December 13, Papal Tweet

In one of his first tweets Pope Benedict responded to the question “How can we celebrate the Year of Faith better in our daily lives?”  He said, “By speaking with Jesus in prayer, listening to what he tells you in the Gospel and looking for him in those in need”. Nobody can argue with with what he said. But did he go far enough? He seems to have left a few things out.

He said nothing about what happens when a person speaks with Jesus in prayer, listens to what he says in the Gospel, and looks for him in those in need, and ends up doing something the hierarchy doesn’t like.

There is little doubt that Fr Roy Bourgeois has acted throughout his life as his speaking with Jesus in prayer, listening to Jesus in the Gospel, and looking for Jesus in folks in need has moved him to. He acted in favor of women’s ordination, and look at what happened to him. In the name of Pope Benedict and under his authority Maryknoll kicked him out, and Pope Benedict’s Vatican has forbidden him to serve as a priest. The same can be said for Fr Brennan, the 92 year old priest suspended by the Archbishop of Milwaukee also for being in favor of women’s ordination. These are just two of many who have followed the Pope’s directions and ended up in serious trouble.

Perhaps the Pope should have said that the Hoy Spirit needs his approval or that of one of his congregations before She can dare to inspire someone to action. It might also be that only the Pope or one of his congregations can determine who is worthy of being needy in the sense that he uses the word in his tweet. Perhaps he should have said that Jesus needs to go through papal channels before he can speak to someone in prayer or through the Gospel.

One of his bishops in Madison has forbidden his diocese’s parishes and schools to use materials from an area interfaith spirituality center and banned the center’s staff members, including two Catholic sisters, from speaking at any diocesan events because, among other things, they teach a form of prayer called Centering Prayer, a type of contemplative prayer. The formal letter says “contemplative prayer is a charism usually only given to those advanced in the spiritual life, and in the absence of sound spiritual direction accompanied by orthodox doctrine, attempting contemplative prayer can be counterproductive and even seriously harmful”. It seems like the Holy Spirit, if She wants to be in a prayerful relationship with anyone in the diocese of Madison, also has to get the local bishop’s permission.  The bishop probably has some sort of a test to determine who is advanced in the spiritual life. Or maybe the bishop objects to the Holy Spirit doing anything with women. There is a lot of that going around in the Roman Church these days.

It might be that people in “leadership” in the church see themselves as gatekeepers to a relationship with Jesus. Only they can determine who gets to have such a relationship. The word chutzpah comes to mind here.

Perhaps Pope Benedict doesn’t know what things are like for ordinary catholic folks who are trying to get through life as best they can. He lives in a rarified atmosphere behind some pretty thick walls. Any who try to follow his guidance might very well find that prayer is not safe and can bring them up against pretty dangerous persons of other viewpoints. Many folks are also finding out that belonging to the Roman Catholic Church can be painful in the extreme. It is no surprise that so many are just walking way. Who wants to belong to an organization that treats its folks so badly for any violations of its book of Q&A or its code of conduct?

How does the Pope feel about the women who have followed his guidance and in so doing sense very strongly that they have a vocation to the ordained priesthood? Or what about the ordained priests who followed his guidance and realized that, in addition to a vocation to the ordained priesthood, they also have a vocation to married life? Or persons who have a prayer life and find themselves attracted to relationships not approved by the papal court? Or folks whose marriages have failed, and they have found a new and meaningful relationship but are denied the sacraments by the pope’s men? The list goes on.

But, then, the bishops who covered up child abusers in any number of ways, probably felt they were responding to their prayer in doing so, because no doubt their prayer told them protecting the institution and its hierarchy was much more important than protecting and providing true pastoral care to innocent children and seeking justice for all.

As right as Pope Benedict’s guidance may be, it leaves a lot unsaid.

Just sayin   .   .   .