Archive for April 2008

The Church needs “the Third Person”.

April 29, 2008

In the gospel for the 6th Sunday  of Easter(April 27), part of John’s inspiring Farewell discourse, two points should be made, points the Roman Church has glossed over.

The first is obvious—that we are not abandoned. The world (comsos always has a negative connotation in John) which appears to be triumphant and sometimes overwhelming in its darkness, will not overwhelm. “Another Advocate will be given”—sometimes called Paraclete (the same word in Greek) or Comforter will abide in us. God’s Holy Spirit can also be named the Spirit of Resistance—a Force which emboldens us to speak up and resist is always  present. Feel free to use your own metaphor here.

The Roman Church has always been very slow to appreciate a good pneumatology (doctrine of the Spirit) preferring a fundamentalist Christology (Dorothy Solle calls this a Christofascism)—a Mel Gibson-like once and for all time sacrifice–which leaves little room for change or movement. It anchors us in the past and fearful of the future.

In John’s language, this Spirit “is coming to you…because I live, you also will live.” He tells us that “he abides with you and he will be in you.”

That is in the church, in all Christians–not just the hierarchy but in you. hence the importance of a deeper appreciation of the sensus fidelium.

The lost military reservists

April 26, 2008

In the 50s anybody joining the military was seen as a loser. Unfortunate but true in my neighbourhood. Usually they were not academically oriented and hey, maybe they can pick up a trade on the way. Most turned out to be decent citizens.


But there were always people like the two military reservists who beat homeless man Paul Croutch to death in a Toronto park. One said he hated bums and homeless people.

He’ll be back on the streets in three years after pleading guilty but drunk.

Toronto writer Linda McQuaig made a good point when she mentioned the glib and recently retired head of the Canadian military Rick Hillier who generally got a free pass from our media. Hillier did much to besmirch the reputation of the Canadian military during his tenure. A real macho man who constantly talked about killing scumbags and the role of the military “was to kill people.” Then the awful military ads on TV, featuring the word Fight over and over again.40 years of peacekeeping respect down the drain.


The Forces under Harper and Hillier  began to appeal to males who in many cases had failed to launch and were looking for adventure. A cursory glance at the obituaries proved as much. As well there were many idealistic kids who genuinely wanted to be peacekeepers in the old sense.


The two who murdered Paul Croutch sadly were adolescents who never grew up. They “fought” and beat a homeless man to death.They weere males who internalized the sad cultural meme of what constitutes a real man.

They received poor leadership from the man at the top, Rick Hillier.

Jolson to Bono

April 24, 2008

 You ain’t seen nuttin’ yet” said the great Jolson, maybe the greatest egoist to ever trod the boards. But my dad who saw him at the Royal Alex in the 20s in Toronto attested to his charisma.

But nowhere near Bono of U2.

The Catholic Church should make this film U2 in 3 D compulsory viewing for all its priests. I have never seen anybody communicate with the masses like the Irish lead singer of U2, Bono (Paul Hewson). I have now seen the film 3 times in 2 weeks and I am still in awe of this man’s ability to hold a crowd. The pacing, the music, the lyrics, the symbolism—and watching a crowd of Spanish speaking kids in Buenos Aires sing along with him in English was quite stunning.

Bono is one of those rare entertainers who seemingly is not consumed by the maw of the celebrity machine. His work on AIDS in Africa, the international debt and poverty in general is impressive. Sure he’s a multi millionaire but his sincerity is genuine.


In the film Bono insists on the dignity of all. He has the UN Declaration of Human Rights on a massive screen to illustrate one of his songs and In Yahweh he uses all the iconography of the Abrahamic religions to insist on the unity of the human race.


The film was more like  a church service—without preaching. The Buenos Aires stadium was turned into an intimate communion.


This Irish rocker elevates the impact of rock music to new heights. The values espoused are far more Christian than the lost televangelists like Hagee, Swaggert, Robertson et al.

Benedict leaves: plus ca change

April 21, 2008

He came. He saw. He left. Nothing changes


A warm fuzzy Benedict emerges as a little more pastoral than before.  After  all he’s pope and not papal enforcer.


It’s always what they don’t say that you must listen for.


Nothing on the insane carnage and devastation in Iraq. Nada. Always something on abortion—enough to sink John Kerry in the last election and hand Bush the election. 

Nothing on the bishop-enablers like New York’s Cardinal Egan who shuffled pedophiles around in Bridgeport, Connecticut where he was bishop. It was Egan who famously said about one of these men.It turns out he wasn’t really a member of the diocese but an “independent contractor.”Egan and several other bishops still have their jobs even as Benedict justifiably slagged the priest pedophiles.


Benedict does America pt 2

April 19, 2008

One of the prime reasons Benedict is in America is the radical slippage in church affiliation. During the JP ll pontificate when Ratzinger was the hatchet man destroying careers of some of the finest theologians millions of Americans cried enough. Seeing Vatican ll stalled and reversed and a small cabal turning back the people of God approach of the Council, these Catholics walked with their feet. No diaogue was possible. A hierarchical church has simply failed to seize the democratic moment.

The prestigious Pew Centre wrote the following:

No other major faith in the U.S. has experienced greater net losses over the last few decades as a result of changes in religious affiliation than the Catholic Church. Nearly one-third (31.4%) of U.S. adults say they were raised Catholic. Today, however, only 23.9% of adults say they are affiliated with the Catholic Church, a net loss of 7.5 percentage points. Overall, roughly one-third of those who were raised Catholic have left the church, and approximately one-in-ten American adults are former Catholics.

This is very significant. The best educated generation of Catholics experienced an absolute refusal of Rome to hear the cries of the faithful and this small group in Rome simply did not care as they defined themselves as “the Church.” Used to serious dialogue and being treated as adults, these departing Catholics refused infantilization and insisted that they be taken seriously. John Paul ll was notoriously deaf often being rude to people like Sr. Theresa Kane when she challenged him on more inclusive ministries.This was not leadership but a simple failure to read one of the great graced moments and signs of the times—the absolute equality of women.

Stacking the bishopric with dull toadies who acted more like papal secretaries, John Paul ll and his uninspired followers alienated more educated Catholics. Hence the radical slippage.


Now Benedict is in America a little more pastoral than before and doling out John XXlll’s “medicine of mercy” rather than his Prussian scold.

It is sadly not good enough.

Benedict does America

April 17, 2008

Most Holy Father:

In your own words, “today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a ‘just war’.” Yet, during your upcoming visit to the United States, you are planning to meet with President George W. Bush, whose empty justifications for the violence in Iraq lead to increasing numbers of dead, injured and displaced people. Iraqi civilians still endure the “continual slaughter” which you described in your 2007 Easter Sunday address.

Shortly before the U.S. invaded Iraq, you rightly declared that “there were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war.” You’ve also called attention to the terrible new technologies which cause indiscriminate destruction. 


So wrote 1200 Americans mainly Ctaholics to pope Benedict before he stepped on American soil. Many werenoted Catholics like Dan Berrigan, Cindy Sheehan, John Dear and Joan Chittester.


They said to the pope:  “If meet with him you must, then meet as a prophet should – issuing a warning and an invitation to repentance. Courtesy cannot be used as an evasion of our biblical faith.”


Of course Benedict ignored them. All his life he has shied away from donning the prophetic mantle. Only in films does the prophet ascend to the papacy. The role has always been ambiguous—a follower of the crucified? Yes. But more the head of a huge institution in which evangelical energy has been leached.


The late John  Paul ll received over 1 million emails imploring him at the end of his life to fly to Baghdad and dare Bush to unleash his missiles. A great movie for sure.It would have transformed Catholicism, changed history but it was not to be.


Maybe the best the timid professor Ratzinger could have done was to gently pull Bush aside and say directly:”You have unleashed hell on the Iraqi people, created terrorists by the thousands, ignored the 5th commandment. Your presidency has been a catastrophe for the world and its suffering poor. You have a chance to begin again.Go with God.”


Only in a movie?

Benedict disappoints right wingers

April 13, 2008

When is the hammer going to come down on all those awful cafeteria Catholics? This is what the Catholic reactionaries are wondering as Pope Benedict XVl comes to America for a 5 day visit. So far the former  police man from the Holy Office has refused to rant against gays, tossed out of the priesthood Macial Maciel the head of the Legionaires of Christ who abused seminarians, fired John Paul ll crony  Bishop Angelo Sodano,the prelate who enabled Pinochet…and the list goes on. One might say that Benedict is acting like a pastor should, using as the greatest pope of the 20th century John XXlll said, “the medicine of mercy.”

And as far as Iraq is concerned—well, forget it—Benny is also hard on the cold warriors like George Weigel who tried to convince the last pope of the legitimacy of Bush’s folly. “Nowhere dies the Catechism talk of a pre-emptive war.”

Watch for  Benedict’s remarks to the UN. Could be interesting.

Douglas Feith, dual citizen

April 8, 2008

60 Minutes last week ran an interview with Douglas Feith one of the neocon true believers who has caused so much suffering in Iraq. An Under Secretary of Defense and Policy Advisor at the Pentagon,Feith could easily be described a pro-Israel extremist. With fellow Jews Perle and Wolfowitz he is also a dual citizen of both USA and Israel. He runs a small law firm, Feith and Zell, which only has one International office, in Israel. The majority of their legal work is representing Israeli interests. His firm’s own website stated, prior to his appointment, that Feith “represents Israel.’ He looked like a chump in the interview justifying his heinous works.His door stopper of a book, slf exonerating will be read by few.Mmmm

Ass a sidebar Add to this unsavoury group of dual citizens, the convicted felon Elliot Abrams , a national security advisor who was front and centre in the Iran-Contra Affair.He pled guilty in 1991 to two misdemeanors and got off with a year’s probation and 100 hours of community service.A hawkish pro-Israeli he was pardoned by Bush senior.


Two questions:  To whom is Feith loyal ?


How does a Jesuit University employ this man?




Remembering Martin

April 5, 2008


Early morning, April 4

Shot rings out in the Memphis sky

Free at last, they took your life

They could not take your pride

U2 Pride in the Name of Love

40 years since the shot rang out in the Mempjis sky. I can never forget pulling my car over and weeping


And the press still gets it wrong insisting on showing MLK’s “I have a dream” speech and ignoring his trenchant critique of American foreign policy and its scandalous economic policy.


King was hated by the mainstream media when he particularly called his own country “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” That speech in New york was given a year to the day he was murdered and Americans were as inclined to hear iit as the amnesiacs who could not understand 9/11. “Why would anybody attack us?” the sleepwalkers asked. King knew his history and named the Vietnam moment as just one among the vicious in the American imperium.

“I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos,” he said  in 1967 “without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government.” One million Vietnamese civilians killed and no US apology even today.

It was nice to see John McCain booed in Memphis toay  as he tried to court the black vote. They knew he had voted against a holiday in MLK”s name—just like the other cold warrior Ronny Reagan.

Yje mainstream media despised him. You would never know that today. The Washington Post who had to apologize for its failure to challenge Bush’s lies leading up to the Iraq debacle  put the Doc down like this  “King has diminished his usefulness to his cause, to his country, and to his people.”

Nobody likes to hear the word of the prophet, not in Jesus time, MLK’s or today.

Sadly in the main you will not hear or see King’s brilliant and principled critiques of those times. 

Like Jesus whom we entombed in “the meek and mild” bag, MLK we now love and put his face on a stamp.

The last dinosaur

April 1, 2008

Earth Hour came and went on March 29. It was a resounding success as most Canadians entered into the spirit of the new ecological consciousness.

We know extinction is a possibility. The globe’s fate is in our hands. We know the dinosaurs left millions of years ago in a cataclysmic climate change.

Well almost all of them.

In Ottawa reporters went by the Prime Minister’s residence and yeah, the lights were on.

Way to go Stephen Harper. That’s leadership.

What a dinosaur.