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Robert Blair Kaiser Urges Irish to Fix Their “Broken Church”

In a keynote address, “Church Reform: No More Thrones,” at the opening of the Humbert Summer School in Co Mayo, Kaiser said he was not attacking the Catholic faith but the “special and corrosive tyranny that popes have been exercising over Catholics everywhere”.  The noted author of RFK Must Die and Cardinal Mahony: A Novel was also a journalist for Newsweek and covered Vatican II for Time .  Before that, Kaiser was in the Society of Jesus for 10 years, leaving before his ordination. He has written about Catholic Church affairs for many years and four of his eleven books are about Church reform. Posted with his permission, his speech in its entirety follows:

‘CATHOLIC CHURCH REFORM: NO MORE THRONES’

KEYNOTE ADDRESS

THE HUMBERT SUMMER SCHOOL

The Harlequin Hotel, Castlebar, County Mayo

August 19, 2010.

Robert Blair Kaiser

*

I love the Irish. I love you for your smiling Irish eyes, for your impish

sense of humor, for your great gift of the gab, for the poetry in your souls, for the intelligence and the beauty and the leadership of your women.

I must confess that I always fall in love with Irish girls. My three children are half Irish — and they have smiling Irish eyes, an impish

sense of humor, the gift of the gab, and poetry in their souls. They have also generated six beautiful young children, much like them.

I also love you for your revolutionary spirit.

When John Cooney invited me to speak at this, your 24th annual jamboree of ideas, I knew I would be among my own kind, speaking in the memory and honour of the French General, Jean Humbert, who landed here in County Mayo in 1798 to assist Irish rebels against the English.

Our kinship comes from our histories. My country was born in revolt against English tyranny in 1776. Your struggle goes back in history much further than that. As you all know, your struggle against the English began when the Normans arrived in Wexford in 1169. You were struggling in 1798, when General Jean Humbert came to your aid against the British – in a losing cause. And you were still fighting in the early part of the 20th century before you finally won the freedom you have today.

This is another thing I love about the Irish: you don’t quit in the face of tyranny.

This is important, because your struggle for freedom today needs men and women with staying power, and, of course, faith, hope, charity—and, God being good to us, a sense of humour.

When I speak about your struggle for freedom, I am not talking about your freedom from British tyranny. I am talking about your struggle against another colonializing power that perhaps you never quite thought of as a colonializing power.

Who? I am talking about the modern papacy, Rome and the pope, who has so much in common with your historic British overlords.

Until the Copernican revolution, monarchs exercised absolute control over their subjects by divine right. But when the peoples of the world, informed by a new cosmology, put the divine right of kings into history’s dust bin, they forgot to toss the divine right of popes into the garbage, too. As a consequence, the popes have been getting away with this “divine right” nonsense for too long, since long after thinking Catholics knew it was nonsense.

I am not attacking our Catholic faith. I am talking about the special and corrosive tyranny that popes have been exercising over Catholics everywhere for the past few hundred years, and, dating back to the middle of the 19th century, over Ireland’s Catholics (who were then too unformed and too uninformed to offer much resistance).

From 1849 to 1878, Paul Cullen, Ireland’s first cardinal, built a clerical Irish Church that marched in total loyalty to Rome and his own overreaching authority. As you know, an overreaching authority is not real, like the natural authority a good father and a good mother have with their children. Natural authority helps people grow. Artificial authority knocks people down. It scares them.

Dublin’s Archbishop John Charles McQuaid put his own special twists on Cardinal Cullen’s authoritarian model. From 1940 to his retirement in 1972, McQuaid imposed his will on the Dublin Church and on Irish society, instilling fear of his disfavor in his priests and, in the people, fear for their eternal salvation.

Cullen constructed and McQuaid consolidated a two-level clerical system in the Church, with free men (the holy priests) on the upper deck, and below in steerage class, the slaves (the sinful laity) who were never allowed to ask an impertinent question, like, “Father, are you fiddlin’ with my little Tom?”

The cardinal and the archbishop established the clerical culture in Ireland that Judge Yvonne Murphy identified as the root cause of the Irish scandals that have sent you and your nation reeling.

According to Judge Murphy’s report, four successive archbishops of Dublin, McQuaid, Dermot Ryan, Kevin McNamara, and Cardinal Desmond Connell, failed to tell the police that priests were abusing children, often the poorest of your nation’s children. Clerics were able to do their dirty deeds in secret, hiding between their reputed holy-because-they-were-celibate image. If the families of the abused children complained, they were punished, or bought off in return for their silence. When the cover came off, we finally got the answer to the question we were afraid to ask: Yes, Father was fiddlin’ our little Toms – with the tacit permission of their bishops who had been evasive about the truth to preserve the holy reputation of the clerical caste.

John Cooney summed things up in an analysis for the Irish Independent. “In the public revulsion and shame accompanying the state investigations into Ferns, the religious orders, and now the Archdiocese of Dublin, Irish society has been stunned by the collapse of the credibility and moral authority of bishops.” He might have added, but it had not yet been proven, that the bishops covered up as a matter of policy set by the Vatican under the direction of one Joseph Ratzinger.That news made previous calls for Papa Ratzinger to deal with the causes of the situation look fatuous. He hasn’t addressed himself to the causes (which have everything to do with the two-level, upper-deck, lower-deck purple culture that once struck fear in your hearts and corrupted your children) because he himself has been swimming in that culture for most of his life. I dare say that if I challenged him about this purple culture, he wouldn’t even know what I am talking about. He is like the salmon that swims in the waters of your River Moy, who does not recognize water until he is caught out of it.

In his recent apostolic Letter to the Catholics of Ireland, Pope Benedict didn’t talk about the cover up, because he was part of it. Which is why his words of apology rang so hollow.

The most significant actions of Benedict’s papacy so far are his attacks on women. He has excommunicated women who have “attempted ordination.” And he has set in motion two investigations of religious orders of women in the United States, one of them a doctrinal inquiry by the pope’s heresy-hunting department. Will this be the pope’s Final Solution to the problem of the Church’s uppity, too-well-educated women? Excommunication? Condemnation as heretics by the Holy Office of the Inquisition? (In my humble opinion, our American nuns, the bravest, most generous Jesus-people in the universe, should be investigating the Vatican.)

Oh yes. The pope has taken some action in Ireland. He is sending nine legates here this autumn to fix what his minions are now delicately referring to as la situazione.

One of the legates, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, has bragged that His Holiness wants to straighten out Ireland — by taking its Catholics back to the upper-deck, lower-deck system of Cullen and McQuaid.

That system isn’t working. It wasn’t working a hundred years ago. It wasn’t working in 1959, when Pope John XXIII called a Council to update the Church.

At Vatican II, a ten to one majority of bishops redefined the Church as “the people of God.” That hit at the heart of papal absolutism. In effect, the Council Fathers said to us: “The Pope is not the Church. Your bishop is not the Church. You are the Church. Believe in your Church. Believe in yourselves.” DID YOU HEAR THAT? BELIEVE IN YOURSELVES.

The Vatican II bishops were saying the exact opposite of what Pius Ninth announced during the 1870 debate on papal infallibility at Vatican I. During that debate one of his aides came to him and pointed out that infallibility was “not in the Church’s tradition.”

Pio Nono said, Traditio sono Io. Io sono la chiesa. No one had ever expressed papal absolutism quite so clearly: “I am tradition. I am the Church.”

I was privileged to chronicle the historic reversal of that attitude when I covered Vatican II for Time magazine in the 1960s. I watched Popes John XXIII and then Paul VI, more than 2,000 bishops and almost as many theologians, begin to rethink everything that generations of Catholics had taken for granted. EVERYTHING!

They worked out a new charter to return ‘the People of God’ to a more simple Christianity. Almost overnight, the Church discovered a new view of what it could be –- and should be: more democratic, more pluralistic, more free, more human, more humble in the face of history. The Council’s charter made the Church less Roman, and more catholic; less a Church of laws, more a Church of love.

The idea was to help people, not hurt them; stop frightening them with a list of “thou shalt nots”, and start emphasizing the Good News of Christ. The Council saw the world as essentially good, because it was redeemed by Christ – and would continue to be redeemed by our ongoing Jesus-witness for justice and peace. WASN’T THAT A WONDERFUL, NEW MESSAGE?

When the Council’s editors pored over the final draft of its landmark document on “The Church in the Modern World,” they paused over its opening words — Luctus et angor, “grief and anxiety.” Was this the proper way to start their manifesto, with the words “grief and anxiety?” No. They did one of those quick editorial fixes that anyone who has worked in the word business can only consider inspired. They moved the words Luctus et angor aside and inserted the words Gaudium et spes — “joy and hope.” They were exactly the right words to set the tone not only for this document, but for the entire Council.

AT LAST! JOY AND HOPE!

But what had really changed? Nothing, NOTHING except the way these editors chose to look at the document and then strike a new chord for a new kind of Church.

Unfortunately, many bishops returned home so deaf to the new joyous chord that they failed to convey its message of hope. Archbishop McQuaid promised his people in Dublin that, after the Council, “nothing will change.” .

Pope Paul VI seemed to go deaf, too. He had championed the Council’s new charter for a people’s Church. He had put his blessing on the work of John XXIII’s birth control commission but Paul VI pulled back when advisors in his Curia warned him that, if he accepted its conclusions — that a couple can and should make love, even when they have good reasons not to make a baby — he would lose his moral authority. Paul VI took the Curia’s advice — and lost his moral authority.

Paul VI’s two successors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI did everything they could to make the Church less human and more severe; more a Church of laws than a Church of love, more Roman and less Catholic, and sometimes less Christian.

Vatican II proclaimed that Christ had to have an African face in Africa and an Asian face in Asia. John Paul II didn’t get it. He frowned at efforts in Africa to create an encultured African Church in Africa. In a dozen trips to Africa during his papacy, he wasn’t promoting the face of an African Jesus so much as he was selling Africans a commodity, papal celebrity — the Pope as hero, the Pope as a god.

John Paul II also vetoed attempts by Americans to incorporate important elements of American culture–democracy and freedom and equality–into their American Church. Those Catholic thinkers who might have guided that adaptation most tellingly–for example, some American theologians mentored by the Jesuit John Courtney Murray–pulled back in fear– once they discovered that the Pope and Cardinal Ratzinger had set key American bishops to the task of watching them.

Those bishops were John Paul II-bishops, more Roman than Catholic. They did what John Paul told them to do: they silenced independent voices in the Church, they tried to make women who felt they had priestly vocations into heretics, and they used the threat of excommunication to intimidate Americans in political life.

And they drove people out of the Church. Some 80 percent of American Catholics do not go to Mass much any more. I understand the numbers are pretty close to that in Ireland, where almost all of your young people and many of your women of all ages say they have “left the Church.”

What have I said so far? That, for a thousand years, popes have promoted a clerical Church instead of a peoples Church, that the Fathers of Vatican II worked for four serious years to give the Church back to the people, and that Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI spent the next thirty years repealing their labor and allowing corruption to reign, a move that has left our Church, which is Christ’s body on earth, broken.

What can we do about this broken Church?

We can lament its brokenness and continue to pray, pay, and shut up. Or we can leave it, leave it to the pope and his bishops, who will soon look ridiculous when the base of their ecclesiastical pyramid disappears and they find themselves running in some kind of imaginary space, like Wile E. Coyote chasing the roadrunner off the edge of the mesa and then falling to the bottom of the cliff.

Half the Catholics in your country and mine have “left the Church.” They find Jesus in other Christian communities, or they start up their own small-faith groups, re-creating the kind of community that existed in the first century–a brotherhood and sisterhood of Jesus-people who meet periodically (generally in someone’s home) to break bread together in prayer — with or without the presence of a priest. Last Sunday, in Cleveland, Ohio, the people of St. Peter’s parish, which had been closed in April by Bishop Richard Lennon, put their own little twist on that idea. They celebrated their own Mass in leased commercial space with their former pastor presiding. Bishop Lennon has told them they are in schism, If they set up an alternative parish outside his jurisdiction, he said, their salvation is in danger. By all accounts, the people of St. Peter’s are not frightened.

I am here tonight to tell you there’s another way. We don’t have to leave our parishes. We or our parents or our grandparents paid for them and built them. They are ours. We don’t have to leave our Church, either. Why abandon our stake in the entire Catholic infrastructure to the bishops and the pray-pay-and-obey passive Catholics and the Taliban Catholics? It is our Church. There is nothing sacred about the ecclesiastic pyramid of power. Jesus didn’t set it up. It did not take serious shape until the eleventh century. Men made it. Men (and women) can unmake it. Or re-make it.

This is not just my idea. I am only the herald of an idea that was planted in me by the Fathers of Vatican II, and by my intimate conversations with Pope John XXIII and then, over the next thirty years, with some of the world’s best theologians and historians. They taught me that we could fix much of what was wrong with the Church by harking back to the way the Church was in the beginning. (Paradoxically, they said, we have to go back in history in order to go ahead.)

In apostolic times, there was no hierarchy, no Roman Catholic Church. There was a family of Jesus-followers in Jerusalem, in Alexandria, in what is now Beirut and Antioch and Ephesus and, a little later, in Rome. Each of them grew, each in their own ways, and in their own cultures.

Their Churches were “autochthonous.” Now autochthonous is a scary, fifteen-Euro Greek word that is hard to pronounce, but easy to understand. All it means is “home-grown” or “local.” But it’s an important word because in that concept, we have a legitimate, tradition-tested answer to our principal question: how can we have an accountable Church in Ireland, or Scotland, or the United States, how can we be Irish Catholics, or Scottish Catholics, or American Catholics and still find a place under the Catholic umbrella? We will do it by becoming autochthonous, that is not in schism, firm in our traditional Catholic faith, but with a new way of governing ourselves.

There are now 21 autochthonous Churches, all with their own patriarchs, their own priests (some married, some not), with their own liturgies (or rites), their own language, their own customs. The are all Catholic, with the same faith (expressed in shared creeds). The Roman Catholic Church, with the bishop of Rome serving as the patriarch of the West, is one of them.

Dating back no earlier perhaps than the 15th century, the Roman Catholic Church, being Roman, and a product of the Roman, imperial culture, this Roman Church couldn’t help making itself a Church of laws, and an imperial Church as well, one that felt the need to conquer other cultures — all over the world.

This is the Church we think of today as “the Church” or “the Roman Catholic Church.” It is still just one of 21 home-grown Churches, but here it is today, burdened and weighed down with a top-down kind of unaccountable governance that impedes its Jesus-witness in a bottom-up world.

My mentors, my theologian friends, have all but given up the idea that Rome can reform. They wonder why we can’t we have home-grown, enculturated, autochthonous Churches of the people everywhere.

The very presence of these autochthonous Churches under the Catholic umbrella may threaten Rome’s micromanagement of the Catholic universe, but the autochthonous Churches illustrate and celebrate a very human aspect of the Church: it is different in different lands, part of the local culture, and emblematic of the freedom our faith should give us. We do not have to all march in lockstep.

A modern autochthonous Church is not an unthinkable idea. The ecumenically-minded Belgian Cardinal Mercier thought of it in 1925, when he proposed at his Malines Conversations that the Anglican Church be united with Rome as an autochthonous Church, with the Archbishop of Canterbury serving as the patriarch of England, with its own married priests, its own English language liturgy, and its own Book of Common Prayer. Pope Pius XI squelched Cardinal Mercier’s idea and even wrote an encyclical, Mortalium animos, condemning the ecumenical movement itself, which remained as Church policy until the eve of Vatican II.

But the idea of a modern autochthonous Church hung on. In 1959, a young Joseph Ratizinger wrote a paper suggesting that autochthony might be useful “particularly in missionary lands.” Maybe he was thinking of China, which already had a measure of autochthony by selecting its own bishops without reference to Rome. At the Asian Synod in Rome, in 1998, the Indonesia Bishops Conference (which had requested Rome’s permission to start ordaining married men and was turned down, at least twice) proposed that the Church in Indonesia become autochthonous. The synod ignored their proposal, but the Indonesia bishops came back again in another Rome synod in 2001, and made the same request. It was ignored again, probably because the organizers of the pope’s synod in the Roman Curia could not wrap their minds around the new idea, that a local Church like the Church in Indonesia could be Indonesian and still Catholic.

It’s too bad that Martin Luther knew nothing of autochthony. If he had seen it as an option, he would not have had to start his own Church in Germany. His people could have had their own married priests and their own German Bible and their own liturgies in German. They could have become autochthonous, that is, more German and less Roman.

I am suggesting that the time is right for Irish Catholics to take one more step on the path to freedom, this time freedom from Ireland’s Roman colonizers. As citizens of Ireland, you have been through the process of becoming a republic. As citizens of the Church, you can go through the process of becoming a home-grown Church work in Ireland. How might that work?

You can demand the Irish bishops get the hell out of your cathedrals (your cathedrals, not their cathedrals) while you elect your own bishops to limited terms of office. Yes, you can start by electing your own bishops, as they do now in some Swiss cantons. You may decide to keep your present bishops, the good ones. The bad bishops are so caught up in their purple, aristocratic culture that they cannot read the signs of the times. For the past 40 years, no amount of lobbying, no number of petitions by the world’s largest lay organizations, no brilliant theological persuasion has moved a single lord bishop to become a servant bishop.

Your elected bishops would be accountable to you, not the pope. They would serve the people as listeners not lords, and meet periodically in a Senate of Bishops alongside the elected members of a separate House of the People. Both bodies, the Senate of Bishops and the House of the People, will check and balance each other. They will conduct the business of your Irish Church not in private but in open sessions with press and broadcast coverage, making them accountable to the people who elected them, not to the pope.

You can elect your own representatives to every diocesan board and commission and committee, particularly the finance committees, which will all have active, not merely an advisory voice. You could have similar elections to every committee in every parish, whose parishioners will select their own pastors from a list of priest candidates. You can take care of the so called priest shortage by finally admitting that women are not “defective males” according to the scientific analysis of St Thomas Aquinas, and recognize that in your home grown Irish Church, you can ordain anyone whom God calls to ministry in the Church.

You could write a constitution that makes these moves mandatory, by consent of the governed. And, while you are at it, you would make some provision for two other branches of Church governance: 1) for courts, including a supreme court (because, wherever men and woman gather, disputes arise that must be settled by a refereed dialogue), and 2) for the election of a president or chief operating officer who will head the executive branch of your Irish Church–because the buck always has to stop somewhere.

You will still have bishops, but they will be your own elected bishops, accountable in a Church of, by and for the people–even young people who may come flocking back to the Church once they realize they have a voice and a vote and citizenship in their own Church.

Can you help create a people’s Church? YES! You can if you want to. In this context, I like to quote Pope John Paul II. In 1978, he traveled to Warsaw and told millions of Poles, “You can take back your country if you demand it.” You can say the same thing. “We can take back our Church if we demand it.”

I have heard only one objection to this plan — that it is “unlikely to happen.” But long odds are no objection to a good idea. In 1978, who would have thought that the Polish people could take back their country from the mighty occupying army of the Soviet Union? But they did it. They won their battle.

We face long odds in the battle for our own home-grown Churches – against the thousand-year-old entrenched power of the Vatican. But if our cause is just, then long odds shouldn’t stop us. It is fun betting against the odds, and even more fun when we finally win a battle that no one expected us to win.

Let me tell you a story about fighting against long odds. In the late 1800s, in the United States, almost one hundred years after our Declaration of Independence from England, women still did not have the right to vote. So a small group of American women launched a campaign with the U.S. Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution. Conservative Southern senators opposed them. But that didn’t stop these intrepid women. If they couldn’t get to the U.S. Senate, they decided to go to the leaders of our 48 states, an infinitely more painful route that ultimately worked. But not until they had given many a speech and made many a demonstration and been thrown into many a jail. They launched 480 campaigns to get state legislatures to submit voting rights amendments to their people, 47 campaigns to get constitutional conventions to write woman suffrage into state constitutions; 277 campaigns to get state party conventions to include planks in their platforms that included the right for a woman to vote; 30 campaigns to get the political parties to include similar planks in their party platforms and 19 campaigns with 19 successive Congresses. Until finally – in 1920 – they got their right to vote enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. That fight took twenty years.

Will the battle for a home-grown Catholic Church in Ireland take twenty years? I doubt it. This mass-mediated, Internet world we live in spins very fast. If this is an idea whose time has come, then the Holy Spirit will make it happen. The Holy Spirit speaks to us through history. The current ongoing history of the sex scandal — and the news about our crumbling, abuse-of-authority Church — may tell us that change is already happening, happening faster than anyone thinks.

I can see some of you smiling. This is a very Utopian idea, isn’t it? Well, maybe not. I’d like to remind you that the revolution may have already started – in Ireland—by an 80-year-old grandmother in Cork named Jennifer Sleeman. According to a news story by Patsy McGarry in the Irish Times just a few days ago, Mrs. Sleeman, whose son is a monk, organized an one-day boycott of Sunday Mass on September 26 by the faithful women and mothers of Ireland “to let the Vatican and the Irish Church know that women are tired of being treated as second-class citizens.”

Ms. Sleeman told McGarry, “Somehow I have grown up and the Church has not. It seems caught in a time-warp, run by celibate old men divorced from the reality of life, with a lonely priesthood struggling with the burden of celibacy where rules and regulations have more weight than the original message of community and love.”

Maybe this grandmother from Cork has already started the revolution. She obviously believes what I believe, that you can have a voice and a vote in your own Church, and still be Catholic and, at the same time, Irish. Like all revolutions, the struggle won’t be easy. You will have to find some creative leadership, take a thousand bold steps, have many a meeting, organize many a boycott, withhold many a Euro from the Sunday collection, give many a speech, and shed many a tear.

But I have every reason to believe you can take back your Church, your Church, not the pope’s Church, your Church, not your bishop’s Church. You have what it takes. You have staying power. You understand and enjoy politics. You believe politics is an honorable profession. And you have your smiling Irish eyes, your impish sense of humor, your great gift of the gab, and poetry in your souls.

You also have the intelligence and the leadership of your beautiful women. Don’t forget them. The Vatican doesn’t have many of them.

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52 Responses

  1. At Vatican II, a ten to one majority of bishops redefined the Church as “the people of God.” That hit at the heart of papal absolutism. In effect, the Council Fathers said to us: “The Pope is not the Church. Your bishop is not the Church. You are the Church. Believe in your Church. Believe in yourselves.” DID YOU HEAR THAT? BELIEVE IN YOURSELVES.******

    This summarizes well the point of attitude where I think the reform went quite awry. In taking up genuine concerns for papal and hierarchical tyranny and excess, we are offered a redefinition of centuries of Christian faith as “believe in yourself”: the archetypical secular prayer of the modernist piety, one that is quite avaialbe to us without the Church or Christian faith or God. All you need to do is get your weekly dose of GLEE.

    This is the mantra that gutted our church’s sanctuaries and worship and continues to try and re-pack Christianity as secular humanism with a glossy ritualism over top.

    All this when “authenticity” is driving our secular culture to the point of poverty and a critical malaise.

    I’m not saying give the Sun-King Pope a free pass, only that to hitch the Church’s wagon to an already dead philosophical horse appears insane to me.

    The last thing we need right now, I think, is more belief in ourselves. This project of reform needs to start finding a new language.

    • Kaiser used the plural “yourselves”, as in a community of believers. Clearly, you “believed in yourself” enough to mischaracterize Kaiser’s speech, Vat II, the reform movement and secular humanism.

      And no, I’m not going to continue this dialogue with a anyone who doesn’t have a clue about these things.

      Betty

      • Betty,

        You don’t seem particularly interested in having a dialogue with anyone who may offer a different perspective.

        • It appears that YOU – David, are the one shutting down the dialogue. Your comment adds nothing to the debate.

          I believe the rhetorical device you are employing belongs under the heading of ‘sophistry’.

          Slainte,
          Conrad J. Noll

        • David,

          Reread the above.

          Betty

        • Conrad,

          How would you rate Betty’s refusal to dialogue with JD?

          JD offerred the perspective that Kaiser is merely re-packaging secular humanism as Christian ritualism. Kaiser suggests that we can have a new Catholicism. But, he offers nothing substantative except to stop listening to the Vatican. Somehow, that is supposed to make Catholicism stronger and more vital.

          Betty offerred the following reponse to JD: you have it all wrong and I don’t want to talk to you.

          If Kaiser doesn’t want to listen to the Vatican, then he doesn’t have to. But, for him to suggest that he is leading me or the Irish on a path to freedom by adopting the mores of Western culture strikes me as the very definition of a false prophet.

        • Conrad (or Betty),

          What do you think about JD’s claim that Kaiser is hitching his wagon to a (philosophically) dead horse?

          • Hi David 🙂

            I will reply to your question, but a bit later… I am busy at present… like most folks.

            But I am curious… are you an Irish Catholic interested in the future of the Irish Catholic Church or are you a Roman Catholic from another country interested in this from a catholic philosophical point of view? Or both… or..?

            Slainte,
            Conrad.

          • Conrad,

            I have no particular personal interest. I am an American Catholic of primarily German heritage.

            I became interested in this blog through a reference from Obie Holmen at his Spirit of a Liberal blog which came referenced through Obie’s contributions to Locally Grown Northfield (Minnesota, USA).

            What has kept my attention in this blog is the multiple contributors, who seem to represent the “intellectual” liberal wing of Catholic thought. I do not believe that it was fair to myself or to others if I did not inform myself on some the various thinking within Catholic circles. After all, it is not intellectually stimulating to associate yourself with those of like minds.

            My particular interest in this question was sparked by JD’s astute observations that the “intellectual” left doesn’t really offer anything intellectual. Its (Their) call to throw off the yoke of the Vatican is sounding the call of political action, not spiritual revival. His query, if I understand it correctly, is whether the intellectual left really has anything to offer besides a criticism of the Vatican. Betty’s response, in a nutshell, is that she refuses to converse with anyone who can’t understand why she is right.

            What is interesting about Kaiser’s presentation is that, with relatively minor modifications, it could have been made in just about any Western Catholic Church.

          • Hi David…

            I have finally found the time to address your post.

            A busy life leaves little time to construct arguments such as these.

            Thank you for making your interest in this clear… it helps me to offer you a more honest and complete response.

            I applaud your effort to come to know the mind of those who do not share your views, not too many take time to honestly visit blogs of those who oppose their views… without intending to act like a ‘troll’ that is.

            You appear aware that the role of religion in Ireland is both a philosophical and a political reality. I therefore believe your post deserves a response on both those levels… philosophical and political.

            You ask me if I think JDs “astute observations” about the philosophical implications of Kaiser’s suggestion that the Vatican be invited to leave the Irish Church have merit?

            You state:
            “His query, if I understand it correctly, is whether the intellectual left really has anything to offer besides a criticism of the Vatican”

            Let’s look at your statement… within it is a suggestion that JD is asking for some sort of intellectual justification from those Catholics who think the Vatican is a negative influence on the church… I have to ask… just what are we being asked to justify?

            I think this may be Betty’s problem. It certainly is my problem.

            I don’t know what it is I am supposed to justify and I am not trying to be flip about this.

            Do you want us to justify the opinions we have that see the Vatican as an impediment to the spiritual development of Irish Catholics? Have you read the ‘Ferns report’, the ‘Ryan report’ or the ‘Murphy report’ on church enabled child-abuse in Ireland?

            The sad and tragic stories in these reports represent the tip of an iceberg that few in the church want to acknowledge and that the Vatican through its Canon Law has tried but failed to address.

            Cardinal Ratzinger’s signature is on more than one document written in the nearly 20 years he was head of the CDF when the cover-up documented in those reports was taking place; documents in which he asks for the ‘good of the church’ to be the first consideration in child abuse cases.

            Besides the above and I’m well aware that these are contested allegations, it is well known in Ireland that the church under the Archbishops of Dublin has been a less than wholesome enterprise.

            And let me be clear here… I am not talking about the church of the villages and communities in the countryside, of which JD appears fond. I am referring to the town and city clergy that looked to Rome for its guidance and authority.

            Getting back to the question of the philosophical implications of Robert Kaiser’s arguments:

            In all honesty David, I have seen these debates in various blogs go on… and on… and on… There is no winning the ‘philosophical’ argument. You have your philosophical position on life, I have mine. I very much doubt either one of us is going to persuade the other to their position. It always devolves into a “turtles all the way down” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turtles_all_the_way_down) argument.

            However, I appreciate that you are trying to educate yourself.

            I do not speak for the catholic intellectual left. I doubt anyone could. That is tantamount to herding cats. But I will tell you where I am coming from.

            I do not see the value of a hierarchic structure such as exists in the Roman Catholic Church. If you would like to know where I look to advance my understanding of these most important questions I recommend the following: “Why Christianity must change or die” by John Spong, “The case for God” by Karen Armstrong, “The evolution of God” by Robert Wright and “Freedom Evolves” by Daniel Dennet.

            In a nutshell, I have come to understand that there is a moral arc to the evolution of the universe that appears be an integral part of a process in which the degree of freedom available to conscious beings increase over time.

            So much for the philosophical debate…

            The other perspective on this is a political one, which is why I asked you and JD what your interest was in this. The political debate here is a tad more down to earth so to speak.

            I am Irish, despite my name. The ¼ of my heritage that is German and from which I take my name salutes you. The ¾ of me that is pure Irish suggests to you that you are putting your nose in where it is not welcome.

            I am Clan Dal gCais on both sides of my family – one of the oldest bloodlines in Ireland. I am related to the ‘O’Brien’. As anachronistic as it sounds I consider myself a Seanchai of the Dal gCais. I honour the Brehon code and I play a mean ‘whistle’.

            Religion… especially the Catholic Religion, has for better or worse always been entwined with Irish Nationalism. I am of the opinion that the detrimental influence of the modern Roman Catholic Church in Ireland and especially its control of the state’s schools can be traced to the influence of the first Cardinal in Ireland. This was Paul Cullen who was Archbishop of Dublin from 1852 to 1878 – not that long ago.

            Most Irish republican’s I know share the opinion that Paul Cullen and the Archbishops of Dublin have not been good for Ireland or the Irish People. The continuous and unsavoury events that unfolded in the Dublin Diocese from his time forward have only served to strengthen that opinion.

            I see the involvement in Irish life of a church hierarchy that looks to Rome for its direction as detrimental to the future of my country and my people. It is as simple as that David and I am going to do everything I can to ensure that Robert Kaiser’s message is widely distributed and appreciated.

            Thank you for your interest.

            Slainte,
            Conrad J. Noll.

          • Conrad,

            Thank you for the long and detailed answer. I shall study it and respond in due course.

          • I look forward to your response David 🙂

            Where do you find the time for this? Just curious…

            Let me give you a heads up. Comments on the political aspects of this could lead you into water you may not wish to tread.

            Otherwise… knock yourself out…
            Slainte,
            Conrad.

          • Conrad,

            Given that all of the other threads have exhausted themselves, when I have the time, I will continue the discussion at the bottom of the coments. I think there are multiple issues to address, so it might make it easier if we start an active discussion.

  2. JD

    You can leave with the bishops when we throw them out…

    Conrad J. Noll

  3. Well, in the first place the fathers of the Council were themselves bishops, and plenty seem to credit a great amount of authority to whatever they said in the Council. While the term People of God was used, and I believe is useful, what I disagree with is the transfiguration of the Church into a sort of People’s Republic. I don’t think VII envisioned that. To simply assess this as a question of political power, transfering the power from the hierarchy to “the people” in a kind of coup d’etat, is to me, an erroneous way to build up our ecclessiology. Is a starting point bound to fail.

    I am not unsympathetic to the laity within the dysfunctional Church in Ireland, or abroad. But I think formulating the program for reform on this “we are the the church, believe in yourselves” line is getting us nowhere. It is certainly not attracting people from the broader culture back into the Church’s traditions where they can encounter the ancient heritage which we are trying to preserve.

    Culturally, the emphasis on “believing in ourselves” has had the widespread effect of making religion *appear* irrelevant. At 22, this is obvious among my peers. We should ask ourselves, “for whom are we making these changes, and how can we pass the tradition to the next generation?”.

    It’s probably not a mistake that the neo-conservatives are on the rise among those youth who do remain within Church structures, I think we can observe sociological conditions which have made this a logical progression. Though complex, I consider the failures of liberal Catholicism to be a factor. It has stressed its revolutionary nature too far, with a tendency to make itself irrelevant in the intensity of its spirit of critique. We formulate Christianity on grounds that make it irrelevant to those not raised in traditional Christian environment. Those outside of the Institution with a liberal bent see little need for a church community any way.

    What I am disagreeing with here is the language you are adopting for reform. It has the tendency to make religion look superfluous, and it has already had this effect.

    I am saying this as someone with liberal sympathies, who obviously has his own stake in the reform of the Church.

    • JD…

      I am curious, but first, please don’t take offense at what I am about to write. I offer this in a spirit of respectful exchange between parties that clearly disagree.

      My first question is are you a cleric? I ask this only because of your comment “I am not unsympathetic to the laity within the dysfunctional Church in Ireland, or abroad”.

      My second question are you a member of the Irish Church? Again I wonder because of the comment above.

      I suppose those questions are irrelevant to a great degree, but I was curious.

      Is your age 22? I assume you are as you write “At 22, this is obvious among my peers”.

      You appear to be intelligent and sincere young man. Forgive me for what may be perceived paternalism, I am 58.

      I had experience of the catholic church in a liberal southern English diocese in the 50s and 60s. Just prior to VII. It was not a bad place to be and I recall the hope was that VII would allow the kind of church we were experiencing to be available to all Catholics.

      I also had experience of the catholic church in Dublin through the 50s and into the mid 70s.

      This was Archbishop John McQuaid’s church. The one when he returned after VII he told “nothing would change”. It was not a very nice place to be. I have that on personal experience, not hearsay.

      I suspect you have heard a few disparaging things about the 60s and the lapse in the moral order that was supposedly responsible for the perceived problems of VII and the abuse scandals.

      I appears to me, it is this perception that is brought to the the issues that seem to occupy the attention of the current Pope of the RCC and young catholic neo-cons like yourself.

      There is another view of the 60s that many of us old boomers recall – that of a time of radical revolutionary change in a post-war period – this was particularly true in particularly in Dublin.

      Many of us were tempered in the revolutionary and nationalist fires of the day. We haven’t forgotten and if my peers feel anything like I do, I think you will find we are not going to back away quietly from this.

      Evidence is already building that emotions and feeling are beginning to take some unfortunate turns.

      http://protectthepope.com/?p=714

      I certainly don’t condone such on-line behaviour, but I feel it is indicative of a feeling that is prevalent among us old Irish liberal catholic boomers

      I hardly need to point out that there are not that many young liberal catholics these days, so you will not get much reaction from that quarter. They have already given up on the church.

      But you may be surprised at just how many old catholic liberals still hold affection for the church of our youth. Many of us are appalled at the roll-back of everything that made VII, in anyway effective in advancing the ideas of the ‘community of church’.

      We watch with disbelief the reestablishment of the medieval structures we thought we had left behind but that the Vatican is now descending back into.

      I know you don’t agree with what I just said JD. This is OK. that is what respectful debate is about.

      In closing I invite you to give some thought to just how many old boomers like myself are out there.

      Slainte,
      Conrad J. Noll

      • Conrad, I replied to some of your questions, hopefully you found it in the tangle of replies.

        As to your comments to David:

        The very fact that you upheld “Why Christianity Must Change or Die” by John Spong as an apt program for the reform of the Catholic religion is a perfect example of my concerns and David’s at the beginning of this thread.

        Spong is one of the most notorious advocates for the secularization of the heart of the Christian religion. I would not even call him liberal Protestant, never mind an admirable model for Catholic faith. He denies Christian doctrine on just about every conceivable point. He says the time has come to pitch the mythologoical elements of the Christian tradition—-including theism! He reduces the meaning of the sacraments to “life transition rituals”. In his scheme, there is no place for sin or redepmtion, revelation, miracles, ect.

        He sets the whole of the Christian tradition on utterly empty air. He would prove himself more creative if he actually went and invented a new secular religion outrightly than propping up a parasitical system ontop of centuries of Christian faith and imagery.

        I would not even give him the credit of being a good and interesting heretic (and there are those).

        His issues with the Christian religion are so numerous, (as well as what I consider his errors) that they are not worth discussing further here, nor do I understand what possibly keeps him within the Christian fold by name.

        Spong’s pseudo prophetic voice has already proven its fruit. He offers a Christianity that none actually need and that most who leave the Church don’t actually call for. Contemporary culture is perfectly sufficient. While churches everywhere are in decline, it is his version that is vanishing the fastest.

        (Vast) problems with contemporary orthodoxy not withstanding, he must be opposed tooth and nail in our churches if we are not going to call this the last generation of Christians.

        • Well JD… I guess I hit a nerve with the mention of the good bishop Spong.

          He was only one of four sources I just happen to mention there JD. I added him last, I could easily have put Paul Tillich’s ‘Systematic Theology’ vols 1-3 in there instead.

          Would that have elicited the same response from you? They say essentially the same things you know. God is the ‘ground of all being’ and all that stuff….

          Your last comment is fun:

          “(Vast) problems with contemporary orthodoxy not withstanding, he must be opposed tooth and nail in our churches if we are not going to call this the last generation of Christians”

          That sounds a bit eschatological to my ear JD.

          I don’t think Christians are particularly endangered , although now that you bring it up, perhaps christians who feel the same way you do may no longer be that common in a generation or two. A ‘smaller’ church appears to be the current pope’s agenda.

          I wonder and I suspect many wonder with me, just how shrunken does he intend it to become? Will the church have to approach a vanishing point before purists such as yourself and the pope are satisfied?

          Thanks for the thoughts.
          Slainte,
          Conrad.

          • Well, I will say I am more familiar with Spong than Tillich.

            For some time, Spong was my saving grace in the midst of the very constricting Christianity I encountered at that time. He was really the last stage on my journey out of Christianity—till I came back, in part through Ratzinger’s “Jesus of Nazareth”.

            This does not mean I am pleased with Benedict’s papacy. He has proven far too complacent. His Papacy is beginning to look like a tragedy.

            But I really do think the Christianity of Spong is on its way to extinction—if we could call it Christianity to begin with.

            I don’t consider myself a purist, I leave much room for diversity. But to say God is not personable, to say prayer is a waste, to abolish, in other words, “the Our Father” in the real meaning of that petition is really not Christianity. People will carry on the faith of Nicea. It is not to be a purist to give whole hearted assent to that creed, credo being, after all, cor do, and not a bunch of rationalist assertions. Spong is a victim of the Enligthtenment.

            The extremely liberal churches are emptying the fastest in my city. What about yours?

            Again, none of this is my case against *reform*. I’m just not willing to pitch Christianity, but still fight to retain the stained glass “because its pretty”.

          • First off JD… I would like to thank you for catching my attention as I blew threw this blog last weekend. This is my first visit to ‘opentabernacle’.

            I have to compliment Betty and the rest of the ‘opentabernacle’ team. This is one of the better ‘religious discussion’ blogs I have had the pleasure of visiting.

            However, I suspect that at this time only you, David and I are paying much attention to these threads. But that’s fine with me.

            I am pleased you are familiar with Spong. I find him a very interesting writer; although I think he is just a bit too invested in his role of “rebel ex-bishop”.

            You say you have read Ratzinger’s “Jesus of Nazareth”. Have you read this critique?

            http://wwwuser.gwdg.de/~gluedem/download/pope_review.pdf

            Gerd Luedemann does a better job than I could to expose the intellectual quicksands at the heart of Ratzinger’s “Christological Hermeneutic” as revealed in his book ‘Jesus of Nazareth’.

            I agree with you JD, Benny’s papacy is “beginning to look like a tragedy”. And that is a tragedy for all Catholics.

            You appear to be a little hostile to the “Enlightenment” and rationalist influences. I have to say I find the concept of anyone being a “victim of the Enlightenment” a strange one.

            As my aul’ granny used to say “knowledge is no burden” and she was an uber-catholic.

            Don’t forget JD that the crowning intellectual achievements of Origen, Augustine and many early church fathers were due to a successful integration of Hellenistic philosophical thought with that of the Judaic tradition of ‘god inspired’ commentary and it was out of that milieu that the concept of the trinity emerged and subsequently the Nicean council and creed that followed.

            As to the Catholic churches here in Vancouver? I have to say they look like they are doing very well here. My parish church is busy most Sundays and while the majority of the folks are conservative, traditional and not that well educated, there appear to be some thoughtful liberals still around. Vancouver is a very ‘liberal’ sort of city as you know JD and the Catholics around here tend to be fairly liberal-minded, with a few notable exceptions of course.

            I have tea regularly with the Monseigneur who is the parish priest here. A very nice man and a good friend. He and I both think that the Catholic church has a long future ahead of it.

            But you are likely right about the fate of so called ‘liberal’ catholic churches. I think the liberal part of the catholic church has moved out of church buildings and no longer gather together on Sunday’s in the traditional way.

            And where have all those liberals, like me gone? Why we are here… in the ‘interweb’… trolling through blogs both liberal and conservative as our yahoo and google keyword searches bring strange and wonderful thoughts and ideas to our attention.

            I myself have grown a bit tired of the “stained glass” and the traditional ceremonies, but I know others like yourself really enjoy this aspect of the church. I still enjoy mid-night mass at Christmas and Easter celebrations myself.

            I am sure there will always be traditional and historically significant churches with plenty of stained glass where Catholics will gather for mass at significant times of the year for many, many, more years to come.

            I know my ‘liberal’ attitudes are anathema to most traditionalists but that is the nature of the beast… we are “all in this together” as Red Green likes to say (Canadian reference here – my apologies to any US and international readers). It saddens me when I hear talk such as “if you don’t believe the catechism then you can’t be a Catholic”. I happen to disagree with that and I think I am not the only one.

            Whenever I feel challenged by these things I like to bring to mind this little rhyme by Edwin Markham – “He drew a circle that shut me out Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout But love and I had the wit to win; We drew a circle that took him in”.

            I have always thought that would be the kind of sentiment that Jesus on one of his better days would have embraced.

            All the best,
            Slainte,
            Conrad.

          • Conrad, you say, “However, I suspect that at this time only you, David and I are paying much attention to these threads. But that’s fine with me.”

            I’m reading with great interest, though I haven’t commented, since it’s a fascinating threeway exchange between you, JD, and David, and I don’t want to intrude. I find your insights extremely important and very well-stated. And I very much appreciate your developing them in this thread.

            I also appreciate your willingness to share openly who you are and where you’re coming from in the discussion. That gives it a depth and honesty that often lacks in blog discussions, particularly those that degenerate into name-calling charges like, “You’re lying,” “You’re fabricating evidence,” “Everyone on your side lacks intellectual depth,” etc.

            One statement among several that keeps echoing in my ears is this statement you made earlier in the thread:

            “In a nutshell, I have come to understand that there is a moral arc to the evolution of the universe that appears be an integral part of a process in which the degree of freedom available to conscious beings increase over time.”

            I wholeheartedly agree, and find this observation powerful–and helpful to the discussion.

            On a personal note, we share the Dalcassian genetic signature. One of the recent surprises of my family history research, one arising out of DNA studies, is that my surname, Lindsey, is almost certainly a variant of the Irish name Lynch. And the Lynch group to which my family seems to belong has the Irish type III genetic marker of the Dalcassian group of families–something that sets us apart from other Lindsay/Lindsey groups being researched in our shared surname DNA study. It seems increasingly certain that my Lindseys were, prior to the 1720s when my family suddenly appears in Virginia records, Lynches from the southwest part of Ireland, whose name shifted to Lindsey around 1700–perhaps when my earliest proven ancestor Dennis Lindsey (whose name passes down generation after generation to me as my middle name) came to Virginia. In fact, we have proven to be a perfect match to a family of Lynches who can trace their origins to around 1800 in far western Co. Waterford, where that county meets Co. Cork.

            As you probably already know, all the families who have the Irish type III genetic signature are thought to have a shared ancestor in southwest Ireland sometime between 800-1100 A.D. And these families are, in general, Dalcassian families, though I’m not 100 per cent sure that the Irish type III marker and Dalcassian heritage are synonymous–I seem to read conflicting information on that point. All of which is beside the point of the discussion entirely, but your reference to your Dalcassian heritage definitely caught my eye. We’d be distant cousins going back to the early medieval period, I think.

          • Well how about that… A dalcassian cousin…

            Not that surprising though… the list of the ‘tribal sept’ families that trace their ancestory to Cas mac Conall Echlúath is not a short one.

            I have been looking into that genetic marker stuff recently too. I just found out about that earlier this year. I must admit I find it quite fascinating.

            This may not be the place to continue this conversation William… given the focus so far.

            If you would like, drop me note in my junk email account at cnlokionline53@gmail.com perhaps we can chat about this more if you are inclined.

            Thank you for your kind observations about the exchange between JD, David and me. I hope they have enjoyed it as much as I have. It is encouraging that there are actually some reader/observers out there and that they may be getting something out of this.

            As you rightly observe… too many blogs… and I have been just as guilty of this in the past… devolve into a silly ad hominem exchange

            I am trying hard to avoid falling into that kind of dialogue as tempting as it is at times.

            all the best to you William,
            Slainte,
            Conrad.

          • Thanks, Conrad. I’ll definitely email you. My understanding of both DNA research (which has surprisingly turned upside down everything my “Scottish” “Lindsey” family ever thought about its origins) and the Dalcassian history is shaky. I hope you can help me understand the latter, in particular, more clearly.

            I think that beyond a doubt there are quite a few folks reading these threads, though many of us may not jump into the conversation unless posters address us directly. I’m learning much from listening to this discussion. Your suggestion that Spong’s thought is grounded in Tillich strikes me as very sane, and it’s not something I would have thought of right off the top of my head.

            I’ve always been inclined to think Tillich is absolutely right in his response to Barth and neo-orthodoxy, when he argues that a God who is totally Other and who speaks a totally other Word to us is beyond human comprehension. As Tillich points out, we can receive and appropriate the divine only through our own human categories of comprehension.

            And from there to the argument that we must therefore always be engaged in fruitful, give-and-take conversations with contemporary culture–an argument central to Spong’s thinking (as to Tillich’s)–is just a short step. What many folks find perplexing in the approach of restorationist Catholicism to contemporary culture, I think, is its imperious assumption that culture is just raw material headed to hell in a handbasket, and only the church has the word of salvation.

            That assumption is proving to be quite hard to sustain as the veil is lifted from the intra-ecclesial mechanisms that have hidden clerics sexually abusing minors, and shifted those criminal priests around where they can strike again. And again and again.

          • So… William… Do you still think we have an audience?

            I’d have stopped reading several posts ago if I were an observer… 🙂

            David has kindly invited me to continue to discuss some of the issues he is interested in. Despite the other tasks piling up on my virtual desk, I will accept his courteous invitation as time permits.

            The curious thing is… I think we are actually more alike in out thinking that either one of us is ever likely to admit…

            Slainte,
            Conrad.

  4. JD I have sort of a feel where you’re coming from. I have a daughter slightly older than you who says similar things. She’s gone so far as to say the whole thing is irrelevant to her because it’s a bunch of internal navel gazing. As in ‘who gives a damn about who controls anything in Rome. The tradition either has relevance or it doesn’t.” She had me read the book “From Jesus to Christianity”. It was eye opening to the extent that it was far more updated than my own background in scriptural studies of the NT and the period surrounding it.

    I find it interesting that she and I can be political bed fellows but for different reasons. Hers are more practical in the sense that she sees the pending ecological devastation for the earth if humanity doesn’t get it’s act together. For her spirituality and authentic religious practice must take this into consideration. Ecology also extends to ecoology of the human community and she would agree with you that Western notions of individualism are not the way to go.

    She does agree with me however that spirituality in any form is meaningless if it doesn’t generate practical positive consequences which point people to care about the needs of the community. If the sacramental system fails in that aspect it deserves to die along with the more isolating and wasteful aspects of western concepts of individualism.

  5. Mrs Sleeman, You’ve tried presbyterianism and Roman Catholicism. They don’t don’t suit you so go to Church of Ireland next and leave the rest of us alone.

    Anglicanism is ideal for lukewarm protestants, such as yourself. It’s a Catholic church with female priests.
    Perfect for you.

    BYE BYE.

  6. Thanks Collen, for your comments.

    You know, what’s interesting is that I was at a dinner the other night Toronto with some really great people through a friend of a friend. There was about nine of us in a quaint house downtwon. Together, we all cooked a vegetarian meal, uncorked a few bottles of wine and had a blast conversing with one another.

    These were all university educated, internationally minded people between the ages of 22 and 27. The conversations tended to be intensely political and cultural. It was interesting to observe some trends as I understand them both in explicit conversation and the subtext: vegetarianism was being promoted for ecological reasons, there was a widespread agreement that post-industrial capitalist structures were eating away the soul of culture, an emphasis on the return to the value of local, as in Green farming, a frustration with the inefficiency of Noth American political structures that seem to do little more than garauntee the venues be open for the pursuit of materialist bliss…

    There was an implicit and creative communitarianism here, which evidently was rejecting in some measure the individualism on which a great deal of modern society has constructed its self image. I would go so far as saying we are seeing, in my generation, a kind of emerging dillussionment with modernity, for those who can see the emptiness in the techo-pop-orgy taking over pop culture.

    There was also, I think, a thirst for spirituality. But it wouldn’t touch anything Christian. It was interesting, because many were posessed by a kind of moralism–an attempt to formulate obligations for a global ethic that demands daily sacrifices in your life choices for a certain conception of “The Good”. In fact, it even sees those sacrifices as virtuous.

    It struck me that, in a certain way, we were almost (post) Chrisitans with a new (post?) Christian moral script.

    In my opinion, the future belongs to creative minorities in communities like this (including some in the Church)—people who can see that, despite the accomplishments of social diversity, the securing of a “rights” culture and the flourishing of the individual “space”, there is something deeply awry in our society on the level of its conception of “the Good” and its ability to appreciate the full-dimensions and needs of the human person as an inherently related being. [The Trinitarian Imago Dei].

    And that the epitome of spiritual life can’t possibly be Eat.Pray.Love.

    This “be yourself, express yourself, live YOUR life” attitude is coming under critique from the other end. It is an opportunity for a Catholic moment in culture, if we can size up and seize upon thoe spaces where this dissatisfaction fails to connect to the wisdom of, for example, ancient spiritual traditions forged in the travails of communal life. Because in these ancient traditions, there flows, I beleive, a populist wisdom that modern individualism by-passed and also uprooted where it could. And I fear the new communitarism will miss it less we can do something.

    As far as Catholic life is concerned, it is [for me] the Catholicism of my Bobbi raised in poor, rural war-time Slovenia. It is the Christian spirituality that had to wake up daily and face the cows. A Catholicism of Eucharistic processions, which did not recoil from suffering and sacrifice (they could not be avoided), but imbued it with spiritual meaning and made it bearable.

    This is the problem I have with much of the concilliar reforms as they trampelled and virtually wiped out a great portion of local traditions, nurtured off the Tridentine vine, in favor of a more “educated”, disciplined and “participatory’ laity. The widsom of centuries of village life, held delicately in the Catholic fold, was abolished in favor of inesacapbly modern symbols and gestures. [whilst the hiearchy was still able to retain the worst of their prerogatives].

    The reforms amounted to a deliberate and top-down modernization of Catholic spirituality. To me, it won’t be a surprise if much of what emerged there sinks with impending implosion of modern culture.

    • Heavens JD…

      I hadn’t read this wonderful post before my reply to your earlier post.

      I see your are quite the Toronto Intellectual.

      Well… I’m a laid back wet-coaster writing from Vancouver.

      My own interest is that I might be returning to Ireland and I would like to see the mess that has become the church there dealt with at some point. Again I ask, what is your interest?

      Slainte,
      Conrad.

      • Hey Conrad.

        Actually, I am neither a cleric nor do I consider myself a “neo-conservative”. My interest in the Irish Church is the same as my interest in the Church everywhere.

        I am just very much attached to the praxis of traditional Catholic spirituality.

        Personally, while I recognize that the Catholic Church was in trouble before the Council, I do not find the formulation of its summation as “believe in yourselves- you are the Church”, ect. to be accurate or healthy to the Church’s life. To simply switch from “the popes” to “the people” fails, it seems to me, to escape that very politicaly charged framework that has wrought such ruin on our beloved religion over the course of the years. (Papal domination becoming the oft abitrary, near sighted and certainly not infallible “will of the people”)

        I am not satisfied with envisioning the Church as an autocracy or a democracy. And I do not think the Church’s future prosperity lies in binding it to what I consider failed postulates of the modern mind.

    • JD I think one thing that your generation misses in it’s critique of VII is the demographic shift which was also happening at the same time. In the US Catholics had achieved enough economic power to create the suburban culture. This more than anything else fueled the breakdown of the kind of ethnic ‘village’ parish that had been the norm previously. Liturgy became somewhat more generic because suburban parishes were generic.

      In my own family, my first communion was probably the last real big religious event celebrated by my extended family on both my moms and dads side. Very Polish and Slovakian, very traditional, and a great deal of fun. This was 1960 in Redwing land. Five years later this large extended family was no longer centered in Detroit, but all over the suburbs and in some cases out of state. Instead of being religiously centered in a couple of parishes, it was now more like ten different parishes and most of them brand new.

      The effects of VII on North American culture can not be judged outside of the major shifts in culture also happening at the same time. People tend to concentrate on all the black and women’s rights demonstrations, anti war protests, and hippie drug culture. That’s a mistake. The really big change was the exodus from inner cities to suburbia or elsewhere which had a profound effect on family culture and notions of individualism. People and their ‘nuclear’ families moved to follow the jobs and the money. They left behind their extended families and the support that provided.

      That parishes became liturgically bland and generic is no surprise when one considers this time frame also featured the meteoric rise of franchise fast food.

      • How true!! Thanks so much, Colleen. I have never read anyone else making that important connection to what was happening with the old ethnic-type Catholic enclave during this same time frame of post-VatII. Brilliant!

        Betty

  7. ****You can leave with the bishops when we throw them out…

    Conrad J. Noll
    ****

    I suppose, Conrad, you have your own vision then of the “smaller, purer church”, no?

    • Ahhh JD, I see you are a Toronto lad.

      I am curious what is your interest in what happens to the church in Ireland?

      My vision of the church was the one behind the spirit of VII. Which is still the highest authority in our church.

      Slainte,
      Conrad.

  8. Well, in terms of the bland liturgy, I was at a Ukranian Catholic liturgy this morning—absolutely stunning, in the heart of the city. Many Eastern Catholics managed to avoid the degradation of worship and devotional life that accompanied the process you mentioned. It was quite a contrast, actually, to see and hear this gorgeous liturgy and hear a very able priest give a sermon on our responsibility to the poor- the best sermon I had heard in any church in some time. Contrast that with the SSPX Mass I attended later this morning—-a beautiful Mass, but an abysmal dry scholastic sermon that I’m suprised I survived.

    It’s enough to suggest to me that the Roman tradition suffered from certain imbalances, long predating the Council, but certainly not corrected by the reforms. Something about the Roman mentality which left the church profoundly exposed during the course of the reforms to corrosive cultural influences that other churches have managed to avoid.

    I do understand what you are saying, that over powering external cultural forces went a great way in altering the presentation of the old rural grown traditions. To me, its a great shame nothing was done to revere them and preserve them.

  9. Conrad,

    JD has already raised some of the concerns that I have with fellas like Kaiser.

    Kaiser’s is suggesting that there is a “we” and a “them” in the discussion regarding the Vatican and the Irish Catholic Church. The same kind of artificial conflicts are being set up within the American Catholic Church.

    You inquire, “Why are ‘we’ being asked to justify throwing the Vatican out?”. The most obvious question is, “Who is ‘we’?”. Is Kaiser speaking for the all of ‘we’, including those who see value in the Vatican? Or, is Kaiser merely one of the many “intellectual cats” who couldn’t even herd themselves, let alone herd a church?

    As far as I can discern, the intellectual leftist cats have no governing principle, except perhaps a common discontent, dislike and perhaps even contempt, for everything Vatican. Anyone who raises a defense on behalf of the Vatican is accused of being a paying, praying, and obeying Catholic, as if a “true” Catholic would be non-paying, non-praying, and non-obeying Catholic (which perhaps is an apt description for much of the intellectual left).

    I ask you to see the great value in having the Vatican involved in the Catholic Church. For example, John Paul II spoke out strongly against American aggression in Iraq at a time when 75% – 80% of the American people and equal numbers of American congressmen were advocating for violence. Without the Vatican, there is no moral force to the Catholic people; they become just another political group. The Vatican and many of the people trained by the hierarchy have strongly condemned abortion as a grave moral evil. On all fronts, the Church has been a relentless advocate for human rights and human dignity.

    In American, for many years, the Catholic Church supplied personnel and financial aid to support education and health care. It did so out of its concern for the human person. While much of the Church’s mission in these two areas has been replaced by secular institutions, it was the Church, through her charitable and educational missions, who established the foundations for these institutions.

    Enough of the political benefits of the Vatican and the worldwide Church. Let’s talk about the emptiness of the philosophy the left is espousing.

    I constantly hear the refrain that “I/we” should throw off the yoke of the Vatican, as if the Vatican’s yoke was burdensome. That argument is just silly.

    The Vatican has no army, charges no taxes, and has no means of coercing any action from me. Individually, I am free to heed its advice as I deem to my liking. I have no particular interest in giving up the gift of the Vatican in exchange for untested claims of the likes of Mr. Kaiser. I wouldn’t give up my mother, as old, feeble, and uneducated as she is for another younger, stronger, and more intelligent mother.

    As a matter of conviction, I have no doubt that the Pope and the church in general have, as its main interest, my personal salvation. I cannot say the same for Mr. Kaiser. The Church at least preaches that Jesus Christ is the source and hope of my salvation, even if the Vatican is not acting as if it believes what it preaches. But, when I hear guys like Kaiser try to tell me that it is important that ‘we’ seize control of the Church, I have to wonder how that could possibly be related to my salvation. What Kaiser and his ilk tell me is to ignore my feeble mother, that she is holding me back from true freedom, and if she were but dead, my life would be better, more free, and not constrained by her endless rules and disciplines.

    To those who wish me to bite from the forbidden fruit to enjoy real freedom, I can tell you that the story didn’t turn out so swell the first time. I see no reason to think that my fate would be any different.

    Lastly, but not least, I don’t see why it is necessary for me to choose between the Vatican and guys like Kaiser. They can both speak their piece, and I can weigh the relative merits of their respective positions.

    If you or Kaiser want to take over the church, please remember the rest of us who will be left long after you have reformed the church, and then left because you didn’t like who was put in charge, or what his or her philosophy was. The Church is not a political body which can be ruled by a democracy; it is a spiritual body which will always be one, no matter how many parts it has.

    • Nice work David…

      I am about half-way through a response. Hang in there buddy…

      Best wishes,
      Slainte,
      Conrad.

    • Hi David

      This has been a really excellent exchange.

      Thank you for your patience while I took time to construct this response to your post. I have spent a little more time on this than I had planned to. Forgive me if it is a little disconnected in places. I decided I had edited it enough.

      I commend you on your on-line manners. We are approaching what passes for ‘discourse’ in the world of peer-reviewed academic discourse.

      You can say what you like about academics, but you have to admit that the rules of civil dialogue and argument help prevent the kind of unfortunate name calling that haunts many religious discussion blogs, just as they helped prevent ‘duals’ and ‘throat slitting’ in earlier times.

      I am of course referring to ‘ad hominem’ arguments – arguments ‘against the man’.

      It is not always easy to avoid ad hominem comments; I am as guilty as the next ‘troll’… 🙂

      But I have attempted to behave myself of late. For example I try not to denigrate my opponents by calling them ‘blokes’, ‘fellas’ and other less than respectful honorifics.

      Calling an argument “silly” is probably not the worst ad hominem I have ever had leveled against an argument I have been associated with. Nonetheless, I do happen to feel that the Vatican and its governing apparatus are superfluous at best and criminal at worst.

      Now…I know you disagree with that, but I don’t think this is a particularly ‘silly’ argument do you… really?

      The consequences of that argument are far from silly from your perspective. This may explain why you chose to go after that particular aspect of Robert Kaiser’s speech. This makes sense to me.

      You say that the artificial division into a “we” and “they” is part of the problem you have with Robert Kaiser’s argument.

      I could respond that the “we”, “they” dichotomy in the Irish church was established by Paul Cullen and his allies in the ‘purple culture’ in the 1870s; when the “we” who were the clergy were put on a pedestal and made to feel superior to the “they” who where the laity. But, let’s leave that aside…

      What Robert Kaiser, myself and those who feel as we do are asking is for a particularly toxic ‘we/they’ be replaced with a more wholesome ‘we/we’.

      I think the toxicity of the ‘we/they’ in the Irish Church has been established beyond a shadow of doubt don’t you? If you are still in doubt about this check out this article from an Irish blog as to how many of the Irish feel about his.

      http://rulehibernia.com/2010/08/letter-to-cardinal-sean-brady/

      It is not only sexual predators that were protected and covered up by the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Ireland they also protected and covered up the activity of a priest involved in a bombing that killed 9 people including innocent bystanders and a child. Now that is what I call ‘toxic’.

      The ‘we/we’ Robert and others like us would prefer to see would be Irish Catholics administering their own church with no interference from Rome, just as they did throughout our Island’s thousands of years of history prior to Paul Cullen and his successors.

      This idea of the people/laity playing the larger role in the church is something I think can safely be argued was supported by Vatican II. It is inevitable anyway with the lack of priests.

      Your comment that Robert Kaiser or myself want to take over the church is simply a ‘straw man’ argument. I have no interest in doing that and I am sure Robert doesn’t either. We want the people of Ireland to have the right to look after their own church affairs.

      I am among many who saw Vatican II as a call to “believe in ourselves”. I recall that quite clearly. You may believe we got that wrong, but even though I was a child I was paying attention to what was happening and that is what I felt at the time.

      I get the impression that it is a bit shocking to you David and perhaps to you too JD, to realize that many, many… Catholics do not share your affection for the Papacy.

      The relationship of the laity to the Pope and the curia has rarely been an affectionate one. A quick trip through the history of the Papacy makes that clear and the murder of John-Paul IST in the Vatican in 1978 sealed that fact for many Catholics in the modern era, myself included (yes… I know this is unproven – it would have been nice if the Curia would have let anyone investigate however).

      You said: “I ask you to see the great value in having the Vatican involved in the Catholic Church”,

      I simply don’t agree with you on this. I see very little value in an institution that is essentially morally bankrupt making moral pronouncements. Hence, any pronouncements the Pope may make on Iraq or Pakistan or anything else is irrelevant to me.

      Even the primacy the Pope claims lacks credibility. The primacy of the Bishop of Rome over other bishops was only established in the waning days of the Western Roman Empire when the influence of the Byzantine Emperor was no longer recognized in the West. The claim to primacy was disputed then and has been disputed by many Christians ever since.

      Personally, I see the Vatican as the last gasp of a corrupt and corrupting Roman Empire that should have died a long time ago. The fear of the Inquisition (CDF) mingled with the evil stench of torture chambers down through the centuries, still linger around St. Peters in Rome. Even the chief Vatican Exorcist thinks this – http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article7056689.ece

      David, you wrote:

      “As far as I can discern, the intellectual leftist cats have no governing principle, except perhaps a common discontent, dislike and perhaps even contempt, for everything Vatican. Anyone who raises a defense on behalf of the Vatican is accused of being a paying, praying, and obeying Catholic, as if a “true” Catholic would be non-paying, non-praying, and non-obeying Catholic (which perhaps is an apt description for much of the intellectual left)”.

      I think you nailed it David… I don’t think the intellectual left has ‘governing principals’ either. Principals can be seen as foundational thoughts that the intellectual right rely on to establish what they believe we as a society should think.

      It is the responsibility of the intellectual left to question these principals and assumptions. I sometimes visualize this process as a funnel. Ideas and thoughts come in at the ‘wide end’ where the liberals like to play and then proceed through ever finer filters until they reach the ‘narrow end’ where the conservatives like to play and what finally comes out of the funnel is what society/culture as a whole has accepted to a ‘relatively’ large degree.

      This leads to friction. I think this is an inevitable and I might say ‘even welcome’ part of the process.

      I honestly think that conservative intellectuals are missing the point if they look for ‘principles’ in left wing intellectual thought. The left wing intellectuals as far as I can tell are more concerned with possibilities and probabilities than principals and this seems natural enough to me.

      I notice that you keep on wanting me or somebody to identify who exactly the ‘we’ are who feel this way. I don’t think this question has any clear answer as I said earlier. We are the folks at the wide end of the funnel… that is the best I can do for you there.

      I can offer you no external definition of the ‘we’ David other than ‘WE’ are those who feel the Vatican is superfluous, WE are legion…

      Your comment about Catholics who do not pay, pray or obey is amusing. My mother, who regularly attends Mass more than once a week, tells me that there are now two collections at her church; one for the local church needs and another for the needs of the diocese and the Vatican.

      She tells me she puts no money in the latter collection and that she is not the only one. The collection for the diocese and the Vatican is getting pretty thin – I think this sentiment is being echoed in England right now where they are having trouble selling tickets to the Pope’s upcoming events there.

      Among the things that do not impress Catholics with intellectual backgrounds similar to mine is Benedict’s argument that we are all victims of ‘moral relativism’.

      This idea that moral relativism is at the heart of the problems in Europe and much of the developed world makes little sense to me and it makes little sense in the milieu of mainstream intellectual thought. To suggest morals have not changed over time and that they are not relative to other moral codes in existence around the planet is an argument that simply holds no water. The idea of the ‘unchanging, eternal church of Christ’ put forward by Benedict is risible.

      If it had not been for 9/11 David, I and likely many more like me would have gone on our merry way giving organized religion little thought. Unfortunately the activities of the radical Islamists have re-focused the attention of people like me, ON RELIGION… At first I and others like me worked hard to understand why a bunch of people from relatively well off backgrounds would fly jet planes into buildings because of a political/religious imperative.

      Once we realized the power of religious ideology to motivate young men to acts such as these, our thoughts turned to our own religious heritage and the consequences of the more radical expressions of Christianity.

      I have been appalled, as have many other liberal/lapsed Catholics who have had reexamination the state of the faith they were born into. There is a ‘talibanization’ going on in the Catholic Church and in many other Christian denominations. I characterize this as the radicalization of less than well educated, but otherwise relatively well-off conservative Christians.

      This has lead to unacceptably violent reactionary behavior such as the murder of doctors who provide abortions and violence toward homosexuals and others the church focus on in their obsession with human sexuality issues. I am concerned enough about this to once again participate in my own religious heritage community (Catholic in my case) to help prevent the radicalization of young catholic men.

      This radicalization process that could lead to the same problems the Islamic community is having with its radicalized young men. I look upon this as a responsibility and a duty to my fellow Catholics and the world at large, who can do without a bunch of radicalized Catholics running around causing problems in the world.

      I have thoroughly enjoyed our exchange David.
      You have encouraged me to think and to articulate thoughts and ideas that I need to develop further. I really appreciate that.

      I suspect we are coming to the end of our exchange however. For one thing I truly do not have the time at present to formulate these long arguments – it is September and I am in the education racket…

      Secondly, I know you have your own firmly held views and that I have likely had very little impact on those… so I see little value in us continuing to beat on each other’s arguments.

      Thirdly, I find your approach to this conversation similar to many I have encountered of late in the religious blogosphere. Correct me if I am wrong David… I get the impression you are a white, conservative Christian Catholic of German decent somewhere in the mid-west (as you have already informed me). You like to troll around blogs such as this one and challenge the liberals to see if you can trip them up.

      I know you do this… because… I often troll around conservative blogs both religious and political and tweak the tails of the more radical conservative thinkers I find there – I find it endlessly amusing… but I quickly tire of it once it devolves into name calling.

      I think you are getting a little tired of me and I sense the name calling has already begun.

      Finally, I have pretty well exhausted my thoughts on this topic.

      Let me finish up by making the observation that I am sure no one is trying to take the Vatican away from YOU.

      I am sure the Vatican will endure for a very long time. It will be there for Catholics who like that ‘peculiarly Italian’ institution… as long as the Italians remain happy with it that is. If the Italians have a change of heart, that will be the death knell for the idea of the Papacy.

      If, as you say, the same “artificial conflicts” are at work in the “American Catholic Church” I find myself curious about that but I remind you once again what we are talking about is the Vatican influence in Ireland not the US mid-west.

      I have no idea if Robert Blair Kaiser cares about your ‘salvation’ David. I am sure however that he bears you no ill will and would like you to be happy. I also don’t see that anyone is asking YOU… to choose between Robert Kaiser and the Pope as your path to ‘salvation’; however you may understand that concept and the concept of your own relationship to Jesus Christ.

      I have to tell you that your analogy comparing the ‘Vatican’ to your “old, feeble, uneducated mother” made me laugh out loud. That argument doesn’t go very far with me. I have never seen myself in a child-parent relationship with the church or god. I am an adult.

      This is just one other of the reasons I have a problem with ‘il Papa’. He most certainly in not my ‘father’ anymore than the church is my ‘mother’.

      I have noticed this tendency among conservative Christians to see themselves in a dependent child-parent relationship with ‘God’ and the church, always exhorting the ‘heavenly father’ and/or sometimes the ‘heavenly mother’ for this or that intersession. I honestly thought that kind of ‘parent-child’ metaphor and the idea of a ‘sky god’ who answered prayers had been abandoned by modern Christians. Is that how you see your relationship to the Church, the Vatican and God, David… as through the eyes of a child?

      My impression of the Christian faith has always been that it is a ‘big tent’ religion.

      It was the ability of the early church to transcend cultural boundaries, especially its Jewish cultural boundaries in the early days of the Roman Empire that led to its emergence as the strongest religious influence in the Empire.

      It appears that Benedict’s agenda is a ‘smaller church’. He has been reasonably clear about this despite his efforts to make bridges with other orthodox Christian sects such as the Greek/Russian Orthodox church and the conservative Anglicans.

      That just does not appear to be ‘Christian’ to me.

      The kind of church that appeals to me David is one that welcomes people like you, JD, me, the people who run this blog, homosexuals, drug addicts, divorcees, women who want to be ordained … etc… etc…

      Kind of like the way Jesus accepted the prostitutes and tax collectors of his day.

      I like the idea of a ‘Church’ where we can agree that we disagree and where we can all work on the things that communally concern us and serve to bring us together… not the things that drive us apart.

      There is lots of room in the ‘big tent’ David; and you can call it ‘God’s Mansion’ if you prefer.

      Slainte,
      Conrad.

      • Conrad,

        Quite a lengthy and thoughtful response! I will try to find some time to respond. Even if it only has merit for the two of us, I would appreciate a further examination of the many issues you raise.

        • Yes, perhaps too lengthy… sorry about that.

          Slainte
          Conrad.

        • Hi David,

          While you think about what you are going to fish out of the word stew I threw up… to chew on 🙂

          I am curious about your background. Especially your German heritage.

          As you know I am 1/4 German. A Kraut-Mick… It’s a curious and sometimes volatile mix, more volatile than the usual mad Micks you run into.

          All I know about my German heritage is that the Nolls come from around Bad Homburg near Frankfurt. We lost contact with the family during WW II, although we have reestablished contact with the only relative we have left there, my father’s sole-surviving first cousin. Unfortunately we don’t speak German and he doesn’t speak English so we have not learned much about our family really.

          My Grandfather, who was also Conrad Noll – Conrad Heinrich Noll, was a line-engineer with Siemen’s – the large German company. He was involved in the dam construction at Ardnacrusha on the Shannon and the intallation of the Hydro-electric grid in the S.W. of Ireland in the 1920s. This is when he met my Grandmother, Nora Twomey, a ranking member of ‘Cumann nban, along the banks of the Lee near Cork, Ireland. There was talk of ‘German guns’ that the IRA Flying Columns in Cork suddenly had access to at that time. But that is another story…

          You don’t have to respond to this David, we are already embroiled enough in the papal topic I would say, however… if you wanted to share a little on this topic drop me a note at my junk email account at cnlokionline53@gmail.com.

          Best wishes,
          Slainte,
          Conrad

    • Oops… I didn’t edit that well did I?

      Principals… principles… smincibles… 🙂

  10. Conrad,

    Given the length of your response, I thought it might be helpful to break down my response into a number of replies.

    First, you state that you believe that the Vatican is superfluous at best and criminal at worst. Certainly, history is full of examples of abusive papal power. But, the same could be said of any position of authority, both inside and outside of the Church.

    A look at today’s hierarchical structure shows that the Vatican has almost no temporal authority. My local building official has more control over my life than the Vatican. I have to obey the local building official or suffer the temporal consequences; there are no such consequences with the Vatican. No matter what I do, the worst consequence from the Church is excommunication.

    Some people in the United States (mostly right wingers) make the same kind of arguments about the federal government that you make about the Vatican – it is superfluous at best, and criminal at the worst. At times, it would seem that their argument is well-taken. For example, waging invasions of two countries in the last decade are crimes worthy of investigation by an international tribunal. Without a strong federal government, these wars would not have happened.

    On the other hand, if all of the states were independent, there would be the inevitable conflicts between the states, possibly even war (such as the Civil War, or as they say in the South, the War of Northern Aggression). Borders would need to be monitored, tariffs established, currency printed, militias armed etc. Obviously, this would be a great mess.

    Consequently, the question is not really whether the federal government is superfluous or even criminal, but what is the best method to limit or control the power of the federal government to prevent it from being superfluous or even criminal. It seems to me that we can analogize to the the Vatican.

    If the Catholic Church is to be catholic, if it is to be a big tent, if it is to welcoming and open, it needs an administrative core to govern these functions. If the Church is to be a social force, it needs to act with a common purpose. If the Church and the faith is to have a moral authority, it must have a supreme court of authority.

    There are some people (mostly left wingers) who argue that the “people” can govern themselves. They point to all of the evils of the Vatican to demonstrate their case. Kaiser does this with the sex abuse scandal. There are two problems with that argument – it lacks empirical merit, and even if it had merit, it suggests the opposite for a solution.

    The empirical data from the abuse scandal suggests that the rate of abuse for clerics was about the same as for other denominations. Studies further suggest that the majority of the abusers only abused once. Further, when the abuse was reported to the civil officials, prosecution rates were quite low, suggesting a number of possibilites including, the evidence was weak, there was significant (relative) over-reporting, societal tolerance inside and outside the Church was essentially the same, or any number of other factors.

    Secondly, even if we were to assume that priest were abusing at significantly higher rates, and even if we were to assume that much of the abuse could have been prevented had bishops exposed more of the abuse, that evidence would suggest that bishops cannot be trusted to manage their own diocese. It suggests that the Vatican needs to exercise more control and influence, not less.

    That said, it is almost impossible to have a meaningful discussion regarding the sex abuse scandal. Those outside the faith are often willing to use this as their “9/11” for reasons to not be a part of the faith. Those inside the Church who disfavor the Vatican are more than willing to ignore the facts in favor of further their own agenda. And, lastly, those who want to dig deeper are accused of being pay, pray, and obey Catholics beholden to the Pope. On this issue, there is no “big tent”, no room for discussion, no critical or academic analysis.

    Lost in all of this talk is real help and healing for the victims. Sure, there is talk about money settlements, throwing people in jail, and people losing their jobs. But, this is secular talk. Where is the talk about the kind of healing the Gospel offers these victims? Where is the talk of forgiveness? Understanding? Ironically, it is coming from the Vatican and the Church itself.

    • Hi David…
      I figured Sunday was an appropriate day to respond to your latest post, although it may take me a couple of days…

      I read through your post a few times. I get what you are saying… but the arguments you use are fascinating and revealing.

      David… are you a lawyer? Do you know they call lawyers ‘solicitors’ in Ireland? I always thought that was a better descriptor of what they do, in Dublin at least, whatever about where you live.

      But perhaps you are more of a ‘Barrister’?

      Where I have most often seen arguments like yours are in legal cases. Well counselor… let’s see if we can unpick the tangled web you weave.

      You are using arguments similar to ones that are getting a lot of air-play in England at the moment in the fractious lead-up to the papal visit there.

      The arguments revolve around the nature of the Vatican. Is it a ‘state’ with all the privileges that implies? Or, is it the spiritual heart of the catholic religion and the Pope the spiritual head of a large sect within Christianity? OR… and this is the ‘big’ one… is it both?

      I’d be curious to know of what you think about this David – I couldn’t quite figure out how you feel from what you wrote, although I can speculate…

      I think it fails on all three counts.

      What I find fascinating is the way the Vatican and the English Catholic Hierarchy uses this ambiguity to duck and weave through the controversy the visit is stirring up there.

      The argument going on in England goes something like this…

      The average English person who is not Catholic is indifferent to the Pope’s visit but can’t understand why – at a time of severe government restrain, tax-payer money to the tune of 12 million pounds at least, is being spent to provide security and pay for the state aspects of the visit – the visit with the Queen and meetings with any British government officials, etc.

      They are particularly P.O.ed at the idea that tax-payers may be asked to pick up the tab remaining from the pastoral events the Catholic Church in England and Scotland are hosting. There is considerable short-fall between what has been collected from parishes for tickets to events and donations and the actual costs of these.

      The argument the average English person gets back from the government and those supporting the visit is that as a ‘head of state’ Benedict is recognized as representing the interests of over a billion Catholics worldwide.

      The government also makes the comment that while it does not agree with the Vatican on a number of policy issues, it does cooperate with the Catholic Church in any number of international efforts and sees the benefit of continuing good relations – a fair argument on the face of it.

      The problem with the argument and I think I am being fair in comparing it to yours David, you can protest if you feel otherwise :), is as follows:

      The Vatican’s claim to statehood is highly questionable.

      You say:
      “A look at today’s hierarchical structure shows that the Vatican has almost no temporal authority”

      I wish it were so…

      Are you aware that the Vatican has full diplomatic observer and adviser status at the EU? Status they requested and were granted. They are not a member ‘state’, but it is acknowledged that they wield great influence behind the scenes in the corridors of The Hague. Influence that a lot of people feel is unwarranted.

      It takes a tricky game for any religious organization to maintain such temporal power.

      The so-called Vatican ‘state’ is a pocket handkerchief of land – albeit in an expensive neighbourhood – that Mussolini gave the Pope in return for not opposing him in the lead up to WW II. The Lateran Treaty of 1929 is not a very pretty piece of work on which to build the case for statehood and the privileges attendant to that.

      The current Vatican is a tiny rump of the considerable lands that the Pope seized in Italy after the break-down of the Western Roman Empire. It took Italy over 1200 years to regain those ‘Papal states’ and achieve unity again. So from a ‘temporal’ point of view the idea of the Vatican ‘state’ is really a bit of a joke and a bit of a sick one at that.

      So if the Vatican cannot really be taken seriously as a ‘state’. Can it be taken seriously as the spiritual epicenter of 1 billion Catholics?

      Well, perhaps if it represented the collective spiritual beliefs of those billion, but it doesn’t.

      I don’t know how many Catholics feel that their spiritual identity is bound up in that of the Vatican and this Pope, or are even well informed enough to make that determination. But I do know there is one heck of a lot that do not…

      So what are we left with… a rump of a state granted by a fascist dictator, the remnant of a corrupt and corrupting Roman Empire still trying to wield the temporal power that has been slowly stripped from it; and a spiritual leader to a questionable number of the more traditionally minded of his own religious sect.

      Here in Canada the official census identifies around 40% of the population as Catholic. That figure would include me.

      However, since the ‘quiet revolution’ in the 60s in Quebec and the 60s in general in the rest of Canada, the moral authority and the temporal influence of the Hierarchy and the Church itself has been slipping away and is not afforded much credibility by the vast majority of those 40% of Canadians. Canadian Catholics collectively heaved a sigh of relief when Cardinal Ouellet was recently promoted out of his position of Cardinal Primate in Quebec. He was a very divisive figure in Quebec politics. I think it safe to say less than 10% of Quebec Catholics support either Ouellet or the Pope – http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/quebec-cardinal-marc-ouellet-promoted-in-vatican-leadership-shuffle/article1624022/

      I can’t see either the ‘State’ of the Vatican or the idea of its ‘moral leadership’ holding much persuasive power in the world at large at present David, at least in western culture and certainly not in Ireland. Look at this article about what priests in Ireland feel they have to do…
      http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2010/0906/1224278287601.html

      Here is an extract from this article describing what these Irish priests are doing:

      “They will work towards ‘providing a voice for Irish Catholic priests at a time when that voice is largely silent and needs to be expressed’. It would allow an opportunity for priests ‘to engage proactively with the crucial debates’ in Irish society and seek ‘full implementation of the vision and teaching of the Second Vatican Council’”.

      The latter it would do “with special emphasis on the primacy of the individual conscience, the status and active participation of all the baptised [and] the task of establishing a church where all believers will be treated as equal”.

      Notice the “all believers will be treated as equal” bit.

      David… there are those in the world who like the idea of a structured society with clear lines of authority in a structured hierarchy. A lot of German people are like that. The little bit of ‘Kraut’ in me is like that to a certain extent.

      But there are also those who don’t particularly like things to be that structured or subject to hierarchic authority. The large bit of ‘Mick’ in me is like that…

      I believe that any organization which claims to be ‘universal’ must accommodate both types of individual.

      One of the things the founding fathers of your country got right ‘in spades’ was the importance of the separation of church and state accompanied by the freedom to practice ones religion without fear of persecution, as long as those activities do not interfere with the rights granted to all Americans under your constitution.

      I think this is one of the finest contributions to the development of political thought in the history of the world. I wish the EU would keep that in mind as they listen to the Vatican’s representatives lobby against the adoption of European legislation similar to England’s Equality Act.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equality_Act_2010

      Your comment that the Vatican has almost no temporal power outside its borders is technically correct, but it still tries to wield influence beyond its mandate in the temporal sphere.

      The Vatican still has plenty of clout among most practicing Catholics, who I think are a lot more aware of the consequences of ‘excommunication’ than you appear to be.

      You said “No matter what I do, the worst consequence from the Church is excommunication”. Does excommunication hold no serious consequences for you David? I am not sure how active you are in your church but even I would think twice about the consequences of being excommunicated.

      The threat of being ‘shunned’ from ones religious community through excommunication is not trivial – ask a few of the more fundamentalist Mormons or Jehovah Witnesses how much being shunned is feared in their religious communities. I know of fundamentalist Mormons and JWs who have committed suicide as a result of being shunned by their communities. I don’t call that a trivial consequence at all. You should ask Sister Margaret McBride what she thinks about excommunication (Google her)

      You say:
      “If the Catholic Church is to be catholic, if it is to be a big tent, if it is to welcoming and open, it needs an administrative core to govern these functions. If the Church is to be a social force, it needs to act with a common purpose. If the Church and the faith is to have a moral authority, it must have a supreme court of authority”.

      You must be aware that other religious groups organize themselves without the benefit of a hierarchy such as the Catholic Church has. The Muslim religions have very little in the way of a hierarchy and it didn’t seem to impede them from remaining relatively cohesive (at least as much as the Christian church has) and expanding their influence. So I don’t think your argument has legs:

      I know that many people of German descent are fond of authority and order. The Irish are not so drawn to a respect for authority, however. I know this… as I are a ‘kraut-mick’…

      I suspect your natural comfort zone is more authoritarian than mine. I simply don’t agree that we need a ‘supreme court of authority’ to be effective Christian and Catholics, and those Irish I have been in contact with about this feel the same way.

      You speak of ‘empirical merit’ and ‘empirical data’. I am curious… It appears to be US empirical data you are referring to. I don’t think US empirical data about the incidence of abuse in the US church in comparison to other US institutions is relevant to the Irish situation. Perhaps you could cite your reference here.

      I notice you have been bending our discussion toward what is happening in the American Catholic Church and in American Politics. I don’t think this is relevant to our topic David, which is as I remind you about the Vatican and the Irish Church. I am not really qualified to comment on your domestic political or church issues and I think it will make this exchange even more unmanageable if we venture into that territory so I will politely decline to be drawn into that for the purposes of this exchange.

      I find the following statement of yours completely unacceptable:
      “That said, it is almost impossible to have a meaningful discussion regarding the sex abuse scandal. Those outside the faith are often willing to use this as their “9/11″ for reasons to not be a part of the faith. Those inside the Church who disfavor the Vatican are more than willing to ignore the facts in favor of further their own agenda. And, lastly, those who want to dig deeper are accused of being pay, pray, and obey Catholics beholden to the Pope”.

      I could not disagree more with you on this David…

      I believe the sex abuse scandal has been a blessing in disguise; it has finally shaken loose attitudes and assumptions that have been long overdue for review in the Catholic Church. There are thousands of Irish Catholics, myself included, who suffered abuse in Irish church run schools who are determined to make the most of this opportunity to make the changes we believe are needed for the church to regain any credibility in our lives.

      You say: “On this issue, there is no “big tent”, no room for discussion, no critical or academic analysis”.

      What do you think we are doing if not discussing and criticizing with an academic eye? Academic analysis is in progress by many interested parties and there will be many more of these I expect.

      You say: “Lost in all of this talk is real help and healing for the victims. Sure, there is talk about money settlements, throwing people in jail, and people losing their jobs. But, this is secular talk. Where is the talk about the kind of healing the Gospel offers these victims? Where is the talk of forgiveness? Understanding? Ironically, it is coming from the Vatican and the Church itself”.

      This is pure nonsense…
      Listen, David… I was a victim of abuse in a Dublin school in 1966. I wrote to the Diocese of Dublin about this earlier this year and to the school where the abuse took place.
      Neither the Diocese nor the school have, to this point offered any compensation, counseling, or have even had the courtesy to respond to my email correspondence about this. The only thing that they have done is to pass my allegations along to the police, who can’t and won’t do much due to the statute of limitations on these cases; plus… I am not the slightest bit interested in pursuing criminal charges… and I told them that.

      After I received no spiritual help from the Diocese, I wrote the Vatican via the Diocese mail here in Vancouver and by direct email to Benedict’s email address (yes, he has one) asking if they could intercede in my behalf. I have received no reply despite two follow-up email letters since I wrote the first letter in March right after the Pope wrote the letter to the Irish Church.

      So to hear you claim that healing of the kind the gospel offers is coming from the Vatican gives me little comfort.

      This is likely not the most positive note to end this post, but despite my strong feelings on this matter, I again thank you David for a simulating exchange of ideas.

      I notice you have posted since I began this reply. I will look at that a bit later…

      Good luck with the fall, whatever it may bring you…
      Slainte,
      Conrad.

      • Conrad,

        I am just now reviewing your lengthy and thoughtful reply.

        David

      • Conrad,

        Let me address the question about how I view the Vatican, both as a geographically-based nation, and as a spiritually-based source of power within the Catholic Church.

        The concept of a nation-state is of relatively recent origin. If one looks at Africa as a most recent example, one can see that the boundaries of the nation states are more the product of colonialism by European countries than a cohesive community of people with common identities or belief systems.

        It is my opinion that the Vatican’s status as a nation-state, and its respective political power is an interesting study of human history, but is largely irrelevant to any serious debate about the role of the Irish Catholic Church to the Vatican.

        As I understand the current power situation in the Vatican, the world generally does not recognize any right of the Vatican to assert a power over any persons residing outside the geographical limits of what is presently recognized worldwide as the Vatican’s rightful limits. Whether the Vatican came about this area legitimately does not present the same kind of disputes as other geographical regions, most notably, Isreal and the surrounding lands. Hence, whether the British government wants to accord special welcomes to the Pope in his capacity as a head of state is not really a concern of mine or the Irish Church.

        You ask whether the Vatican can be taken seriously as a nation state. I don’t think so. It certainly doesn’t have the military power to do anything. And, as military power is the only real test of whether a nation’s status has to be taken seriously, I would have to conclude that the Vatican has almost no temporal power. If the Irish Church rebelled against the power of the Vatican, I seriously doubt that any physical harm would come to any of its members.

        You ask whether the Vatican can be taken seriously as the spiritual center of 1 billion Catholics. That is a fascinating question deserving of a thorough analysis.

        First, one has to ask, “Taken seriously by whom?” The relatively recent events in Poland suggest that the Vatican can be a political power player, and that governments should take the Vatican seriously, not necessarily as a nation-state, but as a extremely influential world power bloc without geographical boundaries. Does it really matter to governments from whence the Vatican derives its power? All that matters is that the Vatican can wield a tremendous political influence over many people who just happen to be Catholic.

        Second, the Vatican is clearly losing its influence over a large percentage of those people who self-identify as Catholics. The Vatican lost its influence over almost all of the Eastern Orthodox Church almost 1000 years ago. So does this mean anything to anyone? I suppose to many it does mean something. Apparently, to Mr. Kaiser, it means that the Irish Church should reclaim the Irish Church for the people of Ireland. If I recall correctly, Britian did this very thing 500 years ago to form the Anglican Church. And, for the last 400+ years, Protestant faiths have been dividing and subdividing to throw off the cloak of the supposed oppressor who, as it turns out, it generally themselves.

        I do not doubt your premise that fewer and fewer Catholics are looking to the Vatican for their spiritual leadership. I do not doubt that the Vatican is becoming increasingly irrelevant to many Catholics. But, when I look to why folks are abandoning the Vatican, their commitment to a church or religion in general, and what they have placed the the stead of their faith, I cannot help but wonder if the loss of faith in the Vatican isn’t emblematic of something larger, and something potentially very dangerous.

        I remember having a conversation with my son in high school. He refused to go to Church on the grounds that he had stopped believing the in the Church. My question to him was the same question that I now pose to you and others, “Son, tell me the faith in which you believe that I may join with you in that faith should it show itself to be more true than the one in which I profess.” He did not have another faith. The Catholic faith, as measured against his ideal faith was, for him, was (rightly) a dismal failure. However, it did not take long to realize that his actual faith was but a wisp of thought as measured against the Catholic faith.

        What does Kaiser propose as an alternate to the Vatican? Nothing except perhaps the will of the people. Kaiser could do just as well by telling students to throw off the oppressive professors who seek to fill their students’ minds full of mindless nonsense taught to them by their professors. The students could then proclaim that, from this day forward, knowledge and truth will be determined by a vote of the students, and not by a critical examination of the facts and arguments.

        That said, I think that there is substantial merit in being critical (not skeptical) of Vatican pronouncements and edicts. Being critical often offers new insights. I have found in my experience and studies that a critical evaluation of what the Vatican said is often accompanied by a revelation that what I interpreted the Vatican to say is not what was actually pronounced. (I find that to be true of what I perceive to be anti-Vatican as well.)

        I find that true of the Gospels as well. One could easily, and incorrectly, interpret the Gospel message as being one of hostility to the Jewish faith, or of liberation from oppressors, or any number of other messages. To do so would unnecessarily limit the faith. At this point in time, I see no more reason to throw off the “yoke” of the Vatican than I see a need to throw off the yoke of my mother, brother, or neighbor. I suppose I could, as many modern men have done, throw out the Vatican, the Church, and the Bible and declare myself a free man.

        What I have chosen to do instead is declare myself a free man in need of guidance on how best to use my freedom. Maybe the Vatican doesn’t provide much guidance. Then again, I have read some of Benedict’s writings. The man is brilliant. Not very pastoral or administrative, but brilliant. He can be attacked on some of his premises but his analysis and conclusions are nearly flawless. No self-respecting academic Catholic should dismiss or ignore him.

  11. Veeeerrry interesting…

    Nicely done…

    Hmmm… do I have the time? Hmmmm

    What the hell…

    A reply will be forthcoming… 🙂

    Slainte and have a great weekend David…
    Conrad.

  12. Conrad,

    The second vein of thought you raise deals with the alternative to the conservative thinking of the Vatican and like-minded persons.

    I find it interesting that you assert that the “intellectual left” has no governing principles. While I’m not sure that most of the intellectual left would agree, it is something that the right finds disorienting at its best, and confused, at its worst. Without governing principles much of the left’s thinking falls into a classification that Benedict refers to as “undifferentiated pluralism”.

    The abortion issue is a good example of this undifferentiated pluralism on the intellectual left. The pro-choice argument is that a woman should have the right to decide the fate of the fetus. Criticism of such a decision, even in the abstract, is often taken as a sign of the narrow-mindedness of the right and an unwillingness to “share the big tent”.

    While there is certainly some truth that many Catholics are unwilling to share the tent with others, it is also true that many liberal Catholics don’t want to share the tent with people of more orthodox views. They not only want a bigger tent that offers them refuge and comfort, they want a tent built to their specifications. Why, they ask, do you listen to the leaders of the tent? They only tell you that abortion is intrinsically evil because they are silly, old, celibate men who know nothing of the real world beyond the tent walls. Their goal is to enslave you to their foolishness. Have an abortion if you want one; God will not strike you down.

    That is a very appealing argument to a woman in distress. But, it is not helpful, nor is it very honest. What guidance does the pro-choice movement offer to help make this difficult decision? It says that you can do whatever you want – something that the woman already knew. Granted, it also tells the woman that she will be loved no matter what decision is made, but the pro-life movement offers that and much more – it offers some criteria for making a good choice. It is the thinking and feeling man’s position on abortion. It isn’t about rationalizing the decision; it is about making the right and moral decision.

    In a nutshell, I already know that I am free. I know that I don’t have to obey my mother, the Church, the Vatican, or even God, if I don’t want to. I don’t need someone telling me how I can live – I need someone telling me how I should live.

  13. Conrad,

    The last vein of thought you proposed is how “we” come together to form a Church.

    The Vatican and the more conservative side is generally accused of supporting a “smaller, purer” church. To this way of thinking, dogma, rules, principles, and creed are important. In fact, for many, the Church is defined by its moral stance on issues.

    The more liberal view of the Church is that the Church is big enough to for all views. In this view, we should be able to agree to disagree and still be a Church.

    It seems to me that these two camps are not mutually exclusive. The vast majority of Catholics fall into both camps. They are more than willing to let the Vatican and the clerics run the administration of the Church and pontificate on the moral issues of the day. They are moral capitalists, buying the pronouncements that are most convenient and of the highest personal value.

    Most Catholics have no interest in taking control of the Church, as suggested by Kaiser. They would much prefer to be consumers of religion, rather than producers. They don’t care about the battles over the social, moral, or administrative issues in the Church.

    Many have now left the faith for the very same reasons that other Christians have left their particular faiths – they don’t see a need for it. Who needs religion, or even God, when times are good? What does it matter what we believe? Why worry about the poor, the sick, and the lame when we have erected vast social structures to handles these problems?

    Does the Church’s future lie in producing a religion that caters to those who are leaving, or those who are threatening to leave? Or, does its future lie in preserving the faith that exists for those who find merit in what is already there?

    The answer is neither. The Church exists so that the Word of God may be proclaimed in truth and charity. She is her own body, and yet also part of the larger body of Christianity, and humanity in general.

    It is my personal opinion that the Church is not only going to survive, but that she will rise up again in her true glory to serve humanity.

    She is the only institution large enough to stand up to immoral or oppressive governments, like she did through John Paul II in Poland, and like she has done with the American wars of aggression abroad. She alone is capable of speaking against the potential moral evils that have crept into our lives – evils like abortion. She alone is strong enough to strengthen the social structures that appear to be in danger of crumbling under the weight of taxes and indifference. She alone is capable of engaging in a meaningful discussion with other religions.

    Can she do these things if every national group and every community demands that the Church produce religious goods suited to their individual or group purposes under a threat of leaving the fold? Will she be able to do this if every community demands that they be an autonomous, self-serving democratic body? No. The only way for her to shine in her glory of service is for her to remain one body.

  14. Conrad,

    I haven’t had time to reply. However, you asked about the numbers regarding the sexual abuse problem. Yes, the numbers are American. The best source that I have found is at usccb.org/nrb/johnjaystudy.

    I believe that it was a report commissioned by the American bishops which was conducted the the John Jay College. The report is getting dated. However, the numbers are interesting.

    I haven’t researched whether there are any good cross-references for other denominations. However, it is my understanding that the rate of abuse is generally thought to be about the same across denominations.

    • I too have been busy David… it is that time of year…

      Thank you for the reference for your stats.

      I understand why you wish to bend this discussion into the US realm, that is the arena you understand and are more likely have information to back up your points.

      But… I will not engage you on this ground. It is not what this discussion is about.

      Check out the original post if you have forgotten what we are discussing. I believe it is the Irish Church, the role of the Vatican and the ‘purple culture’ in Ireland. With a side of church abuse a la Ireland.

      I wish I could provide comparable abuse stats for Ireland. unfortunately, at this time all that appears to be available are the Ferns, Ryan and Murphy reports. These are easily Googled.

      However, we have just had the Belgium child abuse report by Adriaenssens and it suggests that there were children abused in practically every catholic congregation and school in that country.

      “We can say that no part of the country escapes sexual abuse of minors by one or several [church] members,” said Adriaenssens

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/sep/10/belgium-child-abuse-catholic-church

      My own and other’s experience of Ireland suggest that at least one in ten clerics were abusive. I think this may be about right from my own experiences in Dublin. This is also borne out by Colm Toibin’s observations in this essay.

      http://www.lrb.co.uk/v32/n16/colm-toibin/among-the-flutterers

      The culture described by Toibin combined with toxic example set by Archbishop John McQuaid set the backdrop against which the abuse took place. They didn’t think anyone would stop them… and they were right.

      Colm reflects my own impressions of the ‘flutterer’s’ these were the boys who took refuge in the embrace of the church. I recall them well from my own catholic school days. Many of them went on to be brothers or teachers at the school. It was the ‘purple culture’ along with this ‘flutterers’ culture that set the tone and stage for what happened in Ireland.

      As for whether the abuse was equivalent across denominations. That is actually largely irrelevant in Ireland’s case I would say. The number of institutions that were non-catholic when I was growing up in Dublin was almost negligible. But I don’t doubt bad things happened in those too. Unfortunately Ireland was acting like all abused victims tend to do, the population being abused and coming from a culture that was used to being abused were in turn ready to pass on that abuse.

      It was/is a shameful period and Ireland is still struggling to emerge from it’s shadow.

      Slainte,
      Conrad.

      PS, I will get to your other points… thanks for hanging in there… 🙂

    • Conrad,

      It is I who owe you a response on the other points which you raised on Sept. 6.

      With regard to the original topic, I don’t have much information. As an American and non-cleric, my thoughts on the Irish church would reflect my ignorance more than my studies.

      That said, one of Kaiser’s reasons for “reclaiming” the Irish Catholic Church is the reprehensible behavior of the Vatican in reponse to the sex abuse crisis (my words, not his). I previously stated that this argument is “silly”. Perhaps it would be better to define it as lacking in credible evidence (at least in this piece above).

      People in the United States have made the same kind of arguments regarding the Vatican and its control over the American Catholic Church. The claim is that the Vatican is somehow responsible for the sex abuse crisis.

      The first, and most powerful, argument is that the Vatican simply didn’t have juridiction over this area of affairs until quite recently. (Yes, I am a lawyer.) In fact, it was Benedict who determined that bishops were exercising too much control over these issues, and that some kind of uniform reporting system was necessary.

      The second argument, which may or may not apply to the Irish Church, is that the abuse patterns (at least in America) don’t seem to conform to the the commonly held perception that once abuse occurred it was covered up by the priest and the bishop, and the priest was free to abuse some more, and did abuse more. The average number of reported abuses was 2, with most abusers being reported only once.

      This does not diminish the fact that the abuse is serious, and that one time is one time too many. Nor does it diminish the fact that we have the right to expect better, from our priest, our bishops, and the Vatican. Nevertheless, I do take some comfort from the fact that the Vatican, and the Church in general is one of the few institutions doing anything proactive. Most institutions simply report the matter to the civil authorities and disavow any responsibility.

      In the John Jay study, the results show that the civil authorities have fairly limited abilities to intervene and help. Statistics demonstrate that only a relatively small percentage of reported cases resulted in prosecution. Conviction rates are even lower.

      My experience with sexual offenders is that secular society’s response is wholly inadequate and decidely un-Christian. The focus on victims and victim’s rights is often unproductive, and sometimes even damaging to the victims themselves. In an effort to be tough on abusers, we often forget that the abused and the abuser are both people deserving of a Christian response.

      In sum, I am willing to concede that there are problems with the Vatican. But, I have not seen much credible evidence that the sex abuse problem stems from the Vatican or is the result of Catholic principles. The problem appears to be a genuinely human problem which has been exacerbated by the secrecy and sexual reclusiveness of the clergy. There concerns have been and are being addressed in reasonable, practical, and Christian manners.

  15. […] Robert Blair Kaiser Urges Irish to Fix Their “Broken Church” (opentabernacle.wordpress.com) […]

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