Archive for February 2007

100 years of Hockey-but First a Little History

February 27, 2007

Saint Michael’s College High School, my alma mater, celebrated 100 years of hockey last Saturday at one of Toronto’s premier venues, the Liberty Grand on the grounds of the Exhibition.

As usual for the new SMC (It went private 20 years ago and costs an arm and a leg to go there now) it was first cabin all the way, beautifully organized with students greeting you at the door and looking after your every need.A grand reception before dinner and then an excellent meal.

And then there was “the royalty”, all those St.Mike’s guys who are in the Hockey Hall of Fame–interviewed on the big screen. For Canadians to whom hockey has a privileged place in our culture, this was the place to be and the autograph hounds were buzzing around their heroes who graciously accomodated them.

There was much ado about a “a Basilian education” and plenty of deserved encomiums to the order. It’s been an interesting century and a half since the order arrived from France to pick the struggling Irish off the streets of a bigoted Tory ice box called Toronto. It’s largely an unknown story about the French nobleman bishop Armand de Charbonnel who quickly read the lay of the land in the city in 1850 and immediately screamed help. And help arrived-the Basilians, the Christian Brothers, the Loretto Sisters and the St. Joe’s all came within a few years to establish schools.His story is worth encapsulating here before I get to the 100 years of hockey.

Charbonnel had worked with the Montreal Irish from 1840-1847 and like Toronto bishop Michael Power, had fallen ill with typhus. Power never recovered and died in 1837. Charbonnel returned to France to recuperate. By 1850 the Catholic hierarchy implored Pius lX to send him back. He had originally left France to escape being made bishop (how refreshing that is in this age of careerism). Now he could not refuse.

His problems were monumental. In 1855 he laid it all out:

Protestantism reigns supreme in the diocese of Toronto, powerful, rich and zealous; it has at its beck and call, landed property, business and labour…meanwhile the Bishop of Toronto is insulted in the streets of this city, and in several counties here have been different attempts on the lives of missionaries.

The famine Irish were reviled daily.The Globe under George Brown had a field day at their expense:

Irish beggars are to be met everywhere and they are ignorant, vicious as they are poor.They are lazy, improvident and unthankful; they fill our poor houses and our prisons and are as brutish in their superstition as the Hindoos… Feb 11, 1858

Charbonnel’s response was an internal migration to a parallel society.

Is there something to be learned by Catholic reactionaries today about the Islamophobia many have adopted after 9/11? More next time.

Harperites,Muslims and Security Certificates

February 24, 2007

“It is an ancient and venerable principle that no person shall lose his or her liberty without due process according to the law, which must involve a meaningful judicial process.”
Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin

The highest court in our country gave the back of its hand to the panic-driven decision to toss out all civil rights in the wake of 9/11.

this dark chapter in our history, driven by Islamophobia, has ended for the time being. Parliament has a year to get real and come up with a reasonable facsimile of a law which steers a mid course between paranoia, the sycophantic desire to please the USA and basic human rights enshrined in the Constitution and the long history of Habeas Corpus–show us da proof! What is your evidence? Release him or charge him!

“Security certificates” or secret material without a challenge to it as Chief Justice McLachlin said in the court’s unanimous decision is not worth much. “The procedures required to conform to the principles of fundamental justice must reflect the exigencies of the security context” McLachlin stated. They have not.

The whole thing stinks and it will be interesting to see if this USA adulating government will abolish the whole mess of “security certificates.” Do not hold your breath if Stockwell Day is the minister in charge. The evangelical Day is part of the whole phenomenon of Christian fundamentalists who do not give much time to Muslims.All of those under security certificates are Muslims.

Richard Cizik,vice -president of the National association of Evangelicals told the New York Times “Evangelicals have substituted Islam for the Soviet Union.The Muslims have become thew modern day equivalent of the Evil Empire.”shocking comments by Jerry Falwell, Pat Roberson,Billy Graham’s son, Franklin and former Southern Baptist leader Jerry Vines confirms this. The latter’s remarks were beyond the pale.”Christianity was founded by the virgin- born Jesus Christ. Islam was founded by Mohammed, a demon-possessed pedophile who had 12 wives.”This animus against Muslims is not to be underestimated . The Canadian public thankfully is way ahead of these others.

The Muslim community in Canada is absolutely fed up with the Harperites ever since Harper appeared during the Lebanon crisis holding up the Israeli flag! so much for a Prime Minister representing the Canadian people and not some foreign government. he has steadfastly rewfused to meet with Muslim spokespeople since then.

It will be interesting to watch the next 6 months unfold under this government.

Anglicans and Catholics Unite?

February 23, 2007

A Reuters News report: Anglicans and Catholics Uniting. Wow. This is big news which I had not heard. Could I come to the TV station and comment on it? I knew this had to be hype because of who sits on the Barque of Peter but I went anyway,

Growing Together In Unity and Mission. Building on 40 years of Anglican and Roman Catholic Dialogue” is the paper which looks at the common ground and differences between the two churches and it was going to be published later this year. Big story?

“Our ultimate desire is to achieve full visible unity,” said Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane John Bathersby, co-chair of the International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission on Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) which is preparing the statement. “The statement is put forward to foster discussion and reflection,” Bathersby told Reuters.

Is this a slow news day I thought. These guys have been meeting for decades and few are conceding any territory. The report said they were still waiting for the Catholic response. The good bishop Bathersby stated the obvious “The separation that exists at the present time is a scandal to people outside the church who say why can’t these Christians get together” These things cause difficulties for the mission of both Christian churches. We realise we need to seek some agreement, some common ground so that we give a better witness to people.”

I go the TV station and tell them the obvious.

Rome is not happy with you Anglicans ordaining women. Now you’ve even made some bishops. When will this madnes stop? Now the homophobic southern cone in Nigeria is setting up shop in America telling the United States branch to bar gay men and lesbians from becoming bishops, and to stop official blessings of same-sex unions by Sept. 30. The Yanks justifiably resent this imposing of culture and theological interpretations on the American church.

Rome has one billion adherents; Canterbury 80 million. Surely a power asymmetry.This will not be given up easily given the positions of the Anglicans noted above and given the Roman leadership.

The split obviously pained JP ll. He wrote a heartfelt encyclical about it UT Unum Sint in 1995. He said even the Petrine Office was up for discussion and reinterpretation, for sharing power. He was looking for some candour. He got it in spades from the former head of the American episcopacy John Quinn who gave a now famous talk at Oxford the following year and chided Rome for its smugness, the mystique around the papacy which inhibits honest criticism (and returned the Curia to power),its failure to deliver on collegiality, its centralization, its failure to follow through on synods, its fear of open dialogue. Pretty much what informed laity were saying.

Next year the US Bishops elected Quinn to represent them at the Synod of the Americas. The Vatican rejected him.

TV news is hardly the place to go deep on these issues and if I had more time I would have stated the obvious, what the Catholic Church can learn from our Anglican cousins. Every Episcopal diocese is represented at General Convention by its bishop(s) plus four priests and four lay deputies elected at local diocesan convention. Any proposed action must pass with a concurring majority among the bishops, the clergy and the lay deputies, voting separately.

What! Ordinary baptized people having a say in the Church?

A good place to start our learning.


February 22, 2007

It was a semi-final game, sudden death. The regular season was over and now the loser goes home for good.The place was packed-with 200 spectators.We are talking about a basketball game between two Ontario universities.The winner of this conference will proceed to a Dominion of Canada championship.

200 spectators watching a beautifully coached University of Toronto team take on the Laurentian Voyagers in the biggest city in Canada. 200 spectators.And therein lies the difference between Canada and the USA.

200 spectators. Where was everybody else on this winter night? Shouldn’t they be dying like their southern cousins for for good old Notre Dame or the hundreds of basketball and football factories that make a mockery of post-secondary education in the USA? Shouldn’t I have been in a field house that seats 15,000 cheering for teen age athletes? The answer obviously is no. My alma mater has decided that its library system with 15 million holdings which places it in the top four research libraries in North America is more important than a massive shrine to sport.Thousands of students were doing other things that night as part of the 300 clubs that proliferate through the campus of the largest university of Canada, recognized as a global leader in so many areas of research.

Who was it that deemed football or hockey more important than choral societies, water polo teams or French clubs? Or the many volunteer societies which give students a shot of altruism and a place to belong away from home? Sport should be fun, a community-building experience not an occasion for idolatry or slavish adulation.

What was more impressive was to see 13 of the 15 players on the U of T team were from the Metro Toronto area. No embarrassing recruiting here. You need real marks to attend this school. Sadly the Laurentian team had three players from Saginaw, Michigan.What’s that about? We have to go to Michigan for scholar-athletes?

What a breath of fresh air to see a hokey 10 piece Engineers’ band and 5 cheerleaders dressed in jeans having fun.

What a treat to go to a game and pay $5.00 instead of the highway robbery it costs to see the pros play—and they only run at one end of the floor! And I didn’t pay $5.00 courtesy of the kindly coach.

Give me our intercollegiate system any day. What we see are important priorities enshrined. Let’s keep it that way.

Davey Keon and Britney Spears

February 19, 2007

It must have been big news if the Globe editorialized on-Dave Keon’s return to Toronto.

It says much about hockey’s role and the role of sports in a national psyche.For many, professional sport has an alienating function, distracting citizens from the necessary task at hand of constructing the decent society. Karl Marx made some remark about this.”Pity the society that needs heroes” or something like that.

Take the case of Keon. David was always a very measured man, a private and sensitive person. In his day hockey had just burst forth from the six teams to the massive hyping and expansion years of big bucks and more TV coverage.There were beat reporters but also there was some societal control over the manufacturing of images. As the economy expanded and advertising budgets advanced seven times faster than national budgets, sport took on greater meaning.It was almost invested with an aura of myth where our heroes served as surrogates for ourselves and our loss of agency in society. In highly stratified societies like England, soccer and the local team gave working folks a respite from their circumscribed predictable lives. Death and resurrection every saturday at the local stadium.

Often in poor countries and with workers who see no way out, a transference takes place, hence the near deification of people like Pele in dirt poor Brazil. Hockey is our closest equivalent. As cowboy capitalism exacerbated the gap between rich and poor, people needed to invest emotional energies in warriors outside of themselves.They battled in increasingly bigger arenas—as did rock stars—who often pretended to be taking on society but lived as millionaires. In many ways, as organized religion waned , as the power of the print stories of good and evil —Moses and Pharaoh, Jesus and the Empire lost power, media, much more sexy and powerful, threw up new mythical heroes—sports stars,rockers and celluloid personalities. Religion sometimes fell into this with grand papal visits, almost orchestrated like rock tours. In the end all this can not deliver. It’s a bit like Chinese food.Three hours later you’re still hungry. You may need a bigger fix.So caffeine gets you through the day, then nicotine, alcohol and drugs. Or Brad and Angelina.

As globalization advanced many people felt ahis loss of personal control. Forces bigger than them seemed to dominate life.Hence the need for release and the incessant desire for “celebrity” news and heroes on the horizontal level. What we seek of course is real transcendent meaning…Rambo, Rocky, Madonna, Posh and Becks can’t bring it to us. The worst example was the shocking outpouring over Diana’s death.

Keon from the small town of Rouyn Noranda always had a hard time with this. Most of the hockey players I knew were small town guys from good homes. They almost never did the star turn. Keon was like that—and is like that. He is quite comfortable around his old high school friends but on the national stage it is another story. Watching him being interviewed it was like watching a kid at the dentist.Painful.

In the end, Keon who has had his issues with the Leafs, described the weekend as “just a weekend.Nice and let’s leave it at that.” But Dave we’ve been 40 years in the hockey desert and you were our Moses. Talk to us. Give us the word. What the fans were looking forward to was “somebody who felt their pain” and “reciprocated their devotion” somebody like Bill Clinton. But they were looking for love in the wrong places if they thought Davey was their man.All those 30 year old jocks with their Leaf sweaters were doomed.

Maybe he’s a Marxist. Who knows.Or maybe he’s still the small town guy from Rouyn Noranda who wonders what the fuss is about. I kind of like that.

But why is Britney Spears cutting her hair?

Hedges TKOs McVety in First Round

February 16, 2007

I knew it would be a slaughter but I had to be there to see it.

Chris Hedges, one of the most talented war correspondents. New York Times man in Latin America, the Middle East, the Balkans. Divinity degree from Harvard, Pulitzer prize winner vs. blowhard Charles McVety “ quoted over 4,000 times in the last year” as his intro statedPresident of Canada Family Action Coalition and host of TV’s

Hedges was in town to talk about his latest book American Fascists:The Christian Right and the War on America.

Speaking with no notes Hedges warned of the simplistic Christians, tboned by globalization and Republican assaults on the working class, so manipulated by the powerful that they vote for Christians like GW Bush who are saving the world from those dark satanic forces assaulting us—gays, Islamists, liberals etc. He spoke movingly of his Presbyterian minister father, a champion of social justice, a sophisticated man of scripture who showed him what a real Christian was and so young Hedges followed his dad into the ministry. Stopping short of ordination, he took his values into journalism where he became one of the great war correspondents of his generation. One of his books War the Force that Gives us Meaning should be required reading for every Christian.

Hedges basically warned all to take the Christians fascists seriously. They are not the old Billy Graham evangelicals who eschewed politics and concentrated on personal salvation. These are the angry ones, organized to take over Republican organizations, school boards, state levers of power to make America the great Christian nation it was before the “ godless secularists” took it over. Their theology is Dominionism. an unholy melange of bastardized Christianity and American nationalism. Google Rushdoony and see more of this madness.These are the men who own 6 major TV networks as their launching pad, are sponsored by wealthy foundations like Coors and Amway founder Richard DeVos Sr.

This fascist brand of religion , like all collectivist movements which surrender rational thought to charismatic leaders with simple nostrfums, appropriates religious and patriotic language to deny any other interpretation of Christianity. Based on victimhood (Hedges described the massive loss of well paying manufacturing jobs here) and often a terrifying violent apocalyptic worldview, the movement encapsulates the pathetic “prosperity gospel” which will guarantee you wealth-all in the name of the Galilean poor man, Jesus. It certainly has the manipulative leaders, the lords of the electronic gospel, who are able to play the sheep like cheap accordions. This is the real base of GW Bush and increasingly of Stephen Harper.

Hedges, a lover of Orwell, focused on the “logocide” of the movement, the use of buzz words, familiar to all and which can mean virtually anything.

McVety as predicted, was an embarrassment. At any chance he reached for the personal attack attempting to ridicule Hedges as being from “Hah-vod” and an American who was coming up to insult Canadians. The cheap shots which play well in more simplistic settings elicited groans on a university campus. When pressed by the audience to respond to Hedges’ arguments, it was obvious that the Biblical literalist was way out of his depth, maintaining that the apocalyptic books of the Bible (particularly Ezekiel 38,39) were virtual blue prints for the future. Scary. As well he tried to hide his blank cheque for anything Israel does.He has appeared at pro-israel rallies as a staunch ally McVety is also a dispensationalist believing that before the Rapture the Jews will return to Israel. As well he is a good friend of Jerry Falwell who flew up in his private jet last year to speak at the former’s Canada Christian College. Needless to say the good doctor is also a staunch ally of Stephen Harper.

All in all a sad representation of biblical Christianity. Hedges on the other hand, well versed in contemporary scholarship uttered a chilling warning about the simplistic nostrums peddled by McVety and his chums in the American Dominion movement. He spelled it all out in logical paragraphs. His conclusion is that all of us, particularly those in his own country, need to take the radical Christian right deadly seriously. It is the sworn enemy of the open society. All it would take for this nightmare to become reality would be another massive psychic shock (like 9/11 or some economic or ecological meltdown) for such a deluded brand of Christianity to take hold.”Tolerance” as Hedges says, “is a virtue but coupled with passivity is a vice.”

Frankie Laine RIP

February 14, 2007


Franki Laine in 1949 photo.

Frankie Laine died last week at 93, a good long life by anyone’s standard. Forgotten today, almost a trivia question, many will remember him for the Blues Brothers’ rendition of Rawhide which was also featured in Mel Brook’s Blazing Saddles.But make no mistake about it Laine was one of the greatest pop singers ever.He sold over 100 million records in his stellar career.

Forget his 20 gold records from the classic That’s My Desire, his breakthrough 1947 disk through Jezebel ( the first 78 I bought in 1950) till the hits stop rolling with the advent of rock and roll,Laine kept on singing all over the world the crowd-pleasing precursor of Elvis. An AP story quoted him as saying in a 1987 interview “When people nowadays say that Elvis was the first white guy to sound black, I have to shake my head; what can you do?”. “At the time of ’That’s My Desire,’ they were saying that I was the only white guy around who sounded black.”

Laine broke the Crosby-Sinatra crooner model and instead of standing like a wooden dummy in front of a mike, he was among the first to sing with his body, squirming and gyrating to make an emotional point. The post war audiences, ready to bust loose after the restrictive , tension-filled war years embraced him immediately (as well as the madcap Johnny Ray who sang like he was in perpetual agony).

Frankie LoVecchio came of age singing and dancing as a waiter and marathon dancer in the Depression years.As noted above, when the war years ended, the mature Laine then in his early 30s but well seasoned and confident, was ready for liberation—as were his audiences.As great a vocalist as he was on record, Frankie Laine was an absolute phenomenon in person and was influential in giving artists permission to integrate their performances. Frankie had the words-but he also had the music.

Black History Month: Mississippi Goddam

February 12, 2007

The CBC documentary Mississippi Cold Case aired on Sunday Feb. 11. Thomas Moore had to wait 42 years to see justice done in his brother’s murder in that hell hole of racism Mississippi. The only way an indictment came about was by the indefatigable work of Canadian documentarian David Ridgen who essentially cracked the case.Charles Moore was but 19 when he was murdered by a KKK simpleton named Seales and he cheated justice for all those years. I found myself cursing through the whole film particularly when Mr. Torture, US Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez the Bush appointee who won’t take Meher Arar off the US No Fly list, preened for the cameras announcing the indictment. Great work by the FBI! These guys moved as fast as Stevie Harper on global warming!

These buffoons in the FBI actually took the word of Seales’ family members who told them that Seales had died.Oh well close the case, I guess! The great redeeming feature of the piece was Moore’s brother’s vindication.

Ironically I had just come in from driving my brother Phil home after a family dinner and a Nina Simone CD was playing in my car. For all the musically challenged and historical amnesiacs, Simone was one of those incredibly dignified artists of the civil rights era who took no quarter in her music. For many whites she was over the top. Particularly when she cut Mississisipp Goddamn in 1963

Alabama’s gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

Can’t you see it
Can’t you feel it
It’s all in the air
I can’t stand the pressure much longer
Somebody say a prayer

Simone refused to have any truck with racist America or cut her career to be popular.

Hound dogs on my trail
School children sitting in jail
Black cat cross my path
I think every day’s gonna be my last

Lord have mercy on this land of mine
We all gonna get it in due time
I don’t belong here
I don’t belong there
I’ve even stopped believing in prayer

And Simone didn’t belong there.She lived much of her life as an ex-pat in Europe as did so many black jazz artists who had too much class to submit to cracker cruelties and white complacency.They were loved abroad and tolerated at home. They never ventured south of the Mason-Dixon line to be abused on the TOBA circuit, the round of vaudeville houses. For them it was “Tough on Black Asses.” Europe’s arms were wide open for Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter, Louis Armstrong and a host of other great black artists.

Yes you lied to me all these years
You told me to wash and clean my ears
And talk real fine just like a lady
And you’d stop calling me Sister Sadie

Oh but this whole country is full of lies
You’re all gonna die and die like flies
I don’t trust you any more
You keep on saying “Go slow!”
“Go slow!”

Watching this documentary reminded me once again of those years and the great men and women who stood out like Simone. Phil Ochs was another.Writing at the same time as Simone, Ochs was a hugely gifted songwriter who reflected back to America how sick it was and as far as Mississippi went, Ochs sang.

Here’s to the people of Mississippi
Who say the folks up north, they just don’t understand
And they tremble in their shadows at the thunder of the Klan
The sweating of their souls can’t wash the blood from off their hands
They smile and shrug their shoulders at the murder of a man
Oh, here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of

I almost choked as Moore and Ridgen walked into the Jackson, Mississippi courthouse to give edvidence for the indictment. It was called The James Eastland Court House! Imagine a symbol of justice named after one of the worst crackers ever in the Us Senate—an unregenerate racist and segregationist. Take his name off the place.

And we wonder why this case was buried for 42 years.

This doc was a great tribute to an outstanding Canadian.Phil Ochs and Nina Simone would have dug David Ridgen and Thomas Moore. This film made my Black History month.

Bishop Bourget is back!

February 10, 2007

Ignace Bourget was a dynamic French Canadian bishop who was archbishop of Montreal in the 1850’s. After attending Vatican l, he came back a little too ultramontane. This quote of his I always loved. “ He who hears the cure, hears the bishop, who hears the pope” who of course, hears Christ.

While not wishing to be too hard to our brother Ignace, after all he was a man of his times, but his hierarchical view of the church should have been remediated by now. Not that one wishes to do away with the role of clergy in the church, but a bit one-sided, n’est ce pas? All this teaching and governing appears like a one way street. Not much left over for the overwhelming majority of Catholics to add their Spirit-gifts in a two way flow. A fairly passive life for the best educated generation of Catholics in history.

In a Church with a Trinitarian ecclesiology, we need a little more lateral movement, a little more humility from the ordained. Too many are “out of it”, have absolutely no understanding of the struggle of families in the Darwin capitalist culture, virtually little appreciation of the plight of the poor. So much for “the joys and hopes fears and anxieties” of the age being theirs. Our brothers need to learn a little more before they dare teach and, unlike JP ll, they need to listen a tad bit more before they talk. The brautiful Polish brother was not a good listener. And don’t take disagreements as personal slights or “lack of respect for the office.”

One of our huge problems today of course is the bureaucratization of Church, one which acts, as the noted writer Karen Armstrong said to me, as “a huge civil service” rather than a serious communio where the baptized are jeard in a deep reciprocity. I have often heard dedicated parish priests rage at the one way flow of information they get and as one said to me, feces flows downhill-or something like that.We need a few more bishops like the late Ken Untener of Saginaw who lived two weeks in every parish and was available to the People of the micro level. Nowadays, you have a hard time even getting your letters acknowledged by chanceries.

It’s bad even in the synod of bishops, places where the good ones sometimes communicate the hearts of the people (sensus fidelium).The Vatican has even hijacked those meetings .The scandal of writing conclusions which totally ignore what the bishops say is well documented. A bureaucracy gone wild with self preservation. Pass the formaldehyde!

Canon law of course safeguards the right of the faithful “to make known their needs…and their opinion on matters to pertain to the good of the church”( Canon 212) but these are not heard because they are displeasing to Rome. Optional celibacy and married priesthood, male and female, are classic examples of widespread common sense suggestions. Any priest daring to promote the obvious has sealed his doom in today’s Church. Todays bishops have long been mistaking what Rome wants for what the Church needs and the people desire. Maybe a little more attention to the Spirit operating in the vast majority of the people. A litle more attention to Jesus the head of the Church and the rest of us disciples.The sex abuse debacle surely is the classic scandal of men (yeah, I know) defending institution at all costs while ignoring the needs of the faithful.

Church as communio always trumps church as institution.

One would think that the mass exodus of some of our most adventurous, inquisitive people would wake Rome and local bishops up. They appear not to care. The classic case is the disaster of Cologne where the priests of the diocese implored Rome not to name Joachim Meissner archbishop in 1989. Now 300,000 have left. Does this make any one happy?Are these people all nuts or might there be something in brother Meissner’s style that is hopelessly out of date? Of course, the self delusion that this is what the Church must do to get back to the purity of the “little flock” is so utterly condescending and so utterly unbiblical. The Good Shepherd always has time for the lost, never cuts anybody off. In exile today and without voice, are some of our most creative Catholics. A hierarchy surrounded by sycophants and a clerical peerage of tin ears is hardly in te best interests of the Body.

Small ginger groups need to multiply for the good of the Church. At this moment I fear in the words of T.S. Eliot, “the sickness must grow worse.” Too bad.

The priest

February 8, 2007

Pope John Paul ll’s insistence that the priest was “ontologically” different than the people he was serving was decidedly unhelpful. This way of seeing the priest as repraesentatio Christi is also unhelpful. The sign on my local United Church is closer to the mark : Minister: all who worship here. In this way of looking at the priest he is repraesentatio ecclesiae. Here the stress is on unity and belonging, not distinction. Baptism then is the prime Christian sacrament not Holy Orders. We all know enough priests to say without malice, ontologically different? Nah, I don’t think so. Rahner I think has it right: the priest is first chosen from among men,a member of the Church, a Christian.”

Repraesentatio Christi is a lamentable residue of Trent (1545) with all of its rigid and radical differentiations from everything which the Reformers promoted, in particular the priesthood of the laity. A good example would be our drift to Mariolatry, an unwarranted elevation of Mary’s role in the Christian life. A celibate clergy raised the feminine principle to an unwarranted biblical status. No matter Mary was ours. But in desexualizing the Virgin, the clerical leadership inadvertently created seriously negative ramifications in rendering women supine, passive and utterly domestic.

In a time of massive illiteracy, and in response to the Reformers’ priesthood of the laity, the hierarchical Church virtually made the priest a second mediator, an alter Christus. The role belongs to all Christians. We then had centuries of special uniforms, (very much back in vogue) which distinguished the priest and set him apart. The Christian community however had no trouble discerning the real priest who used his celibacy to give himself totally to the Body. Sadly, too many dined out on the automatic respect given to the real servant. The great priests who knew their own humanity were always embarrassed at the extraordinary fuss made over them. They knew better. Sadly, the many underdeveloped and emotionally crippled, loved the attention and power the office gave them. The catastrophic trail of tears in the sex abuse scandals witnessed to this. The repraesentationes Christi modeled sheer power, the aphrodisiac of the immature celibate. They actually believed they had been set apart to perform the magic. An undereducated laity became co-dependent. Trent summed this lofty, unrealistic and theologically backward view in this way:”Priests are not only angels, but also gods, holding as they do amongst us the power of consecrating and offering the Body of the Lord.”

Unfortunately, the power of reaction has reversed the progress of Vatican ll- the priest as cult figure, absolutely “set apart” and in love with symbols of office and distinction. Rather than facilitating the abundant gifts in every community, he is more often the one damning up the living spirit present in the whole community. Shared ecclesial leadership is foreign to him. He answers to his Bishop and seldom to his parish. The servant of the people of God is now back as Pope in the parish.

Happily, the people are not accepting this. They are too smart, too talented and too adult to “leave it to Father” anymore.