• RSS Queering the Church

    • Christian Responses to Gay Couples – Catholic and Other. September 16, 2014
      In two recent posts, Bondings 2.0 has reported on yet another two highly influential cardinals, Sean O’Malley of Boston and Claudio Hummes, retired archbishop of Sao Paolo, have demonstrated substantial sensitivity to LGBT concerns. These encouraging small steps to increasing openness…Read more →
      Terence Weldon
    • Defang the Serpent of Homophobia: Gaze on It. (Numbers 21:4-9) September 14, 2014
      In today’s Mass, the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (14th September), the first reading tells the story of the Israelites and the serpents during their wandering through the desert: On the way through the wilderness the people lost patience.…Read more →
      Terence Weldon
  • RSS Spirit of a Liberal

    • Gay Games Symposium July 21, 2014
      I am pleased and honored that the UCC has asked me to moderate a symposium during the games entitled Queer Christians: Celebrating the Past, Shaping the Future. [[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]
      Obie Holmen
    • Email sent to my followers June 27, 2014
      Whew! It's time to catch my breath. Since the release of Queer Clergy in February, I've been on the road ... Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and California. I have been the guest of book clubs, adult forums, LGBT reconciling groups, the Pacific School of Religion, and I've been a guest preacher (always a treat for an old lawyer). I've mad […]
      Obie Holmen
  • RSS There Will be Bread

    • Where Are You? October 26, 2011
      Greetings to all others who grace these pages! Thank you for stopping by. If you still have a reader pointed here, this blog no longer publishes in this location, but can be found at this new link. Please subscribe to the new feed, get the new blog via email or read us by liking us on Facebook or by following me on Twitter.If you want more, please feel free […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Fran)
  • RSS The Wild Reed

    • Quote of the Day September 16, 2014
      The tragic story [of sixteen-year-old Sergio Urrego's suicide] is why it matters that discussions of Catholic families include discussions of gay Catholic families. And of Catholic families who have gay members.And of Catholic institutions whose coldness and brutality towards those who are gay can make a life-or-death difference, especially for vulnerab […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Michael J. Bayly)
    • A Visit to the Weisman September 16, 2014
      On Sunday, September 8, my friend Joan and I visited the Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota.I share this evening photos of both the unique architecture of the Weisman and some of the artworks in its diverse collection. Enjoy! Above: Joan takes a look at Charles Biederman's "#4, Diaz" (designed 1986, fabricated 1990).Notes Wikipe […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Michael J. Bayly)
  • RSS Bilgrimage

    • Another Suicide of a Gay Teen: Catholic Context September 15, 2014
      This heart-breaking story of the suicide of yet another gay teen is a reminder of why it matters — why it should matter — that the Catholic church in the U.S. (or anywhere else) is moving backwards  regarding welcoming and including gay members. And this story is a reminder of why it matters that, as Jerry Slevin notes, as the synod on the family nears, Pope […]
      noreply@blogger.com (William D. Lindsey)
    • Question for Synod on Family from Belgian Bishop Johan Bonny: "What Kind of People Did Jesus Mix with and in What Way?" September 15, 2014
      The Catholic bishop of Antwerp, Johan Bonny, has published a statement on his expectations for the forthcoming synod on the family. An English translation of the statement by Brian Doyle is online now at (pdf file) the website of the Belgian Catholic bishops' conference. I'm struck by the following passage, in which Bonny explains that he hopes the […]
      noreply@blogger.com (William D. Lindsey)
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  • RSS Far From Rome

    • the way ahead March 23, 2013
      My current blog is called the way ahead.
      noreply@blogger.com (PrickliestPear)
  • RSS The Gay Mystic

    • Back from the "Dead"/Book Reviews September 13, 2014
      Just getting back on my feet after eight weeks of very intense interactions with Czech kids in summer camp in the mountains. The experience was so intense I felt cut off from my own spirit from time to time, but worth every minute.  What great kids.I'm getting ready to review two books, John Boyne's magnificent fictional treatment of the sex abuse […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Jayden Cameron )
    • The travails of young love July 30, 2014
      On a bit of a hiatus from blogging for the summer as I recollect my spirit, but I may have some reflections to share this weekend about the difficulties of young love. Been listening to tales of heartbreak from some of my young students. And young River Viiperi has broken from his partner of two years, Paris Hilton, so these must be difficult days for him as […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Jayden Cameron )
  • RSS The Jesus Manifesto

    • プロミスの返済は残高スライド元利定額返済方式 September 11, 2014
      返済に影響するものは金利だけ、そう考えているのであれば今一度利用している消費者金融のホームページを確認してみましょう。実は返済方式も返済に大きく影響するものなのです。例えばプロミスで見てみましょう。返済方式として残高スライド元利定額返済方式が採用されています。これがどういったものなのか、金融専門書を確認しても出てくるものではありません。そもそも、本来であれば管理均等返済方式や元金均等返済方式というのが返済方式の中でも一般的なものですが、残高スライド元利定額返済方式とは新たにできた造語だからです。今では多くの消費者金融がこの返済方式を採用しています。プロミスではこれによって月々の返済の最低金額が決められています。例えば借り入れが2万7000円までであれば1000円の最低返済額、5万5000円までであれば2000円 […]
  • RSS John McNeill: Spiritual Transformations

  • RSS Perspective

    • Müller on women September 16, 2014
      An interview with Cardinal Müller, who I find quite disturbing in his past stated beliefs about love and marriage. The interview begins like this ...Naturally extroverted, he [Müller] half-jokingly begged that we not talk about women, but rather about Our Lady. Yet he still managed to steer the conversation back to our original topic, chatting about his rela […]
      noreply@blogger.com (crystal)

A Renewed Opportunity of Hope and Reconciliation

File photo of Pope Benedict XVI leaving at the end of his weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the VaticanIn times of disappointment or frustration, my mother has always supplied a poignant saying that has helped me to make sense of challenging situations, “If you continue using the same method, expect the same outcome. If you want to see a different result, try something new.” Keeping this in mind, I can begin taking the necessary steps to move forward from whatever the given quandary may be.

The news of Pope Benedict XVI’s (now referred to as the “Pope Emeritus”) resignation has left the church, as well as unaffiliated observers around the world, reeling in shock and confusion. For the first time in 600 years, a pope has renounced the Petrine ministry. The prospects of an uncertain ecclesiastical future have now given cause for many to hold their breath, in anticipation of what could be expected from the next Bishop of Rome.

Undeniably, anyone, regardless of their beliefs, or lack thereof, can acknowledge that today the Catholic Church is enduring a systemic crisis of epic proportions. In the West, particularly throughout Europe, the volume of individuals who identify themselves as practicing Catholics decreases year after year. Any sense of credibility or spiritual integrity that the prelates of the church possessed in the past has been eroded in the wake of the worldwide sexual-abuse scandal. The lack of a definitive response to this moral pandemic has convinced many that the members of the hierarchy are not serious about solving this pervasive affliction. The fact that numerous men in positions of ecclesial prestige have merely offered empty apologies, and the window-dressing of vague guidelines aimed at preventing abuse, cements this sentiment among the general public. How can a dilemma of this magnitude ever truly be repaired if justice and accountability have not been the guiding catalysts in confronting this crisis?

Conventional wisdom has sought to designate the southern hemisphere as being the future of global Catholicism. There, an intense, vibrant expression of the faith is said to be a guaranteed key in winning further adherents to the church. Yet, a mistake is made when rigidly applying this analysis. It is commonly assumed that the scourge of pedophilic abuse is not an issue in countries of the global south. A prominent cardinal of the Roman Curia, hailing from Ghana, recently declared as much to the media, stating that this phenomenon is so rampant in the Western world because of cultural variations between the northern and southern hemispheres. He further implied that this sociological barrier existed as a result of the tolerance of homosexuality throughout most of the northern hemisphere, compared to its condemnation in countries of the southern hemisphere. Although it is not as pronounced or notable, cases of minors being sexually abused by clerics have, indeed, been documented in this region of the world.

In fact, in many countries, there is a sexual crisis of another sort. In this occasion the problem is not necessarily one of abuse. Throughout the African continent, where the numbers of entrees to seminaries constantly abounds, the vow of celibacy taken by those entering the priesthood is not always observed to the letter of the law. The custom of consciously disregarding this oath has been established by countless priests. It is not unusual for mistresses, and in numerous cases, even entire families (including multiple female partners and children) to clandestinely live with the pastor of a parish. Failing to give open acknowledgement to such arrangements does not erase their existence from the minds of most parishioners, many of whom privately condone the practice.  In the context of the African church, the notion of priestly celibacy is regarded as an irritating European aberration. In the prevailing culture, a man is expected to fall in love with a woman, to marry, and to have children — not doing so is viewed as abnormal. These conditions have become the norm throughout large portions of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Thus, on all geographical frontiers, questions of sexuality threaten to deteriorate the binding tapestry of faith and tradition that has composed the Catholic Church for centuries.

It seems that the former pontiff may have realized the implications all of these realities held for the church in the twenty-first century. Noticing subliminal hints of this line of reasoning in Benedict’s statement of resignation could prove helpful in establishing the criteria by which the future pope will be elected. Upon renouncing the papacy, the pope stated, “My strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry…in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”

This was seen as an expression on the part of the Pope Emeritus that not only were the effects of his age physically impacting his daily routine, but also, that his escalating frailty prevented him from responding comprehensively, and genuinely, to the pressing questions of the times we now live in. Longtime observers of Joseph Ratzinger’s theological temperament could very well have predicted this outcome from the first day of his election as pope. Although in his youth he did attend the Second Vatican Council, and was fairly progressive-minded in its wake, Ratzinger would eventually succumb to a crippling attitude of fear. As innovations following the historic assembly were implemented on a fairly rapid scale, Ratzinger began to view these changes as being rash and excessive. Criticizing new trends of liturgical practice and theological nuance, he began to complain that the Council’s message had been interpreted far too liberally. Soon, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger would become the institutional church’s chief proponent for nostalgically looking to a bygone era of the past. In this world, the notions of hierarchy, doctrine, and obedience formed the basis of the Catholic faith, instead of the values of episcopal collegiality, primacy of the individual conscience, and theological objectivity that Vatican II would espouse.

Still, a question begs to be asked: How can the problems of the 21st Century be solved with 18th Century solutions?

In a candid conversation with my parish priest, I once asked him his thoughts on what he felt Jesus of Nazareth would have to say if He were living and breathing in the flesh, in today’s world. His reply was to quote one of Jesus’ most comforting and repeated exhortations in the Gospels, “Be not afraid!” (Matthew 14:27) This summons to courage was utilized so often by the late, Blessed John Paul II that it is often described as the unofficial motto of his pontificate.

This same hopeful premise was also the underlying theme in most of the documents of the Second Vatican Council. When it was finally completed, the entire trajectory and driving purpose of this monumental gathering was intended to impel the Catholic Church to have a greater, more intense dialogue with the modern world. Rather than seeing the church as diametrically opposed to all of the implications that modernity had to offer, Vatican II painted the church as an entity that was in the world, and not removed from it. In the words of Blessed John XXIII, who convened the Council, but would not live to see its completion, “We feel we must disagree with those prophets of gloom, who are always forecasting disaster, as though the end of the world were at hand. In the present order of things, Divine Providence is leading us to a new order of human relations which, by men’s own efforts and even beyond their very expectations, are directed toward the fulfillment of God’s superior and inscrutable designs. And everything, even human differences, leads to the greater good of the Church.”

Undoubtedly, the failure on the part of the hierarchy to confront the global, human questions that the “signs of the times” have engendered is the biggest mistake the institutional church has made in the fifty years that have passed since the conclusion of Vatican II.

Earlier today, the College of Cardinals entered, and were subsequently locked within, the Sistine Chapel to elect Benedict XVI’s successor. This year, the events leading up to, and taking place during the Conclave have all occurred under the auspices of the liturgical season of Lent — traditionally observed as a time of conversion and repentance. Conventionally, repentance is usually understood as being contrite and remorseful for one’s sins. However, the biblical calls , to “repent” or “convert”, as Jesus of Nazareth and John the Baptist urged their followers to do, mean not to simply be sorry for one’s failings, but also, to turn towards God, and to adopt a new mode of being. This should make it all the more clear to the cardinals gathered in Rome that the Conclave of 2013 should not be business as usual.

My mother’s always-appropriate expression happens to paraphrase a similar message that can be found echoing from the mouth of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel, “Neither is new wine, put into old wineskins, otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:17) In today’s paradigm, the wine described can symbolically be identified with the Catholic faith. The enlightening truth of the Gospel, (namely, God’s self-communication of love to us in the person of Christ) and the enduring traditions of the church must always be maintained. But new approaches (new “wineskins”) and insights must be used in transmitting the faith, allowing it to stay fresh and relevant for coming generations.

May we all pray that the College of Cardinals elects a pope who does not simply preserve the theological and bureaucratic status quo, that has been the norm in the Vatican for centuries, but instead realizes that whoever the next pope will be, he will have as his mission the task of emulating and personifying the Christ of the Gospels — engaging all members of the human family in a spirit of love, justice, and peace.

Now, more than ever, the Spirit of God must prevail, instead of the finite whims of fallible men. The credibility of the Roman Catholic Church has been universally placed under scrutiny. The church’s future hangs in the balance. Will it continue to remain a viable spiritual path, or is it destined to gradually be reduced to a reactionary cult?

Veni Creator Spiritus!

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5 Responses

  1. The Ugandan Martyrs in the 1880’s from both the Roman and Anglican Churches were executed for resisting the homosexual advances of the country’s king. The cardinal needs to refresh his historical memory. The homosexual population has existed in every culture and time sometimes celebrated, sometimes persecuted. It was not due to European Decadence or Colonial Exploitation.

  2. Thank you for this Phillip. It is an excellent summary of why this Conclave must thrash through to the truth…..But I’m not holding my breath to long, there are so many picks who wear their red beanies for their loyalty, not their witness to Jesus’s teachings.

    • I’m sure many people have observed the same things. And I’m doing the same thing, 50% holding my breath, 50% not hoping for too much…

      Am I correct in thinking that we are both holding out for the same 3 pababile? Tagle, Ravasi, or Schonborn?

  3. I really appreciate the thoughts in this blog post. I completely agree with the “world changing constantly” theme and how Pope Francis really needs to address them. Like what theologians concerns of today, such as Shane Claiborne’s, is that the church is changing and I think there needs to be a much more dramatic change to the pace of how the church is teaching in this modern world. I would like to add my concerns about practicing catholics as well. Why is it that there are more Catholics abandoning their faith in the world today? It is not the church’s fault is it?

    • Thanks for your kind words Levvin! It seems as if most of the leaders of the institutional church are blind to what is truly driving away so many increasing numbers of Catholics in our times – not breaks with
      “orthodoxy” (as Ratzinger, Weigel, and many other on the ecclesial right would have you believe) but rather, a form of spirituality that is no longer seen as being relatable to the message of Jesus crystallized in the Gospels that most Catholics find so heartening. Hopefully, Pope Francis will continue to work to bridge this credibility gap.

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