Friday, May 31, 2013

Solidarity Is Not The Way Of The Ferengi

In the Star Trek universe, the Grand Nagus, otherwise known as the "Ferengi Pope", has a different idea of solidarity, but then the Ferengi were created to be ultra capitalists on steroids.  The Catholic neocons should take note.

Solidarity seems to be the current word making the rounds.  I don't find that particularly surprising given the current economic situation around the globe.  People seem to finally be making the connection that resources are finite and that distribution of those resources will in fact necessitate a change in the world view of what constitutes an ethical distribution of finite resources. Today I offer two voices who both say the same thing from different starting points and then I add my own view from a very different starting point.  First I offer one of Pope Francis' latest homilies on this subject, a subject which is popping up frequently in his homilies.  It is followed by the thoughts of the Spanish theologian Jose Antonio Pagola.  The Pope Francis article is courtesy of NCR and Pagola's courtesy of Iglesia Descalza.

Francis links Eucharist with global solidarity

Thomas C Fox - National Catholic Reporter - 5/31/2013
One of themes Pope Francis repeatedly returns to in his talks and spiritual reflections is the idea of solidarity – a global solidarity, rich and poor, stemming from the recognition of being children of God.  He sees the church as the instrument of building this recognition and then drawing humanity together.

This recognition, he insists, is not without responsibility. We are all required to live in solidarity with each other, rich and poor. This means caring for each other. Those with resources have a particular responsibility to “feed” those without such resources.
Francis returned to his “solidarity” theme in his Corpus Christi homily Sunday. The following is an excerpt from his homily.

"The multiplication of the loaves [is born of] Jesus' invitation to his disciples: 'Feed them yourselves', 'give', share. What do the disciples share? What little they have: five loaves and two fishes. But it is precisely those loaves and fishes that, in God’s hands, feed the whole crowd. And it is precisely the disciples, bewildered by the inability of their means, by the poverty of what they have at their disposal, who invite the people to sit down and— trusting Jesus' word of—distribute the loaves and fishes that feed the crowd. This tells us that in the Church, but also in society, a keyword that we need not fear is 'solidarity', that is, knowing how to place what we have at God’s disposal, our humble abilities, because only in sharing them, in giving them, that our lives will be fruitful, will bear fruit. Solidarity: a word upon which the spirit of the world looks unkindly!” (Or distorts it to mean something else entirely.)

“Tonight, once again, the Lord gives us the bread which is his body. He makes a gift of himself. We also experiencing “God's solidarity” with humanity, ... a solidarity that never ceases to amaze us. God draws near to us. In the sacrifice of the Cross He lowers himself, entering into the darkness of death in order to give us his life, which conquers evil, selfishness, and death. This evening too, Jesus gives himself to us in the Eucharist. He shares our journey, or rather, He becomes food, real food that sustains our lives even at the times when the going is rough, when obstacles slow our steps. In the Eucharist, the Lord makes us follow his path, the path of service, sharing, and giving—and what little we have, what little we are, if shared, becomes wealth, because the power of God, which is love, descends into our poverty to transform it.”

“Discipleship, communion, and sharing. Let us pray that our participation in the Eucharist may always inspire us: to follow the Lord every day, to be instruments of communion, to share what we are with Him and with our neighbor. Then our lives will be truly fruitful.”

Amidst the Crisis

Jose Antonio Pagola - translation by Rebel Girl - Iglesia Descalza
The economic crisis is going to be long and hard. We shouldn't kid ourselves. We won't be able to look the other way. In our more or less immediate environment, we will be meeting families who are forced to live on charity, people threatened with eviction, neighbors hit by unemployment, sick people who don't know how to solve their health care or medicine problems. No one knows very well how society will react.

Undoubtedly, the powerlessness, rage, and demoralization of many will grow. That the conflict and crime will increase is predictable. It will be easy for selfishness and obsession with one's own security to grow.

But it's also possible that solidarity will grow. The crisis could make us more humane. It could teach us to share what we have and don't need. It could strengthen ties and mutual support within families. Our sensitivity to the neediest could grow. We will be poorer, but we could be more humane.

In the midst of the crisis, our Christian communities could also grow in brotherly love. It's the time to find out that it isn't possible to follow Jesus and collaborate in the humanizing plan of the Father without working for a more just and less corrupt society, one that is more supportive and less selfish, more responsible and less frivolous and consumerist.

It's also time to regain the humanizing strength that lies in the Eucharist when it's experienced as love confessed and shared. The meeting of Christians, gathered each Sunday around Jesus, must become a place of consciousness raising and impulse towards practical solidarity.

The crisis could shake up our routine and mediocrity. We can't commune with Christ in the privacy of our hearts without communing with our brothers and sisters who are suffering. We can't share the bread of the Eucharist while ignoring the hunger of millions of human beings who are deprived of bread and justice. Passing the peace among ourselves while forgetting those who are socially excluded, is a joke.

The celebration of the Eucharist must help us open our eyes to discover who we have to defend, support, and help in these times. It must awaken us from the "illusion of innocence" that lets us live in peace, bestirring ourselves and fighting only when we see that our interests are in jeopardy. Experienced faithfully every Sunday, it can make us more humane and better followers of Jesus. It can help us live through the crisis with Christian insight, without losing dignity or hope.


I always thought the economic system in the Star Trek universe was interesting in that the Federation had somehow moved beyond the need for money and there was, according to Captain Kirk, no poverty on the 23rd century Earth.  Instead of money, humanity had access to Federation credits and the gold pressed Latinum coveted by the Ferengi. The members of the Federation themselves though, had somehow evolved beyond the need for the acquisition of personal wealth.  I always wondered how that happened.  I suspected it must have had something to do with the invention of replicators. What's the point of acquisition if everyone had virtually unlimited access to anything they wanted. Personal challenges would have to be found in something else.  Maybe such things as exploring the Universe or pursuing knowledge or hobnobbing with more advance beings or attempting to solve what must have been an enormous garbage problem brought on by a humanity that could replicate what ever it wanted.  In any event, Gene Roddenberry never did explain how the economic system in his fictional world was created, or why humanity evolved beyond personal greed and/or the pursuit of wealth as the marker for personal success. Or for that matter,  why the Ferengi didn't use replicators to produce gold pressed Latinum bars.  Maybe that's why Star Trek is frequently placed in the Utopian genre of literature.  Exactly like actually living the Christian way as espoused by Jesus is generally considered Utopian.

I bring the replicator thing up because Pope Francis' homily revolves around the feeding of the 4000 by Jesus. That's a pretty good feat of replication on the part of Jesus. If Christians had ever consistently 'replicated' this feat, we might have a very different economic system and very different definition of personal success.  Nice thing about the kind of replication Jesus is written to have accomplished is that it can't be weaponized.  I'm not sure that can be said for Star Trek's replicators which is one reason it would be nice if Christians had retained any of the spiritual gifts listed in the Gospels and executed by the Apostles.  When humanity creates through science it is always weaponized before the consumer technologies can grace the consumer market.  This is probably the main reason I have very little faith that science will actually ever result in the enlightened more benevolent universe of Star Trek.

Francis' point is the Apostles trusted that Jesus would somehow take their meager stocks and make them adequate.  The miracle was in their trust that God would provide.  This kind of thing still happens today but it's not so spectacular and is almost always chalked up to random coincidence.  I can't begin to recount all the anecdotal stories I've heard, or been involved with, where adequate supplies just 'coincidentally' become available.  Manifestation does seem to be a product of human faith/consciousness, but it doesn't usually happen quite like Jesus feeding 4000 or Captain Picard asking for Earl Grey tea and having it materialize in a replicator.  It's much more subtle which creates less of a threat to those not quite ready to credence it happens, and unfortunately it's seeming randomness reduces it's trustworthiness.  But the real truth is probably something different.  Humanity is far more up close and personal with scarcity than it is adequacy. Coping with scarcity is reality.  Reveling in abundance is fantasy.  The First world has successfully created a reality in which more and more people are now experiencing the reality of scarcity and it is a reality that is coming home to the First World.  The manifestation of scarcity is more believable because it's so much more a part of our collective reality.  The poor will always be with us because we don't seem to have the imagination to create a different reality.  Antonio Pagnola makes a pertinent observation about the growth of demoralization with it's concomitant obsession with personal security. It can potentially result in a no holds barred competition over scarcity rather than a collective cooperation towards mutual adequacy.

Both Francis and Antonio Pagnola see a further awakening to solidarity as the antidote to a our individual fears about scarcity.  The Ferengi solution of ruthless competition need not be the only answer.  There is enough if people are willing to share.  God does and will provide if people trust and believe and are willing to act in solidarity with one another.  That too is part of the story in the feeding of the 4000.  Had those few with something to share withheld it for fear for their own survival, Jesus would not have been able to multiply anything.  

I view the current economic mess as an opportunity to once again try the idea of Christian solidarity, and like Pope Francis, I see this as not just a local experiment, but a global necessity. Humanity needs another economic system.  One more in keeping with the dignity and rights of all people.  Not one that keeps enshrining the Ferengi amongst us as the epitome of the successful human.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

And Now Word That Another Vatican II True Believer Has Passed On--Fr Andrew Greeley

Fr Andrew Greeley, one of America's most outspoken priests, died last night at 85 years young.
The Chicago Tribune reports this morning that Fr Andrew Greeley has died at his home.  While a fall fractured his skull in 2008 and silenced his voice, his influence on Catholic thinking continued to be tremendous.  I had my occasional issues with Fr Greeley, but I have truly missed his voice.  Whether I agreed or disagreed with his writing, he always forced me to think and clarify my agreements or disagreements.  May God grant him peace and show him the answers to the questions he researched while here on earth.

Priest, author, critic Andrew Greeley dead at 85

By Trevor Jensen and Margaret Ramirez - Chicago Tribune - 5/30/2013
Rev. Andrew Greeley, the outspoken Roman Catholic priest, best-selling novelist and sociologist known for his deeply researched academic appraisals and sometimes scathing critiques of his church, died Wednesday night, several years after fracturing his skull in a freakish fall in Rosemont.
Rev. Greeley died in his sleep at his apartment at the John Hancock Center, according to his spokeswoman, June Rosner. He was 85.
Rosner said Rev. Greeley had been in poor health since an accident on Nov. 7, 2008. He was at Advocate Lutheran General Medical Center when a piece of his clothing apparently got caught in the door of a departing taxi and he was thrown to the pavement.
The family released a statement this morning saying “our lives have been tremendously enriched by having the presence of Fr. Andrew Greeley in our family. First and foremost as a loving uncle who was always there for us with unfailing support or with a gentle nudge, who shared with us both the little things and the big moments of family life.
“But we were specially graced that this man was also an amazing priest who recently celebrated the 59th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. He served the Church all those years with a prophetic voice and with unfailing dedication, and the Church he and our parents taught us to love is a better place because of him.  Our hearts are heavy with grief, but we find hope in the promise of Heaven that our uncle spent his life proclaiming to us, his friends, his parishioners and his many fans.  He resides now with the Lord of the Dance, and that dance will go on.”
A highly-regarded sociologist, preternaturally prolific author and unabashedly liberal Chicago priest, Rev. Greeley regularly took his church to task in both his fiction and his scholarly work. His non-fiction books covered topics from Catholic education to Irish history to Jesus’ relationships with women.
Rev. Greeley authored some 50 best-selling novels and more than 100 works of non-fiction that were translated into 12 languages.
His racy novels and detective stories, which often closely paralleled real events, aired out Catholic controversies and hummed with detailed bedroom romps that kept readers rapt and coming back for more. Best-sellers like The Cardinal Sins in 1981 earned him millions of dollars, much of which he donated to the church and charities.
Rev. Greeley filled many of his books with the results of work he did at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, where he’d done work since his days as a doctoral candidate in the early 1960s. He also taught sociology at the University of Arizona. But, Greeley said his immense body of research and writing was merely a reflection of his calling to be a priest.
“I’m a priest, pure and simple,” Greeley told the Tribune in 1992. “The other things I do — sociological research, my newspaper columns, the novels I write — are just my way of being a priest. I decided I wanted to be one when I was a kid growing up on the West Side. I’ve never wavered or wanted to be anything but.”
Rev. Greeley’s research at NORC showed “that the idea that societies inevitably become more secular as they modernize is untrue,” said Tom W. Smith, director of the General Social Survey at NRC.
“I think he drew many of his hypotheses from his vocation as a Catholic priest,” Smith said in an e-mailed statement. “He then put those ideas to rigorous scientific testing.”
Rev. Greeley criticized the church hierarchy over issues including its teaching on contraception and the way bishops handled the sexual abuse crisis. His blunt criticism set him apart from other Catholic sociologists, said Martin Marty, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago Divinity School.
“Some sociologists are cautious,” Marty said. “He took risks all the time. But he was extremely careful to be sure he had the data.”
“So, he didn’t just crunch numbers. He interpreted them….and he was never afraid to interpret things very loudly.”
Marty, who also shared the same Feb. 5 birthday as Greeley, said there was never any doubt that Greeley loved the church.
“He was a very, very faithful Catholic and he was a proudly celibate priest. He wasn’t ever changing himself,” Marty said.
Much of his more recent research on Catholicism included calls for the Church to respond to the needs of contemporary Catholics.
In his 2004 book, “The Catholic Revolution: New Wine, Old Wineskins, and the Second Vatican Council,” Greeley wrote that the Vatican II reforms caused a rift between leadership and laity that resulted in a new generation of Catholics who have redefined the faith in their own terms.
These Catholics, Greeley wrote, hold onto core doctrines and traditions even as they disagree with the rules in such areas as sexual behavior.
Robert McClory, associate professor emeritus at Northwestern University and a former priest, said Rev. Greeley was one of the few Catholic scholars who was able to critique the Catholic Church without himself becoming a dissident.
“He was able to be critical of the hierarchical church while balancing that criticism with the sound sociological data that he had been working on for more than 40 years,” McClory said.
“It’s not as if he was dissenting. He would say, ‘The figures are there, you can look at them and the church needs to decide what to do about that.’ “
McClory said Rev. Greeley also had the gift of making his data clear and interesting to the general public.
“He was not a scholarly sociologist,” he said. “He had a popular approach to his writing which interested people on issues that they would not normally be interested in.”
Rev. Greeley possessed an unpredictable, sometimes volatile temperament which resulted in people following his columns to find out what he would say. He lashed out at the Bush administration in a series of essays that became a book entitled, “A Stupid, Unjust, And Criminal War: Iraq 2001-2007.” Before the 2008 election, Rev. Greeley wrote a column predicting Barack Obama would lose because racism would defeat him.
“He was gutsy. He was not afraid to take on the religious and political establishments,” McClory said.
His muscular writing and straightforward opinions are evidenced in an excerpt from his 2004 book, “Priests: A Calling in Crisis,” written after the church’s sexual abuse crisis:
“In the worst-case scenario, the Catholic Church in the United States….may go down the drain, but not because of attacking infidels, not because of celibacy or homosexuality or sexual abuse, not because of secularism and materialism, but because of incompetence, stupidity, and clerical culture — all enemies from within.”
Rev. Greeley’s research often contradicted commonly held opinions, according to Rev. John Cusick of Old St. Patrick’s Church in Chicago, who called Rev. Greeley a mentor.
Cusick recalled opining that young people were leaving the church until Rev. Greeley set him straight — young people still identified themselves as Catholic, they just didn’t practice their religion in the same way as previous generations.
“He taught me to trust the data, don’t just trust hunches,” Cusick said. “He’s an intellectual. He could wax a story and in the next breath carry on a phenomenally intellectual conversation with anyone in Hyde Park.”
In Chicago’s religious circles, Greeley was praised by some as a philosopher-priest and panned by others as an irascible trouble maker.
Catholic officials often didn’t know what to make of the controversial priest. In 1986, then Cardinal Joseph Bernardin reportedly turned down $1 million Rev. Greeley offered to support Catholic Schools — Rev. Greeley instead established a private fund for the archdiocese’s inner city schools.
Seventeen years later, the Chicago Archdiocese accepted Greeley’s donation of $420,000 for a scholarship endowment.
Rev. Greeley grew up in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood and attended the St. Angela School and Archbishop Quigley Preparatory Seminary.
He studied for the priesthood of St. Mary of the Lake seminary in Mundelein and was ordained in May 1954. He earned a doctorate in 1962 from the University of Chicago. While studying for his doctorate he was attached to Christ the King parish in Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood.
His prodigious output amazed even those he knew him best.
“I was with him … years ago in the summer, and he was writing three books simultaneously,” Cusick said. “Go and figure that one out.”
Copyright © 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC

More Prophetic and Insightful Words From Another Of Vatican II's True Believers

Don Andrea Gallo in the clerical clothes he neither aspired to nor was ever going to be 'graced' with wearing.

Once again I want to give a shout out to Rebel Girl who authors the blog Iglesia Descalza.  The current post up at her site is a translation of an interview for the MicroMega publication with the recently deceased Italian priest Don Andrea Gallo.  Don Andrea was something of a thorn in the side of conservative Italian bishops and a vocal critic of the restoration movement of the previous two popes.  I want to encourage readers to take in the whole interview and have excerpted a couple of paragraphs to hook folks into doing so:

 Is secularity a value?

Of course it is, and there are very profound secular ethics. There is no contradiction between fidelity to the Church and attachment to the need for secularity. Secularity isn't secularism, on the contrary -- it's the respect for all faiths by the state which ensures the free exercise of religious, spiritual, cultural, and creative activities of the diverse communities. And in a pluralistic society, secularity is the only space for dialogue and communication between the religions. 
The "non-negotiable principles" seem to be very far from that subversive and liberating power of the Gospel that we talked about earlier. What happened to gospel themes such as social justice, care for the marginalized and the oppressed, wealth and poverty?

Attention to power and privileges has eclipsed them. The Church, including my archbishop who is also president of the CEI [Italian Bishops' Conference], has supported Berlusconi for years. Now he's backing Monti. Communion and Liberation applauds the powers that be, Famiglia Cristiana even wrote it, talking about the Rimini Meeting this summer. Rather than defending the non-negotiable principles, there's attention to the defense of privilege. Moreover, the holy monks told me too -- the Church is governed by Opus Dei and other elite troops: Communion and Liberation, the Community of Sant'Egidio, the Legionaries of Christ, with their founder, the pedophile father Maciel, who was even a protege of Pope Wojtyla. In this case too, we must return to the Council, where it talks about the "poor Church for the poor," and liberation theology -- decapitated by Wojtyla and Ratzinger -- that proclaimed the fundamental option for the poor.

But there's a part of the Church and many Catholic organizations that help the poor ...

It's true, but you have to be very careful. There are two roads -- they look similar; they really go in opposite directions. The church hierarchy and some sectors of the Catholic world offer solidarity that has positive aspects but that is limited to welfarism, and so confirm, even reinforce, the dominant economic system of exploitation, neo-colonialism over the dispossessed of the world. The way forward is that of liberating solidarity, which calls into question neo-liberalism. Dom Helder Câmara, the great bishop of Olinda and Recife, had it all figured out: "When I feed the poor," he said, "they applaud me, and when I ask why the poor are hungry, they call me a Communist." The Church has not yet made a clear-cut choice. But if the Church wants to be Catholic, it should be Christian; if it wants to be Christian, it should be poor, otherwise it will be an apparatus that governs the world, but it is certainly not the church of Jesus.


There is a lot more in this interview with Don Andrea, thoughts which really hit the nail on the head.  The interview came before the election of Pope Francis and I can't help but wonder what Don Andrea would make of Pope Francis.  I suspect like other proponents of liberation theology such as Leonardo Boff, Francis' call for the Church to be the 'a poor Church for the poor' would strongly resonate.  But I also wonder if Don Andrea would warn Francis about the two paths of Catholic charity.  Will Francis' church of the poor serve as nothing more than a facade cloaked in piety which really serves to stifle discussion of any real reform in the Church or in the system of neo colonialism, or will this impulse be followed to it's logical conclusion of solidarity with the poor and all the attendant reforms this would entail?

My biggest fear is that Pope Francis is truly interested in Catholicism becoming a 'poor church for the poor' but is not prepared to follow that idea to where it will ultimately lead. I have fears that when it comes to dismantling those Church structures which are all about power and privilege that he won't be allowed to dismantle them or won't even really try. It just seems to me that Pope Francis can not effect meaningful change for the poor of the world by speaking as the head of a Church that can't or won't model that solidarity in it's own structures and teachings.  In other words he can not make one his intentions for this Sunday's global Eucharistic Adoration a plea for God's help for the alleviation of the suffering of women and children in the world and do it from the ultimate leadership platform from the world's most gender exclusive leadership organization.  

Until this pope or another pope can face the fact that the current constitution of the Church is part of the problem of global poverty and not the solution, I have to hope more prophets like Don Andrea can percolate up from the bottom until change is not about change, but about recognizing what has already happened.  

Monday, May 27, 2013

I Still Have Pope Francis' Back Because He Is Right And The Vatican Is Wrong

Vatican Spokesman Fr Thomas Rosica explaining how Pope Francis is wrong about that salvation/redemption thing.

What to make of this.  Fr Thomas Rosica achieved fame, beyond Canada's Salt and Light Catholic TV Station by working as the Vatican's English spokesperson during the recent resignation/election cycle.  The following article from Irish Central is most likely correct is stating it is the Vatican which is correcting Pope Francis.  I guess this means the Vatican is infallible and not our current Pope.....or maybe the retired Pope is not so retired as we were led to believe.

Vatican corrects infallible pope: atheists will still burn in hell

Cahir O'Doherty - Irish Central - 5/26/2013
The Vatican has just announced that, despite what Pope Francis said in his homily earlier this week, atheists are still going to hell.

What a relief. For a brief moment there it was possible to imagine a brave new world of compassion, generosity and acceptance, not qualities we have come to associate with the Holy See.  (Well, it's hard to maintain you sell the lone insurance policy to heaven if your main salesman is telling folks salvation is about how you treat others rather than about Catholicism as an insurance policy.)

Said Pope Francis this week: 'The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!'

That seemed like a pretty clear admission that people of other faiths and none have intrinsic worth to God and will be saved alongside the faithful. But this turned out to be wishful thinking.

Although they are otherwise good, moral people they are still doomed to burn in a lake of fire for having the temerity to have been born outside of Catholicism or having chosen to remain so.

The Rev. Thomas Rosica, a Vatican spokesman, spelled it out for the world on Thursday. People who know about the Catholic church 'cannot be saved' if they 'refuse to enter her or remain in her,' he said.

So that's one tall order of eternal hellfire for the rest of us, then.

It makes for an interesting spectacle to see the infallible pope being corrected by his handlers, doesn't it? For a moment it was possible to recall the welcoming and indulgent style of the short lived Pope John Paul I in the unexpectedly all-embracing words of Pope Francis. But you'll recall how quickly John Paul I was replaced by the much more doctrinaire John Paul II.

There's no question that Pope Francis sees the divinity in all human beings, but that's a message that comes with caveats. God may make them all, Jew and Gentile, but unless they're Catholic they're ultimately kindling. The Vatican waited 24 hours to correct him, but they corrected him. (I actually thought it would take less time, which is why I ended my last post by stating I have Pope Francis' back on this one.)

Yes, yes, the Council of Trent clearly taught that Jesus Christ, humanity's one and only Redeemer, redeemed both Jew and Gentile. But there is a huge difference between redemption and salvation. See how that works? Judas Iscariot was redeemed by Christ's death on the cross, but he was not saved - Catholics believe he is damned in hell.

To be justified requires faith - and that faith must be Catholic. You see where this is going?

If I was Pope Francis, I'd be employing a food tester right about now.


I knew the Pope Francis tolerance limit was going to be reached and reached early in the halls of the Vatican.  Apparently Francis is no longer the breath of the Spirit permeating the votes of the Cardinals.  At best he is not an infallible pope, but a theologically delusional popeAt worst he's a heretic who somehow managed to get where he is on the wafts of the infamous 'smoke of Satan'.

I actually deluded myself for a short time with thoughts that under this Pope we could all continue the growing into adult spirituality envisioned by Vatican II.  Silly me.  Catholicism has never historically preached adulthood.  The thing that Paul mentions when he speaks about giving up childish things and acting like adults is not for Catholics.  At least not as far as the Vatican is concerned.
I now wonder how this Pope will assert himself.  There is one thing in the above article that gives me great pause.  It's the distinction made between redemption and salvation.  That is a pretty good example of 'Jesuitical thinking'.  It's the kind of thing thinking that's needed to soothe the children who need the security of the Catholic insurance policy while giving the adults a moment of head scratching. It's theological BS.
Now for a mystical moment of my own.  In one deep meditative state I was taught the truth of salvation with regards to time.  I remember very vividly the point in the meditation when it dawned on me that the salvation story was endless.  I turned to my 'teacher' and I asked:  "Are you showing me that salvation history is endless?"  He replied, "It continues until every sentient being is once again aware of the God who is their Creator and loved them into being.  It continues until everyone of them comes Home".  "That's the prodigical son parable on a cosmic scale", I said.  He replied, "That it is and that is what you and many others are about".  So is Pope Francis.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

News Flash: Change The Mass Translation--Jesus Did Die For All

Well, according to Pope Francis, the correct answer is a resounding 'YES'.

The following is the full text from Vatican Radio of Pope Francis' homily at yesterday's Mass.  A Huffington Post article covering this sermon is currently their number one read post. This sermon is sure to generate a great deal of conversation, if not angst, in the Catholic world.  When I first read this I couldn't help but reflect on the brouha over the new English translation and it's change from Jesus dieing 'for all' to Jesus dieing for 'many'. In Pope Francis' world Jesus died for all.  I doubt that in this particular case, this Pope's words are going to end this particular discussion. Judging from the headline that Vatican Radio chose to run, someone at Vatican Radio needed to change the emphasis of the Pope's homily because the headline does not exactly mention the idea that Jesus died for all--even atheists.  Bold parts of the article are in the original text.


Pope at Mass: Culture of encounter is the foundation of peace

(Vatican Radio) “Doing good” is a principle that unites all humanity, beyond the diversity of ideologies and religions, and creates the “culture of encounter” that is the foundation of peace: this is what Pope said at Mass this morning at the Domus Santae Martae, in the presence of employees of the Governorate of Vatican City. Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites, concelebrated at the Mass.

Wednesday’s Gospel speaks to us about the disciples who prevented a person from outside their group from doing good. “They complain,” the Pope said in his homily, because they say, “If he is not one of us, he cannot do good. If he is not of our party, he cannot do good.” And Jesus corrects them: “Do not hinder him, he says, let him do good.” The disciples, Pope Francis explains, “were a little intolerant,” closed off by the idea of ​​possessing the truth, convinced that “those who do not have the truth, cannot do good.” “This was wrong . . . Jesus broadens the horizon.” Pope Francis said, “The root of this possibility of doing good – that we all have – is in creation”:

"The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can. He must. Not can: must! Because he has this commandment within him. Instead, this ‘closing off’ that imagines that those outside, everyone, cannot do good is a wall that leads to war and also to what some people throughout history have conceived of: killing in the name of God. That we can kill in the name of God. And that, simply, is blasphemy. To say that you can kill in the name of God is blasphemy.”
“Instead,” the Pope continued, “the Lord has created us in His image and likeness, and has given us this commandment in the depths of our heart: do good and do not do evil”:

"The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”
“Doing good” the Pope explained, is not a matter of faith: “It is a duty, it is an identity card that our Father has given to all of us, because He has made us in His image and likeness. And He does good, always.”

This was the final prayer of Pope Francis:

"Today is [the feast of] Santa Rita, Patron Saint of impossible things – but this seems impossible: let us ask of her this grace, this grace that all, all, all people would do good and that we would encounter one another in this work, which is a work of creation, like the creation of the Father. A work of the family, because we are all children of God, all of us, all of us! And God loves us, all of us! May Santa Rita grant us this grace, which seems almost impossible. Amen.”


"The disciples, Pope Francis explains, “were a little intolerant,” closed off by the idea of ​​possessing the truth, convinced that “those who do not have the truth, cannot do good."  This quote will most likely go over like a lead balloon in some areas of US Catholicism--even some very high ecclesiastical areas of US Catholicism. Especially when it's followed up by this quote: ""The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all!  

I've often thought that fully understanding the mission of Jesus in the way that Pope Francis articulated it yesterday is the demarcating line between those who understand Jesus' Way, and those who need the 'way' of Catholicism.  One is very inclusive and the other is very self justifying and exclusive.  As Pope Francis points out emphatically, Jesus very definitely came down on the side of inclusion. 
I suspect Pope Francis is going to get some blow back over this homily, but speaking of backs, on the thoughts he articulated in this sermon, I have his.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Cardinal O'Brien Represents A Major Challenge For Pope Francis. Business As Usual Won't Deal With It

I can't say I was surprised to find a photo of Cardinal O'Brien with the pedophile Jimmy Savile. Apparently they did a lot of fundraising together.  O'Brien did revoke Savile's papal knighthood after the explosion of allegations against Savile surfaced in the British Press.

Pope Francis has a mess on his hands.  The mess is Cardinal Keith O'Brien and what O'Brien really represents.  In Cardinal O'Brien's case it's not just the worst aspects of clericalism, it is also the worst aspects of the official Church teaching on homosexuality, and the seemingly untouchable status of reaching high rank in the Church.  O'Brien's behavior of harassing and abusing his lower clergy is of a different order from the kinds of sexual harassment laity encounter in their work places. In theory and practice laity have resources and systems of accountability they can use to get some justice.  This is true even in male dominated professions like the military.  Although the US Military has a spotty record to say the least, when the evidence is there, even highly decorated generals like David Petraeus can be disciplined and forced to resign. Not so Cardinals in the Roman Catholic Church and O'Brien is hardly the only Cardinal who used his position for sexual favors with impunity, for decades, and without fear of sanction.

Cardinal O'Brien has been 'ordered' by the Vatican to leave Scotland for the Catholic version of penitential R&R.  O'Brien seems to have incurred this penalty because he couldn't stop himself from engendering more publicity. He failed to 'let this die down and blow over' like a good Cardinal should. I strongly suspect he is being publicly penalized because many Cardinals are seriously upset with the threat O'Brien's  press exposure is to them personally.  The following is from today's Guardian UK.  It aptly discusses these points and others.  It also debunks some of the misinformation that is currently making the media rounds.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien still a danger, say abuse accusers

 Catherine Deveney - The Observer - 5/18/2013
The four men whose accusations of sexual misconduct led to the dramatic resignation of Britain's leading Catholic cleric as archbishop have attacked a Vatican announcement last week that he will leave the country for a period of "prayer and penance". The three priests and one ex-priest, whose complaints were first reported in the Observer in February, say Cardinal Keith O'Brien should have been sent for psychological treatment instead.

One of the priests warns: "Keith is extremely manipulative and needs help to be challenged out of his denial. If he does not receive treatment, I believe he is still a danger to himself and to others."

The four men are demanding an investigation into O'Brien's "predatory behaviour" and say that stripping him of his cardinal status should not be ruled out. Despite making statements to the papal nuncio three months ago, they have heard nothing about a formal investigation into the cardinal, who was a vociferous public opponent of homosexuality.

"Removing O'Brien from Scotland might temporarily reduce the embarrassment to the church authorities but this story has not been fully told yet," says Lenny, the ex-priest complainant. "We have been patient but I'm still waiting to be told what, if any, process the church has in mind."

"They're all passing the buck on this," agrees one of the priests. "It's a smokescreen. We need an investigation and Keith needs to be challenged by professionals to acknowledge the damage he has done to people, himself and the church." (It's certain O'Brien won't be challenged by his own professional peers.)

The Vatican's statement followed O'Brien's recent return to Dunbar, in his old diocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh, where he was due to retire. Peter Kearney, director of communications for the Catholic church in Scotland, told the Observer that no one in Scotland had the authority to challenge O'Brien's behaviour, his return to Scotland or his residence in church property. "We are part of the Roman Catholic church and the ultimate authority for the way the church functions in Scotland lies in Rome. The only person who is senior to the cardinal is the pope."

"That," says one complainant, "is farcical." "I don't care about red hats," says another, "but if the red hat is shoring up his perceived power, it has to go." (That is a prime issue--the red hat and the type of governance it represents.  Just as it was for Cardinals Law and Bevilaqua and Rigalli and Mahony and Egan and on and on and on.)

Although there is no official investigation by the Scottish church, behind the scenes Bishop Joseph Toal of Argyll and the Isles has been asked to talk informally to the complainants. "It's been hard listening to what's being said," he admitted to the Observer. "But it's important we hear what they're saying and the gravity of the situation. If I can help in some way, I will." (But of course, as far as exacting some measure of justice, you can't help in any way at all.)

Calls for an investigation have been backed by Catholic theologian Professor Werner Jeanrond, master of St Benet's Hall at Oxford University. "Instead of dealing with issues we are constantly presented with this half-baked solution of removing people. It is not a grown-up church handling this case. I am in favour of investigation on the personal level, so that he can own up to his concealment and own his own life again, but because he was in the clerical life it also has to be a formal investigation. We also have to have an investigation into why we are in this mess."

O'Brien's downfall reveals a bigger tragedy, argues Jeanrond. "As a church, we have failed to come to terms with homosexuality. Once and for all we have to face up to the fact that there are homosexuals, gays, lesbians and transsexuals." Jeanrond has been shocked by the absence of an organised laity in Britain compared with other European countries. "As soon as something happens on the clerical side, the whole church is paralysed. That's ridiculous. Is the whole of Jesus's mission coming to an end because Keith O'Brien has sinned?" (I suppose it does when clerical deference is so ingrained that it becomes all mixed up with the authority of Jesus---exactly as all the ingraining is designed to do.)

The four complainants say an investigation is about justice, not vengeance. "I will give forgiveness if asked," says one, "as long as the damage has been recognised. At times, we don't do ourselves a lot of good by throwing pardon around like confetti without a change of heart. I am angry at the system that licked his boots and allowed him to get on with it." (So am I.)


The Cardinal O'Brien story is one of those Catholic stories that got temporarily lost in the pageantry of a papal election and the Easter season and the sheer novelty of Pope Francis.  I, however, have not forgotten that the accusations against Cardinal O'Brien reached EP Benedict's desk three days before he retired.  Nor have I forgotten the report written by Benedict's three cardinal investigators and left for Pope Francis to peruse at his leisure.  Rumors before the papal resignation/election cycle intimated that gay issues in the upper clergy were prominent in this report.  That would hardly be shocking news and I suspect it is information that is probably underscored by the allegations against Cardinal O'Brien.

The Cardinal O'Brien story is truly a mess for Pope Francis and I have my doubts about whether he is the Pope who can meaningfully deal with it.  It is first and foremost an issue of unbelievable clerical hubris in which Cardinal O'Brien acted on his understanding that he was untouchable in Scotland.  A personal belief which was directly verified by the Archdiocese' own spokesman.  And yet this begs the question why O'Brien also acted as if he was untouchable by Rome until Benedict's resignation and that reason may be contained in that report of Benedict's three octogenarian cardinals.  If O'Brien represents business as usual in the cardinal ranks, reforming the curia will take more than shuffling lines of communication and downsizing the curia.  It will take changing the clerical culture itself.  This is one case of reform where it certainly seems starting at the top and having that change cascade down is going to have to be the chosen path.  For all of Francis' talk of tacking careerism in the Church it seems to me the first place to start is to demonstrate there will be no advantage to holding higher clerical offices.  The operative principle should be the higher a man progresses the more stringent the accountability.

The second issue which O'Brien represents is the sick expression of the 'homosexual lifestyle' in the priesthood.  I agree wholeheartedly with Professor Werner Jeanrond, the Church has to come to grips with the fact there are real people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transexual, and transgendered people in God's creation.  The Church has to face the fact these are not disorders, they are facts of human life.  These are people, equally God's children.  They are not just 'sexually deviant acts' or 'gender assignments'.

Unfortunately I am not convinced that Pope Francis is the right pope to deal with this aspect of the O'Brien debacle either.  Nothing Francis has done to this point indicates his ideas of gender and sexuality have evolved to take the Church to some more 'grown up' position as advocated by Professor Jeanrond.  Sending O'Brien off on some short term penitential placement is not dealing with any of the really important dysfunctions the O'Brien case raises. O'Brien truly represents a pastoral and reform challenge for Pope Franics.  I hope and pray Francis is up to it. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Winds Of Change Are Stirring More Strongly

The effects of clerical sexual abuse on the Church have been this bad.  "Francis, repair My Church" is more relevant than ever.

The following is the petition begun by Australian Bishops Geoffry Robinson and William Morrison.  For me this is another indication that the election of Pope Francis has freed some of our bishops and cardinals to speak that which could not previously be spoken.  If there was one area, among many, that sorely disappointed me about the previous two papacies it was their inability to really grasp the causes and damage clerical sexual abuse has done to the Church.  Even to this very day there are bishops like Meyers and Finn who still think they are above both church and secular law, that from their positions as bishops their judgment is above accountability.  Lay Catholics have for too long sat back and let the hierarchy dictate the response and solutions, which have included neither valid responses nor any real solutions.  Here are two bishops who are willing to bring the laity into the discussion.  I encourage readers to read Bishop Robinson's post, the letter being sent to Pope Francis, and please sign the petition.  We can not let a third papacy continue to failed policies of the last two.

Pope Francis, The Vatican: For Christ's Sake Stop Sexual Abuse.... for good!

Sexual abuse within the Catholic Church has been nothing short of an epidemic of catastrophic proportions. The devastation of victims, the ruination of priests and religious, the damage to a major world religion and its faithful are horrendous and incalculable.
Australian Bishops - Geoffrey Robinson and Bill Morris call on the new Pope to seize the opportunity of his appointment to not only sweep the Church clean but to put His /God’s house in order for all time.
Bishop Robinson identifies three major tasks to be performed in eradicating sexual abuse from the Church: identifying and removing all offenders; reaching out to, and assisting, all victims and survivors; and identifying and overcoming the causes of both abuse and the poor response to abuse by the Church’s hierarchy. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is investigating the first two of these tasks however it does not have the scope or power to make the changes necessary to ensure that systemic sexual abuse NEVER happens again in the Catholic Church.
Bishop Robinson has considerable expertise, having been involved in these first two fields for eighteen years. He and Bishop Morris firmly believe there is a desperate need to address the third element: preventing abuse from happening in the first place . . . for good! He is calling for nothing less than a Council of the whole Church, inclusive of the laity, to confront the issues that contribute to the causes of systemic sexual abuse.
There are many people and many groups around the world seeking change in the Catholic Church. Though they may have slightly different emphases, there are a number of changes, common to all groups. These groups are calling out for:-
1) Greater Inclusiveness – a Church that is as much for women as for men, for laypeople as for clergy, for the marginalised as for those in the mainstream.
2) Greater Openness – if there are scandals, it is better to bring them into the light and confront them rather than seek to conceal them.
3) Greater Participation – not taking away the power of the Pope, but asking for greater participation and consultation, so that the whole Church may have a more active role in the mission of the Church.
4) Greater Sense of Mission – a greater concentration on the person and mission of Jesus Christ rather than on authority, laws, obedience and theological conformity.
Bishops Robinson and Morris believe it’s time to unite as one voice that the Vatican can no longer ignore.
This global petition will give Catholics a collective voice. It will let the new Pope know the intensity and solidarity we feel in relation to the sexual abuse issue. It will show him that the whole Church wants to help him, to work with him on this issue of paramount importance. We want the new Pope to lead the Church into a future he and all Catholics yearn for -  and the world needs.
By signing this petition you are assisting every Catholic group calling for change. You are helping to create something very special: - the voice of the faithful. You will be helping to create a church for the future, free of sexual abuse, full of participation and inclusiveness–, a Church where loving God, through Jesus Christ makes us proud and full of the Holy Spirit. This is the voice we want the Vatican to hear. .
So if you are Catholic and believe that it’s time for the Church to listen to its people; if you’re a Catholic who wants to stamp out sexual abuse from ever occurring again please sign this petition.
For Christ’s and our Church’s sake encourage your family, friends and fellow parishioners to do the same. Together, as Catholics we can make a change.
For more details on Bishop Geoffrey Robinson’s action plan to end sexual abuse¬- for good, read his latest book, For Christ Sake: End Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church…for good.

Pope Francis, The Vatican
We, the undersigned members of the Catholic Church, have been sickened by the continuing stories of sexual abuse within our Church, and we are appalled by the accounts of an unchristian response to those who have suffered.

When so many people either offend or respond poorly, we cannot limit ourselves to blaming individuals, but must also look at systemic causes. The situation is so grave that we call for an Ecumenical Council to respond to the one question of doing everything possible to uproot such abuse from the Church and produce a better response to victims. An essential part of this call is that the laity of the whole world should have a major voice in the Council (for it is our children who have been abused or put at risk), and that the following subjects be included:

1. The continuing influence of the idea of an angry God
2. The immaturity that arises from passive obedience in adults
3. The teaching of the Church on sexual morality
4. The part played in abuse by celibacy, especially obligatory celibacy
5. The lack of a strong feminine influence in every aspect of the Church
6. The idea that through ordination the priest is taken above other people (clericalism)
7. The lack of professionalism in the life of priests and religious
8. The unhealthy situations in which many priests and religious are required to live
9. The constant placing of right beliefs before right actions
10. The passion for secrecy and the hiding of faults within the Church, especially in the Vatican
11. The ways in which the protection of papal authority has been put before the eradication of sexual abuse
12. The provision of structures to make a reality of the ‘sense of faith’ (sensus fidei) of all Catholic people
13. The need for each Conference of Bishops to have the authority to compel individual bishops to follow common decisions in this matter.


And again, here is the link to the petition:

Although I am aware that previously the Vatican has blown off all such efforts, seemingly to prefer single anonymous letters from right wing traditionalists, I have a feeling under Pope Francis this time things might be different.  He said over this weekend that sexual abuse of children has to stop.  I can only hope he understands fully that sexual abuse of children will not stop on any level if real change is not implemented in ALL the areas which contribute to clerical and Catholic family sexual abuse.  If he does nothing else during his papacy, really attempting to solve this issue would precipitate serious reform.  For Christ's sake, Amen.

Update:  This link is to a story coming out of Africa that I have been following, but not writing about because it was hard to substantiate in the American mainstream press.  Now however, the LA Times has written about this very courageous priest.  Should anyone think Africa will not be the next pressure cooker to blow over clerical abuse of children, they need to read this article.  Clerical abuse is global, systemic, and the hierarchy responds the same everywhere.  It has to stop. 

If you have the time, check out some of Fr Musaala's Utube videos.  He has a real gift. 

Cardinal Dolan's 'Dirty Freddy' Story Was No Joke

No dirty hands can pass through the doors of St Patrick's Cathedral on Cardinal Dolans' watch.  Well, unless they belong to OD bishops.

The following is an excerpt of an article written by Joseph Amodeo from Huffington Post about a small demonstration--10 people--they attempted to conduct at St Patrick's Cathedral.  It was in response to Cardinal Dolan's 'dirty Freddy' blog post from the previous week.  I wrote about this blog post myself.  The response from the Archdiocese was completely over the top.  It was all about fear, not dirty hands and not dirty gays.  I'm quite sure in a future blog post, Cardinal Dolan will tell us he had nothing to do with it.

Cardinal Dolan Denies Catholics Entry at Cathedral Because of Dirty Hands

Jospeph Amodeo - Huffington Post - 5/5/2013
 "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened" (Matthew 7:7-8).

Today, myself and others knocked at the door of St. Patrick's Cathedral, but the door was not opened, rather it was slammed in our faces. As I begin to write this article, I'm cognizant of the raw emotions that I feel deep inside my heart. It's a feeling that I'm unfamiliar with, because until today, I have never been denied a seat at Christ's table. In fact, today marks the first day that I have ever felt disowned, abandoned, and lost.

Earlier today, a group of Catholics including myself gathered on the corner of East 46th Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. We gathered for a simple purpose, to dirty our hands as we prepared to attend Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. We were soiling our hands as a silent response to Cardinal Dolan's column last week in which he suggested that LGBT people were welcome in the church so long as they washed their hands. As we began to rub our hands together with pieces of ash, our hands took on the look and feel of the effort that has defined our work to receive an equal seat at the table of Christ in the Catholic Church. Those participating were not only LGBT Catholics, but also allies and, perhaps most importantly, parents of LGBT children. We gathered not in protest, but as a silent witness.

It is what transpired in the moments after soiling our hands that I have trouble understanding and placing in the context of the Christian experience. At around 9:30am, the ten of us gathered were greeted by four police cars, eight uniformed officers, a police captain, and a detective from the Police Commissioner's LGBT liaison unit. The detective informed us that the Cathedral would prohibit us to enter because of our dirty hands. It was at that moment that I realized the power of fear. The Archdiocese of New York was responding out of fear to a peaceful and silent presence at Mass. Even in light of this, we decided that we would walk solemnly from our gathering spot to the Cathedral with hopes that we might be welcomed.
As we reached St. Patrick's Cathedral, we were approached by Kevin Donohue, who identified himself as being in charge of operations for the cathedral. Sadly, Mr. Donohue's tone was both cold and scolding. What astounded me most was when he said that we could enter the cathedral so long as we washed our hands first. Even now, writing those words I find myself struggling to understand their meaning, while coming to terms with their exclusionary nature.......


It took 10 of New York's finest to respond to this 'threat' from 10 of Cardinal Dolan's sheep?  Are you kidding me?  Over dirty hands?  Or maybe the real message is no one gets to poke fun at Cardinal Dolan's expense and protecting his dignity necessitates 10 of New York's finest including a precinct Captain.  If I had any doubts that Cardinal Dolan was a walking, talking, joking, smiling, bundle of personal insecurity, I don't any longer.  He strikes back like any other bundle of insecurity we usually call a bully.  Dirty Freddy indeed.

I feel for Joseph Amodeo.  From the rest of his post it is obvious he was nurtured in a very different form of Catholicism from one that Cardinal Dolan represents.  It does hurt when that other form, the one with all power, strikes out from it's black and white view of 'us vs them'.  The US Church seems especially plagued with black and white bullies in the Episcopal ranks.  Just ask the LCWR.  All Catholics need do to be received by this bunch of bishop bullies is admit they are apostates and can't lead themselves, wash their hands, or completely disempower themselves is some symbolic fashion to gain admittance to the table.  Wash their hands, bow their heads, and I assume brown our noses while we're at it.

In the meantime I have another question.  Why is it that Opus Dei Bishops like Kansas City's Finn and Newark's Meyer's are never disciplined when they egregiously violate not only the Dallas Charter, but secular law?  Why don't they have to wash their figuratively dirty hands?  Why isn't Cardinal Dolan demanding these men wash their dirty hands?  I can only come to the conclusion that at his childhood table the dirty Freddies may have had to wash their hands, but that rule didn't apply to dirty priests.  There is no other conclusion to draw.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

My Cardinal Hero Speaks Up And I Say WOW!

Cardinal Braz de Aviz during his question and answer session for the gathering of global women religious superiors.  Photo credit:  NCR/Robyn J Haas

I have had an instant connection with Cardinal Braz de Aviz since I first read his personal story a few years ago.  I have been following his career with more than a little interest.  My intuition tells me this man holds key cards to the future of Catholicism.  The following article was just posted on the National Catholic Reporter and details his interaction with the International Union of Superiors General.

Vatican religious prefect: 'I was left out of LCWR finding'

Rome - Joshua McElwee - NCR - 5/5/2013
The controversial Vatican decision last year to place the main representative group of U.S. Catholic sisters under the control of bishops was made without consultation or knowledge of the Vatican office that normally deals with matters of religious life, the office’s leader said Sunday.

That lack of discussion over whether to sharply criticize the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), said Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, caused him “much pain.”

“We have to change this way of doing things,” said Braz de Aviz, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Religious.

“We have to improve these relationships,” he continued, referring to the April 2012 order regarding LCWR from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- approved by Pope Benedict XVI -- that ordered the U.S. sisters’ group to revise.
“Cardinals can’t be mistrustful of each other,” Braz de Aviz said. “This is not the way the church should function.”

Braz de Aviz, who has led the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life since 2011, made the comments Sunday during an open dialogue session with some 800 leaders of sisters’ communities at the triennial assembly of the International Union of Superiors General.
Answering questions from the sister leaders for over an hour and a half, Braz de Aviz spoke openly, referring several times to tensions between sisters and bishops on church authority, questions of obedience, and the future of religious life. (Answering direct questions for an hour and a half is mind boggling in itself.)

At one point the cardinal even called for wide-ranging review of structures of church power.
“We are in a moment of needing to review and revision some things,” Braz de Aviz said. “Obedience and authority must be renewed, re-visioned.”
“Authority that commands, kills,” he continued. “Obedience that becomes a copy of what the other person says, infantilizes.” (Yes, yes, yes!)

Braz de Aviz also told the sister leaders that “women’s leadership needs to grow a lot in the church,” referring to a remark made by Pope Paul VI during a session of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) -- where the late pope asked the council fathers: “Where’s the other 50 percent of humanity that isn’t here?”
The Vatican mandate regarding LCWR, which was released in April 2012, appoints Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain as the group’s “archbishop delegate.” It gives him final authority over its workings, and requires the group to revise its programs and statutes.

LCWR, which traces its roots to the 1950s, represents about 80 percent of the some 57,000 U.S. sisters.
Braz de Aviz spoke Sunday in Italian with his words being simultaneously translated into five other languages.

He said that his office -- which is tasked with overseeing the work an estimated 1.5 million sisters, brothers, and priests around the world in religious orders -- first learned of the move against the U.S. sisters’ group in a meeting with the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith after the formal report on the matter had been completed.

At that meeting, Braz de Aviz said, he told Cardinal William Levada, an American who has since retired as head of the doctrinal congregation, that the matter should have been discussed between the Vatican offices.
“We will obey what the Holy Father wants and what will be decided through you,” Braz de Aviz told the sisters he had said to Levada. “But we must say that this material which should be discussed together has not been discussed together.”

“I obeyed,” Braz de Aviz continued telling the sisters. “But I had so much pain within me.”
He also said it was the first time he was discussing the lack of consultation publicly, saying previously he "didn't have the courage to speak." (Not many did have the courage to speak during the last two pontificates.  More than a little infantilizing was the order of the day--even, and maybe especially, amongst senior curial officials.)

Speaking at a press conference following his talk, Braz de Aviz said that while his office “always obeys” the pope, “the problem very often is what kind of news goes to the Holy Father.”

Saying that different Vatican offices will sometimes give the pope varying viewpoints on situations like the LCWR matter, Braz de Aviz said “there’s a sort of like ‘Who is going to win?’”

“This struggle of who is going to win is not good, he continued. “But Peter and Paul also had problems. The answer is: ‘the Holy Spirit’ will win.”

LCWR’s status with the Vatican has been the subject of much discussion at the global sisters’ meeting. Franciscan Sr. Florence Deacon, LCWR’s president, told the assembly in a speech Saturday that the situation with the group indicated that “serious misunderstandings” exist between Vatican officials and Catholic sisters. (If readers haven't read the article linked in this paragraph, it's well worth your time.)

Asked during his dialogue with the sisters if it would be possible to have a meeting between LCWR and Pope Francis to discuss the matter, Braz de Aviz responded: “I think so.”
“But I know the pain is very big,” he continued, repeating: “Very big.”

Several former leaders of LCWR expressed pain and disappointment weeks ago when a Vatican press release said Pope Francis "reaffirmed" the doctrinal congregation's move.
“I don’t think Pope Francis would be a stranger to you,” Braz de Aviz told the sisters Sunday. However, the cardinal said, the pope “has confirmed the doctrinal review, he wants that to go forward.”

Braz de Aviz also responded to a question regarding a separate investigation of U.S. Catholic sisters launched by his Vatican congregation under his predecessor, Cardinal Franc Rode.
That investigation, known as an apostolic visitation, examined individual orders of U.S. Catholic sisters and resulted in a detailed report that was quietly submitted to Rome in January 2012.

That report, Braz de Aviz said, “has been sent to the pope, it is up to him to see if he will make it public.”
Earlier Sunday, Braz de Aviz had told the sister leaders during his homily at Mass with them that they are “co-essential” with the church’s bishops and the two groups must “walk together” in their leadership.
Referring to consecrated life as a “charismatic dimension” of the church, the cardinal told the sister leaders: “Today we need to rediscover that in the church there are two dimensions that are both co-essential, equally essential: The hierarchical dimension and the charismatic dimension.”
 (This sentence is a definite departure from the ecclesial understanding of the previous two popes.)

“We need to walk together, following, listening to the Holy Spirit -- men and women together,” he said during the homily.
Reflecting on Sunday’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, which recounts the apostles’ decision to not require circumcision for Christians, Braz de Aviz said the account indicates the church has to discern when it is in a “new moment.”

“This is something we always have to be doing in the church, to discern constantly in order to move forward,” he said. “This also gives us the opportunity today, it seems to me, to understand the important question in our life as consecrated persons.”

During his dialogue session with the sister leaders, Braz de Aviz spoke again about men and women in the church working together, referring to the Genesis account that “God created them, man and woman. God created them in the image and likeness of God.”
That account, the cardinal said, emphasizes two things: “Man and woman are not God; they are creatures” and “man, without woman, is not humanity; and vice-versa.”

Part of the struggles between men and women in church leadership, said Braz de Aviz, stem from to “reconstruct our relationships” with one another. “Our relationships,” he said, “are sick, profoundly sick.” (Two thousand years of imbalance will produce a profoundly sick relationship.)

Regarding the advancement of women into church leadership positions, Braz de Aviz said “we can take a lot of steps in this direction” to create “a church more maternal” and not only paternal.
“The two aspects together would be much more balanced, much more human,” he said. “We must not be afraid of this.”

During his homily earlier Sunday, Braz de Aviz also revealed how Pope Francis had chosen the new second-in-command for his Vatican congregation, Franciscan Fr. Jose Rodriguez Carballo.
Rodriguez, formerly the minister general of the Orders of Friars Minor, was announced as the secretary for the Congregation for Religious April 6.

Pope Francis, Braz de Aviz said, asked him when making the decision: “Who do you want as your secretary? Give me three names.”
“So I gave him three names,” Braz de Aviz told the sister leaders. “But [the pope] said, ‘Of the three, which is the one you want?’ I said this one, Carballo. [The pope] said, ‘Good, fine.’ And he gave us Jose Carballo.”

“It’s a wonderful, simple way of doing things: I trust you, I trust Carballo, so that’s it,” Braz de Aviz said. “He doesn’t complicate it.”


I have to say Cardinal Braz de Aviz is such a ray of hope in an otherwise still dismal Vatican scene.  The LCWR can't help but feel a little better after this exchange with Cardinal Braz de Aviz.  I know I do--especially after having just written about a bishop of a totally different stripe.

Holy Wisdom Monastery Off Limits For Diocese of Madison Wi. Priests and Religious

Holy Wisdom Monastery was finished in 2010 and was awarded the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design platinum award as the most eco friendly new construction in the US.  Of course, caring about the Earth is one the charisms of the Benedictine Women of Madison--amongst other concerns.

 My favorite bishop, Robert Morlino,  is back up to his favorite thing.  After threatening a parish with interdict I wondered when he would get around to Holy Wisdom Monastery which is now infamous for inspiring the words 'going beyond Jesus'.  Those are the words that all trads who think the LCWR are a bunch of pagan New Age priestesses will use with regularity to dis the LCWR.  The words come from the paper Sr Lauri Brinks presented to the LCWR back in 2007.  The very paper for which the Congregation for Doctrine and Faith took serious umbrage and in fact, directly mentioned in it's 'assessment'.  Given all of this, I am truly shocked Bishop Morlino took so long to inform his diocesan priests that Holy Wisdom was off limits.  The following is from the Wisconsin State Journal.

In the Spirit: Holy Wisdom Monastery now off-limits to Catholic priests

Bishop Robert Morlino is continuing to put more distance between the Madison Catholic Diocese and Holy Wisdom Monastery, a former Catholic monastery on the outskirts of Madison that is now a non-Catholic ecumenical retreat center.

In the latest development, Morlino is now prohibiting priests in the diocese from “attendance or participation at all events held at Holy Wisdom Monastery and all events sponsored or co-sponsored by Holy Wisdom Monastery or the Benedictine Women of Madison,” according to a March 7 letter to priests leaked to the State Journal.

A February visit to the monastery by Sister Simone Campbell, an outspoken, progressive Catholic nun, appeared to be the final straw for Morlino. (I bet it was the final straw.  Sr Campbell happens to be the head of NETWORK, a social justice lobby which itself was mentioned by name in the CDF assessment.)

The monastery, in the town of Westport on the northwest side of Lake Mendota, once was a Catholic high school for girls run by Benedictine nuns. After the school closed in 1966, the nuns turned the site into an ecumenical retreat center, offering a place of hospitality to a wide range of people and groups.

In 2000, the monastic Catholic sisters at the site welcomed a Protestant woman to live with them, a move that led them to seek independence from the Catholic Church. The Vatican approved their request in 2006. The monastery is now managed by the Benedictine Women of Madison, an ecumenical community led by Sister Mary David Walgenbach, who is Catholic. (It is a community of exactly three consecrated women.)

Morlino’s action highlights a longstanding beef some Catholics, especially those who are more tradition-minded, have with the monastery. The monastery’s worship services, they say, retain so many elements of a Mass that unsuspecting Catholics could be duped into thinking the services are valid representations of Catholic teaching. This is especially worrisome, they say, because the worship services diverge from church doctrine in profound ways, such as allowing women to preach and embracing the relationships of gay couples. (Well, if these poor unsuspecting Catholics were duped, it wouldn't be a sin anyway and if these Catholics think women are allowed to preach, they can't be good upstanding Catholics and deserve to be duped by some hybrid ecumenical service.  LOL)

“Holy Wisdom Monastery is perhaps best known among local Catholics for substantive rejection of the Catholic faith, so I would think priests or sisters should know they are not sending a good message if they attend events there,” said Elizabeth Durack of Madison, who attends the Cathedral Parish in Downtown Madison and has been vocal in encouraging “faithful Catholics” not to attend activities at the monastery.
The monastery’s worship services, while attended by people from many Christian backgrounds, have become particularly popular among liberal Catholics and those displeased with Morlino. (How utterly unsurprising.)

Morlino, in his letter to priests, said it was his duty “to protect the integrity and unity of the faith.” There “is a grave potential for scandal and confusion among the faithful, owing to Holy Wisdom Monastery’s status as a former Catholic monastery,” he wrote.

Diocesan spokesman Brent King said no single incident or priest precipitated the bishop’s decree; however, King said, publicity surrounding Campbell’s Feb. 14 appearance at the monastery “brought more attention to a Catholic giving an address at a former Catholic monastery” and “added to the ongoing confusion.” (Probably has nothing to do with the fact Sr Campbell has a higher media profile than Bishop Morlino.)

Campbell led the “Nuns on the Bus” campaign last year in opposition to Janesville Congressman Paul Ryan’s federal budget proposal, which she viewed as detrimental to the country’s social safety net. Her February appearance at the monastery was sponsored by the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice of South Central Wisconsin. (Also probably has nothing to do with the fact Morlino gave cover to Ryan's budget, against the statements of the USCCB, while the Nuns on the Bus did the exact opposite.)

Among those at the event was the Rev. Stephen Umhoefer, pastor of Nativity of Mary Catholic Church in Janesville, who gave the benediction and spoke warmly of Campbell’s work. His parish is part of the Madison diocese, and he is a diocesan priest. He declined comment.

Walgenbach also declined to comment. In the past, she and others at the monastery have said they do not consider themselves less Catholic because of their ecumenism. “The Catholic spirituality is bigger than the Roman Catholic Church,” Walgenbach told me last year.

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When reading the above article I couldn't help but remember a comment of Pope Francis from his Holy Thursday homily:
"Those who do not go out of themselves, instead of being mediators, gradually become intermediaries, managers. We know the difference: the intermediary, the manager ... doesn't put his own skin and his own heart on the line, he never hears a warm, heartfelt word of thanks," he said.

Bishop Morlino doesn't quite fit the above description because he does go out of his way to placate orthodox Catholics.  In doing so he doesn't need to become an intermediary or a mediator because operating from one end of the Catholic spectrum negates him even having to mediate anything coming from the Vatican.  All he needs to reference is in his head and his head is full of Canon Law and the Catechism.  In this particular case of Holy Wisdom Monastery, there isn't much question the Benedictines of Madison are outside or 'beyond' the catechism and the Vatican itself freed them from Canon Law.  I'm just surprised it took an appearance by Sr Simone Campbell for Bishop Morlino to finally give the word about Holy Wisdom Monastery, but then that would be two strikes against the CDF assessment.  Two strikes and they are out.

I can't help but wonder why it is OK for Pope Francis to conduct services in a detention center but not OK for Madison priests and religious to attend any events at Holy Wisdom Monastery.  I bet I might even find instances in the Madison Diocese where Roman Catholics share service space with other denominations. This kind of thing happens everywhere anymore and no one gets scandalously confused.  Ecumenical services happen in their hundreds on a daily basis, and even Bishop Morlino has no problem with mixing with protestants during political prayer breakfasts and what not.  Of course, I'm not sure those ecumenical political things actually include any Democrats or other kinds of progressive Catholics, but I'm prepared to be wrong.  Which leads me to believe this latest edict is really about LCWR nuns--x LCWR or not-- and their ecumenical services and their politics.  On that, I'm willing to bet I'm not wrong.