Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cardinal Wuerl Swings Away---And Strikes Out

Here's a fine photo of Cardinal Wuerl swinging away and blowing a bunch of hot air.

Cardinal Wuerl has taken up his bat and tennis racket in order to defend the bishops' teaching authority against theologians the likes of Sr Elizabeth Johnson.  That is, when he is not claiming the bishops are also the referees:

“In an sporting match, football, tennis, baseball, there are referees and umpires. The game can proceed with the supervision of a referee. In a tennis match, it is not the player who calls the ball ‘out of bounds’ but the referee. The player may object that it was not his or her intention to hit the ball out of bounds. He or she may even question whether the ball is out of bounds. But it is the referee who must make the call. Otherwise, there can be no coherent game, no enjoyent of the match, no sense of progress in learning the sport; in short, the ‘tennis game’ would devolve into a fruitless exchange of individuals hitting the ball.” (Real theologians use spell check.)

I hate to tell him this, but in tennis side judges make in/out of bounds calls, and players appeal to the referee to have them overturned. Sometimes these referees even use pesky instant replay to reverse a poor call.  They do the same thing in baseball, hockey, basketball, and football.  Maybe Wuerl is so busy writing letters on behalf of America's bishops he hasn't been able to keep current with modern refereeing.  In any event, this was a really lousy analogy.  I can see where he might have wanted to stay away from the Inquisition analogy even though this concept of refereeing is far closer to what Wuerl and company are actually engaged in.

This whole letter was kind of mind boggling to me.  Wuerl maintains the bishops have to step in and make sure theologians whose books are used in classrooms are writing authentic Catholic theology--whatever that is.  I suspect he means authentic Catholic catechetics because he blames the poor catechetics of Catholics since the 70's as being the reason the bishops need to be a little more Torquemada like, and quite a bit less Jesus like.  Hmmmmm, but the problem is our bishops, most of them appointed during the wasteland time of catchesis were in charge of that wasteland of catechesis.  Maybe Wuerl has been watching too much EWTN, since that's one of their favorite shiboleths.  He really might be better off watching more ESPN.  At least his sporting analogies might hold more water.

I wonder if Wuerl popped off on his own initiative or if he actually is speaking for bishops other than himself. I can see where this letter might appeal to a certain subset of bishops, bishops whose handle on their own authority is fragile.  I don't think Wuerl fits into this category.  After all this is the same man who accepted a Vatican approved set of knives to stick in Archbishop Hunthausen's back.  This was back in the catechetical wasteland of the eighties when that kind of treatment of one's fellow bishop was apparently not only acceptable, but mandated by John Paul the Great Enabler--also under the guise of protecting the purity of SOME Catholic teaching.  The teaching about the immorality of nuclear weapons was not one of those teachings.  St Ronnie Reagan was not happy about Hunthausen preaching that particular teaching--an actual teaching of Hunthausen's fellow American bishops---and the Great Enabler was happy to oblige St Ronnie by sending in Wuerl and his knives, in exchange for a few million shekels for his Polish effort.  This was an amount which was probably no where near the cost of one nuclear warhead.  

It all did help communism though, so I guess this proves God can make lemonade out of a real lemon of a situation.  Even the worst of Donald Wuerl can be used by God to accomplish great things.  I wonder what God will make of Wuerl's latest foray into personal clerical advancement because that is what this letter really seems to be about.  It sure doesn't carry believable justification for attacking a prominent American theologian from way 'out in left field'.  But then nothing from our two most recent Cardinal appointees --Burke and Wuerl--surprises me anymore.  Between the two of them they demonstrate virtually everything that's wrong with our current leadership--and there is so much wrong, it takes two to demonstrate it all.  At least Benedict got that right.


  1. Cardinal Wuerl needs to reexamine his own conscience, because from what I have read from his own statements is that he wrongfully delegates and makes the Bishops into teachers. He has ignored that the "spirit comes and goes where it will." He ignores it at the Church's own peril.

    "In his letter to the bishops, Wuerl advises the practice be re-adopted (censoring of theologians) as part of re-establishing the proper relationship between bishop and theologian."

    Regarding "proper relationship" St. Paul in his letters recognized the gifts that God gives to those who love Him. Wuerl seems to deny and desires to throw out what has already been established as "Catholic" by the Apostle Paul.

  2. "Real theologians use spell check." In accordance with creepy infallibility, we will now all spell enjoyment that way. It's only right.

  3. Theology is now equal or equated to man-made game rules, that even Wuerl does not understand or know. It just all seems to be a big game to Wuerl with the Pharisaic referees, the Bishops, defining all the rules of an ill-defined and boxed-in interpretation of the works of the Holy Spirit.

  4. I understand that you object to many of the goings on in contemporary Catholicism, however I feel the need to beg this particular question. In which sense of the word can you actually be considered Catholic if it seems, as in my view it does, that your intention is to critisize the largest part of Catholic teaching and a significant part of Catholic practice? In which sense are u Catholic other than being, as it were 'on the register'. There are pleanty of denominations which have a vast plethora of beleifs and practices which may well be more suited to your particular spiritual needs, not that it is my place to tell you what those are. I simply wish to point out that if one believes in a religion geniunley one believes that it holds objective truth. You say that this is a place for those who dont define their catholicism as traditional. My question is in which other sense can one possilby be defined as Catholic, given that there is some basis for arguing that tradition and religous orthodoxy are closely related. Wanting to belong to a religion in any way other than the traditional way, especially if there are fitting alternatives and thinking that one can change the precepts of religion based on man's whims is like saying one wont die by jumping from a cliff, if one revokes one's belief in gravity.

    I'm not trying to insult anyone, I simply thought it would be useful for me to know how you reconcile your obvious lack of contentment in some areas with the idea of knowable, traditional, objective and existential (albeit non empirical) religious truth. sorry for any spelling grammar mistakes.

  5. If Bishops are referees, then American Catholic Theology must be a game, a kind of public entertainment. Is this what Anselm had in mind when he coined the phrase, "Faith seeking understanding?" Furthermore, it is a strange game when the rule enforcers can throw a flag when an activity on the field is making them nervous because of the direction it might be taking.

  6. Anon, your comment was sent to the SPAM bin probably because it exceeded some undefined word limit. I didn't notice I had anything in the SPAM bin until today. It was not my intent to censor your comment.

    I'm going to try to answer your question as best I can. I was at one point in my life what you define as a traditional Catholic--at least in the religious sense. By the time I was in my mid twenties I had accepted there was a difference between faith, religion, and spirituality. From that point forward I would say I practiced Catholic spirituality while disagreeing, sometimes very strongly, with some Catholic doctrine. I especially disagree with a great deal of the doctrine surrounding the priesthood and other notions of Catholic leadership. But that's an aside.

    I think it is way too easy to be an obedient pious traditional Catholic and not be the least bit Christian. I saw that tendency in myself and I didn't like it. It caused a large amount of cognitive dissonance. Graduate school and immersing myself in the latest thinking on human consciousness caused even more dissonance. I practically memorized everything written by Khubler-Ross on near death experiences. That led to my own nascent encounters with human potential on the margins of consciousness, which only progressed and continue to do so to this day. In all of this I continuously re evaluated the Gospels, asking myself who was this Jesus really, and what was He about? The best answers for me were found in the Gospel of John. It's pretty tough to put that Jesus in the Roman Catholic tabernacle surrounded by the Catholic version of temple priests.

    I could go on, but my own comment would most likely wind up in the SPAM bin--and some would say that's where it belongs. LOL

  7. Anon, it's a good question and gently asked. Colleen, I like your answer and it speaks to me, even though my experiences seem hopelessly earthbound next to yours. Anon, check out the life of St Athanasius. Exiled, reviled, defeated, he simply kept praying and believing. It ended up most people followed him, and not those he was disagreeing with, even though the others held power for a decade or two.

    For myself, I'm most comfortable when someone shares with me their experience of God. For example, one responder to the latest post quotes Benedict XVI, and it is a beautiful quote. However, to state that he has it perfect or right, even as pope, diminishes the God-far-beyond-us. He doesn't have it right, I don't have it right, none of us can. To pretend some perfection, or infallibility, is absurd and I think faithless. It certainly doesn't jive with church history, which shows a learning, growing, error-prone, human group.

    Sometimes I'm led away from church teaching when I'm led toward faith. Sounds wrong, I know, but that's what I have to do until God teaches me better. I won't give up on you just for that, and I ask your prayers and patience as well. I think that puts us in community. That's why I'm trying to stay.

    PS My family is leaving our 20 year parish over these same issues. I wish the reality were as easy as the ideal, but it's not.

  8. mjc, your comment hit the SPAM bin as well. I guess I will have to make an effort to check more frequently. It didn't used to matter on Blogger how long a comment got, but now it apparently does.

    Sometimes we are led away from doctrine and dogma because they become too strongly connected to our view of reality. In the final analysis, Jesus asks us to move beyond our constructs of how reality works and move to a deeper understanding, a more encompassing understanding of how things work.

    For instance, we are so limited because of our understanding of time and how time impacts how our brains experience and interpret the data they receive. In some key respects, our biological brains are time limited. Consciousness is not time limited.

    The true reality is that all time is available for consciousness and any aspect or particular time can be changed and the effects of those changes manifested in the experience of the present. The critical component is not power per se, but consent to the change. Which is why free choice makes this world go round. Get enough consciousness giving consent to change and things happen.

    Choice is everything. Science defines this as the 'observer' effect. Jesus defined it for his followers who bitched about non believers casting out demons a little differently. He defined it as "those who are not against us are for us."

    This is really important to understand because if we got it, we would all begin to see our doctrinal differences don't matter if we all choose to effectively change the world by bringing 'spirit into matter'.

  9. Would you care to explain just what you are talking about here?

    "The true reality is that all time is available for consciousness and any aspect or particular time can be changed and the effects of those changes manifested in the experience of the present. The critical component is not power per se, but consent to the change. Which is why free choice makes this world go round. Get enough consciousness giving consent to change and things happen."

    There are a lot of things that you say that do not make sense and do not devle into developing what you mean. You are not clear and you seem to have the expectation that everyone understands what the hell you are talking about.

  10. Biologically we experience time as a single linear phenomenon. Our consciousness is not bound the same way. The experiences of PTSD demonstrate how a past experience can still profoundly trigger present experiences and real changes in physiology. Hypnosis can trigger the same sort of thing.

    Spiritual healing, for example, returns the body to a prior state of wholeness. In other words, a past physical state of wholeness is brought into the present. The limiting boundary to jumping around in time and changing the present seems to be mass. This makes sense in a material universe. Even Jesus did not restore amputated limbs.

    I'm not trying to be confusing, and probably do make assumptions about what readers understand, but it's difficult to put things in words. Experience is the best teacher.