Sunday, January 22, 2012

Irish Church Leadership Return To The Past To Find A Clerical Future

It's kind of strange to view Pope Benedict in a suit and tie, but then this was back in the days when he was unafraid of the vision of the Church articulated by Vatican II.  He looks downright dashingly secular.

Eugene Kennedy currently has a piece at the NCR about the recent decision of Irish bishops to remake Maynooth seminary into a more monastic setting.  The idea according to the rector is about "trying to get the balance right between the need for the seminary to be a distinctive prayerful community and ensure that the seminarians have all the benefits that the Maynooth campus has to offer."  In my own mind I didn't make the initial connection that Kennedy did with prisons.  I made the connection between the residential situation of big time college athletic programs and this seminary idea. Isolating young men from their peers seems to be a tried and true method for authoritarian male leadership to enculturate their pet values in their captive audiences.  The truth is that these kinds of artificial living situations don't lead to any kind of 'balance', they lead to the creation of serious imbalances in the maturation in some members of the captive audience.  The graduate school I attended has recently admitted they might have a problem with rape in their football program after the latest allegation involved three football players in a date drug gang rape. 

I've never been a fan of isolating young adults by gender or age or activity.  Where as these kinds of living situations might not be detrimental for most young adults, for others it is seriously detrimental as it can create all kinds of victims and enhance the worst aspects of these distilled cultural milieus.  That's one thought I had, but Kennedy had one paragraph in his piece I think deserves to be immortalized:

In short, the Irish bishops think they are solving a problem whose roots can be traced back to the isolation from the healthy experiences with others that characterized the supposed golden age before Vatican II spoiled everything by reminding the church that its whole purpose was to embrace the sinful world and relieve its suffering rather than to push it away like a leper whose suffering might contaminate it.

Those lines just really struck me as getting to the root cause for the 'reform of the reform'.  Vatican II had to be respun precisely because it spoiled everything by reminding the church that its whole purpose was to embrace the world, not push it away. It really doesn't surprise me that our current Pope is the biggest champion of this reform, because virtually his whole life after WWII has been spent in a clerical world designed to keep him safe and secure from the leprosy of secular contamination.  In some respects it appears he's substituted Hitler's demands for protecting the "fatherland" from the contamination of non Aryans with protecting Holy Mother Church from secularists and atheists.  It's really a juvenile boy thing, not a mature man thing.  I've seen this retardation of male maturity play out over and over again in numerous different settings and it's always at the expense of women and the least powerful.  It's the human version of the juvenile male elephant phenomenon.  It needs to be eradicated from Catholicism, not resurrected.


  1. This is relevant, and very well worth reading:

  2. Why is there this confusion between monasticism and the priesthood?

    Priest are not monks! They are not meant to be "Alone with the Alone". Their role is not to be renunciants, sannyasins in the Hindu parlance.

    Hinduism is quite clear about what priests do. They perform all the rituals necessary for a community to continue, to grow, to encounter the Divine in everyday life. They are ascetic but not necessarily celibate since priests belong to the Brahmin cast which is hereditary.

    Sannyasins, on the other hand, renounces the community to seek God, to be alone with the Alone. If, through their efforts and the grace of the Divine, they encounter the Absolute, they are then required to go back to the community and teach, show, that experience, and help guide the community to encounter the Absolute.

    Why is there such confusion between the two roles?

    It's this confusion that is the source of what's going on.

    Now, I do think that those preparing for priesthood should have an exposure to monasticism, in particular its contemplative dimension. I think that the lack of a good contemplative foundation results in a poor understanding of Christianity and therefore being a good priest but I'd argue that a contemplative practice is also necessary for an educated practicing laity as well. Monasteries have an important role in this since they should have wise monks able to teach seminarians, priests and lay people the practice and riches of contemplation.

    The bishops may have dimly perceived this but their solution is not one that will have the desired result.

    Instead of seeing, concretely, that the secular and the divine are not two separate realms nor one realm but equivalent and in communion, ( the Incarnation), they accept the illusion that the sacred is completely separate from the secular. How then is a priest, thinking and trained in this view, capable of leading, teaching, guiding those living in the secular to the sacred since it is a separate realm? How can they teach people that the sacred is within and with the secular, that the secular carries the sacred, that the secular can be sacred?

    The dualism, almost manichean in nature, that bedevils the Catholic Church is leading its hiearchy to completely misunderstand the truths of Christianity. They might as well renounce the Incarnation and all its meaning and revert back to a religion that even modern Judaism does not teach,to perhaps a form of Islam congenial to its most fundamentalist representation.

  3. Evagrius, the point you make about the Church acting as if the sacred and the secular are separate and unequivalent is not an illusion per se, it's a purposeful strategy designed to maintain the distinct elevated ontological status of the ordained priest. It's not about whether he can connect with the sacred in the secular, it's about promoting the delusion he is unique and separate from the secular. In some cases this separation is taken to the extreme of profaning the secular and the innocent.

    The dualism this implies certainly indicates the teaching authority is not the least bit interested in really understanding the Incarnation or the words Jesus said about divinity being within each of us. How can you teach that truth when at the same time you are teaching that your priesthood magically has more of it and women can't have any of it?

  4. You're correct. That's why I argued that priests are not monks and pointed to the Hindu tradition with its view of priests, monastics, and the relation of the sacred to the secular.

    You are right about the notion of the ontological status of priests. It implies that only priests have a connection to the sacred, ( monastics being mainly laity have only a negligible connection to the sacred), and the laity must be dependent on priests for any connection to the sacred.

    Of course, the pedophilia scandal and other scandals do put the question to this notion of an elevated ontological status. How can someone connected to the sacred act in such a fashion?

    The hiearchy has no answer. Hence the constant evasions and delays.