see it disappear, so that God would ultimately be driven out of the world.” (I hate to be a party pooper, but one could also see this just the exact opposite. What if it was the work of the Holy Spirit exposing the hidden clerical abuses of the 'enemy'?)

The term "the enemy" is a traditional Catholic way of referring to the Devil.

The line drew applause from the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square for a Mass bringing the "Year for Priests" to a close. The Vatican said that some 15,000 priests from more than 90 countries were on hand for the event.

Benedict said that the sexual abuse of minors amounts to a direct contradiction of the meaning of the Catholic priesthood.

“So it happened in this very year of joy for the sacrament of the priesthood, the sins of priests came to light – particularly the abuse of the little ones, in which the priesthood, whose task is to manifest God’s concern for our good, turns into its very opposite,” the pope said.

Those comments came as part of Benedict’s homily for the closing Mass of the “Year for Priests," which also marked the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Benedict XVI did not allude to recent criticism of his own role, or that of the Vatican, in responding to the crisis.
(Of course not, it's the devil, not the system.)

In the run-up to this morning's Mass, some had speculated that Benedict might use the occasion to unveil dramatic new policy measures on the sexual abuse crisis. In fact, the pope did not announce any new initiatives, but instead referred to the crisis in a more spiritual key as a “summons to purification.” (Yes, God forbid it be seen as a call for accountability and transparency--or for reform of the clerical system.)

As he has on numerous occasions in the past, the pope apologized both to God and to the victims of abuse, and pledged to prevent such abuse in the future.

“We insistently beg forgiveness from God and from the persons involved, while promising to do everything possible to ensure that such abuse will never occur again,” the pope said.
“In admitting men to priestly ministry and in their formation, we will do everything we can to weigh the authenticity of their vocation and make every effort to accompany priests along their journey, so that the Lord will protect them and watch over them in troubled situations and amid life’s dangers,” he said. (Yes, this has worked so well in the past, this notion of trust the system to fix the system. Kind of like BP.)

Had the “Year for Priests” been merely a celebration of the human performance of priests, Benedict said, it would have been ruined by the revelations of the sexual abuse crisis. Instead, he said, the crisis should make the church embrace its faith in God with new “courage and humility.” (Why? Because we're supposed to be afraid of your definition of the devil?)

Later, Benedict XVI invoked the image of the shepherd’s rod, saying that using the rod to correct those who go astray can be a “service of love.” (Oh my.)

The use of the rod, the pope said, clearly applies to taking a firmer hand on the sexual abuse crisis.

“Today we can see that it has nothing to do with love when conduct unworthy of the priestly life is tolerated,” he said. (He got this right. The question is what took so long for our 'leadership' to see this simple fact.)

On other matters, Benedict XVI rejected a “functionalist” understanding of the priesthood, treating it as comparable to other jobs or professional roles. Instead, the pope insisted, the priesthood is not an office but a sacrament.

Ultimately, he said, the priesthood expresses the “audacity of God,” who considers flawed men capable of “acting and being present in his stead.”

The pope argued that a priest must make present a God who is actively involved in the affairs of the world and in individual human lives, as opposed to the unknown deities of the ancient world or the “watchmaker” God of the Enlightenment, who creates the world and then withdraws from it. (A priest has no control over the relationship between God and a given person. To even think this implies the priesthood has some control over God, but then that is the assumption of Benedict's idea of priesthood.)

God actively looks after the world, the pope insisted, including laying down clear moral laws – not to control human beings, but to see them flourish.

“Wherever God’s loving concern is perceived as getting in the way, human beings go awry,” he said.

“We understand that these rules from God are not chains, but the way which he is pointing out to us,” the pope said. “As priests, we need to communicate to others our own joy at the fact that we have been shown the right way.”

In addition to being firm on sexual abuse, the pope also called for greater vigilance about deviations from the faith.

It has nothing to do with love, Benedict XVI said, “if heresy is allowed to spread and the faith twisted and chipped away, as if it were something that we ourselves had invented.”
That remark likewise drew applause, the only other time the crowd this morning interrupted the pope's homily to affirm a particular line. (Projection, projection, projection.)

As a footnote, Italian Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the former Secretary of State under Pope John Paul II and still the dean of the College of Cardinals, was a principal concelebrant of this morning's Mass. It was Sodano's first major appearance alongside the pope since his remarks at the Easter Sunday liturgy, comparing criticism of Benedict XVI on the sexual abuse crisis to "petty gossip," drew wide international criticism. (Wow, Benedict is either totally blind or totally pig headed, since Sodano is the poster child for the excesses of clericalism.)


First off I think it is notable that the only two lines which drew applause were the lines about the devil being behind the attack on the priesthood and that heresies are chipping away at the faith. This tells me everything I need to know about the mindset of the people who were in attendance. They see themselves and the Pope as blameless in the face of these two ancient enemies of the Church. They may be victims, but they are not part of the problem, they are the solution.

Catholicism as a viable force for good in post modern society is in serious trouble. If there are any hierarchical authorities out there who really care about this Church, they need to man up and stop this papal march to oblivion. The laity in the first world need to stop supporting this idiocy because it really does promote misery in the developing world, laying the burden of that misery unfairly on the backs of the poor, especially women and children. That's what Liberation Theology was all about. It's one those 'heresies' that threaten the rich and the complacent and the self centered savers of their own souls. If this is the devil's work then Christianity has been flipped on it's head and Benedict wants me to believe black is white and white is black.

To be honest, I am at a loss for words. Maybe I'm just not 'simple' enough for Benedict.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

So Ends The Year Of The Priest--But No End For The Celibate Priest

Pope Benedict's song for the laity: Follow the clerical road; follow the clerical road; follow follow follow follow, follow the clerical road. You're off to hear the wizard, the clerical wizard of Rome.

Pope answers priests' questions on prayer, celibacy and new vocations
CNA/EWTN - Vatican City - 6/10/2010
Priests from around the world gathered at a prayer vigil in St. Peter's Square on Thursday with Pope Benedict, who responded to questions addressed by priests from every continent.The Pope spoke on the importance of prayer and the Eucharist in the life of priests, defended the role of celibacy and emphasized the need to trust that God will bless the Church with new vocations.
The Holy Father recalled the importance of each priest having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ before he can go out and fulfill his calling.
He emphasized the importance of prayer, which he called the “profession of the priest,” pointing to the example of Christ, who is shown in the Gospels taking time to rest during his priestly ministry. If a priest neglects the care of his own soul, Benedict XVI said, he will never be able to love others properly.

Encouraging priests to take the time they need to nourish their own soul through prayer, the Holy Father offered words of encouragement, saying, “The Lord will help us make the right decisions if we are prayerfully attuned to him.”

Priests and the Eucharist

The Pontiff pointed to Mother Teresa as an example of “a love that abandons itself” in order to reach out to the forsaken. He recalled how she would always place a tabernacle at the center of each new community, thus keeping the Eucharist as the center of community life.
Priests must live out the Eucharist, said the Holy Father, reminding those present that “the Eucharist is not a closure to the rest of the world,” but rather, is open to the world's needs.

Priests in the Modern World

The Pope encouraged theologians to “be brave” in the midst of a world that excludes the Gospel.
Drawing on a distinction made by St. Bonaventure, he warned against a “theology of arrogance” that makes God a mere object rather than a subject speaking to us. Instead, the Pope said, priests must engage in a “theology stimulated by love” that seeks to dialogue with Love and come to a better knowledge of the Beloved.

He called on priests to have the “courage to go beyond positivism” and be “humble enough not to follow fads,” but instead to “live by the great faith of the Church at all times.”

“The true majority in the Church are the saints,” he said. “We must draw nourishment from them.”

The Pope explained that the faithful must “have faith in the life of the Church” while at the same time exercising critical thought. Emphasizing fidelity to the Church, he added that “the Catechism is the criterion by which we can judge whether a given theology is acceptable or not.”

Priestly Celibacy

One question directed to the Pontiff asked about “the true meaning and depth of ecclesiastical celibacy.”
The Pope began by emphasizing that the foundation of the priesthood is the celebration of the Eucharist. “Christ is drawing us into himself, allowing us to speak for him and with him,” he said. “He is at all times the only real priest, yet he is very present to the world today because he draws us into himself.”

Priestly celibacy must be understood in light of this unity with Christ, he continued. “We are going forth towards the life of Resurrection,” he said, a life in which “we will be beyond marriage.”

Therefore, he explained, “Celibacy is simply an anticipation, a foretaste, made possible by the grace of the Lord, that pulls us towards the risen world and helps us transcend ourselves.” In a world where people think only about the present and forget the future and eternity, priestly celibacy is a living witness and reminder of that reality to the world, the Pope remarked.

The Holy Father went on to discuss the ways in which priestly celibacy differs from the “increasingly fashionable” trend of simply “not getting married.” While the avoidance of marriage is based on a selfish rejection of commitment, celibacy means “saying that final yes,” he stated. “It is an act of trust, an act of fidelity.” In this way, “celibacy confirms the yes of marriage.”

The world does not understand this, the Holy Father observed, because in a world where there is no room for God, “celibacy is a scandal.” The Pope encouraged priests to let “the scandal of our faith” shine forth in their lives. (I'm pretty sure I would have done everything possible to avoid the language in this sentence--especially the word scandal in relation to the priesthood.)

Encouraging Priestly Vocations

Asked what priests can do to help “generate new vocations,” the Pope warned against the temptation to transform the priestly vocation into a mere job in order to attract larger numbers to the priesthood.
He recalled the Scripture story of how King Saul had been awaiting the necessary sacrifice before a battle, but when Samuel did not arrive, he tried to perform the sacrifice himself. Because Saul was not a priest, he had taken on a role that was not rightfully his.

In the same way, said the Pontiff, we must remember that a vocation is a calling that comes from God, not from our own doing. “We must avoid taking things into our own hands,” he said. Rather, we should “pray insistently for vocations” and wait with trust and humility for the Lord to answer our prayers. (The real question is what if you don't like the asnwer to your prayers? Do you continue to let the People of God go without the Eucharist waiting for God to give you the answer you want?)

Pope Benedict called upon priests to live out their priesthood “in a way that is persuasive” so that young people may see an example of the vocation lived fully. He also encouraged priests to speak to young men and help them find environments where they will be surrounded by faith and can be open to their calling.

Concluding the question-and-answer session, the Holy Father reminded those present to stay faithful to the Lord, maintaining the hope that “God will help us.”


Nothing Pope Benedict said in this homily surprises me. It certainly doesn't surprise me that he did not acknowledge the damage his corps of priests has done to the Church. I'm sure it frustrated the protesters who had gathered along with the thousands of priests, but this gathering was intended to serve as a priestly pep rally, not a confession of priestly inadequacy.

For anyone who held even the tiniest bit of hope that Benedict might look into priestly celibacy this homily should put an end to that hope. On the contrary, it looks like the Vatican intends to use priestly celibacy as another prop for the theology of traditional marriage. Priestly celibacy is now to foreshadow our heavenly sexless marriages and stand in direct contrast to all the other unmarried selfish people avoiding commitment. What is a good gay Catholic supposed to think now? Damned if you aren't celibate, and selfish and afraid of commitment if you are celibate? Sure sucks to be a gay Catholic these days. Come to think of it, I guess this means it sucks to be a heterosexual single as well. Maybe it's still OK to be a widow or a widower.

True Catholics can take some pride in Benedict's words, for they are all apparently on the path to be saints. If you don't know who a True Catholic is, just wait, they'll tell you--repeatedly. They also have no compunctions about letting a whole bunch of others know they aren't True Catholics. That's how I learned I was not a True Catholic. I guess I'm not a saint either, in spite of what it says on my jacket emblazoned with the Fighting Saint logo of my alma mater. Well, at least I got the fighting part right.

As to all those True Catholics who use the catechism as the rule book of life, I better stop making fun of that because according to Pope Benedict even the thoughts of theologians should be bounded by the catechism. But then why bother with theologians--other than him I mean. Might just as well stick with catechists. Oh wait a minute, maybe that's the whole idea. No more theologians except those who agree with Benedict. (Silly me. I knew that.)

I'm not sure I think using Mother Theresa as an example of the effect of the Eucharist on a religious life was a very good idea. While it is true that she had a tabernacle in all her centers, it's also true that it didn't turn on any light in the fifty year dark night of her soul. I might have used another example. Maybe someone like Padre Pio. Well maybe not. Pio actually did as Jesus did. You know actually healing people and looking into people's souls and levitating and talking to angels and all that kind of thing. That might be too much to expect for alot of today's priests. Besides a lot of them are perfectly content considering themselves ontologically higher up the spiritual food chain than the laity. They have the right to the Eucharistic miracle and don't need to bother with any of the rest of that stuff Jesus talked about and did, and the Apostles talked about and did, and the current Church talks about but hardly ever does.

The part that really confused me, at least at first, is when Benedict says laity must have faith in the life of the Church while at the same time exercising critical thought. Then I realized he must have meant exercising critical thought about the aspects of secular society that fail to meet the criterion of the catechism. Benedict doesn't really believe one can be critical of the church and maintain fidelity. He believes one demonstrates fidelity to the life of the Church by being critical of society. Jesus on the other hand was highly critical of religious authority while maintaining fidelity to His relationship with His Father. It appears a True Catholic must now stick fidelity to priestly religious authority smack dab in the middle of their relationship to Jesus. That's good for the continuance of the current priestly system, but not so good for Jesus's relationship with His people.

But let's face it, Benedict's version of Catholicism is not about Jesus. It's about the Catholic priesthood. In his system we Catholics really don't need Jesus to get in the way. We need celibate male priests to control our access to Jesus, and the Vatican to control the expression of the Holy Spirit, and the Blessed Virgin to hold our hands and assure this is all the way it's supposed to be, and God the Father to bless it.

Oh yea, and one pope to rule us all and in his darkness bind us. (oops, wrong movie)

The Mysterious Ways Of The Holy Spirit

New York City's Speaker of the Council Christine Quinn with Mayor Bloomberg and members of the band U2 during a ceremony to name a street after the band. Speaker Quinn, a democrat and out lesbian, has a cause in common with Bill Donahue, and no it's not U2.

There are times when irony and/or hubris are just so blatant one has to smile. Following are two such examples. One involves Deal Hudson in a major case of the pot calling the kettle black, and one involves Bill Donahue in a case of Enemy Mine. (Enemy Mine is one of my all time favorite movies.)
Deal Hudson warns of future ‘anti-Catholic storm’ in U.S.
Washington D.C., Jun 10, 2010 / 03:04 am (CNA).-

An “anti-Catholic storm” is looming in the United States, Deal Hudson has claimed, because of the Church’s stance against “postmodern ideologies” and because well-funded Catholic supporters of President Obama provide cover for Catholic politicians who dissent from Catholic teaching. (Deal, you should be flattered. Your entire successful political strategy for co opting the Catholic right is being copied by the left. Maybe too successfully for your tastes.)

Hudson, who has served as an advisor to Republican leaders on Catholic issues, wrote at that a “relentless barrage” of reporting in the mainstream media is intended to force changes demanded by dissenting Catholic groups. (It's a shame. That used to be space the right wing religious faction mostly controlled.)

Revelations of clerical sexual abuse in Europe have provided “Catholic bashers” the opportunity to attack Church teachings about abortion and same-sex “marriage,” he added. A call to arrest Pope Benedict XVI in the United Kingdom should have been regarded as “a crank call” but has led to speculation about whether the papal trip to Britain should be canceled. (There we go, abortionsamesexmarriage.)

While Iraqi Christians are being expelled from their homelands, this only receives “occasional mention” in the New York Times, whose reporters “dig through Vatican documents” hoping to link the Pope with clerical sexual abuse, Hudson objected.

“The use of courts and commissions to harass and threaten Catholics and other Christians has already been auditioned in Canada. And the expansion of hate-speech laws signed by President Barack Obama last October sets the stage for similar tussles here when a minister, priest, or voluble layperson too heatedly denounces homosexual sex.” (Imagine the tussles if ministers denounced illicit heterosexual sex as the intrinsically evil expression of objectively disordered heterosexuals. If that were the case, Deal Hudson, for instance, might appreciate those hate-speech laws.)

While the Church is not the only institution insisting on universal moral standards, it is the largest and therefore stands in the way of “postmodern ideologies achieving complete dominance in the West.”

Those who hold the “postmodern” belief that all truth is power “don't hesitate to use the power of the media, government, and the courts to attack any institution thwarting their influence.” (Maybe they learned that from observing the activities of the abortionsamesexmarriage crowd.)

According to Hudson, political donors have combined resources with labor unions, which once had a “vital” relationship with the Church, to support “faux Catholic groups that provide cover for politicians who don’t vote Catholic.” He suggested that it is these groups’ fault that the majority of candidates who oppose abortion and same-sex marriage are Republican. (Hmmm, and here I thought the Republican party purposely sought out cultural conservatives because they were the party of cultural values. I guess the truth is they were only the default party.)

“The coming anti-Catholic storm will be linked, sadly, to the reelection campaign of President Barack Obama,” he predicted. Though the president is out of favor at the moment, his supporters will “quickly recover” enthusiasm in the face of a Republican opponent.

“There will be a furious and well-funded effort by Catholic Obama supporters to keep Obama in office. By 2010, the storm will be felt throughout the Church, and those who blithely claim that the Church and politics are not connected will be as helpless as a fallen leaf caught in a tornado,” Hudson’s commentary concluded. (This is too funny. I hope the bishops in his pocket read this one as they are the one's who keep saying the Church and politics are not connected.---as if anyone or anything connected to Deal Hudson isn't all about politics.)


The above comments from Deal Hudson are worthy of Keith Olberman's "Worst person in the world" designation. Deal must truly believe his ardent followers are blind and deaf or have poor memories. Either that or he is really scared the Republicans truly are about to self destruct and he and his fellow manipulators have been out manipulated by the Tea party faction---the faction he helped create. Perhaps Deal should meditate on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

In the meantime his fellow Catholic neocon, Bill Donahue has had enough sense to stir up ardor without seemingly resorting to politics. He and his Catholic League cronies have created the Empire State Building vs Mother Theresa controversy. What's funny to me about the current status of this 'dispute' is one of their most vocal and politically placed proponents is the Democratic Speaker of the NY City Council, Christine Quinn. Who just also happens to be an out lesbian. Hmm, what to do, what to do. I'm guessing Bill will be in a moral quandary all the way to the bank.

I do think it's telling that even Bill Donahue is politically astute enough to create some other controversy rather than to continuously recycle abortionsamesexmarriage. The general trend in American Catholicism is moving beyond abortionsamesexmarriage. The inherent conflicts between absolute adherence to religious dogma and Christ like pastoral compassion are becoming very evident. I like to think it really is the rare Catholic who prefers slavish obedience to rules over humane compassion. Christ certainly modeled in His life that humane compassion trumped slavish obedience to rules.

Maybe this is the lesson that clerics like Olmstead and Burke, and political operatives like Deal Hudson are teaching American Catholics. As far as the Holy Spirit is concerned, it doesn't matter what you think you are teaching. What matters is the lesson your audience gets. So I say keep it up boys. You really are doing the work of the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Using Patients And Catholic Hospitals For The New Evangelization

In the Catholic Health Care System the ethical decisions of the beginning of life and the end of life are the Bishops, not yours, not an ethics committee.

Angela Bonavoglia - Hffington Post - 6/702010

So many things are galling about Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted's excommunication of Sister Margaret McBride, a member of St. Joseph's Hospital Ethics Committee, for approving the termination of the life-threatening, 11-week-old pregnancy of a 27-year-old mother of four that it's hard to know where to begin. But surely one of the most urgent issues this case raises is the danger faced by any woman who sets foot in a Catholic hospital in the midst of a reproductive crisis.

Just to recap, late last year a critically-ill pregnant woman was brought into St. Joseph's suffering from pulmonary hypertension. Her pregnancy posed such a burden to her heart and lungs that carrying it to term almost certainly would have killed her. Sister Margaret approved the decision of the physicians, the patient, and her family to terminate the pregnancy.
When Olmsted learned that this procedure had taken place, all hell broke loose. Without a scintilla of empathy or sympathy for the dying woman and her family, Olmsted said: "The direct killing of an unborn child is always immoral, no matter the circumstances." Since the abortion was not "indirect" (i.e., the byproduct of another procedure necessary to save the mother's life, such as removing a cancerous uterus), the correct moral action, according to Olmsted and the Phoenix diocese, was this: Let the mother and the fetus die.

We do not know how often such decisions come up in Catholic hospitals. Nor do we know if any go the other way -- that is, the beliefs of the Olmsteds of the Church prevail and discharge is followed by a funeral. What we do know is that Catholic hospitals, charged with abiding by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, pose a real danger to women's health and lives.

"One of the most troubling areas is in the treatment of reproductive emergencies," says Lois Uttley, director of the MergerWatch Project, which works with communities facing Catholic-non-Catholic hospital mergers to preserve reproductive health services. A miscarriage in progress is an example of the emergencies Uttley is referencing. When it happens so early in pregnancy that the fetus cannot survive, the pregnancy has to be terminated quickly. Unfortunately, explains Uttley, in some Catholic hospitals, this isn't what happens; the fetal heartbeat has to stop before doctors can do the procedure.

The disturbing findings of a report published in late 2008 in the American Journal of Public Health bear this out. The researchers set out to explore the impact of residency abortion training on the medical practices of a sample of ob-gyns. In the course of conducting their interviews, they got an unexpected glimpse into the conflicts posed by the Directives for physicians attempting to manage miscarriages.

One doctor working at a Catholic hospital reported receiving a woman whose pregnancy "was very early, 14 weeks," with "a hand sticking out of the cervix," indicating that "clearly the membranes had ruptured and she was trying to deliver." Because there was still a fetal heart rate, the ethics committee refused to approve the abortion; they sent the woman to another institution 90 miles away. (This scenario could easily happen in large Western States where Catholic hospitals are frequently the only source of medical care in smaller communities and the next hospital really is ninety miles away. It's one thing when this happens because a hospital doesn't have the expertise or equipment, but refusing an emergency procedure any doctor could do is a different story.)

Another doctor, at an academic medical center, reported that a Catholic-owned hospital called to ask her to accept a pregnant miscarrying patient who was already septic and hemorrhaging. She urged them to do the uterine aspiration themselves, but they refused. That doctor accepted the patient and did the procedure, but saw this case as a form of "patient dumping." She reported the hospital for an Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act violation. (As well she should have.)

Obviously and fundamentally, the question is this: Why does a woman lying at death's door have to worry about whether a procedure that will save her life violates the so-called "ethical" Directives of a religion she doesn't belong to or long ago abandoned, Directives that treat women as disposable delivery systems for new humans, while flying in the face of standard, approved medical practice?

One answer is that the original conscience clauses, approved by Congress after the passage of Roe v. Wade, have been bastardized. They now apply not only to people -- physicians and nurses who oppose abortion -- but to institutions whose "consciences" trump not only the patient's own conscience, but also violate her right to informed consent and to medically indicated care. (If Catholic hospitals can't in their 'conscience' provide basic emergency care they should close their doors to all but like minded Catholics.)

We need more research into how often and in what ways physicians compromise patient care as a result of the Catholic Directives. But for now, the experience of the nameless, faceless, pregnant woman who Bishop Olmstead would have sentenced to death (rather than having her live "the rest of her existence having had her child killed," which is how the diocesan statement put it) is a cautionary tale.

Unless you are a deeply devoted Catholic and want your local bishop to make your most intimate medical decisions, when the ambulance pulls up, be ready. Have your own ethical and moral directive saying: Do Not Take Me to a Catholic Hospital. If for no other reason than this: there may not be a Sister Margaret in the house. (This decision coupled with the recent Directive 58 on palliative care, which also ignores patient desires irrespective of religious affiliation, is more than reason enough to carry such a card.)


The medical ramifications for Catholic hospitals and their patients has actually been a bigger deal to me than the excommunication of Sr. McBride. Decisions made which place the conscience of an institution over the direct wishes of patients may not matter much on the East Coast but it is a big deal in larger states with few communities that are big enough to support multiple hospitals. In many cases the first medical hospital opened under the auspices of a Catholic missionary group and it is still the only hospital. The idea of a ninety mile transport of a critical patient under these guidelines is all too real.

Out in the West we all come to terms with the fact these situations may very well happen to us and that we may in fact die in transit. But I don't think too many of us women are prepared to die in transit because the local Catholic hospital places fidelity to the dictates of the USCCB over the reality of their ability to save our lives.

I still maintain that this was a dictatorial political move on the part of Olmstead and had nothing to do with pastoral concern. Why else fail to mention that Canon Law also calls for the excommunication of the parents who must have made the final decision? Why single out McBride if this was not strictly for the purposes of reigning in Catholic hospitals, to force them to comply to USCCB directives. I also wouldn't be surprised if Olmstead and his pro life absolutist saw this situation as another potential legal battle in restricting access to legal abortion.

In general the abortion debate centers around the availability of legal abortion as a means of birth control. The debate rarely gets into the 'life of the mother' end of things. This is the loophole that absolutists see as the beginning of the slope that leads to full legalization. If a legal case can be made for Catholic hospitals which closes this loophole, it's another legal victory in the war to make abortion legal in the abstract but impossible in reality. This is exactly the kind of case which pro lifer's would love to take before this current Supreme Court. It would hardly shock me if this Court decided an institutional conscience trumped a woman's right to life.

The USCCB and the Vatican have been using the US Catholic medical system to leverage the American political system. It started first in the Terry Schiavo case and resulted in Directive 58, which was based on the personal opinion of John Paul II. Olmstead has taken this one step further in Phoenix. Not surprising that a bishop would assert his canonical authority over Catholic hospitals shortly after the Catholic Health Association took the opposite position from the USCCB on health care reform and it's supposed promotion of abortion. The CHA stand undercut this use of the Catholic health care system for the USCCB's 'evangelization' program.

This is a story that won't die because it shouldn't die. There are more agendas at work here than just whether or not Sr McBride deserved excommunication. In the meantime what's the life of one poor mother or the religious life of one poor sister when it comes to jamming USCCB ethical directives on the rest of us. So what if we die, or have to live on tubes until it bankrupts our family, it's for the good of our souls. In the meantime I have a directive which precludes Catholic hospitals for end of life care--for the good of my life.