Friday, December 13, 2013

Enough Of The Rhetoric. Where's The Change I Can Believe In?

 I haven't written anything in a while and it's not because there wasn't anything to write about.  There was a lot to write about.  I spent part of the time reading Pope Francis' Evangelii Gaudium and certainly did have more than a few thoughts about this lengthy piece.  I just didn't feel like writing them.  Call it malaise or maybe even indifference, but my bigger question was why a pope that was generating such enthusiasm in others had induced malaise and indifference in me---and has been for months. I finally came to the conclusion that Francis is not prepared to really act to make definitive changes in the Church culture.  He is in point of fact, reinforcing some of the worst aspects of Church culture by using a lot of 'up is down' rhetoric, about some insidious Church teaching, but more on that later.

The following is an excerpt of an article by Boston Globe's Kevin Cullen.  It's about Rhode Island's Bishop Tom Tobin.  Tobin, like Springfield's Paprocki is a culture warrior of impeccable credentials.  Unfortunately he is a man for whom Pope Francis is not only not an inspiration, Francis is apparently such a light weight leader he can't  even get Tobin to even consider toning down the rhetoric. For what ever reason, Bishop Tom Tobin continues his career as one of America's prominent GOP Bishops no matter that Francis is on record as being dead set against this kind of preaching.  I think the reason Tobin feels free to ignore Francis is answered at the end of this excerpt.  There is more money in extending forgiveness and mercy to the rich than there is in extending mercy and forgiveness to the poor: 

The infallible Tom Tobin

 Kevin Cullen - Boston Globe - 12/13/13
.....While the pope has been busy selling his soul to all us heathens, Tobin used Nelson Mandela’s death as an opportunity to denounce Mandela’s “shameful promotion of abortion” in South Africa.

I was hoping Tobin would throw in Mandela’s “shameful promotion of condoms” for good measure. You know, the condoms that helped shrink the spread of AIDS in South Africa. Tobin is, in keeping with church teaching, opposed to contraception, even if there is incontrovertible evidence that condoms save lives, even if there’s incontrovertible evidence those condoms reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies that result in abortions. (To this point, Pope Francis holds to the same teachings, no matter the real cost to real lives in the developing world.)

It’s that kind of Dark Ages reasoning that allows bishops like Tobin to believe that in cases of a life-threatening pregnancy, women should die rather than have an abortion. (Pope Francis follows the same reasoning.)

A few years ago, Tobin proclaimed that Patrick Kennedy, then a Rhode Island congressman, should be denied Communion because Kennedy supported abortion rights. The reactionaries in the pews cheered, and Tobin was so busy congratulating himself for standing up for the sanctity of life that he never got around to denying Communion to all those pols who support the death penalty and unnecessary wars fought by other people’s kids.

At the same time Tobin was casting Kennedy out of his church, he was turning over the op-ed page of his diocesan newspaper to Bishop John McCormack, one of the worst enablers of child abuse. At the same time Tobin was denying a sacrament to a politician whose political views he doesn’t share, he was denying diocesan records to men and women who were raped as children by priests. (Pope Francis also has denied access to Archdiocesan records and just last week denied the UN access to Vatican records.)

Tobin’s obsession with judging people narrowly, almost exclusively on whom they fall in love with and whether they support abortion rights, is exactly what the pope has been trying to get away from. The pope hasn’t and won’t change Catholic teaching on these matters, even the risible claim that gay people are “disordered.” He merely wants bishops to stop obsessing about abortion and homosexuality and divorce and contraception because so many who do come across like a bunch of mean-spirited, self-righteous jerks. The pope knows his church is a lot bigger than a couple of hot-button issues, that compassion goes a lot farther than condemnation. (Merely wanting bishops to stop obsessing about these issues means nothing if there is no change in teaching.  Francis can not use his pastoral approach to hide from the implications of the actual teachings.)

To be fair, Bishop Tobin is a merciful guy. Just the other day, he wrote a letter asking a judge to go easy on one of his church’s biggest benefactors, a guy named Joe Caramadre.
Prosecutors want Caramadre sent to prison for 10 years after he was convicted in a $46 million investment fraud that preyed on the terminally ill. So what if Joe Caramadre was using unsuspecting dying people to make a buck? It’s not like he’s gay or in favor of abortion.
Did I mention Caramadre used to advertise his services in the diocesan newspaper?......


Call me a radical, but I don't see why it isn't possible for Pope Francis to send a pointedly worded email or drop a cold call on Cardinal O'Malley and insist the USCCB give some 'fraternal' correction to bishops like Tobin and Paprocki.  It's how leadership changes a culture.  It is virtually impossible to change a culture from the bottom up.  It is virtually impossible to change a culture from the top down if the top isn't willing to exercise their authority in a meaningful way.  Say what you want about Pope Benedict, but he created the culture he wanted in his subordinates.  Just ask William Morris of Toowoomba AU.  One rolled head sent quite the message to every other bishop who might have been entertaining expressing thoughts not acceptable to Benedict.

The thing is, Pope Francis has been dropping hints left and right about what is acceptable to express and what is not.  He has drawn his lines in the proverbial sand and those lines all point to no real change in anything Catholic.  It's as if Francis is using bishops like Tobin to remind us of that while he is free to utter all his pastoral rhetoric, giving the Church a kinder gentler public face.  I don't personally care how wonderful his rhetoric is, if he does not act he will not change the culture he upbraids in many of his writings and talks, and unfortunately too many of his acts indicate the exact opposite of his rhetoric.  And yet, he has the whole world eating out of his hand. 

Even the latest Moneyval report on the IOR, which is not all that flattering, treats the Vatican's failure to implement it's over-site committees with kid gloves.  "No real transparency yet, but we're sure it will come."  Of course the fact it's been over two years,  and nine months of that has been on Francis' watch, doesn't seem to matter. Yes, there has been some change, and yes, there have been accounting firms hired to check for illicit activity, but the permanent structures are still sitting, idling in neutral. In the meantime the indictments of individuals continue and the Italian financial investigations grind on.

When it comes to child abuse the message is exactly the same as it always has been.  No cooperation with outside entities unless forced to in a given secular jurisdiction.  The UN asks for information on the global situation, the Vatican says 'no' and then has Cardinal O'Malley announce an in house committee on child abuse.  Of course there were no pertinent details about this committee.  Just that it would deal with pastoral issues associated with victims and strategies to protect children. Notice how accountability issues were left out?  I can only assume accountability issues will reside where they have always resided, in the hands of the Vatican.  That's change we can believe in. LOL  

And that in a nut shell is where my malaise has come from.  So far Pope Francis has implemented no change in anything meaningful and his rhetoric doesn't cut it for me. I want to see some action that directly points to change I can believe in. Haven't seen it so far and have serious doubts I will any time soon.


  1. Religion as a solution to problems? You might as well treat arsenic as part of an array of medicines to treat or cure disease.
    Church is boring. That's its (not "it's") main problem. You also have to pay and you waste a lot of time.

    Plus you have to listen to "activists" pretend that they know something about how to live.

  2. One of the mistakes that this Pope has made is to live outside the Vatican apartments. I understand that he wants to live in a place with more of a community feel, but I think that the Curia is MORE than happy to have him living, physically, somewhere else. That way he cannot keep too close track of what is going on "at the office" and he can appear as a smiling front man who is loved by the secular media, while they continue to do their shenanigans. This Pope is taking the heat off of them, especially regarding the sex abuse scandals. It is most discouraging. Finn is still running the show in Kansas City-St. Joseph....untouched.
    And as a final note: If Raymond Burke is calling the shots, anywhere, you can be sure that there are shenanigans going on.

  3. Yes, this pope is taking the heat off of the Vatican, and all kinds of bishops, and their supporters. I keep asking when heads will roll--especially those heads both on the Vatican payroll and others in national bishop's conferences.

    I never forget that those heads on the Vatican payroll are still primarily dependent on wealthy Western countries. Of course those funding donations include the major donors who still have plenty of access to the Vatican bank through 'traditional' religious orders.

    There is also the fact that the IOR would have stopped allowing accounts from Vatican ambassadors and others who have accreditation with the Holy See, but have nothing to do with Catholicism. Forget drug cartels, I would love to read something that Mary Ann Glendon would have had to close her personal account, and that Carl Anderson would have had to close the KofC account. We don't read anything about any of that.

    So far Francis has been all about Francis but very little about his attitude percolating downward.

  4. I don't understand why you commented on this post. I said nothing about religion being a solution to any problem we currently experience in this world. Where are you coming from?

  5. You're right. Nothing has really changed. The rules are the same & Pope Benedict might as well still be in charge. A reason for malaise, for sure. A reason also for the RCC to continue to bleed membership & continue to lose its credibility.

    If Pope Francis were a coach of a team that really wanted to win he would not have assistant coaches who were saboteurs, making bets to ensure the game could not be won.

  6. The more I think about this, I'm not sure there is all that much a pope (at least a putative reform pope) can do about anything, really. (Follow me here for a minute.)

    The Catholic hierarchy--despite all its pretensions to a monarchical, pyramidal structure--seems more to me like an urban political machine with powerful and well-placed clusters of patronage chiefs, ward bosses, and precinct workers. If Francis did much more than he's doing (clearly with some very important things he is definitely not doing much, and with other things he seems mostly to be trying to shame people who were already long-since shameless), then there would probably be some way for those clusters of bosses and their underlings to run him out on a rail, if not worse.

    I think to a great extent Pope Benedict--and Pope John Paul--got the culture they desired among their subordinates because their subordinates were already disposed to give it to them. Those two popes very vocally wanted what the system had always wanted.

    The exception that proves the rule, John XXIII, did an end-run around the system by calling a council. It briefly broke the power of the machine. But given the composition of today's episcopate, I'd be frightened if Francis actually called Vatican III.

  7. Why the emotional investment in this freak show? Are you a masochist?
    Why bother-walk away and save yourselves time, trouble and money.

  8. Just read this blog for the first time. Its terrific and totally on target. The zinger on Tobin's hypocrisy is needed, relevant and accurate.

  9. Welcome aboard Thomas, Colleen has a very good blog with lots of factual truth. She does a good service for the People of God. dennis

  10. I agree so far it is rhetoric without action. Despite what Pope Francis says about the poor or women etc., he was not elected by the cardinals to do anything other than straighten out the Vatican Bank, reform corruption in the Vatican Curia, and give the Cardinals the power to bypass the Curia or reform it. The bishops see the Vatican Curia as the problem. Hence the German bishops are pushing for allowing "re-married Catholics" to receive communion, and Mueller's CDF is resisting. One can also see in the "Vatican prepared survey" for next year's Synod, the Vatican's ineptitude.
    It is also noteworthy how various American bishops "interpreted the Vatican's term "local church survey" to mean that the laity did not have to be consulted. (It reminds me of how the Vatican Curia tried to control all the preliminary planning and agenda to the Great Council).
    The election of Pope Francis has nothing to do with giving Catholic reformers what they want eg. married priests, women priests, contraception, protection for children, prosecution of bishops who cover up abuse, approval of gay marriage, accepting gays as "normal and not dis-ordered, giving the laity any say in electing their bishops, removal of bishops who abuse their power. IMO these are false hopes that some laity cling to.
    All of these reform issues desired by the laity are ignored because the laity has no governing power. All the problems of corruption in the RCC are systemic problems of corrupt governance and abuse of power. IMO there is only one reform issue and that is governance.
    The euphoria over the pope's temperate remarks reflects how greatly the Catholic laity in general have been depressed under the medievalism of . Benedict. It is as if any word of mercy or tolerance from the pope is "revolutionary," even when he has not really changed anything.
    IMO there is no reform in sight. Francis is no John XXIII. Even if Pope Francis wanted to reform the RCC, he has inherited a hierarchy with a "medieval mindset," thanks to the vetting of the previous 2 popes. The medieval bishops are not limited to Tobin, Finn, and Paprocki.
    Bishops wield a power of absolute secrecy.I would not trust any bishop to protect any child. IMO anyone who would trust any bishop's words puts children in jeopardy. It is not that priest's can't be trusted. It is the glib, political bishops who still have the absolute power to betray our children,
    that should not be trusted.

  11. Love your disqus name.

  12. Justin you have some great lines in this comment. I really like this one: "with other things he seems mostly to be trying to shame people who were already long-since shameless)"

    The curia and the hierarchy really do function like political wards. All one need do is follow the trail of personal connections in our own USCCB. Rigalli and Law have just about every crony connection they had elevated to bishop.

    Vatican II was an attempt at an end around and it was partially successful until Paul issued HV and was then followed by JPII. I don't think Francis will call a Vatican III, but I do have some hope he will allow regional bishops conferences to make their own calls on some issues. If other conferences don't follow suit, say with the Germans on divorce or the Africans on a married priesthood, that is going to cause the lag behind conferences a great deal of angst. Probably more than the USCCB, Australian and Irish conferences have taken over clerical abuse.

  13. "All of these reform issues desired by the laity are ignored because the
    laity has no governing power. All the problems of corruption in the RCC
    are systemic problems of corrupt governance and abuse of power. IMO
    there is only one reform issue and that is governance."

    Great paragraph which hits to the heart of the matter. I've also been intrigued by how the word 'influence' is coming up over and over again when it comes to women in the Church. Influence is hardly equivalent with decision making power. I suspect 'influence' is going to become the buzz word for how the laity will have a 'say' in governance---as in none.

  14. Thank you and welcome aboard.

  15. So do you buddy.

    I love your comments on NCR. Too bad cestus, edhu and some others got the boot because I would laugh my butt off with their responses to your comments.

  16. Very good comment. Deacon Bill! One of the several things have bothered me for years is the Bishops arrogance in the proclamation of their own "authority." They simply are not an authoritative group of men consulting with experts in any field. They are however authoritarian tyrants that believe some how they were given this style of governance by Christ. -- Far from the truth!! Most are not the good king because as Lord Acton once said told Bishop Creighton,

    ""Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."

    Great men are not tyrants and tend to understand what both Socrates and Einstein were talking about when they said something like this "The more I learn, the more I learn how little I know." Tyrants believe that they have an "infallible" ability to know things. They are very wrong. The Roman Catholic Encyclopedia states, "

    "that infallibility means more than exemption from actual error; it means exemption from the possibility of error;"

    The above statement is truly a delusion of Catholic governance. The idea that finite beings can know THE TRUTH is again arrogance as we can not come close to understanding the “mind of our Great God.” The
    idea that a Bishop is THE teacher of his diocese is again a significant
    corrupt delusion of grandeur. Bishops are in fact in most cases,
    without good or very little resume. Even those that have a decent
    resume who assume the mind set of a tyrannical bishop are making
    themselves part of this great institutional delusion.

    The recent idea of Francis that the Catholic Bishops would work for the poor is a real paradox. These are men that have ignored the chattels of the poor with the maintenance of their own exuberant life styles and religious decorations. On the one hand you have a group of clerics that are fighting to maintain their comfortable life style and increase the money that they spend on pomp, e.g. their new elaborate vestments and personal costumes, and to increase their contacts with the very wealthy who continue to pay for episcopal homes, cars and social activities. Meanwhile the collections go down as the middle class sees this character split in the leadership and refuses to pay or obey. So perhaps the Bishops will be able to pry money for themselves and the poor from the hands of the wealthy------ doubt it. Our Church has imploded over greed and "infallible doctrine" thai is not even ethical. It has imploded over the failure of the Bishops and Popes to take their responsibility for the banking and sexual crises. Not sure these men can do much for the poor as they insist on some of their medieval pelvic, misogynistic, and homophobic ideas. They insist on this poor doctrine even in distributing “some crumbs” to those who are very poor. Their attitudes about sexual misconduct and dishonest banking policies are again not even ethical not to speak of immoral. Ya get the bums to throw the poor a few scraps from the table as they attempt to secure their own engorgement.

    It is up to the People of God not to be fooled. This poor leadership does very little to actually help the poor. Instead they increase the misery. Time for the People of God to realize this and to ignore the Bishops and even Popes all together. They are not “Christ-like” individuals and have no authority over us.

  17. "that infallibility means more than exemption from actual error; it means exemption from the possibility of error;"

    And no wonder other leaders come into power with such a belief that is permeated by the RCC, such as the current leader in N. Korea, a notable tyrant who just had his Uncle killed. These ideas from the Church itself create those beliefs in others in leadership and those not in leadership. It is an idea that is insane to begin with, imho.

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  19. Do you think that it is right that some should parade around and pretend to be religious leaders & who have authority in the RCC while they are hypocrites & cause so much suffering and turmoil in the world & proliferate ignorance? Have you ever even invested some time reading about history or anything else? Do you think it is ok that children have become victims of pedophiles in the priesthood & will continue to be unless there is a real change of heart & some real action in the leadership of the RCC? Do you believe there is anything worth fighting for? Do you have children and desire for them to live in peace & harmony or do you love ignoring corruption and want to see more victims of war & more poor and homeless people living in squalor, a repeat of the last few hundred years with even deadlier weapons? Do you believe in justice? What is justice to the ignorant? Do you question at all, Stan, or is your mind made of cement to match a hardened heart? Do you ever try to see past your own nose, in other words? Just what is your gig anyway, Stan (you say you are) Theman? What kind of man are you to say "Why bother-walk away and save yourselves time, trouble and money"? Such a thing that you say suggests you are too lazy to even think. Must be that the cement has hardened in your brains and it prevents you from seeing and hearing. Be gone & farewell to you if you do not like the discussion.

  20. Let's take a chill pill and I'll answer your "questions"-what's up with rhetorical questions and religious people?

    I would like the "parades" to end as quickly as possible-prancing around in drag looks weird, especially if you claim you're not gay.
    How are you going to identify hypocrites and get rid of them? Just a thought-they might try it with you.
    I read history at least three times a week.
    No and I think pedophiles should be arrested and tried in court.
    Do you think I'm a Latin Mass/Mother Angelica type? Youre questions seem to imply this-let me calm your terriefied "progressive" "Spirit of Vatican 2" brain-I'm not even catholic.
    I'd have to see something worth fighting for before telling you; so far, religion and its fairy tales are about the last thing I'd get into a fight over. It's like arguing over who's better, Batman or The Hulk.
    Why the interest in my reproductive history?
    And the rhetorical question is simply pathetic; give me something I can answer, something with actual intellectual content.
    I'm not ignorant, so I have no idea what constitutes justice to them.
    Do you have any actual questions or do you just emote?

  21. You are the one emoting, Stan. Hypocrites identify themselves and it is obvious to those with vision.

  22. I think that Sunshine was too kind in the response given to you, Stan TheMan. You have come here to bark and growl like a wild animal crazed, hungry and itching for a fight with people you have decided to bully around because you don't have any sense to be reasonable or compassionate with religious people that you have decided you have contempt for. You are presumptuous and arrogant to come here with your barking and growling like an abusive predator.

    You are not calm in the least and you told Sunshine to take a chill pill in your opening sentence. You are very rude & not acting mature and you are not in any frame of mind to have a civil discussion with anybody here.

    You said "so far, religion and its fairy tales are about the last thing I'd get into a fight over." But you are here FIGHTING with people over it now.
    That's ignorance in a nutshell! It is also hypocrisy!

    It seems very clear that your sole intention for writing in this blog is to recreate an emotional disturbance and you have no intention that is for any good purpose.

  23. Religion is boring.
    I'm glad when churches close.

  24. Each civilization has its own myths and they are a necessary part of society to help a society live. Stan, If you examine yourself deeply enough you will find your own myth even if it is not expressed in a church.

  25. Like you, right Sunshine?
    You have the Inner Light and can tell right from wrong and you have the Prophetic Ministry to tell the rest of us how to live our lives?
    F*ck you!

  26. Good post, This post clears myview about Energy Audits Rochester NY.

  27. I thought you might get a chuckle or two from it. :-)

  28. Ya, but the man that is in is the same one that got rid of the kindly shepherd Bishop Hunthausen in Seattle on frivolous accusations by John Paul the Great.

  29. Ok. First, it's only been 9 months. If you think that's enough time to turn the Catholic church around, you need to find another subject to blog on. Period. You are disqualifying yourself as a serious commentator. (Of course, if you just want to vent...that's different)
    Second, If your expectation is that Francis is a liberal Episcopalian and is headed for those kinds of positions, you have again disqualified yourself as a serious commentator. He's not. He is not going to change doctrine, especially in an across the board manner. Perhaps a shift here or there, etc. After all, he has a global church to consider, not just us liberal first worlders ;-).
    Third, Rhetoric is important! So is selecting bishops of a different life experience is important. So is moving the Church toward synodality (and over the long term that is what is most likely to bring more of the changes that are envisioned here - but again not going to happen this year. Oh, and he has only present Church personnel (JP II appointees!) to work with so that slows it all down too
    Fourth, Francis doesn't know where Rhode Island is! He doesn't know Tobin. He doesn't know the USA . He only knows the Archbishop of Boston because of O'Malley's work in the global south. In short, our points of reference are not his. Also Bip Morris (if I remember correctly) was done in over a 10 yr period re: a decade old remark. He was done in by the right wing crazies and their Vatican contacts. That was not a quick phone call on a new comment. Also, who are the liberals who are going to mount new character assasinations against conservatives like Tobin? Who will receive and act on them in the Vatican? (Francis hasn't replaced enough personnel to do that if he wanted to.) Are we going to be toxic too?
    In short, even though I agree with much of the sentiment, it's getting a little bit unrealistic around here.
    Where's the "enlightened"? That's my favorite part :-)

  30. Dear Jude,

    Yes, there really is too much broken for one man to fix. However Francis seems to use more rhetoric and less action than he might as there are very serious problems in the RCC which has a curia embedded with the mafia of southern Europe and a group of Bishops in the US and elsewhere that believe there actions are unquestionable even when it comes to protection of clerics who abuse children. I have been engaged with this blog for several years and it has been ahead of the curve in figuring out what is going on in the RCC leadership. Those that are not serious or suffering from religious illusion pretend that our leadership is not at the root of our problems. If you prefer the delusional you can get that on EWTN and there is no need to look here.

  31. I think Pope Francis is better informed than we might think. While I doubt he's aware of individuals such as Tobin, he certainly responded to US right wing criticism of Evangelii Gaudium, and the fact Rush called him a Marxist.

    He is moving forward on the corruption in the Vatican bank and APSA which has been one of my pet issues since I began this blog. Corruption, lack of transparency, and zero accountability is killing the soul of this Church and I am waiting for movement in this area, especially some accountability for bishops and religious orders who hid clerical abusers. Finn still sits on his throne in KC.

    His repeated calls for a deeper theology of women have so far gone no where. He can't keep the status quo for women and expect women to stay with the Church. What is happening in the North with women leaving will happen in Africa and the Orient, exactly as it is now happening in Latin America. I don't like writing this, but there is no hope for gay men until the Church changes it's thinking on women and the feminine. At the same time it does this, it must change it's world view on sexual morality, moving from an act based mentality to a relational mentality. In other words it must move from male thinking to feminine thinking. This is why it is especially important the Francis start acting on his 'deeper theology of women'. Women think relationally.

    The one are the Church really needs updating and reforming, and the area I don't see any hope for change at all, is in the nature of priestly orders. I'm not talking about women's ordination here, I am talking about the inherent nature of priestly ordination. It needs to go. People need to elect their own local celebrants in order to insure sacramental availability and coherence of community. The major requirement should be 'local' not gender or marital status. Otherwise clericalism will never be wiped out and we will be calling for reform for the exact same reasons fifty years from now.

  32. Anonymously_TreadingJanuary 15, 2014 at 8:48 AM

    Agreed totally with respect to the nature of priestly ordination, I agree totally but I'll go one step further:

    The priesthood needs to realize that it and the laity are accountable --to each other-- rather than continue the practice of the laity having just about no input in all matters theologically in the Catholic church and thus being accountable to that priesthood.

    When there is ---- at least---- a modicum of mutuality in the roles of hierarchy and laity then maybe and eventually the local establishment can legitimately work toward choosing their celebrants.