30 August 2012, things I need to say   .   .   .

It seems to me that there are a few more issues I need to address just for my own sake   .   .   .

In the interests of full disclosure I want to admit that I am pretty opinionated. Therefore, when I am talking about my own pet peeve of folks being judgmental and accusatory, I’m really talking about myself. I have my own version of “stated” and “operational” values. While I state my opposition to folks who label and judge, operationally I myself label and judge a lot, often very cynically and sarcastically.

An encouraging factor, I suppose is, that Jesus’ own disciples tried to follow and learn from him, but in the process often misunderstood him and made mistakes. Their hearts were in the right place, and I certainly hope mine is also. I sure make a lot of mistakes.

Having said this, I am disturbed at the attitude of the Church and its current leadership taken as a whole, or at least the bishops and others who appear as the public face of current leadership. I am sure there are any number of pastoral bishops throughout the world. I just haven’t heard about too many of them. They are smart to keep themselves off the radar. Probably a number of bishops are hurting, too. There is the situation with Bishop Cordileone in Oakland and his recent DUI, as well as our own bishop here whose profound pastoral sense is overshadowed by his administrative shortcomings. Recently he sat through a series of meetings with his priests, some of which were very hard on him. We all wait to see what the next step will be.

It bothers me that so many bishops seem to think they alone have all the answers for everything. A number of them seem really to think they are princes. They pronounce on medical practices, lifestyles and orientations, personal and private issues, issuing condemnations and sanctions. Often they disregard the lived experience of the people they are supposed to be leading. Many do not allow dissent of any kind. They have no personal involvement in many of the issues on which they pronounce. For them much of this is just an intellectual exercise while good folks are really hurting. Who wants to hear their “leadership” describe them or their children as “intrinsically disordered”?

I don’t understand why there does not seem to be room in the current Church for divergent opinions. It seems to me there are a few core beliefs, not many, and we agree on them. In fact, most Christians of all stripes agree pretty much on the basics. I learned this from the folks I served with in the Army. We found we had much more in common than we differed on.

It bothers me that the bishops think they can impose catholic beliefs and values on the citizenry by enacting laws that favor them. Do other traditions have any rights? I am moving towards understanding of “freedom of religion” as including freedom from religion. They way things are going, I am also leaning towards taking away the church’s tax-exempt status. BXVI said “the Gospel is to be proposed, not imposed”. Guess some bishops didn’t get the message. Even on his own staff.

Just saying   .   .   .

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2 September 2012, human rules.

It seems to me that there might be something in what Jesus is saying  about “mere human tradition”  —

In today’s Gospel Story (Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23) Marks explains some of the rules of Judaism, and Jesus says, “You disregard God’s commandment and cling to mere human tradition”. The established religion of the day put the following of rules above all else. In doing so, he said they were disregarding God’s will and putting their own importance ahead of it.

It is not much of a stretch to see glimmers of a parallel with religious systems of today. Many of them place greater importance on following their rules than on anything else. In the Christian tradition some religions place more emphasis on obeying their rules than on transformation in Christ. If I follow all the rules, I am thereby qualified to pass judgement on others who do not follow my interpretation of the rules. Thus, people whose lifestyles do not fit with a particular interpretation of the rules can be judged as “living in sin”, or some other such pejorative category, and certain sanctions, such as being denied the sacraments, etc, can justifiably (at least in the minds of those doing the judging) be imposed. Meanwhile the persons passing judgement are, of course right and correct, because Jesus thinks as they do. These judgements commonly are passed without much charity or understanding, always, though, in the name of Jesus. All the while good folks are hurting, and not always through their own fault. Where Jesus healed, others judge.

Persons invested in these rules, either those who dictate and enforce, or those who take pride in following them, really believe that Jesus is on their side, and that they are right and the rest are wrong. This often would seem to give them a sense of righteous superiority, which they might feel they need for one reason or another.

Jesus showed more than once that he did not go along with systems that led folks to think they had to follow the particular system’s rules in order to “please” God. He replaced all that with himself. He did not bring the people a new set of rules. He showed them God’s values, and invited them to spend time with him and learn how to live. He offered them a relationship, not a new set of laws and requirements. He invited folks to leave their familiar way of thinking and spend time with him, getting insight into how he thought. In so many ways Jesus freed folks from bondage, whether it was bondage from a disease or physical condition that led to their being ostracized by the system (ie, lepers, the woman who had been hemorrhaging for many years, who had been declared unclean by the system) or people whose status led to their being declared sinners (ie, tax collectors, the woman caught in adultery, who were  social outcasts to the system). In our day we might think of: folks whose marriages did not work out, and who have remarried, thus placing themselves outside the possibility of sharing fully in Eucharist, etc; or folks who want same sex marriages for themselves or for others, and so on. Discrimination based on sex, inclination, legal status, etc, is therefore legitimized.

A serious danger is to folks who do not use only the approved terminology and categories to discuss matters of theology. Today’s systems have replaced the systems Jesus was against in his day. Where Jesus placed no limitations on grace (God being in their life), the systems make themselves unique channels and dispensers of grace. They set up their own system of requirements and laws. They place themselves between the folks and God. What would he say and do today?

In Jesus’ day as in our own, following Jesus is a life of discipleship leading to transformation. This journey means that we listen to what Jesus says, and do our best to live it, to live as we see him living, to be compassionate with folks as we see him being compassionate. With Jesus we move from a sense of Jesus that we have received from others to one based more on our own experience of being with Jesus. He teaches that everyone has access to the Father with and through him. There are no other requirements and, thus, there is no room for judging others based on our journey. In the great meals which our tradition says prefigure the celebration of Eucharist we see Jesus welcoming all to his table. Why is it that what Jesus did as a way to bring folks together and nourish them has become in some traditions a process of discrimination, of controlling, and of keeping folks away?

In the Story Jesus says that it is what comes out of a person that defiles. Good folks who suffer often act out of their pain. This does not make them evil. It makes them deserving not of punishment in any form, but of the compassion Jesus showed towards hurting folks of his day. No threats, no judging from folks who have all the answers (I include myself here), only compassion and his Father’s healing love.

Just saying   .   .   .

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28 July 2012    It seems to me —

I am a bit discouraged by a lot that is going on in the Church these days. Things like Bp Blair and the whole LCWR issue, the appointment of the new bishop in San Fran and the tricks he pulled in Oakland with the oaths, etc. I’m glad our local bishop, even with his abusive style of ruling, does not do those kinds of things.

The other day I listened to Bishop Blair interviewed on Fresh Air. He really believes the stuff he was handing out, a company man to the max. That must have been some cool-aid. It does not seem to bother him that so many folks are just ignoring the hierarchy, or that some of the ideas he is pushing as divinely revealed are simply historical adaptations based on contemporary situations.

He really believes the hierarchy has all the answers. There is no need for negotiation. All the nuns have to do is accept everything the bishops tell them and they will be saved. It seems to me that he spoke somewhat condescendingly about the nuns and the work they do. He says he hopes for a revitalization of religious life for women. Maybe he ought to look for a vitalization of integrity in the hierarchy. Dialogue means simply accepting everything the bishops say.

Thus, in his mind, and, unfortunately, in the minds of many in the hierarchy, there is neither need nor room for faith to develop and mature. Just mouth the right words and everything is fine. In the eyes of many folks there is a difference between the Magisterium and the Church. The Magisterium is talk, and the Church is action. The bishops are part of the Magisterium – talk.

I belong to Future Church (headquartered here in Cleveland) and am on their optional celibacy board. There seems to be some progress in reaching out to bishops, some of whom I think are open to the issues, if not actually in favor of them. But with the current hierarchy focus, I wonder if there is any hope. There are many organizations around the world, but I don’t see much happening.

Increasing numbers of folks seem to be telling priests to stand up in protest. I personally am getting tired of these folks telling us what to do. I understand the guys’ hesitation to speak out. When our area priests had our meeting with our bishop to address his concern that our relationships with him we very bad, I spoke up fairly forcefully. Three others much less so, and the other 20 or so sat on their hands. I understand that. My situation is unique in that I take no money or anything from the diocese or the parishes where I help. So, there is nothing the bishop can do to me expect take away my faculties. No problem. But it bothers me that folks who have no idea what it is like to be a priest in a parish these days are telling the guys what to do. There has to be a better way. From time to time I raise the question with folks, and the responses, such as they are, demonstrate no awareness of what the guys’ life really is like. Most of the guys are just trying to serve their people as best they can. Many of them are just plain weary.

The polarization resulting from the hierarchy’s attitudes is devastating. Good people are judging each other, often very nastily. Too many people think they know everything about everything. Its starting to look like the NHL. We need a penalty box and timeouts.

Is there any hope?

Just sayin  .  .  .


27 July 2012

Recently there has been a lot of interest in Terry Gross’ Fresh Air interview with Sister Pat Farrell, President of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the vast majority of it favorable to Sister. She raised what, to me, at least, is an important question: “Can you be a Catholic and have an inquiring mind?”. The response from Church “leadership” seems to be, “Yes, but we will tell you what to inquire and how to think”. Pope Benedict has said that reason must be guided by faith. For Church “leadership” this seems to be more a stated than an operational value.

My understanding of reason being guided by faith is along the lines of believing in order to understand, of continually questioning what a given dogma means in the practical circumstances of here and now. At also means doing our best to live aware of the relationship we have in Jesus with everybody else. How did Jesus live in similar circumstances in his day, and what does this mean for us. What is Jesus calling us to right here and right now? Where are we being led? The nuns are still questioning, still teaching, still leading.

I wonder what impact, if any, all this will have on Church “leadership”. There does not seem to be any effect on them personally. They still have their salaries and benefits, their big house and meals, their fancy clothes, and are not affected by the unemployment rate. Often they have no contact with the folks who are affected by their decrees and edicts. Not all of them are bishops, and even these have no personal impact from the effects of their actions. They can say anything they want. There seems to be a groupthink that takes over a person’s mind when they enter the service of “leadership” which make people think they always have all the answers for everybody on everything.

There must be some way to help these folks understand the impact on folks of what they decree. They have no idea of the way the sisters are living the Gospel among real people in real life. They are safe behind their thick walls whether real, symbolic, or in their collective head, and can hurl their edicts with impunity. They either are unaware of or do not care about the numbers of folks who are turned off by the obvious disconnect between the decrees issued allegedly in the name of their god and the folks who are encountering God in their everyday struggles. Their search for a smaller purer church will still keep food on their table, clothes on their backs, but it will make very many people very miserable.

In the Gospel “Jesus had compassion on the people because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he taught them many things”. He has the same compassion today, but the folks who are trying to live his compassion among real folks in real life are themselves being judged, condemned, persecuted. A legitimate question is, are we without shepherds today? The way the Church is being run these day, is this really what Jesus had in mind?

In the Reading from (Jeremiah 23:1-6) the prophet says, “You have scattered my sheep and driven them away; You have not cared for them; I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have driven them and bring them back to their meadow”. With the way authority is treating folks these days, one can only wonder.

Just sayin . . .

28 July 2012       It seems to me  .  .  .

In today’s Gospel Story (John 6:1-15) Jesus miraculously feeds the crowd with the  available loaves and fish. As impressive as what Jesus did in feeding the people may be, what he did not do is also impressive, as well as indicative and instructive. He did not impose any restrictions on whom he would feed, or on who could receive the food and nourishment he made available. He did not require anyone to take a test or pass a background check. He did not ask anyone their marital status, sexual orientation, or lifestyle. He simply met the people where they were and helped them take care of their needs. He did this through his disciples who had been with him for some time and were coming to know how he thought and what was important to him.

I am especially disturbed by the way the Church “leadership” treats our folks whose marriages, for whatever reason, have failed, and they have re-married, thus putting themselves outside the Church. Reinforcing the belief that conformity to church rules is more important than having a relationship with Jesus, the Church does not permit them to share fully in the Eucharist. The is the fiction called annulment, but not every one can get one, again, for whatever reason. The pain this causes for folks what have already suffered much, is wrong. What is even more wrong, however, is that the “leadership” is doing these things in the name of Jesus, the same Jesus who fed everyone around him without imposing any conditions.

Then there is the “leadership’s” attitude to our LGBT sisters and brothers. Reflecting the view that conformity to church rules is more important than a relationship with Jesus, they restrict ministry to our sisters and brothers and punish any who minister without mouthing the approved words and showing the approved attitudes.

Where is Jesus and his Gospel in all this?

Just sayin  .  .  .

July 2012, 1520

It seems to me that the way church “leadership” conducts business these days looks a lot like domestic violence – behavior that a person uses to control an intimate partner through fear and intimidation. I think this describes the way the “leadership” operates. Recent examples are: the treatment of Fr Ray Bourgeois; the censuring of Sr Margaret Farley for thoughts expressed in her book “Just Love”; the treatment of the LCWR; the silencing of priests who express original thoughts; treatment of folks who are in favor of marriage equality, women priests, optional celibacy, etc. The “leadership” seems really to believe they are acting in God’s name, and that God wants just what they want. Very convenient.

Any number of times, when confronted with victims of domestic violence, I have advised them to get out of the situation immediately. Quite a few times I have also physically helped them accomplish this. During the process a common reaction on the part of the abused persons was to say something like “where will I go?; I have nowhere else;  he or she (the abusers are not always males) really is a good person; they are right, I deserve what I am getting, and I shouldn’t have done what they did not want me to do, or I should have done what they wanted.” There also seems to be a reflection of the Stockholm Syndrome in which the abused person begins to identify first with the goals of the abuser and then with the abuser themselves, coming to see them as good and right, and begins to defend them. This sounds to me, judgmental as I am, like a lot of catholics these days who defend the abusers and their tactics, as well as judge negatively any who would criticize or not agree with the abuser’s goals or behavior: “‘leadership’ is always right, and I have to think the way they tell me to, because they always know better; anybody who does not think as the ‘leadership’ wants them to is wrong, and I have to defend ‘leadership'”.

Just saying  .  .  .


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