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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 […]
      Obie Holmen
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    • Ruth Ben-Ghiat on the Return of Fascism in Italy September 29, 2022
      Perhaps like me you’ve been long aware of (and troubled by) the rise of authoritarian leaders and governments around the world.The most recent example of this is in Italy where, in the wake of recent elections, the country’s first far-right leader since Benito Mussolini, Giorgia Meloni, has declared victory, as the right-wing alliance led by her Brothers of […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Michael J. Bayly)
    • Summer’s Parting Gift September 21, 2022
      See also the previous Wild Reed posts:• Summer’s End (2021)• Summer Vignettes• Photo of the Day – June 22, 2018• Nelson Mandela and the Rainbow Connection• Late Summer Blooms• My Rainbow Sash Experience• Photo of the Day – August 27, 2015• First Signs of “By Far the Most Paradoxical” SeasonImage: Michael J. Bayly.
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    • Ruth Krall, A Bilgrimage Bibliography April 2, 2021
       A Bilgrimage BiographyRuth Elizabeth Krall, MSN, PhDNote: Since 2015 my friend William D. Lindsey (Bill) has published my work on his blog Bilgrimage. At this time, the blog is inactive, so I have decided to pull together my various posts so that future researchers and academics can find them in one place.  I have arranged this bibliography so that more rec […]
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    • Ruth Krall, "Persephone’s Journey into the Underworld: Lessons for Our Time" February 3, 2021
      Ancient portrayal of Demeter and Persephone, Apulian red-figure loutrophoro, ca. 4th century BCE, from the J. Paul Getty Museum, at the Theoi Project websiteWhen I announced at the start of this year that I've decided no longer to maintain Bilgrimage, I also noted that if readers have something they'd like me to consider for posting here down the r […]
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    • the way ahead March 23, 2013
      My current blog is called the way ahead.
      noreply@blogger.com (PrickliestPear)
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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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    • Elendil October 6, 2022
      There's an interesting article about The Rings of Power in the Hollywood Reporter: ‘The Rings of Power’ Showrunners Break Silence on Backlash, Sauron and Season 2[...] The call from the lawyers came in to Amazon on a Friday in 2017: The Tolkien estate was going to entertain proposals for a Lord of the Rings show. Prime Video, along with every other ente […]
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Robert McClory on Danger of Turning Metaphor Into Law

I’ve long contended that one of the most pernicious confusions that religious believers with a fundamentalist bent introduce into public discourse about religious issues is this: they take what is metaphorical, and they try to freeze the metaphor.  To absolutize it.  To make the analogical into a litmus test of absolute truth rather than a metaphor pointing in imperfect, halting human language to what transcends language. Continue reading

Where have all the Shepherds gone?

Sheep

"Where's Father John?"

Where have all the Shepherds gone? (with apologies to Pete Seeger)

As so often happens when I’m preparing a post, current events break into the flow of my thoughts and somehow find their way into the post. Last week was no exception. I was preparing my homily for the fourth Sunday of Easter, knowing that the gospel text is always taken from the tenth chapter of John’s gospel – the Good Shepherd text. I had also been doing some background reading on the Morris affair, referring to the forced resignation of Bishop William Morris from the diocese of Toowoomba, Queensland (plenty of information here). As always, I can’t help analysing the impact such events have on the life of the Church. That the resignation took place on 2nd May, yep, just one day after the beatification ceremony of Pope John Paul II was not lost on those who follow closely such matters. Pope Benedict must have had a surge of warm feelings – as a result of the beatification of his predecessor – that led him to order this resignation. Nuff said about him; let’s talk about shepherds.

The shepherd image is a very potent one, not only in the Bible, but also in the life of the Church. It finds its way into words such as “pastor” or “pastoral” (Latin pastor = shepherd). Although the word occurs several times in Scripture, two texts in particular stand out. They are Ezekiel 34 and John 10 (I will be citing some relevant sections from these two texts further down). In the Catholic tradition (as well as in the Orthodox Churches) there is a direct link between the symbol of the shepherd, and the Church’s ordained ministers: bishops, priests and, to a lesser extent, deacons. Rightly or wrongly, the terms ‘shepherd’ and ‘ordained minister’ have become so intertwined that it would seem impossible to use the shepherd-symbol if not in the context of ordained ministry. If not synonymous, they have become coterminous. As if to stress this point, there’s that symbol within a symbol – the bishop’s crosier – which, for all the gold, intricate patterns and semi-precious stones, represents a shepherd’s crook. Continue reading

John Paul II: “Santo Subito” or “Aspetta Un Attimo?”

Originally posted at Talk to Action.

On January 14, 2011 The New York Times reported that the late Pope John Paul II will be beatified (able to be venerated, the last step before sainthood) this Spring by the Catholic Church.

Four days later the Times also reported disturbing news that should give the Church pause: On the late pontiff’s watch, the Vatican warned Irish bishops “…that the Vatican had reservations about mandatory reporting for both “moral and canonical” reasons” adding the threat that “bishops who failed to follow canon law procedures precisely might find that their decisions to defrock abusive clerics would be overturned on appeal by Vatican courts.”

When the late Pope John Paul II was being laid to rest some in the crowd in Saint Peter’s Square chanted “santo subito! – Italian for “sainthood now! But in light of recent news some of them might now be thinking “aspetta un attimo!” or, “wait a minute!”

As the Associated Press recently reported:

DUBLIN (AP) – A 1997 letter from the Vatican warned Ireland’s Catholic bishops not to report all suspected child-abuse cases to police – a disclosure that victims’ groups described as “the smoking gun” needed to show that the church enforced a worldwide culture of covering up crimes by pedophile priests.

The newly revealed letter, obtained by Irish broadcasters RTE and provided to The Associated Press, documents the Vatican’s rejection of a 1996 Irish church initiative to begin helping police identify pedophile priests following Ireland’s first wave of publicly disclosed lawsuits.

The letter undermines persistent Vatican claims, particularly when seeking to defend itself in U.S. lawsuits, that Rome never instructed local bishops to withhold evidence or suspicion of crimes from police. It instead emphasizes the church’s right to handle all child-abuse allegations and determine punishments in house rather than give that power to civil authorities.

Almost immediately, conservative spin machines such as Fox News and NewsBusters sprung into action, claiming that the letter was no smoking gun (NewsBusters is a project of the Media Research Center which was founded by Catholic Right activist L. Brent Bozell III). Other sources attributed the Times’s reading of the letter to “vagueness.”

But on January 20, 2011 the organization BishopAccountability.org released a 1984 letter to the Diocese of Tucson Arizona regarding an abusive priest that may well serve to clear up any vagueness:

“…under no condition whatever ought the afore-mentioned files be surrendered to any lawyer or judge whatsoever. The files of a Bishop concerning his priests are altogether private; their forced acquisition by civil authority would be an intolerable attack upon the free exercise of religion in the United States.”

“…make known immediately and with clarity that no priest’s files will be sent to any lawyer or judge whatever.”

More importantly, was John Paul II the source of these instructions? If so, there is no saintly quality to such directives.

It is true that John Paul was a charismatic leader. But he was also dogmatic and divisive. He also elevated Opus Dei and other secretive reactionary groups were elevated within the hierarchy. One of these, the Legionnaires of Christ, whose founder Marcial Maciel was a favorite of the late pontiff, was forced into retirement because of decades-long incidents of sexual abuse. This too was part and parcel of his papacy.

As I have argued in the past, the real issue is accountability, which, in turn, speaks to the issue of the separation of church and state. There are no exemptions from the criminal laws of the United States for religious leaders and institutions.

More than his immediate predecessors, John Paul II attempted to directly effect orthodox notions of morality upon secular societies, especially within the United States. Economic issues took a back seat to biological issues. Those politicians who supported more reckless forms of capitalism were often unchallenged by Church leaders as long as they tended to oppose abortion rights, marriage equality and embryonic stem cell research. And to that end, the late pontiff stacked the hierarchy with dogmatists — even those with backgrounds of rampant sexual abuse or the cover-up of abuses.

And that is why I say to those Catholics who still say of John Paul II. “santo subito”: Would a saint have ignored or covered-up priestly pedophilia?

Catholic Sexual Ethics, Social Ethics, and Reality-Based Theology

One of the key points in Salzman & Lawler’s exposition of Catholic sexual ethics (“The Sexual Person”) is the importance of  considering theology in the context of history. Explaining this idea, they describe two approaches to theology,a “classical” view, which sees all moral standards as static and fixed   for all time, and an “empirical” view, in which we recognize that circumstances and human understanding (for  example,of science), is constantly changing, and which implies that we must be constantly ready to refine our expression of those standards.

In its classicist mode, theology is a static, permanent achievement… In its empirical mode, it is a dynamic, ongoing process……. The classical understanding sees the human person as a series of created, static and definitively ordered temporal facts. The empirical understanding sees the person as a subject in the process of “self-realization in accordance with a project that develops in God-given autonomy, carried out in the present with a view to the future”.  Classical theology sees moral norms coming from the Magisterium as once and for all definitive; sexual norms enunciated in the fifth or sixteenth century continue to apply absolutely in the twenty-first. Empirical theology sees the moral norms of the past not as facts for uncritical and passive acceptance but as partial insights that are the bases for critical attention, understanding, evaluation, judgement and decisions in the present sociohistorical situation. What Augustine and his medieval sources knew about sexuality cannot be the exclusive basis for a moral judgement about sexuality today.

The empirical approach, they say, was endorsed by by Vatican II. Later, this view was clearly articulated by Pope John Paul II, in Sollicitudo rei socialis (1987).

Pope John Paul II, Progressive Theologian?

Continue reading

The Canonization of Pope John Paul II: I Dissent

A Great Cloud of Witnesses

Vatican journalist Andrea Torniello has recently reported that the cause for the beatification of John Paul II has advanced. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints has cleared the way for the previous pope to be declared “blessed,” the initial step on the path to sainthood.

Since reading this announcement, I’ve been giving thought to my reaction, which is, on the whole, strongly negative. As I think about it, I’m opposed to the canonization of John Paul II, and I’d like to think out loud here about my reasons for this opposition.

First, some provisos. I take it that Catholics may validly criticize popes. In fact, I take it that Catholics may have a strong obligation at certain points in history to stand against the actions, example, or even teachings of a given pope at a given time. Those of us who believe that this is the case have historical warrant for such actions: exemplary Catholics, including Catherine of Siena, a saint, have spoken out to call the pope to fidelity to the gospel, and to express concern when a pope seemed to be leading the church in a direction contrary to the gospel. And Paul stood in opposition to Peter when Peter wanted to make the gospel hinge on the purity laws of Judaism.

I also believe in the value of and right to dissent. This past December, the current pope, Benedict XVI, told a group of Brazilian bishops that the uncritical absorption of elements of Marxist ideology in liberation theology has led some liberation theologians to encourage “rebellion, division, dissent, offenses, [and] anarchy” in the church. Continue reading