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    • To my Republican Friends July 6, 2020
      You voted for Trump even though you didn't like him. Doubted his character. Questioned his fitness for the job. Yet, your aversion to Hillary was even greater The post To my Republican Friends first appeared on Spirit of a Liberal.
      Obie Holmen
    • Wormwood and Gall a Midwest Book Award Finalist May 4, 2020
      The Midwest Independent Publishers Association (MIPA) recently named Wormwood and Gall as one of three finalists for a Midwest Book Award in the Religion/Philosophy category. The awards program, which is organized by MIPA, recognizes quality in independent publishing in the Midwest. The post Wormwood and Gall a Midwest Book Award Finalist first appeared on S […]
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    • Rob Sheffield Pays Tribute to the “Peaceful and Stormy at the Same Time” Songs of Christine McVie December 6, 2022
      Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone magazine has written a heartfelt and insightful appreciation of the life and music of Christine McVie.Following, with added images and links, are excerpts from Sheffield’s tribute that particularly caught my attention.Christine McVie always came on like the grown-up in the room, which admittedly might not be hard to do when the […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Michael J. Bayly)
    • “Your Perception Is a Choice” December 5, 2022
      My friend Iggy is dedicated to facilitating mind and body transformation – within his own life and the lives of others who are similarly interested in holistic personal growth and change. To this end, Iggy’s professional/vocational life involves providing a range of services, including mindset mentoring, naprapathic massage, and personal training in boxing, […]
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    • So the Former US President and Current GOP Candidate for the Presidency Calls for a Coup and the End of US Democracy — And? December 5, 2022
      President Donald J. Trump 2 March 2019, at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Oxon Hill, MD; official White House photo by Tia Dufour, at Wikimedia CommonsHeather Cox Richardson, "Letters from an American: December 3, 2002":The leader of the Republican Party has just called fo […]
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    • I'm Now on Mastodon — Please Feel Free to Connect December 2, 2022
      I've now succeeded in setting up an account on Mastodon.My handle there is @wdlindsy@toad.socialPlease feel free to connect to me there if you wish. I'm hoping to reconnect via Mastodon to as many of the friends and conversation partners I had on Twitter, with whom I've lost touch after I left Twitter when Musk acquired it. I'm a total no […]
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    • A saint for the millenials: Carlo Acutis beatified today in Assisi. October 10, 2020
       A saint for the millenials: the young Italian teen, Carlo Acutis, who died in 2006 of galloping Leukemia, will be beatified today in Assisi by Pope Francis (last step before being officially declared a saint). Carlo came from a luke warm Catholic family, but at the age of 7, when he received his first 'Holy Communion', he displayed an astonishing […]
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    • Ronan Park and Jack Vidgen: The Travails of Gay Pop Stars October 28, 2019
      (Jack Vidgen)Quite by accident, through a comment from a performance arts colleague of mine, I stumbled across the recent bios of two boy teen singing sensations, both of whom made a big splash worldwide 8 years ago. The first, Jack Vidgen, won Australia's Got Talent Contest in 2011 at the age of 14, primarily for his powerful renditions of Whitney Hust […]
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    • We the People December 6, 2022
      We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.Trump has called for ... Why? So […]
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Can Catholics Speak To Each Other?

A striking feature of the modern Catholic Church, from a progressive perspective, is the alarming disconnect between pronouncements and formal doctrine coming out of the Vatican and its claque, and the views and practice of the majority of real Catholics in the pews (or out of them, as so many refuse to participate in a dysfunctional church).

Conversely, from the perspective of traditional Catholics, the striking feature of the church is the audacity of those who seldom if ever attend Church, or make any attempt to follow the Catechism and teaching, in even calling themselves “Catholic”.

The two sides tend to speak only to their own sympathisers, seldom even referring to their opponents except in terms of rancour and / or disdain. Can the two sides learn to talk together constructively, in an authentically Catholic spirit of openness and charity? Phil Tanny is one Catholic who would like to make the effort.

I first came across Phil some months back, when he wrote to me (and many other Catholic bloggers) about his website, “Catholic Talk“, which was an attempt to provide a series of on- line forums for Catholics to debate a range of topical and possibly controversial subjects. He has since written again, to introduce a companion site, Catholic Unity (“Encouraging Healing and Unity Within the Catholic Community”), and  asked me to place a guest post on promoting Catholic unity at my personal blog, “Queering the Church”. That, however, has a specific focus on issues of sexuality and gender, and although  primarily Catholic, is not exclusively so.

It does seem to me that his aims are worthwhile, and so I am instead placing his piece as a guest post here, at The Open Tabernacle – together with extracts from some of his other posts, which will give some flavor of what he is about. (For now, I do so without any comment on, or endorsement of, his substantive proposals, but I do look forward to reading others’ responses. I’ll add my own, later).

At his introductory post, Encouraging Catholic Unity, Phil described the project in this way:

Greetings, welcome to Catholic-Unity.org.

The purpose of this blog is to serve as a resource for those whose primary focus is to encourage unity and healing in a too often divided Catholic community.

This blog, and the parent site  will provide research, articles, projects and tools to serve this mission.

We hope you’ll participate!

The substantive post, which I’ve placed below as a guest post, was originally placed at Catholic Unity as A Simple Plan to Heal the Catholic Community.

Also worth reading, is a follow-up post, “My Education Begins“, in which he describes some of the responses to the hundreds of approaches he made, along with the one to myself.

Yesterday (Nov 19 2012) I mailed this article regarding healing the Catholic community to about 700 Catholic bloggers and organizations.

The replies began flowing in almost immediately, and my education began.

In my email I specifically asked for feedback, pro or con, for or against, and was gratified and grateful that so many (most of whom don’t know me personally) were generous enough to respond to this request from a stranger.

The first response, which arrived within minutes, was brief but quite interesting, and helps to illustrate the evolution I will have to undergo myself if I want to be spokesperson for Catholic unity.

It was a quick email from the office of a very well known Catholic, indicating they would NOT (their emphasis) be publishing my article, and requesting to be removed from my mailing list.

From the tone of the email it seemed clear they wanted nothing to do with this particular Catholic unity campaign, which of course is fully their right.

And so God immediately presented me with the challenge that many of us will have to face if we want a healing of our community.

I find it satisfying and reassuring to know that he has at least a sense of humor. When I replied to his email with an apology for not having replied to some earlier correspondence, he mentioned in passing that he expects to have completed uniting the Catholic Church – in a few days:

You should feel guilty about feeling guilty, 🙂 as you are not obligated to me in any way.  I’m always happy to hear from you any time, but we’re not on a schedule.   I’ll write again as soon as I’m done uniting the Catholic Church.  Should only be a few days.  🙂

I look forward to following this project, with interest. What do you think?

Austrian Bishops Respond to Catholic “Rebellion”: Continuing Dialogue Promised

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna has responded to the Austrian rebels with a promise of dialogue, not discipline: jaw-jaw before war-war: but has firmly rejected calls to “disobedience”.

Last week the Austrian branch of “We are Church” issued a statement of support for the Austrian priests’ earlier “call to disobedience, and at the same time urged laypeople to start making up for clergy shortages by consecrating and distributing Holy Communion, as well as preaching and presiding at Mass.

This call immediately preceded a four-day meeting  of the Austrian bishops, at which the priests’ rebellion was already due to be discussed. The bishops have now concluded their meeting, and have released a statement in response, which is well worth reading and considering carefully.

Continue reading

Irish Archbishop Agrees: Catholic Church Needs Fundamental, Cultural Change

When people think of the crisis facing the Irish church since public awareness exploded over the sexual abuse scandals, they generally think only of the abuse itself. However, the real crisis goes much deeper. The abuse problems brought the crisis into sharp focus, but (tragically important as they are) they are in fact just one symptom of a much deeper malaise.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has garnered respect for his own response to the crisis, but in a hard-hitting speech in Cambridge, he has explained the extent of the problem, in terms remarkably similar to the argument made by the German theologians this month. Their statement, remember, was a response to a reflection on the abuse problems that emerged in Germany, Austria and Switzerland a year ago. Reflecting on the abuse issue, they concluded, like Archbishop Martin, that clerical sexual abuse cannot be looked at in isolation, but must be viewed as part of a much larger problem of Catholic culture and structures, which are urgently in need of fundamental reform.

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The Myth of Clerical Celibacy, Revisited

One of the key points in the recent declaration by German theologians (now joined by others, worldwide), is the urgency of ending the current insistence on compulsory clerical celibacy. This is my cue to revisit, and expand on, some points I have made frequently on previous occasions.

When I wrote a series of posts on the problem of compulsory clerical celibacy nearly two years ago, I listed several problems with the rule:

  • It is not based on Scripture, but in fact contradicts Paul’s clear advice that celibacy is not for everyone.
  • It was not the practice of the early church, and was not compulsory for the first twelve centuries of Christianity -over half of Church history
  • The rule, when it became fixed, was not introduced as a matter of pastoral care, but to preserve church wealth and power
  • Celibacy has never been required for all clergy in the Eastern Orthodox Churches
  • It was swiftly rejected by the Protestant churches after the Reformation
  • It is still not required for all Catholic priests: it does not apply to those in the Eastern rite of the Roman church, nor to those who are already married, and are now converting from other denominations.
  • Many bishops and even national Bishops’ conferences have asked, either privately or formally, for the blanket ban to be relaxed.

I can now add some further observations that I was not then aware of:

  • Research shows that the majority of Catholics want an end to the policy.
  • As a young man, Joseph Ratzinger himself signed a document asking for the ban to end.
  • As pope, Benedict XVI has conceded that celibacy is difficult, but becomes possible when living in a supportive community of fellow priests. He can offer no advice on how it becomes “possible” for one who can not live in such a community, implicitly conceding that for many men, perhaps it is not (agreeing in this, with St Paul).
  • The only objection he raised in the interview to ending the rule was not not one of principle, but of practicality, saying there were questions as to how this could be arranged.

But the most serious difficulty to my mind, is that as a universal practice, even within the Roman rite, it is a myth – and a dangerous one. It is a myth, because it is a rule that is widely broken. Here’s Maureen Fiedler, at Huffington Post, referring to an interview with Fr Cutie, who left the church to marry, and now serves in the Episcopal Church instead:

In the course of the interview, he laid bare an open secret of the Catholic Church: a large percentage of Catholic priests, gay and straight, live as if celibacy were optional. Some have male partners; others have secret women friends and — quite commonly in Africa and Latin America — they have children. He noted that sometimes bishops even pay for the children to have a Catholic education. All this is tolerated if it does not become public and cause scandal.

Most likely, a good majority of Catholic priests keep their vow of celibacy, but there is no way to know for sure.

Note the observation that the bishops are even paying for the education of priests’ children. This flouting of the rule is tacitly accepted, in many parts of the world – at least, until the knowledge becomes just too uncomfortably public (This is not a new claim Vatican II, nearly half a century ago:

Loreto Sr. Luke Tobin often spoke of overhearing two bishops returning from a coffee break at the Second Vatican Council, where she was an observer.

“Why do they want to get married,” one Council father said to the other, “Let them have their women on the side.”

“Let them have their women on the side”, says the bishop – just don’t let it become public knowledge.

This is why the current system, of public rejection but private tolerance of priests’ sexual lives, is so damaging, to them and to the wider church – it forces them into a clerical closet, in a widespread conspiracy of silence (a theme that Bart will be expanding on in his post for Monday).

The closet, as gay men and/ lesbians have learned, is an uncomfortable place, damaging to one’s personal mental, emotional and even spiritual health. Our private closets are also damaging to the wider community – the Jewish lesbian theologian has shown how our closets are damaging to our friends and families.  Similarly, compulsory celibacy and the clerical closet between them are damaging to the wider church.

They deprive us of some excellent potential clergy, by driving away possible candidates who are unwilling to accept the rule, and ordained priests who find they can no longer live with either the continued practice, or the duplicity of the closet.

It introduces to the priesthood a disproportionate number of candidates who have not reached proper levels of psychosexual maturity, or have unresolved issues with their own sexuality

It is thus, intimately associated, albeit indirectly, with the problems of clerical sexual abuse, of children and adults

By leaving us under the pastoral care, including that in sexual and family matters, of men who can have no practical experience, and extremely limited theoretical training, in human sexuality, we all suffer under a form of spiritual and emotional abuse at the hands of the clergy.

This pointless, unjustifiable and dangerous policy has to go. As Maureen Fiedler  says, cocnluding her piece at Huffpost:

And, it’s important to note: priestly celibacy is not dogma. It is simply a disciplinary practice, and could be changed literally with a flick of the papal pen.

So, why wait? I know the powers-that-be in the Vatican are comfortable with current arrangements, but it would seem that the needs of ministry and the availability of the Eucharist [only priests can consecrate the Eucharist in the Catholic tradition] should trump everything else.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out what’s taking them so long.

Related Posts

The Myth of Priestly Celibacy

Clerical Abuse: How We Are All Victims

The Tyranny of the Clerical Closet

Confronting Power and Abuse in the Catholic Church

What About the Women?

The Myth of Clerical Celibacy, Again.

Son of a Priest, Son of a Bishop: Another Cost of Compulsory Celibacy

Celibacy and a Wounded Church: Readers’ Observations

Coming Out as a Religious Obligation: Micah and Justice.

Benedict’s Thoughts on Priesthood: Confused, Contradictory.

 

 


Thoughts on Popular Revolutions: in Egypt, in South Africa – in the Church

Events in Egypt are dominating the headlines all around the world. It is always dangerous for outsiders to comment too definitively on the internal politics of foreign countries, but inevitably many of us will have thoughts of our own, and will consider the implications for their own countries.  Bill Lindsay’s reflections on this theme at Bilgrimage led to an exchange in the comments between myself and another reader, which I would like to share (and expand on) here. After some specific response to Bill’s post, I reflected on the implications for the Catholic Church:

My own reflections lie in analogy and implications for another autocratic and corrupt empire of an entirely different kind – the Holy Roman one, based in the Vatican, but with global reach and influence. Just like the Egyptian (and Tunisian) people this year, and the East Europeans, South Africans, Ukrainians and Filipinos before them, Catholics will not continue indefinitely to blithely accept control from the top, with no possibility of meaningful input from below.


Vatican control and influence in the lives of Catholics takes a fundamentally different form to the political control in Arab states, and the Catholic revolution will look different. But the principle is the same, and the revolution is most certainly coming – if it has not already begun.

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Benedict’s Thoughts on Priesthood: Confused, Contradictory.

As I reflect on Pope Benedict’s observations on the priesthood as recounted to Peter Seewald in “Light of the World”, what strikes me most is the range of models that he refers to as determining the essential requirements of the job – and how these shift, depending on the context. But if we take precisely the same models he does, and move them to different contexts, they flatly contradict the established rules for admission, and even undermine the standard approach to dealing with “homosexuals” in the Church, but not in the priesthood.

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On Dialogue, Disagreements and Dissent in Church

I frequently come across Catholic writers and commenters (the rule-book Catholics) complaining in horror on-line at the existence of Catholic “dissenters” who insist on calling themselves Catholic, even while flouting the teaching of the church.

As I am one of those who publicly disagree with the teaching on some issues (by no means all) but refuse to deny my Catholic identity, I am directly affected. In my own mind, the position is simple. I am in agreement here with Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, who made clear a few months ago that Catholicism is not in fact about blind obedience to authority, but rather it is a commitment to a search for truth (and with it, in consequence, to service, and justice and the rest). I have stated before that I accept the teaching authority of the Church, but “teaching” does not mean legislating, and any good teacher will fully expect and encourage students to argue a case where they disagree.

A useful article at America magazine by Nicholas Lash makes much the same point, but does so much more effectively than I could hope to do.

When the Second Vatican Council ended, several of the bishops who took part told me that the most important lesson they had learned through the conciliar process had been a renewed recognition that the church exists to be, for all its members, a lifelong school of holiness and wisdom, a lifelong school of friendship (a better rendering of caritas than “charity” would be). It follows that the most fundamental truth about the structure of Christian teaching cannot lie in distinctions between teachers and pupils—although such distinctions are not unimportant—but in the recognition that all Christians are called to lifelong learning in the Spirit, and all of us are called to embody, communicate and protect what we have learned. Much of what is said about the office of “teachership” or magisterium seems dangerously forgetful of this fact.

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A Masturbation Conversation

We continue to live in the late Soviet period of Catholicism. They pretend to make sense; we pretend to believe them.

-Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Dish

When I suggested yesterday that we should be talking seriously about masturbation, I was not aware that Andrew Sullivan had done exactly that in a post at The Daily Dish back in January (“How Natural Is Masturbation?”), with a couple of follow-up posts to report on reader comments.

Here are some pertinent extracts:

Now there’s a topic for some interesting dialogue. The Catholic church proclaims that wanking is as serious a sin as gay sex because all sexuality is designed to be exclusively procreative – both as a matter of divine will but also, critically, because this is readily apparent to anyone by reason alone.

(This claim of justification by “reason alone” is a favourite in Church documents and of church spokesmen – but frequently signals that there is no justification whatever outside the closed reasoning of the Vatican mind, not apparent to outsiders.)

Shaw was certainly right in saying that 99 percent of men masturbate and 1 percent are liars. I once caused a little stir at Notre Dame by pointing out that every priest in the audience was masturbator, as of course they all were.

(One could reasonably dispute Sullivan’s precise figures here – but I am certain they are in the right ball-park).

From a reader:

Recently scientists have determined that, at least in a man’s older years, masturbation seems to have some preventative properties in relation to prostate cancer. Indeed, some doctors are now prescribing “masturbation therapy” to men over fifty. If further research sufficiently determines the health benefits of masturbation, will the Catholic Church endorse it on that basis? Even more importantly, can I get a return on the several hours of Hail Marys I said in penance in my teenage years?

And an observation which is relevant to so much of the orthodox sexual ethics:

Nature is an elastic concept. The Church’s grasp of it remains umbilically linked to the biology of the thirteenth century. And its allegedly celibate clerisy is the only group allowed to examine it. Hence what most adult, intelligent human beings regard as the hilarity of the hierarchy’s claptrap.

At least one reader was appalled.

I think your beliefs about masturbation are largely at odds with traditional Christian teaching. I’m surprised someone as smart as you are would not think more critically about this issue, especially since you are a self-described Christian.

Sullivan’s reply is that his argument is in fact deeply rooted in orhodox theology:

My reader misses the focus of my posts, which was on the arguments of the new natural law. This …..posits, after Aquinas and Aristotle, that nature, as observed by reason alone, tells us something about the purpose of human behavior and life. When something is as ubiquitous as masturbation, when we now understand that massive over-production of sperm is in fact an evolutionary strategy to maximize chances of reproduction, and when we also notice that even in a marital, procreative relationship, a wife’s nine months of pregnancy renders all that spousal sperm incapable of producing children … then one wonders why rubbing one out from time to time is so unnatural.

From another reader, an important danger in the doctrine:

Telling teenagers in particular that both premarital sex and masturbation are sin, while providing no outlet for their proverbial raging hormones other than the delayed gratification of an ill-prepared prepared rush into marriage in their early twenties, sets an impossible and unhealthy standard.

Is the doctrine thereby contributing to disastrous marriages? And from one more reader, some thoughts based on real experience, not mere cerebral speculation:

The real objection the Church has isn’t that you are indulging in a lie. It is that you are indulging. The pleasure of any sexual activity, solo or otherwise, is a very inconvenient reality for the Church. One that priests are no better at denying themselves of than the rest of us. As much as the rational side of us might want to define sex as a utilitarian function, used only for procreation, no amount of scholarship can change the fact that it’s fun, that it feels good. That, at its best, it is ecstatic. Certainly not the kind of thing you want people engaging in if you’re trying to get them to forget about this world and focus on the next one.

On a personal note, my first wife, raised Catholic, had a great deal of guilt and anxiety about sex, and we had a truly awful sex life. Masturbation, although at times something of an indulgent vice, was also an activity I credit with keeping me somewhat sane through a highly frustrating time of my life, sexually speaking.

I can think of some Irish priests that maybe should have done a little more fantasizing and masturbating. Maybe not a long term answer, and certainly less fulfilling on so many levels than good sex mutually shared. But surely better that than preying on acolytes.

The Catholic Church originally instituted its policy of compulsory clerical celibacy in part as a means of control. It thereby created a two-tier caste system, whereby the supposedly celibate clergy were thereby perceived as morally superior – and the rest of the population, living sexual lives, were constantly faced with the prospect of falling into states of sin, which had perforce to be confessed to a priest for absolution.

“The Sexual Person”: Bishops, Theologians Clash on Sexual Ethics

In 2008 two Catholic academic theologians at a reputable Jesuit university published a book, “The Sexual Person: Toward a Renewed Catholic Anthropology (Moral Traditions)“,  on the Church’s sexual theology which represented a fundamental critique of its entire foundations. The United States Catholic Bishops have now launched a strong counter-attack, concentrating their fire especially on the authors’ section on homosexuality.

I am grateful to the Bishops for this attack: it has brought to my close attention a book that I was previously aware of, but had not considered too seriously. After reading some reviews and the extracts available at Google Books, I will now most certainly read it in full – and will later discuss its conclusions with my readers. As I have not yet had this opportunity to read the book for myself, I will not attempt in this post  to evaluate the content or conclusions. However, I have read the authors’ intent and methods as presented in the prologue, and can contrast these with the bishops’ disappointing response, which I have read and re-read in full. Continue reading