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    • Catholic Bishop’s Call for Gay “Dialogue, not Condemnation” July 17, 2014
      Raul Vera Lopez, the Catholic bishop of Saltillo, Mexico, has criticized homophobes, calling them “sick.” Mexican Bishop Raul Vera Lopez of Saltillo, Mexico, has a proud record of standing up against injustice of all kinds, whether inflicted by the state,…Read more →
      Terence Weldon
    • “Male AND Female”He Created THEM: What is YOUR Gender? July 12, 2014
      At the “Embodied Ministry” conference sponsored by the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality this week, one of the workshops I found particularly thought – provoking was “Male AND Female He Created THEM”, led by Rev Sharon Ferguson.…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)
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    • In Summer Light July 27, 2014
      See also the previous Wild Reed posts:Summer BloomsSummer Blooms IISummer Storms InOut and About – Summer 2013Out and About – Summer 2012Summer RainShards of SummerImages: Michael J. Bayly.
      noreply@blogger.com (Michael J. Bayly)
    • Roman Catholicism's Fundamental Problem: The Cultic Priesthood and its "Diseased System" of Clericalism July 23, 2014
      The clerical leadership of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis has been in the news recently . . . and not in a good way. Last week's broadcast of the Minnesota Public Radio documentary Betrayed by Silence shocked and upset many. The documentary is, after all, a damning indictment not just of the current archbishop but of his two predecessors also. […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Michael J. Bayly)
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    • Brief Hiatus July 30, 2014
      Dear Friends,I apologize to you for being slow to acknowledge your many valuable comments on postings here of late. I've fallen considerably behind, and have taken a brief break — which will probably put me even more behind in replying to your comments. I'm not sure if I will be posting much here in the next few days, and that may be just as well, […]
      noreply@blogger.com (William D. Lindsey)
    • Richard Rodriguez, Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography: "It Is Because the Church Needs Women That I Depend Upon Women to Protect the Church from Its Impulse to Cleanse Itself of Me" July 28, 2014
      Last week, I noted that in his new book Darling: A Spiritual Autibiography (NY: Viking, 2013), Richard Rodriguez continues a theme that appears in his previous work: this is the insistence that it will be women who call/force/cajole/threaten/whatever the all-male hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church to cease with and desist from their attacks on their gay […]
      noreply@blogger.com (William D. Lindsey)
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    • the way ahead March 23, 2013
      My current blog is called the way ahead.
      noreply@blogger.com (PrickliestPear)
  • RSS The Gay Mystic

    • 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 )
    • Papa Francesco does it again July 14, 2014
      Well, the whole world - or at least the semi Christian world - is all a flutter over yet another freewheeling interview of Pope Francis conducted by acknowledged atheist and La Republica journalist Eduardo Scalfari. Before the ink had barely dried, Father Lombardi of The Vatican Press Office was already huffing out his damage control , assuring us that Scalf […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Jayden Cameron )
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    • 【要確認】プロミス最低返済額2014.com July 12, 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 […]
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  • RSS Perspective

    • Jesuits in Japan redux July 29, 2014
      - Blackthorne and Fr. Alvito SJ (Shogun)In the news: more on the upcoming Scorsese film based on the Shusako Endo novel, Silence, about the 17th century Jesuit missionaries to Japan. The film has several contributing Jesuit consultants, including James Martin SJ, and the cast includes Liam Neeson and Ken Watanabe (Inception).The characters in the novel/movie […]
      noreply@blogger.com (crystal)

Vatican Defrocks A Bishop Over Sexual Abuse – But Not Finn.

Originally posted at Talk to Action.
Pope Francis recently indicated he is serious about ending child sex abuse and cover-ups by Catholic prelates by defrocking a former apostolic nuncio (a nuncio is essentially a high level Vatican diplomat) for having sexual relations with young boys.

But while the Holy See should be applauded for this decisive action, there is unfinished business with the bishop of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri. And the bishop in question is Robert Finn a darling of the American Catholic Right who have very little to say – at least now that he is a convicted criminal.

As the National Catholic Reporter described recent events:

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has ordered the laicization of an archbishop-ambassador accused of paying for sex with minors.

Józef Wesołowski, former apostolic nuncio to the Dominican Republic, will have two months to prepare an appeal to the ruling, which was announced in a brief statement from the Vatican on Friday.

The former nuncio, who the Vatican did not refer to as an archbishop in the statement, was removed from his post in August with little explanation. News accounts days afterward detailed allegations of paying for sex with minors and being connected to a Polish priest accused of sexually assaulting at least 14 underage boys.

But while Francis has acted on Wesołowski, he has yet to remove Robert Finn.

Let’s recall that the crimes of Bishop Finn resulted from his knowledge of the related crimes of a priest in his diocese who pleaded guilty in Federal Court to four counts of producing child pornography and one count of attempted production of child pornography. As I reported here and here, Bishop Finn had constructive knowledge of that priest’s improper touching of young girls and possession of child pornography. Finn knew or had good reason to suspect the priest‘s crimes. Had he acted, he would have prevented other crimes against children under his pastoral care. Indeed, in September 2012 Bishop Finn became the first American prelate convicted of failing to report a pedophile priest.

It is worth recalling that the beneficiary of the cover-up was Fr. Shawn Ratigan who was prosecuted and pleaded of his crimes in Federal Court.

As I reported here and here, Bishop Finn had constructive knowledge of Ratigan’s improper touching of young girls and possession of child pornography. I wrote here that Bishop Finn must go.

In March of this year I reported that a growing number Kansas City Catholics want Bishop Finn gone.

Pope Francis recently met with victims of Catholic clerical sex abuse. He used the occasion to publicly call for stricter, more decisive actions against Catholic clerics who either engage pedophilia or fail by negligence to prevent it. The Times reported:

In his homily, Francis also vowed “not to tolerate harm done to a minor by any individual, whether a cleric or not,” and declared that bishops would be held accountable for protecting minors. He said the abuse scandals had had “a toxic effect on faith and hope in God.”

As a progressive Catholic I truly want Francis to succeed. Catholicism is wanting for the kind of reforms he seems to be all about. People recognize that he seems to be the breath of fresh air the Vatican so desperately needs. But with that said, in certain areas Francis is beginning to face a credibility problem. Soothing words are not enough. Credibility, especially with regards to the pedophilia issue, requires decisive action. And decisive action requires punishing negligent as well as abusive bishops.

And the perfect place to demonstrate decisive action is in Kansas City.

The Continuing Spectacle of Bishop Robert Finn

Originally posted at Talk to Action.

Bishop Robert Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri has so far survived calls for his resignation or removal by Pope Francis. Finn is a convict who not only failed to report suspected child abuse by a parish priest under his charge: He has become the symbol of ongoing institutional intransigence in addressing the problem of child sex abuse in the Church.

Many Catholics in Finn’s diocese — including priests and nuns — have had more than enough of him. As the National Catholic Reporter recently reported they have formally appealed to the Vatican “to conduct a canonical review of Bishop Robert Finn say the church’s lack of response to his misdemeanor conviction has caused further spiritual harm to the diocese.”

One would think that Pope Francis would be inclined to act decisively. Prior to his election as Pope he had recognized the practice of placing the image of the Church before the well being of children had contributed to the problem. He declared: “I do not believe in taking positions that uphold a certain corporative spirit in order to avoid damaging the image of the institution.”

It has been that “certain corporative spirit” that has caused pain to many inside and outside of the Church. Indeed, the Church isolates itself and undermines its credibility by seeking to hold itself above and beyond the law.

The success of the Church generally, and this papacy in particular, may depend on how it finally addresses the sex abuse scandals. For example, Francis is going to need all the credibility he can muster in order to really be heard when he calls for reform of the shortcomings and abuses of laissez-faire capitalism.

If anyone has enjoyed the protection of corporative spirit, it has been Bishop Finn. A member of Opus Dei, he is well connected to the neoconservative Catholic Right. Indeed, Bill Donohue’s Catholic League (apparently with Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s blessing) has been running interference for the beleaguered bishop to keep him in power.

It is worth recalling that the beneficiary of the cover-up was Fr. Shawn Ratigan who was prosecuted for his crimes. He has since pleaded guilty in Federal Court to four counts of producing child pornography and one count of attempted production of child pornography.

As I reported here and here, Bishop Finn had constructive knowledge of Ratigan’s improper touching of young girls and possession of child pornography. I wrote here that Bishop Finn must go.

The Kansas City Catholics written about by National Catholic Reporter clearly agree.

“Civil law has done what civil law can do. The church has done nothing in terms of calling Bishop Finn to accountability. He continues as bishop as if nothing really ever happened,” said Mercy Sr. Jeanne Christensen, a former victims’ advocate for the diocese co-heading the appeal. She spoke at a press conference Monday outside the diocesan offices.

The article continued:

“This lack of action by the Catholic Church to do justice and to repair scandal contributes to the ongoing scandal among the faithful that is a result of the Catholic clergy sexual abuse crisis,” wrote Fr. James Connell in the formal appeal.

Connell, a retired Milwaukee priest and member of the Catholic Whistleblowers victims’ advocacy group, acted as the catalyst to the appeal and contends that Finn’s actions — or inactions — violate ecclesiastical law and thus requires some form of church response. However, he refrained from suggesting an action to the pope, instead limiting his request that an investigation begin.

In the petition, Connell argues that Finn’s failures in the Ratigan case to protect children create a poor example others could follow, and in addition, “could lead other people to alter their faith life and their religious practices.”

The Vatican has confirmed receipt of the petition to investigate.

Writing recently, also in the National Catholic Reporter, retired priest and victims’ advocate Tom Doyle succinctly summed up Pope Francis efforts to date:

A year has passed and Pope Francis’ moves have been minimal. He made sex abuse a crime in the Vatican City State, a move so meaningless it is almost comical. He has not made a major or even a minor pronouncement about the problem and he has done little about bishops who have enabled perpetrators.

Doyle added, in a broadcast interview with PBS Frontline:

“I think what he has to do there is take some very decisive, concrete steps. The bishops that are the foremost ones, who have covered up, who continue to cover up, he has to publicly dismiss them.”

And as many Kansas City Catholics will tell you, Bishop Finn should be the first to go.

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!

One Gay Man’s Return to the Catholic Church

The following story is taken from the fascinating sociological study,  Sense of the Faithful, How American Catholics Live Their Faithby Jerome Baggett (2008). I find it most interesting that this inspiring anecdote constitutes the opening of the book itself.  I originally posted this at my blog, Gay Mystics, as a complement or contrast to a previous posting entitled, 50 Reasons to Boycott the Catholic Church. Those readers who are interested can access this article at Alt. Net. It offers (from an outsider’s point of view) a horrific list of crimes and offenses committed by the official Roman Catholic Church in recent times. None of these alleged crimes are new, but taken together they provide a shock to  anyone’s sense of complacency and a timely reminder that such offenses are more than an internal family matter, negatively impacting as they do upon countless lives outside the parameters of the church itself.   That being said, stories such as the one below offer inspiration and hope that the Spirit is indeed at work in manifold ways within the mystical family of the Church.

 sense-faithful-how-american-catholics-live-their-faith-jerome-p-baggett-paperback-cover-art

(Unfortunately, as I copied this from a PDF file, there is not much I can do about the formatting.)

Ending and Beginning

“The thing about American Catholicism is that it both exists and doesn’t exist!” Bill
McNamara blurts out these words but then seems surprised by them, as if he had
happened unexpectedly upon someone from his past. He tarries a bit, refl ecting.
“What do I mean by that?” he asks, now seemingly reacquainted and rightly confi -
dent that he has anticipated my next question. “I mean it exists in the sense that it’s
an it, something you and I can talk about, and we can identify elements of it and so
forth. But it doesn’t exist as some monolithic, unchanging thing. It’s not as if any
one person understands it and lives it out the same way all the time or in quite the
same way as anyone else.”
Even though Bill was among the very first people I interviewed for this book,
I permitted myself an early conclusion: He knows what he is talking about. After
many cups of tea and through constant interruptions by Rusty, his seal-point
Siamese— whose name, like those of all of the respondents in this book, is a
pseudonym—Bill’s account of his life and faith demolished the idea that American
Catholicism could be “some monolithic, unchanging thing.”
Born into a working-class family in the early 1930s, Bill grew up in an almost
entirely Irish section of Philadelphia. His upbringing was typical of the “urban villagers”
about whom sociologist Herbert Gans once wrote so compellingly.
The ethnically defined neighborhood, the modest economic means, the large family that
included Bill and fi ve younger siblings, the clearly prescribed gender roles to which
his contractor father and stay-at-home mother purportedly strictly conformed, the
traditional—and, in this case, traditionally Catholic—mores: Bill can recall it all in
vivid, if not wistful, detail. The particulars of his religious upbringing are especially
memorable to him. He attended nearby parochial schools until he was swayed by an
unexpectedly generous fi nancial aid package to enroll in a large public university,
where he majored in accounting. He went to church each week without fail, and,
unless serving as an altar boy for an unpopular (read: inordinately early) Mass, he
was typically accompanied by his entire immediate family. This instilled in him
an enduring love for the beauty of the Mass and especially its music, which he
still compares favorably to the “cacophonous crap” one hears at other, mercifully
unnamed parishes. One of the younger parish priests served as a “friend and kind
of mentor” for Bill who could talk to him about nearly anything, including at one
point his own—admittedly short-lived—thoughts of entering the seminary. And,
of course, there are the stories that seem to be standard fare among Catholics of
Bill’s generation. From the accounts of his mentor’s many kindnesses to the somewhat
overwrought “ruler-wielding nun” tales, from now-humorous accounts of
fi rst confession trepidation (“Hell, it was scary in that little booth!”) to feelings of
intense piety while accompanying Jesus along the Stations of the Cross each Friday
afternoon during Lent, Bill’s world was Catholic through and through.
However, once he entered his twenties, that world came to an end. “I never
had any animosity like a lot of gay Catholics who had bad experiences in school or
things like that,” he confi des. “I wasn’t against it, but I didn’t feel that comfortable
with it anymore.” Always attracted to men, Bill fi rst became sexually active at the
age of twenty-six. Then, rather than concealing from others what he considers his
“honest, true self,” he moved to San Francisco, where he got a well-paying job with
an insurance company and eventually began his new life as an openly gay man.
He closed the door on his Catholicism slowly at fi rst, then fi nally slammed it shut.
This age-old tradition seemed incongruous with his new city and job, new friends,
and, after ten years or so, a relationship and then a newfound level of intimacy with
Daniel, his partner for eighteen years. Daniel attended weekly Mass at Most Holy
Redeemer church in the city’s burgeoning gay enclave, the Castro District. But he
went a bit less often when he and Bill bought a house together across the bay in the
Oakland Hills. Bill, on the other hand, preferred to sleep late most Sundays.
Everything changed when Daniel contracted AIDS, and Bill became his primary
care provider. This tragedy brought Bill agonizing stress and heartache, but
it also introduced him to a face of Catholicism that he had not previously known.
The AIDS Support Group at Most Holy Redeemer sent volunteers to help tend to
Daniel’s health and personal needs, which, toward the end of his life, required daily
visits. Even in his grief, Bill was impressed by these people’s witness to their—and
once his—faith. This was not the intolerably dogmatic “Churchianity” that had
come to seem ossifi ed and irrelevant to him. Nor, of course, was this the vicious
“God hates fags” message he had heard while doing some church shopping before
moving from Philadelphia. He found this open-hearted and open-minded incarnation
of the faith to be very alluring. So much so, in fact, that Bill began attending
Mass at Most Holy Redeemer not long after Daniel’s death and soon became an
active member of first the AIDS Support Group and then the parish itself.
Bill’s story might appear to fit the familiar “lapsed Catholic returns to Mother
Church” mold, but Bill has not returned to anything; he has begun something new.
On the one hand, he is quite the unabashed Catholic: “I love the traditions, and I love
the mystery; I think it’s a very, very, very rich religion.” On the other hand, though, he
is adamant about his freedom, even obligation, to mine those riches on his own terms
and in accordance with his own needs. He has chosen to be a member of Most Holy
Redeemer across the San Francisco Bay rather than of his own neighborhood parish,
which he considers less “open and affi rming” to gay Catholics. He respects priests
enormously (although he is less generous in his assessment of bishops), but he is also
a strong advocate for the laity’s role in both pastoral ministry and parish governance.
He is a “greeter” at the main (10 am) Mass on Sundays and has sponsored several Rite
of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) candidates. At the same time, he bristles at
the thought of being presumptuous enough to even talk to others about faith in a
way that might be perceived as inappropriately pushy. He calls himself a “very strong
Catholic” but, without hint of apology, eagerly embraces the pejoratively intended
moniker “cafeteria Catholic” as a testament to his own religious agency and capacity
for discernment. In short, Bill has begun something new as a Catholic in response to
developments in his personal life and because he has lived through a period in which
the American church itself has witnessed important social and cultural changes. As
a result, it has also begun something quite innovative.
***

Much as I would like to end this posting on such a glowing note, I can’t help but link to a recent article just posted at Iglesia Discalza’s Blog about the recent silencing of Colombian Jesuit, Fr. Alfonso Llano Escobar, S.J., for having the temerity to criticize Pope Benedict’s most recent book, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives (specifically, Benedict’s comments on Mary’s Virginity). Benedict has once again silenced a prominent theologian, bringing to an end his thirty year career as a journalist. This is yet again another imperative sign   of why lay Catholics must reclaim their church and become the public voice of theological debate. Read the whole article here.

 

The Catholic Spring: Ferment in Switzerland

One of the disadvantages of English as a home language, is that too often it leaves us weak in other tongues, and as a result all too ignorant of developments in the wider world (outside, that is, the UK, the USA, and the British Commonwealth). A case in point is the matter of Catholic discussion around matters of ordination to the priesthood, which the Vatican insists must be restricted to celibate males. In the English – speaking world, the National Catholic Reporter caused a stir last week with an editorial proclaiming that contrary to directives from Rome, Catholics have not only a right but a duty to discuss women’s ordination, but in other regions, discussions have gone much further.  Fortunately for us linguistically challenged English speakers, Rebel Girl does a sterling job of bringing to our attention useful information from foreign language press, in English translation. From Brazil, for example, she reported recently how Archbishop Dom Jacinto Furtado de Brito Sobrinho of Teresina

told reporters last week that, regardless of any opinions Pope Benedict XVI may have expressed on the importance of celibacy, the pontiff’s words on this question are not infallible. He reiterated the Church teaching that the Pope is only considered infallible on matters of faith and morals and mandatory celibacy doesn’t fit in those categories. The bishop added that “the fact that to be a priest you also have to be celibate is a discipline that the Church can change.”

-Rebel Girl, at Rentapriest

But it’s in Switzerland that things are getting really interesting. In a fascinating pamphlet, a Swiss abbot, Martin Werlen, has gone way, way beyond simply urging us to discuss ordaining women priests – he has suggested among other notable innovations, that it is time for the Church to appoint women cardinals!

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The Lay OBLIGATION to Discuss Women’s Ordination

We are all too familiar with the Vatican insistence that not only is women’s ordination impossible, but that even discussion of the subject is not permitted.

Others disagree. In  a hard-hitting editorial, the National Catholic Reporter argues strongly that not only do we have that right, but lay Catholics at least have an obligation to discuss this, at every possible opportunity, and in every available forum.

We must speak up in every forum available to us: in parish council meetings, faith-sharing groups, diocesan convocations and academic seminars. We should write letters to our bishops, to the editors of our local papers and television news channels.

-   National Catholic Reporter.

How do they get to this unfamiliar conclusion, so at odds with the familiar Vatican line?

The voice of the faithful

The starting point, the spark that lit their fuse, was the Nov. 19 press release announcing Roy Bourgeois’ “excommunication, dismissal and laicization”, for his role in encouraging and assisting the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement, and in particular one notable assertion:

The most egregious statement in the  is the assertion that Bourgeois’ “disobedience” and “campaign against the teachings of the Catholic church” was “ignoring the sensitivities of the faithful.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Bourgeois, attuned by a lifetime of listening to the marginalized, has heard the voice of the faithful and he has responded to that voice.

Bourgeois brings this issue to the real heart of the matter. He has said that no one can say who God can and cannot call to the priesthood, and to say that anatomy is somehow a barrier to God’s ability to call one of God’s own children forward places absurd limits on God’s power. The majority of the faithful believe this.

The voice of scripture

So, one part of the NCR critique rests on the observation that women’s ordination has the support of the faithful. This is important in itself, and I return to it later. But there’s another part to the argument – that the Vatican claim to rest on a firm foundation in Scripture is unsound:

In October 1995, the doctrinal congregation acted further, releasing a responsum ad propositum dubium concerning the nature of the teaching in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis: “This teaching requires definitive assent, since, founded on the written Word of God, and from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.” The ban on women’s ordination belongs “to the deposit of the faith,” the responsum said.

However, this claim to be based on the “written word of God” is a recent invention, contradicted by earlier  conclusions of the Pontifical Biblical Society

In April 1976 the Pontifical Biblical Commission concluded unanimously: “It does not seem that the New Testament by itself alone will permit us to settle in a clear way and once and for all the problem of the possible accession of women to the presbyterate.” In further deliberation, the commission voted 12-5 in favor of the view that Scripture alone does not exclude the ordination of women, and 12-5 in favor of the view that the church could ordain women to the priesthood without going against Christ’s original intentions.

What were “Christ’s original intentions”? We do not know directly from his words or actions, as he neither spoke of ordination, nor ordained anyone: the practice of formal ordination did not begin until well after New Testament times. Rather, the assertion rests on an interpretation, from the fact that only men were included among “the twelve”. There are two objections to this. First, as the women priests movement and others have noted, there certainly were many women prominent in the service of the Church in other capacities. The only person explicitly described in the New Testament as a “deacon” of the church was Phoebe, a woman. Should we conclude from this that only women should be deacons? Other women are also described as “servants” of the church (which is the meaning of the word “deacon”). More controversially, there is another example, Junia, described as “most famous among the apostles” – and Junia appears to have been female. There’s an even more example of women’s inclusion, familiar to all – but we usually miss its significance. In an article prompted by the Church of England failure to approve woman bishops, Tom Wright (former bishop of Durham) notes that

All Christian ministry begins with the announcement that Jesus has been raised from the dead.  And Jesus entrusted that task, first of all, not to Peter, James, or John, but to Mary Magdalene. Part of the point of the new creation launched at Easter was the transformation of roles and vocations: from Jews-only to worldwide, from monoglot to multilingual (think of Pentecost), and from male-only leadership to male and female together.

- quoted at Face2Face blog

And a contribution in the comments thread to that article, adds the important observation that

In the 2nd and 3rd Century church Mary Magdalene was called the “Apostola Apostolorum” (the Apostle of the Apostles) for that very reason Mr. Wright cites.

So, it is not surprising that the Pontifical Biblical Commission should have concluded “that Scripture alone does not exclude the ordination of women” – and the assertion by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI that it does, is simply false.

We must also consider, when evaluating the Biblical evidence, not only the words, but also the context of the time. It is scarcely surprising that only men were included in the twelve: among Jews of the time, as in other Mediterranean societies, men took leadership roles in almost every aspect of life. The really notable feature of Jesus’ example, was not his exclusion of women, but how easily he included them in his circle, and engaged with them in discussions, to a degree that was far more inclusive than was usual for his day. From that perspective, it is unconscionable that the approach to women’s inclusion by the modern Church is not ahead of secular society, but behind it.

 The voice of tradition

The second part of their assertion is that the exclusion of women is “from the beginning constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church”. But this too, rests on shaky grounds. There is at least some evidence that just as women were named in the New Testament as “servants” of the Church, from the time that formal ordination began, at least a few women were so ordained as priests: and definite evidence that many were ordained as deacons.

The voice of the Magisterium

The third part of the cIlaim, is that

“it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.” The ban on women’s ordination belongs “to the deposit of the faith,” the responsum said.

It is here that NCR brings out what for me is its strongest, most fascinasting argument. We are accustomed to the Vatican claims about “Magisterium” in support of their pronouncements, but I for one am often unclear on what, precisely, constitutes authentic “magisterium” – and what is at bottom, little more than Vatican assertions. NCR reminds us that there are in fact, three magisteria in the church.

Blessed John Henry Newman said that there are three magisteria in the church: the bishops, the theologians and the people. On the issue of women’s ordination, two of the three voices have been silenced, which is why the third voice must now make itself heard.

-   National Catholic Reporter.

We know that many bishops, and rather more theologians outside the ivory towers of the CDF, do not believe that the door should be closed on discussion of women priests, or of married priests – and some would specifically desire to begin with their ordination, at least to the diaconate. Unfortunately, the unbalanced and unjust power structures currently prevailing in the Church makes it difficult or impossible for these people to speak up freely, without seriously endangering their careers and livelihoods.

That places a particular responsibility on the rest of us, those not beholden to the Vatican in material terms, to speak up on their behalf, as well as our own.

I am publicizing this important editorial as widely as I can. I hope you will do the same.

 

Church Reform: Adapting Hans Kung’s 2010 Letter to Bishops

In the British “Call to Action” Google group, Chris McDonnell posted a useful contribution under the heading “Direction and Purpose“, in which he referred to Hans Kung’s 2010 open letter to the bishops, and asked “Does this help us forward?”.

This was my reply:

Does this help? Yes, I think it does – with one qualification. Kung was writing to the bishops, with respect to the worldwide church, and problems with the Vatican in particular. As Call to Action UK, we need to adapt this to our situation – and, mindful of the words of the “Serenity Prayer”, to be mindful of what we can and cannot do.

From Kung’s complete letter, I have extracted his six core recommendations, with comment on how we can adapt them, within the bounds of the possible, to our situation and competence.

 1. Do not keep silent: By keeping silent in the face of so many serious grievances, you taint yourselves with guilt.

This, to me, is what CtoA is all about. If, as was said at the October launch meeting, we are not an “issue” driven movement we should certainly be talking about “the issues” that concern us. There will certainly be disagreements between us on several of these: but we do need to discuss them, and encourage others to discuss them.

We also need to discuss them publicly – I am saddened that so much useful discussion is taking place here, in a closed Google group, and not publicly, in the forums of the main CtA website. (I will cross – post my own contributions, in both).

 2. Set about reform: Too many in the church and in the episcopate complain about Rome, but do nothing themselves.

It is too easy for us to assume that “reform” can be implemented only from above. The lesson of the Arab Spring, and of many other political transformations of recent decades, is that it often begins from below. Each of us has the capacity to initiate reform at some level – even if it’s only reform our own minds, in overcoming excessive and inappropriate deference to church authority.

3. Act in a collegial way

Collegiality is usually spoken of in terms of collegiality between the Vatican and the bishops, or between bishops and clergy. But we can also insist on collegiality at deanery and parish level. (And where we meet resistance from an unco-operative priest, see (1) and (2) above).

4. Unconditional obedience is owed to God alone

This is fundamental. Growing up in apartheid South Africa, educated in Catholic schools, it was drummed into me that obedience to God, justice and conscience took precedence over obedience to unjust laws. I firmly believe that the same principle applies to unjust laws and regulations promulgated by the Vatican. (Benedict XVI, as a young theologian, has said precisely the same thing).

 5. Work for regional solutions

The October launch meeting was a useful start, notable for two features in particular:

  • a strong attendance, in spite of what was really very limited advance publicity.
  • not surprisingly, there was disproportionately strong representation by the London and other South Eastern dioceses, and much weaker turnout from further afield.

We must each work to continue the process, and develop momentum, within our own regions: in our local dioceses, and taken down to deanery and even parish level.

6. Call for a council

I am certain that many of us would agree that we need another council of the whole church, and will happily call for one – but there is little we can do to make it happen. What we can possibly influence, is the creation of local councils: there is provision within existing church rules for diocesan synods. There may come a time when we are ready, at least in some dioceses, to work with the bishops towards such diocesan synods.

Where we are unable to gain the co-operation of the bishops, there could be another strategy: in Minnesota, where progressive – minded Catholics found themselves faced with a particularly conservative and intransigent ordinary who refused to negotiate with them, a group of Catholics set up an independent “Synod of All the Baptized”, for open and public discussion of matters of concern to the church.

That was clearly confrontational, and not necessarily what we want: but it does illustrate that there are different kinds of “councils” and synods. Where we are unable to set up local synods with formal recognition, there are other kinds of public gatherings that we can arrange for ourselves.

Books:

Links to Amazon.com (USA)

Chronicles of a Vatican II Bishop Remi De Roo, 2012

Why the Catholic Church needs Vatican III T.P.O’Mahony

Living beyond Conformity: An Experience of Ministry and Priesthood Owen Hardwicke

Priestless People? New Vision for the Catholic Church Vincent McLaughlin

Off Beam Off Side Off Menu: An Appeal From the Catholic Pews‘ Kevin Clarke 

‘Quo Vadis’ Collegiality in Canon Law Mary McAleese

What Happened at Vatican II John W O’Malley

Links to Amazon.co.uk (United Kingdom)

Chronicles of a Vatican II Bishop Remi De Roo, 2012

Why the Catholic Church needs Vatican III T.P.O’Mahony

Living beyond Conformity: An Experience of Ministry and Priesthood Owen Hardwicke

Priestless People? New Vision for the Catholic Church Vincent McLaughlin

Off Beam Off Side Off Menu: An Appeal From the Catholic Pews‘ Kevin Clarke 

‘Quo Vadis’ Collegiality in Canon Law Mary McAleese

 What Happened at Vatican II John W O’Malley

Women’s Ordination: A Way forward?

The recent disappointment over the failure of the Church of England Synod finally to approve the ordination of woman bishops has brought the matter under a political spotlight, with suggestions that parliament should remove the exemption of the CoE from the provisions of equality legislation, the removal of the existing (all male) bishops from the House of Lords, or both. Any such removal of the equality exemption would have implications for ordination as Anglican bishops not only for women, but also for gay men and transgender priests. There could also be implications for the Catholic Church: in a posting at the UK Call to Action website, one contributor has described how she has written to her MP on the subject:

 It is very interesting that my excellent MP, Frank Field, has introduced a Bill to Parliament seeking to remove the temporary exclusion granted to the Anglican Church regarding sexual equality. Frank sees to remove that so that the Church cannot exclude women priests from becoming bishops. I wrote to ask if he could extend the removal of the exclusion also to the Catholic Church. It would be interesting to know what effect this could have in the UK.

Phoebe – the only deacon named in the NT!

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The Vatican Implosion (Video)

Robert C. Mickens, Vatican correspondent and columnist for “The Tablet,” speaks about The Vatican’s implosion and what it means for Catholics.

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