I was looking for something else when my search engine came up with this post from two years ago. I think it's highly pertinent given the recent results of the CDF investigation. It's hard to believe this investigation has been going on for over three years. Since the original reasons cited the same problems as the result, I can't help but wonder if the results were held in abeyance until they might have some specific impact at some specific time in the US. Anyway this post certainly took me back to the future.
Progressives Must Stop Ignoring Certain Conservative Beliefs About Holiness
Sometimes I come across articles that leave me pondering for quite awhile. This happened to me the other day when I came across an article written by Susan Shields for the website "Council for Secular Humanism". Ms. Shields an ex member of Mother Teresa's Sister's of Charity. I'm going to quote the part that caused me a certain amount of mental angst:
Three of Mother Teresa's teachings that are fundamental to her religious congregation are all the more dangerous because they are believed so sincerely by her sisters. Most basic is the belief that if a sister obeys she is doing God's will. Another is the belief that the sisters have leverage over God by choosing to suffer. Their suffering makes God very happy. He then dispenses more graces to humanity. The third is the belief that any attachment to human beings, even the poor being served, supposedly interferes with love of God and must be vigilantly avoided or immediately uprooted. The efforts to prevent any attachments cause continual chaos and confusion, movement and change in the congregation. Mother Teresa did not invent these beliefs - they were prevalent in religious congregations before Vatican II - but she did everything in her power (which was great) to enforce them.
Once a sister has accepted these fallacies she will do almost anything. She can allow her health to be destroyed, neglect those she vowed to serve, and switch off her feelings and independent thought. She can turn a blind eye to suffering, inform on her fellow sisters, tell lies with ease, and ignore public laws and regulations. (These behaviors are endemic to every single one of the right wing traditional apostolates approved of and singled out for praise by the Vatican in the last forty years.)
Women from many nations joined Mother Teresa in the expectation that they would help the poor and come closer to God themselves. When I left, there were more than 3,000 sisters in approximately 400 houses scattered throughout the world. Many of these sisters who trusted Mother Teresa to guide them have become broken people. In the face of overwhelming evidence, some of them have finally admitted that their trust has been betrayed, that God could not possibly be giving the orders they hear. It is difficult for them to decide to leave - their self-confidence has been destroyed, and they have no education beyond what they brought with them when they joined. I was one of the lucky ones who mustered enough courage to walk away......
Taken together these three beliefs describe a very sad definition of the path to holiness. They also describe logical extensions of the belief that man's material existence has meaning only in terms of his soul and that since the fall of Adam and Eve, our bodies are condemned to suffering in order to appease God and purify our immortal souls from the filthy stains of material existence.
Take the first one for example: "the belief that as long as a sister obeys she is doing God's will."
There's no question that with in the Sisters of Charity, as it is in Opus Dei, the Legionaries, or any number of other twentieth century apostalates, obedience to the will of the founder was equated with obedience to God. This was not just an attitude freely assumed by members, it was promulgated by the founders themselves and they were backed by the Papacy. Why wouldn't they be? This demand for obedience to the founder is exactly what the Vatican demands of every Catholic with regards to the Pope.
The problem is neither the Pope nor any given founder is God. Jesus did not say God is obedience, He said God is love. Every parent has experienced the fact that our children can still love us dearly without feeling the need to obey every jot and tittle of what we say. And if a parent matures with their child in parenting, one finds that they actually love their children more when those children think for themselves, act decently on their own initiative, and stop demanding approval for everything they do.
None of those free acts of a maturing child is an assault on the fundamental parent/child relationship. It is instead both a deepening and a broadening of the relationship. What a parent really learns as their child matures, is the reason for and nature of, forgiveness. Forgiveness is not a 'get out of hell' free card. Nor is it a reset button to engage in the same failed strategy. It's an opportunity to change direction, learn a lesson and grow some more. Parental forgiveness is often the weedkiller in our children's garden of life
The second belief is in some respects even more damaging than the first: "the belief that the sisters have leverage over God by choosing to suffer. Their suffering makes God very happy. He then dispenses more graces to humanity." There are so many fallacies here. No human person has the capacity to leverage God. That's a description of a very small god, but it gets worse. The thought that this god is happy being leveraged by our suffering makes him an even smaller God. That he would then dispense more grace to humanity because of his happiness with our suffering makes him very very minuscule on the god scale. Puts him about as far up the god scale as the parent who beats their child to get the rush when they cry and then gives the child candy to shut them up until the next time. It's called abuse dynamics.
Then we come to the third belief: "that any attachment to human beings, even the poor being served, supposedly interferes with love of God and must be vigilantly avoided or immediately uprooted". For Mother Teresa and the Sisters of Charity this belief can be restated as the love of the concept of poverty as a path to holiness. Their ministry actually has very little to do with an effective relational love with the poor. It has to do with their individual choice to live in, and surround themselves with institutional poverty.
This is probably why Mother Teresa never built a world class hospital with all of her hundreds of millions in donations, or did a great deal to eradicate poverty in the areas in which her convents and clinics operated. These initiatives served as way stations for sufferers in which her sisters were given the opportunity to evangelize and 'save' souls. It was this that took precedence over alleviating suffering or providing real medicine. The truth is she didn't need a world class hospital to evangelize and save souls--she needed hundreds of convents and that's precisely what she built.
In honesty, Mother Teresa never claimed to be in the business of lifting the yoke of poverty or eradicating disease in the areas in which her enterprises operated. She forthrightly said she was in the business of Catholic evangelization and the saving of souls. The poor people she worked with were not victims of choices not their own. Instead they had been given a wonderful opportunity from God to both achieve her definition of holiness, and offer their unchosen suffering for others. And of course, they provided the means by which she and her fellow sisters could achieve their definition of holy poverty. In this respect, she would have been working against her definition of their best interests to do otherwise.
Not one of these three beliefs are espoused by LCWR congregations, which makes me wonder if that's not part of the problem they are having with the Vatican. There's nothing like making poverty a short ticket to heaven to soothe the consciences of people whose own greed makes that poverty possible. No wonder Mother Teresa had many good things to say about the Duvalier's in Haiti. Just think of all the opportunity the Duvalier's provided for the people of Haiti to experience holy poverty.
I think progressive Catholics need to put some time and effort in understanding this dynamic in the traditional and conservative Catholic mind set. Ignoring it will not make it go away nor lessen it's influence in the Vatican and subsequently on Catholic laity.
It strikes me that this Gospel of Poverty and Suffering is the other end of the pendulum swing from the Gospel of Prosperity. Both poverty and prosperity are aspects of life in the material plane of existence. But I fail to see how going to either extreme can be a path as intended by God to our Creator. Can we learn something from those aspects? Yes, absolutely. But I think that God intends both as a means for us to learn and practice compassion and not as an end in themselves. It simply is not compassionate to withhold medicine from the sick - not even if the medicine in question has possible side effects.ReplyDelete
The Kindom of God is found by going with in. With in to what?, is the operative question. We are beginning to find out it might actually involve the heart as well as the brain. The heart has a pocket of brain cells that are connected with the whole in a very different way. The heart communicates, thinks, and feels it's own thoughts, apparently by it's own rationale. Check this link out:Delete
I thought I was sort of out there because I have followed this research for a number of years, but I almost fell off my chair this week when I had to attend a workshops on de escalating psychotic clients. The facilitator used a great deal of information from the Institute of Heartmath. Since I had Immaculate Heart of Mary sisters in grade school, I thought the acronym for the Institute, IHM, was quite interesting. The first hierarchical purge against the LCWR orders involved the IHM in Los Angeles back in '68. Interesting times we live in.
Just came across this article. http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2012/04/30/religionandgenerosity/Delete
It looks to me like a possible explanation [if this info is true] of some of the differences too. Assuming more of what the article refers to as 'more religious' largely correspond to the 'conservatives' under discussion.
How convenient for the hierarchy of the RCC to insist its women religious live practically in the gutter and to keep those they serve in the gutter as well, and all the while they pompously parade around in silk, brocade, sip expensive brew, have access to only the best and are chauffeur driven in only the finest of automobiles.ReplyDelete
Coming from a conservative Catholic family, of SSPX bent, unfortunately, I have witnessed first hand the affects of teaching that make and keep women in servile positions that are dangerous to their health and spiritual well being. I've had considerable anger and angst over this issue of the RCC's betrayal of women and stealing the very life out of them with their greed and lust for power and consistent error of keeping women in their supposed place since Constantine.
These errors cause unlimited and provoked problems in the psyche of many. The men suffer from it as well. No one benefits from this sort of theology of misogyny and suffering which certainly has far reaching cultural affects upon the whole fabric of human existence.
A picture says a thousand words. Juxtapose the picture of Mother Theresa in this inhospitable cold, unprivate and uncomfortable, stuffed in a big concrete undecorated ugly place next to a photo op pix with an Archbishop in his palace, and I see a real problem with trying to sell the idea of "saving souls" vs the Vatican's lifestyle of saving their riches for themselves, taking donations that were meant to help the poor and stealing all their dreams.
Women to these men in the Vatican are just to be used and abused as the case may be, for their own selfish agenda.
I can't get past the fact there is no medical equipment of any sort. I have a friend who as a young doctor spent a year in India working first as a medical doctor for an Ashram and then with Mother Theresa. He didn't last six weeks working for Mother Theresa precisely because there was little in the way of medical equipment and nothing he could do to alleviate any of the physical suffering. He said he just couldn't get out of his western medical mindset which kept screaming at him to do something as opposed to passively accepting the inevitable.Delete
There is not a single window in there either. It looks like an airport hanger. It gives me an awful feeling just looking at that picture. The fact that there was no medical equipment to alleviate any of the physical suffering is very telling because we know the donations poured in for Mother Teresa. Where did the money go? I wonder who got all that money.Delete
I don't blame your friend for not sticking around that awful place. Can you imagine if PJPII had to rely on the services that were available to Mother Teresa?
Mother Theresa put the money in the Vatican Bank,hmmm, but she also built 400 convents around the globe. It's not so much that the money wasn't spent, but what it was spent on. Lots of people thought their donations were going to help the suffering poor in Calcutta, but they went to build convents. This is not to say that the convents offered much in the way of conveniences, because they didn't. It's just that once again donors assumed something that wasnt' reality.Delete
Butterfly, what things prompted you to distance yourself from traditionists within Catholicism.ReplyDelete
Many things over many years have caused me to distance myself from traditionist, as you call them. These are the big issues that I believe are the most important reasons:Delete
1. Misogyny - Rigid stances against women for way too many years
2. Denial of Communion to divorced and remarried/
the entire Church annulment procedures
3. An immature backward view of human sexuality - homophobia - against gay marriage
4. Distorted views like the theology of the body
5. Not allowing Priests to marry
6. Not allowing for freedom of conscience or sensus fidelium
7. Keeping people stupid & not closer to Jesus
8. Priest molesting children and the entire system of enablers protecting them
9. The ignorant condemnation they have for people like Hans Kung and other theologians
10. The support of SSPX - gay bashing, enabling Nazi sympathizers into the Church
11. Reading history of the Church, the Inquisition, knowing the fascist regimes they supported over the years, for hundreds of years
12. Just War theory, and the unjust treatment of too long a list to name here; Ben Salmon
13. The value they have for money greedily for themselves while people suffer & siding with the wealthy.
14. Fascist Vatican - The exclusion of the entire laity from choosing Church leadership
15. Excluding women in scripture from the liturgy, teaching that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute and denying her role as an Apostle to the Apostles. Eliminating Bible readings about spiritual women.
16. The support of groups such as Opus Dei, Legionnaires...
17. Hypocrisy, hypocrisy, hypocrisy.... Not setting a good example of love & working towards bringing love and peace into the world.
18. Too willing to condemn others and/or scapegoat others
19. A willingness to reject the marginalized.
That's just for starters.
Thank you for your reply. I came from a conservative Catholic background though not SSPX like yours and that is what I find also.Delete
It's worth noting that the poster known as Butterfly hasn't just rejected her traditional Catholic background, has rejected the Mass and all the sacraments as well.Delete
Invictus, it is further worth noting that one poster by the name of Invictus seems to get off on the criticism of those he does not understand. I am beginning to think that Invictus is a member of Opus Dei or one such secretive group that worships the idea of obedience and hierarchy. I did not hear Butterfly reject the Mass, I heard her express her understanding of what is wrong with the Church and the hypocrisy of those who believe they own the sacraments. dennisDelete
I agree with you Dennis. I don't understand where Invictus is coming to his conclusion based on what Butterfly actually wrote. Most I see is a desire to open up the Eucharist to divorced Catholics and objections to priesthood as it's currently constituted. Invictus must be of the 'all or nothing' mindset which I think Piaget called the 'concrete' stage of development.Delete
SSPX seems to have all the hallmarks of a cult.Delete
Butterfly said pretty clearly that there was no point going to Mass, unless I'm wrong. I might be. The comment was a long way back though - can anyone remember which blog post it followed on from? Its gist was "the Church is useless, I don't even bother with the sacraments anymore"...although, on a blog such as this, that sentiment doesn't exactly narrow down the options very much.Delete
John, I was too young to realize their views of VII. I did know of their right wing political leanings in the 1960's though because they were more verbal about the political issues than the Church issues. I was a teenager in the late 1960's and like most teens was out and about and didn't get to hear too much about their Church gripes. As well, I did not experience the VII Church in any meaningful sense until about fifteen years ago. I've read Thomas Merton and got filled in with his observations and experience of the 1960s and that was very helpful. Also, Thomas Merton was only a few years older than my parents, so reading him really gave me a better view of the time that he lived in and I gained more perspective from him of that time up to his death in 1968.ReplyDelete
I was a young child when JFK, and his supposed assassin were killed. I saw a lot of violence on TV as a child. Then there was the killing of RFK and MLK. There were a lot of funerals back then. There was also a war going on and all the boys in school were worrying about getting drafted. I saw a lot of violence on TV back then, and it was the real thing, not some video game.
Apparently they were very upset with VII and I never really understood what that was all about until a few years ago reading about it in NCR discussions. I had to look up a lot of stuff in google. I remember them bringing up the name of Levebre, I can't spell his name, the founder of SSPX, when I was visiting them in the 1980s. I didn't put the pieces of the puzzle together until really recently when, honest to God, I stumbled upon SSPX on the internet and then reading over the last few years has opened my eyes. I'm still getting pieces of information from other family members and my father stopped going to Church all together for I don't know how long and then they started going to a Latin Mass which was at least an hours drive.
It has taken me a long time to try to understand just where I have come from and gone through. It seems to me that when people's view of things is so distorted by someone like SSPX that it causes a lot of grief and chaos. What is most sad to me is the lies they were fed. They were good people and they were so terribly misled. They both died relatively young in their early 70s, no doubt from all the negative energy and life depleting politics of SSPX.
Butterfly, I am glad for your growth and development. I am very respectful of your views and what you have both learned and suffered.ReplyDelete
Colleen, thank you for repeating this article. It points out some major problems in the Roman Church that just continue to haunt it. dennis
John and Butterfly, I'm sorry to hear of past hurts and hope you are fidning healing. Have you stayed in the church?ReplyDelete
Erin, the way I see this is that the Roman Catholic Church keeps making the same mistakes over and over again in history and it has hurt us all. This is not just about me personally & my subjective experience, however, I have gained a unique perspective from my vantage point of my life experience.Delete
When the going gets rough, instead of building up Faith and nurturing that Faith, certain factions give strength and credence towards a violent and fascist-militant Church in alliance with secular powers seeking their own power & control over others. It is this political view of the Church which keeps this cycle of abuse going. That is not the answer that Jesus gives us in the Gospels.
The traditionist Catholics describe a Church in the narrowest of terms as obeisance & acceptace of a certain specific political consciousness that they prefer, and all else of consciousness is shut out and they decide who are the worthy one's for God's salvation, which is a blindness, immaturity and crippling disease. Their authority is to a political illusion dynamic that is in opposition to freedom of conscience and free will of individuals of a differing consciousness and it leads to violence.
That sort of denial of people who are different is not characteristic of being Christ-like who is love. The traditionist mindset is characteristic of being cult-like, who oppress others and can not love others.
The healing can be found by turning to Christ and seeking ways that will enable the strengthening of that friendship and encounter with love. Getting mired or emeshed in the obedience to men in powerful positions is not The Way.
Yes, I still attend weekly Mass and on Holy Days of Obligation. I also observe fasting.during Lent and Advent . I go to Reconcilation several times a year.Delete
Yes, I still attend Mass on Holy Days of Obligation and go to Reconciliation several times a year. I believe in the Apostles Creed and in the Sacrements. My issues are with the hierarchy and the stances that Butterfly wrote about. As a single Catholic man from Gen X I respect a lot of tradition but I eventually found the EWTN/ Crisis magazine/ JP2 the Great / St Blogs parish community of Catholics very stifling. One more Catholic Singles conference that I have to hear about the brilliance of JP2's Theology of the Body will be too soon. Not to say that it doesn't have some valid insights but it leaves many things out. The more traditional Catholics as someone remarked above are even more cultish from my experience with them online and the flesh. There are so many other stances that I have to take to be accepted in their communities that I saw no use going with them. I spent a year in an Amway downline group that was very conservative Evangelical also and yes I see similar trends in that and in some conservative and traditional Catholicism. The same appeals to the past when things were better in the country or the Church before those other people showed up and ruined it,etc. The people that disagree with us are benighted, lazy, sluts etc. Conservatism whether political or the religious version was supposed to be about the wisdom of tradition and considering its counsel but to often I hear mostly life was better before and it's only getting worse. Pull up the drawbridge and man the fortresses. I just tired of hearing this.Delete
John, I hear what you are saying regarding the conservative groups in Catholicism. These same types are in other Christian denominations too. The attitude is very denigrating towards "those other people" who to them, their scapegoats, "ruined" everything. I've found I cannot have a conversation with them because they are so domineering, presumptuous and narcissistic that if you say anything, question anything, in the slightest sense saying something different that might slightly resemble a perspective unlike their own - they will come back at you with a litany of verbatim and hellfire that they heard on Fox News or some right-wing conservative blog. It has been a painstaking process to try to communicate with those of the set in cement notions of Catholicism or the politics they suffer from as a result of set in toxic cement notions or propaganda that they seem too eager to entertain themselves in as reality. It has gotten to the point where too often I'm left just feeling defeated and bruised among such people and so for my own well-being need to not be anywhere near what can be considered toxic energy. I seem to recall in the Gospels that Jesus often had to run from those too eager to reject and hurt him.Delete
In this context, the LCWR are very prepared to deal with the bigots in our Church. They have my support and in unity with Christ these men in the hierarchy are in for a surprise.
The men in the hierarchy, if they had any sense at all, they would retire and end this drama against the women and stop exploiting us for their selfish political power trips. They could retire to an island somewhere far away from all women and children and laity. They could live in their big mansion and learn what it takes to make silk capes and ermine fur stoles. That would be a great mission for them.
Dennis, rdp, thank you for your comment. I have for a long time greatly admired your input here and the insight and wisdom you have put forth.Delete
SSPX is a poison and it should never have been allowed back into the Church. Never again was the saying that they want us to forget. I'm not forgetting that history, nor covering it up, nor enabling that to take seed again and grow into the monster that it became for so many. How is it that they cannot comprehend? I cannot comprehend their enabling this again. Their scapegoats may be different, but the end result is the same sort of death and mayhem for humanity.
I used to admire Mother Teresa but my eyes have been opened as to the sickness of her way of life. Jesus always provided physical healing. He provided spritual healing. He always did both together. If she wasn't trying to heal the sick from their physical suffering, then it seems to me that she was mentally sick.ReplyDelete
He also raised people from the dead and said His followers would do what He did and more. Catholicism has so totally failed at that. Instead of taking what Jesus said seriously, those who couldn't do as He did, taught us that saving our own individual souls was paramount. That was our task. No, our task was to love God, love others as ourselves, and heal the sick, comfort the afflicted, and bring the Kingdom to Earth. I don't think it's a kingdom as such. It's a paradigm shift in human consciousness. Guess what, the LCWR is the leading edge.Delete
Poor Mother Theresa had as her spiritual director/confessor the infamous serial child molester jesuit Rev. Donald McGuire who is now serving a federal prison sentence for more than twenty years. NO wonder she believed in the holiness of forced poverty and physical suffering. LIke so many women from so many centuries she was sold a bill of goods by men calling themselves jesuit priests who knew there was a pedophile among them for thirty years at least, and allowed that pedophile priest to roam the world giving retreats to religious men and women and then tobecome the spiritual influence on the internationally famous Mother Theresa.ReplyDelete
Yes anon. I left this link to an article at the NCR:Delete
It wasn't just Mother Teresa that gave McGuire a pass. It was also the conservative Catholics favorite Jesuit of Jesuits, John Hardon. It's hard to imagine one pedophile priest was able to taint two of conservative Catholics soon to be saintly heroes. "There is none so blind as they who will not see."
Thanks for sharing that anonymous. I did not know that a pedophile priest was her director and that is a scandal. No wonder she was coo coo coo coo .... She was sold a bill of goods and the rest of us were sold a bill of goods too.Delete
Absolutely prophetic, Colleen. And outstanding theology.ReplyDelete
It's so much easier to claim that the authority figure we're obeying speaks in the name of God, than to follow the gospel, which is open-ended in its demand that we love.
Thanks Bill, if you think this is good, I'm feeling warm all over, because I totally respect your theology.Delete
Yes, the Gospel is open ended in it's demand we love. There can't be an end to it because we mortals don't live long enough to truly get all that good or deep with love. Maybe that's why Jesus rose from the dead.....just kidding.
Colleen, thank you and the others who posted here for this meaningful discussion...Delete
I second your comment Michael.Delete
Butterfly...from restricted cocoon to beautiful butterfly....buttefly, among some native people a symbol of transformation...I have seen your name on numerous postings on Bilgrimage but were not aware of your journey....how you inspire and amaze me that you didn't throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water and retained your love and appreciation of the message of the Christ in spite of your experiences....I bow to you in gassho, as my Zen Buddhist friends would say...I bow to you in respect as a fellow pilgrim....the sharing about Mother Teresa brought to mind experiences I had in San Francisco in the eighties during the height of the AIDS epidemic...I worked in the clinic for a Catholic hospital - Sisters of Mercy of Burlingame - there at the time...we served the poor and also provided free medical care to nuns who did not have health insurance...Mother Teresa's "girls", as the clinic staff called them would come in for appointments....a number of them took care of people with AIDS, mostly poor gay men at that time...we would also see some of their residents...some of nuns had cold hard edges, unlike nuns that were in my family or those that taught me...I became disenchanted with them after engaging some of them in conversations and hearing from some of their residents....they were disdainfully judgmental of the homosexuality of their residents which struck me as odd given that their residents were dying....this was long before there were any AIDS meds available...they seemed to need to point this out...was this "condemn the sin but love the sinner?"...it got to the point that some of us felt sorry for those guys who landed up in their hospice...yes they were taken in and cared for but the judgments seemed so uncaring at the time...from the information above I can now better understand what I was observing in those days....the Zen Buddhists also had started a hospice in the Castro, the gay neighborhood...founded and staffed by a Zen priest, who himself had AIDS, and other mostly gay monks....I volunteered there for the last year I lived in SF before moving to the northwest....the atmosphere was respectful, loving and accepting and brought a spiritual healing to those men who mostly knew only rejection....the first resident to move into Maitri, eventually moved out on his own because his excellent care had helped rally his immune system and health...ReplyDelete
Michael, thank you for writing this. There are days I have now that make clear what kills the Holy Spirit from flying free from deep within us and making the music & singing the song that would set us all free.Delete
Reading about Mother Teresa now and this new image of her comes forth very powerfully now in a way that did not before. There is so much I could write about this because the image of Mother Teresa, JPII, that has been presented to us by the hierarchy is an image of what bad theology creates in the world. It creates suffering with no way out. I have no doubt that the US Bishops would try to turn hospitals into the one we see in the picture. That seems to be the direction they want to take health care.
So many have been in a cocoon who were restricted. Butterflies have to fly free. It is in their nature to be free. They do not decide what colors of the rainbow might fall on their wings. Can you imagine people discriminating against different colors of butterflies? And yet the bad theologies seem to do just that.
I just want to say how grateful I am for all of the sharing of thoughts and personal stories on this comment thread. Peace be with you all...ReplyDelete
And to you too Erin.Delete