Monday, March 26, 2012

Jamie Manson Interviews Mathew Fox

Mathew Fox is not the least bit off base when he discusses Creation Spirituality.  I find him far more hopeful than Shelby Spong.

I've always like the thinking of Mathew Fox. Jamie Manson is running a two part interview with him, and the following is an excerpt from the first part. In this section Fox gives his thinking on the future of organized Christianity and Catholicism in particular.

So the church should be not only post-denominational, but post-institutional, too?
We have to move away from looking at religion as primarily a sociologically institutional vestment and start seeing it as yeast within society that raises up justice, compassion, healing, celebration, forgiveness and, of course, creativity. Leonardo Boff talks about "ecclesiogenesis," or "birthing church." What kinds of communities are we birthing? And what kinds of nonsense are we standing up to? There are forms of fundamentalism arising throughout Christianity and they are hijacking the real spirit that Jesus unleashed. We have to save Jesus from the church. (That's an interesting way of putting this idea, saving Jesus from the Church.  Personally I don't think Jesus needs to be saved from anything or anyone.  Christians need to be saved from the immaturity of their institutional religions.)

Do you think people must begin seeking church outside the walls of the institution?
Definitely. It's so clear that the institutional version of the church is melting before our eyes. I began The Pope's War with a quote from Fr. Bede Griffiths, who said to me at the very end of his life, "Don't even think about the Vatican. Don't look over your shoulder. It'll all come tumbling down one day like the Berlin Wall. Keep using your energy to grow new shoots." 

We are ready for a new era in Christianity. It doesn't mean we surrender our own traditions or roots. But there is such a thing as ecclesiolatry. Some people would rather worship the church and hide inside an institution while throwing darts and bombs at the so-called secular world out there. The truth is there is only one world, one creation. We have to stand up to ideology, which is like idolatry. It freezes up hearts, minds and souls. We have to listen to the Holy Spirit. She elects to make things new. The Holy Spirit has always been biased in favor of creativity. (I would also add adaptive evolution.)

Do you think this melting down of the institutional church could be part of the Holy Spirit's plans?
Absolutely. The premise of The Pope's War is that we've been given two schismatic popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, over the past three decades for a reason. And that is to shake us up so that we will press the restart button on Christianity.  (Schismatic might be strong, but what the current retrenchment is pointing out for a lot of Catholics is once you have crossed a certain point in understanding and consciousness, you can not go backwards.)


Further in this post Mathew Fox describes a state of denial that many of today's Catholics live in that blinds them to the actual reality of the Church.  It's easy to see this denial at work when well meaning Catholics defend the Church and it's priests in the face of mounds of evidence about abuses, corruption, and criminal cover up.  They see all this unfortunate truth as biased anti Catholic attacks.  The real truth is the anti Catholic attacks are actually being perpetrated on Catholic laity by the actions of our ordained leaders.  That is, this is the real truth if the Church really is the People of God and not just the clerical system.
I agree with Fox that the last two popes have served to shake us up and forced us to really take a look at what form--if any--of Catholicism we wish for the future.  When an individual is forced to make a decision, rather than go along for the ride, that individual at least has a personal stake in their own faith expression.  That's as true for any progressive as it is for any conservative.  The polarization we currently experience in the Church can also be seen as an expression of the fact that individuals are claiming their own faith expression, and they care about it.  That's not a bad thing at all.  The problem comes when one looks at what is being claimed as Catholic in the institutional form.

The institutional expression of Catholicism, as crafted under the last three popes--I include Paul VI as it was two of his decisions which really started the reverse swing-- has been purposely limited in a well thought out and executed campaign,  in favor of a wholly external form of Catholic identity.  It's all about command and control from above with obedience the highest form of Catholic expression.  This is the signature spiritual charism of all the new lay movements like Opus Dei, the Neocats, and the Legionairies.  The implied definition of God in this view is the Old Testament Patriarchal God of retribution and conformity, and not the New Covenant Jesus of love and compassion. The signature psychological trait is to conform one's self and conscience to an external source of authority.  Jesus called for the exact opposite.  He called for finding the God with in us as our source of authority.  

This particular form of Catholic identity is passive and receptive on the part of the laity.  The highest form of theology is apologetics.  Spirituality for the laity centers on various forms of ritual piety and Marian expression while mysticism is the purview of monastics.  There is no room for prophets because there is nothing left to reveal.  It is static and priest centered.  Some would say priest ridden.  It works well for a specific segment of the population or for the initial steps on a spiritual path.  It fails for everyone else, but especially for those who are past the initial steps of the spiritual path.  It places a particular notion of sexual morality ahead of social justice.  It encourages scapegoating and the ostracizing and expulsion of certain sinners from the conformist community.  It's leadership responds to the most rigid of it's flock and it acts from fear and in secrecy.  It is a 'self' centered church in which saving one's personal soul is the end game.  Jesus taught our job was to lose our 'self' to find life.  It is not surprising that this church is well on the path to remnant status in the West and as the educational levels continue to rise in the South the same shrinking will occur there as well. 

Many conservatives are pointing to the growth of this current Church amongst youth.  To some extent this is true, but it's also true that youth grow up and that's the problem with this current church.  It is not a church for mature thinking adults--well, unless that adult has developed a prodigious capacity to compartmentalize incongruity and logical inconsistency.  Or stops thinking about their faith at Confirmation.  

Vatican II started down a path that was going to take some time to bring to fruition.  It opened up a conceptual thinking about the Church, and the lay relationship to the Church, for which neither the the laity nor the clergy had any intellectual preparation.  Given this, it's not surprising a certain amount of chaos ensued.  It was a chaotic time all the way around.  But the vision Vatican II described was awesome and rife with the potential to launch Catholics into a brave new world---kind of like the first time a teenager gets the keys to his own car.  Unfortunately for Catholicism, the keepers of Peter's keys couldn't take the anxiety and took the keys back. Trouble is, when you get used to driving a car, riding passively on a bench seat in the great big bus is no longer going to suffice. You can't go back.  There's just not enough freedom to grow.  Where Vatican II Catholics wind up from here on out will be up to them as individuals because the Church no longer has any room for them collectively.  One thing I know, the solutions will be creative with probably a few wrecks along the way, but such is life itself and that's what makes it all worth living.


  1. I agree with a lot of Matthew Fox as well, Colleen. However, other than not knowing how to explain Paul VI and Humanae Vitae, I do not agree with him about this Pope. Paul VI and Cardinal Luciani, JP I, were really the authors of liberation theology. Paul VI clearly favored Luciani to be his successor and he stacked the College of Cardinals for this result that almost did not happen. I think we must dig much deeper into Luciani and it is hard because not only did the Church loose the 9 copies of his will but it destroyed all his papers form the days he was a cardinal and he is the only former pope whose body is sealed deeply in the Vatican encased in a led and concrete coffin.

  2. Dennis, I'm the one who includes Paul VI, not Mathew Fox, and it's precisely because of Humanae Vitae and his refusal to allow a discussion on celibacy. Personally I think he was blackmailed over his reported gay lover. It's the kind of thing that was all the rage back then.

    As to your other point, JPI had to have known too much for some folks in the Vatican. His secretary--Ireland's disgraced Archbishop Magee--states that Luciani pointed out JPII from a photo of the conclave that elected him pope as the man who would follow him. According to Magee JPI did this thirty days before he suddenly died. I don't think JPI was a prophet, I think he knew too much and he intended to use his authority to do something about what he knew. That made him way too dangerous.

    Along those lines, I've found it interesting in the extreme that John Allen is now writing about the need for the next pope to get some control on the Vatican bureaucracy. Personally I think it's way too late for that. The whole thing has to implode.

  3. You and the EWTN idiots deserve each other. You're still arguing over who has the better invisible friend and the "real" edition of the book of fairy tales.
    Fox's "Wisdom University" was a joke. And since becoming an Episcopalian, he's made no moves whatsoever to get married,which is strange-unless he's just not interested in women.

    1. Seriously anon, Mathew Fox is openly gay and has a partner. We are not arguing over who has the better invisible friend, but over who has the better approach to the same invisible friend. Sheesh.

    2. Why are there more gays in the clergy/professional religious than the general population?

    3. The great Cardinal Newman was also gay. So What? The church would not even allow him to be buried next to his life long partner in the "Don't Ask Don't Tell Episcopacy.

    4. Anon, the answer to your question depends on who you want to believe. There are a disproportionate number of gays in all the helping professions. It may very well have something to do with a predisposition to be other centered and nurturing. At least when the orientation is integrated in a healthy way.

      Certain Native American tribes felt their gay and transgendered members were bridges between worlds, both the male and female gender worlds and this reality with the supernatural reality. They were respected and cherished, if not always understood.

    5. Their are some biologists who believe that gay patterns such as we see in the Lion kingdom are protective of familial structure. It is interesting to me to recall that the one gay priest in my very early life experienced explained to our fifth grade class that not even the animal kingdom has gays! He went on to tell us that homosexuality was very sinful at the same time he was gay. It took some of us a few year to figure that out, but we all indeed did and begin to wonder about his hypocrisy. I guess he did not tell the two gay Frigate birds in the same nest that my wife spotted in the Galapagos Islands when we first stepped off the cruse boat on our honeymoon.

  4. Coleen,

    For a lot more information all footnoted read Lucien Gregoire's "Murder in the Vatican." I don't like the cover but this book is jammed fool of documented facts. I think that Paul new that his friend Cardinal Lunciani would reverse the BC encyclical. If I get the chance, I will ask Gregoire, about Humanae Vitae. It certainly became the beginning of the implosion of Vatican II and then the entire Roman Church. I don't think that either Lunciani or Paul VI had this outcome in mind, but unless there was some sort of threat, I do not understand why Paul wrote humanae Vitae, and then never wrote another encyclical. Lunciani seems to believe with some evidence that John XXIII, Paul and John Paul I were all murdered. There is an excellent medical case for forensic investigation into Paul's death. There was even more both medical and circumstantial evidence in the case of Lunciani. What kind of an institution allows one or possibly three suspicious deaths without any forensic investigation?

    1. I meant to say Gregoire "seems to believe with some evidence that John XXIII, Paul and John Paul I were all murdered." Sorry for that error.

  5. "This is the signature spiritual charism of all the new lay movements like Opus Dei, the Neocats, and the Legionairies." Opus Dei is not a new movement, origins, ideological roots and developemnt in the best book in English on the net

    worthwhile, a good reading and interpretation.
    Legionaires are a copy made in Mexico of Spanish Opus Dei. And Neo Cat, that's correct, a new movement.
    Their ideas are similar, but Opus Dei is the best organized and older, they have tried for a long while to arrive to management of the catholic Church. They got it, since John Paul II and under Benedict there are more and more Opus Dei bishops around the world. For instance Jose HOracio Gómez, Los Angeles, last arrived as an auxiliary in the diocese, first in line to be the archbishop.
    They like secrecy, but catholics must be alerted about their actions.

  6. I don't pay attention much about what pope did what or what not. I do pay more attention to what is happening within the People of God as a result of the hierarchy’s unfortunate and feeble machinations. I have been blessed to worship with a wonderful Vatican II inspired intentional community which has been born anew as our loco archbishop kicked us out of the church because we wouldn't, couldn't, shouldn't worship according to the rubrics of the Roman Missal. Today we are growing as the Spirit of St. Stephen's Catholic Community. Our worship is heartfelt and true. At Eucharist we celebrate as the priesthood of the people so much so that during the Eucharistic Prayer we all go up to the table and never can know just who is going to say which part of the beautifully composed Eucharistic prayers. They arise from the assembly in complete spontaneity. I couldn't imagine going back to the unthinking recitation of rubrics. Even when circumstances do bring me back to mainstream, I am compelled to take the words to heart - to Listen as I worship. Because of this, I feel as though I could worship anywhere and find spiritual renewal in some way.
    As more communities form beyond the confines of the institution, I believe that we will, indeed experience a true Catholic reformation and renaissance. We need to look to these new communities, support them, celebrate them as examples of the wonderful possibilities that await freedom from crumbling and anachronistic paradigms while honoring the creative riches running like a river through our Catholic traditions. Blessed Be…