Saturday, December 22, 2012

The God Emperor Of Roman Catholicism Speaks To His Faithfiul Acolytes

Pope Benedict has an obsession with gays, feminists, and insisting on the literacy of Genesis. On these issues he truly seems to think he is the God Emperor of Roman Catholicism.

I read Pope Benedict's annual message to the Vatican curia with zero expectations of finding anything hopeful or uplifting in his words.  Consequently I was not too disappointed. I am however, wondering how much longer we will have to live under a pope who inflicts the entire global church with his own unresolved issues under the guise of 'teaching' or 'instructing the faithful'.  I am tired of, and sad about, constantly reading this kind of instructing in which Benedict castigates Western culture for all of his personal woes while exhorting the developing world to ignore how population density is directly related to poverty and the ills associated with same. Men must dominate, women must be pregnant, and gays must return to the same deep closet he himself is so familiar with and all of this is God's will.  

I've broken up two extended paragraphs in his speech to illustrate my belief that Pope Benedict has some issues he himself has never addressed. Pope Benedict never comes out and mentions gays specifically or feminists directly.  Instead he uses innuendo and code words and hides behind the thinking of a Jewish Rabbi. He strings together observations which we are then to take his word for that they are linked in the way he links them. Well, OK, but some of these linkages are not all that logical.  But I guess when you are giving a speech to the lock stepping acolytes you don't have to make a whole lot of logical sense. Especially if you hold the very ontologically superior position of God Emperor of Roman Catholicism.

The great joy with which families from all over the world congregated in Milan indicates that, despite all impressions to the contrary, the family is still strong and vibrant today. But there is no denying the crisis that threatens it to its foundations – especially in the western world. (Benedict seems to have zero faith in the strength of the family.  How is it an institution, which he teaches us has been God's will from day one, is now so weak it can't stand under the assault from a relatively few gay marriages?  Or is it that it's the Roman Catholic clerical system that can't stand under the assault gay marriage represents to that culture?)

.... So it became clear that the question of the family is not just about a particular social construct, but about man himself – about what he is and what it takes to be authentically human. The challenges involved are manifold. First of all there is the question of the human capacity to make a commitment or to avoid commitment. Can one bind oneself for a lifetime? Does this correspond to man’s nature? Does it not contradict his freedom and the scope of his self-realization? Does man become himself by living for himself alone and only entering into relationships with others when he can break them off again at any time? Is lifelong commitment antithetical to freedom? Is commitment also worth suffering for? Man’s refusal to make any commitment – which is becoming increasingly widespread as a result of a false understanding of freedom and self-realization as well as the desire to escape suffering – means that man remains closed in on himself and keeps his "I" ultimately for himself, without really rising above it. Yet only in self-giving does man find himself, and only by opening himself to the other, to others, to children, to the family, only by letting himself be changed through suffering, does he discover the breadth of his humanity. When such commitment is repudiated, the key figures of human existence likewise vanish: father, mother, child – essential elements of the experience of being human are lost. (I understand this is a translation from Italian, but if you go back and read this it's expression is not gender neutral or inclusive and it could have easily been made so.  This is Benedict talking about humanity as if it's all about men and only about men and the male inability to make lifetime commitments.  For him this may be true, as this inability to make lifetime commitments has certainly impacted the number of male celibate clergy.)

The Chief Rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, has shown in a very detailed and profoundly moving study that the attack we are currently experiencing on the true structure of the family, made up of father, mother, and child, goes much deeper. While up to now we regarded a false understanding of the nature of human freedom as one cause of the crisis of the family, it is now becoming clear that the very notion of being – of what being human really means – is being called into question. He quotes the famous saying of Simone de Beauvoir: "one is not born a woman, one becomes so" (on ne naît pas femme, on le devient). These words lay the foundation for what is put forward today under the term "gender" as a new philosophy of sexuality. According to this philosophy, sex is no longer a given element of nature, that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society. (In these sentiments biological sex equals gender equals gender roles equals male dominance/female submission and it is all God's plan and patriarchy has nothing to do with it because patriarchy is the natural expresson of our male God's will.)

The profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves. (Exhibit number one of this process is the Church's demand for celibacy in it's male and female religious. Talk about denial of one's nature and forcing a contrived dualism on the nature of humanity.)

According to the biblical creation account, being created by God as male and female pertains to the essence of the human creature. This duality is an essential aspect of what being human is all about, as ordained by God. This very duality as something previously given is what is now disputed. The words of the creation account: "male and female he created them" (Gen 1:27) no longer apply. No, what applies now is this: it was not God who created them male and female – hitherto society did this, now we decide for ourselves. Man and woman as created realities, as the nature of the human being, no longer exist. Man calls his nature into question. (The biological difference between men and women is not being called into question.  What is being called into question is the social roles which have previously been socially ascribed, somewhat arbitrarily, based on whether one was born male or female.  This is not so much a threat to society, as it is a threat to the structure of Roman Catholicism.)

From now on he is merely spirit and will. The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man’s fundamental choice where he himself is concerned. From now on there is only the abstract human being, who chooses for himself what his nature is to be. Man and woman in their created state as complementary versions of what it means to be human are disputed. But if there is no pre-ordained duality of man and woman in creation, then neither is the family any longer a reality established by creation. (This is because the nuclear family is not a product of creation, it's a product of the last couple of centuries. The long term historical social unit was the tribe, not the nuclear family. Plus if there is no God given pre ordained duality, there is no theological justification for excluding women from leadership on the basis of their sexual chromosomes.)

Likewise, the child has lost the place he had occupied hitherto and the dignity pertaining to him. Bernheim shows that now, perforce, from being a subject of rights, the child has become an object to which people have a right and which they have a right to obtain. When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being. The defence of the family is about man himself. And it becomes clear that when God is denied, human dignity also disappears. Whoever defends God is defending man. (This last part is really a series of not well linked statements purportedly ending in the notion that gays adopting children somehow winds up making objects of children and denying man and denying God.  It makes me wonder what goes on in Benedict's head that it's impossible for him to see that he himself is objectifying gays and feminists by defining them as 'threats' to the whole of creation.)


Pope Benedict then goes on to describe three areas of dialogue that the Vatican needs to be concerned with: dialogue with nation states, dialogue with society, and dialogue with other religions.  Note the absence of dialogue with his subjects. God Emperors do not dialogue with their subjects.  Never have and never will.

So as 2013 approaches and 12/21/2012 passed without a whimper,  Catholics of the progressive variety are left confronting the last dregs of very old energy.  Like all 'last dregs' the stench is pretty powerful and the taste bitter.  I have great hope that 'this too shall pass' and we will move into a much more humane and compassionate future where the personal dysfunction of one man will not be allowed to dictate the spiritual and religious experiences of one billion people.


  1. Pope Benedict desires "dialogue" which is his code for ramming down his convoluted notions down everyone's throats. The "conversation" is rigged from the start, not to open dialogue, but to open only to that which resembles or mirrors the nonsense preached.

    To be perfectly honest, he talks in circles and I can not make any sense out of it at all. He is incoherent to most. The fundamentalists have no idea what he's really talking about either.

    Sounds as if he is against true creativity, which is against God. So therefore, according to his own spin, he is against man. That makes sense to me, because he truly is against man and against women.


  2. In addition, just look at that puss on his face. He is not all there. The crown, oh my! He thinks he is King. Amazing. And amazing people listen to him, let alone have dialogue with him!

    I can imagine having a "dialogue" with this Pope Benedict. Oh, my God. He absolutely could never relate to me, let alone most of the women on the planet!!


    1. No, Fran I bet Pope Benedict can relate to some women. I imagine he's very superficially polite to the women who cook and clean for him. On the other hand, Ingrid Stampa, who was the only female theologian he worked with, has gone the way of the butler and at the same time. No explanation for that move was given.

  3. I have to say, were it not for some of Benedict's other writings, I probably would not be a practicing Catholic today (and I am queer, if that carries any weight). I do think there is more to him than his fixations on these particular questions. In fact, I think there is much truth in a great deal of his concerns and critiques of contemporary Western society which are to do with the deterioration of our social fabric in a way that liberal individualism tends to ignore, and that even new concepts of gender and sexuality should not really be placed beyond critique, even conservative critique, just because these concepts are posited in the name of liberation. As a gay man, I can testify to a great deal of the darkness and loneliness that exists among us is abetted by pop culture and even spffy gender theories, even where affirmation and tolerance are offered. This really one of the papacy's mis-steps- the culture of gay marriage can actually be an attempt to foster commitment and self-sacrifice as an integral feature of gay life. There are opportunities to reconfigure the breakdown of the nuclear family and the decay of society into something that is genuinely demanding of and nourishing for the human spirit in a way that makes more sense to our age– though not by much sense, I might add.

    I think you pointed some of this out, Colleen, about this obsession with the nuclear family. There are other modes of family, there can be. The Vatican should be targetting the brand of individualism that sees all obligations as burdensome in an evil way. Money, fame, greed, social status, and power are really far more dangerous than two women or two men (and their mother's) wanting to raise a child. Correction: the latter are in no way intrinsically dangerous!

    Part of the problem here, the cross wiring of signals, is that the image of the liberated gay man or woman is being whored for commercial purposes. Buy GAP clothes or McDonalds because they support really sexy gay couples kissing on giant billboards. Pride parades are as much as parades of Smirnof, Best Buy, Budweiser and Trojan labels are they are parades of free(d) persons.

    A wise professor recently once told me that there will inevitibly be someone who holds the truth out to you, the truth that you always sought, out in his hand. But held this truth will be held out hopelessly entangled with a lie. More or less, this how I tend to view the Catholic Magisterium these days. Even gay liberation. Actually, many features of the Church's critique of comtemporary life are really insightful. But its proposed medicine also tends to be posited in such a way that requires slurrping from another deadly cup: a poison to cure poison, as it were. Like radiation. One cancerous causing agent to kill another. People are right to generally avoid this.

    At any rate, I'm just adding my voice. To me, Benedict is not the "God-Empoeror" in either a derrogatory or a celebratory manner. I do look to him as a spiritual father, thinking that he is also a "grand father": not in touch, but not useless. I think he is out for the good of my soul. We should pray from him.

    1. I do actually pray for him, Jordan. I pray that he will have the great awakening, ala Thomas Aquinas, and like Aquinas he will suddenly know all his vaunted intellectual writings 'are so much straw'.

      I too have found some of his writings inspiring and insightful, but what he can't seem to see is we can't act on his insight if we don't change gender expectations, especially male expectations for dominance and unexamined entitlements such as right of inheritance and family name. The last alone brought forth a sex selective holocaust in India and China, both countries now paying a social price for this insanity. Not too mention it has exploded the sex slave trafficking in Indo China. Where was Pope Benedict's voice on this issue? No where to be found because to do so would undercut his whole 'gender complementarity' argument which is based in male control of material reality.

      Pope Benedict is out for peoples souls on his terms. I don't happen to think much of his terms, being female and all. I think Jesus is a far better source of wisdom.

    2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jordan. I read what you wrote and understand what you are saying here.

  4. Sorry for the spelling errors. Wish there was an edit feature. I meant to add "I think he is out for the good of my soul, which is more than can be said for Apple or Facebook 'emperors', who typically have more influence on the most of us. One received a saint's funeral and the latter might well, if the day comes."

    1. You can edit your posts but it's kind of pain. You have to do it by using the delete button. Before you delete the comment copy it and then paste it in a new comment box and make the corrections you want before you post. But if you are really on top of things, you use the preview button before the post button--not that I ever remember to do that. LOL

  5. Jordan St. are indeed a puzzlement of contradictions....seems to me that to say that Benedict "is out for the good of my soul" is akin to saying: beat me, beat me, show me how much you love me.....not a pretty do you turn a steady stream of virulently anti-gay pronouncements issued over a long period of time into a statement positing "I think he is out for the good of my soul"?!...please explain...what exactly do you mean?...this man almost singlehandedly turned the Church's stance on gays from "it's an orientation, not a choice" to "gays wanting to marry are a threat to civilization itself"...if you believe Church teaching on sexuality - that it is a mortal sin to have sex outside of marriage and if you are gay you must always abstain from sexual intimacy and if you don't you will burn in hell fire for all eternity - if you believe this then you are, to me, suffering from internalized homophobia and need a good dose of political action directed at your oppressor or therapy to counteract this situation.....corporations have always tried to coopt all liberations movements in our society since I can is the nature of the corporate beast....liberation movements need to re-invent themselves from time to time to shake off this co-optation...

    1. Michael I had to laugh at your last sentences. All one need do is look at commercials for home appliances. They used to be all about lip stick painted women with flawless nails in dresses and heels pushing vacuums and loading clothes washers. Now these same products are all about high tech features with nary a high heel or painted lip in sight.

      Although I do think Jordan has a point about certain companies and products having more power in child development than religious or parental guidance, this doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing, and it most certainly is not always a good thing.

  6. Let's note that in the western world and in some places in Asia, women have achieved (relatively) equal access to education and opportunities, resulting in now being a large proportion of physicians, scientists, and other high level positions, this to the benefit of society. Not inconsequently, the same areas tend to be more open to homosexual relations.

    In other words, tribal areas, dictatorships, Moslem countries, and the official dictates of the RCC belong on the other side of the divide. I wonder if the Pope and the evangelical and Republican neo-cons would like to publicly claim their membership in this grouping.

  7. A comment or two...I agree that Benedict talks in circles. I think that is what happens when a person becomes disconnected from reality. It is all Vatican non sense.

    I feel a certain personal connection with pope Ratzinger. I had just summoned the courage at mid life to come out to friends and associates as a gay person only to be confronted with Cardinal Ratzinger's infamous Halloween letter in 1986.

    In those days I had began attending Dignity at a Catholic Church only to witness many bishops in vatican lock step start throwing Dignity from church property. I was in Chicago at the time. I wrote Cardinal Bernardin. He wrote back a very kindly letter that he did not think the CDF wording was very pastoral and would make known his thoughts to Rome. I still have his letter. Bernardin did throw Dignity off the church property. In the end, however, Bernardin did have one of the Chicago gay choruses perform late at night at his wake service. You figure.

    For me it was an exhilarating time but also a dangerous time because the AIDS pandemic was devastating the gay community. I did exercise my freedom to look for a suitable partner. Alas, I met many wonderful men. For many reasons at my ripe age, I am still single. In my experience the many gay men I met in relationships were well adjusted. I can also say those relationships saved some priests from real pain and were a blessing. The common wisdom in the gay priestly community is that it made them better priests.

    I spent the day looking for an "authority" on the interpretation of the second creation account that God did not intend for us to be alone. I am pretty certain it was John McNeil. I could not find what I was looking for.

    I have more on Benedict's war on gays, but it will have to wait for another time.

    I appreciate your time reading Benedict's writings. I really don't have time. I would also welcome something really inspiring from the head of the Catholic Church at Christmas. Benedict is a disappointment, but not unexpected. In my understanding, Christmas means that there is a personal and relational spark at the very center of this very vast, cold and impersonal universe. The pope, in my little opinion, has so missed that Truth.

    1. Vatican non sense. I like that. I can't ever begin to explain how freeing oneself to experience relational love, even, or maybe especially, the sexual part, is so important to spiritual human development. Rebel Girl posted a piece a couple of days ago about Mexican priest who is quite the free spirit. His take on his one and only sexual love is pretty profound and matches my experience. Love is it's own game, played by it's own rules and for any institution to think they can determine the rules, is "non sense'.

  8. Part of the problem is that I think Catholic hierarchs expect their opponents are operating according to the same sort of strict Scholastic logical-consistency that they hold themselves to. This winds up as reading philosophical conclusions into their positions that aren't necessarily there.

    There is a certain "logic" to what Benedict says here, inasmuch as SOME of the arguments for gay marriage wind up seeming like they're more about the deconstruction of sex rather than toleration of variant sexual orientations. I'm a gay man who is by no means in favor of the sort of rigid essentialism the institutional church often seems to be proposing in the field of gender and sexuality, but I'm also inclined to look suspiciously at a gay liberationism that pushes it's own form of (gay) essentialism just as much.

    For example, take the argument comparing gay marriage to interracial marriage and the need for the Supreme Court to legalize it. If we dissect this argument according to strict logic, it isn't entirely coherent. The argument is usually made in response to a conservative counter-argument. The conservatives say, "This isn't discrimination against gays as a class of individual, because a gay man and straight woman, or gay man and lesbian even, can still get married. And two straight men can't get married. So it's not about orientation, it's about the sexual composition/structure of the couple. And while we can't discriminate individuals, we are allowed to preference some forms or structures of association over others."

    The liberal side then counters, "Well, but interracial marriage didn't target individuals. It's not like blacks couldn't marry on account of being black; but they couldn't marry whites, and there is clear racial discrimination here, even if it is distinguishing couples based on racial composition, rather than individuals based on race."

    However, if we carry this logic forward by strict analogy (which is what analytic scholastic types love to do)...then you wind up asking, "Okay, so what is the comparable category here? That was discrimination based on race. What is the discrimination based on here?" The answer we might instinctually be inclined to say is "Sexual orientation, of course!" But that's not quite true. Gay marriage, as an issue, isn't at base about allowing a gay to marry a gay, or about compositions of couples based on orientation (all combinations in that regard are possible already). Legally it's effect would be allowing a MALE to marry a MALE (regardless of their orientations).

    In other words, the category being dealt with is sex, not orientation, but it's being deconstructed using gays and accusations of homophobia as the "excuse." But at the end of the day, the "logical" effect of legitimizing gay marriage (which I'm actually basically FOR, mind you)...can be interpreted (by those expecting a strict logic to these things) about saying that the two sexes are interchangeable and equivalent, not merely that various orientations are equivalent. But there is something not according to strict "logic" there, as "sex" is a relative category, defined only against its own duality, and one expecting logic might legitimately ask why everyone isn't then bisexual, or why sex is the category around which orientation is based at all...if the two sexes are essentially interchangeable or equivalent. Why are our sexual attractions constructed as directed towards the category of sex...if the two sexes are equivalent and interchangeable and irrelevant to sexual interaction?

  9. Of course, there isn't necessarily a strict logic in these accounts. In reality, I'd identify three major approaches one can take to the question of homosexuality:

    The first is, indeed, atheism. It's saying that there is no final coherence or vision that makes sense of desire, no telos, no ultimate "objective" meaning to the universe, no final Good out at the eschaton towards which desire tends, no single "whole picture" that makes sense of the fragments. This can be nihilistic. Or it can be existentialist, saying that in spite of this, we make meaning for ourselves in a radically subjectivist way.

    The second is what we might call "queer theology." It would still admit of a final telos or Good or "objective" account of reality and morality, etc, but just thinks that homosexuality is part of that. There "would have been gays in Eden," it's just a variety of diverse human experience, but ultimately a PART of an "absolute" final coherence of "whole picture." There is a (single, final) natural order, it's just that gays are part of it. Gay Essentialism is part of this view (as well as pop-culture narratives that would essentialize this or that gay sex act as that naturally tended towards, etc).

    Finally, there is orthodoxy which proposes the "logically consistent" Catholic account as the "whole picture" of sexuality, the telos towards which sexual desire tends and which renders it coherent and fully intelligible. (But, I'd argue, there are two ways to understand this vision: a fundamentalist and dogmatic way, and a way which is much more accomodationist of human fragmentation and brokenness).

    The problem with the hierarchy now, I think, is that they understand their orthodoxy in the fundamentalist way, and furthermore expect a sort of Scholastic logical consistency from their opponents. Now, if you're looking for a position that is "consistent" in this sense that supports homosexuality...well, then you do wind up on the atheist end of things. "Queer theology" is, generally, not intellectually consistent or convincing on that level. It's sort of a fudging of things, very historically contingent and very sentimentalist.

    However, I'd argue, MOST people supporting gay marriage and stuff...are not, on that account, atheist. They give their opponents too much credit for logical consistency. In reality, most of the gay liberation crowd ARE something like "queer theologians." Whether they'd say they believe in God or not, their belief is basically an essentialism that sees homosexuality as PART of an objective natural order (even if that account isn't quite logically coherent), NOT an atheism that would say there simply is no logical order or final telos.

    Furthermore, in my experience, many of the supports of gay marriage (at least, the heterosexual supporters) are not even queer theologians, but are more of the "tragic accomodationist" camp; they see gay marriage as an accommodation in an unideal situation. They'd recognize that the orthodox "logical/rational" account of sexuality is the most coherent, the most whole, the most integrated objectively, it makes the most "sense" of the various pieces of sexuality...but that the compassionate response to human brokenness is to let people do "the best they can" with the cards they've been dealt, the pieces they've been given. This sort of accomodationism really threatens the "fundamentalist" account, even though both ultimately accept a similar tradition or vision...but engage it very differently in terms of what it implies for human behavior (and the attempts to regulate that behavior politically).

  10. However, I think you would be naive to expect the Magisterium to ever change its teachings. I'm not sure they recognize it themselves, but I have found much enlightenment in Paul's epistle to the Romans. In chapters 5-8 especially, he lays out a vision of "Law and spirit" that is really quite nuanced and fascinating. Paul emphasizes consistently that he's not against "the law" (which doesn't refer to just the Mosaic Law, though that's the archetypal symbol, but to all "external, legal" accounts of morality) and is not even saying breaking the law is ideal. But he establishes an extremely dynamic relationship between the law and sin and spirit, which implies that engaging "the law" is not a matter of simple submission or obedience, but is a matter, even, of "dying to the law" for the sake of spirit and grace.

    I think, generally, it's best to understand the Magisterium as advocating The Law. They push the rigid fully "logical" or rational vision when it comes to morals, etc, and that's not going to change. However, we should engage that "law" according to the method laid out by Paul which (while not against that law in any sense), sets it a sort of dynamic tension with spirit and grace. The Magisterium is "one pole" in a dialogue, one anchoring point on which a certain tension is hooked. I have no expectations that it is going to move when it comes to the "law" it proposes.

    However, I do expect that as a matter of pastoral approach (and personal appropriation) we will see people more and more understanding that the proper response to this "law" is not fundamentalist submission (we're not Muslims!) but a sort of grappling or engaging in the manner Paul lays out in Romans, that has a lot more accommodation for human weakness and brokenness and fragmentation, which doesn't deny human brokenness (sinfulness) or the relative incoherence of desire, but takes the extremely nuanced position of Paul in Romans that begins with "where sin abounded, grace did more abound."

    1. Wow, I have to give some thought to what you've written here, and many thanks for taking the time to write it.

      My first response is a little different. Love, as a real force in a relational sense, also has meaning in this conversation. Some folks, of which I am one, think physical touch is the reason sentient life exists in material reality. It's a very different expression of love. Sex is just one part of that expression, but orientation should not limit that expression when relational love is involved. Parental touch is another huge component of physical touch for sentient beings. Babies who do not experience such touch grow up with major issues, sociopathological tendencies just one of many. For the Church to focus exclusively on sexuality in homosexuality ignores all kinds of other areas in which touch is important. It's a pretty narrow definition that hardly covers a very important human component.

    2. Indeed. I think another thing you will see, which they could say even without compromising "the Law" they propose (which is still, as Paul explains, a law of bondage) recognizing the validity of human love and relationships. It will take them a while, but I do think you'll see a recognition of relationships. I don't think they'll ever budge on "the Law" the propose when it comes to sex, but I think you will see a recognition that relationships cannot be reduced to the sex acts they might occasionally contain, and that even if you disagree with those or think they are to some degree broken, sinful, "missing the mark," unideal, etc whatever...that it doesn't sink the whole ship, that the teachings are not targeting people or relationships.

      Of course, even then there is something problematic about the "fundamentalist" interpretation of sexual moral teachings. The psychological effects that trying to "impose" that on oneself can have, and the effects on relationships, can be deleterious. But I don't think the final solution, pastorally or for the individual appropriating Church teaching for themselves, is going to involve changing "the Law" (which is very logically coherent), but rather people will just have to make the realization Paul made regarding "dying to the law" and the tension between that law and grace: "For until the law sin was in the world; but sin was not imputed, when the law was not," "What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? God forbid. But I do not know sin, but by the law; for I had not known concupiscence, if the law did not say: Thou shalt not covet. But sin taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. And I lived some time without the law. But when the commandment came, sin revived, And I died. And the commandment that was ordained to life, the same was found to be unto death to me."

      There is a rich mystical interpretation here, and some even suggest he's even giving a sort of mini salvation history here (ie, that the "I" is mankind as a whole). But I think it also involves the moral evolution of the individual and how they engage the moral "law" and how the law "submitted" to, in the fundamentalist sense, as an external imposition, is actually "unto death."

  11. First a childhood, boundless and without
    negation and goal. O unthinking joy.
    Suddenly fright, limit, schoolroom, slavery,
    and fall into temptation, into loss.

    Defiance. The bent knee now becomes the bender
    and seeks revenge on others, makes them succumb.
    Loved, dreaded, rescuer, wrestler, victor
    and vanquisher, role by role.

    And then alone in vastness, lightness, cold.
    Yet deep in that erected figure
    a breathing toward the First, the Ancient…

    Then God plunged out of his hiding place.

    [Rilke, "Imaginary Careerr" (Imaginärer Lebenslauf)]

  12. "How is it an institution, which he teaches us has been God's will from day one, is now so weak it can't stand under the assault from a relatively few gay marriages? Or is it that it's the Roman Catholic clerical system that can't stand under the assault gay marriage represents to that culture?"

    ## Think of him as a Fundamentalist, and a lot falls into place. Fundamentalism is an ideology - as such, it can be found in any Church, in political parties, non-Christian religions, even among atheists.

    It is necessary to the myth of Fundamentalism by which it understands itself, that it is always surrounded by enemies. Because this is part of its myth, the ascertainable facts are irrelevant: if the entire world were devoutly Catholic, and behaving exactly as desired, the myth would not be affected: there would still be the idea that the CC is surrounded by a horde of enemies - and Fundamentalism's enemy-in-chief is the liberal. It may even be that they are identical. A liberal is, because a liberal, a satanic figure, a being of relentless & untiring malice, the personified contradiction of Fundamentalism. And because Fundamentalism is alone true, alone virtuous, and has an absolute monopoly on all good, the liberal is the Worst Being In The Universe - again, this has nothing to do with how liberals actually behave, & everything to do with the myth.

    Fundamentalism is of its nature also always the innocent and unoffending victim - it is persecuted, and this proves it was totally right, all along, about everything, in every way; and is further proof (not that any is needed !) of the nefariousness of the liberals. There are also liberals in the Fundamentalist body - this further proves how desperately persecuted the Fundamentalism is, and is a reason for the "true believers" to be even more faithful to their Fundamentalism, and ever more resolute against later outbursts of liberal deviationism: the solution to the ills of Fundamentalism, is to be more Fundamentalist than before - for if the "true believers" had been faithful, the liberald within could not possibly have arisen, since the Fundamentalism is flawless & right & perfect.

    This sense of encirclement & unending danger is - I suspect - the main reason why the Pope "seems to have zero faith in the strength of the family", & why it is that "an institution, which he teaches us has been God's will from day one, is now so weak it can't stand under the assault from a relatively few gay marriages". This is consistent with the Fundamentalist myth of perpetual & undeserved victimhood. Fundamentalism will not tolerate criticism, however respectful or justified; it is very sensitive to criticism, and longs for praise.

    No book I have read by a Catholic shows any understanding of Fundamentalism. The best book by far is "Fundamentalism" by the late James Barr. He bases his remarks on the Fundamentalism of conservative Evangelical Protestantism in the US & UK, but the ways of thinking that he notes can be found in Soviet Communism, & Catholicism, and elsewhere. Fundamentalism needs, not the Bible in particular, but a symbol for its ideology - & in conservative Evangelical Protestantism in the US & UK, that symbol is the Bible, conceived of as totally inerrant. Fundamentalisms are all-encompassing POVS - co-existence with a different POV is not an ideal; and Fundamentalism allows validity to the views only of Fundamentalism: it does not or it cannot imagine that any others are of any value. It does not want dialogue or compromise, but absolute agreement with itself. It has a greatly oversimplified view of non-Fundamentalist thinking, as though to say that all colours that are not white, are black. So even very conservative views on the Bible (say) count as liberal, if they are not fundamentalist on the terms of Biblical Fundamentalism.