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    • Gonna Stick My Sword in the Golden Sand September 15, 2014
      Gonna Stick My Sword in the Golden Sand: A Vietnam Soldier's Story has just been released. The title comes from a stanza of the gospel traditional, Down by the Riverside, with its refrain--"Ain't gonna study war no more." Golden Sand is a bold, dark, and intense retelling of the Vietnam experience through the eyes of an army scout that is […]
      Obie Holmen
    • Gay Games Symposium July 21, 2014
      I am pleased and honored that the UCC has asked me to moderate a symposium during the games entitled Queer Christians: Celebrating the Past, Shaping the Future. [[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]
      Obie Holmen
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    • Quote of the Day November 25, 2015
      Let me tell you: The facts are out. In Minneapolis, black people are almost nine times more likely to be arrested for minor offenses than white people. Black youth are almost six times more likely than their white peers to be arrested for low-level crimes. Black people consistently report bias in how they are treated by police, and the numbers support this. […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Michael J. Bayly)
    • New Ways Ministry Campaign Encourages Catholics to Ask Pope to "Save LGBT Lives" November 25, 2015
      .Yesterday I shared the inspiring and hopeful story of Danny and Aamer, two gay Syrian men who found refuge in Canada from the potentially deadly homophobia of their homeland. In highlighting their journey I noted that there are many parts of the world where, sadly, it's still very difficult and dangerous for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer a […]
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      My current blog is called the way ahead.
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    • Rest in Peace Father John McNeil September 25, 2015
      One of the very great patron saints of the gay rights movement in the Catholic Church and the  US passed away on September 22. I can't begin to express how much I owe to him and how deeply his death has moved me. I feel somewhat the way I felt with the news of Thomas Merton's death so many years ago - that there was no longer anyone left that one c […]
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    • Back from Summer Camp August 31, 2015
      Just returned from eight intense non stop weeks of summer camp with Czech kids. Exhausted beyond words, but I wouldn't have missed a moment of it. Thankfully, the world and it's woes were far, far away from us.Now it's back to reality.Here are some of my adorable kids walking through the forest in a happy mood.
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    • Mission Improbable November 24, 2015
      Brrrr! It's cold, rainy, and gloomy. My mission, and I've warily chosen to accept it, involves assembling a plastic dog kitty house so some of the cats who won't go in the garage when it rains will be able to find some shelter other than under the big dead tree which looks like it's about to collapse. Unfortunately, all the instructions a […]
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The Catholic Spring: Ferment in Switzerland

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

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

-Rebel Girl, at Rentapriest

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

Continue reading

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

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

This was my reply:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Act in a collegial way

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

4. Unconditional obedience is owed to God alone

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

 5. Work for regional solutions

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

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

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

6. Call for a council

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

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

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


Links to Amazon.com (USA)

Chronicles of a Vatican II Bishop Remi De Roo, 2012

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

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

Priestless People? New Vision for the Catholic Church Vincent McLaughlin

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

‘Quo Vadis’ Collegiality in Canon Law Mary McAleese

What Happened at Vatican II John W O’Malley

Links to Amazon.co.uk (United Kingdom)

Chronicles of a Vatican II Bishop Remi De Roo, 2012

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

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

Priestless People? New Vision for the Catholic Church Vincent McLaughlin

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

‘Quo Vadis’ Collegiality in Canon Law Mary McAleese

 What Happened at Vatican II John W O’Malley


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