Archive for the ‘Church’ Category

The tin ear bishops

April 13, 2014



Wilton Gregory the Atlanta bishop was shamed into selling his mansion after Germany’s Bishop of Bling was outed in Germany “We are disturbed and disappointed to see our church leaders not setting the example of a simple life as Pope Francis calls for” a parishioner wrote. Gregory who seems like a decent guy ate humble pie. Decent, yes but totally out of touch

“As the shepherd of this local church, a responsibility I hold more dear than any other, certainly more than any configuration of brick and mortar, I am disappointed that, while my advisers and I were able to justify this project fiscally, logistically and practically, I personally failed to project the cost in terms of my own integrity and pastoral credibility with the people of God of north and central Georgia,” he wrote in The Georgia Bulletin.

Now there’s an understatement..

You wonder just what guys like this are thinking—particularly given the still ghetto conditions in Georgia. And Gregory is a black man.

Well, privilege and isolation are no respecters of color. The celibate life too often isolates people from the harsh realities of this world. Too often there has been little accountability. Many never answer to the people they are sworn to serve.
One wonders if these people ever internalized the gospel. As one critic of Gregory sputtered, “Jesus was born in a stable.”



Now Pope Francis humble life style is starting to shame a whole class of bishops.
But New Jersey, Newark Archbishop John Myers still resists he is spending $500,000 to add a three-story, 3,000-square-foot addition to his already spacious retirement home. The new wing will include an indoor exercise pool, a hot tub, three fireplaces, a library and an elevator.

And this is Newark,an almost bombed out city.

Camden, New Jersey is worse,an almost wholly derelict city but that has not stopped Bishop Dennis Sullivan for spending $500,000 to buy a historic 7,000-square-foot mansion with eight bedrooms, six bathrooms, three fireplaces, a library, a five-car garage and an in-ground pool. The diocese said Sullivan needs the space to entertain dignitaries and donors.Sorry, Sully it doesn’t wash.


Pope Francis  has set a high bar for “the princes.”

Bling bishop canned

March 28, 2014

On March 26 Pope Francis fired the “bling bishop’ Franz  Peter Tebartz-van Elst from his Limburg diocese in Germany. His $43 million dollar residence was the last straw for the new pontiff.

Francis has signaled that the era of “princes of the church” is over. Time to get back to Jesus.

The Irish priest Diarmuid Omuchu put it best:

We have come a long way from the fiery prophetic figure
Jesus of Nazareth who shocked and disturbed the conventions of his day in the name of justice and liberation. Our respectability has taken a terrible toll on the authentic calling of Christian life.

We have lost sight of the deeper vision and lost heart
for the passion and enthusiasm of God’s New Reign.
The following of Jesus is not a respectable religion.

A decade ago in a magnificent rant,New York Irish Catholic Jimmy Breslin went after Bishop William Murphy who thought that he should have a residence commensurate with the size of his diocese, the 6th largest in the USA. that of Long Island entitled Rockville Centre, “where his efforts were devoted to his own comfort.”

Breslin, in a series of columns, made Murphy the laughing stock of New York by dubbing him “Mansion” Murphy for booting some elderly nuns out of a building “which he then turned into a grand residence.” Breslin skewered the pompous Murphy for his “marble bathroom, $120,000 sub-zero freezer and temperature controlled wine cellar, and let the hapless bishop hang himself with his own words: “It is fitting that the bishop of the sixth largest diocese in the nation should live like a bishop.”
Breslin’s righteous anger was premature. Both popes John Paul ll kept looking for dogmatists to run their dioceses like kommandants, guard dogs who wee sniffing out any whiff of a different opinion than that which reigned in Rome. They were not worried about “bling” or bishops’ palaces, though JP ll did go berserk when he visited Haiti and found the papal legate living like a king high above slums.
The Bling bishop was one of hundreds who were chosen as enforcers which ruled in the 30 year old “ice age” of Catholicism under JPll and Ratzinger.
Gone were the invitational precepts of the great Council —persuasion rather than threats, invitations rather commands, conscience rather than coercion, serving rather than ruling, horizontal rather than vertical.

In was the auto da fe, the burning at the stake, a new inquisition which sent a chill over the church and stopped creative theology in its tracks within Catholic institutions.
Now with a new pope a new message: Vatican ll is irreversible.


Happy Romero Day!

March 25, 2014



One of the  saddest gaffes in Pope John Paul ll’s papacy was his abysmal treatment of the saint of Americas. Seeing Romero’s priesthood through the eyes of the  wealthy he challenged and who used  that old hoary chestnut “Marxist” in describing Romero, JP ll bought the spurious charge and actually humiliated Romero when he came to Rome. Ah, well we all make mistakes.The polish pope was no exception. Labelling the lover of the poor a marxist was atonal music to his Polish background.

Here’s Sr. Joan Chittester’s take on Romero:


A church that does not unite itself to the poor…
is not truly the Church of Jesus Christ.
Oscar Romero,
Archbishop and Martyr of El Salvador,
murdered March 24, 1980


There was no doubt that Oscar Romero was a good man, a caring priest, and an upstanding bishop. He decried evil and did charity. But though Romero was a pastor indeed, he was definitely not a prophet. To Romero, the church was to transcend the world, to define its values, but never, ever to concern itself with its affairs. When he became archbishop of San Salvador in 1977, he was the comfort of a conservative episcopacy and the darling of a rich people’s government perhaps, but he was anything but the hope of the poor. Yet three years later, he was assassinated on their behalf. What happened? What does such a turn of events say to the rest of us?

No one knows exactly what changed Romero. No one knows if it was immediate or long in coming. Was it the accumulation of violence over the years that had finally reached a saturation point in him? Was it the sight at last of the body of a friend lying on the garbage heap of bodies that had become such a common sight in El Salvador that moved him? Was it the blinding grace of a genuinely new vision that made him see again what he had seen before but see it differently? Or perhaps it was the very values that had always driven him come together in one decisive moment that impelled him to change: the power of all those years of prayer, the futility of all those years of temporizing in the name of spirituality, the impact of all those years of poverty, the emptiness of all those words about the nature of the church and the meaning of the Gospel—lived until this moment in him almost exclusively as intellectual concepts? Whatever it was, he knew it now and there was no stopping him.

Oscar Romero became a light to the nations, a man on fire, a prophet’s prophet.

In the end he paid the consequence for saying the truth in the light. The church of privilege, his brother bishops, ignored him as many do to this day, in fact, and reported him to Rome for three straight apostolic visitations. This was the blow that hurt him most, he once told friends in tears. The rich waged million-dollar ad campaigns against him in hope of precipitating his mental breakdown. The government taunted him and threatened him and hounded him and ringed him round with violence till on March 24, 1980, they killed him, too. But the people took heart and found hope in a church for whom the Beatitudes were real.

Oscar Romero is a frightening figure if for no other reason than that he shows us to ourselves. The problem is that there is an Oscar Romero lurking in all of us docile, trusting, and obedient people. He teaches us that we too may someday have to change, not because we do not believe in the teaching of the church and the state, but precisely because we do, and they are not living up to it.

Indeed, Romero was a loyalist who became a voice of truth to the system he dearly wanted to serve. He was a pastor who discovered that binding wounds is no substitute for eliminating them. He was a Christian who discovered that the Gospel supersedes the church.

–from A Passion for Life by Joan Chittister (Orbis Books)

Sideshow in Springfield, Illinois

March 22, 2014


Leafing through an old issue of the National Catholic Reporter I read a strange articele.It concerned springfield,Illinois bishop Thomas Paprocki who in December 2013 planned an exorcism over th enactment of same sex marriage bill which was signed into law by Illinois governor Pat Quinn

Be gone Satan, father of lies, enemy of human salvation,” Paprocki intoned  at the ceremony, in front of a crowd of some 500, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. “Give way to Christ, in whom you found no trace of your works. Give way to the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic church, which Christ himself won by his blood.”

The bishop further added “politicians responsible for enacting civil same-sex marriage legislation are morally complicit as co-operators in facilitating this grave sin.”

One does not know where to start in analyzing this embarrassing event.Does this man believe in Satan? Apparently. And the language, “Christ won by his blood”, a reference to an outmoded theory of atoement. Jesus had to shed his perfect blood to win back God’s favour. Nice idea of God.

One wonders how this man became a bishop.Another of the gems created by the last two popes.Men  whose strong orthodoxy was going to save the Catholic church.

Well enough on the bishop.

The real story is the 15,000 who begged the bishop to stop the carnival, stop embarrassing Catholics with this sideshow. The petition read:

Holding an exorcism in response to the enactment of marriage equality is no way to show Christ’s love to the world. Please cancel this political stunt and reconsider your public ministry for the Pope Francis era.

it is through Catholics like this, the sensus fidelium that Catholicism will move forward.


Catholic bishops lagging on climate justice

March 4, 2014

Christians expect their faith communities to espouse and even promote justice, peace and the integrity of creation. It is natural to want to belong to organizations that are doing the right thing — we are drawn to those groups that nurture as well as challenge us to live better lives.

writes Joe Gunn, in the Prairie Messenger.


With his long commitment to justice  within the Catholic Church and in ecumenical coalitions (now Executive Director of Citizens for Public Justice ( Joe writes on hoe the world religions are responding to Climate Change. Here he mines the work of Edmonton academic Randolph Haluza-Delay

How do we evaluate how our faith communities are doing in this regard?

A new book ventures important insights as to how faith communities are responding to the climate crisis. An Edmonton-based academic, Randolph Haluza-DeLay, is among the editors of How the World’s Religions Are Responding to Climate Change (Routledge, 2014). The activities of several religions in various parts of the planet are analyzed.

In an earlier work Haluza-DeLay focused on the barriers to an engaged faith: focus on the after life, focus on other issues, an obsession with individualist solutions (no social critique) and finally the comfortable nature of bourgeois religion  and the fear of change.

In one chapter Mishka Lysack an Anglican priest evaluates how Canadian faith communities are responding to climate change. Those who are  “conspicuous through their lack of a current public stance on climate change—” Evangelical Christianity, Roman Catholicism, and Judaism.”

How utterly sad to see  the episcopal leaders Canada’s largest denomination Roman Catholicism  sitting on their hands, lagging behind on the greatest moral issue confronting our wounded globe.

One of our female prophets Sr.Elizabeth Johnson in her  new book Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love writes

Still, critics have rightly censured Christianity for long abetting the ecological crisis. Indeed, with some exceptions, Christian churches often choose not to face this calamity with the energy they spend on other matters. It’s as though the planet were undergoing its agony in the garden, and we, the disciples of Jesus, are curled up fast asleep. Waking up to our own role in this crisis will require a dramatic course correction, a reorienting of our ethical compass away from ourselves alone and toward all creation. In a word, ecological conversion requires profound humility.

The bishops of our major Canadian cities seem to ne among those napping on the job. There needs  as Johnson says “a reorienting of in this case our ecclesiological compass”.

Meanwhile the People of God are moving forward with or without episcopal blessing.

In another article Gunn  pointed a way:

Here in Canada, prophetic religious leaders like the National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, Rev. Susan Johnson, and some members of the Canadian Council of Churches, have also committed themselves to this fast.

Some of us who are fasting are donating the money we would have spent on food during the fast to disaster relief efforts, or to environmental organizations and groups like CPJ which are working for ecological justice.

Food for thought?

There is a long history in Christianity of fasting as a strategy for personal purification and social change. Fasting is not demanded in the Bible, nor should it be seen as a punishment of the flesh. It should be done with joy, as a strategy to renew our relationship with God and God’s purpose for the world (Matthew 6: 16 – 18). Christians engaged in efforts to right social wrongs – from William Wilberforce to Martin Luther King – have often engaged in fasting and prayer as essential elements of their struggles to initiate change. Indeed, joining a prayerful fast can be a way to engage in what John Calvin described as “making the invisible kingdom visible.”

A petty good Lenten idea.






Liberation theology and Guttierez are back

March 1, 2014


Gustavo Gutierrez, Gerhard Ludwig MuellerFr.Gustavo Guttierez is back. The 85 year old theological giant, commonly styled as the father of liberation theology has been officially “rehabilitated” as they used to say in the Kremlin. Instead of being  hailed as the faith-filled lover of the poor, the Peruvian theologian was hounded by John Paul ll and Joseph Ratzinger who failed to understand a theology which grew out of the massive poverty of the southern cone.

Last Tuesday the diminutive Dominican was feted by Cardinal  Gerhard Mueller; one of Francis’ top advisers, and the head of the Holy Office. The occasion was the launch of the cardinal’s book Poor for the Poor: The Mission of the Church. The book, which has a preface from Pope Francis, also has two chapters written by Guttierez in which he defends liberation theology.

Well how times change.

In he mid 80s Ratzinger was riding high as  the bad cop for the Polish pope, neither of whom “got’ liberation theology. Their stereotype of this biblically drenched work was caricatured as Marxist and one which fomented “class war”, that old cold war bugaboo.”Class war” here meant the Latin American bishops wanted Vatican ll lived out—the people of God must be consulted, and listened to. Ratzinger was never comfortable with this,preferring to tell the poor what was good for them. The bishops insistedon listening to the base.

Ratzinger’s language was embarrassing, Guttierez’s work was “heretical,” “a threat to the faith”. The progressive Latin American bishops, giants of that period, Landazuri, the Lorscheiders, Cardinal Arns, Helder Camara totally supported the brilliant Peruvian. When Ratzinger met with the Peruvian hierarchy with what was described as “a coarse and violent” diatribe against liberation theology, he was rebuffed by the bishops. The reason? This theology was the heart of their pastoral work. What Ratzinger was up against was an Andean  pastor who was deeply loved and respected  Cardinal Landazuri. Had  Pope John Paul  ll backed  his enforcer over a much loved pastort there would have been a theological riot. Ratzinger was considered  out of his dept , a stranger to the conditions under which these men laboured.

Liberation theology in the end was not condemned. As Cardinal Landazuri stated, “It is totally orthodox.” Rome had to get over its obsession with a one size fits all theology.that there were not a plurality of ways  for doing theology.

Ratzinger to many was a European snob who thought, given his position that  he could run roughshod over Latin Americans. Many were as smart and theologically sophisticated as he was. They had studied in Europe but lived with massive poverty in Latin America. A middle class German, a lifelong ivory tower theologian had  met his match.

The real conflict was Vatican ll. Ratzinger’s theology was top down, hierarchical and abstract. It never hit the ground, never was filtered through the human. Guttierez phrased  the problem eloquently. In Latin America the issue was not the existence of God but the existence of the human. By 1980 over 800 religious were murdered defending the human, among them the  saint of the Americas,Bishop Oscar Romero also labeled in Rome as a “Marxist” and a “subversive.” It was the new age of the martyrs and the prophets against injustice. Ratzinger was unable to grasp this reality. His abstract theology  separated religion from the secular and life. The real issue was power. Would the poor be given a voice through their bishops who indeed “had the smell of the sheep on them”.

Well, he and JP ll did get their revenge by replacing all the great Vatican ll bishops with second rate Roman toadies who took their marching orders from Rome. In Peru Opus Dei bishops were named. In Haiti the Vatican was the first “nation” to  back the coup against the liberationist ex-priest  and voice of the poor Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Creative theology went underground. Careers were broken, theologians were hounded all in the name of ideology. Guttierez joined the Dominican Order for protection.

Rome went on an ideological crusade banning over 100 theologians. It was an awful period but as Chicago theologian David Tracy predicted “it won’t work.” And it didn’t.

And now with a Vatican ll pope back, so is Guttierez and liberation theology.


The Formidable Sr. Johnson

February 19, 2014



We are still paying the price for the mediocre bishops parachuted into major sees by JPll and Benedict XVl. Good word parachuted—with literally no input from longsuffering Catholics who believed in Vatical ll and “the signs of the times” These company men are still fixated on pelvic orthodoxy. And absolutely out of it when it comes to the greatest moral calamity facing us—a real “sign of the time”, the cry of the earth and climate change.

In Toronto we hear not a peep out of the local bishops  on this issue of signal, overwhelming importance.

To the rescue, the brilliant Sr Elizabeth Johnson csj, one of the great feminine theologians we have. Her new book is just out  Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love 


Johnson had wigged out US bishops when she dared write about the ultimate mystery in her Quest for the Living God and She Who Is. Fordham, her  Jesuit employer, stood right behind her and the great woman has moved on —to the earth and sentient life.

This clip says it all about ecclesial autism and the earth:

Loving life on earth is not foreign to Christianity. Indeed, it is supported by the tradition’s beliefs about God as these are revealed in Scripture and condensed in the creed. (I expand on this in the central chapters of Ask the Beasts, where I discuss the sacred character of the natural world in light of the indwelling of the Spirit, the incarnation of Jesus Christ, and the Creator God who is the beginning and goal of the universe.) Still, critics have rightly censured Christianity for long abetting the ecological crisis. Indeed, with some exceptions, Christian churches often choose not to face this calamity with the energy they spend on other matters. It’s as though the planet were undergoing its agony in the garden, and we, the disciples of Jesus, are curled up fast asleep. Waking up to our own role in this crisis will require a dramatic course correction, a reorienting of our ethical compass away from ourselves alone and toward all creation. In a word, ecological conversion requires profound humility.

Pope Francis and female ordination

February 15, 2014



Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium slammed the door shut on female ordination,

The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion,, but it can prove especially divisive if sacramental power is too closely identified with power in general.

Poor Francis caught in a dilemma..

You can sense his embarrassment

He “readily acknowledge that many women share pastoral responsibilities with priests, helping to guide people, families and groups and offering new contributions to theological reflection,”

But priesthood —a step too far.

He  twists in agony.

“The legitimate rights of women be respected, based on the firm conviction that men and women are equal in dignity. This  presents the Church with profound and challenging questions which cannot be lightly evaded.

But female priests —not yet.

Many people were disappointed with Francis Maybe this is a bit naive. A sitting pope can hardly be expected to contradict his two predecessors who were both over the top with their “nyets” to female ordination. Anybody with an understanding of church history should know this.

But accept it? No.

In the hierarchy of truths a church discipline can be changed. As Pope John 23 said he could waive celibacy wit a snap of his fingers.

Female ordination is simply a blind spot in heretofore male hierarchical church. The old boys club sadly  is on the wrong side of history and in he future will be made to look reactionary. Particularly John Paul ll: Inn Ordinatio Sacerdotalis  JPII said:
Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

Interesting—the Church–but who is the church?.Not JP ll and/or the bishops. They are a a very tiny part of the church. The sensus fidelium will decide otherwise.


Most Catholics particularly in educated realms have already accepted the total equality of males and females. Institutions however will always lag. The time bound utterances of church giants like Augustine(d.430 CE) (”Women are not made in the image of God),Aquinas (d 1274) (Women are misbegotten males,incomplete beings” etc)  should be seen  for what they are, reflections of an earlier epoch. Forgivable and hardly binding.

Harm will be one and is being done. Priests who have stated the obvious rights of women to all seven sacraments and every church office males are heir to, men   like ex Maryknoller Roy Bourgeois and now Irish Redemptorist Tony Flannery are the first of many sacrificial sacerdotal l lambs  being led to the slaughter on false charges.

A new Catholic world

January 17, 2014


Everyone gets a tongue to speak

and everyone hears an inner voice

Paul Simon: “How can you live in the Northeast?”

A changed Catholic  world. A woman studying canon law.

And speaking publicly and critically  about Holy Mother Church. You gotta love it. Another educated Catholic assuming the fullness of her baptism—just as important as any priest including the pope. The sensus fidelium part of the Magisterium.

We are talking about Mary McAleese the first person from Northern Ireland to be President of the Irish Parliament whose  second term ended  in 2011. She then she moved to Rome to study canon law and is working on her doctorate.

She recently assailed Rome over its regressive  attitude toward homosexuality. She was hoping that resigned cardinal Keith O’Brien might break the taboo around the issue. O’Brien  was forced to resign as Scotland’s head prelate when he was outed by two younger priests

McAleese was hoping for some kind of public admission that he is gay as “a very large number” of Catholic priests are homosexuals. To her the denial must end.

“It isn’t so much the elephant in the room but a herd of elephants. I don’t like my church’s attitude to gay people. I don’t like ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’. If you are the so-called sinner, who likes to be called that? We also know that within the priesthood a very large number of priests are gay.”

The former pres wasn’t finished there either.

In the interview with the Glasgow based newpaper the Herald, she rejected Benedict XVl’s writing on the topic.

Things written by [Pope] Benedict, for example, were completely contradictory to modern science and to modern understanding, and to the understanding of most Catholics nowadays in relation to homosexuality.

Nowadays, it is not something that is perceived as something that is intrinsically disordered. Homosexual conduct is not seen as evil,”“I would have thought Cardinal Keith O’Brien, in telling the story of his life – if he was willing to do that – could have been of great assistance to gay people, not just in the church but elsewhere, who felt over many, many years constrained to pretend to be heterosexual while … acting a different life.”

Years ago the great Detroit bishop Tom Gumbleton said the same thing—if only the gay Catholic bishops came out of the closet we’d be better served.

The Joy of the Gospel

November 27, 2013



Today November 26 Pope Francis  issued his first Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, “The Joy of the Gospel”, on the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world.

It will certainly prove stimulating not only to Catholics but to all people of  good will.

Although he said it before Francis once again rails against “an economy of exclusion”(section 43). True to his  master, the pope goes to the margins and  and  judges  economies on how the poorest are treated.

This is not good new for the rabid free marketers who have driven the global economy into the toilet.

Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “disposable” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.

Francis then rejects the trickle down economies which it was claimed would have “raised all the boats’. In reality they succeeded in simply lifting the yachts higher. Everywhere the gap between the poor and the rich has advanced.

Francis continues:

In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.




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