Saturday, July 31, 2010

The story continues.....

My own path in Catholicism changed dramatically when I made one heart felt prayer in utter frustration.  Not terribly surprising I suppose but it came in the Spring of 2003, when I was up to my ears in the clerical abuse scandal.  I had been teaching high school CCD, was on another diocesan board and was a daily communicant.  As time went on I kept slamming into the understanding that with most of my fellow Catholics, even though I engaged in the same kind of service, and the same sacramental practices, I was not operating from the same mind set.  If I had to try to explain this I guess I would say I was moving towards something--I didn't really know what--and others around me seemed to be at ease and comforted by what they had.  In view of the abuse scandal I had no patience with this attitude at all.  My lack of patience wasn't helped any by the fact I was privy to too much information about our own diocese.

I tried to tell myself that maybe they had found their vocation and I was still searching, or somehow the answers coming from the hierarchy worked for them and for some personal reason those answers were not enough for me.  Except on a profound level I could feel things shifting in my relationship with Catholicism.  Not with Jesus, but with Catholicism.  There was something about Catholicism that was seriously out of whack.  So in utter frustration, I demanded to know where I was supposed to go with this Catholic spirituality thing of mine.  What good was it,  if all it did was mess with my mind and heart.
With in days my life started to get more interesting and much more challenging, but in a good way. I also saw if I was ever to get where I was going, I wasn't going to be given a map.  Of if I did get one, it was going to be mostly blank except for a little bit around the spot where I was at any given moment in place and time.  I had to trust, to have faith, that there was a higher guiding intelligence behind me and that no matter how weird it would get, it was as it was meant to be.  I felt an overwhelming sense of peace with that and so I gave consent. The "Thy will be done kind of thing".   I wish I had a dollar for everytime from then on I would look at myself in the mirror and think "You are an idiot."

I understood that I was going on an extended pilgrimage of sorts in which I would experience how things used to be and how Jesus intended them.  From this I was to begin a process of understanding where mankind might need to go.  The first concrete sign things were changing showed up in my photography.  All of a sudden I was getting orbs in a third of my shots.  My profile photo is one of the very first I ever took, and it's also one of the clearest.  That particular photo was a shot of a stained glass window depicting St Helena finding the true cross. It later dawned on me that this first photo might have been a metaphorical message of what this pilgrimage of mine was all about.  Me being me,  I'm not looking at it that way at all. 

I thought for sure the phenomenon would show up around the Constantine window because Constantine's mystical conversion is when Catholicism really took off. I burned up maybe 200 or so shots in attempts to get a photo of an orb around the Constantine conversion window.  I wanted validation for my thoughts.  I somewhat failed to see I was getting validation because I didn't want to think about that kind of validation. Thank god you can delete digital photos because I was persistent.  It has never happened to this day.  It's always St Helena, and never Constantine.

Native elders say that an experience such as this one has layers with in layers with in layers.  These kinds of experiences rarely lend themselves to an obvious surface explanation.  When the Ancestors, or maybe in this case, the Communion of Saints and Angels, breaks through with this kind of message it always has many many meanings.  Some of them are personal and some of them are for the tribe.  The most powerful and important visions or experiences always center on messages for the good of the tribe.  I'll let my readers think about what the universal messages might be. 

For me personally St Helena represented a coming pilgrimage through a culture I wasn't familiar with on a similar search for meaning in the life of Christ and His teachings.  The hopeful part of the message is in the end St Helena found what she was looking for--at least in a believable sense to her.  I think the same thing holds true for all of us.  More to come.......

Friday, July 30, 2010

What's A Frustrated Catholic To Do?

Today I want to feature a couple of posts from two prominent writers who have extensive experience with the more corrupt aspects of clericalism.  The first is an excerpt from Eugene Kennedy's current article at the National Catholic Reporter.  The second is from Fr. Tom Doyle explaining how clericalism itself engendered the duplicitous responses of bishops to clerical abuse allegations.  Fr. Tom's is actually a response to an analysis by William Carfardi as posted in Commonweal.  Cafardi's article dealt with the influence of 'secrecy' as an official Church strategy.  Fr. Tom has a different take.  First Eugene Kennedy:

Chicago was once the imperial seal embossed on America's clerical culture. That's when Cardinal Mundelein rode to his brick replica of Mount Vernon on the seminary grounds in a limousine with crimson strutted wheels and would ask absently, on his way to a priest's funeral, "What was Father's name again?" Chicago still has a cardinal archbishop named Francis George who is also president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He is pleasant the way the man who sells you a suit is and just as hard to recall afterward. His phantom-like presence, except when he gets irritated with gays who want to receive the Eucharist together, is a symptom of the withering away of the clerical culture.

Clerical Culture, once the greatest show on earth, has not posted its closing notices but, like the three ring circus it so closely resembled in its days of glory, it has seen its tattered wonders outstripped by those of modernity, and the people are neither enticed by its barkers nor willing to believe in its clever illusions anymore. Its dissolution is a sign, starker than a symbol cut into a wheat field, of the collapse of the hierarchical pre-Vatican II establishment that so many righteous clerics are struggling to restore. (Kennedy makes a very important point.  The scientifically unprovable claims of the Church, along with it's unique and self serving interpretation of it's own history,  have been totally outstripped by modern science, psychology, anthropology, historical scriptural scholars, and archeology.)

Fr. Tom's essay explains in more detail than Eugene Kennedy's, why this culture itself created secrecy and why those who belong to the culture can't let it die in spite of the over whelming evidence as to it's practical,  moral, and criminal dysfunction.

The Church is a visible institution. The Church teaches as official dogma that the Church as we know it, that is, a hierarchical structure that is totally run by celibate male clerics (mostly bishops), was instituted by Jesus Himself. The Church teaches that the pope is the representative (Vicar) of Christ on earth. It teaches that Christ founded His church and left it in the control of the twelve apostles and explicitly willed that these apostles pass this power down to their successors. Consequently the official teaching is that the visible church is run by men who have been explicitly chosen by the Supreme Being. Furthermore the Church teaches that priests are fundamentally different than other humans. They are, in the words of John Paul II, uniquely configured to Christ. Catholics are taught to believe that priests are special. They represent Jesus Christ. They have very special spiritual powers. Their intercession is essential for anyone who wishes to make it to heaven in the next life.

This teaching is the foundation for the clerical culture that runs the Church. Clericalism is the belief that clerics (deacons, priests and bishops) are superior to lay persons and are rightfully entitled to deference, unquestioned respect and exemption from many of the obligations born by most lay people. This clerical world is the home of the men who make up the Church power structure. The Church teaches that this structure is the church. To be a Catholic, one must believe totally in the teachings about the nature of the church strictures and the sacredness of the Church’s clerical ministers.

If all of these teachings were true, would there be a need for all of the secrecy? If these teachings were true, especially about the “Christ-like” nature of priests and bishops, would there be such widespread corruption, dishonesty and abuse found among clerics at every level?  

If all of these things were true! The problem is that there is no authentic historical evidence that any of it is true. The various titles, roles and offices attributed to popes, bishops and priests are not products of divine revelation but of human invention, often as a response and reaction to serious external threats to the power and wealth of the clerical aristocracy. For example, and it’s a good example, Papal Infallibility was literally invented by Pope Pius IX and forced through the First Vatican Council...for political reasons. The pope’s kingdom, the Papal States, was threatened with dissolution by the Italian social upheaval at the time. Likewise the title “Vicar of Christ” was part of a conscious program of a medieval pope to fortify papal power. This title has had a long and complex and by no means consistent history. It was not applied to the Papacy until the 13th century when Pope Innocent III took it to enhance his overall program of actively concentrating just about all power in the Church in the papacy.

Consequently this massive institution seeks above all to preserve itself. Sexual abuse of children or anyone by members of the sacred elite is potentially disastrous for the image, credibility and hence the power of the Church. The bishops really believe that they are essential to the existence of the Church. Therefore protecting the hierarchy is essential and believed to be God’s will. The popes and the bishops did not have to conspire to keep sexual abuse by clergy buried as deeply as possible. The secretive response is in the blood of the bishops. It is rooted in the fundamental urge to survive. Disruption and disintegration of the monarchical structures of the Church means the end of the system of power and control as we know it. This poses an unthinkable threat to the clergy and to the clerical world. The threat is personal because this world, this monarchical institution, this magical theological support system is the past, present and future of the bishops. It is their source of identity. To change or destroy it is a threat to the very being of the clerics who feed off of it. (And the same can be said for the laity who truly believe the theology and incorporate all of this as part their ego identity. They are just as clericalized as the clergy themselves and just as survival dependent if in a different way.)


Given that the clerical leadership appears incapable of change, where does a Catholic who has moved beyond the three ring circus find a genuine faith expression?  The responses range from leaving and blowing the whole thing off, seeking to supplement their spiritual life by double or triple dipping in other spirituality's--my solution of choice--, staying and praying and wishing and hoping, joining more compatible congregations such as the Episcopalian or Orthodox churches, forming their own emerging communities, or doing as Eugene Kennedy suggests, joining and working with reform groups like VOTF.

For this post and subsequent ones, I'm going to focus on my own choice to double dip.  There are other readers who comment on this blog who can speak far better to the other options I've listed.  Eugene Kennedy favors what I feel is more or less just a continuation of a political two party system.  Trouble is the current leadership of the current Church structure is not predisposed to work as a two party system.  It has done everything it can to insure it's survival as a one party system.

My own quest started quite a long time ago with what to me was a very personal but important question.  Just what is spiritual power and is it tangible, repeatable and useful?  According to the New Testament, for Jesus and His disciples spiritual power was very tangible, repeatable and highly useful.  Spiritual power demonstrated a direct connection to a greater reality and Jesus taught that reality was both with in us and of His father.  Pentecost was all about a purposeful enhancing of this effective form of spiritual power in Jesus's followers.  And those followers weren't limited to the original Twelve Vatican All Stars.  So what happened, because none of this effective spiritual power is demonstrated by today's Vatican All Stars.  If you look at the history of the Church with an open mind about this question, you can't help but come to the conclusion it was sold out in favor of secular power at the Council of Nicea.  From this point on there are very few in leadership positions who are connected to the Pentecostal form of spiritual power.  Expectations about Christian spiritual power in leadership begins to be radically redefined as 'mystical sacramental power' and not practical spiritual power. 

This same phenomenon has happened in Native American society after it was over whelmed by White culture.  Their healers and Holy people, those folks who had connections with the greater reality, became harder and harder to find.  These all important connections, and how to make them, were getting lost.  Which is why the rez is now plagued with opportunistic half trained people who are essentially medicine wheeler dealers. They have all the clothes, all the language, a consistent ceremonial ritual, but they dont' have half the effectiveness of the preceding generations.  The more honest ones are really really trying to recover that powerfully effective aspect of their religious culture that has been lost.  But one of the problems most difficult to overcome is the farther you follow the 'red road' the more obvious it becomes that you have to live the life described in the ancestral teachings.  And that life is virtually indistinguishable from the Way taught by Jesus.  The more disconnect there is between how you actually live your life, and how the teachings say you should live your life, the more the effectiveness of the spiritual power of a ceremony gets compromised or the connections are taken over by something else. 

Pretty soon one finds it's mostly all ritual and any effective power is determined by the belief of the recipient not the 'holiness' or faulty connections of the ceremonial leader.  Which is why when a ceremony doesn't do what it's intended,  it's blamed on the faithlessness of the recipient, having nothing to do with the ceremonial leader.  I bet this sounds really familiar to Irish Catholics because Benedict's solution to the Irish abuse scandal places a great deal of the fault on the faithlessness of the Irish people. The clerical culture Benedict leads can not admit to any other reason than blaming it on the laity, because to admit otherwise is to admit the Emperor and his court have no clothes.

To be continued........................

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Is The ADF Defending First Ammendment Rights Or Expanding The Rights Of Christian Moralists?

The ADF is attempting to jam the Christian morality crayon in the secular counseling box

The Alliance Defense Fund has initiated a couple of law suits that have me intrigued.  They involve graduate level counseling students whose Christian views about homosexuality are deemed by their faculty supervisors to have compromised their ability to function with in today's professional counseling paradigm.
According to attorneys for the ADF:  “A public university student shouldn’t be threatened with expulsion for being a Christian and refusing to publicly renounce her faith, but that’s exactly what’s happening here. Simply put, the university is imposing thought reform,” said ADF Senior Counsel David French. “Abandoning one’s own religious beliefs should not be a precondition at a public university for obtaining a degree. This type of leftist zero-tolerance policy is in place at far too many universities, and it must stop. Jennifer’s only crime was to have the beliefs that she does.”

The ADF filed another similar suit against Eastern Michigan University which they lost in federal district court and are now appealing. This one has an additional wrinkle in that the Christian student was assigned a client for counseling whose major issues revolved around homosexuality.  After consultation with her faculty advisers she referred the client to another counselor.  This is standard professional procedure for any counselor who identifies a serious potential conflict which might impair their ability to help a given client.  The faculty at EMU then suggested a remedial program for the student which was designed to bring her 'belief' structures in line with the programs philosophy.  I don't know, but I suspect this had to do with helping her see the difference between a definition of mental illness based in 'morality' and one based in more objective standards.
I understand the ADF is a group of Christian lawyers defending the rights of Christians to be Christian in a secular society.  I just happen the think they are arguing for the sake of proselytizing.  Both of these students are enrolled in secular counseling programs which adhere to professional ethical standards and categories of diagnosis accepted across the mental health professional continuum.  In these standards homosexuality itself is not considered abnormal or a symptom of mental illness.  Nor is homosexuality considered a moral illness. 
One of the major attributes a counselor is supposed to accept in working in secular settings is not to operate out of counseling paradigm that is overly influenced by personal moral thinking.  If a given counselor is unable to conform there are religious settings that will encourage one to do this to their heart's content. And as I am quite familiar with,  there are no such restrictions on clients.  Many of them do seek to deal with their issues as moral illnesses rather than my notions of diagnostically derived mental illnesses.  I routinely referred these clients to counselors who shared their particular world view. 
The problem the ADF is going to have is they want to legally assert a Christian counselor has the right to assert their own definition of moral illness in secular settings.  I'm sure they would also be inclined to argue the opposite, that a secular counselor has no right to take their definition of what constitutes professionally accepted mental illness into a religious setting.  In this case freedom of religious speech trumps accepted secular professional practice and legally mandated non discrimination clauses across the board. 
In the EMU case these are the issues which fuel the ADF case:  The EMU speech codes enabling the university’s actions were challenged as part of the ADF lawsuit, Ward v. Wilbanks. One policy prohibiting “discrimination based on…sexual orientation” adds that counselors cannot “condone” what the university defines as discrimination. Another problematic policy states that EMU’s counseling department may discipline a student who shows a “failure to tolerate different points of view.”
It seems to me the ADF wants Christians to have their cake and eat too. Something I doubt they would extend to Muslims. I will give them some credit though, this is a clever way of attempting to introduce 'moral' illnesses back into secular practice. Beliefs dictate moral views and in my estimation, a professional secular program teaching current professional models and best practices,  has every right to determine a prospective professionals belief structure and determine if that belief structure is incompatible with it's professional code of conduct.  Or to put it differently, secular programs shouldn't be under any more pressure to professionally 'ordain' Christian moralizers than the Catholic Church is to 'ordain' women.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

This Is A Very Good Question

Given the number of Redemptoris Mater seminaries, the Neocats have done well strumming for dollars and conversions.

Why is it worth $70 million to ordain 58 priests?
Betty Clermont - Open Tabernacle - 2/27/2010

The Archdiocese of Denver recently ordained five new priests bringing the total to 58 men commissioned to serve in Northern Colorado who had been trained in its own two seminaries. Based upon the 2000 through 2009 annual reports and articles appearing in Archbishop Charles Chaput’s weekly newspaper, the Denver Catholic Register, over $70 million in donations has supported the two schools since they were opened in the late 1990s. Granted, more than half of that total is construction costs which will not be repeated again. There is an element of continuity, however, since $7.9 million has been spent on new building since 2008 and doubtless more improvements will be made in the future. On the other hand, there were no financial reports published for the seminaries until the year 2000, so the total of $33.5 million in contributions to operate the schools is missing several years. In any case, the point is that benefactors are willing to invest an enormous amount of money to maintain an all-male, ordained priesthood. Since so many deacons, religious brothers and sisters and members of laity are more than qualified to administer a parish or diocese, why are the US bishops’ supporters willing to shoulder such a financial burden to keep celibate clergy in control?........


Good question Betty, why has 70 million been spent in one diocese to ordain 58 men in twelve years? This is about five men a year at a cost of about 1.2 million per priest. This brings up another question, why does the Archdiocese of Denver have two seminaries? After doing some research what I discovered is that the Archdiocese has two seminaries under the control of Archbishop Chaput. One seminary, Redemptoris Mater, is an international seminary under the auspices of the Neocatechumenal Way. It accepts candidates from any diocese in the world and can be assigned by Archbishop Chaput to his diocese or any other diocese in the global church. It is misisonary in it's outlook but technically ordains diocesan priests.

Redemptoris Mater seminaries are a project of John Paul II who dedicated the first one in Rome in 1987. The following is taken from Archdiocesan website and explains the reasoning behind Redemptoris Mater seminaries:

Cardinal Pio Laghi, then prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education and head of the Vatican Interdicasterial Commission instituted by Pope John Paul II to study the grave scarcity of priests in some areas, acknowledged in the Italian edition of L'Osservatore Romano, March 15, 1991:

"This idea of the Council (for international diocesan missionary seminaries) has been applied in the 'Redemptoris Mater' seminaries which prepare presbyters for the new evangelization . . this would realize a new form of ministry: the diocesan missionary."

There are currently somewhere around 70 Redemptoris Mater seminaries world wide and about one million Neocats. Like other 'ecclesial' movements such as Opus Dei and the Legionaires, the Neocat leadership is permanently in the hands of it's founders, the Spanish artist Kiko Arguello and Spanish theologian Carmen Hernandez, until their deaths. This link will take you to a positive review of the history and place of the movment in today's church.

Along with Focolare and Communion and Liberation, the Neocats have enjoyed the vociferous support of the papacies of the last thirty years and were especially favored by JPII and now Benedict. There are a number of reasons for this preferential treatment, but one of the biggest is they all place obedience to the Papacy as a primary tenant. This is obedience to the papacy and their own internal leadership, not the local bishop or parish priest. Another is they all tend to see sex, marriage, and family from the view of traditional sexual morality. In the case of the Neocats this has included advocating against any form of birth control, even NFP, and for Focolare, celibacy is the only way to go if one is seriously looking for a spiritual relationship.

And last, but not least, they all generate lots of money which is never subjected to any real accounting very much in the same vein as the Legion. In the case of the Neocats, their constitution states that all their assets are property of the Vatican and the Neocat movement itself has no property. It is pretty easy to see where the 70 million for Denver's two seminaries may have come from, but not necessarily who it came from. The money becomes sort of mind boggling when you consider the Neocat movement has 70+ seminaries with an estimated 2000 priests in formation.

I can easily see where these groups are incredibly attractive to the Vatican, but not so much on the local level---unless, like Archbishop Chaput, the local bishop is a participant in this particular Vatican loop. Then it appears it's a very lucrative and career advancing loop for a bishop and a certain dead end if a bishop works actively against any of them.

I encourage my readership to read the totality of Betty Clermont's post. Betty deals with the issue which is really at the heart of these fairly recent ecclesial movements and that's the money issue. While their numbers may still be somewhat insignificant in terms of the totality of the Catholic church, there influence is way beyond their actual numbers. That seems to be a consequence of the numbers of dollars and priests they generate. The exact same reasons the Vatican did not and has not disbanded the Legionaires or their leadership.

What bothers me the most about these groups is what they do under the guise of spirituality. It doesn't appear any of them actually foster an adult spirituality separate from the personality and thinking of the founder. In every single case, the teachings of Jesus are secondary to the founder's interpretation of those teachings. Too many times this is masked behind the facade of the founder's obedience to papal and magisterial authority. The truth in practice is that their obedience to magisterial authority is only extended to those bishops who invite them into their dioceses and go along with them.

All of this amounts to the Vatican fostering a parallel structure inside the Church itself which is well funded and quite capable of regenerating itself permanently through it's various seminary systems. No wonder Benedict is adamant about no changes in the priesthood. Serious changes would just mess with a good thing. It also makes me wonder if the Vatican really gives a damn if Catholicism mostly dies off in the West in terms of numbers. They may feel that they still control a huge chunk of the numbers which really count. Those would be dollars, something these new groups have proven they can evangelize. Which then leads to the real question, what makes them so attractive to big donors? I suppose we'll have to wait for the next big Vatican banking scandal to find out.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

And Now For Some Honesty And Coherence

Ah yes, there's no place like Rome. Love the Ruby Red slippers and the traveling companion--I think I know which one he is. It's not the Cowardly Lion or the Tin Man. This may be one time Pope Benedict wishes clicking his heels took him someplace other than Rome.

The following comment from the Vicar of Rome is in reference to an article in Silvio Berlusconi's Panorama Magazine. This link takes you to BBC coverage of the Italian article. The article is an undercover expose of three gay 'party boy' priests cavorting at night in Rome's gay bar culture and then praying with pious old women during the day. It's from Bloomberg

The Vicar of Rome today called on homosexual clergymen in the Catholic Church to “come out” and leave the priesthood.

The Vicar of Rome, one of the most important positions in the Vatican, was responding to a report today in Panorama Magazine that said Catholic priests were conducting a double life, citing secret video footage.

“No one is forcing them to stay in the priesthood to exploit the benefits,” the Diocese of Rome said in a statement posted on its Web Site. “If they are coherent, they should come out into the open.”


I doubt the Vicar of Rome is serious about gay priests coming out in the open. Well, he might be, but I seriously doubt the same applies to the Vatican. First, the numbers would be an embarrassment to a Church bent on 'praying the gay away'. If all gay priests got honest and left that evidence might not lend much credence to movements like Courage. Who prays more or engages in more ceremonial ritual than priests? If the prayer thing didn't work for the priesthood, why would it work for any gay lay person? I suppose one could argue that if all those gay priests were in Courage they wouldn't be cavorting at night. Moving right along......

Secondly, the prime strategy used by the Vatican to explain away the clergy abuse problem is to blame it all on gay priests. Based on the changes in seminary admission standards, bishops would more or less find themselves in the position of having to remove all their gay priests from active ministry. This would result in a significant reduction in available priests, especially in the Anglo world. Some estimates put the percentage of gay priests in the 50% range which would be a really significant reduction. In some dioceses unsubstantiated rumor would have it very close to lethal.

But the real reason I can't take this seriously is that all those suddenly thrown out honest gay priests would have all kinds of information about all those bishops, Cardinals, and other Catholic officials that their suddenly found honesty might compel them to reveal. For some reason I can think of one media empire led by a high ranking Italian politician who might jump at the chance for that kind of expose--because it would be a service to the Church, not because it would generate lots of income, and never, never, never because paybacks are a bitch.

I'll be keeping an eye on this story. It has some real potential in it. Which might be what the expose was all about. Silvio Berlusconi might just be throwing a few seeds out to see which one's sprout.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Meditation On Sacrifice In The New Covenant

The following verses are Genesis 4:1-5

1 The man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, "I have produced a man with the help of the LORD."
2 Next she bore his brother Abel. Abel became a keeper of flocks, and Cain a tiller of the soil.
3 In the course of time Cain brought an offering to the LORD from the fruit of the soil,
4 while Abel, for his part, brought one of the best firstlings of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering,
5 but on Cain and his offering he did not. Cain greatly resented this and was crestfallen.

The above from Genesis has some interesting food for thought as it might pertain to our current situation with all things green. Right from the get go we are taught God prefers blood sacrifice to the things of the Earth. The Lord looks with favor on Abel and his blood offering, but not on Cain and his offering of the fruit of the soil.

At the Last Supper Jesus flips this around and bread and wine become the most pleasing offering to His Father. No more blood sacrifice. Jesus is to be the last such 'offering'. From thence forward it will be Jesus present in the offerings of Cain which will supplant the bloody offerings of Abel. No more violence is to be associated with offerings to the Creator Father. Jesus's death and resurrection spell the end of that notion.

This was not just a substitution of one form of sacrificial offering for another. It was a change in world view from the violent domination of blood sacrifice to the cooperative balance of working with the earth and it's natural rhythms. It can be seen as an elevating of the feminine, or a restoration of the feminine in Hebrew religious practice. The fact Jesus does this in the context of a sacrificial meal which ritually called for the involvement of the entire family should not be overlooked. No longer would sacrifice pleasing to the Father consist of a separate class of males engaging in blood sacrifice of innocent animal matter. It would consist of a community offering the 'fruit of the vine, work of human hands'. It would be an offering without violence. Instead it was to be one of peaceful sharing embodied in the human effort of working with the land. It was a hugely symbolic shift from the Old Covenant thinking of violent domination of nature to the New Covenant thinking of sharing and cooperation with nature.

Two thousand years later it's obvious the patriarchal religions of the book didn't get, or refused to make, this shift in thinking. It would be in our best interests to convert to this shift in thinking before we make the entirety of the human race our last bloody offering in the name of someones willfully limited understanding of a God of violence and domination. To continue in our fascination with violence and domination is not the way to salvation. It's the road to extinction.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Trident Ballistic Missle Submarine was front and center in another Vatican attempt to quash progressive Catholic dissent against US military policy. Doctrinal orthodoxy was also the excuse under which this battle began. It didn't end there though.

The following statement according to Maryknoll priest, Fr Joe Veneroso, is the Maryknoll General Council's official position on the matter of withdrawing funding from SOA:

On May 24, 2010 Father Edward Dougherty, Superior General of the Maryknoll Society, met with Father Roy Bourgeois to discuss the Society's decision to discontinue financial support to the School of Americas (SOA) Watch.

Given Father Bourgeois central role as founder and public face of the SOA Watch, Society leadership has determined that it cannot continue its financial support of that organization without giving the impression that it also supports the actions of its leader concerning the issue of women's ordinations. (Those actions led to his automatic excommunication [Latae sententiae] by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2008.)

This decision is not intended to be punitive and is not designed to put pressure on Father Bourgeois, or on the SOA Watch organization and its activities. Maryknoll continues its solidarity with the people of Latin America and the Caribbean, and is unambiguous in its support of the goals of the SOA Watch. (This is too funny.)


I am having a very difficult time swallowing this tripe of an official response from the Maryknoll General Council. Something stinks to high heaven about this. It's bringing back memories of John Paul II's and Cardinal Ratzinger's attempts to corral the authority and voice of Archbishop Hunthausen of Seattle during virtually the entire Reagan administration. Actually, now that I think about this conflict between Rome and Archbishop Hunthausen, the lessons in it are ripe for review and very pertinent to today's Church.

This story of the Vatican vs Hunthausen includes some of the opening strikes in most all of today's hot button issues. Not surprisingly it also includes some of today's main characters. As an example here's a quote from Joseph Ratzinger as head of the CDF, directed to Archbishop Hunthausen's handling of a particular Catholic population:

"The Archdiocese should withdraw all support from any group which does not unequivocally accept the teaching of the Magisterium concerning the intrinsic evil of homosexual activity. This teaching has been set forth in this Congregation's Declaration on Sexual Ethics and more recently in the document, Educational Guidance in Human Love, issued by the Congregation for Catholic Education in 1983."

Archbishop Hunthausen was a prominent leader of the progressive wing of then NCCB. He once stated in a speech that the Trident Nuclear Submarine base outside Seattle was the Auschwitz of Puget Sound. He did not endear himself to the Reagan White house with his outspoken dissent with St Reagan's nuclear arms build up. He refused to pay the portion of his personal income tax which went to the defense budget. Needless to say he had meetings with the IRS as well as the Vatican. It was Hunthausen's opposition to Reagan's arms build up which most observers felt triggered the conflict with Rome over Hunthausen's lack of 'orthodoxy'.

The supposed trigger for Rome's investigation of Hunthausen were the complaints of a right wing conservative group,
Catholics United For The Faith, whose current honorary chairman is--are you ready--Archbishop Raymond Burke. Their headquarters are in Steubenville Oh, and they have a very active chapter in Colorado Springs, Co. Shock and awe. You can probably connect some dots.

CUF objected to Hunthausen's pastoral leniency on matters of divorced and remarried Catholics, lay participation in the Sacraments, the pastoral outreach to gays, practices in Catholic hospitals surrounding sterilization, and use of laicised priests for some sacramental functions. Rome responded with a CDF led Apostolic Visitation under the then Archbishop James Hickey of DC who later became Cardinal Hickey. In 1985 the CDF responded with a letter outlining certain changes and JPII appointed Donal Wuerl as an Auxiliary Bishop with a mandate to take over some of Hunthausen's Episcopal authority.

That's when it really got fun because Hunthausen maintained Rome stepped on his independent authority as the installed head of an Archdiocese. All of a sudden this wasn't an issue of orthodoxy but an issue of episcopal authority vis a vis Rome. Needless to say this got the interest of the NCCB, who could see some ominous signs about the extent of their own authority.
The dispute was finally settled in 1989 when the Vatican restored Hunthausen's full authority and appointed a coadjutor archbishop, Thomas Murphy, who took over upon Hunthausen's retirement two years later in 1991. Archbishop Hunthausen, who recently turned 90, lives outside Helena, Mt and still fills in when needed. To the best of my knowledge he is the last living US bishop who took part in the entirety of the Second Vatican Council.

The following excerpt is the final paragraph from a study published on the University of Utrecht website by Timothy Peter Schilling. The study analyzes the conflict strategies and use of power in the Hunthausen/Vatican conflict. The entire 364 page study is on line and for those with nothing to do this weekend it might make interesting reading. Schilling makes a lot of good points, one of which is that Catholicism has no real appreciation for and finds no value in conflict and because of that, doesn't know how to deal with conflict situations or take any lessons from them. In the interests of the facade of unity, conflict amongst official representatives isn't supposed to exist. To maintain the facade any strategy which minimises or hides these conflicts is preferable to the truth. Secrecy is one of the big strategies:

"One of the main points I make in my study of the case is that, while arguing for an “open
Church” – for transparency and broad participation in the leadership of the Church –
Hunthausen himself remained complicit, off and on, in the restrictive practices of silence and secrecy that he himself argued against. I believe this proved to be the case because Hunthausen was so strongly socialized to do so (thus, it was to a degree a matter of unconscious habit), and because ultimately he realized that he could not say what he wanted to say and change what he wanted to change and still remain in the hierarchy.

I cannot help but feel that on some level Hunthausen knew all too well that the self-protective mechanisms of the hierarchical culture – which are fully operative when Church conflicts of interest arise – pose a danger to the credibility of the hierarchy and to the viability of the Church.

One need only look as far as the recent crisis around the issue of pedophilia to recognize the calamity that comes when bishops put the appearance of the Church and of the hierarchy ahead of the open and honest acknowledgment of real problems. My sense is that Hunthausen felt himself to be, to some extent, trapped within structures that he could not see a way to change and that he felt frustrated as a result. I do not imagine him to be alone among bishops in feeling this way.

I'm pretty sure the Maryknoll General Council feels the exact same way Archbishop Hunthausen probably did. Frustrated with the whole system but conditioned to participate in and enable it, and in their case devoid of Hunthausen's courage to defend their own mission. So good bye SOA and hello duplicitous ass kissing statement. It's just one more example of the kind of power games-some of them obviously political- which have become institutionalized in the Vatican under the past thirty years of the JPII, Cardinal Ratzinger/Benedict XVI Vatican. This is why the same names and same issues of orthodoxy are still in play twenty years later, and seem to be even more effective.

In my estimation the most depressing and potent messages sent by Rome in the Hunthausen affair were: 1) Rome's treatment of the progressive Hunthausen coupled with the promotions and career advancement of men like Hickey and Wuerl, 2) the reinforcement and pandering to groups like CUF and 3) the availibility of the Vatican to be bought by fascist or conservative governments. The treatment of Hunthausen should not be understood as separate from the treatment of Archbishop Romero.

Hope in the Hunthausen saga can be taken from the fact that Ratzinger's Vatican will blink in the face of determined, principled opposition --especially if it has public lay support. If only there was just some sitting bishop who understood this and had the guts to test this theory. There is no shortage of potential lay support for such a stand, just bishops willing to take one. Maybe someday, somewhere, some bishop will be thoroughly sick of being embarrassed by this kind of Vatican manipulation and will find his voice. One can certainly pray such a thing comes to pass.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Salvadoran Jesuits who were murdered by graduates of the School of the Americas. And yet the Maryknoll community appears to be more concerned about live priests who ordain women.

From the NCR blog as reported by Heidi Schlumpf:

The Maryknoll Brothers and Fathers have withdrawn their long-standing commitment to funding the School of the America's Watch because its founder, Maryknoll priest Roy Bourgeois, supports women's ordination, reports SOA Watch.

The order previously contributed $17,000 a year to the organization that seeks to close the U.S. Army School of the Americas (or Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, as it has been renamed). Graduates of the combat training school located at Fort Benning, Georgia, have been implicated in the torture and murder of educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for the rights of the poor in Latin America.

SOA Watch is asking supporters to help make up the lost revenue by donating $17 a month for one year.

Call to Action Executive Director Jim FitzGerald "is "disappointed in the decision that will affect not only the SOA Watch staff and programs, but the people of Latin American who work in partnership with SOA Watch to protect their families and communities," he said in an email.

Bourgeois had been involved with the Roman Catholic WomenPriests organization, which ordains women as Catholic priests.

One can't help but wonder if this decision by the Maryknollers was related to the recent controversial announcement from the Vatican which appeared to put the "serious crime" of women's ordination in the same category as the sexual abuse of minors. I hope not.


Here we have another case in which the sacramental crime of ordaining women supersedes the grave moral crimes for which students of the School of the Americas have been convicted by their respective countries.

I had just finished reading Gene Kennedy's latest post for the NCR when I came across the above article. The last sentence in Kennedy's piece immediately came to mind:

Meanwhile, Vatican II Catholics may well follow the advice my psychiatrist wife and I give to healthy people when they are put upon by the unhealthy: Repeat at least twice a day, "I am not the one who is crazy here."

Gene Kennedy's entire piece is just wonderful. In it he compares Eric Sevareid's description of the behavior of France's elite ruling classes as the German blitzkrieg squashes France like a gnat with the Vatican curia's current behavior. There aren't enough medals for French generals trying to pretend nothing really happened or long enough cappa magnas for Cardinals who are attempting the same delusional strategy in the face of their plummeting stature in Catholicism.

Actually Kennedy's article is both wonderful and truly sad. I suppose this is so because it is an accurate metaphor. A person does reach a point in which the crazy behavior of others finally just makes you sad because you know there is no meaningful reality in what is essentially irrational logic. The Maryknoller's are not addressing meaningful reality with this move. They are defending irrational logic because they think it protects their own status, but at the same time they are tragically working in direct opposition to the commands of Christ. This is all akin to French commands to hold the Maginot line when German tanks were thirty miles outside of Paris.

I wonder how much longer it is going to take our hierarchy before they truly begin to understand the rank and file are no longer bowled over by their 'divine' right to rule or their 'divine' ordained status. Until that happens, and it may never under this papacy, the embarrassing crazy behavior will undoubtedly only get worse. Like Sevareid's French generals, eventually they will be inviting reporters to their own gaudy lunches where they fete themselves because there won't be anyone else left to care.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What About The Future Of Catholicism?

The Catholicism of the future will bloom in it's uniqueness because it understands it shares and is connected to the greater spiritual soil which supports all of God's creation.

The blog Patheos is running a series of articles this week on the future of Catholicism. It's worth investigating because the writers who have been chosen to present their thoughts do represent a fairly wide spectrum of Catholic thought. In the spirit of this enterprise I have added a feature on side bar asking this same question for soliciting reader input. I'm kind of mulling over some changes for the blog, directed at enhancing comments from readers and giving the really thought provoking ones more exposure. The new side bar feature is step one.

In the meantime I personally resonated with the article written by Tim Muldoon entitled Mysticism and the Community. The following excerpt is describes Tim's ideas of why Catholicism is important and where the mysticism of the individual intersects with the practical needs of community.

A Catholic Church is necessary today because the globe's problems must be addressed by a global institution. It certainly won't be corporations that do this kind of kingdom building, since they are too concerned with the bottom line. Nor will it be nations, all of which (our own included) tend to get a little too caught up in various nationalisms, wars, and economic issues. The Catholic Church was the first truly global institution, so it's had about four hundred years to practice what globalization entails.

Don't be fooled: the Googles and Microsofts of the world may claim to be multinational corporations. They make good products and yield dollars for shareholders. But they have nowhere near the complexity of the Catholic Church's 1 billion-plus members, spread out with thousands and thousands of parishes, hospitals, schools, retreat houses, orphanages, refugee services, religious orders, and so on, speaking any number of languages. What will drive tomorrow's Catholic mystics to participation in the institution of the Church (and its accompanying bureaucracy, the Vatican) is the recognition that real solidarity among the peoples of the earth will require a serious commitment to Jesus' command to love the neighbor -- that is, to actually build structures of mutual support from places like Manila to Montevideo to Montreal to Mogadishu.

Of the two, the second movement is harder for the contemporary mind to digest. We think mysticism is kind of sexy -- it's about trying to be deeply serious people on very serious quests for truth and spiritual fulfillment. But if those quests are to end in something more than a rather bourgeois self-satisfaction, they must run the route of confronting the hard realities of a world whose history is often sad and whose present reality is often hard to swallow.

The questions that Catholics of the future will face are these: am I content to shape my life around the desires generated by the culture around me, or am I willing to shape my life around the Beatitudes? Will I make life choices about relationships, about money, about power in imitation of people most like me, or out of a conscious attempt to promote justice, especially for the most disenfranchised of the world? Am I willing to risk my life on the words of Jesus, even when I have much more to lose than do the millions of poor with whom I approach the table of the Eucharist? Who, in the end, is my neighbor?

Tomorrow's Catholic Church will be a communion of mystics who see their task as rooted in the incredible command of Jesus to love the neighbor: the Muslim neighbor, the atheist neighbor, the corporate neighbor, the hungry neighbor, the sexually abused neighbor, the African neighbor, the scientific neighbor, the female neighbor, the gay neighbor, the violent neighbor, maybe even eventually the extraterrestrial neighbor. I consider myself a Catholic evangelist precisely because I hope others will see the astonishing opportunity in such a mission.


The above is not just the challenge of the Catholic world, it's the challenge of all spiritual and religious systems. It's also the universal message being given to mystics and spiritual seekers of all persuasions. When I think about this idea of the future I think it's sometimes important to discuss what might be the road to extinction. In that vein then here are some of my thoughts:

--The road to extinction emphasises our differences for the sake of promoting internal religious identity.

--The road to extinction emphasises unique doctrine as absolute truth at the expense of learning from others or seeing truth in others.

--The road to extinction emphasises fear over love, obedience over compassion.

--The road to extinction emphasises adherence to external authority over internalizing and integrating religious insight in one's conscience.

--The road to extinction emphasises ritual as an end in itself instead of a means to support the individual in his or her relationship with the Creator, with each other, and with the greater reality.

It doesn't take much of a search through the Gospels to find stories or statements of Jesus which confirm the above attitudes are not of His kingdom. Maybe the bigger question is why has Catholicism progressed through parts of two millenia as if these are part of His kingdom? It's also striking to me that periods of reform have come at the prompting of some of our greatest Catholic mystics, not at the prodding of our hierarchical authority. It's the prophets and mystics who have called the Institutional Church back to some semblance of what Jesus taught, of what His graced presence actually means for the Church and the entire People of God. That graced presence is not about propping up Vatican authority or worldly power. It's about His relationship with little ole you and me. It's not about being on the other end of a direct hot line to the Papacy.

In fact it's sometimes about reminding our leadership that they are not in fact more important than the people they serve nor the Communion of Saints and Angels. They are in fact supposed to be in service to both, not using both as means to their own ends. This final fact is the real reason I see the Vatican and the representation of their idea of a clerical system imploding. That hardly means Catholicism itself will circle the drain until it is no more. The mystics and seekers will see to it that doesn't happen, and many of those mystics and seekers will not even be Catholic or Christian. That doesn't mean they won't be Jesus people or Jesus followers. They just won't be conventional, traditional, or historical religious Jesus followers. And yet, on a very fundamental level they will understand what Jesus was all about and what He taught-- and those things are universal in a truly Catholic sense.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Benedict Will Bring A Latin Eucharistic Prayer To England

The technical advancement that was one step to far for my mother. There are cultural, spiritual, and psychological advancements that result in the same kind of backlash and sometimes this is called the 'reform of the reform'.

According to Britain's Tablet--I'd link but it's subscriber only--Benedict is definitely going retro when he visits Britain this September. This quote is making the rounds of various blogs, so I'm trusting those who say it's from a Tablet article.

"Significant parts of Masses celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI during his trip to Britain in September will be said in Latin. The Eucharistic prayer of the Mass will be said or sung in Latin by the Pope at the liturgies at Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, and at the beatification of Cardinal Newman in Cofton Park, Birmingham. Congregations will respond to the dialogue preface in Latin and the consecration [sic] will be said in Latin. It is believed the Mass at Westminster Cathedral will follow a similar pattern. Mgr Paul Conroy, General Secretary of the Bishops’ Conference in Scotland and part of the planning team for the liturgy, said that the decision was a requirement of the Vatican. “This helps to show the universality of the liturgy and helps Catholics from various different countries, who may be listening on the radio or watching on television, to follow the Mass,” he said."

I'm sure it will help in the Vatican City States, various SSPX and Pius X parishes, and maybe with those Traditional Anglicans Benedict is courting. As far as the rest of the world--not so much. Unless the Vatican concept of universality is to be found in cloaking sacramental mystery in linguistic incomprehension. There is truth in the notion that which you can't understand is truly a mystery and this approach does seem to have worked for the Church for a millenia or so.

When I read the above I seriously wondered if it's true that Benedict and his curia are totally tone deaf to secular society and somehow believe the they can 're evangelise' enough of Western society to accept their definition of Mystery and their right to control it's expression. If they truly believe this, they had best understand that modern laity now see that the form the message is delivered in has a lot to do with the psychology behind the message. It seems to me the hierarchy is on some kind of role misunderstanding this form/content paradigm. Tom Beaudoin writing in America puts this more succinctly:

The Vatican and its defenders can argue that so closely associating women's ordination and sexual abuse does not make them the same. But Catholics in secularizing countries, many of whom understand that the form of the message is part of its content, will be at liberty to be critical -- when they are not exhausted already into indifference over the slow-motion implosion of an archaic clericalist structure. Just as the Second Vatican Council said that Christians share responsibility for making modern people atheists, those in Catholic power today share responsibility for making people secular Catholics. It is as if the more the purity and authority of Catholicism is defended from on high, the less Catholicism actually matters as a social and spiritual phenomenon. (This is similar to the point I made recently that one of the things the Vatican is accomplishing is to force otherwise complacent true believers into serious reevaluation, precisely because the form of the message is so jarring.

This is far, far beyond a public relations issue. To cast things as a problem of public relations mistakes separates too cleanly the "content" of Catholicism from its "form" or "communication." Instead, the very form of communication should be thought of as a kind of theological content. It is not only that official Catholicism does not know how to communicate well in the contemporary media world. It is that too often what it has to communicate, and the way it does so, is not persuasive to an increasingly educated, worldly, and pluralistically-aware public. The victims, and the Catholic structures that created victimization, should have been the irreparable center of official Catholic focus. But the form and content of official communication about abuse and its structures shows that we have yet to witness that conversion of consciousness.

No, we have not witnessed any real conversion of consciousness. Instead we are witnessing a group of older celibate men desperate to validate the choices they made a long long time ago about the direction of their lives. To convince first themselves and then the rest of us that those long ago made choices are still valid, but more importantly the reasons they made those choices are still valid. The trouble is society doesn't agree with them, doesn't support their reasoning, and has moved in consciousness beyond them and their rationales. They are essentially promulgating teachings for the rest of us, but really talking to and affirming themselves.

This all reminds me of an incident that happened with my mother a couple of years before she died. We kids had all gone in together and bought her a VCR. It turned out to be the new modern technological invention that was one too many for her security level. She went ballistic about her children jamming our techie stuff down her throat and expecting her to like it. She was not going to be forced into learning one more thing period. The VCR went home with my eldest brother and was never mentioned again. My parents home remained barren of any more 'techie' stuff. They accepted micro waves, portable phones, and satellite TV, but not much more. I guess those particular things were viewed as logical extensions of changes they had already accepted, but the VCR was the step too far. When we stayed at their house we all knew, it was their house, their rules, their world. We accommodated them, they did not accommodate us.

It is becoming apparent that Benedict's Vatican is demonstrating this same sort of thing. As long as Benedict is in charge, Catholicism must accommodate his view and validate his choices from his original reasoning. He will not accommodate in the other direction perhaps because to do so would be to disavow his life and his life choices.

I suspect that's why the form of some of these messages is so jarring and the PR is so bad because to this Vatican none of that matters. It's validating themselves to themselves that matters and the forms they choose for their messages certainly do that. If this is true it makes perfect sense to link the sins of clerical abuse and women's ordination in the same document as both are sins against the male celibate priesthood. It makes sense to underline their authority as bishops and denigrate ecumenical notions of sharing the Eucharist.
These norms are about clerics talking to clerics and underlining their own world view. There is no way they would have begun to compute how badly this form of communication and it's linked content would fail in today's world.

I guess I don't find it at all surprising that Benedict's Vatican would think that Masses in Latin in Britain is a form of helping the universal church understand the Mass. To me it's just another sign of the hierarchy talking to and affirming themselves. So much for all the other less spiritually lofty People of God. Those would be the people who not only get to 'hear Mass' in Latin, but at English venues they also have to pay for the privilege.

I'm sorry but I no longer believe this is how Jesus always intended the Church to be--or ever intended it to be--and I am hardly alone. It is a conversion of consciousness which will not be re evangelized or latinized away anymore than my mother's tantrum over a VCR reversed her children's conversion to a technological world view. My mother did not delude herself into thinking her tantrum was going to effect anything other than her own fortress house. I truly wonder about Benedict, who is in a very different position than my mother. Does he really believe his preferences are going to reverse the movement in consciousness in the Church? If he does, that is truly sad.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Vatican needs real PR guys, not Kodak moment guys. It may be a good thing the Vatican doesn't realize that.

The following excerpt is taken from the blog site PaddyAnglican and deals with another of the new norms recently released by the Vatican. In it's own way it's as insulting to our Protestant brothers and sisters as coupling women's ordination with clerical sexual abuse. It is another in a long line of Vatican repudiations of ecumenism under the guise of issueing statements about Catholic doctrine and dogma. It seems there was something to tick off virtually everyone in the new Canonical norms.

The publication this week of the Vatican Canon law document, ‘NORMAE DE GRAVIORIBUS DELICTIS’ heaped further gratuitous insult on the Protestant churches when the offence of celebrating the Eucharist with members of ‘ecclesial communities’ (Protestants) was given an equivalence to “the taking or retaining for a sacrilegious purpose or the throwing away of the consecrated species.” In other words celebrating the Eucharist with Protestants is the same as chucking the consecrated host in the bin!
I protest! This cannot be defended as ‘ecumenical honesty’ or ‘speaking the truth in love’ – this is quite simply sectarian and hateful language and has no place in any document which claims Christian provenance.

But there is more – As if that were not enough, sharing equal status with the sacramental crime of celebrating the Eucharist with Protestants is the further sacramental crime of attempting to ordain women to the priesthood and the moral crime of Pedophilia! All of these are described as grave delicts.

I protest! I protest again, but this time not just for Protestants, but for all women who are told that their feelings of vocation are a sacramental crime and that those who would ordain them will like them be excommunicated.

I protest for the children whose horrendous suffering is put on a par with either a Eucharistic irregularity or a misguided sense of vocation.

I protest against the subversion of Love to the Law.
I protest against those who would seek to defend the indefensible.
I protest against those who would dress up prejudice in doctrine.
I protest against those who say that this is the will of God.
I protest against those who think that for God to Love them he must hate others.
I am a Protestant and I protest!

Another over looked Vatican message is the Papal appointment and response to the Legionaires of Christ which was also released last week. I've maintained for a long long time that the Legion would not be touched in any way which would denounce it's credibility because the Vatican's concern would be to keep it's credibility. At an estimated worth of 33 billion, a corps of some 800 priests, and a slavish adherence to traditional notions of obedience to papal authority, it was too valuable to hold to any meaningful accountability. Check this excerpt out from the Legion owned news outlet Zenit:
Archbishop Velasio De Paolis of the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo has been asked by the Pope to govern the congregation in his name "during the time necessary to complete the path of renewal."

The 74-year-old Italian prelate is the president of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See.

The Legion of Christ is being guided by the Church in a renewal, following the discovery that its founder, Father Marcial Maciel, fathered children and was guilty of other crimes. (Interesting how Zenit can't write: raped children including those he fathered.)

Last Saturday, Archbishop De Paolis visited the Legion's headquarters in Rome, entrusting its superiors with the papal letter naming him delegate, and a personal letter of that date in which he expressed his own thoughts and recommendations for the Legionaries.

In the Italian-language note, he affirmed Benedict XVI's intention that the papal delegate work as a "tangible witness of [his] closeness." And he noted the Pope's awareness of the "great number of members" of the congregation who show "sincere zeal" and a "fervent religious life."

Gift of a vocation

The archbishop said the Church, inspired not by human criteria but by those of the Spirit, "contemplates the beautiful reality that you are, that your congregation is." (Quite frankly this language is nausea inducing.)

"The Pope, through me," he said, "now wants to accompany you on this path, so that without allowing yourselves to be discouraged by the tragic events behind you, you can find joy in your current [reality], in the gift of the religious, priestly and missionary vocation that you have received."

Archbishop De Paolis affirmed that the Legionaries' vocation comes from the Heart of Christ and his love. And he invited the priests and seminarians to give thanks to God "for the work that he has accomplished in such a way" and "for his goodness, his mercy and his fidelity." (I guess it's better for the Vatican to claim God worked through a sociopathic predator than to admit it might have been the alternative 'spirit' working through a thoroughly perverted sociopathic predator.


Here's what I take from the Vatican's busy last week. Sharing the Eucharist with protestants is worse than sharing the Eucharist with Catholic priestly pedophiles--much worse in fact. Ordaining women priests, for which a Catholic priest or bishop will be both laicised and excommunicated, is worse than ordaining known sexual deviants. Believe me, the irregularity of Maciel's ordination is pretty indicative that someone knew Maciel had serious issues--like the freaking bishop uncle who actually did ordain him after essentially seminary homeschooling him. Maybe we should have some sort of Canon law that prevents family members from ordaining family members who get tossed out of two seminaries.

In the meantime we now have a norm that allows bishops to essentially engage in their own inquisitions, and clerical abuse norms that once again don't apply to bishops as either perpetrators or colluders. Only the Pope has that jurisdiction through the CDF. And of course, pontifical secrecy still applies to the whole process in order to protect all concerned. How thoughtful. I'm sure that's really appreciated by prelates like Cardinal Sodano who can still gum up the works in secret--for 'donations' and the rights of the accused.

In the end we have some cosmetic tweaking of clerical abuse norms which sure look like their main function was to sugar coat another serious shot at both women's ordination and ecumenism. At the same time this also serves to sneak in the fact that bishops have had their individual autonomy and authority increased and their accountability to the Pope as their sole authority underscored. A sort of setting in stone of the 'you scratch my back, I'll scratch your back" kind of hierarchical accountability. It's the same mentality that kept Maciel going for so long and will apparently serve to save the Legion.

Oh and in case Regnum Christi members think the Pope is solicitous of them, forget it. It's really about the money you bring in, the priests the Legion has and the blind obedience the Legion formation program inculcates---because it's always about money and priests and blind obedience. These are the three corners on which the traditional Vatican stool has rested.

So what's the hidden lining in all of this? It's that true believers are starting to wonder. Right now the anger is directed at what they desperately need to see as the Vatican propensity for PR disasters. That will change. The fact is people will not re evaluate their view of emotionally important people or institutions because an outsider like me spews facts that intellectually contradict the person or institution. The only agent capable of causing a review of this kind is the behavior of the other half of the relationship. I suspect a number of True Believers are starting to undergo this process precisely because the object of their faith is forcing it. The PR issue is just the beginning.

Even a True believer is going to have difficulty getting their head around the fact they have committed a grave sacramental act if they share the Eucharist with their protestant friends at some occasion like a funeral. They would have to come to terms with the fact they committed a sacramental act determined to be canonically worse than active pedophiles saying Mass and giving Communion to their child victims. It will get worse for trads when they actually have to grapple with the fact that the theological logic behind the norms makes this view mandatory. Eventually some of them will come to the conclusion these norms aren't based in protecting any real form of Jesus, they are based in protecting the theology and the assumptions in the theology which underpin the clerical priesthood. None of these norms are about Christi, they are about the theology describing 'in persona christi', and that ultimately means the sacramental authority in the whole clerical system.

All of these recent Vatican moves are irritating and anger inducing to progressives, victims, and Christians of all sorts, but they are also potential sources of serious questioning for True Believers. It's this last consequence to which the Vatican seems blind. That ultimately may be a very good thing for the Universal Church.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Hmmm, Are We Missing Something In The New Vatican Norms

One of the revised norms could pave the way for a number of diocesan Inquisitions which would probably be taken as seriously as the depicted inquisitors.

Fr. Tom Doyle has a great commentary on the new Vatican norms (here) regarding clerical abuse and other abuses of the sacraments. There are blog posts and commentaries all over discussing the women's ordination issue and the merits of the changes in the clerical abuse norms, but Father Doyle mentions one revision everyone else has more or less over looked. First is the revision and next is Fr. Doyle's interpretation.

8. The delicta contra fidem (heresy, apostasy and schism) have been included;
for these delicts, the norms indicate a particular competence for the local
Ordinary to proceed ad normam iuris, either in a judicial manner or extra
iudicium in the first instance, maintaining the right of appeal or recourse to the Congregation for the Doctine of the Faith.

"The eighth revision is a potential for disaster. This one gives the local bishops the power to proceed judicially against people whom they suspect of heresy, apostasy or schism. The potential for misuse of this norm and the consequent denial of due process and the right of free expression to people the bishops decide don't think like them is terrifying."

Perhaps one of my frequent commenter's is correct when he wrote "the Inquisition is coming" because this sure seems to give the local bishop the right to conduct his own inquisition. Not many bloggers for instance, are going to have the resources to appeal a negative decision to the CDF or wait around decades for an answer, so appeal is sort of meaningless.

I can't help but think of those 250 Australian priests and Australia's Cardinal Pell, who might be just the man to take advantage of this particular revision. American Catholics have a pretty good idea what such a revision would be like in the hands of Archbishop Burke. Who, come to think of it, probably had a little bit of input into these revisions. Since only the Pope or the CDF can accuse bishops of heresy, schism or apostasy, most of them will be pretty safe if their use of this new norm is so punitive it crosses into episcopal malpractice with regards to progessives and such like.

Sadly, this may scare off a number of priests from blogging anything other than the approved line, and I suppose it could be used against publications like the National Catholic Reporter and some writers for America, Commonweal, or Britain's Tablet. Perhaps we'll all start our musings with something like "I don't really believe this, but what if?"

Since one bishop's heresy is an other's ho hum definition of speculation, changes in bishops could be more of a shock then they already can be, and that too is a problem. Acceptable things in a diocese can change very drastically when bishops change, just as they can at the parish level when priests change. This new revision, sliding under a lot of radar screens, seems designed to reinforce that kind of fiefdom thinking.

Bill Lyndsey has published a brilliant piece on the underlying philosophy that Catholicism adopted after the merger of Church and state under Constantine. I highly recommend it if one cares to understand how the hierarchy comes up with the kind of thinking that gives the Vatican curia, individual bishops, and parish priests the right to think and act as if they own their sphere influence (along with the Church's sacraments).

I don't really think this, but what if these revised norms are really all about making bishops little tin gods answerable only to the big golden god in Rome? Couldn't that kind of thing possibly be heresy?
Anyway I bet these revised norms play real well amongst Traditional Anglicans, certain to reassure them the Vatican is not going to be over run by women bishops, but the question is will they instead be over run by a Vatican appointed celibate male Archbishop?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I Am Gob Smacked As They Say Down In Oz

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson and friends struck a spark and got a fire going at Australia's National Council of Priests annual meeting.

Is the Australian National Council of Priests ready to blow up the world?
15/07/2010 - ABC Australia - Noel Debian

Too much discretion? What was I thinking?!

If there really was any pulling of punches early on in this week's National Council of Priests conference, the gloves were well and truly off by the third day. Though I have heard much of what was said before in other places, I have never heard it all said in front of 250 Catholic clergy and several Australian bishops. I have never heard it said so strongly or clearly. I heard calls for a third Vatican Council, married priests, discussion of women priests, warnings of church implosion, calls for cardinals to be elected by bishops, as well as public criticism of Cardinal Pell’s appointment to Sydney. That was just for starters. At one point I leant over to a Bishop – not noted as a progressive radical - and asked if I could check his pulse. He had the good grace to laugh, though I am not all that sure he was feeling all that jocular.

Many of these issues would cause more conservative Catholic friends to tear their clothes and strew ashes over their heads – immediately before delating the whole meeting to Rome via flaming email. On the other hand, progressive Catholics would have been delighted. I am still gobsmacked at what I heard said. The trick of course is discerning whether this is all just steam being let off, or whether it is the enormous glacier of the Catholic church loudly cracking.

I’ll let the words stand for themselves, beginning with a few highlights from Bishop Geoffrey Robinson and Donald Cozzens :

On celibacy:
“In the most male dominated civil society, at least men have a woman at home to have some influence on them. In the church, not even that is present.”

On clerical sexual abuse:
Bishop Robinson: “ I have listened to any number of offenders and I have heard their unbelievable rationalisations: ‘I was loving this boy. I never loved anyone more. This was doing what Jesus said.’ Incredible rationalisations….”

Bishop Robinson: “You see every bishop takes an oath of loyalty to the pope. And yet from the time it first came to our attention in the mid 80’s right though to 2004 – twenty years- Pope John Paul said next to nothing. And the loyalty of bishops was to a silent pope and so they became defensive – whereas had the pope in 1985 come out and said “this is a terrible blight on the church, we’re going to confront it, obliterate it from the church”; then the very loyalty of the bishops would have worked in favour of victims, whereas in fact it worked against them: a culture of secrecy.”

Donald Cozzens: “One of the first things we might consider doing in terms of challenging the dysfunctions of the church is … to try to make the commitment not to be an enabler….There’s something about the structure of the church that keeps adult men like ourselves less than adult.
On a more representative church government:
Bishop Robinson: “Most bishops would be in favour of the bishops electing the Cardinals…….. Everyone in this room knows very well that George Pell was transferred from Melbourne so he could get the red hat so he would become an elector of the pope. And that was the sole reason. And that has happened in many other parts of the world. So it’s a vicious circle. And it is deliberately designed to ensure we do not have another Pope John XXIII”

Sustained and loud applause from 250 odd priests followed the bishop’s words.


This particular group of priests represents the average type in the trenches parish priest. These are the priests who have toiled quietly, while apparently smoldering. This is also the largest gathering of this organization ever. It was supposed to be Australia's gathering for the Year of the Priest. I don't think Pope Benedict had this in mind since I don't see any references to St. John Vianney. All I can say is WOW.

Maybe this really might be "the enormous glacier of the Church loudly cracking." What a week, first South Africa's Bishop Kevin Dowling lays it on the line, then Argentina passes gay marriage and adoption rights against huge Church oppposition, and now a national priests council finally speaks out. Last and maybe most importantly, one of my hero's, Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, speaks the unvarnished truth about Episcopal appointments like George Pell and what exactly they are really intended to accomplish. It isn't pastoral ministry.

I'm really beginning to wonder if the spark has been lit which will get the fire going. It's beginning to look like Benedict's summer vacation is not one he is going to want to write home about. Rather, it's beginning to look like one long summer of open discontent.

For readers looking for more on this meeting of Aussie priests try here and here.