Thursday, July 17, 2014

Jennifer Hasselberger Drives A Truck Through The Lies Of The Clerical Caste Of The Archdiocese Of St Paul and Minneapolis

Archbishop Neinstedt gives the camera his best "I would never tell a lie" expression.

 I just finished reading Jennifer Hasselberger's deposition released by Jeff Anderson and Associates.  The deposition was given for a civil suit against the Archdiocese of Minneapolis/St Paul and involves child sexual abuse by a priest known to have serious sexual issues, but was never the less, appointed pastor of the parish at which the abuse cited in this civil law suit occurred.  Jennifer writes this at the very beginning of her deposition:

1. The statements made herein, unless stated otherwise, are only to be considered as reflective of the situation and circumstances of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. These statements should not be understood to be representative of the practices of other Catholic dioceses in the United States, of the universal Catholic Church,or of the Holy See.

I'd love to believe the circumstances cited in her deposition were exclusive to the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, but after doing decades of research, I can no longer find it in my Catholic soul to believe the situations and attitudes she describes are unique to this Archdiocese.  They are not the exception to the rule.  They are the actual observed practice, and this in spite of all the recent rules written specifically to look as if these practices are no longer the rule.  The real rule in operation, as Jennifer shows beyond a doubt, is now as it always has been: the welfare of the offending priest before any thought of any justice for a victim.

I also know there really are dioceses where the unwritten rule does not hold sway, but these are the exceptions.  The exception is not the level of duplicity and corruption in the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis.  The only exception here is that a highly placed Archdiocesan individual refused to play the clerical game, and unsurprisingly she just happened to be a lay woman.  As for religious women and lay men?  They were complicit at least to the extent that information stayed in house that belonged in the hands of police.

I don't know how many times I have written, here and in comments elsewhere, that the corruption and abuses will not stop until Catholics are released from the conditioning that God desires a magical celibate male priest as essential to the sacramental functions in the Church.  The abuses of our clergy, both sexual and financial, will never end as long as all the power is in the hands of the very men who are causing all the problems.  Pope Francis will not solve any of these issues by leaving the current theology of the priesthood as is.  He has done nothing that demonstrates to me he has any desire to change one aspect of this theology. Even if it is eventually decided to let married men in the priesthood, that does not change a thing about the exclusive power held by the priesthood.  

I guess I would be more inclined to have some hope if our priests actually demonstrated some spiritual ability beyond that ascribed to them in Catholic ritual and the catechism, but those priests are so few as to be insignificant.  In the meantime, actions like those described in Jennifer Hasselberger's deposition only serve to demonstrate our current priesthood relies on the power laity give to them and not on any power exclusively theirs that they have taught us God gives them. I wish the average rank and file would think about this the next time they drop cash in the collection basket.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Women In The Clergy Doesn't Have To Be A Threat, But It Sure Is

Forty years ago this was such a violation of gender roles women hockey players were unthinkable.  Unfortunately  Catholicism has not seen fit to open the limits of it's female gender expectations for quite a bit longer than forty years and it's truly harming the Church.

Over at his blog Bilgrimage, Bill Lyndsey starts out a recent post with a really important statement.  I've been thinking a lot about this sentence for the past couple days, especially the last clause:

"One of the most fateful (and evil) decisions made by the Catholic hierarchy in the 20th and 21st century has been to treat the movement of women around the world to claim full personhood and a full range of human rights for women as illegitimate, and as a threat to the Catholic faith."

Bill's post goes on to ponder the recent Hobby Lobby decision and it's ties to the GOP attacks on women's reproductive rights, but my musing dealt specifically with why women's rights are treated by the Church as a real threat to the Church itself.  It's not just women's rights that seems to be the threat, it's gender redefinition that is more and more becoming a major talking point in conservative Catholic circles.  The attempt to circumscribe women's ability to access contraception and abortion are the most visible signs of the Church's discomfort with the advancement of women claiming full personhood, but my gut says this 'threat' is about way more than whether women have enough babies to satisfy the male God.  There seems to be something more going on.

Here's another example of the threat of gender redefinition in another area.  This comment concerns the problems the Anglican Church have with installing women bishops.  On the surface the comment first struck me as frivolous and then I really thought about the point Tridentinus was making and I think he is absolutely right about a certain mindset:

"Can you imagine the C of E with half of its bishops not recognising the other half as priests, let alone bishops? Can you imagine the problem for parishes in deciding whether their priest was validly ordained or not? Every priest will have to have a pedigree declaring that no woman was involved in his ordination nor in the ordination of the bishop who ordained him or the bishop who consecrated that bishop. Ok, for now but in twenty years?
The mind boggles.
It doesn't really matter anyway as none of them are in Holy Orders but transpose it to the Catholic Church and the result is chaos."

What boggled my mind is thinking a given priest or bishop would have to have proof of ordination that didn't include women anywhere along the priestly pedigree.  It's hard for me to think of a pedigree or lineage that excludes the female half, but that's what Roman Catholicism has bequeathed to the world...a spiritual ministry whose pedigree is free of the female.  Is this supposed to be the most pure thing male humanity can imagine God wants,  or is this just truly sick?  

After much thought, I have come to the conclusion it's truly sick and that Bill Lyndsey is truly right, only in a sick system can the movement towards the full personhood of women be a threat to Catholicism.  Pope Francis can talk all he wants about a deeper theology of women, but what Catholicism really needs is not a deeper theology of women, but to reflect on why so much of it's current theology, eccelsiology,  discipline, and doctrine excludes the thought and presence of women and why that developed into the albatross it's proving to be for the post modern world.  If this evaluation was done honestly and with integrity, I think we would find out it didn't start with Jesus.

I think one thing that needs to happen is exactly what happened with women's athletics back about forty years ago.  A lot of men back then thought women's team athletics was nothing more than a few 'wannabe men' or terminal 'tom boys' who were hell bent on forcing their way onto the masculine stage.  Sports for women was almost exclusively individual sports like tennis, golf, swimming, gymnastics, and some track events.  Those sports featured girls and women cavorting in skirts or short shorts or swim suits and for the most featured grace and elegance, but not too much power and muscle, and were to be given up immediately upon marriage and motherhood.  Team sports like basketball and volleyball and softball and such represented some sort of gender busting magical line.  Hockey was unthinkable..except by a few of us whose dads or brothers needed us to be puck fodder in a hockey goal and we were dumb enough to do it just to be included in the fun.  We found out it was a lot of fun.

Then came Title IX and everything changed for women.  For my male contemporaries, some who really were upset with this legislation,  I would laughingly tell them wait until you have a daughter and then suddenly realize you have another captive audience for your sport fantasies.  It's amazing to me how many of these daughters went onto have great careers in sports.  So I know change in gender roles and expectations can happen, be accepted, rejoiced in and bragged about--endlessly.  Every time I watch a women's college basketball game between U Conn and Tennessee I have to pinch myself because back in my day we were lucky to get our parents and family to come and watch our games.  

The problem for the Church is priests don't have daughters and that means our lay men are going to have to do some 'mansplainin' to their clerical brothers about the fact there are no magic gender lines.  There's only patriarchy and an unexamined expectation about gender roles--roles that women never had a lot of input in how they developed, but that input is precisely what today's woman expects to have....and that's probably the big 'threat' to Catholicism and the root to all the clerical angst about femi nazis and the evolution of gender roles. Women expect to be treated as intellectual and spiritual equals and will not accept a few token crumbs.  Game on. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Joys Of Summer Reading During The Week of The 4th of July

Kudos to Bill Day for this cartoon image.

I spent part of my summer week reading the Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case.  It had some interesting language.  Some of that language was Justice Alito's and in spite of Justice Alito's attempt to allay the fears of Americans that the Supremes decision to give religious rights to corporations would not necessarily include other right wing religious causes, the facts are proving his words to be just words. Other court decisions handed down subsequent to the Hobby Lobby decision have now put all contraception up for grabs.  It didn't even take 24 hours for the pleas to religiously discriminate against LGBT to land on President Obama's desk.  With one 'narrowly defined' decision, the Catholic males on the Supreme Court have opened the door to Catholic sexual morality in the public as well as private sector. Humanae Vitae can now spread through out America, though not by conversion or the lucidity of it's reasoning,  but by the time tested method of coercion.  Happy 4th of July Americans.  We can all celebrate the fact the just five men on the Supreme Court have seen fit to once again expand the rights of corporations as individuals, and this time over the rights of slutty American women.  You go boys.  

I know I will sleep better at night knowing that if I owned a corporation like Hobby Lobby,  I could profit from the things I object to, but not have to spend corporate money to pay for those.  It would be really swell knowing that 'remote cooperation with evil' only extended to the expenditure side of my ledgers.  Of course if I owned a company, I would be more likely to claim a religious exemption to ED drugs as too many men who use them are either single or past the point of being able to responsibly raise children.  Four of those five male justices would not qualify for ED drugs under my religious scruples, but I also know that since ED drugs are Catholic kosher Judge Alito and company would probably not grant me such an exception under the belief that ED drugs serve a compelling public interest.  After all boys will be boys and have a right to be chemically assisted boys. 

To go along with the Hobby Lobby decision, I also had the pleasure of reading the paper written for the bishops going to the upcoming Synod on the Family.  It was a predictable read, a boring read, and also had some interesting if not very pastoral language.  Apparently the Catholic flock involves a lot of sub species of sheep the Vatican considers 'those people' in Catholics who do not live the pristine Catholic sexual and relational life.  It was predictable in the sense that 'this people' knew right from the get go that the failure of the Catholic laity to embrace Humanae Vitae was going to be all our ignorant self centered cherry picking fault.  And so it was.  As one of the ignorant self centered cherry pickers, I would suggest in the future that Catholic bishops demand Catholic parents not send their Catholic children to schools where science is taught.  I would also suggest that our bishops would better use their time throwing science teachers out of their jobs rather than Gay or pregnant single female teachers..unless those people happen to be one of those science teacher people.  It was those damn science teachers and their damned science that completely eroded my ability to accept Humanae Vitae and not become one of those people.  Instead I became an ignorant self centered cherry picker of a Catholic, really and truly one of 'those people'.  

It seems I have a lot of company.  So much company that we should form a real company and demand our religious rights to celebrate our diversity and get on with living a very different form of Christianity.  A Christianity that does not seek to meld itself with the American Corporate oligarchy, or American Exceptionalism, or American Military Interventionism, or is a paid for shill for some of our most wealthy American Catholic families.  And I'm pretty sure any corporation called 'Those People' would have to be a cafeteria style restaurant where the line moves to the left, but still serves everyone.