Category Archives: 2012

17 November stuff

This week an interesting or disturbing (depending on one’s outlook) story made the rounds about a 17 year old high school student in Minnesota who was denied the Sacrament of Confirmation because he put a photo on his Facebook page in favor of same sex marriage. Since this happens near the beginning of the Church’s Year of Faith, we might wonder if this is an example of the New Evangelization and its return to “basics”. Most responsible adults, and no one is accusing the hierarchy of being in this category, urge our high school students to begin to think for themselves, and we stand by them as they make their inevitable and necessary mistakes. How can depriving a young student of a Sacrament because he is not “100{9e61ac4632015d8c9c24fb4bfd2ec078081fa0bb2b0def4afb71f2c7af3817d9} Catholic” be even remotely be seen as imitating Jesus? It is more in the line of a playground bully claiming to act in the name of Jesus. Perhaps John 11:35 applies: “And Jesus wept”.

With this sort of shenanigans alleged to be done in Jesus’ name, it is no wonder that there seems to be in development some sort of separate Churches. There is the Church of the folks in the pews who continue to be faithful in attending Mass, but do not want to be involved in the commotion going on in the Church. They are good folks who just want to do what is right. Then there is the Church of the folks who come to Mass, but pay only lip service to what is going on, because they know from their own experience that there is more to life than the hierarchy with its squabbles, and, they know they need Eucharist for their own fulfillment.  They  still identify in varying degrees as Catholic, and who is to say otherwise? Then there are those who simply walk away, still looking for some sort of religious fulfillment, or not. They are not interested in the judging or labeling, in-groups or out-groups. So, there seems to exist some sort of parallel church.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. Very few catholics argue about the basics of the Catholic version of Christianity. The commotion centers on other things more or less periphery to the the basics. Why can there not be different interpretations concerning these important but non-essentials? There are various rites for the celebration of Eucharist. There are already exceptions allowing some married priests in the Roman Church. Why can there not be other variations and alternatives? Celebrating the Eucharist is essential. The gender or marital status of the presider is not. The maturity and educational level of Catholics must be considered. The bishops are not the only ones with smarts. A number of them seem not to have too many. No one person or group knows everything. We all can and must learn fro each other. A mother trying hard to raise a family while her husband is away on a military mission in a foreign country and culture has an insight into marriage that no bishop can ever have, no matter how much he claims to know about something he has never experienced. He ought to shut his mouth and open his ears, listen and learn. There is a world of difference between theoretical knowledge and lived experience. Our families of all traditions and conditions can teach these celibate men some pretty good lessons. Are they willing to learn? Cardinal Dolan suggested the bishops might work on the call to their own conversion before they try to convert others. Listening to our families tell their stories might be a good place to start.

If what happened to the young student in Minnesota, the efforts of some bishops to force their agenda on same sex marriage etc on the general populace is an example of the real meaning of the Year of Faith, who would want to be a part of it?  But, “De Pontificia Academia Latinitatis condenda” should solve all the problems.

Just sayin   .   .   .


18 November, Tribulations

In today’s Gospel Story (Mark 13:24-32) the words Jesus uses to describe the end times might very well also apply to the situation in the Church today. Not, however, in the sense of impending doom, but in the sense of preparing for the coming of Jesus himself. These are disturbing and exciting days in the Church. There seems to be an overturning of so much that the Church has always considered valuable and important: perceived authority of the hierarchy is fast diminishing; a turning away from what has always been considered as the Church’s fundamental morality; increasing numbers of women who feel they are being called to the priesthood, etc. These days of uncertainty for all, fear and trembling for some, and joy and enthusiasm for others, might well be described by these cataclysmic words.

The folks are coming to understand, very much ahead of the Church hierarchy and structure, the universality of God’s call to “wholeness”. Jesus’ call is not limited to a chosen few who follow a certain style of behavior and believe in certain specified concepts, but is made to all humanity and all creation. These days seem to be a rebirth in an awareness that we are all one together, and have responsibilities to and for each other and to and for creation, and that we are called to spread Jesus’ Gospel by living it ourselves and to the best of our ability living as Jesus lived, treating people as he did, and not trying to cram our interpretation of the Gospel down others’ throats. It is exciting to realize that no one has the inside track to Jesus, and every one has a bit of the puzzle, and that we can and need to learn from each other.

In general the hierarchy are responding to this by playing the intimidation game. They don’t get it that folks who love the Church and want to be part of the Church growing don’t really care all that much what the hierarchy are saying. The bishops’ credibility is not much. The hierarchy, again in general, are demonstrating a hubris that defies belief. One archbishop stated baldly that married folks just don’t understand marriage, but he does. Unmarried celibate males claim to understand marriage better that folks who have been married for half a century. They are believing their own press releases.

. . . means never having to say you’re sorry

In the Story Jesus says, “Learn a lesson from the fig tree; when its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near; in the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates”. When we see these things happening, and we are seeing them, he is at the gates. He is making all things new. It is hard not to feel excited and energized. These are good days – difficult and challenging for so many of us, but good nonetheless. They are certainly not easy days, and don’t look to be getting any easier. There is serious polarization, an absence of good pastoral leadership in the structure and system, and an influx of good folks seeking to fill the vacuum. The fact that this influx is widespread around the world and in countless areas points to the Spirit being very much involved.

Change and growth has already begun. As the saying goes, “there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come”. The idea of Vatican II has come, and there looks to be no stopping it, not even those bishops who feel everybody else is wrong, and they alone are right can stop it. The smart thing for the hierarchy to do would be to engage in dialogue with the world as it is, real dialogue with the folks, and not an attempt to insist that only the bishops can be right. That they are not engaging in such dialogue gives the folks’ desire for change new energy and impetus. The bishops see all this energy as bad news, and bad news does not get better with age. Try as they might, the hierarchy cannot suppress this burgeoning energy. They cannot “put the genie back into the bottle”.

Good, mature, well-educated, highly-qualified, prayerful people feel they are responding to the Holy Spirit as their prayer journey is calling them to do. Who can say this is not, in fact, what is happening? The hierarchy’s claim that only the bishops can speak for the Holy Spirit doesn’t wash, and it would be a good idea for the bishops to consider that. Jesus did not intimidate. It would be interesting to understand the bishops’ rationale for their chosen tactics, their scriptural basis for abusing and threatening folks. They seem really to believe they are acting on Jesus’ name, even though he did nothing like the bishops are doing.

The current Year of Faith seems to be an effort to reinforce the bishops in their belief that only they have the right answers for everything and everybody,  and can never be wrong. The opening Institute for Latin seeks to revive use of the dead language, as if this will restore the church to its former glory, ensure world peace, etc. The bishops’ insistence on a re-energized education of the laity on the true nature of marriage does not include listening to the wisdom of the laity, most of whom have been married for some years. The current hierarchy style of operating is one of separating the in crowd from the out crowd, always in the name of Jesus, who reached out to everybody without imposing conditions on them.

Jesus is standing at the door. Will he pass the tests? Will the hierarchy let him in? Perhaps he might have to stay outside with so many wonderful folks who don’t have fancy clothes and seats of honor. I think he would be right at home.

Just sayin   .   .   .

12 November Veterans’ Day Wondering

Today, 12 November, the day the Nation officially celebrates Veterans’ Day this year, I am sitting here reflecting on my time as an Active Duty Army Chaplain (Catholic), I’ve got a few thoughts and maybe some questions.

I have served with some wonderful female chaplains. Some have been my bosses, some have been co-workers, some I have supervised. I have also worked with women who were pastoral co-ordinators, religious education directors, and enlisted soldiers. Every one of them brought a dimension to pastoral ministry that we celibate males will never have. My question is, why can we not have women priests? The argument that Jesus didn’t ordain women therefore the Church cannot ordain women makes no sense. Jesus didn’t ordain anybody. But, since Jesus didn’t ordain any Irish men, I should’t be a priest either. It looks to me that the hierarchy is afraid of women and what they might do to the good old boy way of doing things in the Church. War Story: at one of our chapels a female chaplain replaced the male chaplain in charge; by the force of her own prayer life, her pastoral sensitivity, and her personality, she made the chapel less restrictive and more open to everybody; the only thing the male chaplains and staff complained about was that we could’t find anything in the kitchen; she was great for the community and all of us.) The Church can use some cleaning out and a rejuvenation of pastoral sensitivity and leadership. The Church and all of us are suffering because of the stubborn intransigence of the hierarchy in not allowing women priests. Forbidding the subject even to be discussed is encouraging not only discussion, but also action as many women are responding to what they believe the Spirit is calling them to – the ordained priesthood. Good for them!

I also served with a number of married priests. Some the official Church knew about, and some it didn’t. These gentlemen also brought a sensitivity and wisdom to pastoral ministry that we celibate males will never have. Why can’t priests be married? Also, if celibacy is such a great gift, why can’t we talk about it? Something is amiss here.

Then there is the matter of our GLBT brothers and sisters. I have very strong feelings when I hear soldiers with whom I have served described in official Church documents and communications as “intrinsically disordered”. Who has the right to say that? It seems to me to me that anybody who makes a statement like that is intrinsically disordered themselves, regardless of what authority they cite. Did Jesus use that term or anything like it anywhere?

Like any soldier I have served under some pretty messed up bosses. Its part of life. Fortunately they were the exceptions, not the rule. But even with that, there is in the Army an attitude of mutual respect built into the culture. There is nothing even close to that in the Church system. Such respect might be a stated value, but it is certainly not an operational value. The bishops could learn a lot from our military leaders. But, the bishops appear to be unable to learn from anybody, even Jesus.

Everyplace I served I met good folks who were not allowed to receive the sacraments because their earlier marriages had failed, and they had remarried. Annulments didn’t work for them, so they were out in the cold. No matter what glossy terms the church system uses to describe them, they are still being denied the sacraments. Something has to be done. Jesus did nothing like this. More and more of us are simply ignoring these ridiculous laws, but often the folks impacted by this are so afraid that they will still not receive the sacraments. Perhaps the Austrian Priests’ Initiative is right, since this is one of their concerns. The hierarchy has no right to treat folks this way, especially since they claim to be acting in the name of Jesus.

One of the things the Army is known for is the AAR (After Action Review) – basically, what went well, what didn’t, how can this be improved. The Church system needs something like this at the higher levels. Often it is already happening on local levels. But since the hierarchy already knows everything, it cannot learn, and it certainly cannot accept blame for anything. Something hs to happen here.

Certainly in the American hierarchy there must be some bishops who do not go along with the actions a few of the bishops are taking, such as using Eucharist as a weapon to control people in their ideas and actions, issuing threats and excommunications for folks who belong to certain organizations, etc. If these bishops don’t stand up during the current NCCB meeting and argue for a more pastoral and reasonable approach to dealing with the folks, they have only themselves to blame. Many folks are just walking away, and no doubt it pains them to do this. They want to be loved and cared about, not judged and punished. They are persons, not things or statistics. Jesus knew that in his day, and we all need our bishops to know it in our day. The folks know down deep that this is not the way Jesus took care of folks. IMHO the hierarchy has long since left the Gospel behind, and is focused instead on protecting themselves and their interests, no matter how they gloss it.

Soldiers are encouraged to think, to know the mission, understand their roles and responsibilities in accomplishing it, and think constantly how they can improve it. Soldiers in leadership are expected to know and take care of their folks. Not bad habits. The bishops could learn a lot.

There is more on this at

Just sayin   .   .   .


Women in Today’s Scripture Readings

I’m down for maintenance this weekend, so I did not write a homily. But during mass this evening I noticed some interesting things. In today’s Old Testament  and Gospel readings it was women who showed the fortitude of trusting in God. In the reading from Kings the widow was practicing the hospitality required by her religion when she trusted God’s word as it came to her from the prophet Elisha, and she used up what she thought was her last bit of oil and flour. She found the fulfillment offered by God. In the Gospel it was the woman who put into the temple treasury her last bit of money, and her goodness was recognized by Jesus.

As it has been since the beginning, women are teaching men what it really means to follow God as one knows God. Women taught many of us in school during our formative years. Women bring a dimension to pastoral ministry that we celibate males will never have, and in doing so have paid prices that we celibate males will never pay. I feel that with women being kept from priestly ministry our church, and our people are suffering.

Back to the Stories. Probably many of their contemporaries thought these women were acting in a less than common sense manner, but the women did what they thought was right. It would seem that there are interesting parallels today, as women still teach us what it means to follow one’s conscience and prayerful insights, and do what has to be done, regardless of what others may say or do. Perhaps most obvious is the LCWR whose fault was that they lived the Gospel as their prayer life, both community and personal, called them to do. They did not jump to every single note of the bishops’ tunes. In other words, they put the bishops to shame by living the Gospel and not just telling other people what they have to do to prove to the bishops’ standards that they are living the Gospel. For this the religious system is calling them to task. They are perceived as a threat. It would not be a surprise if somehow the bishops figured out a way to blame the LCWR for the bishops’ failure to impose their political will on folks of other or no religion in the recent elections, especially in the matter of same sex marriage. When you know everything you can’t accept blame for anything. Either they don’t know or they don’t care that fewer and fewer people are paying attention to them these days.

Among other examples are the women who feel called to the priesthood. The risks they take in following what they believe is their call are serious and nasty, but they have the courage to go where they believe the Spirit is calling them. The fact that this phenomenon is increasing throughout the world ought to be an opportunity to seek prayerful openness to the Holy Spirit for all the rest of us. Also there are any number of prayer-filled women who feel called by the Spirit to serve in a ministry to folks of same sex attraction. The Holy Spirit does not seem to be constrained by the system’s fears and self-serving zeal, but spreads wherever She will. It might help to be a bit more open to what she is doing. There are many wonderful and prayer-filled women working for church reform and renewal throughout the Church. Any who deviate from the system’s established norms are in for a rough time. The strength, courage, and dedication of these women put many of the rest of us to shame.

These and many other women are resolute in the face of tremendous opposition from men who are defending their own power and authority, which, especially after the recent election in our country, seems to be slipping. Speaking of the election, perhaps the whole experience might teach the bishops that religious freedom is for all Americans, not just the bishops. Perhaps they might realize that not everybody pays attention to them. Good leaders lead by example, not by edicts and threats. Good pastors lead by pastoring, and following Jesus, who, as near as I can determine, did not issue edicts and threats. There was a story once, something about an emperor having no clothes  .  .  .

Also in the Gospel Jesus says,”Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets.” One can only wonder.

Just sayin   .   .   .


There are a few things about our church that are disturbing me these days. These are some of my own thoughts on them.

Yesterday I listened to an hour long BBC program about Father Brian D’Arcy, an Irish priest under censure by the Vatican for saying and writing things the Vatican does not like. He raised an interesting point: can he stay a priest and still speak the truth? He says his concerns are not with the fundamental de fide doctrines of the church, but with other things, such as the handling of the abuse crisis and the church not reaching the folks or meeting their needs.

Also, with the national elections next week, a number of bishops have publicly and in varying ways and degrees basically told their people how and for whom to vote. Some have gone so far as to threaten folks with the loss of their immortal soul. The bemoan what they call an anti-catholic atmosphere and the loss of religious freedom. IMHO, the loss of anyone’s immortal soul has nothing to do with all this. The real threat is to the bishops’ perceived loss of their own power. I think it is about time that the IRS give serious thought to revoking the church’s tax-exempt status. There is no doubt in my mind that these bishops are abusing their power and meddling in politics.

Recently Eugene Kennedy wrote an article in the National Catholic Reporter that suggested, quite aptly, IMHO, that it would not be unexpected to find skid marks on the facial appendages of many bishops: “at the end of the day, the most important thing for a bishop is to know that the Holy Father would approve of what he had done from sun up to sundown”. There are only so many red hats and plum assignments, so the competition is fierce.

Fr. Brian D’Arcy raises a good point: other than in matters of de fide, can a priest really feel free to speak the truth as he sees it, or can he only mouth what has been handed him from highers? Can a priest feel free to criticize the way the abuse situations are being handled either locally, nationally, or world wide? Can a priest feel free to criticize bishops’ abuse of authority either locally or world wide? Is there an integrity issue about being afraid to say things because he might lose his livelihood or pension? I really don’t know and do not criticize my brother priests. I just want to raise the question. (In the interests of full disclosure, I am not in that position, and do not have these fears.)

In the current Year of Faith, some bishops seem to be saying that they alone have the truth, and if folks would only come back to them, they would impart the truth, the world would be saved. The bishops in general seem to believe that only they have the truth, all the right questions and answers, and since there is nothing they can learn from the laity, the bishops don’t have to listen to them. The laity have to listen to the bishops. Fortunately there are a number of pastoral bishops who see through all this and really are pastors to their folks. Unfortunately, these pastoral bishops are not all that well known outside their own dioceses.

Brian D’Arcy on his part is looking for honest and open dialogue about the things that trouble the folks these days. Many bishops on their part do not want dialogue, only dictatorial monologue. Along with their boss, they yearn for a leaner and purer church where their power will be absolute and their authority unquestioned. Maybe this is what will happen. The role of the faithful will be to obey without question every word that comes from the mouth of these bishops. They seem to think that the pain and suffering these words may cause is of no importance and upholds the greater glory of God, not to mention the greater glory of the bishops.

When folks are dealing with the loss of their homes, their families, everything they own, they don’t really care about pontifical pronouncements made by well-fed men in fancy robes, warm houses, with no financial worries and plenty of job security. They want to be reminded that someone cares about them and is tying to help them. When folks begin to realize their life can end at any moment, with or without warning, they don’t really care what pronouncements these men make. They want to be reassured that God is real and God cares and is with them no matter what, and whatever is coming is ok. When folks’ families are falling apart, and they are lonely and afraid, these mens’ approval or disapproval of the lifestyles of whomever is helping and reassuring them are not important. The pontifications on married life made by men who have only an intellectual fixation but have never themselves known the beauty of intimacy carry little weight and even less credibility.

Where is any of this in the Gospel? IMHO the church leadership has left the Gospel far behind. They have reversed the Lord’s words that “the Son of Man has come to serve, not to be served”. There are countless numbers of good folks who live the gospel day in and day out, many who have never even heard of the Gospel. They are simply in their own way living what Jesus, along with many others, taught: “do unto others what you would have others do unto you”. They are helping others because they know it is right.  These folks are a living proof of God loving and caring. They do all this without fancy clothes and boisterous pronouncements.

Just sayin   .   .   .

Childhood habits and the church, and Agnus Dei

It is generally understood that our childhood experiences have a strong impact on our life and our values. Our two most recent Popes had similar childhood experiences. Karol Wojtyla grew up during the Russian occupation of Poland, and Josef Ratzinger grew up during the Nazi rule in Germany. Both their experiences included totalitarian government: people kept in line by punishment and threats; persons denounced for any deviation without necessarily knowing just why they were being denounced; preoccupation with secrecy, power, control – to name just a few examples.

These same practices apply to governance system of the church today. It is not farfetched to say the these Popes ruled/rule the church with the totalitarian attitudes they experienced in their youth. Both these systems generated a level of fear among the persons to whom they gave various levels of responsibility. These minions knew that, if they wanted any kind of advancement, they would have to please their boss more than others did. The same is painfully true of the church governance system today.

Also, these systems made good use of scapegoats, people to focus attention on in order to give their subordinates something to do to please their bosses. This is true today in the church, where current scapegoats are, among others, women in general and persons with same sex attraction. Examples include, but are not limited to, the way the hierarchy treats women who feel called to priesthood, the LCWR whose members dare to live the Gospel in a way that puts the hierarchy to shame, the threats that recognizing same sex marriages will assault catholics freedom of religion and destroy marriage as we know it. The harder the hierarchs work at promoting al this, the more they will please their bosses, and the better their chances  of being promoted or rewarded for their efforts. Where is this in the Gospel? The folks are beginning to see through all this.

Secrecy is important because knowledge is power. If people don’t know what is going on, it is easier to keep them in line. If theologians know they might be persecuted for something they write without knowing just why, the hierarchs think they can keep these folks under control and afraid to say anything controversial. If people do not know how their local “rulers” are chosen, they are easier to rule, or so it seems. However, the folks are becoming upset at this. Is this the way Jesus treated folks?

Totalitarian regimes depend on their secret police, and the church is no exception. No one knows who they are, but that they are is no secret. Unnamed persons denounce to local or higher authority, or to their friends in high places, priests who speak what seems to be other than the party line. Unnamed readers denounce theologians who think outside the box, reporting them to whomever. How these theologians are dealt with often is a matter of public record.

A totalitarian regime will do whatever it thinks necessary to preserve itself in power. Keeping people in line and under control is vital to a regime’s survival. Honesty and fairness are not important. Fear is an effective tool. Some ways the church shows this facet of its character include: silencing persons who do not toe the party line; denying a person’s participation in Eucharist; excommunicating or defrocking any who do not submit. An advantage the hierarchy has is it’s claim to be acting in the name of Jesus. Folks are beginning to see through that facade, because they know Jesus did not live that way.

Ideas are dangerous, while acts, no matter how heinous, are not. Examples are numerous. A clergy member of any level is swiftly removed if he shows any encouragement for optional celibacy, women priests, or same sex marriage, while those who cover up, or who have covered up, child abuse, etc, are left in their positions. Independent thinking is a real threat to any totalitarian system, and the church system is no exception. Nothing new here.

Totalitarian values do not appear in the Gospel. The impression is that the system of the church has long since departed the Gospel. While the Gospel is among its stated values, it does not seem part of its operational values.

The governance system of the church is very different from church of the folks in the pews, or who used to be in the pews. It might even be two churches — the church of the system, and the church of the folks. The folks who stick around are often bewildered by the system, yet do their best to live the Gospel as they see it, whether or not they agree with the system. They see the goodness of God in other folks around them, and respond to it as best they can, again, not always consonant with the system. They know that folks are not bad because their lifestyle might not be approved by the system. As they watch the system deal with folks it fears, they come to realize something is disturbing. These sorts of actions are nowhere in the Gospel.

However, it is good to know that, in the midst of all the turmoil surrounding the usual hot spots of abuse and coverup, same sex marriage, ordination of women, optional celibacy, shortage of priests, etc, the hierarchy have addressed issues around the Agnus Dei sung at Mass. This should immediately wipe away all its malfeasance and nonfeasance, and restore all creation to its original innocence. The gentlemen who are the system really have folks’ good at heart.

Just sayin   .   .   .

11 October, Year of Faith

In the Gospel Story for the opening Mass of the Church’s Year of Faith (Matthew 28:16-20) Jesus tells his disciples to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

There are basically two commands from Jesus: love God and neighbor, treat others as you would have others treat you. The other commands usually associated with Jesus come from organizations formed to promote a particular interpretation of what their founders thought Jesus meant.

The Church, actually the hierarchy, has proclaimed the year beginning this weekend to be a Year of Faith, encouraging catholics to reach out to folks and invite them to join or return to the Roman Catholic Church. It seems to me, though,that there are actually two Catholic Churches: the Church of the hierarchy, and the Church of the folks or local Church.

The Church of the hierarchy is best known for its arrogance and hypocrisy, making threats and imposing punishments to keep folks in line, forbidding discussion on topics they don’t want discussed, belittling folks whose lifestyle or marital status do not meet with their approval, depriving folks of access to Eucharist rather than allowing married priests or the ordination of women. They claim to be acting in the name and manner of Jesus, so perhaps they know something about Jesus that the rest of us don’t. Any who would criticize the hierarchy are threatened, silenced, or punished in other ways. Why would anybody want to be a member of such a church? The credibility of the hierarchy non-existent. Is it any wonder why so many good folks are just walking away?

The Church of the folks, the local Church, is where the good stuff happens, at times in spite of the Church of the hierarchy. The Beatitudes and Works of Mercy are lived daily. In any number of ways those with whom the hierarchy is displeased are ministered to, cared for, encouraged on their journey, recognized for the unique divine images they truly are. Often those in the local church who serve in these ministries are themselves threatened and punished by the hierarchical church for stepping outside the boundaries established by the hierarchy — always, of course, in the name of Jesus. This is the Church that leads by example, doing their best to live as Jesus did, and often being treated as Jesus was. It is not an easy Church to belong to, but it is clear that the Holy Spirit is actively at work.

This year is proclaimed to be a Year of Faith. “Faith” implies trust in Jesus leading to a real relationship which bit by bit becomes the basis and foundation of a person’s everyday living. It is distinct from “belief”, which implies acceptance of certain ideas or dogmas proclaimed by the hierarchy. More and more these days folks are concentrating on faith in the sense of trusting in Jesus, and paying less attention to many of the doctrines and rules proclaimed by the hierarchy. The idea that some folks are intrinsically disordered does not play well with many people. Nor does the notion that folks whose marriages have failed are not entitled to look for another satisfying relationship, and if they choose to do so, are punished by being denied the sacraments. Folks know that Jesus did not treat people this way. Also, increasing numbers of folks do not buy the hierarchy’s specious arguments about why women cannot be ordained priests and why priests must be celibate.

Everything in the essentials of the Church, ie, Sacraments, liturgy, etc, leads us more deeply into a relationship with Jesus. It seems that the hierarchy see themselves as the gate guards to this relationship, determining who can and cannot enter, how and under what conditions grace will be allowed to happen.  Some use liturgy as tools of punishment, denying folks who disagree with them access to Eucharist and the Sacraments. They brook no opposition, and attempt to stifle any independent thinking. People are ignoring them, many just walking away. It seems, then that the hierarchy just rants louder, dresses up fancier, and issues more threats and pompous statements. Who would want to join this church?

There is a tremendous amount of good surrounding the Church. Among our core beliefs is Jesus’ promise to be with us always even till the end of time, and that he would send the Spirit to teach us everything he has commanded us. I firmly believe things are as they need to be, that the Spirit is guiding all of us in the Church, and that all of us on all sides are where we are so the Spirit can do her work, and the Jesus can walk with all of us and guide us as he has for so long a time. Our belief in these two things requires that we be open to the power of grace reaching out to us in every single one of us, and that we not put any restrictions on how we will accept grace.

 Just saying   .   .   .

Hans Kung, on priests protest

Recently Hans Kung urged priests worldwide to express their dissent with the church leadership. I’m not sure how to do that. Many of us are upset about many different things. There is a serious polarization among us pretty much based on age and year of ordination that is loosely characterized as Vatican II Priests and John Paul II Priests. Some are concerned with their local issues, others with church-wide issues.

Some priests’ organizations are taking positions on affairs in their own country which may or may not have implications for other countries. The current synod in Rome seems to be a dog-and-pony show with few bishops talking about what is really going on among the folks who are, or used to be, in the pews. Most of the comments seem only to reaffirm the party line, although some recent statements might offer a glimmer of hope. What are ordinary priests to do with all this?

Most priests have their hands full with their everyday ministry whatever it may be. They don’t have the energy to get involved in something that probably won’t have any foreseeable positive impact on them. Many who are not happy with the way things are going in the church are a bit on the elderly side and long-suffering, and are just trying to cope and keep on keepin-on. Many who do speak out have found they are often alone and are easy targets for folks and other priests who disagree and who can be very nasty. Some who have expressed opinions have felt the heavy hand of local authority. Many who have looked forward to retirement have found their retirement date postponed almost at the last minute, and are just weary and worn out as they wonder if they will live to enjoy any rest at all. There is the feeling that they are just indentured servants, abused and mistreated – grown men whose future is still decided by one younger person who has almost total control over their lives, and absolute control over their livelihood.

Some priests’ organizations are trying to figure out their identity and purpose, which is no simple thing. The polarization among priests is unpleasantly challenging, and this is reflected in the various priests’ organizations. There is an enthusiasm among the members for their particular cause. Not everyone is dissatisfied with the current church. Some really like it.

Many priests believe the Holy Spirit is hard at work in the Church, and they wonder just what this Spirit is calling them to do.

Just sayin   .   .   .


The Newark Archbishop recently stated that that the legalization of gay marriage is a threat to religious freedom and that Catholics who don’t believe the church’s teachings on gay marriage should not receive Communion. He seems to be using Communion as a weapon for keeping folks “in line”.  Does he really have to take things this far? What happened to Pope Benedict’s statement that the Gospel is to be proposed, never imposed? A legitimate question is how many folks will pay attention to him, and how many will simply follow their conscience wherever it takes them.

I wonder what this says for priests. Is he telling priests who do not accept the church’s position on same sex marriage should not celebrate Mass? If they do, what impact would this have on the archdiocese? If a statement like this came out from some higher level of church authority and priests obeyed it, what impact would it have on any diocese? If priests were ordered to publicly proclaim such and similar statements from the pulpit during Mass, what would the priests do whose conscience led them to think otherwise? This might be calling for some serious thinking. Not a few priests might find themselves between the proverbial rock and hard place.

Then there is the question of other traditions who do not share the Catholic interpretation. What about their religious freedom? Or does religious freedom belong only to the Roman Catholic Church?

I recall my own personal anger at hearing so many of the wonderful folks I have served with described as “intrinsically disordered”. Sez who? Jesus? I think not.

The Archbishop says he issued his letter because he feels there is a lack of clarity on the subject from other bishops. Maybe other bishops have a pastoral sense that helps them see the whole issue differently. Perhaps they have the privilege of knowing good folks who are being hurt and driven away by such pronouncements allegedly issued in the name of Jesus. These are good folks who are created in the image and likeness of God. Pope Benedict XVI said at his installation Mass, “Everyone of us is the consequence of a thought in the mind of God: everyone of us is important, every one of us is necessary, no one of us is an accident”. A number of the hierarchy, seeming to have an issue with this statement, also would seem to qualify it by saying, “and we will tell you how to cover up what we don’t like and what we are afraid of so you will not be a threat to our power”, or something like that. Where is Jesus in all this? My guess is that Jesus is with all who are hurt by the pronouncements and discriminatory statements, that he, too, is “intrinsically disordered”, since his lifestyle is a threat to those who would seek and abuse power in his name.

Many in church authority are issuing pronouncements like this and saying that persons in some of their devised categories are “intrinsically disordered”. Do they really believe what they are saying, or are they so eager for promotions that they will jump on the bandwagon and say whatever they think will get them to the next level? After all, there are only so many red hats. Jesus didn’t treat folks like that. He loved them as they were. He reached out to everybody with his Father’s love without laying any conditions on them.

The hierarchy as an institution seems to depend quite a bit on fear. Their style of ruling is based on threats and punishments, and it has great affect on many good folks who are conditioned to accept every statement without limit, and on many folks who see the hierarchy for what it is, and just ignore it and walk away. Not all of these are laity. And so there is polarization in the church. Jesus did not use fear. He didn’t need it. Everything he did was rooted in his Father’s love. He must have missed something, and the hierarchy were good enough to pick it up and make up for Jesus’ shortcomings. They seem to know much more than Jesus did.

Although, noticing the vehemence of some who are pontificating on the subject, one might wonder if there is something else going on here. To paraphrase Hamlet, “perhaps they do protest too much”. Do they feel threatened by these issues or by the folks they are judging? Does it bother them that Jesus reached out to everybody with his Father’s love? Do they fear a loss of their sense of power and control? Does the messiness of human nature and human relationships make them afraid? Isn’t everything of God? Isn’t grace real? Isn’t Jesus with us in everything? Aren’t we gifts to each other? Isn’t love supposed to be difficult and beautiful at the same time?

Maybe Cardinal Martini, may he rest in peace, was on to something about the institutional church: “The Church is tired; our culture has become old, our churches and our religious houses are big and empty, the bureaucratic apparatus of the church grows, our rites and our dress are pompous; the Church is 200 years behind the times.”

Many of the folks in the pews, and probably most of the folks who used to be in the pews, know this.

Just wondering   .   .   .

Just sayin   .   .   .


Stumbling Block

In today’s Gospel Story (Mark 9:38-48) Jesus says that anyone who puts a stumbling block in the way of folks who are trying to follow him should have a millstone put around their neck and thrown into the sea.

This raises some questions, at least in my mind. Jesus talked about his Father as caring, loving, compassionate, involved, wanting our happiness and fulfillment. Where did the idea of a remote, angry, vengeful, judgmental God come from? Jesus showed us his Father’s values by living them among us, encouraging and challenging folks to see their own goodness and value, and to help and care for each other. Where did the idea come from that folks are all terrible sinners who need to be afraid of an angry God’s fearful punishment? Not from Jesus, I think. This sounds to me like a ruse by some religious leaders to keep themselves in power by keeping the folks in line and under control.

Jesus spent time with whomever he met, and offered them his Father’s love. He did not do a background check, demand that they pass a test, or look into their lifestyles before he would spend time with them. Where did the idea come from that folks in certain lifestyles cannot approach him and share in his love? Who came up with the idea of keeping folks away from Eucharist if they did not live in a certain way, or were not married according to a particular standard? Who came up with the idea that folks who do not agree fully on propositions established by a religious group’s “leaders” they should not presume to share fully in Jesus’ Eucharistic love? Who gave “leaders” the power to tell people to stay away from Eucharist if they support same sex marriage? According to the Story of the Last Supper, Jesus did not restrict any of his disciples from sharing fully in his gift of himself at the meals, even though he knew not all of them were totally honorable. Why do some leaders claim the right to decide who can and cannot share fully in   Jesus’ Eucharistic meal? Then there are the Sacraments which are defined by the Baltimore Catechism as “outward sign, instituted by Christ to give grace”. Some traditions which have the Sacraments seem to believe they can determine just who Jesus can give grace to. Did this come from Jesus?

Jesus offered a lifestyle that was seen as a threat by the civil authority of his day, the Roman Empire. Where did the idea come from that a religious group’s leaders can demand civil government of today not only protect their right to believe certain things and act in certain ways, but impose their values on all citizens through amending constitutions and passing civil laws? Constantine’s gift still survives.

Jesus reached out to all folks whether or not they were accepted and welcomed by society of his day. Who gave some religious “leaders” the idea to declare certain lifestyles and legal categories outside the welcoming embrace of a religious group that claims to be acting in the name of Jesus?

Jesus encouraged folks by living his Fathers love for and with them. Where did the idea come from that leaders of some religious groups should bring people to God by threats and punishments?

Jesus spent time discussing things with folks, as in the Story of the Samaritan woman at the well. Who gave some leaders of religious groups they idea that they could tell folks what they can and cannot discuss?

Jesus taught basically two commandments: love God and neighbor, and don’t do to others what you don’t want done to you. Where did all the other laws come from? What do they have to do with following Jesus? Too bad there isn’t some effective way to let religious leaders experience themselves the pain their prejudices and discriminatory edicts, have on good folks just trying to live a decent life.

Jesus reached out to include everyone. He said his Father makes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on everyone. Why do some church leaders build fences to keep the “wrong folks” out? Why do they practice discrimination in the guise of goodness and moral rectitude and get away with it?

Jesus told his disciples that if anything is keeping them from knowing God’s Kingdom in their life, they need to cut it out and throw it away. This might be one instance where folks and religious authorities agree, but they disagree on just what it is that needs to be cut off and thrown away. Many good folks are simply cutting off religious institutions and throwing them away. They do this by walking away themselves. Perhaps they are coming to know in their own life that the goodness of God, by whatever name it is called, is much greater than any given religious institution, no matter what powers and prerogatives such an institution claims for itself.

To me these are some stumbling blocks. Maybe they aren’t to other folks.

Just sayin   .   .   .