Friday, November 25, 2011

Some Synchronicity

One of the ways I can generally tell if the 'spirit is moving' or to put it in a more secular language, if a new consensus understanding is developing, is through synchronicity. Synchronicity is defined as the simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.  The following article by Australian Catholic Priest Peter Kennedy was posted on the website for St Mary's in Exile in Brisbane.  Followers of this blog may remember St Mary's in Exile as the Australian parish that was told to shape up or ship out, and decided to ship out.  Kennedy's post went up the same day I wrote this:

"Catholicism is dieing as an influence for change because our leadership is in its heart, terrified of change.  This is especially true if that change threatens their position in the Church.  Better for them that those of us that have real problems with their fear and utter lack of integrity leave the fold.  It's about as forceful a way as possible to tell us all that their Church is not about us.  It's about them.

Peter Kennedy is saying the same thing, only slightly differently and comes to the same conclusion.  Catholicism can not be a positive influence in today's culture operating the way it does.


Melbourne Town Hall -  November 15, 2011

In 2009 the ABC Australian Story produced a feature film entitled “Holier Than Thou” which documented our forced removal from St Mary’s Church in South Brisbane into Exile.

At the end of the filming of our story at Natural Bridge in Qld I went down with the production team for a coffee at the roadside café on the road between Nerang in Qld and Murwillumbah in NSW. As we sat down on the veranda a classic Aussie bloke dressed in stubbies and thongs shot a glance in my direction and pointed me out to his wife. Shortly after they got up to leave and he put his hands on his hips, looked down to me and said “Stick it up ‘em mate”. A little surprised, I half stood up and said “what’s your name mate” and he said “it doesn’t matter what my name is mate, just stick it up ‘em”.

Only later did I realise how pivotal that encounter was for me – a light bulb moment, a road to Damascus moment, except it was on the road to Murwillumbah.

The insight that arose was that the ordinary man and woman, the bulk of the church’s membership, the battlers, the mums and dads, who built the churches, hospitals, schools -  who were loyal all their lives to the church to its bishops, priests religions and its rules and regulations, its doctrines and its dogmas -  frankly -  had had enough -  they were voiceless in a church ruled by an elite, clerical caste who demanded and expected that the “laity” that derogative term, should just pray, pay and obey. They have had it up to here and they’ve left in their hundreds of thousands, never to come back -“stick it up ‘em mate”!

My argument is simple: – that the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church that arrogantly refuses to allow its membership, its most loyal supporters, a voice in its governance cannot be a force for good in today’s world where increasingly democracy and human rights is the primal cry of people who know the pain and suffering and disempowerment of dictatorships – especially women.

The Roman Catholic Church is such a totalitarian regime e.g. to become a bishop, male of course, a priest has to promise obedience of mind and will, to one man  the bishop of Rome, the Pope, in whom all authority resides.

To argue that Jesus established the church in this way and that the church cannot be more democratic, involving the people in its governance, is based on a fiction, a lie – known as apostolic succession,
Stay with me… the bishops claim to be the successors of the twelve apostles with the bishop of Rome claiming to be the successor of the apostle Peter, who was no.1 in Team Jesus. They argue they have that same authority to rule over the church today. Please note it is an authority of power – it ought to be an authority of love.

The Pope as No.1, claims to be – wait for it – the Vicar of Christ- well, I don’t know about you, but from my reading of the gospels I think Jesus would be far more at home with the Vicar of Dibley!

The facts are very different. In the first 3 centuries of  Christianity in the various communities of faith that dotted the Mediterranean there was no one form of liturgy, no one form of governance, no one theology. Instead you had communities of equals where both women and men exercised the various gifts given to them by the Spirit.  e.g. The gift of leadership, the gift of healing, the gift of prophecy, the gift of preaching etc. (Those very same gifts that have been virtually lost to the Church and synchronistically with the rise of the Constinian Church.)
In the 4th Century of the C..E the Pagan Emperor Constantine used the fledging literalist community in Rome to unify his empire. In order to bolster their claims to authority, the church leaders invented the fiction of Apostolic Succession which is still the basis of governance in the Roman Catholic Church today.

As Harvey Cox, Emeritus Professor at Harvard writes in his book “The Future of Faith” – “as the empire became notionally Christian, the church that had been from its beginning fiercely anti – imperial became its fawning imitators blurring the essence of Christianity almost beyond recognition. (And muting it's pure essense and true power, which is in love, not dominance.)

The paradox is that when the Roman Empire collapsed, up bobbed a pseudo-religious empire – the Roman Catholic Church. As the philosopher Thomas Hobbes in the 17th Century wrote – “the Church, the papacy became nothing other than the ghost of the deceased Roman Empire, sitting on the grave thereof.
Let me now speak from my own experience and that of our community, now in exile in our struggle with such absolute, ruthless and callous authority.

On that fateful day when I saw the Archbishop in 2008 as I was leaving his office, I turned towards him and with some compassion said “You know John, you are going to cop a fair bit of flak from our community”.
He paused and said “This is the Roman Catholic Church. You put me in a corner and I’ll come out fighting”.
People began writing to him respectfully and as intelligent people of faith. He wrote to me saying “if you think that what they’re saying is going to change my mind, let me tell you, it will do the very opposite.” He added “I obey the Pope, you should obey me, and they should obey you”

I tell you this – not to denigrate the Archbishop but to indicate to you the mindset of total obedience of the bishops of the church to absolute Roman Papal authority.

Such an undemocratic church cannot be a force for good in today’s world. Until the Church falls unto the hands of the people it cannot be a significant player in today’s world  – a world that demands and expects that the voice of the people be heard.

Peter Kennedy


  1. As part of my Why-be-Catholic study, besides reading many books on that subject, I have been reading books on church history. I was astonished to learn just when the church became so autocratic: The roots probably go back some, but it wasn't until in 1917 when canon law was changed to say the pope gets to appoint bishops. Then one of the main points of the church's treaties, like the Lateran Treaty with Italy in 1929 and the treaty with Germany in 1933, was this desire to centralize power with the pope. They didn't want the cathedral canons to pick them. That's really not that long ago.

  2. True, and the history of Europe is replete with battles among kings and emperors feuding with various popes on the powers of the papacy vis a vis secular governments. For example, European Catholic kings and emperors often claimed the right to appoint bishops and archbishops in their respective empires or kingdoms. Some monarchs had great power to select bishops and affect papal elections. For example, Franz Josef (1848-1916) the penultimate emperor of Austria and apostolic king of Hungary, exercised his veto in 1903 to prevent Mariano Cardinal Rampolla from being elected as Pope. The cardinals wound up electing Giuseppe Sarto, who took office as Pope Pius X and started crusading against Modernism.....French kings before the Revolution also claimed the right to appoint bishops, archbishops and abbots in France.

  3. Since I became ill 5 yrs ago with a Cancer that is similar to what Steve Job's had, I have looked inside myself and felt content to support some truth about the RCC as a professional sees it.

    Well, I am still ill but I must say that when I read this and other blogs, I see people speaking and improving the communication that I was using writing NCR then to other blogs. I don't mean to claim that I invented the language of truth in these issues of RCC Leadership but I supported it in others and in what my mind told me. I think that there are so many people speaking truth about a failed leadership that it is fair to once again ask, Where do we go from here?

    The leadership is in de facto schism with the People of God. I challenge us to find a positive way to act and react against this problem. I think we all should meditate on this issue so that we might find positive ways of supporting the People of God.

    I am personally a bit encouraged by the "We are Church movement." And yes, I also support parishes such as St. Mary's in this article. We are the People of God and the Church belongs to us. Jesus will be with us as a group, small or large. I think it important that we remember to find ways to support a larger group around us. dennis

  4. Where do we go from here? For me personally I think the answer lies partly in where I've been in the past. At least to the extent that I firmly know that what worked for me previously is not going to work for me in the future. I think that's why I've stayed silent as the new/old translation has hit the English speaking Church.

    I know one doesn't grasp the timeless by going back to the past. Humanity is evolving whether we like it or not, whether it makes us fearful or not, whether we understand it or not.

    Lately I've been thinking about toroidal fields and zero points. I think we are at a zero point. In truth zero is both a null state and a state of undefined but absolute potential. The choice is ours. It always has been.

    Our leadership is telling us that humanity has nothing left to offer the Church, there is no further evolving. That's not just wrong, it's anti Gospel. Essentially they are saying there is no longer any need for counsel from the Holy Spirit, tradition is complete in and of itself.

    The truth is we don't know much at all. We haven't come close to actually understanding much of what Jesus taught--or if we do understand it, we don't trust it enough to live it. Which is to say we don't trust Him.

    That is precisely the problem with the hierarchy. They don't trust their own teachings. They don't trust their own professed God. Like all professional religious that have gone before them, they have substituted concrete formalized ritual for a living relationship. They are stuck at what Piaget called the Concrete Operational Stage. While it is a true stage of neural development, it is far from being the end stage. What ever the future holds, it will move human consciousness into a whole new areas of neural development or it will die.

  5. Yes, Colleen, we know so much about the problems, but what to do about it is something else. Some times it is best to do nothing. Perhaps this is one of those times. After all the leadership implosion is already so very devastating that it is hard to see where to go.

    I have been one to believe over much of my life that contemplation and meditation are the beginnings of a higher form of prayer and that is Christian action. I challenge all of us to find that action in our individual own lives. Speak truth about the church, but rather dwell on what we as humans can do. dennis

  6. 1917? The outcome of the war and or the Russian Revolution to change canon law for the pope to appoint all bishops globally. It took how many years for the Vatican to come into cooperation mode of the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank created in 1913? The Vatican was already a major global player in the banking industry? The outcome of any war is already decided by bankers in some board room in Washington and or Rome?