Monday, July 25, 2011

Repeat 10 Times Daily - " I Am Not The One Who Is Mad Here."

This is a series of five stained glass panels by Fr. Dan Hillen, entitled 'We Are Not Alone'.  They were donated by Dr and Mrs Leroy Byrd to Holy Family Hospital, Spokane WA.  Rest in peace Dan.

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has generated a great deal of discussion and debate from his speech to the Irish Dael, July 20.  When I originally read his speech, there were a couple of sections that really stood out for me, but one actually brought tears to my eyes.  It was this section:

"This Roman Clericalism must be devastating for good priests .... some of them old ... others struggling to keep their humanity .... even their sanity ........ as they work so hard ..... to be the keepers of the Church's light and goodness within their parishes ...... communities... the human heart."

I've been very close friends with priests who have lived the exact struggle described here by Kenny.  Some even went so far as to literally question their sanity as so many of the reasons they chose to become priests were shelved, dumped off the table, twisted to mean something far different than they thought.  It didn't help that my birthday, which was the day before Kenny gave his speech,  is also the same date my very close friend/priest died. I can state with certainty that he died in absolute turmoil about his priesthood, having gotten to the point where he questioned if there was any truth in it at all.  In any event, there was one comment to the NCR article from Tom Doyle on Kenny's speech that addresses the statement above.  It was written by a priest, but it really speaks for many of us.

written by Fr. Anthony

I read out Enda's speech at Mass at the weekend. The congregation applauded!
There were many tearful moments for me personally in that speech. When Enda stated that teenagers are still children, I wept. Bertone attempted to say that the vast majority of abuse victims were teenagers and tried to lump the blame on gay men. The US Bishops blamed "Woodstock." Liberals, secularists, the post Vatican II Church, the Media, - all got the blame from these clericalists.

Enda named the culprits and shamed them - all of those involved in the culture of CLERICALISM! The soutane wearers, the thurible wafters!! Those who have replaced the gospel of compassion with this obnoxious, anti-kingdom religious theatre. (I love this line.)

It didnt escape me that while all of this was going on in Ireland, last week, here on NCR, the two Chaput threads were filling with triumphalistic, nauseous remarks, glorifying yet another clericalist being prepared for a red hat in Philadelphia. Sad, sad short-sighted people.

I loved Enda's comments about decent clergy who must have been questioning their own sanity over the years. Yes, Enda, we did! We have watched the Gospel being replaced by dogma. We have watched good men and women being sacked and excommunicated while wickedness has been rewarded.

I watched them undermining Oscar Romero and Helder Camera while extolling the "virtues" of Opus Dei and Legionnaire's founders - the money men! I wondered if I was going insane. Enda got it spot on there!

I now watch them revising history, especially that of Vatican II Council, attempting to tell the world that what was said and written then, was not actually what was meant. That the call for collegiality - and the overwhelming votes FOR such things as Mass in the vernacular, increased participation for the laity, a renewed focus on the gospel - that the Council actually meant the OPPOSITE to all of these things. Yes, Enda, I thought I was going mad. (He was not the only priest who thought this.)

When the Synod of Bishops met in Rome to discuss how to get the Eucharist to the poorer areas of the world, - didnt speak about the role of women, nor the permanent diaconate, nor married clergy (unless you are an Anglican!!), voted for the status quo with the addendum that we might want to consider reopening Junior Seminaries (WHAT?????!!!!) - they should have been sacked for deleriction of duty. Instead, Benedict treated them all to a sumptious banquet declaring, "It was not unintended that Jesus chose the imagery of a banquet as presaging Heaven..." That was all I needed to know about these clerics. They showed utter contempt for the poor. Jesus would have walked through their fine dining room and wrecked it that day.

So, thank you, Enda Kenny. Thank you the 2500 priests, victims of clergy abuse and ordinary Catholics from around the world who have written to Enda since his speech to thank him. Vatican II will not go away, the Holy Spirit will not be defeated. Enda, ad multos annos!

As one writer stated on here, "Repeat ten times daily - I am not the one who is mad here!!"


I could write reams and reams on this comment, but I choose instead to let it stand alone, because that is unfortunately the state of mind of far too many of our good priests.  They are not alone. 


  1. Like your deceased priest friend, I also wonder what has happened to Vatican II. Lately I have been dipping into Matthew Fox’s The Pope’s War: Why Ratzinger’s Secret Crusade has Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved.

    At the end of the book Fox has an appendix titled; “Wailing Wall of Silenced, Expelled or Banished Theologians and Pastoral Leaders under Ratzinger”. It reads to me like a Who’s Who of theologians I studied and was exposed to in the seminary.

    I appreciated Fox’s transcription of an exchange he said he had with Father Schillibeeckx before he died. Fox said to Schillibeeckx that he with many theologians in Europe felt the current papacy to be in schism. Fox said the year was about 1993. Fox wanted to know from Schillibeeckx what to do about it. He said Schillibeeckx replied that you Americans think you can do something. Then Schillibeeckx said the “great schism” occurred in 1054 and the mutual condemnations of the Western and Eastern Churches were only lifted in 1965. In that same chapter where this dialogue with Fox and Schillibeeckx is reported, Fox goes on in good American fashion to suggest twenty-five steps to bring Christian Communities alive again. Those are worth reading.

    Fox chronicles several theologians and bishops that, as he says, were the Inquisitor’s enemies. I was particularly impressed with the account of Bernard Haring’s encounters with Ratzinger. In the end Bernard Haring said that he wanted to develop a moral theology centered on responsibility not obedience. It seems that all we have today in the hierarchical church is obedience. There is not much room for responsibility.

  2. Wild Hair, that responsibility issue was drummed into me in both theology and psychology courses, and I've seen it play out over and over again in clients. Taking responsibility is empowering, obedience without reflection is very very disempowering.

    I'm still trying to wrap my head around Chaput's statement that he 'obeys first and thinks later'. If this is true, this is a dangerous man in the sense that he has given himself permission to be totally unaccountable for anything he does because he has assigned all responsibility for those actions to the Vatican. And this is the kind of thinking cleric the Vatican seems to want. Scarey, scarey stuff.

  3. What we have here, I think, is a version, narrowed, of the Catholic idea that the well-being of the institution guards the well-being of its theological content; as opposed to the Protestant idea, which is the other way about: the message is the standard for the health of the institution.

    What has happened here I think is that the Roman tendency - largely unintentional - to retract the Church more and more into the Papacy has reached a point at which the Vatican is the Church. To be in union with Rome is not enough - one must be in union with the Vatican agencies, because they are the means by which the Papacy operates.

    I believe in the the Primacy of St Peter as least as strongly as Abp. Chaput does - I do not for one nanosecond believe that the Pope can do without the rest of the Church; & I reject any notion that the Pope is meant to be a totalitarian dictator. That is not the Kingdom of God Jesus preached, but a secular perversion of it.

    Some of the causes of the Church's troubles go back very early.

  4. Our Taoiseach Enda Kenny's speech goes down well in the US and among readers of Maureen Dowd. Its misrepresentations are not noticed at a distance.

  5. Joe, Cloyne didn't happen in a vacuum, nor is it a subset of one incidence of one bishop doing his own thing in favor of his priests over allegations from victims.

    In the US just in the past three months we have had Philadelphia and Kansas City-St Joseph. Kenny spoke for a lot of people, not just the Irish.

    Abuse is in the eyes and mind of the victims, not the abusers. I grant that most of the incidents in the Cloyne report are old, but in the mind of the abused they are very current and the associations are everywhere if your abuser was a Catholic priest. These were not acts of abuse by just anybody. They were acts of abuse by priests and they were compounded by a Church who claims to be our spiritual mother but acted like more like Enron.