Archive for the ‘Church’ Category

For young teachers: read the signs

September 22, 2014

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What we saw in New York City  on Sunday and in several other global cities is called “a sign of the times.” During the Second Vatican Council the Church said in Gaudium et Spes (1965): To carry out such a task, the Church has always had the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel.”

The “signs of the times” was a direct quote from Matthew’s Gospel. He has Jesus saying:
When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 16:3

In other words,  you are pretty good at reading nature’s clues  such as the colour of the sky means fair weather but are clueless at discerning the finger of God in history.

Where is the Divine calling us? What is the holy voice of God saying to us at this moment in time?  What message is he addressing to me while I am on my smart phone, cruising the mall as a fashionista etc

Since the end of the Council 50 years ago there have been many “signs’ or distinctive  messages which are indisputably of God. To name a few: The cry of the poor (as evidence in Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement, the growing awareness from new media sources that our human family, largely in the south needs dramatic help while the top 1% are living like gilded royalty; the cry of peace and latterly the  desperate cry of the earth—the tidal waves, the bizarre weather patterns, the melting icebergs etc

As teachers  the above sign is speaking directly to you.
What do students at any level see as they look at you?

 

Are you a mere technician passing on information or are you a committed campaigner for God’s reign on earth (the kingdom)?

 

Are you another adult whose actions do not match the gospel call for transformation?

 

Are you one more reason why the Church  has so little credibility today?
Just what kind of a role model are you?
Rabbi Heschel tells us

 

Everything depends on the person who stands
in front of the classroom. The teacher is either a witness
or a stranger. To guide a pupil into the promised land,
the teacher must have been there themselves.
When asking themselves: Do I stand for what I teach?,
Do I believe what I say?, the teacher must be able to
answer in the affirmative. What we need more than
anything else is not textbooks, but text people.

 

The promised land is not only in the classroom but in the streets.

Climate Justice

September 18, 2014

 

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I have set before you life and death. choose life that you and your descendants may live.
Deuteronomy 30:19

 
Fundamentally the task is not to articulate not just an alternative set of policy proposals but an alternative worldview to rival the one at the heart of the ecological crisis—embedded in interdependence rather than hyperindividualism…
Naomi Klein This Changes Everything

 
On the climate issue, the world’s biggest corporate polluters and pushers of unsustainable rates of consumption are hell bent on maintaining ‘business as usual’ and are working alone and in groups [and at the UN] to ensure that climate policies will not interfere with the profitability of their operations.
Polaris Institute.

 

The marvelous pastor and founder of Sojourners Magazine in Washington Jim Wallis struck a deep chord when he said about meetings in parishes: If they are not connected to a movement outside they are wasting their time. It’s like navel gazing. This would describe most of the parishes in Toronto’s GTA and I imagine most cities. There seems to be little awareness that the gospel mandate is to transform cultures and worlds. and this can only be done by movements, and joining with others. Think the abolitionist Movement and Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement. Pictures of those latter years saw nuns, priests and rabbis marching with Dr. King. Nowadays if Catholics aren’t leading the parade they are not in it. Control is the name of the game.

 
Many years ago a great friend of mine took over a parish and immediately handed the basement over to the Peace movement. He was a sophisticated prelate who understood the above insight. It’s about being the leaven in the loaf, the powerful gospel values of shalom, peace and sustainable creation. Most parishes have no clue. More are depending on foreign clergy who have no sense of Canadian Social Teaching. They tend in varying ways to a sacramental model of church offering religious services but never engaging in a socially prophetic solidarity praxis with other groups. Certainly some good things go on but they offer no challenge to the broader culture and in terms of climate justice, they are ignoring the greatest sacrament of all, planet earth and the damage being done to it.

 
Can they be this obtuse to the ravaging of the climate? Are they not aware that that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased last year at the fastest rate in 30 years, in Naomi Klein’s words “gases that will trap heat for generations to come, creating a world that is hotter, colder,wetter. thirstier, hungrier, angrier.”. Do they watch the news? Are the signs of the times that hidden? Do they really believe that band aids like recycling, changing light bulbs and re-using are the answer? Talk about a parallel universe!

 
This weekend in New York City the biggest climate justice march in history is taking place in New York City. over 1000 groups are backing the march. It would be interesting to see how many parishes are joining in. Why was I not surprised when I found out the Jesuit parish St Francis Xavier was big on promoting the march. In the bulletin I read the following

 
Join Us for the People’s Climate March – Sep. 21st
Let’s participate as a parish to let the world know that we are concerned about climate change as a moral and social justice issue, that we care about creation, and we care about protecting the most vulnerable from extreme weather events and other catastrophes caused by climate change.
This is a model for what all parishes should be doing. Hats off to the Jesuits and also to Pax Christi USA.

 
Certainly in Toronto there is absolutely no episcopal leadership in dealing with the greatest moral issue extant today.  If my friend were alive today he would have a Serra Club or Friends of the Earth club in his basement. He would be connecting with others bringing the gospel mandate of care for creation into the larger stream.

 

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The brilliant secular Jew Naomi Klein in her latest prophetic tome This Changes Everything: Capitalism versus the Climate uses language which is deeply religious and which mirrors the fire that the mad followers of the Galilean carpenter exhibited and which inspires engaged Catholics today: the power of ferocious love. It is this power which is beginning to mobilize against the rape of the earth and the depredations of the turbocapitalism we see today. It is this economic model so beloved by our Prime Minister Stephen Harper which is waging war against the common good and against all kinds of life on earth.

 

May the four days of protest in New York keep the fire going

The smell of formaldehyde permeates the institution

September 17, 2014

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To destroy other species carelessly is not only to violate the sacramental nature of creation; it is also to turn away from the promise embedded in all of creation….When we fail to protect our planet, when we hasten the demise of species, we erase testimony to divine goodness in the world.
Sr. Elizabeth Johnson

The ecological crisis is a moral issue
Pope John Paul ll

 

Often when you go into a Catholic church today, the smell that hits you is formaldehyde. Many of these edifices in the Toronto area are falling down and the poor pastors are on the nut for the necessary repairs.

 
But I am thinking of deeper repairs as in St. Francis admonition, “Repair my church.” Jelly Roll Morton the great New Orleans composer wrote,”open the windows and let the bad air out.” As a matter of fact this was one of the reigning metaphors when Vatican ll started—open the windows and as the great pope John XXlll said “Surely it is high time, and surely it would be to everyone’s advantage to ‘shake off the dust of the Empire that has gathered since Constantine’s day on the throne of St. Peter”.

 
Well the stale air has slowly crept back into the institution as the Vatican ll priests are departing and lay people have moved on into kingdom-like movements. Many of course remain hoping that a Vatican ll pope can create some hope at the base. But this is a long term project as reactionary bishops appointed by the previous two popes are running major dioceses.

 
Many faithful people have departed the institution as more and more it appears that it is either living in a parallel universe wholly disconnected from the great movements of history or it continues to be buried under mounds of earth, the dust of empire. It is   a model of church which has become almost totally irrelevant. These Catholics are indeed responding to the omnipresent and often stark “signs of the time” the rallying cry of the great Council. We were told to pay attention to the outbreak of the divine in history holy sparks and divine shafts of light. They are Spirit moments of the reign of God. We have had some dramatic ones since the early 60s: the cry of women, the cry of the poor and now the dramatic cry of the earth: climate justice.

 

 

I look around these churches, read the bulletins and again the smell of formaldehyde. They seem to be in a parallel universe, totally out of touch with “the signs ‘of the times’. They continue to believe that the Holy Roman Church owns the Spirit but John’s gospel warned us that “the Spirit blows where it wills” and today a holy gale force win=d is howling in pain as Mother Earth is being desecrated.

 

 

John Paul ll came late to this party but woke in 1990:a new ECOLOGICAL AWARENESS is beginning to emerge which, rather than being downplayed, ought to be encouraged to develop into concrete programs and initiatives. The pope flagged poverty, war and consumerist lifestyle as constitutive parts of the ecological problem. At the conclusion of his prophetic message the pope addressed the Catholic faithful:I should like to address directly my brothers and sisters in the Catholic Church, in order to remind them of their serious obligation to care for all creation.

 

 

Alas the formaldehyde parishes continue on almost totally ignoring this invitation. It’s business as usual at the local, a massive disconnect from the cry of the earth. We baptize and confirm outside of history As Sr. Elizabeth Johnson says, 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.

 
Nietzsche maintained that the churches were the graves of God. more and more that’s how the young are perceiving them. Not that some good band aid charity work goes on but the deep call of justice is not heard. So the young move on.

 

This weekend 200,000 are gathering in New York City to channel the cry of the earth. The international climate justice movement has stated correctly I believe that the march in New York and mobilizations worldwide will be historic, but that these events are just the beginning

 
You can bet there will be many Catholics there but not their institutional leaders.

More tomorrow,

South African churches get it

July 29, 2014

 

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In June 2014 the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to divest from three companies doing business with Israel:in the Occupied Territories. Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and Hewlett-Packard. The story  hardly covered in our newspapers is a virtual primer on the role of the Christian church under advanced capitalism.

In 2003 a young solidarity worker from The United States Rachel Corrie  was crushed to death in Gaza as she tried to prevent the razing of a Palestinian home The spotlight  was directed to the manufacturer of the Israeli bulldozer that killed her. Israel had been buying and “weaponising” Caterpillar bulldozers then using them to demolish Palestinian homes, build settlements and the separation wall, clear land to build Jewish-only roads, uproot olive and fruit trees, and carry out military operations.

This gave impetus to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement(BDS) which helped to bring down the quintessential apartheid state South Africa. It is a tried nonviolent measure to help bring countries to their senses. South Africa sensing that it had become a universal pariah for its racist segregationist policies finally capitulated.

Nobody hated the country but disliked its awful policies. Remember at the time the Dutch Reformed Church was the voice of the the establishment.  For decades it justified the unjustifiable. Once again bad theology produced bad practice. Many great Christians like Desmond Tutu, Beyers Naudé and the Catholic archbishop of Durban Denis Hurley distinguished themselves in this struggle.

The contemporary South African Catholic Church apparently gets it and supports the present BDS Movement. They have the lived experience to fall back on. They supported BDS when it happened. They see a striking parallel, not an exact replica for sure but the same demonic features in Israel:L dispossession, racism marginalization and humiliation. True biblical discipleship demands solidarity not weak-kneed sympathy. It demands pastoral planning and calls to action. Both are missing in Toronto and New York inter alios.

The Roman Catholic Church in North America is still too compromised, too timorous, too afraid of Jewish reaction to speak the prophetic word. Notice in the following statement supported by the Roman Catholic Church in South Africa the note of lamentation in the backing away from social justice. There are several reasons for this which I will address in future  posts

 

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Challenging injustice through the courage of faith

The South African Christian community through the South African Council of Churches (SACC), South African Conference of Bishops of the Catholic Churches (SACBC) and other several ecumenical agencies join the other parts of the Church in the world to remember the Israeli/Palestinian people in their celebration of the 8th International Israeli Apartheid Week starting from the 5 -11 March.

Our participation in this Week is influenced highly by our own history of struggle and suffering in South Africa for over many decades when the values of justice, peace and love were suppressed in the interest of apartheid, division, exclusion and conflict. We found through the teachings of the Gospel how these values formed the core of Christ’s ministry.

It is only regrettable that the voice of the Church against injustice in our society is highly weakened today. It is an observation that South Africans have made with a desire now rekindled to resuscitate the voice of prophesy.

As this reflection is made on the life of our own nation in South Africa, many of you will remember that Israel remained the single supporter of apartheid when the rest of the world implemented economic sanctions, boycotts and divestments to force change in South Africa

Our brothers and sisters in Palestine have made a call in this regard, that we should question what kind of regime Israel is. And to this, after many debates and exchanges, the answer is that it shared and continues to share a similarity with the old South Africa in implementing apartheid where all non-Jews of Palestine are discriminated against, displaced of their land and homes, and subjected to refugee camps and a permanent state of violent military rule.

Today the Palestinians cry out to the world and to God, saying:

How long, O God, will they steal our livelihood? Oppress, imprison and humiliate our people? Deprive our children of their childhood? Indeed how long, God, will the multitudes of Christians of the world ignore the anguish of our Palestinian sisters and brothers and all of the oppressed?
From South Africa we are called to repent of this ignorance and oblivion we have shown. We are called to return to the way of truth, community in humanity and speak out from the podiums to the mountain tops. We are called to tell the truth and join in prayer, in the pursuit for justice, peace and love in their land.
In their Kairos Document, similar to the one South Africans put to the world in the 1980s, Palestinians say:

Our question to our brothers and sisters in the Churches today is: Are you able to help us get our freedom back, for this is the only way you can help the two peoples attain justice, peace, security and love?

Israeli Apartheid Week

We urge all South Africans and the Church in South Africa to join in the Awareness Campaign that over 100 Universities in the world including those in our country are engaging in during what is called Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW)

Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) is an annual international series of events (including rallies, lectures, cultural performances, film screenings and multimedia displays) held -by ordinary people- in cities, communities, churches and campuses across the globe.
IAW seeks to raise awareness about Israel’s apartheid policies towards the Palestinians and to mobilize support for the growing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

Last year IAW was incredibly successful with over 90 cities worldwide, and 9 universities in South Africa, participating in the week’s events.  We now urge churches in South Africa to join in collective intercession for Freedom in Palestine before the Israel Apartheid Week takes place in different parts of the World. On the 4th of March we will join in collective prayer to bring Palestine to God our Father.

Poor judgement: “Radiant holiness.”

May 14, 2014

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Catholics wonder how a palpable fraud and sycophant like Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the disgraced founder of the reactionary religious order the Legionnaires could pull the wool over so many eyes in the Catholic church. When the serial priest pedophile and father of children was finally cast aside by Cardinal Ratzinger and described by the future pope as living “a wasted, twisted life”. He had done much damage to the John Paul ll papacy. The latter’s promotion of Macial as “an efficacious leader of youth” called into question the pope’s suspect judgment and gave a necessary rethink to his papacy, As if the shocking canonization of Josemaria Escriva didn’t. another papal sycophant who poured money into Rome and got a free get out jail card from Pope JP ll who made Opus dei a personal prelature.
The Polish pope had a narrow vision. He should have copied leo xll who when they asked him about his successful term as pope (1878-1903) replied that he was never afraid to promote those who disagreed with him. The Woytyla record proved just the opposite and stopped reform dead in its tracks. The Catholic Church is still suffering from too many lame appointments.
JP ll was a sharp guy but like all of us circumscribed by his environment, in his case a narrow Polish background. He failed to reform the church in this image, particularly in the more educated countries where Catholics had grown immeasurably in their theological sophistication. The real heroes of this period were those brave theologians and lay people who resisted his attempts to do an end run around Vatican ll.25 lost years. a massive failure of nerve.
The pope did find many idolators who cast their sails to his narrow vision. Many of these were promoted and in diocese after diocese, new papal automata cropped up in parishes and in the media. Like W.H. Auden’s Average Man , “When there was peace they were for peace and when there was war they went.” The same ones now are thrown into confusion as a new wind blows from Rome
It is hilarious to watch the right wingers like George Weigel try to skirt their previous endorsement of arch fraud Fr Marcial. In 2002 Weigel wrote
I have been deeply impressed by the work of the Legionaries of Christ in the United States, in Mexico, and in Rome.If Father Maciel and his charism as a founder are to be judged by the fruits of his work, those fruits are most impressive indeed.”
What were the fruits? Huge amounts of money which rolled into the Vatican, pay offs to cardinals who should have known better, a far right wing order which turned its back on the thrust of the Council and genuflected to anything to come out of Rome.
Jason Berry the great New Orleans journalist assiduously tracked the promoters of Marcial and his order. He wrote:
The late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Mary Ann Glendon, and CNN political analyst Bill Bennett were among them. Glendon, now a Harvard law professor, scoffed at “old slanders”.
Boy was she wrong.
To say that Weigel, Glendon and Neuhaus — who asserted Maciel’s innocence as “a moral certainty” — were duped is to overstate the obvious. Clearly, they were influenced by John Paul’s own personal support for Maciel. Neuhaus even stated that there was no doubt about Marcial’s innocence. It was “a moral certainty.”
Weigel as Berry pointed out consistently whitewashed JP ll’s blindness in the pedophilia crisis. His 992 page tome on Pope Woytyla totally avoided the issue.
Berry again:
The book ignores widely reported clergy abuse cases that rocked America and Ireland in the 1990s: the charges that brought down Covenant House founder Fr. Bruce Ritter; the resignation of Archbishop Robert Sanchez of Santa Fe, N.M., amid allegations from young women; the $119 million jury verdict against the Dallas diocese in 1997 that was a subject of great conversation in the Congregation for the Clergy, according to former priest Christopher Kunze, who worked there at the time. Were these not issues for the pope?

The former ambassador to the Vatican Mary Ann Glendon was similarly duped:
The recent revival of long discredited allegations against Father Maciel would come as a surprise were it not for the fact that the U.S. is currently experiencing a resurgence of anti-Catholicism. One would have thought that Father Neuhaus’s meticulous analysis of the evidence in First Things had put the matter to rest once and for all. As one who sat near Father Maciel for several weeks during the Synod for America, I simply cannot reconcile those old stories with the man’s radiant holiness.”

Radiant holiness.

 

Maureen Dowd on papal blindness

May 4, 2014

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Saint John Paul ll according to the papal diktat  has entered the realm of those specially favoured by God. He was accompanied by the roly poly peasant pope, the man who turned the triumphalist Catholic church upside down Giovanni Roncalli. this  apparently pleased both wings of a highly polarized church.

 
We should understand that saints are humans, like all of us, have their flaws and that  is perfectly fine. Saint John Paul ll was no exception. A towering figure on the global stage, he was less  than inspirational in his own Catholic church. He was a man who constantly counseled  his co-believers to “be not afraid” yet he inspired much fear in those employed in the institutional church. He arbitrarily attempted to impose his view on the whole church. It was an anti-democratic, imperious view which constantly ignored collegial input from  fellow bishops and, as for the laity, he never considered  their views particularly if they did not buy his brand of restorationist policies.

 
One of his most obvious failings was his poor judge of character. He constantly promoted anti-intellectual and rigid dogmatists to vacant sees. These men were largely considered by church watchers more notable for their slavish adherence to everything which came out of Rome. They were never interested in the sensus fidelium of the people they were sworn to serve . They acted as branch plant managers of the unipolar line emanating from Rome. So many bishops had poor listening skills and were tone deaf to the signs of the times, the Spirit wisdom bubbling up in history—the cry of women, the voice of the people of God, the cry of the anguished  heart, the cry for ecumenical relations.

 

These men were part of the lost years, the ice age of Catholicism. The JP ll appointees in the end were idolaters of hard line papal edicts. In diocese after diocese the great men of Vatican ll were replaced by the grey men of John Paul ll.  Paralyzed by their dedication to an institution, they circled the wagons  and ignored Christ among  the vulnerable and broken lives of the sexually abused and their  shattered loved ones.

 
Two Catholics in the public eye, reacted to JP ll s elevation to sainthood. One at a time.

 
First, the lay voice of Catholic columnist Maureen Dowd of the New York Times. Dowd began her article by reminiscing about her own baptism as she attended mass at Nativity her childhood church. She then launched into a barely controlled tirade against the canonization of JP ll.

 

John Paul was a charmer, and a great man in many ways. But given that he presided over the Catholic Church during nearly three decades of a gruesome pedophilia scandal and grotesque cover-up, he ain’t no saint.

 
Dowd acknowledged the many talents of the late pope already acknowledged here, but then she quoted Ken Briggs, the well known religion writer:

 
This is a political balancing act, Unfortunately, the comparisons are invidious. John opened up the church to the world and J.P. II began to close it down again, make it into a more restricted community, putting boundaries up. He has a cloud hanging over his papacy.”

 

 

Then Dowd moved into high gear, opinions widely shared by many Catholics:

 
One of John Paul’s great shames was giving Vatican sanctuary to Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, a horrendous enabler of child abuse who resigned in disgrace in 2002 as archbishop of Boston. Another unforgivable breach was the pope’s stubborn defense of the dastardly Mexican priest Marcial Maciel Degollado, a pedophile, womanizer, embezzler and drug addict.

 
Again we have here a stunning lack of papal judgment on the character of people whose greatest talents were fund raising and flattery.

 
Maciel according to his journalistic exposer Jason Berry was “the greatest fund-raiser for the postwar Catholic Church and equally its greatest criminal.”

 

Dowd again:

 
His order, the Legionaries of Christ, which he ran like a cult and ATM for himself and the Vatican for 65 years, denounced him posthumously in February for his “reprehensible and object. The statement followed a United Nations report upbraiding the church for turning a blind eye to child abuse by priests and the sins of Father Maciel, who had serially abused adolescent seminarians, some as young as 12, and had several children with at least two women. His sons also claimed he abused them..

 
Dowd went on to criticize JP ll for his woeful inaction in this area. Many Catholics agree with her. Saints like all of us have blind spots. Dowd is no less a Catholic for pointing this out.

 
Given the searing damage the scandal has done to so many lives and to the church, that rationalization that pope was kept in the dark doesn’t have a prayer. that the accusations were phony one He needed to recognize the scope of the misconduct and do something, not play the globe-trotting ostrich.

 

 

 

The tin ear bishops

April 13, 2014

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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.”

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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.

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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

 

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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

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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.

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