Thursday, November 18, 2010

Catholic Fear Or Christian Love?

Perhaps this is a prophetic photo for the Catholic Church of the future.

I had begun writing a post on Dolan's election and then the inter net service provider went down before I could post it.  I didn't get service back until late last night, so my post never made it to the blog and now feels a little out of date.  Many other folks have written on this subject and so my 'opinion' would be redundant. 

The one aspect I focused on was AB Dolan's statement that he would be more in the line of Cardinal O'Connor than Cardinal Bernardin.  I have my doubts.  O'Connor, for all his blustering and battling with ACT UP over gay rights and AIDS, also had a real commitment to Catholic social justice issues.  I suspect when Dolan says he will be more like O'Connor he really means he will be willing to take on the East Coast gay rights groups.  We won't hear much of anything about social justice issues or Christian love except in the sense of heterosexual pro creative sex. Love reduced to heterosexual sex is not what Jesus taught. Not by a long shot.

Anyway, I had more free time yesterday to think about a few things.  One of those things concerned how far Catholicism has moved from being a living Christian community.  It's as if we are all being asked where our faith lies, in Catholicism, or Christianity.  My faith lies in Christianity because for me, Catholicism has become way to toxic for me to work towards becoming a more faithful Christian and stay with in it. At least in any meaningful sense.  I realized there were a number of issues coming to prominence in the statements of our teaching authorities we haven't heard much about for decades. This is not a good trend.  It's not good because a number of these statements really disempower the individual Catholic believer. They lay the ground work for more abuse of the laity and are actually part of the cult paradigm.

I'm not just referencing statements like Cardinal George's that laity have mere opinions while bishops have the truth. It's far more than that.  At this same USCCB meeting bishops were attending an optional workshop in exorcism.  The scary powerful version of the devil is back. 

AB Neinstedt suggested that a mother who accepted her daughter's lesbian partner was threatening the salvation of her own soul.  Hell is back. 

There have been suggestions from a number of orthodox bishops that natural disasters and diseases are God's retribution for mankind's sins.  Divine retribution is back. 

Many statements have been made by pro life bishops - Chaput comes to mind -
that somehow we are all answerable to aborted fetuses before, I guess, we are answerable to God and that blastocysts are somehow ontologically more innocent than babies and need more protection.  Defining an unsubstantiated opinion as a truth which can send one to hell is back.

And then there is Pope Benedict's campaign to convince us that the priesthood is ontologically different from the laity in some kind of meaningful spiritual sense----in spite of all the abuse issues.  Triumphant clericalism is off the rails, it's so far back. 

It's almost as if the Vatican can't get enough of going back in the tradition in order to resurrect a concept which will disempower the laity. Or find one to tweak clerical fears about their authority---laicism in Europe for instance-- that will spur on some of our bishops to even more fear mongering.

What this all says is that at a very deep level our current clerical leadership is deathly afraid of the laity and the culture the laity lives in. They are afraid of an open gay culture. They are afraid of equal rights truly being given to women.  They are afraid of scientific advances. They are afraid for their own status and power. They are so terrified they are becoming irrelevant,  they have opted to write off huge blocks of the western flock in order to pander to the minority of western laity who seem to wallow in the fear they sell.   Pandering to that minority demands the bishops expend a great deal of energy attempting to convince the rest of us that we need to be just as afraid.  That lay minority is also throwing lots of money at the bishops to speak so. Money is the one sure and eternal way laity can be empowered when it comes to bishops. Money didn't have to make a come back. 

On another level what the bishops are saying is we need to be just as disempowered as the bishops themselves are in their relationship to Rome.  In the end Dolan was elected to become the talking head for all this fear.  I don't envy Dolan at all.  (I suspect also, that  one other reason he was elected is to put a happy face on what will be a huge uproar when the Mass translations are put in practice.)

Jesus did not teach about fear from fear.  He taught the opposite. He taught about love from a state of inner peace. As long as Catholicism treads the path of fear, they are not treading the path taught by Jesus.  Jesus's teachings were not based in disempowering people.  They were about empowering people.  In my book Catholics are being asked to make a simple decision:  Do you choose to support Catholic fear; or do you choose to support Christian love?  The two are becoming more and more incompatible.


  1. Amen! You speak the truth and it seems those of us who choose not to attend another denomination will need to plan for a time in the wilderness-especially if one lives in a rural area where options like Women priests are not available. I have been thinking and you put it in words that it is time to choose between Catholicism and following Jesus' teachings.

  2. I've heard a little about this new mass translation, what does it entail, do you know? I heard it was little stuff like the greeting/handshake and things like that, but if it goes into ridiculous changes like moving back to head coverings for women in church, I really will pick up stakes and join John the Baptist in the wilderness.

    Speaking of changes, did you note the censoring of the word yahweh in hymns? Apparently this was a direct Vatican order in 2008.


  3. Kallisti when I want to keep up on the lastest in the translation mess I use Fr. Joe O'Leary's website:

    It's the language of the Mass itself that is reverting to a form of archaic english intended to be more faithful to the Trentan Latin. It was introduced in 2009 South Africa to it's English speaking population and was not at all well received.

    There have been a few changes like the exchange of peace being moved, but the meat of it is all the change in language.

    I did notice that. The NCR did a write up on it back then.

    coolmom, I've decided I will listen to AB Dolan if he gives his opinions while standing up right on the water in the middle of Long Island sound.

  4. My fave quote from this article

    “My major priority would be to continue with all vigor I can muster what’s already in place,” Archbishop Dolan said. “It’s not like we’re in crisis; it’s not like all of a sudden we need some daring new initiatives. Thank God for the leadership of Cardinal Francis George, things are going well.”


  5. Anne that's quite a quote. If things are all this hunky dory in Dolan's world, I'd like the address to that world. I have a sneaking suspicion the address would be for the very sumptuos well staffed digs, Dolan currently lives in.

  6. Disempowerment seems to be the buzz word lately that is floating around in the social consciousness in the Church and in the secular world.

    It is not an easy path, it is narrow, to choose to follow Jesus' teachings and to act upon it. With practice though it does become easier to do. The hierarchy and many in the laity seem unwilling to take that path to Jesus which leads to love for their neighbor, which is demonstrated in acts of mercy and compassion. That is the choice that every Catholic will have to make if they want to bother even calling themselves a Christian.

    Here is a link to an article I found today that has some synchronisity that I believe is on topic because it is connected to fear of women that the hierarchy exhibits fiercely and uninhibitedly and with increased vengeance from their own sense of fantasy and illusion. A lot of women, whether lesbian or hetero will be able to relate to this kind of discrimination and mentality about women in leadership and women in general.

    word verification is menis
    (Apparently for some, women are a menace.)

  7. I hope she wins her law suit, especially because she worked for a non profit that's supposed to be into 'empowering' people.

  8. I just get so sick of it all. The fetus, the fetus, the fetus. If I murder any defenseless person, even if I strangle a baby in his crib, excommunication isn't even on the table. But if I so much give a friend a ride to and from an abortion clinic, bam, Lynx anathema est.
    What are they going to bring back next? Days of old, when knights were bold? An auto-da-fe in the church parking lot?
    The Inquisition had an interesting custom: they'd sentence all the women accused to witchcraft to death by burning at the stake. Then they gather up the local gay men, strangle them, and heap their bodies on the kindling. From this, the unfortunate term "faggot" came about. And this is what they want to bring back?

  9. I think so Trans, not in a literal sense here in the west, but it is very close to literally happening in Uganda and on both the gay and witch issues--and that is being fueled by the rancor in the west.

    I wish more people would make the point you do about automatic excommunication for abortion as opposed to no such thing for infanticide. Fear is such an irrational place from which to promote any kind of rational thought.

  10. I hope she wins the case too Colleen. I admire her for her courage and willingness to speak the truth that will be helpful for other women and maybe open men's eyes to change their views and really respect women and treat them with dignity.

    It sure does seem that the sting of male patriarchal rule for thousands of years still permeates human consciousness today and is still the consensus reality. The denials coming from her former employer designated to "empower" people sounds all too familiar and similar to what comes from the Church hierarchy which should be empowering people with the Gospels instead of its focus on sex or sexuality.

    This is gross and in its extreme of religious fundamentalist fanaticism in control over women, in Iran they have religious police who go around to see if women are wearing bras that might 'deceptively enhance or create the illusion of larger breasts.' They make these women shake their breasts to see and make sure they are not being deceptive towards men in making it appear that they have larger breasts than they actually do.

    Both examples cited in the US & Iran are control issues relating to men's views of women that have been enculturated into them from within their religions.

    Enough is enough.

    word verification is dehotini

  11. "A Fear-Based Church?" by James Martin, SJ offers some thoughts which fit well with yours, from a slightly different perspective. Recommended.

  12. Thanks for recommending my site, but the best site on the catastrophic new Mass translations is It gives daily revelations of incredible skullduggery and close analyses of many of the horrendous new texts.

  13. Jack, I actually read Fr. Martin's post right after I published this article. I even book marked it. It's a very good read.

    Joe, thanks for the link. I will add yours and this one to the side bar--if I don't forget that is.