Monday, October 31, 2011

A Halloween Story From The Seventies

This is just perfect for a Catholic Halloween.  Federico Fellini has outdone himself.

Back in my wild and crazy youth I occasionally bent over backwards to prove it.  Usually I had help which only served to make me think what I was about to do was actually not wild and crazy.  Some of that help came in a liquid form.  Anyway, one Halloween a friend and I decided to do Halloween in a big way.  The downtown bars were each holding costume parties and we decided no one but us should win.  My friend happened to be a young priest with keys to a closet full of pre Vatican II vestments, including copes and chasubles full of brocade, embroidery, and gold thread.  It was a costume seeking junkies dream come true.  Especially if the costume junky was looking for the perfect costume to transform herself into Pope Joan.  Which of course I did. Fellini would have been proud.

My friend, the priest, did his best to transform himself into a Borgia Pope.  I forget which one, but who ever it was, that Pope loved lace,  owned a ton of jewelry, used a gallon of perfume and was color blind.  We were quite the sight walking down the main drag with our utterly real costumes, stomping the ground with our utterly real crosiers. We won a lot of costume contests and had a very good time.  

As the night wore one I realized all this clerical regalia was really hot and really heavy, and that Pope Joan could easily have had  a baby underneath it all with no one the wiser.  I think at one point some inebriated person actually asked where my baby was hidden.  Of course I took appropriate offense but so did someone else. Someone who did not think our costuming was at all funny or appropriate, but in fact it was quite sacrilegious.  This person turned us into the bishop.  Party poop.  

I personally did not have to meet with the real Bishop because I was not personally in possession of the key to the vestry. My friend was not so lucky.  Both of us got stuck with a truly monstrous dry cleaning bill which irritated us because we had been ever so careful not to get anything dirty.  We also got to spend the next four weekends driving the Mission circuit, he saying Mass and me providing the music. So much for my week end social life.  

I can remember during one of these Mission weekends we were trying to determine if the whole Halloween thing had been worth it.  We pretty much decided it had been -except for the dry cleaning bill--because we truly thought those vestments and the kind of Church they represented were a thing of the past, but that the vestments were beautiful enough that they deserved one last hurrah amongst the people before they were permanently hidden away in a storage closet.  We also thought we might actually see a Pope Joan in our lifetime.  Turns out we were wrong.  Not just about Pope Joan or the vestments, but about what was really stored in those clerical closets.  That hidden reality turned out to be a very very real horror story for too many Catholic children.  In the meantime it's back to lace, jewelry, perfume, and gold embroidery and there is no way in the world I would ever try that stunt again.  Instead of dry cleaning bill I'd probably wind up with community service of a different sort.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

USCCB: "Society Of Catholic Anachronism"

The above photo depicts a royal court as enacted by members of the Society of Creative Anachronism.  There are no clerical ranks in the Society.  May I suggest some real bishops and cardinals in the USCCB could fill those roles.

Just finished reading NCR's article "Bishops reaffirm: "Quest for Living God" not adequate theology" and can't say I was surprised by the outcome.  I think my understanding of the nature of Sr Johnson's book and the USCCB is not remotely on the same page.  I thought it was a book of theology which discusses the nature of God which happened to be written by a Catholic religious woman/theologian.  I see I was wrong.  For the USCCB nothing about Sr Johnson and her writing is relevant other than the fact she is a Catholic religious.  Catholic trumps any other attribute about Sr Johnson.  By this definition she can not write any theology which is not Catholic through and through. In their eyes she is nothing more than an intellectually indentured serf in their Catholic kingdom and it's apparently very sinful to write as if she is free and unfettered.

I've excerpted the section of the article which I found most telling:

In its “Response,” the Committee reviews the arguments presented by Sister Johnson in defense of her book and answers by going into greater detail in its analysis of the central issues, with further documentation in terms of citations from the book.

At the conclusion of its study of the “Observations,” the Committee concludes that “they have not in fact demonstrated that the Committee has misunderstood or misrepresented the book. Rather, the Committee finds itself confirmed in its judgments about the book.” (There's a shocking conclusion:  we said it there for we are right.)

The Committee notes that one of Sister Johnson's central arguments was that she was attempting to express the faith of the Church in new and creative ways that would be appropriate to the contemporary situation, whereas the Committee was operating out of a narrow theological framework and would only accept the repetition of traditional formulas.  (That's an honest statement and precisely why Roman Catholicism is mostly becoming the "Society of Catholic Anachronism" .)

The Committee concurs that “the task of theological reflection is never accomplished by the mere repetition of formulas,” but goes on to assert that the “real issue is whether or not new attempts at theological understanding are faithful to the deposit of faith as contained in the Scriptures and the Church's doctrinal tradition.”  (Which utterly ignores that Jesus Himself, was not faithful to the Jewish deposit of faith in the sense the USCCB is demanding from Sr. Johnson.  If He had been there would have been no Pentecost and no need for any Holy Spirit.)

The Committee comes to the conclusion that “the language used in the book does not adequately express the faith of the Church.”

The Committee commends Sister Johnson “for her stated intention to help the Church progress in her understanding of divine realities,” but says that the book fails to fulfill this task, “because it does not sufficiently ground itself in the Catholic theological tradition as its starting point.” (Are they saying Catholic theological tradition defines divine realities? I wonder if God is aware of that.)

The Committee points out that the book is "a particular pastoral concern" for the bishops "because it is written for a ‘broad audience’ rather than a more narrow scholarly audience.” (Horrors, too many 'simple people' might read it.)

“Furthermore,” it adds, “whether or not the book was originally designed specifically to be a textbook, the book is in fact being used as a textbook for the study of the doctrine of God.”

“Having examined both the book and the Observations in detail, the Committee on Doctrine believes that it is its duty to state publicly that on several critical points the book is seriously inadequate as a presentation of the Catholic understanding of God.”


Really, the Church is acting like a 'Society of Catholic Anachronism' that demands the laity take seriously the notion it knows all there is to know about reality--divine or otherwise.  Notice I left out the word 'creative' because as the Committee on Doctrine states of Sr Johnson:  "she was attempting to express the faith of the Church in new and creative ways that would be appropriate to the contemporary situation, where as the Committee was operating out of a narrow theological framework and would only accept the repetition of traditional formulas."  Hence no creativity in this particular anachronistic society.  No silly notions of "the Middle Ages 'as they ought to have been' as the real Society of Creative Anachronism defines it's notions of recreating the 'living history' of the culture of the Middle Ages. Maybe that's why the real SCA has no official clerical ranks. Clericalism is antithetical and hostile to creativity.

The SCA may be quite good at recreating the pagentry of the Middle Ages, but nothing they do can ever equal what Rome is capable of:

I could appreciate this kind of thing a whole lot more if I wasn't expected to take it seriously in the twenty first century---or the kind of magisterial rule and theology supporting that rule that all that pageantry implies.  There is no hint of any 'search for the living God' in this picture. The Catholic God represented in this picture was found back in the late Middle Ages.  According the USCCB Committee on Doctrine, that's the only God Catholics are officially allowed to find.  This is one of those times when something is so sad it really is funny.  I hope Sr Johnson has a good sense of humor because it's the only healthy response to these clerical delusions.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Bishop For All Seasons

Thomas Cromwell, the gentleman to the left of Thomas More,  looks sort of like Cardinal Pell.  Cromwell certainly knew how to climb over the bodies of his betters in order to achieve rank and privilege.

Printed in full is Bishop Morris's response to his fellow Australian Bishops whose official statement of 10/22/11 essentially threw him under a bus. Bishop Morris speaks truth to power and we all know that's a career mistake.  Just to jog your memory, here is the pertinent section of lies from the Australian Bishops Conference in their official statement on the Morris matter while in Rome for their Ad Limina visit:

"These meetings have given us a more adequate understanding of what was done by the Holy See in an attempt to resolve the difficulties with Bishop Morris, which concerned not only matters of Church discipline but also of Church doctrine definitively taught, such as on the ministerial priesthood. What the Holy See did was fraternal and pastoral rather than juridical in character. Although efforts continued over many years, a critical point came when Bishop Morris failed to clarify his position to the satisfaction of the Holy See and then found himself unable to resign as Bishop of the Diocese when the Holy Father made the request."

Response by Bishop William Morris to the Australian Catholic Bishops Statement of 22 October 2011

24 October 2011
The statement of the Australian Catholic Bishops contains inaccuracies and errors of fact evidenced by the documentation relating to the issues concerning myself and a number of Vatican Dicasteries.

The Statement made by the Australian Bishops invites me to tell my
story which I will publish in the foreseeable future. I stand by my original statement which I gave to the Australian Catholic Bishops dated 2 May 2011, which I restate below.

“I had been hoping that I would never have to write this letter to you as it had always
been my desire that the difficulties experienced between myself and the
Congregations for Bishops, Divine Worship and Doctrine of the Faith would be able
to be resolved. Unfortunately without due process it has been impossible to resolve
these matters, denying me natural justice without any possibility of appropriate
defence and advocacy on my behalf. This has been confirmed in a letter from Pope
Benedict stating ‘Canon Law does not make provision for a process regarding
bishops, whom the Successor of Peter nominates and may remove from office’.

(I sure hope certain attorneys pay attention to that statement which in effect states bishops are employees of the Pope.)
“It has been my experience and the experience of others that Rome controls bishops
by fear and if you ask questions or speak openly on subjects that Rome declares
closed or does not wish to be discussed, you are censored very quickly, told your
leadership is defective, that you are being unfaithful to the Magisterium, that you have
broken communio and you are threatened with dismissal.
(I think it's important to note that Bishop Morris is referencing 'Rome' and not the papacy. Makes one wonder who really runs 'Rome'.)

“I have never seen the Report prepared by the Apostolic Visitor, Archbishop Charles
Chaput; I have never been shown any of the “evidence” that was gathered except for
an unsigned memorandum handed to be by the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop
Ambrose de Paoli, which was filled with errors. There has been no canonical process
to establish a “Grave Cause” for removal; the accusations that my doctrinal teaching
contains errors and that I have a flawed pastoral leadership has never been backed by
facts except by some broad statements based on my Advent Pastoral Letter of 2006
which has been read inaccurately and interpreted incorrectly and used against me.

“In a letter of 12 November 2009, I pointed out to Pope Benedict that such evident
defects in the process, distortion of facts and a lack of care for the truth, which has
characterised this whole process, cannot be of ‘God’ when the truth is not respected
and exactness is not preserved.
Pope Benedict responded by focusing on the matters
raised in my Advent Pastoral Letter of 2006 which addressed local pastoral questions
and matters which are in ferment generally across the Church. I quote from his letter;
‘In your Advent Pastoral Letter 2006 – besides containing some very questionable
pastoral choices – there are at least two options presented that are incompatible with
the Catholic faith:

a) Ordaining women in order to overcome the priest shortage. Yet, the late Pope
John Paul II has decided infallibly and irrevocably that the Church has not
the right to ordain women to the priesthood:’

b) “recognizing Anglican, Lutheran and Uniting Church Orders”. But according
to the doctrine of the Catholic faith, ministers from these communities are not
validly ordained and therefore do not share in the Sacrament of Holy Orders;
and as such their actions are not joined to the ministerial priesthood.’

“How it can be said that my Pastoral Letter teaches these things is beyond me when it
purely refers to the fact that these are among many questions being discussed
internationally, nationally and locally.
To me this shows a total misreading and
misinterpretation of what my Pastoral Letter is saying. Pope Benedict further states
that my leadership of the priests and faithful of the diocese raises serious questions
and that the diocesan bishop must above all be an authentic teacher of the faith, which
is the foundation of all pastoral ministry. This is said without any foundation or

I have also been told that it is the bishops role to support the Pope in whatever
he says without question, to teach from the Catechism and the documents of the
Church and not to ask questions about topics that have been declared definitive or
closed. I ask you, where is the Spirit in this? I was also told by Pope Benedict that I
am too practical and it is the will of God that I resign.
(This is totally obscene unless Benedict is suffering from some grandiose delusion that he is God.)

“The whole process has relied on the presumption that I would be compliant and
resign. However, I cannot do so in conscience because my resignation would be
based on my acceptance of a lie.
My resignation would mean that I accept the
assessment of my being unfaithful to the Magisterium and breaking communio. I
absolutely refute and reject this assessment. I do not accept that there is any grave
reason for me to resign and the conditions of Canon 401 §§ 1,2 not being met, it
would be dishonest of me to suggest that they had.

“To negotiate a way through this stalemate I was offered an extra-diocesan position,
to be artificially created, in which I was told I could continue to serve the Church in
Australia in another ministry more in keeping with my gifts and talents. As I have
been denied natural justice and due process, in conscience I could not accept such an
artificially created position for in Australian culture it would be seen and ridiculed for
what it is – a sinecure.
(It's also standard corporate practice. Shock.)

“Given the circumstances that there is no canonical process regarding bishops, that
there is no separation of powers and the Successor of Peter nominates bishops and
may remove them from office, makes my position as Bishop of Toowoomba
I have never wavered in my conviction that for me to resign is a matter of
conscience and my resignation would mean that I accept the assessment of myself as
breaking communio which I absolutely refute and reject so it is out of my love for the
Church that I cannot do so. I have never written a letter of resignation.

“To find a way through this moral dilemma I asked Archbishop Philip Wilson, when
he met with the Holy Father in January 2010, to affirm my position that I would not
resign and put forward a proposal that I was prepared to negotiate an early retirement.
My proposal was that I would retire at seventy but this was found to be unacceptable.
The other possibility was to retire in eighteen months depending on whether or not the
sexual abuse cases I was dealing with here in the diocese were finalised. It became
evident that more time would be needed to finalise these cases and to pastorally care
for the victims and their families. Unfortunately this extension of time was denied,
the eighteen months was reduced to fifteenth by Pope Benedict and my retirement
would be announced on Monday 2 May 2011.

“I wish to thank you for your friendship and prayerful support over the eighteen years
I have been a member of the Australian Episcopal Conference. I have deeply
appreciated your prayers and support during that time and I will miss you. I am sure
our paths will cross sometime somewhere in the future and as the quote below says,
‘If we should bump into one another, recognize me’.

“A Quote from ‘A Man for All Seasons’ an alternative ending:
“In the London production of this play at the Globe Theatre the play ended as follows:

“Instead of the CROMWELL and CHAPUYS entrance after the HEADSMAN’S line
‘Behold – the head – of a traitor!, the COMMON MAN came to the centre stage,
having taken off his mask as the executioner, and said:
I’m breathing………Are you breathing too?.....It’s nice isn’t it? It isn’t difficult to
keep alive friends…………….just don’t make trouble – or if you must make trouble,
make the sort of trouble that’s expected. Well, I don’t need to tell you that. Good
night. If we should bump into one another, recognise me.’ ”
William M Morris, DD
Bishop Emeritus of Toowoomba


 Yes, I'm sure most of our Catholic bishops know it's not a good idea to make trouble with Rome, or if they have to, to only make the sort of trouble that's expected.  That's the kind of trouble that involves money and career climbing.  The kind of trouble that Cardinal Pell seems quite good at.  Poor Bishop Morris wasn't attempting to make any trouble at all.  It was made for him, and most likely by the kinds of trouble Rome expects and supports from the clerical likes of Cardinal Pell and Archbishop Chaput.  Which again makes me wonder who really runs Rome.

There was one statement in the above letter from Bishop Morris that really sent me into peals of laughter.  It's a quote from Benedict in which Morris is told he is 'too practical' and that it is the 'will of God' that Morris resign.  I don't remember any Gospel passage in which Jesus condemns leadership for being 'too practical' and therefor displeasing to God.  Is being too practical sort of like being too secular or something? Does it mean that if Morris had spent more of his dioceses' money on fiddle back chasubles and purple cassocks and that sort of thing that he might have gotten a fairer hearing from his like accoutered clerical peers?  Is it really the clothes that make the cleric?  I have no idea.  I just know this whole episode is a sad joke and that once again Rome has shown it is not worthy of any of us coming under it's roof.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Statistics And Damned Lies About The Statistics

I'm finally getting caught up with a lot of reading material.  I find it utterly amazing how much material I can miss when occupational responsibilities interrupt my preplanned scheduleOr maybe it's just that the last week or so was unusually dense in Catholic stories.  A couple of stories currently running in the National Catholic Reporter deal with statistical analysis of the Catholic populations of Brazil and the US.  As far as our younger generations are concerned they tell the same story.  Youth are disconnecting at what should be perceived with alarm, but apparently isn't because somehow World Youth Day proves the opposite. At least WYD does for those who choose not see what's plain to anyone who actually attends a parish church.

The following is not the full article from John Allen.  I only used the first  part that deals with the Brazilian statistics.  One thing I noticed is that John actually defines 'secularism' in this piece.  In this particular Brazilian study it's used to reference people who have ditched their formal religious ties.

Secularism, a new papal contender and Catholic humor

Two-thirds of the world's Catholic population today is in the southern hemisphere, a share that should reach three-quarters by mid-century. To discern where the church is headed, it's critical to keep an eye on what's bubbling down south, and two recent stories thus deserve to be on the global Catholic radar screen.
The first comes out of Brazil; the second, from the Philippines. Both are Catholic superpowers, among the top four Catholic countries in terms of population, and both are destined to be pace-setters in the church of the 21st century.  (This is assuming any leaders pass the Opus Dei test.  In that case there will be no pace setters.)

In Brazil, a respected national research institute, the Getulio Vargas Foundation, has published a new study suggesting that secularism -- defined, in this case, as throwing in the towel on religious faith and practice -- is making rapid inroads among Brazilian youth. Based on 200,000 interviews conducted for Brazil's 2010 census, the study concludes that the Catholic share of Brazil's population has dropped to 68 percent, its lowest level since census data began to be collected in 1872, in part because of the rising percentage of youth who disclaim any religious affiliation.

The key finding is this: The number of people under 20 who say they follow no religion is growing three times more quickly than among those over 50, with 9 percent of young Brazilians saying they belong to no religion.
Those results track with other data from Brazil. In 2007, Fr. Jose Oscar Beozzo, who directs the Center for Evangelizing Services and Popular Education in São Paulo, said that between 1980 and 2000, the percentage of the Brazilian population that identifies itself as Protestant, with most of that number being Pentecostal, rose from 12 percent to 17 percent. In the same period, the percentage with no religious affiliation went from 0.7 percent to 7.3 percent, a tenfold increase.

"This is the infinitely more important movement in the Brazilian religious situation," Beozzo said at the time.
In numeric terms, Brazil is the largest Catholic country in the world, with its 163 million Catholics representing 85 percent of the population. Those, however, are baptismal totals, while the new study reflects the share who actually identify as Catholic. Among other things, the difference between the two indicates that 17 percent of Brazilians today were born Catholic but have subsequently left the church. (That 17% is 27+ million people. This amounts to the entire Catholic populations of the UK, Australia, Ireland, and Canada.)
Competing explanations abound, with various commentators pointing to some version of at least four theories:
  • Brazil's economic boom, which has convinced a share of today's youth that they simply don't need religion.
  • Alleged remoteness and arrogance on the part of Catholic officialdom, combined with elements of church teaching that don't play well with progressive-minded young people, including the church's positions on abortion, contraception and homosexuality. (Not surprisingly, that's especially popular with the liberal wing of the Brazilian church.) (Notice how John does not use 'alleged' in the following bullet point.)
  • An over-concentration on politics by the Brazilian church, especially what's left of the liberation theology movement, with the result that young people today are spiritually adrift. (That tends to be the favorite account on the Catholic right.)
  • The raging priest shortage in Brazil, coupled with difficulties in mobilizing laity to compensate for it. (That's often what one hears from front-line pastoral workers in the country.) (and the one that holds the most truth.)
Whichever account one favors, the basic picture seems clear: A growing share of the younger generation in Brazil is being effectively secularized. (No, they are leaving institutional religions which is not necessarily the same as 'being effectively secularized.'---Unless one believes the sacred is the sole province of religion.)
This could have implications beyond the country's borders, because given Brazil's new economic and political muscle, trends there pack a broader regional and international punch.

Two thoughts about what this means:
First, the $64,000 question about religion in the southern hemisphere has long been whether economic and political progress necessarily goes hand-in-hand with secularization. There doesn't appear to be any ironclad law; China's economic growth in the last quarter-century, for instance, has been accompanied by a spiritual boom. (Which is not the same as a religious boom. Allen purposely mixes up these two concepts a lot and always to his advantage as he does here.)

 Yet it would seem to be the case in Brazil, which prompts the following thought: Latin America, in some ways, is closest to the historical patterns of Europe, in that the Catholic Church traditionally was a state-imposed monopoly. If secularism takes hold in Latin America more than other regions, might that be the final confirmation that relying on state power is, over the long run, always hazardous to the faith? (No, it could just as easily mean that Catholicism is failing not just as a religious system but also as a spiritual system.)

Second, the idée fixe of the church's leadership class in the West has become the defense of Catholic identity, as a means of protecting the church against being assimilated by secularism. In sociological terms, it's a "politics of identity," which is a classic defense mechanism for embattled subcultures. Developments in Brazil suggest that similar politics of identity could take shape in other parts of the Catholic world, giving that trend even more staying power. (And it will fail miserably because it's being used to hide the fact Catholicism is fast becoming a bankrupt spiritual system.)


 It seems to me that John Allen, and he is not alone in doing this, consistently fails to distinguish just what he means by secularism, religion, and spirituality.  He was forced to define secularism in this article because the researchers for this study of Brazilian Catholics did it for him.  Their definition is that secularists are essentially unaffiliated with any religious denomination.  That is a pretty precise definition, at least for the parameters of this study.  The researchers apparently didn't offer the category 'spiritual but not religious' which is the fastest growing category in most Western countries.  My guess is that a significant portion of Brazilian youth would have accepted that self definition had it been offered.  

There is a very important message packed into that category and it's not a message that has much to do with secularization.  The message is that the 'spiritual but not religious' find mainstream religions spiritually bankrupt.  Religions are failing miserably at what they purport to exist for and that's nurture and fuel humanities spiritual quest for meaning and connection.  Religious identity will not substitute for this failure for very many people.  Maybe this is just a message that Catholics like Allen literally can not hear from the data, but you know what, if they don't start getting this message pretty soon, it won't matter if the white European clique that runs the Vatican ever gives way to the Southern brothers.  It will be too late to do any good. 

For those who haven't gotten enough statistics the Vatican released it's yearly mission statement on global Catholic demographics. Here's one paragraph that bears bad tidings if the front line pastoral workers in Brazil are correct about the raging priest shortage.  If you do venture over to read this study, North America is lumped in with South America so it's hard to tell what's really going on in either continent.  The European statistics are uniformly down--except for the number of laity per priest.

 The number of Catholics per priest in the world increased by 27 units, average 2,876. We have increases on every continent except Asia: Africa (+25); America (+32); Asia (-30); Europe (+16); Oceania (+25).

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Category Is Catholic Potpourri

One can imagine a conversation between Thomas Merton and Dalai Lama on the compatibility of resurrection and reincarnation.

There really is a slew of interesting Catholic stories this Monday.  Here are three of them.

As expected the Australian bishops have told us all that Rome was right and Bishop Morris was intransigent in his misguided understanding of the Catholic 'communion'. They will now commit themselves to fixing the disunity in Australian Catholicism so that no one can question whether Australian Catholics are in communion with Rome. Additionally they will offer their fraternal care to Bishop Morris:

"What was at stake was the church's unity in faith and the ecclesial communion between the pope and the other bishops in the College of Bishops," the statement said. "Eventually Bishop Morris was unable to agree to what this communion requires and at that point the pope acted as the successor of Peter, who has the task of deciding what constitutes unity and communion in the church."
The Australian bishops said they accept the pope's exercise of his ministry and they reaffirm their communion with him.
"We return to Australia determined to do whatever we can to heal any wounds of division, to extend our fraternal care to Bishop Morris and to strengthen the bonds of charity in the church in Australia," it said.

I suspect their attempts to heal the wounds of division have been thoroughly hamstrung by their obedient deference to Rome.  The healing most likely will consist of giving the dissenters the option of leaving their parishes so the Temple Police can have their pews unpolluted by those who are not in full communion with Rome.  Good Oh.

In other news, the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has released a document on the current global financial mess.  It calls for a global regulatory body which includes input from emerging countries. Fr Frederico Lombardi, papal spokesman, wanted us all to know this is not a document from Pope Benedict but from a Vatican agency and is there for not an authoritative expression of papal magisterium.  Which I guess is Benedict's way of telling those mega wealthy devout members of Legatus that they can ignore the mere 'authoritative note of a Vatican agency'.  Good Oh.

Finally, The National Catholic Reporter has an extensive series of articles based on the just released study of American Catholics under the direction of William V D'Antonio.  This is some fascinating reading and some of it is quite surprising.  The following is an excerpt from an article written by Michelle Dillon who was part of D'Antonio's research team.  Her topic is Catholics and spirituality:

.....Additionally, large numbers of Catholics say that they believe in various aspects of New Age spirituality. Forty-two percent believe that there is spiritual energy located in physical things such as mountains, trees or crystals; over one-third (37 percent) believes in reincarnation; and just less than a third (32 percent) believes in yoga, not just as exercise, but as a spiritual practice (see Figure 8). Not surprisingly, highly committed Catholics are less likely than less committed Catholics to believe in spiritual energy, reincarnation, and yoga. It is noteworthy, nonetheless, that between one-fifth and one-third of highly committed Catholics express such beliefs.

The more striking variation comes from ethnicity. Hispanic Catholics are significantly more likely than non-Hispanic Catholics to believe in reincarnation (53 percent versus 29 percent), the presence of spiritual energy in physical things (52 percent versus 38 percent), and in yoga as a spiritual practice (42 percent versus 27 percent). Moreover, among Hispanic Catholics, the highly committed are almost as likely as their least committed peers to believe in reincarnation (43 percent versus 47 percent) and spiritual energy (46 percent versus 52 percent), though they are comparatively less likely to believe in yoga as a spiritual practice (33 percent versus 46 percent). Among non-Hispanic Catholics, women are more likely than men to believe in spiritual energy (44 percent versus 31 percent), and in yoga as a spiritual practice (31 percent versus 23 percent).

These numbers make me wonder why Cardinal Rode went after the LCWR for their 'new ageism' when the real problem appears to be with Hispanic Catholics, both devout and not so devout.  No matter how one slices up these numbers, over half of Hispanic Catholics believe in reincarnation and spiritually energized physical things.  I can get why the latter belief, blessed rosaries and medals and such,  but the reincarnation thing is pretty amazing.  There is a great deal I would like to know about how Hispanic Catholics see reincarnation and how they fit it into a Catholic tradition which has no such belief.  I highly doubt it's all about some sort of vestigial pagan belief structure.  In any event, these are fascinating statistics, and probably will induce some more heartburn in the USCCB.  The New Evangelization it seems, will have more on it's plate than just selfish Western agnostic secularists.   Good Oh.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Benedict Honors The Cardinal Wizard of OZ:

Australian Bishops and Pope Benedict gather to hear from the Cardinal Wizard of OZ as he dedicates Domus Australia

New Mass translation can help Catholics pray better, pope says

 Cindy Wooden - Catholic News Service - 10-20-2011
VATICAN CITY -- The new English translation of the Mass is the result of a long process of international cooperation and is meant to help Catholics pray better, Pope Benedict XVI told Australia's bishops. (Not according to this member of ICEL.)

The new translation, which most Australian dioceses began introducing in parishes on Pentecost in June, "is intended to enrich and deepen the sacrifice of praise offered to God by his people," the pope said Oct. 20. (I'd just like to point out Jesus said He didn't want sacrifices.)
The morning after joining the bishops for the inauguration of the Domus Australia, a pilgrim center in Rome, the pope welcomed the bishops to the apostolic palace for the main talk of the "ad limina" visits, which bishops make to report on the church in their dioceses. (Actually it's a 30 million dollar bed and breakfast.)
Pope Benedict said the new liturgical translation was "the fruit of a remarkable cooperation of the Holy See, the bishops and experts from all over the world."
He asked the bishops to help their priests appreciate the new text and help catechists and musicians do their part to make the Mass "a moment of greater grace and beauty, worthy of the Lord and spiritually enriching for everyone."

Australian Cardinal George Pell of Sydney is the chairman of the Vox Clara Commission, an international body established by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, to assist in the evaluation of English liturgical translations. ( Pell and his compatriots totally overrode ICEL at the behest of the Vatican--hence Pope Benedict showed up to 'bless' Pell's $30 million dollar Roman bed and breakfast.)
The cardinal told Catholic News Service Oct. 19, "I think a goodly percentage of the people didn't notice the difference" when he began using the new text at the Sydney cathedral. "There are pockets of dissatisfaction, but overwhelmingly the priests and people are happy and they will get used to it. The prayers are immensely richer and there's much less banality." (Perhaps everyone in the Cathedral was deaf, or more likely Pell is being willfully blind.)

Some critics have said the new translation has archaic language, clumsy sentence structure and a lack of sensitivity to inclusive language.
Cardinal Pell said some of the vocabulary in the new translation is a bit challenging. For example, the new translation of the creed describes Jesus as being "consubstantial with the Father." The cardinal said, "One gentleman wrote to me and said he didn't understand 'consubstantial,' and I wrote back to him and suggested that he find out." (How swimmingly pastoral of Cardinal Pell.)

"One comparison I like to make is that -- although it's a mature, adult English -- (the translation) is a tiny bit like children's literature, because in good children's literature, every couple of pages there's probably a word the children don't understand, that expands their knowledge, and they have to either gather the meaning from the context or enquire about the meaning," the cardinal said. (Mr. Pastoral must be confusing himself with Mr Rogers, but my goodness, how utterly condescending.)

In his speech to the bishops, Pope Benedict also spoke about the hurt and damage caused by the clerical sex abuse crisis and other failures of church members.
"Yours is a pastoral burden which has been made heavier by the past sins and mistakes of others, most regrettably including some clergy and religious," the pope told the bishops. "The task now falls to you to continue to repair the errors of the past with honesty and openness, in order to build, with humility and resolve, a better future for all concerned." (Sighhhhh, it's never ever ever Rome's or a bishop's fault. It's always those 'other lesser beings' victimizing bishops and piling on the burdens.)


I wonder if this visit of Australian bishops to Vatican City is beginning to feel like a sort of coronation for the Archduke of Sydney, otherwise known as Cardinal Pell.  I've been reading a number of stories this morning about Benedict's visit to Domus Australia mentioned in the above article.  Basically it really is a sort of bed and breakfast for Australian pilgrims in the heart of Rome.  This latest incarnation of a building bought from the Marist brothers back in 2008 is rumored to have cost somewhere between 30 and 85 million dollars.  Even at the lower figure, Australian Catholics are wondering just where the money came from for this venture of Pell's, but those kinds of questions must be too burdensome for the man because he hasn't answered any questions about cost or payment.  Kind of like Cardinal Maida of Detroit about the John Paul II Center in DC.  No, actually, exactly like Cardinal Maida.

I am beginning to develop a lot of respect for the reporting of Cindy Wooden of CNS.  Her writing is sort of the antithesis of John Allen's.  She has some seriously choice quotes from Cardinal Pell in the above article and the way she has all this put together, given Pell's position with Vox Clara,  is priceless.  Pell comes across as an elitist member of some sort of nobility and maybe that's because that's his true opinion of himself.  It's sad to think he represents a true blue member of the Vatican's ruling elite.

In other news, here's a quote from Cardinal Peter Turkson President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.  He made it in remarks about the coming ecumenical meeting in Assisi:
The 63-year-old Ghana native added that the search for truth is a condition to "defeat fanaticism and fundamentalism," which seeks to obtain peace by imposing "one's own convictions on others.It seems to me Archbishop Neinstedt of Minneapolis could meditate on these words, since he is engaging the Catholic parishes of Minnesota in just such a campaign to impose his own fundamentalist convictions on others. 

Sometimes it's confusing to be a Catholic.  Maybe Cardinal Pell could suggest a good children's story for me to read.  For myself I would suggest Pell might try reading the Wizard of OZ.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Mountain Roared And Mice Were Born

This is not a group photo of the Australian bishops no matter how closely it resembles their attitude in Rome.

Given all the news being generated in American Catholicism it's easy to overlook news from elsewhere.  One story that I have followed on this blog is from Australia concerning the forced retirement of Toowoomba's Bishop William Morris.  The Australian bishops are currently on their Ad Limina visit to Rome where one topic they promised their faithful they would bring up with Vatican officials was the Bishop Morris decision.  Since they were pretty much sandbagged by this decision, it only made sense for them to ask for clarification.  Read the following excerpt from Catholic News Service and weep.  Talk about sycophantic behavior.

......Archbishop Wilson said the Australian bishops fully recognize and accept Pope Benedict's ministry of authority over the whole church and they are not second-guessing his action, but they have an obligation to help Toowoomba Catholics move forward and to demonstrate their care for Bishop Morris.

"What we have to do is look at what the consequences have been, what we need to do now to bring healing and guidance to the Catholic people of Australia, do all we can to maintain a proper collegial relationship with Bishop Morris and find ways in which he can continue his ministry as a bishop in our midst, although he's no longer bishop of Toowoomba," the archbishop said.

While no conclusions have been reached, he said Oct. 17, by continuing the discussions in Rome, a whole new dimension has been added.

"We're all here together, we're in a very spiritual situation, we're right at the center of the life of the church, gathered around the tombs of the Apostles," he said. (Excuse me while I sick up.)

Bishop Michael Putney of Townsville said Cardinals Ouellet and Levada "were very generous with their time," and the Australian bishops continue to discuss the matter among themselves, "gaining greater understanding of why it happened and ideas to ensure it never happens again." (Just how much legitimate understanding can you all gain when Bishop Morris is not part of the discussion?)

Bishop Putney said he personally believes "as bishops we need to have intermediate steps in place. When we see a bishop acting in such a way that could lead to censure, we should have a process of mediation in place to intervene in a spirit of affective collegiality." (Except there is no such thing as collegiality.  If there were, Archbishop Chaput wouldn't have been sent in secretly to hang Bishop Morris.)


Cardinal Pell must be real proud of his fellow Australian bishops.  They all do seem to marching in lock step, right over the body of Bishop Morris.  I love the last line from Bishop Putney about what to do when bishops see a fellow bishop acting in such a way that could lead to censure.  Apparently down in the land of OZ, acting realistically to see to the needs of a flock spread out over territory bigger than the State of Montana, with a whopping 18 priests, is enough to get you censuredBishop Putney oversees a similar size diocese with about the same number of priests if you include him.  These poor priests have to be putting hundreds of miles of wear and tear on themselves and their vehicles every single weekend.  

I seriously doubt the Vatican really understands these logistics, just as I seriously doubt Cardinals Levada or Oullete really understand these logistics having come from large Metropolitan Sees. It's no wonder that Bishop Morris allowed for liberal use of the third rite of penance because it saves time for priests who have miles to go and people to see before they sleep. It's no wonder Bishop Morris mused publicly about solutions to the priest shortage--if only Rome would consider them. How in conscience does a bishop keep asking his priests to spend this kind of time in travel every single week when he knows changing the rules for the priesthood would produce enough home grown celebrants to take care of his far flung parishes.

It seems to me that the Morris story illustrates how far out of touch Rome actually is with it's far flung global flock. Australia is not Rome.  There are not thousands of priests in cassocks swishing around the Outback like there are gracing the streets of Rome. I am at a loss as to why Australian bishops are acting in Rome as if Rome knows anything about the reality on the ground in Australia.  What Rome knows is nothing more than Australia's version of the Temple Police tell them.  If that's the kind of intelligence gathering Rome chooses to use in it's management decisions,  it's no wonder this Vatican is facing clerical and lay dissent in more and more countries. And all this dissent is not about dogma, it's about over worked priests and lack of access to the Sacramental treasure of Roman Catholicism.  Putting a monstrance on an altar in an otherwise priestless church is not going to be sufficient.  Something has got to give.  In this case, once again,   it's the Australian bishops and not Rome.  Well, at least the bishops got to kowtow gathered around the tombs of the Apostles.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Empowering Women Is Critical To Catholicism But Not Necessarily To The Priesthood

Here we have an example of Pope Benedict studiously ignoring that which is right in front of him.

The following is yesterday's post from Sr Joan Chittister at the National Catholic Reporter.  It has already generated three pages of comments.  I have reprinted it in full because it is an old story, and I too had to attempt to answer the same question from my own daughter at about the same age as the girl mentioned in Joan's post.  Just as my parents had to try and answer my own same question at about the same age.

Lack of women will irreversibly harm the church

Sister Joan Chittister - National Catholic Reporter - 10/17/2011
The story is an old one and I've told it before, but never has it felt so ominous as it does right now.
It happened this way:

About 15 or 20 years ago, I gave a series of conferences in a parish in Canada.
I like Canada a lot — its beauty, its pace, its seeming patience with conflict and its apparent calmer approach to otherwise disruptive subjects — subjects that lead to almost immediate choosing up of sides down here. Maybe it's the Brit in them. Or maybe, given their smaller population and more far-flung population centers, wildfire simply isn't as wild north the border as it is here. Whatever.

At any rate, what was already euphemistically called "The women's issue" here appeared at that time to be a great deal less of an issue to our neighbors to the north.

So I was surprised when the topic came up at lunch from the couple hosting my visit. More than that, I was surprised at what triggered it.

It wasn't the dearth of theology around the question of the ordination of women that piqued them. It wasn't the growing statistic on the coming decline in the priesthood that worried them. It wasn't the fear of merging parishes that troubled them.
On the contrary. They had a good parish, they said, a fine and loving parish priest, the kind of congregation that was family to them and the kind of faith to trust the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit among them.
What bothered them was their 4-year-old daughter. She was a quick-minded child. Precocious. Persistent. Confident. They knew, they told me, that some day, she would question the difference between what her brother could do in the church and what she could do. That would be years away, of course, but still — maybe more for themselves than for her — they were struggling, to no avail, to find a reason good enough to appease her, they said.

Then, suddenly, one Sunday morning after Mass as they sat at the family breakfast table, it happened.
"Mama," she said suddenly, "why don't we have any girl priests at our church?"
They looked at one another, dumbstruck, unprepared. Too late. There was nothing left to do now but be honest. (One is never prepared to attempt to defend the indefensible. Honestly is the only policy.)

"Because, darling," the mother said, "our church doesn't allow girl priests."
The little girl pursed her lips and frowned. "Then why do we go there?" she demanded.

With the retreat to Vatican I in full force, this question and its answer get closer and closer.
Feminine language is fast being cut from the very prayers of the church. The invisibility of women is official policy again. Women have been removed from various church boards stealthily but steadily.

All talk of the restoration of the diaconate has been suffocated.
"If the diaconate is restored for women," an official spokesperson is reported to have said, "they will assume they can then be ordained to the priesthood."

It has not occurred to the spokesman, it seems, that the restoration of the diaconate for married men did not launch an assault on the chancery doors to require a married priesthood. Either that, or the old "you know how irrational women are" argument is being dusted off again, too. (That fact is kind of interesting, but the allowance for a married Anglican Ordinariate clergy is starting just that assault.)

And now, in places even in this country, some dioceses are denying girls the opportunity to become altar servers, despite official church acceptance of female servers since 1983 and the long-established practice in churches everywhere.

The idea that women are to be "seen and not heard" is fast becoming "neither seen nor heard."
Here and there, little by little, the hoary head of chauvinism, of patriarchy, of sick and petty and adolescent sexism is making one last desperate attempt to make us a totally male church again.
Correction: To make us a serving female church, a parading male church again. And all of it, as usual, in the name of God. In defense of the faith. In imitation of the church of Christ.

It’s one thing for a city council in Topeka, Kan., can reduce wife beating from a felony to a misdemeanor so they can save money by not prosecuting this endemic and dangerous holdover from the days of women as chattel. The Constitution will eventually resolve that one in favor of "liberty and justice for all."
But when a church can simply erase the women in its midst, refuse to discuss the subject and attempt to go on calling itself church, Christian and holy, that is another matter entirely.

Which is when I find myself thinking about that little girl in Canada again.
That little girl in Canada is still out there somewhere. She's in her 20s now — still watching, still wondering what church it is that treats her like the full human being God means her to be. She's out there determining what church it is that really looks like the Christians they claim to be. And she is out there deciding what church it is that not only preaches the Gospel but lives it.

From where I stand, it is clear that the church already lost a good proportion of one generation of women in the last 25 years and is now willing to lose the next one to reassert its maleness. The question rises again with new and demanding urgency for many: Why do we go there? 

The answer to it will not only affect the women and their children for generations to come. It will affect the church in ways no number of male altar boys can begin to heal it.


I maintain that women will not find their true place in the scheme of things until they stop confusing sacramental authority with spiritual authority.  Female mystics out number male mystics by a considerable margin.  We don't refer to male intuition. Jesus did not spend time trying to teach women about the Kingdom because He knew He didn't have to spend much time with women.  Women can connect with the spiritual realm stirring soup on a stove or sitting at His feet.  He was raised by a woman who talked face to face with the angelic realm, in the moment in real time, while his step father dreamed dreams.  The women in His family were very familiar with reality working beyond human perceptual limits.  The men in his family thought He was crazy.  He was surrounded by women who were willing to walk His talk because they instinctively got it.  No fear for them. They were at the foot of the Cross and at the dawn of His Resurrection.  Mary Magdalene was the Apostle to the Apostles.  St Micheal the Archangel is depicted as the general of Mary's celestial army.  St Joan of Arc was not St John of Arc for a reason.

Women may be the weaker physical sex, but that is balanced by having the stronger psychic/spiritual connections; by being the sex which nurtures life---all kinds of life.  Men can be taught these same connections but it's a much harder path for most men to achieve what women do naturally.  I have thought for a long time that the Church has maintained an all male sacramental priesthood to hide this truth behind a facade of ritual power, and to keep women blind to their real strength and thereby spiritually dis empowered. 

When my daughter asked me the same questions about an all male priesthood, I gave her a different answer about her own spiritual potential.  What Catholicism really needs is not women with sacramental authority, but women flexing their spiritual muscles, making real spiritual connections.  I strongly suspect the Vatican attack on the LCWR had a great deal to do with the fear that these religious women were coming to these very same conclusions.  It's not that these congregations were going beyond Christ, it's that they were moving beyond the static spirituality constrained by the sacramental priesthood.  Jesus did exactly the same thing by teaching a spiritual system unrestrained by the Temple priesthood.  He too paid a price for those teachings.

The lack of recognition for women's spiritual abilities has already irreparably harmed the Church.  What's worse is the fact where Catholicism intersected with cultures who did understand these attributes, the forced adoption of male spiritual supremacy has seriously impacted those cultures and manifested not just in patriarchal family structures, but in generational physical and sexual abuse. "By their fruits you shall know them." 

It's past time women Occupied Their Rightful Place in the spiritual scheme of things.  That's not necessarily behind altars so much as it is in standing as true bridges between realities.  That is a vocation worth pursuing and one this planet desperately needs.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Will Bishop Finn Exchange His Purple Clericals For An Orange Jump Suit?

It is entirely possible that the Holy Spirit is calling Bishop Finn to a less ostentatious prison ministry.


Finally a Roman Catholic Bishop is held accountable for hiding the truth.  The following editorial is from the Kansas City Star.

The Star’s editorial | Bishop Finn and KC-St. Joseph Diocese face disturbing charges

The grand jury indictment of Bishop Robert Finn on Friday sends the right message to the Catholic Church’s hierarchy: Authorities will target not only alleged perpetrators of child abuse, but those who reportedly fail in their legal obligation to protect children.

Finn faces a misdemeanor charge of failing to report suspected abuse of a child by a priest. He is the highest-ranking Catholic official to be criminally charged in a case involving child abuse.

The distressing picture that overshadows this case, as well as so many others across the nation and in Europe, is of a Catholic Church more interested in protecting priests than the young abuse victims who trusted them. That cannot be allowed to continue.

Also indicted was the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, charged with failure to report suspected child abuse. (Just goes to prove corporations are people too--and just as legally accountable.)

The indictments compound problems for the diocese’s reputation, wounded in 2008 when it reached a $10 million settlement with 47 plaintiffs who had alleged wrongdoing by a dozen priests or former priests. That payout should have resulted in a vigilant dedication to avoid more problems. (Which makes Finn's actions even more galling, since he signed off on this settlement.)

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker made the appropriate point Friday: “This is about protecting children.”

The misdemeanor charge against Finn should not be taken lightly, she said. Punishment of up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine are possible for Finn. The diocese faces up to a $1,000 fine, too. Finn and diocesan officials entered not guilty pleas.

The indictment alleges that Finn and the diocese had reasonable cause to suspect that a priest had been abusing children but did not report their suspicions to authorities as required by law.

Last December, diocese officials learned of pornographic images showing girls as young as 3 or 4 on a computer of Father Shawn Ratigan.

Ratigan — now facing state and federal child pornography charges — was sent to a mission house in Independence and ordered to have no contact with minors. According to a federal indictment, he disobeyed that order and allegedly tried to take pornographic pictures of a 12-year-old girl.

In a report last month, a diocese-commissioned investigation found that — in handling the Ratigan case — church officials failed to follow their own policies and procedures. Instead, they behaved in ways that “could have jeopardized” child safety. (Especially since part of that 'not following their own policies' involved keeping their own diocesan commission on sexual abuse out of the loop.)

This case has been a sorry comment on the church’s priorities and a challenge to its moral authority.
But the right message has been sent by the legal system. All are responsible to protect children.


From the get go I felt this story of Bishop Finn and Fr Ratigan would result in charges against Finn and the Diocese of Kansas City-St Joseph.  First because there was too much evidence that Finn was protecting Ratigan, and secondly, because part of the ten million dollar abuse settlement reached in 2008, signed by Finn,  included pretty specific language about how future allegations would be handled by the Diocese.  It truly makes me wonder about the mind set of Bishop Finn.

Now the people of Finn's Diocese will get to pay for his and the Diocese's defense attorneys on top of all the other legal bills they have had to foot. Fortunately for them, Ratigan has a Public Defender, so all the tax payers of Kansas City get to pay for Ratigan's defense not just Roman Catholics.  Good thing too since Ratigan is facing both State and Federal charges for child porn distribution.

This morning I read the Federal charges against Ratigan in an attempt to get some feel for just what exactly he was photographing, in order to understand how Finn and company had trouble to determining whether any of it was pornographic.  It's hard to understand how Finn and company could have determined these photos weren't child pornography. It's one thing to give someone the benefit of doubt, and quite another to give someone a free pass.  Ratigan got a free pass, more than one actually, given the times and dates listed in his indictment.  

The question the keeps circling in my mind is how in the world could this happen in this country almost ten years after Boston and after all the other exposure globally on this issue?  How sick is this Catholic clerical system that it is in fact still protecting itself and it's prerogatives after a decade of the exposure of it's criminal activity?  Does Finn symbolize the clerical mindset that thinks it is in some real way ontologically superior to the rest of humanity and not accountable to anyone other than themselves?  I have come to the conclusion Finn and others like him, really do think they are in some way above the rest of us mere mortals, and that no matter how damaged a priest might be, the fact he is a priest completely changes the accountability parameters.  It's pretty apparent that when it comes to priests there are no lay peers qualified to pass judgement on their behavior--- no matter what secular legal systems might believe.  For Finn,  the belief he acted on was that those secular legal systems could freely be ignoredThe price for that kind of thinking could very well be his freedom and that would be a message heard round the clerical world.  Finally.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Oreo Cookies And The Future Of The Reform Of The Reform

Here Oreo cookies actually can describe one small part of twenty first century cosmology.

The following is an edited version of the latest Eugene Cullen Kennedy piece at NCRHis ending paragraph is especially poignant because the truth is neither a person nor an institution can return to the past when the playing field of the present is so drastically altered.

You can't go Rome again

by Eugene Cullen Kennedy on Oct. 07, 2011Nobody would ever accuse the so-called Reform of the Reform of a lack of transparency. You can see right through its almost weekly moves to return Catholicism to the Eden of church life that they perceive on the far side of Vatican II.

Sometimes these moves, such as imposing a literal translation of the Latin on the Mass texts, not only aims to transport Catholics back to somewhere around 1925 but also to restore the "Attend a a Protestant Service/Support a False Religion" mentality that prevailed in that era. The Congregation of Divine Worship now makes clear, in the document Liturgiam Authenticam, that it wants to do just that. It prefers an awkward concrete rendering of Latin "to avoid a wording or a style that the Catholic faithful would confuse with the manner of speech of non-Catholic ecclesial communities or of other religions..." This, according to The Tablet's Robert Mickens, drives "a stake into the heart of ecumenical efforts at composing common texts.".....(Must avoid the scandal of syncretism.)

........Mickens also analyzes Benedict's curial appointments, concluding that, after the internationalization of leadership in the Church that followed Vatican II, he is restoring the Italian domination of key curial positions. What could move the Roman furniture more surely back to the 1925 style than placing the keyboard of the Vatican piano back into the hands of Italians who long ago mastered the intricate sonatas of survival?

Perhaps we should not expect a German Pope to be subtle but he was anything but that when, on his recent visit to Spain, he announced that "I will shortly declare St. John of Avila a Doctor of the Universal Church." Aside from writing Run through that again letters to St. Teresa of Avila ("What you say about God teaching the soul without the use of the imagination ... is safe, and I can find no fault in it.") he is celebrated for his role in the Counter-Reformation. In short, exactly the intellectual hero the Pope wants for the Reform of the Reform......

....Such playing at time travel would be relatively harmless and charming in the way that sunlit autumn leaves are if that is all there was to this massive effort to transport the Church back to the same era sought in the novel, when the notoriously autocratic Pope Pius XI expected Cardinals to remain kneeling when visiting his office on official business, the Mass was in Latin, and equal as mortal sins were murdering somebody, allowing a sexual thought to wait in the vestibule of your mind before you evicted it, or eating meat on Friday. Yes, those certainly were the good old days. (Even as a 7 year old I had real difficulty  understanding why missing Mass was equally egregious to murdering somebody.)
The Reform of the Reform may be better understood not as an exaggerated exercise in nostalgia as much as the debilitating side-effect on being unable to adjust to the Space/Information Age that has ended the division between the earth and the heavens that was the theoretical basis for hierarchical structures. By healing the centuries old presumed rift between earth and the heavens the Space/Information Age also healed the separation of the human person into antagonistic elements of body and soul, flesh and spirit. It is difficult for hierarchs to adjust to the Space/Information Age because they cannot get their bearings easily unless they sit atop an hierarchical array; they fear going into free fall in the universe in which there is no center, no up and no down, and so they want to reconstruct the times and places, the Time and Again of an age before Vatican II in which they feel that they will be comfortable again.

There is something poignant about these would-be time travelers who pull back from the future that is already enveloping them. They remind one of the travelers in the desert described by Freud in explaining the difficulty many people have in letting go of the past. When the sun goes down and the air turns bitter cold, such pilgrims long to return to the remembered warmth of campfires they had left behind them. They cannot return to them because they have cooled to ashes and the winds have mixed them with the billowing waves of sand. The Reform of the Reform is built on just such understandable but misplaced longing, is bound to disappoint those who invest their hearts in its success, may generate centrifugal pressures in the heart of the Church, and one day, long after it has failed, be judged not as an inviting oasis worth a long journey but a cruel and seductive illusion of the unforgiving sands of time.


Eugene Kennedy has written an important piece, which for me at least, will generate a great deal of thought.  Thoughts about why Benedict has returned the curia to Italian hands when we already know there is great corruption on some of those Italian hands.  Thoughts like why would our Roman leadership insist on taking our sacramental vision back along the thought lines of the Oreo universe, where human reality is stuck like frosting between a static heaven and hell;  reduced to praying/begging that God will lift us off the bottom cookie so we mostly stick to the top.  As Kennedy points out, the Space/Information Age not only doesn't support such a cosmology, it negates it. It hasn't been very productive to present the static images of God generated by the Oreo universe to a population  raised with the cosmology of the Big Bang and the physics of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.  NASA has shown heaven is most definitely not up there or out there somewhere and Exon still hasn't hit hell---even with it's deepest wells.

Of course, Jesus never did tell us to look up or down for God. He told us to look within. God is within us.  God is found internally, not externally.  Just as the truth of who we are as functioning human consciousness is not located in our brains.  Science is still not sure where the seat of that sense we all have of being a discrete "I" comes from. We know a great deal of how our brains work, how memory functions and why it fails, but we know nothing about why people still sense themselves as a discrete whole when for all practical purposes the brain has stopped functioning in any biologically meaningful sense.  As consciousness, we are more than the grey matter stuck in our skulls. For instance, we don't know why in some cases, manifesting different personalities will change core physiological issues like blood pressure, diabetes, and allergies. This seems to suggest that some aspect of consciousness is capable of sending signals which the body responds to on an holistic level.  Another Catholic example of this ability is the stigmata phenomenon.  The only explanation for this offered by the spirituality based on the Oreo universe is God/Lucifer or saints and angels/demons stick their fingers into things--violating the laws of the Oreo universe--and often quite capriciously I might add.  

In my travels through the American West and in my work with Native medicine men and women, they seem to have a different understanding of consciousness/ensoulment.  In their spiritual universe, human consciousness is now, always was, and will be.    Personal soul consciousness is not a separate human state brought on or freed by death.  It is also active before biological birth. Soul consciousness is much greater than our physical experience of it.  Material reality limits it's expression, chiefly through the laws of physics which govern the material universe.  In other words, in this view we are agreeing to limit the expression of our own soul truth when we choose to incarnate. Jesus showed that in many respects the severity of these limits are self imposed through ignorance, cultural/family expectations, and poor spiritual formation.

But then, the universe itself is not just a product of the Newtonian physics governing time/space and matter.  It is also very much a product of quantum physics. The quantum universe can not sustain a spiritual cosmology based on an Oreo cookie. This is a universe which is both holistic and holographic, interconnected, knit by time but not necessarily defined by time, and shares the mind of God with other dimensional universes.  The universe not exclusively about humanity and humanities preferred state in God's eyes.  This universe is one piece of a much larger puzzle in which mankind is no more ontologically important than any other piece of the puzzle--except for one thing.  Once evolution produces the biological complexity necessary to hold a sentient form of consciousness, then those incarnated beings have choice and are free to act in concert with the Greater Scheme of things---or not. 

Once evolution has reached enough complexity to support sentient self aware life, then the free choice which comes with that conscious sentience carries great weight as to how evolution will continue to unfold. This does not describe a dependent disempowered humanity praying that when their personal Oreo is pulled apart that fate will see to it most of the frosting sticks to the top cookie. It describes a humanity fully empowered and willing to hear a great deal of what Jesus taught with open eyes and ears.  It's very very sad to me, that at a time when the collective consciousness of this planet is finally choosing to see that we are all inner connected and no culture can pretend to live in a hermetically sealed vacuum, the Vatican is attempting to recreate Catholicism's own hermetically sealed vacuum.  As Kennedy says, this is a cruel and seductive illusion of the long ago shifted sands of time.  It really is destined to fail.



Monday, October 10, 2011

No Wine In Madison

I don't see any wine at this commemorative Christmas feast, and neither will Catholics in Madison.

Before I get to the topic of this post, I just want to inform readers that my lack of posting this week was due to overtime at work, and feeling quite under the weather to boot.  I basically went to work, took cold medication, and went to bed. Today is a much needed day off, but will still include plenty of cold medication.  On to the topic at hand.

I can not say I was at all shocked when I read that Bishop Morlino of Madison, WI declared that his fellow cheese heads would no longer have wine at Mass. Once reactionary Bishop Olmstead declared such for Phoenix, I knew Morlino would not be far behind. I frequently thank God that Morlino is no longer in Helena, MT and also add prayers for Madison that his reign of incense and ego will end soon for them.  In the meantime Madison Catholics can look forward to no wine at Communion along with the introduction of the new Missal come Advent.  I bet they feel doubly graced.  

What I did find shocking is the apparent indult that Morlino and Olmstead seem to be referencing in justifying their action.  From the Dating God blogsite:

......The argument for this move, at least as it is presented in the Dioceses of Madison, WI, recently (here is the full text of the cathedral bulletin where this news was first published) and Phoenix, AZ, is that the expiration of a Vatican Indult in 2005 ostensibly concerning the distribution of Communion under both species. However, a record of this alleged Indult is not easily acquired. What can be found are a number of other Indults near the same time: The permission for extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist to purify sacred vessels (1975, which is said to ‘expire’ in 2005) and the person to give communion to the faithful in-the-hand (1969 universally, 1979 in the US particularly), for example.

It is this first matter, the purification of sacred vessels, that seems to be the real legal argument that the bishop of Madison, bishop of Phoenix and perhaps some others are using for their squashing of Communion under both kinds. That is the so-called expired Indult and the matter, as it was explained in a 2006 CNS article on the subject, that Cardinal Arinze of the Congregation for Divine Worship stressed when the vessel-purification Indult “ran out.” [For the full-text of the 2002 three-year extension of that Indult, accompanied by then USCCB President Archbishop Gregory's introduction, see here.]
Noting that the General Instruction of the Roman Missal “directs that the sacred vessels are to be purified by the priest, the deacon or an instituted acolyte,” the cardinal said in his Oct. 12 letter that “it does not seem feasible, therefore, for the congregation to grant the requested indult from this directive in the general law of the Latin Church.”
Although receiving Communion under both kinds is a “more complete” sign of the sacrament’s meaning, Cardinal Arinze said, “Christ is fully present under each of the species.”
How quickly the argument goes from a matter concerning which person can or cannot clean a chalice to the widespread denial of Communion under both kinds to thousands, or even millions, of the faithful.
It would appear that the Congregation for Divine Worship used this expiration as an opportunity to circumvent the directives of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), which in its 2002 revised form reads:
Holy Communion has a fuller form as a sign when it is distributed under both kinds. For in this form the sign of the eucharistic banquet is more clearly evident and clear expression is given to the divine will by which the new and eternal Covenant is ratified in the Blood of the Lord, as also the relationship between the Eucharistic banquet and the eschatological banquet in the Father’s Kingdom.
The GIRM also outlines what authority the local ordinary has in matters relating to Holy Communion under both kinds:
The Diocesan Bishop may establish norms for Communion under both kinds for his own diocese, which are also to be observed in churches of religious and at celebrations with small groups. The Diocesan Bishop is also given the faculty to permit Communion under both kinds whenever it may seem appropriate to the priest to whom, as its own shepherd, a community has been entrusted, provided that the faithful have been well instructed and there is no danger of profanation of the Sacrament or of the rite’s becoming difficult because of the large number of participants or some other reason.
Canon Law is notably silent on this matter as it directs pastors, clergy and the faithful to the liturgical laws of the Church (i.e., in this case, the GIRM!).
Holy communion is to be given under the form of bread alone or under both species according to the norm of the liturgical laws, or even under the form of wine alone in the case of necessity. (Can. 925, emphasis added)
This whole business is very curious.  (To say the least.)It seems absurd that bishops, including the Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship in Rome, would be so myopic and concerned about this technicality ordering who is and who is not fit to clean the sacred vessels, objects which only contained the precious species, when the same faithful — extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist or otherwise — have already handled and consumed Holy Communion. In other words, they are fit to receive, handle and distribute Communion, but are not fit to purify a chalice (which, for those who don’t know, consists of consuming the remaining particles of the Eucharist — which any baptized person is permitted to do according to the law, pouring water into the empty vessel, consuming that poured water, and drying the vessel itself with a purificator).

That the bishops of Phoenix and Madison, and anyone who in the future tries to use a similar justification for curbing access to Holy Communion under both species, are using this purification-of-vessels matter as the rationalization for restricting or refusing the Eucharist is a scandal in itself. The faithful have a right (according to Can. 912: “Any baptized person not prohibited by law can and must be admitted to holy communion”) to receive Communion and this right, according to the liturgical law (GIRM, etc.) leans toward communion under both species as normative unless it becomes impossible due to circumstances such as large numbers of people or lack of access to wine. (Ah, but ideas of ritual purity are still hugely powerful--especially in some minds.)

Here we come to the title of this post: The Eucharist is Not a Weapon. It strikes me as nothing less-than an clerical overstepping and unnecessary demarcation of the clergy and laity. What are these pastors (by which I mean the Canonical notion of pastor) thinking? It seems, at least superficially, that it is an “in” and “out” club — who is and who is not permitted to receive from the cup. The only shred of juridical support is the technicality about who can and cannot clean the cups after Communion.....


I'm not going to dispute the fact that Canon Law allows Olmstead and Morlino the authority to enact virtually any liturgical edict (abuse)  their little hearts desire.  But  the rationale for these decisions certainly appears to be hugely deceptive if Daniel Horan OFM, author of Dating God, has the right of it.  When an indult regarding washing dishes is used as the basis for removing a cherished right of the laity, and then it's misrepresented,  this is not about pastoring. This is about underscoring clerical power to control the liturgical life of laity.  Exactly as the current USCCB campaign against gay marriage and birth control is about controlling the intimate life of the laity.  Too bad the same vociferous and careful attention to these two areas are not exercised within their own ranks. 

There is another issue which might be at play in all of this exercising of clerical muscles.  It might be even more important to put the laity in their subservient place when it comes to things like diocesan finances and the various other committees in which laity are supposed to have some say.  Committees like the ones that oversee clerical abuse allegations for instance.  If laity washing the dishes used at Mass is anathema to bishops like these two, it's pretty easy to imagine having lay interference in the day to day operations of their fiefdoms is even worse.  The thinking must run a long the lines that if we can put them back in their places in the pews, they will certainly then know their places in diocesan committees--which is to say, silent and agreeable.

I would love to see the faithful in Madison just walk out of Mass in mass come Advent.  A sort of reverse Occupy Wall Street movement, as in Don't Occupy The Cathedral Pews movement.  Madison Catholics could always go home and do as the early Christians did in memory of Jesus, and they could enact that memory with actual wine.