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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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    • 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, […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Michael J. Bayly)
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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 […]
      noreply@blogger.com (William D. Lindsey)
    • 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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      My current blog is called the way ahead.
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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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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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Married Priests, Women Priests, Diocesan Priests.

In ongoing debates, discussions and raging arguments over compulsory celibacy for priests, we usually overlook the simple, plain fact that there are already many thousands of married Catholic priests.  The eastern rite churches within the Catholic church have always accepted a married clergy, and in recent years there has been a steady trickle of married clergy converting from other denominations, who have been ordained in the Catholic Church and are now ministering openly and officially in Catholic parishes, in many parts of the world.  Most of us know this, even if we do not think about it consciously.

Eastern Rite Catholic Priests

We completely overlook, however, that by far the greatest number of married priests today are those who started out conventionally enough in the Western Church, but later left formal ministry within the institutional church.  Many of these left in order to marry, others left and only later chose to marry.  All, however, remain priests. In catholic theology, the principle is clear:  “Once a priest, always a priest”.

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Do it Yourself Catholicism.

Three posts I have seen online in the past couple of days have had in common observations about people of faith moving ahead without on religious matters without ecclesiastical sanction – Christians doing it themselves. Here, at Open Tabernacle, Obie Holmen wrote about the expanding womenpriests movement in “Roman Catholic female ordination“.  At Gay Mystic, Jayden Cameron cross-posted two pieces on the parishioners of St Mary’s Brisbane, who say they have been “Liberated with Joy from a Failing institution“, and on the Home Eucharist movement. Before we condemn these out of hand, it is worth giving some thought to history:  to the early history of the Church, and also to some lessons from twentieth century secular history.

Some Prominent Women in the Early Church

In the very early Church, there was no distinct, set-apart clerical elite. Even as there emerged distinct roles for deacons and bishops, their roles were markedly different to those we know today. “Deacon” took their title from the Greek for “to serve”, while bishops were “overseers”, leading small local teams – with the emphasis on team work and leading.  Worship was in small congregations, led by its own members, who were not professional clergy.

Over the centuries that followed, by a gradual process the bishops began to reserve for themselves an increasing degree of power over the rest of the Church, while the bishops of Rome asserted increasing claims to authority over the other bishops (a claim that was for a long time vigorously contested, particularly by the Eastern church.) For a long time, the gradual transformation of the church from its original form into a powerful temporal authority matched and paralleled the emergence and expansion of large territorial empires across Europe.

Paradoxically, however, as democratic movements began to transform the rest of Europe, and the Papal States lost much of its territory, the response of the Church was to diverge from the movements to democracy elsewhere, and to tighten its grip on power, in marked contrast with the democratic, collegial style of the early church.  This retreat into tight authoritarian control from the centre was most marked in the First Vatican Council of  the nienteenth century, which effectively locked the style of governance of the Church into a medieval, feudal mode, already badly out of date.

A century later, Vatican II attempted to begin the process of blowing away the cobwebs, reaching back into the roots of the early church for a more authentic expression of the faith for the modern world. At the same time, mindful of the need for compromises, it was careful not to take the move too far.  Since then, even the tentative reforms that were introduced have been steadily eroded, first by the powerful and power conscious bureaucrats of the Curia, and later by Popes John  Paul II and Benedict XVI (who ironically had been one of the key reform minded theologians during and just after the council).

In its attempts to assert and reassert authoritarian control, however, the Vatican would do well to pay attention to the lessons off secular history.  Popular demands for reform cannot be resisted indefinitely, especially not once the people ahve sampled just a small dose.

Mahatma Gandhi developed a strategy in South Africa, later refined and further developed in India, which he called “Satryagraha”, which in time achieved what just a few years earlier had seemed impossible: the withdrawal of British government from India, and a little later to the complete dismantling of the British Empire.  Later still, Martin Luther king adapted the technique for the American civil rights struggle, with similar success.

Gandhi’s method is usually, but inadequately, translated as “passive resistance”, but there is nothing “passive” about it.  A more appropriate description would be active non-compliance.

My experience during the closing years of apartheid in South Africa showed me clearly that while there were many and varied forces which worked together to achieve its ultimate downfall, the key was a gradual process whereby increasing numbers of ordinary people simply ignored an increasing range of obviously unjust laws, until it became abundantly clear to all who could see, that the apartheid state had simply lost control.

We are now seeing the same process beginning in the church. This is most dramatically seen in the expanding womenpriests , movement and some other splinter groups – but a far more significant indicator is the widespread decisions of ordinary Catholics, in conscience, to simply ignore official teaching on sexuality: on contraception, on pre-marital sex, on masturbation, on re-marriage after divorce – and on same-sex relationships. Other, local examples can be seen in parishes such at St  Stephen’s in the Diocese of Minneapolis, and at St Mary’s, Brisbane South.  In both of these, diocesan attempts to rein in vibrant reforming trends at local level by removing the much loved reformist priests, and parachuting in its own yes-men backfired, when the congregations simply decamped to new premises, and began to do things for themselves.

I have sense that at many different levels, the Pope Benedict and the Vatican curia are attempting to assert by decree a harder line on matters such as sexuality and church discipline.  I suspect, though, that these attempts will have much the same result as President P W Botha’s attempts to resist meaningful reform in South Africa by exerting greater military force. Together with the help of the Holy Spirit, the people will increasingly just do it for themselves.

See also my related posts at Queering the Church: