Saturday, June 29, 2013

Palliums For Archbishops With Warnings And Calls For Collegiality

Interesting hand shake.  No ring kissing for AB Cordileone.  At least everyone is smiling.


Today in Rome certain archbishops and bishops were given the pallium, a lambswool stole symbolic of their postion as shepherds of their flock. What interests me about this particular ceremony is Pope Francis used it to discuss increasing the Vatican II concepts of collegiality and synodality in harmony with the Petrine Office. I wrote previously that if Pope Francis accomplished nothing more than increasing the input of National Churches and bishops he would have accomplished a great service. To stress these very points at this particular service brings joy to my heart. That Francis continues to stress simplicity, humility, listening, living as Christ, the Church is a poor church for the poor, and pounding on careerism in the hierarchy is balm for my soul. The following is the full article on today's service from Andrea Tornielli at Vatican Insider.

Francis: "We need to grow in collegiality"

Andrea Tornielli - Vatican Insider - 6/29/2013
On the Feast of Sts Peter and Paul Pope Francis imposed the pallium – the white woollen stole that symbolises the special tie with the Bishop of Rome – on 34 new archbishops from across the world, including Mario Aurelio Poli, Jorge Bergoglio’s successor as leader of the Buenos Aires diocese.

In his brief homily, the Pope reflected on a passage in the Gospel where Peter scolds Jesus for talking about his passion. But Jesus responds firmly, warning him not to think in “worldly terms”: “Get behind me, Satan!” He went on to explain that confirming brothers and sisters in the faith is  Peter’s task and that of his successors. This is something that started with him but it “is founded upon his [Peter’s] confession of faith in Jesus” and “is made possible by a grace granted from on high.”(I certainly hope Sal Cordileone got this particular message about the Satan thing.)

Peter’s “readiness to lay himself open, personally, to be consumed for the sake of the Gospel, to make himself all things to all people, unstintingly, that gives him credibility and builds up the Church,” Francis said. But this is true not only for the Pope but for every shepherd: The Bishop of Rome, but also all of you, bishops and archbishops are called to live and to confirm his brothers and sisters in this love for Christ and for all others, without distinction, limits or barriers. After speaking about being servants of unity and explaining that “communion” in the Church “does not mean uniformity” because the Catholic way is that of unity through difference, he discussed collegiality, mentioning the Second Vatican Council.(I hope you were squirming when you heard this, Sal.)

“We need to develop the Synod of Bishops in harmony with the primacy and grow in synodality, in harmony with the primacy,” Pope Francis said. His words pointed to possible reforms in the structure of the Synod of Bishops and how it operates, in the spirit of collegiality. Today’s ceremony was attended by the delegation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople headed by Metropolitan Joannia Zizioulas who represented Bartholomew. During the liturgy, hymns were sung in the Sistine Chapel and by the Lutheran Choir of the Thomaskirche of Leipzig, Bach’s own church.  (A Lutheran choir during a pallium ceremony?  Oh my, good thing SSPX left the fold a few days earlier. This is a horrible example of secularist ecumenism.)


I will admit that I am still waiting for concrete action on all the corruption stuff, that is beyond kitchen cabinets and special investigative bodies, but the more I hear Pope Francis speak about collegiality and broadening the scope of synods and kicking clerical butts about careerism the more I think my initial excitement might have some basis in more than my own wishful thinking.  Wow, that would be something really novel when I gloomily meditate on the fact that over half my life has passed by with all these key Vatican II concepts shelved or used for door mats.

On a personal note, for the first time in well over two years, I will be taking some vacation time.  It will begin on the 4th of July and carry on for three weeks or so.  I can use it to say the least.  Since my daughter will be coming to visit me, I will not be going on the road and so will have more time to piddle around with my blog.  The lack of posting in the last three or four months has had a lot to do with just flat running out of gas.  I'm hoping I'll get recharged and return to a more frequent schedule of posting.  The more I hear from Francis the more recharged I seem to be getting, and too many times that is in spite of my cynicism.  Perhaps it's a little breeze from the Holy Spirit or whatever.   

Friday, June 28, 2013

Pope Francis Talks About The Church Of Living Stones; SSPX Throws Stones

SSPX:  Pope Benedict waves come in and let's chat.  Pope Francis says sorry you feel that way,  see ya' bye.

On the 40th anniversary of their 'founding' SSPX threw Pope Benedict's overtures back in his face and called it quits with the Vatican version of Roman Catholicism.  Seems SSPX doesn't buy EPBenedict's notion of 'reforming the reform' or 'hermeneutic of continuity'.  The SSPX communication basically implies Vatican II turned all of Roman Catholicism, except themselves, into just another Protestant sect devoid of any salvific grace,  and this is quite separate from their opinion of the lack of validity for the Novus Ordo.  Here is an extensive excerpt from an article posted in the National Catholic Register.

The document — titled “Declaration on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the episcopal consecrations (30th June 1988 – 27th June 2013)” — is signed by Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais and Alfonso de Galarreta....

....In their statement Thursday, the group contradicted now-retired Pope Benedict XVI’s stance on Vatican II. The letter made explicit reference to the “hermeneutic of continuity,” rejecting the interpretive lens by which Benedict XVI saw the conciliar documents in light of the Church’s Tradition.

The bishops say that the documents themselves have grave errors and that they cannot be interpreted without clashing with Tradition.

The “cause of the grave errors which are in the process of demolishing the Church does not reside in a bad interpretation of the conciliar texts — a ‘hermeneutic of rupture’ which would be opposed to a ‘hermeneutic of reform in continuity,’” they wrote, “but truly in the texts themselves, by virtue of the unheard-of choice made by Vatican II.” (It is karmic I guess that Pope Benedict wasted so much of his papacy trying to bring SSPX around.  It was never ever going to happen. They were never going to buy his spin of the Vatican II documents with which they utterly disagreed.)

The group also claims that the Second Vatican Council “inaugurated a new type of magisterium, hitherto unheard of in the Church, without roots in Tradition; a magisterium resolved to reconcile Catholic doctrine with liberal ideas; a magisterium imbued with the modernist ideas of subjectivism, of immanentism and of perpetual evolution.(Translation:  Not nearly enough ontological distinctions, Catholic gnosticism, Vatican triumphalism, or exclusive salvation for true believers.)

The document argues that “the reign of Christ is no longer the preoccupation of the ecclesiastical authorities” and that the liberal spirit in the Church is manifested “in religious liberty, ecumenism, collegiality and the new Mass.”

Because of religious liberty, they claim, the Church is being “shamefully guided by human prudence and with such self-doubt that she asks nothing other from the state than that which the Masonic lodges wish to concede to her: the common law in the midst of, and on the same level as, other religions which she no longer dares call false.” (Oh my God!!! Not Masonic lodges.  No wonder AB Chaput just called most first world Christians pagans.)

Because of interreligious dialogue, “the truth about the one true Church is silenced,” they also say, while the spirit of collegiality “represents the destruction of authority and in consequence the ruin of Christian institutions: families, seminaries, religious institutes.” (Whooaaa. Nice to know all this ruin really isn't the fault of 'da gayz'. EPBenedict must have had that wrong too.)

The Lefebvrist bishops save their harshest criticism for the Novus Ordo Mass, promulgated in 1969 by Pope Paul VI. “This Mass is penetrated with an ecumenical and Protestant spirit, democratic and humanist, which empties out the sacrifice of the cross.” (Not too mention all that protestant spirit isn't in Latin, which makes it even more democratic and humanist and heretical.)

The traditionalist bishops announce that, in practice, the dialogue with the Vatican is over and that, from now on, they will wait “either when Rome returns to Tradition and to the faith of all time — which would re-establish order in the Church” or “when she explicitly acknowledges our right to profess integrally the faith and to reject the errors which oppose it, with the right and the duty for us to oppose publicly the errors and the proponents of these errors, whoever they may be — which would allow the beginning of a re-establishing of order.”  (There you are Pope Francis.  You need to utterly capitulate and let SSPX run the Church and all your problems with corruption and stuff will be over.  Deo Gratias.)

Meanwhile back at the ranch, Pope Francis was espousing his own version of the Church.  I'm not thinking he's going to turn Roman Catholicism over to SSPX in the near future.  The following is an extract of his Wednesday Angelus courtesy of Vatican Radio.  My comments are illustrative of why SSPX probably realized it was time to take their stones and throw them.

......That, which was prefigured in the ancient Temple, is realized in the Church, by the power of the Holy Spirit: the Church is the “house of God”, the place of His presence, where we can find and meet the Lord, the Church is the temple in which dwells the Holy Spirit, who animates, guides and sustains her. If we ask ourselves, “Where we can meet God? Where can we enter into communion with Him through Christ? Where can we find the light of the Holy Spirit to enlighten our lives?” the answer is, “in the People of God, among us, for we are Church – among us, within the People of God, in the Church – there we shall meet Jesus, we shall meet the Holy Spirit, we shall meet the Father. (What!!?  In the People of God?!!, Where's the Latin Mass in all this people of God business?)

The ancient temple was built by the hands of men: they wanted to “give a home” to God, to have a visible sign of His presence among the people. With the Incarnation of the Son of God, the prophecy of Nathan to King David is fulfilled (cf. 2 Sam 7.1 to 29): it is not the king, it is not we, who are to “give a home to God,” but God Himself who “builds his house” to come and dwell among us, as St. John writes in the Prologue of his Gospel (cf. 1:14). Christ is the living Temple of the Father, and Christ himself builds His “spiritual home”, the Church, made not of stone materials, but of “living stones” – of us, our very selves. The Apostle Paul says to the Christians of Ephesus: you are “Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone: in whom all the building, being framed together, groweth up into an holy temple in the Lord.(Eph 2:20-22)” How beautiful this is! We are the living stones of God, profoundly united to Christ, who is the rock of support, and among ourselves. What then, does this mean? It means that we are the Temple – the Church, but, us, living – we are Church, we are [the] living temple, and within us, when we are together, there is the Holy Spirit, who helps us grow as Church. We are not isolated, we are People of God – and this is the Church: People of God.  (Next thing you know he will be saying aethists can be saved!   Oh wait, he already did that.)

It is, moreover, the Holy Spirit with His gifts, who designs the variety – and this is important – what does the Holy Spirit do in our midst? He designs the variety – the variety, which is the richness of the Church and unites everything and everyone, so as to constitute a spiritual temple, in which we offer not material sacrifices, but us ourselves, our life (cf. 1 Pt 2:4-5). (What about sacrificing Jesus over and over, you know re enacting Calvary and all that? Who cares about sacrificing ourselves and our lives.  Jesus did it for us.)

The Church is not a weave of things and interests, it is rather the Temple of the Holy Spirit, the Temple in which God works, the Temple in which each of us with the gift of Baptism is living stone. This tells us that no one is useless in the Church – no one is useless in the Church! – and should anyone chance to say, some one of you, “Get home with you, you’re useless!” that is not true. No one is useless in the Church. We are all needed in order to build this temple. No one is secondary: “Ah, I am the most important one in the Church!” No! We are all equal in the eyes of God. But, one of you might say, “Mr. Pope, sir, you are not equal to us.” But I am just like each of you. We are all equal. We are all brothers and sisters. No one is anonymous: all form and build the Church. Nevertheless, it also invites us to reflect on the fact that the Temple wants the brick of our Christian life, that something is wanting in the beauty of the Church. (What is with all this democratic humanistic Vatican II-(probably Masonic)- thinking in all the 'people of God' language. What kind of Pope says 'we're all equal' in reference to himself? Obviously one who doesn't get the transcendence of his office.)

So I would like for us to ask ourselves: how do we live our being Church? We are living stones? Are we rather, so to speak, tired stones, bored, indifferent? Have any of you ever noticed how ugly a tired, bored, indifferent Christian is? It’s an ugly sight. A Christian has to be lively, joyous, he has to live this beautiful thing that is the People of God, the Church. Do we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, so as to be an active part of our communities, or do we close in on ourselves, saying, “I have so many things to do, that’s not my job.”? (I guess from now on SSPX will live their being Church outside of it.)


 And so closes the SSPX chapter that took up so much of Pope Benedict's time and caused him so much embarrassment.  It was always a lost cause.  SSPX didn't want a few changes, they wanted a complete recapitulation of Vatican II.  Complete never means partial.  All Pope Benedict accomplished with his partial roll back was to infuriate a whole lot more Catholics than SSPX ever represented.  In his bid for the one sheep Benedict managed to chase off about 50.  He didn't lose them, he chased them off.  This is a sad legacy all around for Pope Benedict.

SSPX leadership probably knew with in Pope Francis' first week there was no hope Francis would capitulate and so we now have their 'see ya bye' statement. It's probably the best thing for all concerned.  I wish them well and hope if they ever figure out how to be living stones by espousing a 14th century Catholicism in a dead language they come back and let us know how they accomplished it.  In the meantime, Francis has one less problem to deal with.

More Dirt From The Vatican Bank And Francis Appoints A Woman To Help With The Cleaning

Mary Ann Glendon is one Catholic woman who has been given a real chance to do some serious cleaning in the Vatican halls.  Differences aside, I hope she does a thorough cleaning.

Some other stories this week that grabbed my attention involve the Vatican Bank and other Vatican financial interests.  First off Pope Francis has put together a group of five people to serve as an independent investigative board answerable only to him.  It includes two Americans, one of which is Mary Ann Glendon who was a former ambassador to the Holy See under GW Bush.  She also has very close ties to American Catholic neocons, being considered one of them her very self.  The other American is Monsignor Peter Wells, who holds the third ranking position in the Secretary of State.

According to John Allen, this commission has been given very broad powers over all Vatican financial operations with the mission to insure that these fiscal operations are compatible with the Gospel and the Christian message. Just as the Vatican announces this development, Italian police and financial authorities arrested the Vatican's head of the Apostolic Patrimony of the Holy See, Msgr Nunzio Scarano,  for two separate fraudulent activities, one involving the importation of 20+ million Euros into Italy from Switzerland on an Italian State jet in a supposed effort to recover monies invested by three brothers from an Italian family of shipping magnates.  The money was invested with an Italian broker who then reneged on the whole deal.  The broker and the Italian Security Agent who was hired to carry the money in from Switzerland, have also been arrested. See here.

The Monsignor's second offense involved donations to build a home for the elderly in Salerno. These donations were then given to friends and family--fifty of them-- to turn around into money orders for the good Monsignor to use to pay off the debt on his own personal estate.  It seems in this particular case, money laundering at the Vatican also includes laundering lay donations into personal accounts--over 500,000 Eu.  One of those personal accounts Scarano holds is with the Vatican Bank, although as of now, that account is not under scrutiny, many of those donations flowed in and out of that account and into Scarano's account in Salerno via those money orders from his 'friends'.  See here.  

This is just one Vatican official.  One wonders how many more are engaged in such creative finances for their friends, family and self.  It strikes me that cleaning up this kind of corruption probably does call for the kind of black and white thinking of competent lay Catholics, like Mary Ann Glendon, who will not take well to this kind of 'secularization'.  I may not agree with her politics or theology, but I am perfectly willing to admit her world view is much more likely to take this particular financial bull by the horns, than mine world view, or Pope Francis' for that matter.  I take the corruption very seriously, but like Francis, am perfectly willing to admit I don't have the kind of personality needed to root it out. 

The Italians seem to be taking Pope Francis' commission much more seriously than anyone else.  Over at Vatican Insider, Andrea Tornielli has written a number of posts on these latest stories and Pope Francis' commission.  In this article Tornielli makes the following point, which John Allen left out of his coverage:

The IOR is not therefore being placed under the administration of an external commissioner, nor are any changes being made to the internal governance equilibrium. Before going ahead with any potential reforms, Francis wants to know everything  there is to know about the IOR. The new Pope’s decision is important because he obviously did not rely blindly on the media strategy of Institute’s new German president Ernst von Freyberg and his numerous interviews with the international press. Nor on the theology lessons on the things that are “essential” for the Church’s freedom, given in a surprising interview with the IOR’s Director General, Paolo Cipriani.

These lines may indicate more than meets the eye because they clearly state that Pope Francis is not swallowing the PR line being promulgated by the Vatican Bank itself which were most likely PR strategies generated by Greg Burke and his Vatican Communications office.  Which means Pope Francis is not going to be railroaded by Opus Dei; or so I hope.  

I do have a request for Mary Ann Glendon.  I have read quite a bit of her writing and freely admit we do not see eye to eye on a lot things, but I would hope we would see eye to eye on rooting out the corruption which is overwhelming any Catholic message.  She has an opportunity as a woman to do some real cleaning in the halls of the Vatican. It's an opportunity rarely given to any Catholic woman.  Don't blow it, don't soft sell it, don't cave into the men.  Use the strongest disinfectant possible even if the smell drives many of the boys out of the halls.  Nothing wrong with the smell of sheep and nothing wrong with the smell of a strong disinfectant. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

SCOTUS on Wednesday Provides Cover For The Agenda Of Tuesday

Photograph taken directly after the Citizen's United decision.

I have to admit I was temporarily happy yesterday when the Supreme Court decisions regarding DOMA and Prop 8 were announced.  I was happy that gay couples in California and the other states where gay marriage is legal will have the same benefits as married heterosexual couples and that includes insuring their children will also have the same benefits as children of straight couples.  It was a short moment of euphoria because the real war was declared on Tuesday with the SCOTUS decision on the Voting Rights Act.  For me Wednesday's decisions were diversionary, meant to blind us to the other trend of the Robert's Court which is the constant reaffirmation and/or expansion of the rights of those who really hold power in this country, and almost all those holders of power are white supposedly straight supposedly Christian males.  When I couple Tuesday's decision with the United Citizen's decision, and that with all the gerry mandered districts that allowed the Republicans to keep the House, I see very tough times ahead for those of us who care about democracy as something more than an easily manipulated system of governance for the benefit of the rich and powerful.

In her latest post at the NCR, Jamie Manson writes in a similar vein.  In it she quotes Michael Bayly whose blog 'Wild Reed' is linked on my sidebar.  Michael warned about hollow victories, and he's right.  I would only add a warning about Trojan Horses, and the DOMA decision might be one such horse.  The following is the last half of Jamie's post.

When I was invited to give the presentation on voter ID and same-sex marriage, Michael Bayly, executive director of Catholics for Marriage Equality Minnesota, told me that if the amendment banning same-sex marriage was defeated but the voter ID amendment passed, it would be a "hollow victory." (In the end, Minnesotans managed to defeat both the voter ID and the ban on same-sex marriage amendments in November.)

Bayly's "hollow victory" phrase has been reverberating in my mind this week as the sidewalk outside the Supreme Court building transitioned from a place of frustration and defeat for racial justice activists Tuesday into a place to relief and rejoicing for LGBT activists Wednesday.

The fight against voter suppression laws and the fight for LGBT rights share some deep connections. At the most fundamental level, both are civil rights battles for equal protection under the law. In the same way that LGBT activists have asked other victims of discrimination to identify with our struggle, LGBT people must continue to foster the bonds of identity and solidarity across communities of justice-seekers.

At a strategic level, LGBT activists must also consider the ways in which voter suppression could undermine the fight for equality in the 35 states where same-sex marriage continues to be illegal. If right-wing lawmakers are successful in restricting voter eligibility among the disenfranchised, LGBT civil rights will be as vulnerable as government entitlements, civil liberties, collective bargaining and protections for immigrants.

LGBT activists and their allies know that, even in light of these historic victories, there is still much work ahead. The Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act serves as a cautionary tale of how, decades after they are won and codified, civil rights can be gradually dismantled or undermined.

Even as we reap the fruits of justice, we must always be watchful that the arc of the moral universe continues to bend, not boomerang.


Jamie's last line is a needed warning.  Entrenched power never gives up easily and this particular entrenched power has had it's way for thousands of years.  I suspect the cultural forces which are reshaping society will eventually overcome the idea that men are entitled to wield all the power from the moment of conception to their natural deaths, but we aren't there yet.  Power sharing is not a concept which powerful men are want to accept.  The idea of cooperation is not a particularly masculine attribute, certainly not in the way we see competition as a male attribute, but cooperation is the only way to insure a future for all of humanity and cooperation will be one of the key attributes of the future.  

Michael Bayly and Jamie Manson are right that gays and other disempowered minorities will have to cooperate in their vigilance against a major boomerang effect from the well placed entrenched power brokers.  This Supreme Court is still a tool of those men, Chief Justice Roberts still a man capable of throwing bones in the best interest of the over all agenda and that agenda is not about minority rights or dignity for gays.  It's about Wall Street and Fleet Street and other powerful men---and I never forget that some of those other powerful men reside in the Vatican City States

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Stop The Downloadings! I Agree With Bill Donohue

President Obama did not call for the abolition of Catholic schools while in Belfast.  For a taste of the conservative view Bill Donohue is criticizing try this link to Breitbart written by Joel Pollak.

Well, here's something I didn't expect would happen, I agree with a post written by Bill Donohue of the Catholic League.  His article is in response to conservative Catholics going off on President Obama over remarks PO made on his trip to Northern Ireland for the G8 meeting.  In his remarks, President Obama made mention of institutions, such as separate Catholic and Protestant schools, which essentially serve to foster ingrained segregation based on religious affiliation. Like Bill Donohue, I can't for the life of me understand how anyone could disagree with this statement given the decades of violence in Northern Ireland based in religious hatred.  Here's Donohue's post in it's entirety.  Thanks to Heidi Schlumpf of NCR for the link to Donohue's missive.


 Bill Donohue - Catholic League - 6/21/2013
There are plenty of reasons to be critical of President Obama’s policies as they relate to the Catholic Church, and I have not been shy in stating them. But the reaction on the part of conservatives, many of whom are Catholic, over his speech in Ireland, is simply insane. Never did Obama say he wants “an end to Catholic education.” Indeed, he never said anything critical about the nature of Catholic schools. It makes me wonder: Have any of his critics bothered to actually read his speech? (Why do I feel I have to keep pinching myself?  Bill is absolutely right, the attitudes taken by conservative Catholics to this speech is insane.)

Obama’s speech, given in Northern Ireland, properly spoke of the divisions between Catholics and Protestants. He lauded the Good Friday Agreement, noting that “There are still wounds that haven’t healed, and communities where tensions and mistrust hangs in the air.” He said that “segregated schools and housing” add to the problem. Then he said, “If towns remain divided—if Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs—if we can’t see ourselves in one another, if fear or resentment are allowed to harden, that encourages division.”

Obama was not condemning Catholic schools—he was condemning segregation. He was calling attention to the fact that where social divisions exist, the prospects for social harmony are dimmed. How can anyone reasonable disagree with this observation? Moreover, it should hardly be surprising that a black president would be sensitive to segregation, whether based on race or religion.

Some are also condemning Obama for disrespecting a Vatican official who days earlier touted Catholic education before a Scottish audience. So what? Obama’s speech, which no doubt was written before Archbishop Gerhard Müller spoke, mentioned Catholic schools in conjunction with Catholic buildings, the purpose of which was not to assess the worth of Catholic education (or Catholic buildings!), but to criticize religious divisions. In short, ripping comments out of context is an old game, and it is patently unfair to speakers and writers.  (Perhaps Bill should have left off this last sentence in his own best interests.)


In reading some of the conservative comments about this story, it strikes me that the story itself is something of a Rorschach test  for conservative Catholics.  Many commenters have 'seen' in PO's comments an attack on Catholic education.  I guess their paranoia must be blinding them from seeing the words 'and Protestants have theirs'. That's actually kind of scarey, and for that reason alone, I am extremely happy the Bill Donohue has called them out on their lack of comprehension.  It gives me some hope that Bill, who has been in the forefront of developing the conservative Catholic attitude towards this president, might be catching onto the idea that he has helped create something of a monster.

The other thing that strikes me about his post, is that Bill quotes PO's line about impediments to seeing ourselves in the other:  "if we can’t see ourselves in one another, if fear or resentment are allowed to harden, that encourages division."  It most certainly does encourage division and harden resentments and Bill Donohue has made a nice life for himself serving to do that at the behest of our conservative bishops in the USCCB.  I hope Bill reads his own article with ears to hear and eyes to see, because there is this strange phenomenon I've noted in myself where I write something that isn't intended so much for others as it is for me. Many times I don't catch that right away, but when I do it's like an arrow in the heart or a cold slap in the face.  These are moments of personal conversion.  Perhaps Bill Donohue is having one of his own.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

When Conversion Precipitates Real Meaningful Change

Apparently Exodus International questioned itself and came to the conclusion it's existence was not Christian at all.  Good for them.

I had intended to write a piece on Pope Francis' first 100 days.  In it I was going to make the point that for me Francis is attempting something astonishing.  He is not overly concerned with changing how the Catholic Institution functions, but rather he is targeting the very spiritual matrix in which it lives.  In other words, Francis is not reforming the Catholic religion, so much as he trying to reform Catholic spirituality.  Reform the spirituality and the institution will follow;  the spiritual matrix creates it's institutional expression.   
It may be that this 'Francis Effect' is spreading beyond Catholicism.  This morning I was stunned to read the following apology from Alan Chambers, the Director of Exodus International.  For those who don't know, Exodus was a global proponent of reparative therapy for gays.  It used a combination of 'pray the gay away' coupled with coercive therapy and a big dose of parent bashing.  It was also involved in Uganda's 'Kill the Gays' bill.  Exodus was a virulent strain of Evangelical Christianity--a pox on it's spiritual soul.  Chamber's admission and apology is amazing in it's blunt honesty about the consequences of that toxic spiritual reality:
I am sorry for the pain and hurt that many of you have experienced.  I am sorry some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents. 
I am sorry I didn’t stand up to people publicly “on my side” who called you names like sodomite — or worse. I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him, I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine. 
More than anything, I am sorry that so many have interpreted this religious rejection by Christians as God’s rejection.  I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives.

This is what conversion is all about.  Not conversion from gay to straight, but conversion from fear to love.  If you have the time I encourage you to read the live coverage of this announcement that Jim Burroway did at Box Turtle Bulletin.  I find myself agreeing with Jim's last sentences:  "But make no mistake about it. This is the end of an era, and major milestone in the history of the ex-gay movement. I imagine we’re going to hear a lot of reactions over the next several days to come, but tonight, Exodus has come to a quiet and — dare I say it — a very dignified end."

More coverage here:

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Pope Francis Is All For Collegiality--At Least Amongst Bishops And Cardinals

Pope Francis was elected to perform this task. Perhaps any other initiative should wait lest the stench from this pile corrupt everything else.

In a meeting with members of the ordinary council of the Synod of Bishops Pope Francis had some thoughts on collegiality and the further use of bishops in the structure of the Church.  He even said the furtherance of collegiality between bishops and Rome was a fruit of the Second Vatican Council.  The following excerpt is from a Religion News Service article written by Cindy Wooden as posted on the NCR.  It's interesting not only for the topics Francis addressed with his bishops, but maybe more so for what is not addressed.

.....In the text prepared for the meeting Thursday -- a text the pope said would be handed to the council members -- Pope Francis had described the synods as "one of the fruits of the Second Vatican Council" and a structure "at the service of the mission and communion of the church, as an expression of collegiality."
"Open to the grace of the Holy Spirit, the soul of the church, we trust that the Synod of Bishops will undergo further developments to further promote dialogue and collaboration among the bishops and between the bishops and the bishop of Rome," he had written....

....Council members were invited to tell the pope their initial ideas for the next world Synod of Bishops. Their suggestions included: the meaning of the church, the church's encounter with the world, collegiality and "synodality" -- basically the relationship between the College of Bishops and the pope -- ecology, the family, interreligious dialogue and formation of the laity.

After listening to several cardinals' suggestions, the pope joked, "The cake is only half cooked, huh?"
The council members were to continue meeting and to vote on three possible themes to suggest to the pope. He told them, "I'd take a fourth, too."

Pope Francis said, "The family is a serious problem. ... Today many people, even Catholics, don't get married but live together. Marriage is seen as provisional. It's a serious problem."

The pope said that in October, he and his cardinal-advisers would discuss who they would entrust with "a study on pastoral work with families. The synod? A special synod? With the presidents of bishops' conferences? This is a problem that we'll look at in October.".... (How about a commission instead of a synod and adding to it some people who actually have the families?  This would not be a completely novel approach.  It was tried once before.)


The overwhelming message that comes from this article is that Pope Francis sees collegiality as the purview of bishops and cardinals.  I guess that would make sense if the topics of discussion were limited to bishops and cardinals, but almost all of the topics these bishops and cardinals will discuss and decide upon involve the lives of the laity.  It seems to me that what Francis has in mind is just another way of Church leadership getting together and maintaining their role as those who teach the role of the laity to the laity.  Just another way for our Holy Fathers to use Holy Mother Church to parent the lay children.  It would be really novel if our Holy Fathers allowed for the idea that the lay children are also mature adults capable of expressing legitimate observations about their own state in life.  I would hope that one of Francis' Cardinal advisers might mention this concept as a topic for discussion.  Maybe then we would someday read that one of the topics will be the role of women in the Church.  That particular topic is no where mentioned in this article.  It's an oversight I did not find especially novel.  

I really am truly glad that Pope Francis is committed to expanding collegiality.  Even limiting the concept to the world's bishops is better than having virtually everything Catholic determined by the Vatican curia--not too mention the personal whims of one pope.  It is even possible that part of the input from the world's bishops will come from laity those bishops consult.  Maybe some of those bishops will expand the concept of collegiality to include lay expression in their own sphere of influence.  Maybe this can be a case of a 'trickle up' theory. 

I'm also interested in the fact the gang of 8 is to be expanded to the gang of 9 with the addition of an Eastern Church representative.  The Eastern Church contains a number of autochthonous churches and their experiences may point to the future for global Catholicism.  Regional expressions may turn out to be a more efficient way to both evangelize and organize. The Vatican would then become a center for coordination and networking, rather than a monarchical dinosaur with too many of it's clerical caste playing their own version of the Game of Thrones.  Maybe we could even develop a meaningful system of accountability for our bishops--one that has some teeth.  That would be novel.  There is potential here, but that potential could be easily stymied if Pope Francis sets too limited an agenda or allows his advisers to dictate a limited agenda for him. It would be really unfortunate if all that came of Francis' appeal to collegiality is another avenue for rubber stamping the thoughts of a given pope.  In order to avoid that Francis has to start dealing with the corruption and careerism in the curia.  I don't think he will be able to do much about that unless he is prepared to take on the influence of the right wing 'New Movements' and their moneyed interests. If he fails to do anything in this sphere, his musings about collegiality will be nothing more than a still born concept. 



Friday, June 7, 2013

Pope Francis Answers Questions From Children. He's A Wild Card Fer Sure

117 cards to draw from and our cardinals seemed to have drawn the wild card.

Pope Francis has been a refreshing cup of tea for me because he is not afraid to be spontaneous, and it's in his spontaneity that I catch glimpses of his true self.  I don't always agree with some of his spontaneous thoughts, but that's not the real issue.  The real issue is he isn't afraid to show the world his thinking and his reasoning is mostly unscripted and unimpeded by much of a verbal censor.  These qualities were fully on display in an interchange he had with young Italian and Albanian students this morning in Rome.  The following is an excerpt from this article taken from the Vatican's Information Services website.

...The floor was then given to several students and professors who asked the Pope unscripted questions. To the first student, who asked about the doubts regarding belief that he sometimes has and what he could do to help him grow in faith, Francis answered:
“Journeying is an art because, if we're always in a hurry, we get tired and don't arrive at our journey's goal. If we stop, if we don't go forward and we also miss the goal. Journeying is precisely the art of looking toward the horizon, thinking where I want to go but also enduring the fatigue of the journey, which is sometimes difficult … There are dark days, even days when we fail, even days when we fall. [Sometimes] one falls but always think of this: don't be afraid of failures. Don't be afraid of falling. What matters in the art of journeying isn't not falling but not staying down. Get up right away and continue going forward. This is what's beautiful: this is working every day, this is journeying as humans. But also, it's bad walking alone: it's bad and boring. Walking in community, with friends, with those who love us, that helps us. It helps us to arrive precisely at that goal, that 'there where' we're supposed to arrive.” (The only thing I might add to this description of the 'art' of journeying is that sometimes the destination you think you are walking towards is just another step in the journey.)
An elementary school girl asked if the Pope continued to see his friends from grade school. 
“But I've only been Pope for two and a half months,” he answered. But he understood her concern and continued “My friends are 14 hours away from here by plane, right? They're far from here, but I want to tell you something, three of them came to find me and greet me and I see them and they write to me and I love them very much. You can't live without friends, that's important.”
The next question, also from a grade school girl, was if he wanted to be Pope. 
He responded by asking her: “Do you know what it means if someone doesn't love themselves very much?” He continued: “Someone who wants, who has the desire to be Pope doesn't love themself. ... But I didn't want to be Pope.” (This is a profound answer to an insightful question.  Self love does not need the validation of external success.  In fact, when a person is truly operating from self love, these kinds of questions don't even come up nor is that unsought for success likely to turn one's head in the wrong direction.)

Another girl asked why he had forsaken the wealth of the papacy, living at the Domus Sanctae Marthae instead of the Apostolic Palace apartments, and other similar choices. (Finally someone gave Pope Francis a public opportunity to answer this question.  His answer is illuminating.)
He answered: “It's not just about wealth. For me it's a question of personality. I need to live among people and if I lived alone, perhaps rather isolated, it wouldn't be good for me. (In more ways than one.) A professor asked me this question: 'Why don't you go live there?' and I answered, 'Listen, professor, it's for psychiatric reasons.' Because … that's my personality. That apartment [in the Apostolic Palace] isn't so luxurious either, don't worry. But I can't live alone, do you understand? And well, I believe that, yes, the times talk to us of so much poverty in the world and this is a scandal. Poverty in the world is a scandal. In a world where there is so much wealth, so many resources to feed everyone, it is unfathomable that there are so many hungry children, that there are so many children without an education, so many poor persons. Poverty today is a cry. We all have to think if we can become a little poorer, all of us have to do this. How can I become a little poorer in order to be more like Jesus, who was the poor Teacher?” Returning to the original question, he finished: “It's not a question of my personal virtue. It's just that I can't live alone.” All the rest, not having so many things, “is about becoming a little poorer”. (The question Pope Francis asks about 'becoming a little poorer' is the one people in the first world are going to have to answer, and better it be an honest choice than the forced situation we are all facing.)
The Pope also answered questions related to his choosing to become a Jesuit, but the last of the eight questions was from a young man who asked how young people should deal with the material and spiritual poverty that exists in the world. 
The Holy Father responded: “First of all I want to tell you something, tell all you young persons: don't let yourselves be robbed of hope. Please, don't let it be stolen from you. The worldly spirit, wealth, the spirit of vanity, arrogance, and pride … all these things steal hope. Where do I find hope? In the poor Jesus, Jesus who made himself poor for us. And you spoke of poverty. Poverty calls us to sow hope. This seems a bit difficult to understand. I remember Fr. Arrupe [Father General of the Jesuits from 1965-1983] wrote a letter to the Society's centres for social research. At the end he said to us: 'Look, you can't speak of poverty without having experience with the poor.' You can't speak of poverty in the abstract: that doesn't exist. Poverty is the flesh of the poor Jesus, in that child who is hungry, in the one who is sick, in those unjust social structures. Go forward, look there upon the flesh of Jesus. But don't let well-being rob you of hope, that spirit of well-being that, in the end, leads you to becoming a nothing in life. Young persons should bet on their high ideals, that's my advice. But where do I find hope? In the flesh of Jesus who suffers and in true poverty. There is a connection between the two.”  (Hope is found in the Resurrection as well as in the lifestyle and teachings of Jesus.  A person can truly gamble on their high ideals only when the fear of failure (death) is not so strong that it stifles the ability to take the gamble.)

 Pope Francis may do some of his best teaching with children, especially when those children are insightful, astute, and really want to hear the answers.  Sometimes those children come in adult bodies.  I find myself liking him more and more because he tells it the way he sees it.  He truly does have a gambler's attitude in that he isn't afraid of losing when he plays his cards and he's honest about why he's even playing the game.  As he says, it isn't about losing or falling down, it's about getting up and continuing the journey. Amongst a host of careerist clergy he has to seen as the wild card Joker amongst the Catholic royalty.  The Cardinals may have been looking to elect a place holding version of a suicide king, but they got the Joker instead.  
I've played a lot of poker, and to me the having the joker in the deck always represented another reason to hope. Might not have been a sure thing, but the presence of the joker did add to the hope quotient.  I have the same kind of feeling about Pope Francis.  He's by no means a sure thing but he does add to the hope quotient and he does have people wondering and thinking and guessing where he's going next.