Thursday, February 24, 2011

Bishop Morlino Of Madison Wisconsin Speaks About Budgets And Unions and Relativism, But Not To Bloggers Like Me

Bishop Morlino would say this is a relative sign in many ways.  I mean really, how many ways could one take the meaning of the words pink slip?

I've been following the story out of Wisconsin on Governor Walker's attempts at union busting under the guise of budget balancing.  I must admit I got a chuckle out of his phony phone conversation in which he thought he was speaking with and colluding in that endeavor with a really really rich union buster like David Koch, and that got me wondering what Bishop Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin thought of union busting.  I wondered if he agreed with the sentiments of his fellow bishop Listecki, or if he was more of a right to work state kind of guy who believed any boss had the right to fire any employee for any or no reason,  such as writing a speculative paper for one's Master's degree in theology.

What I found instead is that I couldn't access the current Madison Catholic Herald which has Morlino's thoughts.  I did find a traditionalist blog called the Catholic Badger which had this quote from the paper on the distribution of Morlino's thoughts:

This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.

I guess my ISP address is beyond the intention of the bishop, but it wasn't beyond his intention for an article he wrote in 2008 on why Madison Catholics should pony up the millions to replace the Cathedral of St Rafael which was burned to the ground in March of 2005.  Rebuilding the Cathedral and the money this would cost has been somewhat controversial.  Bishop Morlino came up with a fascinating logical system to justify the expense.  The article was actually a three part article, but he summed up the first two parts with the following paragraphs.  I should say that these two first parts deal with the fact Jesus came in a particular time and a particular space there for God approves of sacred times and sacred places--especially those having to do with sacramental Catholicism-----and BISHOPS!

Bishop's sacred time, space - the Cathedral

........Given everything that we've said to this point, what would be more reasonable than to say that the bishop, as the chief teacher, the chief sanctifier, and the chief governor of the diocese, needs, himself, sacred time and space. And the bishop's sacred time and space has a name - it's a cathedral!

The cathedral is named after the chair, which in Latin is cathedra, which only the cathedral has, from which the bishop exercises his office of teaching, sanctifying, and governing. And that is where the chair of the successor of the apostles rests.

So, if one understands the Eternal Plan of the Trinity - Jesus Christ coming in space and time, and making space and time sacred by His coming; and if one understands that He wishes to continue that space- and time-limited presence through His Body, the Church; and if one understands that the Holy Spirit gives life to the Church through the celebration of Sacraments; and if one understands that celebrating Sacraments requires sacred times and places; and if one understands that the teaching, and sanctifying, and governing of the Church happens through bishops, priests, and deacons; and if one understands that the bishop is the chief teacher, governor, and sanctifier in the diocese, then one should understand, by a logical step, that the bishop, in order to carry out his ministry needs the sacred time and space which comes with a cathedral. It could not be any other way if Jesus Christ is who He is!

So there you have it if you faithfully followed this, Jesus Christ because of who he is, makes it quite plain that bishops need expensive cathedrals in which to put their special chair which signifies their special connection to the Apostles, the very men who were actually in Jesus's time and space at which time they were taught by Jesus who did not actually have a chair or a bed or much of a cloak or even a place to lay his head. I hope you got all that because I don't.

As to what the good Bishop thinks about this whole messy union fight with the union busting governor thing, well, it's all a perfect example of secular relativism because what's fair for me is in my eyes and what's fair for you is in your eyes and so both sides are right and the Church in Madison can do no less that take a neutral stance because such a relativistic society leaves no other choice.  Hmmmm.  And here all along I thought there were a couple of Vatican encyclicals,  like the most recent one,  coming down squarely on the side of labor unions.  Maybe that was in a different time and space.  After all even time itself is relative.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Women Priests: Copying The System Isn't Really Changing The System

For me personally this ceremony just puts a band aid an a much deeper dysfunction.

Every once in awhile I come across a editorial or a comment which seems to speak precisely to my own thinking, or puts in a nut shell thoughts I have meandered towards from twenty different directions.  The following excerpt is from a response written to Jamie Manson's latest NCR article.  It is one such findThe author of the comment  is Tony Equale and you can read the entire comment at his blog.  But don't stop with just this commentary, Tony has other wonderful thoughts about some other very basic, but usually unexamined, concepts and assumptions.

...."I claim that the institution of the “sacramental” priesthood as we know it in our times, is a greco-roman elitist innovation that did not exist until well into the 2nd century, a hundred years after the founding of the church.  It was designed precisely to eliminate christian egalitarianism, create a hieratic caste, mystify the ordinary people and concentrate power in the hands of the upper class.  It represented the unwarranted transformation of a legitimate ministerial role — the presbyter — into an ontological caste that did not previously exist in the christian scheme of things, and certainly not in the mind of Jesus.  It was an essential step in bending christianity to the cultural requirements of the class-based society run by the Roman Empire.  It makes the people themselves complicit in their own impotence by making it seem impossible for a christian group to have the eucharist unless it be performed exclusively by the magical hands of a representative of the (upper class) bishop. (One can see this phenomenon really playing out in the defenders of Fr Euteneuer and other clerical abusers.)

The earliest accounts of the life of christian communities portray a fellowship where fixed caste status for the clergy grounded in ritual alchemy, was not in evidence.  Likewise, infrastructure (buildings) if they existed, were a secondary feature of the community.  It’s not insignificant that the two phenomena seem to have arisen together, suggesting that “buildings,” i.e., property and wealth became a factor requiring the creation of new “sacramental structures” that would insure that control stayed in the proper hands.  These developments were exactly what made christianity an attractive choice as the “new” Religion of the empire.  An egalitarian group of slaves and tent-makers operating out of homes and storefronts just would not do for “divine Rome.”

By the 4th century, with the elevation of christianity to the status of State Religion of the Roman Empire, the connection between church property and the Roman upper class was such a conspicuous part of ecclesiastical reality that we see Constantine himself sending his legions in 316 to restore North African church buildings to their “rightful” bishops.  What made this restoration so shocking, besides the use of imperial force, was that the “rightful” bishops were in most cases the same men who had “handed over” (traditores) the (sacred) books to the Roman authorities during the persecution of Diocletian, causing the “people” (afterwards called “Donatists”) to refuse to receive them back as their bishops.  But Constantine had made a huge transfer of basilicas, temples and other buildings to christianity from the Roman polythesitic religions, and he would not abide having “his” imperial church buildings taken over by a mob of disobedient nobodies.  Every facet of the empire was run by obedience to the Roman authorities. The Empire’s new Church would be no different.  Precedent had to be set.

“Ordination” functioned in this context to insure a mystified control of the Church and its sacramental life by the upper classes.  This is the “priesthood” that the RCWP is banging on the door to enter … rather than to eliminate in order to return the eucharist to the fellowship of equals.  How can we support an elitist anachronism in the name of gender equality?  It’s time, I think, to stop talking about the church and the “ecclesistical careers” that have been denied women, and begin talking about the kind of living community that Jesus encouraged his followers to form. (This has been the core question for me about women's ordination. My answer has always been that removing the core elitism is more essential than gender or orientation inequalities.)

Just look at the ludicrous scenarios described in the Manson article.  Imagine, mature adult christians, so mesmerized by the Roman sect’s absurd claims about apostolic fidelity being bound to mechanical legal ritual that they are ordained in the middle of rivers in order to avoid the reach of episcopal jurisdictions!  This is not rebellion.  It is a crass submission to the legalistic mystifications that have been developed to soli­di­fy power in the hands of those in control.  It is to be complicit in the elevation of caste superiority into a christian category in utter contradiction of the egalitarianism preached by Jesus. (To be honest, it was the idea that women needed to be ordained in the middle of a river to somehow circumvent parts of the canonical strictures in order to perform another canonically illegal act that soured me on the whole ordination issue.  There was something seriously wrong with that picture.)


I'm not unaware that the Roman Catholic Women's Priest movement state on their website that they seek an end to the abuses of patriarchal clerical power.  But what they don't state is that they seek to end the inherent flaws in the hierarchical system for which they desire to be a part.  Jesus was very explicit, in both deed and action, as to what kind of spiritual leadership he desired--an upside down pyramid in which power resided not in His servant priests, but in the community of believers.  Spiritual power would flow from the community to the servant leader--an upside down pyramid or a funnel.
Of course that kind of power distribution model is anathema to patriarchal systems which are essentially based on the microcosmic model of the male led family.  Jesus is even quoted as saying "Call no man father.", and yet here we are with a whole hierarchy of levels of childless fathers and scads of spiritual children desperately willing to defend the most abusive of these 'special' men.  Did Jesus teach that we should do so?  I don't recall that He did.  I do seem to recall that when Peter got all upset with just how far Jesus intended to take His notions of servant priesthood, Jesus called Peter Satan.

One of the lessons I take from the ongoing revolution in the Middle East is that once people have moved beyond a system, they will not mess around with reforming the system from with in.  That's especially true if the system is to be perpetuated by dictatorial papa's chosen son.  There's something about that whole notion of dictatorship by male blood line that seems to have finally run it's course in the Middle East.  If that's true, it would leave Roman Catholicism as the last major global organization that emulates the whole 'father to son' scenario.  I'm sure the Vatican is computing that thought themselves and not taking much joy from it.  They may even come to the conclusion that assimilating some changes to the clerical system, odious as they may be, is a wise move at this particular time.   If the Anglican/Episcopal Church shows anything, it's that for people who have moved into notions of a more mature adult spirituality, adding women and married priests to the old paternal/parental clerical system is not going to cut it.

I've also been following the Catholic stories coming from the US, Ireland and Germany.  In the US we have more stories of clerical authority gone amok.  In Ireland we have a story about clerical authority doing some serious repentance for having gone amok, and in Germany we have an exploding reformation movement designed to prevent clerical authority from going amok in the future.  Maybe it's time we seriously looked at the idea that our notions of clerical authority are just plain amok and do what Jesus actually taught us to do: Use the reverse pyramid scheme and find some servant leaders. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Richard Sipe Asks A Very Pertinent Question

Cardinal Mahoney at a previous trial where he did not commit perjury.  He just 'forgot'.  He did not wear lace either.

Richard Sipe - 2/17/2011

It is not outlandish to ask if Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles is a criminal for “knowingly endangering the children he was supposed to defend.” There is ample evidence already in the public forum that Mahony has known of priests who abused minors, reassigned them and allowed them to minister only to abuse other minors. He has not informed parishioners or even parish staffs, that the priests he was assigning had a record of abuse. Mahony who has a Masters in Social Work did not report known priest abusers to social services. All of this vast evidence is recorded in countless depositions on record from litigation [1] of abuse and Mahony’s own testimony under oath.[2]

Judge Jim Byrne who was touted by the cardinal as a poster boy for the integrity of the sexual abuse review board said in deposition that in all the years he served on the Board he “never thought” of helping the victims.

Lawyer, Larry Drivon, who has litigated many California cases of clergy abuse accused Mahony of perjury after letters he signed when he was bishop of Stockton, were produced in his 2004 deposition that showed—black on white—he had clear knowledge of events he denied under oath in deposition and on the witness stand in the 1998 trial of Fr. Oliver O’Grady.[3]  I attended the 2004 deposition of Mahony. I know the history of the O’Grady trial. I saw Mahony’s letters. As a layperson I would say that I witnessed the cardinal lying. His lawyer claimed, as did the cardinal that “he forgot.”

Los Angeles Grand Juries have been impaneled over the last nine years to determine the real picture of abusing priests in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in focus. Their problem is not the lack of evidence, but the monumental impediments the cardinal has sponsored to obstruct investigation and the release of documents needed to pinpoint facts of the cardinal’s knowledge and involvement in complicity and obstruction.

He has claimed that communications between him and his priests have a special privilege, not unlike that of confessional secrets. The Supreme Court could not swallow that. His obstructionism seems unbounded.

Currently he claims that he is a member of the therapeutic team treating priest abusers and therefore documents involving him enjoy a privilege of medical confidentiality. (How creative is this? This  Roger is truly the most artful of the LA Dodgers)

It has not yet been revealed how many millions the cardinal has spent in pursuing these facetious claims. But he has employed for his defense the lawyers and public relation firms used by Enron and the Tobacco industry. Birds of a feather. Truth and transparency be damned. Documents will show that Mahony is a crook.

[1] Depositions by Bishop Curry and Judge Byrne are illustrative of how priests were assigned and the oversight board operated.
[2] Mahony depositions, January 25, 2010; November 23, 2004; also Cf. Mahony trial testimony Fresno, CA March 17, 2009.
[3] Don Lattin. December 11, 2004. The San Francisco Chronicle.


Here's some facts and figures.  The cost of abuse settlement for the LA Archdiocese and subordinate bishops is well over 1 billion dollars. The cost of the new LA cathedral, Our Lady of the Angels, was 189.7 million.  I'm sure Cardinal Mahony intended the cathedral to be the lasting monument celebrating his legacy.  Sorry, ain't happenin'.

Why am I not surprised that Mahony has attorneys from Enron and Big Tobacco on retainer.  Could it be because he can't decide if he's going to get hit with criminal malfeasance or obstruction of  justice.  He'd probably have Johnny Cochran  on retainer if the man was still available.  Unfortunately I don't see where there is any trick defense available to Mahony if he really ever is brought up on criminal charges.  He's using them all up avoiding trials and depositions.  He's a member of their treatment team? Wow.

The sentence that really wowed me was the one attributed to Judge Byrn where he says the entire time he was on the clergy sexual review board he never once thought about the victims.  I don't think there's a better description of a criminal corporate mentality, and that in the end will be Mahony's legacy as a Catholic Cardinal and Archbishop.  He ran a criminal corporation and the really sad thing is he was hardly alone.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Meaningful Ritual Is An Experiential Event, Not An Exercise In Cerebral Theology

 I understand that as a Cardinal, Cardinal Pell is entitled to wear more lace than a mere Archbishop.  That is some serious lace.  But I wonder if it makes him a more powerful experiential leader, or is just more distracting eye candy.

In catching up on some blog reading early this morning I was really taken with a two post series written by Australian priest Fr. Daniel Donovan for Catholica Australia.  In them he takes apart Cardinal Pell's understanding of the function of the Mass as catechesis.  Pell admits that the new translation is an attempt to re catechize Catholic faithful through the Mass.  The first short excerpt is from a longer article written by Tess Livingstone published this past May in The AustralianFirst a couple of explanations,  Tess Livingstone is known in Australian progressive circles as a Pell Cheerleader, and the Mr Elich mentioned in the first sentence is the Director of Brisbane's Liturgical Commission.

....When interviewed, Elich is unenthusiastic but more circumspect: "This is what the church has produced for us at this time and it is now up to us to make it work."

He cites a section of the new third Eucharistic prayer as an example of his concerns. It reads: "Look, we pray, upon the oblation of your church and, recognising the victim by whose death you willed to reconcile us to yourself, grant that we, who are nourished by the body and blood of your son and filled with his holy spirit, may become one body and one spirit in Christ."

Pell is unconcerned if people initially find such wording, with its emphasis on the sacred and the transcendent, a bit daunting. He compares the mass text to a good children's book in the sense that it will stimulate thought and broaden mass-goers' knowledge. (Notice how his operative terms are thought and knowledge.)

This, he says, will lead to a deeper understanding of theology as people encountered the occasional unfamiliar word such as oblation, a theological term for offering or gift.

"If someone writes a scholarly article a few hundred people will read it," he says.

"A few thousand people read a theological book, but the mass, a celebration in which tens of millions will participate repeatedly across the decades, is a highly effective form of catechesis. (So Cardinal Pell, who was the chair of Vox Clara, sees these changes in terms of thought, theology, and the imputation of knowledge---Mass as school.)


I really encourage folks to read both articles of Fr Donovan because he develops his arguments against Pell's understanding in some depth.  Basically Donovan argues that the Mass is a ritual and ritual is about fostering holistic experiences, a sense of presence, and immersion in the life of the community dedicated to Jesus's teachings. Rituals and rites are designed to elicit far more than a cerebral or thought response:

......Jesus' Ministry and Rituals
Rituals are symbolic actions and a rite is a collection of these actions. The prophets in Israel ritualised and the people immediately experienced God's effective presence in their history. Jesus followed this prophetic tradition and was constantly plagued by "the theologians" of the day wanting a cerebral response from him.
Jesus himself is the proto-sacrament because in his humanity he reveals the unseen God. John explains that "the Word became flesh" (Jn 1:14) and "from the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing for another" (v.16). Jesus is "Emmanuel" — God-with-us (Mt 1:23). Throughout his ministry, Jesus mediated God through his interaction with the people. The following examples from the Gospels (while not exhaustive) will illustrate this point.
  • In Mark 2:1ff, Jesus heals the paralytic with a holistic ritual "your sins are forgiven" and immediately, "some of the teachers of the law" present consider Jesus to be "blaspheming" because "only God can forgive sins" (v7). The physical cure of the paralytic is the explanation of the ritual (v.12) which silences "the theologians" but, more importantly, the ritual invites participation by the crowd in God's saving work.
  • Luke reports that John the Baptist sent his disciples to ask Jesus, "Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?" Jesus does not feel compelled to answer the question directly but continues his healing ritual (Lk 7:20-21). The Baptist's disciples are " report what they see and hear (aural/oral): the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me" (Lk 7:22-23). What a "Cool" answer, Jesus work is holistic and nurtures faith.
  • John does not include a narrative of institution of Eucharist in his Gospel, but rather prefers the ritual of Jesus washing the disciples' feet (Jn 13: 1-17). Peter insists that Jesus is not to wash his feet (v.8) which eventually leads to the explanation of the ritual. "I ... have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet". Eucharist, for Jesus is not about doctrinal definitions but "service" so those who remember him at Eucharist remember him as Servant and they too, must "wash each other's feet".
  • For Luke (Lk 22:24-27) and Matthew (Mt 25: 31-46), the ritual of remembering must lead to action. There is an intimate connection between recognising and serving Jesus in the other and remembering and recognising Jesus in the Eucharist. The interconnectedness of ritual and life is the heart of God's saving work.
Through ritual Jesus expressed God's presence, he made mud and restored sight (Jn 9: 6-7) or wrote in the dirt (Jn 8: 7-8) or allowed people to touch him (Lk 7: 39) and he was forthright in refuting those who took the moral high ground attending to "correct content" rather than "the effect" of the ritual on all who witnessed the event. Jesus' ministry was intended to invite people to convert and to recognise God's presence among them (Mk 1:12-15), he invited his hearers to live the mystery not simply to define it.

Ritual is a Living Medium

........All rituals teach through effect rather than content. Religious rituals have the capacity to provide access to the living Tradition of the celebrating group long before the person is able to cognise or understand. Rituals also, allow the celebrating community to experience and embrace the Vision which assures that the Tradition is always open to and subject to the critique of the Kingdom thus The General Instruction on the Lectionary correctly, states that when the word of God is announced and proclaimed, there is an awareness of being a new people (effect) in whom the covenant proclaimed in the past (Tradition) is perfected and fulfilled (Vision). Tradition is not the dead faith of the living as some of the hierarchy would suggest; it is always the living faith of the dead who in ritual join in praising and thanking God.  Rituals ensure that communities remember their past but also can walk humbly with God and embrace the challenges of God's future.


As far as I'm concerned Fr. Donovan has hit the nail on the head with his two articles.  Ritual is about experience.  It is not about theology or knowledge or catechesis.  It is not brain candy.  Ritual when done right, by passes cognition in favor of a more holistic response.  It is about heart, not head.  It is about experience and effect, not rules and verbal content.  Language should never ever get in the way of the experiential power of the ritual.

For me there has been an interesting parallel development in Native American practice where elders are having to face that fact that passing on their knowledge and their rituals often means passing them on to people who are not fluent in traditional languages.  I can remember having talks with one elder about his concern for this issue.  He said he worried that the deceased ancestors would not recognize the rituals if they weren't done in traditional languages and they wouldn't come and lend their support, thus making the rituals far less potent an experience. But he was also Catholic, a not uncommon occurrence for many Native medicine persons, and drew on his experience from when Mass changed from Latin to English.  He didn't think he noticed any lack of connection with his Catholic ancestors, so maybe he was worrying for no good reason.

Ritual is always more about intent and honoring and respecting tradition than it is how all that might be expressed.  In the end this elder decided his concerns might say more about him than about his ancestors or the experiential power of his ceremonies, and he has subsequently dropped some of the language requirements.  Similarly, I think Pell's insistence on Latinized English and using the Mass to underscore catechesis and theology says a whole lot more about him than it does anything else.  

Unfortunately English speaking Catholics through out the world now get to experience his definition of verbal brain candy because he has the clout to stick the rest of us with his misunderstanding of rite and ritual. Lucky us.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Real Church Reform: A Zero Sum Game?

 One of the trends I tend to follow very closely concerns the relationship between the governments and official Catholicism in what are considered strongly conservative Catholic countries.  This is especially true of Spain, Mexico, and Italy, the three countries which have spawned the most of the 'lay' Catholic initiatives (cults) so favored by the Vatican occupants of the past thirty years.  

An aspect of these conservative Catholic groups which really troubles me is their relationship to the money and power brokers with in their countries of origin.  The NCR is currently running a story on the nature of the relationship between Mexican drug cartels and the Church.  It is highly reminiscent of the relationship between Italian religious authority and the Mafia.  The following is an excerpt which includes a couple of areas I will expound on in more detail: 

"Although it had traditionally stayed out of the fray, the church had without a doubt crossed paths with the narcos. During the 71-year rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) between 1929 and 2000, Mexico’s drug traffickers were not necessarily considered the criminals they are today. The narcos attended social functions throughout Mexico, at which politicians, businessmen and priests would be present. The narcos attended baptisms and weddings of important social figures. One priest in Mexicali, on the northern border, claims to have baptized several of Chapo’s children. In 1983, Mexico’s most powerful drug trafficker, Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo (aka El Padrino, or the Godfather) attended the wedding of Rodolfo Sánchez Duarte, the son of a former governor. Officiating at the wedding was the bishop of Culiacán.

The relationships weren’t necessarily clear-cut; after all, in many parts of Mexico, says George Grayson, a longtime Mexico expert at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., “drug barons have long been members of the local establishment.”

“The church justifies its relations with the narco-barons on the grounds that these contacts may change the criminals’ behavior and lead them to the path of glory. If not, members of the flock emerge with a church building whose roof doesn’t leak and schools that have desks,” he says. (And bishops emerge with a higher life style and nicer digs--both spiritual and material.)

 Indeed, the narcos have allegedly long donated money, known commonly as narco-limosnas (“narco-alms”), to the church. For years, the church has backed away from such claims, sometimes denying them furiously, other times simply asking how one might prove such accusations. But on Nov. 1, 2010, in a printed statement in Desde la Fe, newspaper of the Mexico City archdiocese, the church hierarchy admitted that some of the “dirtiest and bloodiest” money in Mexico could well have been used to build chapels and other facilities. This was “immoral,” the church declared. “Nothing can justify allowing this sort of situation to occur.” (Something justified it because it went on for decades, enabled by the very Church authorities that now condemn their own behavior--but only when the death toll skyrocketed as one of the fruits of fostering a parallel quasi governmental and social structure.)

While local priests have played a very reassuring role in comforting victims and frightened residents amid the violence, the hierarchy’s pronouncements throughout the drug war have failed to win over the hearts of a declining membership -- church attendance is dropping at a rate of roughly 1.7 percent a year, according to Mexico’s national statistics institute.

At times, the church has appeared completely out of touch.

Last year, for instance, Mexico City archdiocesan spokesman Fr. Hugo Valdemar criticized the liberal, left-wing Mexico City government of Marcelo Ebrard, which has legalized gay marriage, instituted social and health programs, and managed to improve security in the capital. “He and his government have created laws that are destructive to the family, which cause worse harm than drug trafficking,” Valdemar said. (This statement is indicative of a man whose understanding of his reality is more than out of touch. It's the kind of thing that twenty somethings take as proof of the inherent irrelevance of organized religion.)

Valdemar was promptly attacked by columnists and the citizenry alike: Comparing Ebrard, no matter how conservative one might be, to the narcos was simply offensive and wrong.


Fr. Hugo Valdemar is not the only Catholic cleric who has made incredibly stupid statements about gay marriage or other Catholic moral stances which seem nonsensical when placed in the context of what is really destroying families and the societies in which they try valiantly to raise their children.

They seem nonsensical  until you take your focus from family culture to church culture.  Then they make a sort of diabolical sense. It makes sense to stay silent about organized crime if organized crime is one your major meal tickets.  It also makes sense to distract a certain segment of the population from dealing with your meal ticket by focusing that segment on a defenseless population which is also easily demonized.  For centuries it was the Jews and now it's the gays.  The strategy has been with us in one form or another since the descendants of Cain were ostracized in Genesis.

The other idea which floats through this article is one I have always found more than a little devious.  It's that notion that dirty money can somehow be laundered through the process of narco-limosnas.  I'm not taking a stance here that says narcotics traffickers are beyond salvation, but I am saying they shouldn't be able to buy that same salvation while the rest of wait for their conversion.  I am saying Church authorities are in denial if they think taking this money doesn't corrupt the church or seriously effect it's ability to proclaim the Gospel message.  What it says is that money buys salvation and it doesn't matter what one does to garner that money.  I have no doubt this is a message that plays loud and clear amongst certain members of our Catholic flock.  It's a message which is at the evangelizing heart of many of these conservative Catholic groups whose charism is to the wealthy and influential.  It seems to say "we're more than happy to hold your place in heaven as long as you keep paying for the privilege." 

All of this is why I think real reform needs to be a zero sum game.  Jesus didn't take any money for His teaching. The Apostles didn't have salaries, nor were they part of a self sustaining bureaucracy.  The early church met in houses and had no need to support a professional clergy.  The spiritual experiences they provided was the only evangelizing currency they needed.  Today's Catholicism would undoubtedly have more appeal to all those self proclaimed spiritual seekers if it still retained the spiritual dynamism of the early Church.  Substituting religious ritual for spiritual efficacy eventually smothers the life out of any religious system and leaves it wide open to material corruption.  

It wouldn't be the first time reform in Catholicism needed to look at the money aspects and the sometimes subtle notion of selling salvation.  St Francis finally understood God's command to rebuild his church meant precisely returning it to it's simpler, less power hungry roots.  If the Church is not of this world, then it is not of this world.  It should have no need to try straddle both worlds.  It should have no need to be a power player  in this world or pretend that it can be somehow clean up corrupting secular influences by partaking in those influences.  It needs to set it's sights much lower, more humbly as St Francis did.  Christianity works best in the small sphere and then letting the small spheres add up to one big sphere.  It just seems to me we are wasting way too much time and energy on attempting to maintain a religious system that is too big and too expensive in too many ways and is only getting more supersized.   We need to start entertaining ideas as to how to get back to a more zero sum game before all that's left of Christianity is a remnant triumphal Catholicism and millions of small Evangelical communities.

Friday, February 18, 2011

St Raphael And Soul Mates

I actually wrote this one for Vatentine's day two years ago.  I know it's a couple days late for this year, but I really seem to be losing track of  time working night shift.  I was checking some blog stats and noticed this particular post had a lot of hits and so checked it out.  It dawned on me that it had all the hits because of Valentine's day.  So here it is again.  One update, the friendship I describe in this piece is still just as crazy.  I now work for the same company she does and technically she would be my mega boss--in theory.  In reality it's a whole different story.

Britain's Roman Catholic Church is advising lovelorn singles to direct their February 14 requests for love to St Raphael, rather than St Valentine.

Over the years St Valentine has come incorrectly to be associated with finding love, the Church says.

He is the patron saint for those who have already found their soulmate.

St Raphael is the patron saint for happy encounters and it is to him those fearing the Valentine's post should properly direct their prayers.

Clare Ward, spokeswoman for the Catholic Enquiry Office, the official body providing information on Catholic life, said that while the distinction between the saints has always been clear within the Church it has, over the years, been blurred outside.

"Saint Valentine passed a note to his jailer's daughter, whose sight he is thought to have cured," she said.

"The note had no romantic content, but it's from this story that the tradition of sending notes of appreciation has come from.

"If tomorrow you are still looking for your soul mate, the actual patron saint is St Raphael.
"He's the person you should dedicate your day or pray to if you are looking for Mr or Mrs right."

St Raphael, according to legend, helped Tobias enter into marriage with Sarah, who had seen seven previous bridegrooms perish on the eve of their weddings. (I can see where some angelic intervention might have been needed for Sarah. Her track record would have given any self respecting man serious doubts.)

It is he within the canon of Catholic saints who is properly associated with helping to forge partnerships.
St Valentine is said to have been martyred in Rome in 269.
While his exact history is unclear, Valentine is thought to have existed as archaeologists have unearthed an early church dedicated to someone of that name.

One theory is that he was a priest in Rome who continued to marry Christian couples in defiance of the law of the day.

On the eve of his execution, he is said to have signed a note to his jailer's daughter: "From your Valentine."

Those hoping for divine intervention to help their love lives may well appreciate the correction in target for their prayers, but Miss Ward also had some more advice.

"There is a lot of evidence to suggest that young people who have tapped into prayer groups have found partners," she said.
"Those who have exhausted traditional routes like online dating should try spiritual networks. (Since when did online dating graduate to tradition?)
"Why not come along to a prayer group - it could be your lucky night."


I found this article kind of interesting because I had no idea the Archangel Raphael was the patron saint of soul mates or of happy encounters, and that Valentine was the patron saint of formed partnerships.

For me Raphael has always been the angel of coyote lessons. The one angel guaranteed to use humorous situations to make a fool of my ego. Although now that I think about it, most of those lessons always involved people who became incredibly close to me and vice versa. People who really did turn out to be soulmates, even if at times we soulmates were at each other's throats.

That's the thing about real soulmates, it's not about sick syrupy love, it's about relationships which expose you to your own truth. These are relationships which take you beyond yourself and your comfort zones and very often become incredibly threatening in their intensity. That's the whole idea really, to take away your sense of control.

I have one really close friendship with another psychic whose energy is so like mine that people constantly confuse us. This in spite of the fact we look nothing alike and come from totally different backgrounds. This tendency to see us both as one unit has been validated over and over again by Native healers and spiritual practitioners. It's gotten to the point that we don't even bother to correct people anymore. It doesn't do any good. It also doesn't do us any good to fight against it. The energy of this relationship seems to transcend it's individual components, the 'we' being far greater than the individual "I".

There have been times both of us have wished the other one would some how drop off the face of the planet. We really are not that much alike and do get on each other's nerves. It doesn't do us any good. The meddlesome angels that work with us seem to feel we need this relationship--or they need it--so whenever there's been a major falling out, it's always been shortly followed by a situation in which we're forced back into relying on each other. It's interesting how that situation usually involves one or the other of our children. Our children love us both equally, and truth be told we love each other's children as much as our own, and yet we're not partners in any usual sense of that word. It's all very mystifying.

People ask me all the time about this notion of soulmate. I always tell them to be careful what they ask for because they may not have a real clue about what they are getting themselves in for. Anything that involves Raphael is going to be joyful but it's also going to push every button you have and stretch everything you thought you knew about relationships.

The story of Tobiah and Sarah illustrates this point quite well. If you haven't ever read the book of Tobit it's a great Jewish story. In it Raphael is his typical self. Encouraging a terrified Tobiah to marry Sarah in spite of the small problem of the seven previous dead husbands. Raphael tells Tobiah his and Sarah's relationship was made before their births, and so Tobiah needs to suck it up and do a little demon cleansing and then everything will be righteous and joyful.

In the meanwhile Sarah is sure she and her jealous demon hanger-on will be the cause of yet another death and awaits her husband with resigned trepidation. Her father is so sure of the outcome he has his servants secretly dig a grave---to avoid more family embarrassment. Morning comes and the maid is sent upstairs to check on the inevitable dead husband only to find him still living. Shock. Sarah's father then has his servants secretly fill in the grave---to avoid more family embarrassment. Nothing like a pair of soulmates to turn everyones life upside down.

All parties live to a ripe and full old age and Raphael eventually tells Tobit and Tobiah the truth about himself, and then ascends into heaven. The book of Tobit is sort of an angelic soap opera, but it's also a treatise on the importance of self giving in the scheme of things.

In the final chapter Raphael gives his own version of the Sermon On The Mount, stressing compassionate connection with the less fortunate as the cure for evil. Tobiah and Sarah take this to heart and always have the abundance they need from which to give to others. That's the whole point about soulmate relationships. They aren't about a 'you and me' they are about a 'we' which serves the needs of others.

So on this Valentine's day I suggest reading the book of Tobit. It's not really about romantic love, it's about soulmates and angels and the high highs and the low lows such things seem to produce. In the end it's as much a human story as it is an angelic story and it's most surely a love story.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Will The BS Ever End?

Archbishop Dolan is not happy with the hometown fishwrap or that pesky SNAP.  In the meantime Philadelphia's Rigali is taking cues from a Grand Jury.

Is it just me, or does anyone else think John Allen has given up real journalism for the sake of spinning the Church's flaws white as the driven snow?  His most recent offering at the NCR deals with a supposed campaign gearing up to take another look at the USCCB's zero tolerance policy.  I have some real issues with this piece.  The following is taken from the second half of Allen's article:

A final element of the case for reconsideration may have more short-term traction, which is the argument that the process doesn’t protect priests adequately against false accusations. One prominent voice on that front is the Detroit-based group Opus Bono Sacerdotii, meaning “Work for the Good of the Priesthood,” which provides support for accused priests. (what Allen fails to mention is that this is another of Tom Monaghan's interests and that it is heavily supported by Legatus.  OBS doesn't care if the priests it helps are guilty or not so don't assume the two thousand priests they claim to have helped are all innocent.)

“The bishops may face a crisis in the ranks of the priesthood, with at least a thousand innocent priests who have been removed and remain out of public ministry because of unproven accusations,” Joe Maher, president and founder of Opus Bono Sacerdotii, said in a Feb. 1 e-mail. (I would like to know how Mr. Maher is defining unproven because many of these accusations are past statute of limitations and can't be proven in any secular criminal context.)

“Active priests are aware of how their accused brethren are being treated by the bishop and wonder what kind of support, if any, will come if they are accused,” Maher said, who added that today the bishops are trying to “sort out” the right way to proceed. (And a lot of those priests never uttered one peep when they know abuse was going on, so they don't actually have much of a right to complain.)

On Jan. 14, the group circulated an e-mail fundraiser featuring the story of an unnamed priest accused in 2009 of spending too much time with a teenager. The priest was removed from ministry, after what he described as a “very biased” assessment by a diocesan-recommended psychologist who had, the accused claimed, a vested interest in a drumming up business for a treatment program. With the support of Opus Bono Sacerdotii, the unnamed priest said, other psychologists cleared him and he was returned to ministry.
Both George and Dolan flagged the danger of false allegations as an area in which U.S. policies may need reform. (OBS has also run campaigns for priests who have freely admitted they molested and molested repeatedly.  OBS has run these campaigns irrespective of the wishes of the local bishop. I guess OBS is above other Catholic endeavors like hospitals in Phoenix.)

“We have to keep looking at the process, so that predators are permanently removed but in a way that also doesn’t harm people who are innocent,” George said.

Dolan echoed the point, saying that his major regret about the way cases were handled at the outset of the crisis is that some priests were publicly removed and thus branded as abusers, even though the allegations were impossible to substantiate, “and to this day they’re living with that terrible burden.”

Dolan said that under current rules, any credible but unsubstantiated allegation triggers suspension pending a preliminary investigation -- “and in the vast majority of instances,” he said, “you can’t remove a guy without people jumping to conclusions.” (Operative word is credible which is why people might be jumping to conclusions.

The problem is compounded, Dolan said, by what he and others perceive as a higher percentage of false accusations today. During the initial outbreak of the crisis, he said, “the vast majority [of accusations] tragically were accurate ... I wouldn’t say that anymore.” (That's not what the experts say.  In fact they say there are fewer false accusations now than previously--and that previous rate was 1.4%)

Both prelates suggested that the risk of further abuse makes it difficult to revise the policy of immediate suspension, but said more thought needs to be given to how a priest who’s cleared can win back his good name.

If there is to be an evolution, today’s whispering campaign may have to become more vocal -- especially in offering cover to bishops when they step outside the zero-tolerance box. (Let me get this right, first they exempt themselves from the Dallas Charter, and now they want to exempt themselves from implementing the Dallas Charter. Wow.) 

Dolan cited the case of Msgr. Wallace Harris, a popular pastor in Harlem accused of sexually abusing high school students in the 1980s. Harris resigned and officials vowed that he will never return to ministry, but Dolan did not remove him from the priesthood.(Which means Harris is still being paid by the Archdiocese for doing nothing and that may have something to do with people's not being accepting of keeping molesters in the priesthood.  No other employer keeps these kinds of failed employees on their payroll in exchange for doing nothing.)

Dolan wondered why Catholic voices pushing for a reconsideration of zero tolerance weren’t more outspoken in support of his handling of the Harris case.

“Where are these guys when The New York Times and company blasts me, or SNAP [the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests] and everybody pickets me?” he asked. “Are they defending me when I’m being attacked for letting him keep his priesthood? No, they run for cover.”

Such reactions suggest that unless what Rossetti described as the “voice of the people” changes its tune, some tinkering may occur, but in general zero tolerance will remain the order of the day.


There was quite a bit in this latest Allen piece I found objectionable such a this from one Fr. Guarino:
Guarino argued that zero tolerance -- especially forced laicization, meaning removal from the priesthood against a priest’s will -- distorts the theology of the priesthood, turning it into a job from which one may be fired for poor performance, rather than a permanent sacred calling.

“This may have the short-term advantage of preventing litigants from storming the church door,” Guarino wrote. “It may keep the media at bay for the moment -- a media that, in any case, will always find the church a stumbling block ... But such actions are also having the disastrous effect of eroding Catholic doctrine, the only treasure that the church really has to offer.”

So what is Guarino really saying, that our children should continue to be sacrificed to the fantasy of the magical priesthood.  Good Lord, if the abuse crisis has proven anything it's proven that ordination does not magically change anything about the ontological leanings of any given priest. What is he really afraid of?  That lay Catholics are beginning to figure out that clericalism is based on fantastical and inventifacted thinking?  Oh, and by the way, it is not Church doctrine that is the Church's treasure.  It's treasure lies in the teachings and life of Jesus Christ and the communal expression of that life.  Just sayin'.

Archbishop Dolan, he who is whining about no one coming to his defense, is also involved in some past history in his previous assignment.  It seems the Archdiocese of Milwaukee is missing some 75 million dollars. Lost under Dolan's watch.  That would be a lot of beer--even for him.  Maybe Bernie Madoff did something with it.  It couldn't be that it was misplaced to shelter it from exposure to settlements from some really nasty work by clerics in Milwaukee.  Maybe this little issue is the reason Dolan has returned to sniping at the NY Times and SNAP.

I actually find it mind boggling that Allen would write something like this when Philadelphia is embroiled in yet another Grand Jury Investigation which alleges criminal malfeasance on the part of the Archdiocese in not removing abusive priests.  I have read the report,  and like the first report, it is sickening.  For the life of me I can't get into  the heads of men who would so cavalierly place these pedophiles in one new parish after another.  Cardinal Rigali has finally agreed to investigate the 37 other credibly accused priests mentioned in the Grand Jury report.  This is not the week for Dolan to come out whining about zero tolerance and unfounded accusations--not when Cardinal Rigali is lucky he wasn't forced to post bail for his predecessor Cardinal Bevilaqua.  Ironic that Bevilaqua was one of the forces behind the Dallas Charter.  This whole thing gets so surreal sometimes it's no wonder Allen writes these kinds of articles.

One last note at the NCR is Phyllis Zagano's latest effort "Repairing the Broken Church".  Although I personally don't think adding a married priesthood to the current clerical system is a real answer for the woes of the current clerical system, her article makes way more sense than John Allens latest effort.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Certitude Gave Way To Mystery, And Reverting Back May Lead To Revolting Rather Than Reforming


Sometimes I think progressives and traditionalists pick particular arguments in order to avoid confronting the fact we actually are talking about two different Catholic Churches with two really different world views.  It's much easier to write the notion that some of us are Vat II Catholics and some are Vat I or Trentan Catholics-which I have personally done-than it is too admit these are really two fundamentally different views of the Church.  This recognition will become more obvious as discussion heats up around the coming changes in the Mass scheduled for this Advent.  These changes are about a whole lot more than lousy English translations.  They really are about the kind of redemption story the Mass itself tells.

There was a comment along these lines to the latest Eugene Kennedy NCR article that I found really interesting.  Too bad it was from an anonymous commenter because it really deserves a better attribute.  It focuses on the writing of Joseph Ratzinger circa 1966:

For a little bit of irony, consider the following extracts from Ratzinger’s book “Theological Highlights of Vatican II”, published in 1966. (Paulist Press Deus Books). (It’s a fascinating little text, although probably out of print.) Providing background to the 1964 Vatican II discussions on liturgy, Ratzinger describes the liturgical reforms of the Council of Trent in the following terms (pp86–87):

“The main measure [of the Council of Trent] was to centralize all liturgical authority in the Sacred Congregation of Rites, the post-conciliar organ for the implementation of liturgical ideas of Trent. … the fate of the liturgy in the West was now in the hands of a strictly centralized and purely bureaucratic authority. The authority completely lacked historical perspective; it viewed the liturgy solely in terms of ceremonial rubrics, treating it as a kind of problem of proper court etiquette for sacred matters.  (this is a great descriptive line.) This resulted in the complete archaizing of the liturgy, which now passed from the stage of living history, became embalmed in the status quo, and was ultimately doomed to internal decay. The liturgy became a rigid, fixed and firmly encrusted system; the more out of touch with genuine piety, the more attention was paid to prescribed forms. We can see this if we remember that none of the saints of the Catholic Reformation drew their inspiration from the liturgy.” (Part of this also had to do with the fact that laity were only allowed to receive communion on Easter Sunday, a situation which was really difficult for lay people like St Thomas More who attended and witnessed Mass daily, but that was as far as he was allowed to go.)

[After discussing this point with respect to John of the Cross and Theresa of Avila, Ratzinger continues as follows:]
The baroque era adjusted to this situation by superimposing a kind of para-liturgy on the archaized actual liturgy. Accompanied by the splendor of orchestral performance, the baroque high Mass became a kind of sacred opera … The entire performance seemed aimed at a kind of festive lifting of the heart., enhanced by the beauty of a celebration appealing to the eye and ear. On ordinary days, when such display was not possible, the Mass was frequently covered with devotions more attractive to the popular mentality. Even Leo XIII recommended that the rosary be recited during Mass in the month of October. This meant that while the priest was busy with his archaized liturgy, the people were busy with their devotions to Mary. …”

This quote sent me off to find other quotes of Ratzinger's from his other writings of this time period and I stumbled across a traditionalist critique of the 'heretical' Joseph Ratzinger that pretty much sums up the difference in the intellectual approaches to the Church pre and  post VII:

 For example, in 1966, the progressivist Father Joseph Ratzinger rejoiced that in the Council's document Lumen Gentium, "the title of the text no longer referred in scholastic fashion to the 'nature of the Church,' but rather spoke of its mystery."

Here's what's happening. Before the Council, we spoke precisely of the "nature of the Church," which had a strict definition. Now, instead, we speak of the "mystery of the Church." Before the Council, we spoke of the unchangeableness of Sacred Tradition. Today, however, we talk about the "mystery of living tradition." This is a semantic tactic to introduce confusion. The progressivists take our defined certitudes and refer to them as "mysteries." Once they do this, they can do anything they want with the terminology, and open the door to their novel theological concepts.

And what were some of those defined certitudes that were turned by novel theological concepts?  Well, when it came to the Mass, which is now defined as the Pascal mystery, they were these changes:


"By affirming that Christ did not die on the Cross in order to satisfy the debt of punishment demanded by Divine justice offended by sin, the theology of the Paschal mystery openly contradicts a truth of the Catholic Faith as taught by the Council of Trent." In fact, "the infallible teaching of the Church, chiefly expressed in the text of the Council of Trent, obliges us to consider the vicarious satisfaction of Christ as one of the principal truths of our Faith." That is, Christ's sacrifice satisfies the justice of God, offended by sin. (Truthfully, I have not bought this concept in a long long time.)

"By making the sacrificial aspect of the Mass flow from the memorial dimension of the Mass, the theology of the Paschal mystery calls into question the teaching of the Council of Trent in this area. The Council of Trent's infallible teaching in this area is that "the Mass is a vere et proprie [truly and properly] a visible sacrifice." [This teaching is defined dogma and can never be subject to change or updating in the name of a "deeper understanding."]. This makes "the emphasis placed by the theology of the Paschal mystery on the memorial aspect of the Mass unacceptable." (This memorial aspect is referencing the idea that the Mass is a memorial meal rather than a re enactment of a blood sacrifice.)

"By relying upon a new concept of sacrament, the theology of the Paschal mystery shows itself to be very dangerous to the Catholic Faith. By favoring heterodox theses on more than one point, this theology shows itself to belong to the modernist theology condemned by Pope St. Pius X."

"The doctrine of the Paschal mystery, with its serious doctrinal deficiencies is, then, at the origin of the liturgical reform. That is why one cannot say that the reformed rite of Mass of 1969 is 'orthodox' in the etymological sense of the word: it does not offer 'right praise' to God." (if a person buys into the sacrificial appease God in order to avoid hell kind of Church, the whole notion of mystery in relationship to the Church is heterodox.)

 For me the whole problem with any idea of the 'reform of the reform' is exactly the returning to the Trentan concept that the Mass is the reenactment of a blood sacrifice of atonement, rather than an incredible gift of spiritual life in the context of a meal.  There is an enormous difference between the concepts of Jesus sacrificing Himself to appease God the Father for my sins, as opposed to offering a free gift of spiritual life.

It's not just a matter of how one views the Mass.  It's also a matter of what one thinks of their humanity and how they view their God.  I could never quite do the mental gymnastics required to hold the two ideas of God as our Father and font of unconditional love as taught by Jesus, with the idea of God demanding the sacrifice of His own son to make ammends for human sin.  That's not precisely unconditional love and not very demonstrative of loving parenting.  By today's standards it's about as abusive as a parent can get.

I've frequently wondered if the masochism and lack of appreciation for the worth of humanity that was built into the Trentan Church didn't fuel a lot of the clerical abuse crisis.  Couple that with the mostly gnostic attitude towards sexuality (and material reality in general) and one does have the foundational matrix for some seriously pathological behavior and a whole lot of miserable people willing to do what ever they are told to do to avoid eternal damnation.

Those days are long gone for the vast majority of educated people in the West.  But I still wonder what happened to one Joseph Ratzinger that he's pretty much reverted--Caritas En Veritate being mostly an exception to the reversion.  If he thinks his own reversion is something other than an isolated exception to the rule, he's mistaken.  People who move beyond static certitude almost never ever revert.  Catholicism has spent the last forty years enculturating it's adherents into a different view of Jesus and humanity and it's been done through it's central ritual act.  People are not going to revert, but they might revolt.  This is not just a matter of changing some words to better reflect a form of archaic ritualized Latin.  It's about taking the mystery out and putting the certitude back.  It won't work well, and of that I'm pretty certain.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Reprise: Detroit's Archbishop Vigneron Warns Laity And Clergy About 2011 American Catholic Council


No matter how decked out the bus, the back seat of the bus is still the back seat.


This morning I was thinking about this article from October and the conference it refers to as I was watching the Redwings beat the Boston Bruins.  I was kind of thinking Stanley Cup Finals in June in Detroit when I remembered the US Catholic Conference was to meet in that same time frame.  I was also thinking I was going to have to do some serious work to find this original post when low and behold I checked for unpublished comments and there was one attached to the original post.  Lucky me.

Given the recent letter written by German theologians, now up to 247 signatories, I beginning to think this conference may actually be worth attending, so I'm giving it another push and saving my pennies in hopes of attending.

Archdiocese of Detroit: Stay away from liberal Catholic conference
By Niraj Warikoo - FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER -10/13/2010

Archdiocese of Detroit is warning Catholics in metro Detroit — including priests and ministers — to stay away from a national conference of liberal Catholics to be held in Detroit next year. And Archbishop of Detroit Allen Vigneron is calling upon organizers of the conference to cancel their plans, saying they are in opposition to the Catholic faith.

The American Catholic Council, which calls for church reforms and greater openness, is set to hold a national gathering in June 2011 featuring progressive Catholic leaders near the 35th anniversary of the ‘Call to Action,’ a Detroit gathering in 1976 that urged reform and was held by the late Cardinal John Dearden of Detroit.

The liberal group claims there is too much secrecy and hierarchy in the Church; it also calls for greater acceptance of gays and lesbians, and women in leadership roles. It wants women and married priests.

“Serious sexual and financial abuses have resulted,” from problems in the Catholic Church, the group says in a newsletter.

Their conference next year is to feature a range of Catholic speakers who have been critical of the Vatican, including controversial Swiss priest Hans Kung. The liberal group says its efforts are done in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, whose 50th anniversary is also next year.

But in a statement released Tuesday, the Archdiocese of Detroit slammed the American Catholic Council, saying “the goals proposed are largely in opposition to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.”

The Archdiocese, which oversees 1.3 million Catholics, says that some of the scheduled speakers at next year’s conference “espouse positions which are clearly contrary to Catholic faith.” (Views contrary to Catholic doctrine is more correct.)

“The Archdiocese of Detroit cautions any Catholic against participating in the American Catholic Council local listening sessions and national gathering in June 2011,” the archdiocese said in its statement. “Catholic parishes, schools, and institutions are not to host any meetings, gatherings, or listening sessions associated with the planning of the June 2011 American Catholic Council. Priests, deacons, and ecclesial lay ministers will want to avoid lending support to such a misguided effort.”

Archbishop Vigneron said “this national gathering…distorts the true Spirit of Vatican II.” ( The non distorted view of Vatican II is to pretend it never happened.)

Vigneron “asks us all to pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit so that we may embrace authentic development of faith and morals, and shun efforts which threaten unity,” the statement said. (There is no point in praying for the guidance of the Holy Spirit because leadership like Vigneron doesn't believe anything needs updating or reforming or guiding.)

A spokesman for the American Catholic Council was not available to comment Tuesday, but their website says the conference is set for June 10 to 12, Pentecost weekend. The group says on its website it wants to “celebrate the ideas of Vatican II.”


I wondered when the assault on this gathering was going to start.  Archbishop Vigneron is the logical choice to lob the first salvo, since it's going to happen in his Archdiocese.  I'm sure he sees it as a potentially large black mark on his otherwise spotless conservative record and the red hat is so close to his hands he can't be having any black marks.  In fact I keep wanting to type 'Cardinal' Vigneron.

Archbishop Vigneron is a bishop in the Raymond Burke, Thomas Olmstead, and Charles Chaput school of pastoral approach.  Don't be shocked if all of these men eventually sport red hats.  This is great if you are a very conservative Catholic who is terrified of Satan, terrified of going to hell for all eternity, and really believe obeying every utterance of the Vatican is paramount to your salvation.  This is not so great if you think love actually has something to do with what Christ taught.  If Jesus had truly believed obedience to authority was paramount for our salvation He would have become a Temple rabbi, a committed Pharisee, and one in love with the size of His phylactery. He would not have become their chief critic and Temple cleanser or taught love in terms of relating to people and not things.  Things like red hats.

One of the attitudes which irritates me no end about these conservative bishops is their constant appeals to the Holy Spirit.  For what are they appealing?  That the Holy Spirit will come down and burn every single non compliant thought out of our heads?  This is not about guidance from the Holy Spirit so much as it is about petitioning God to instill a form of institutional slavery.

I'll be the first to admit this intellectual slavery to the Vatican has resulted in fame and fortune for the above mentioned boyos.  The problem is that they expect me, a woman, to follow their path when their path leads exactly no where for me.  I get to play the Rosa Parks back seat of the bus role in Burke's and Vigneron's Catholicism.  I fully understand that is a very needed role if Vigneron's concept of hierarchical order is to have any meaning. Hierarchy by definition needs people forced to the back of the bus.  It's how the Vigneron's of the world know they have achieved the front seat, right behind Bennedict the bus driver. Vigneron also knows, by following this exact path, Benedict got to be the bus driver. Why not him? 

The one glaring aspect this path fails to compute is how many people this bus runs over and has run over. Those victims are legion in the long history of Catholicism and more are being created now.  I wish the Holy Spirit would enlighten the Vigneron type Catholics about the victims this bus of theirs creates. For instance, the kinds of victims this clerical bus ran over in the mad notion of saving their church from the scandals they created. 

I wish the Holy Spirit would guide all laity to the understanding that the Church Vigneron and his like minded bishops are defending is in these bishops minds, their church, and they are not saving it for the laity.  They are saving it for themselves.  It's their bus.  They get the front seats and elect the driver.  The rest of us are only along for the ride if they permit us and we pay their price.  The American Catholic Conference is being called to directly challenge the validity of the Catholic bus route to heaven being solely owned, operated, routed and driven by the self chosen.  No wonder Archbishop Vigneron is not enthused.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bless Me C3PO For I Have Sinned

For a $1.99 you too can download the Confession App to your phone and have endless fun having an endless number of  fictional consciences examined--except women can not be fictional priests.

For those of you who may not know this, Catholics can now download a Confession App to their iPhone or Blackberry. It's turned out to be popular enough to rank 42 on iTunes App Billboard chart. Basically one enters their sex and age and the App then tailors an examination of conscience based on those identity markers.  There is also an option for religious and clergy.  Should a woman try to sign on as a priest the program will tell you the two categories are incompatible. Maureen Dowd has a fun op ed piece on the Confession App, but for this post I've chosen to focus on some of  Elizabeth Dresher's thoughts from Religion Dispatches. The following is excerpted from a longer article.

God’s Server isn’t Down, but...

While my conversation with Kreager left little doubt as to the sincerity of the app developer’s sacramental intentions, the confusion around this latest Roman Catholic foray into digital ministry raises important questions about liturgical, theological, and spiritual significance of such technologies for all religious traditions who are moving with speed into the Digital Reformation.

The Confession app, for instance, walks the penitent through the basic elements of the rite, tracking the time since the last digitally-integrated confession and including the list of sins clicked in the examination of conscience. Once the penitent reviews her or his sins (logged in the Examination of Conscience option), the app invites the recitation of “Act of Contrition” prayer, after which she or he is instructed to “Receive absolution and respond ‘Amen.’” Going perhaps more grammatical here than I am truly able anyway, I’d merely note that that the verb “receive” in this instruction does not have a specific direct object, so there’s really no reason that a person—especially one who would rather not share a tendency to engage in, say, sexual acts that were not open to the transmission of new life (a sin against the 6th commandment) with a priest—would not assume she or he had, in fact, been granted absolution by through, if not by, the app itself. (At the rate the priest shortage is rolling along, we may yet get to the point of confession by App.  After all, God can do all things.)

The app, that is, relies on a certain level of theological understanding, liturgical compliance, and spiritual will that we might be hard-pressed to find in even a relatively sophisticated believer. This is not entirely a failure of catechism or human will, I suspect. Rather, it is a continuation of what I have seen as a failure of mainline Catholic and Protestant pilgrims into new digital territories to grasp the social nature of new media residing on our phones and tablets and so on—devices that connect us and the information we engage to others in our lives.

As Sherry Turkle has argued, we are increasingly mapping the social function of technologies—the real human-to-human characteristics that they approximate but never truly replicate for us—onto the technologies themselves. So it is that Dowd ends her otherwise careful review of the Confession app by characterizing God as existing on the other side of a great cosmic server. “God isn’t dead,” she maintains. “His server may be down though.” In this light, color me perhaps a bit too Protestant, but I had to check myself for having “been involved with superstitious practices” just for fooling around with the Confession app itself.  (I love the last sentence because one's occult tools, or gateway to the devil, is culturally conditioned.)


It's probably just coincidence that the Confession App came out at the same time Pope Benedict gave a talk about Catholicism's need to take better advantage of modern communication media. I'm not sure how I would feel if I were a priest, (which as I've noted this program does not compute) and a penitent was interacting with their Confession app rather than attending to the sacrament itself.  I suppose I would tend to think that the hypothetical penitent didn't quite get the whole idea of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. They didn't really understand the sacrament is supposed to be more than a laundry list of sins magically wiped away by magic words. It's supposed to be about conversion.  If one's understanding is on the wipe the slate clean level I don't find it surprising that people are misunderstanding the whole concept and really believe hitting the send button wipes their soul slate clean.  If only things were that easy.

I actually think the confession app demonstrates the major drawback to spirituality by technology and that's the problem of simplification or the dumbing down of spiritual concepts.  Hence we have a Confession App rather than a Sacrament of Reconciliation App.  A program that takes one through a list of potential sins is not nearly as hard to write as an interactive program that attempts to get to the heart of one's understanding and motivation for why they may transgress the way they think they do.  For the overly scrupulous this App could be a very bad thing indeed, a sort of digital scoreboard for sin.  This is especially true since it tracks past data.  I can easily see where I would never encourage this app for certain types of personality disorder.

The other objection I have to this kind of technology is that spiritual growth demands the interaction with real people in real time.  Pope Benedict, when he cautioned about the dangers of mistaking Internet relationships for real time face to face interactions, has it right.  There's a real energy give and take in face to face communication that can not take place via the Internet or running through a list of sins on a iPhone App. 

As an example Facebook and Twitter may have set the stage for the protests in Egypt, but what kept it going for almost three weeks was the energy thousands of people generated by being in actual contact with each other.  The kind of energy (courage) generated from those kinds of immediate connections will never be replicated by any iPhone app or other technology.  Or to put it differently, technology can fuel a consensus of thought in the short term, but it takes real interaction between real people to sustain that thought in the long term.  This is exactly why 12 Step groups meet frequently face to face and do not rely on an iPhone app.

But who knows what the future holds.  I guess it's possible that somewhere someone is working on an artificial intelligence network that could eventually result in meaningful interactive drive up confessional ATM's. Imagine that, no more darkened black box but confession in the privacy of one's own car. That might be the epitome of post modern American spirituality. Plug in credit card receive absolution.  Now that I think about it, they could do that now using priests like tellers at a drive in bank.  Brave New World here we come.