Archive for April 2009

The autistic bishop

April 27, 2009


Earth Day has come and gone. Typical of the Catholic Church was the sorry performance of a bishop of a major see who was invited to say the grace at a religious function. He didn’t even mention Earth Day! Another gorgeous chance to link the gospel and the cosmos.

Thankfully a nun responded to him and made a point of mentioning this salient fact. The bishop’s grace was pure boiler plate—blah,blah, blah. No connectons made . Nothing is happening in his large diocese. No passion for the earth—simply an ecclesiocentric view of the world, defending every pronouncement from Rome but never venturing forth as a priest committed to God’s creation.

One wonders how these men understand sacrament when they miss the primordial sacrament, the cosmos.

Pushing history forward

April 22, 2009

Four women were ordained in the movement called Roman Catholic Womenpriests on April 19  They are Joan Houk of Pittsburgh, Andrea Johnson of Annapolis, Bridget Mary Meehan of Virginia and Sarasota, and Regina Nicolosi of Red Wing, Minnesota. A fifth American woman, Dana Reynolds of California, was previously ordained a bishop in 2008 in Europe. The new bishop Bridget Mary Meehan is a member of the Sisters for Christian Community. The other three women have been married for more than forty years and have adult children. All the women haveimages3

degrees in theology and extensive pastoral experience.

 The three ordaining bishops and their qualifications are:   

1. Bishop Patricia Fresen was a Dominican sister in South Africa for forty years until she was asked to leave the Order after she was ordained a priest in 2003. She has a theology degree from the Gregorian in Rome and taught in the seminary in South Africa. She now lives in Germany.

2. Bishop Ida Raming. She is a German theologian and was one of the Danube 7 who was ordained a priest on the Danube in 2002.

3. Bishop Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger is from Austria. She was one of the founders of Roman Catholic Womenpriests and was also one of the Danube 7 who was ordained in 2002.

A pretty impressive lot.

What nerve these women have to just get on with the obvious-the right of women to be included by virtue of baptism in every office of the Roman Catholic Church.

As we know “history takes a long, long time.”(Cockburn) for the obvious to become an accepted  fact. That the institutional church needs the charism of women is beyond dispute. 

When clerics like Bernard Law were shuffling pedophiles around, can you imagine a personnel board half of whom would be women in any diocese sitting in on these meetings and saying nothing?

It would be more like, “Are you nuts? Do you have any idea of how precious our children are? I am going right to the press if you dare do this.”

History teaches us that institutions are never ready for truth to become incarnate.Remember when those clerics told Martin King he was moving too fast in Birmingham?

And I do not recall Jesus asking the Sanhedrin if it was OK to begin his ministry.

Hopebroken and Hopesick: Obama

April 19, 2009

Naomi Klein has a brilliant article in The Nation  that the middle class needs to digest, particularly in the United States of Amnesia. She says that  “All is not well in Obamafanland. ” Slowly the people are digesting the fact that the same guys who created the financial meltdown and who profitted handsomely  are now in charge of the bail out—and it does not include working people.

Particularly disgusting (do these guys never get tired of engorging thesmelves?) is the fact that” the president’s chief economic adviser, Larry Summers, earned millions from the very Wall Street banks and hedge funds he is protecting from reregulation now. Or  perhaps it began earlier, with Obama’s silence during Israel’s Gaza attack.
Klein nails it when she asks “If the superfan culture that brought Obama to power is going to transform itself into an independent political movement?”
Voting for a messiah is always fool’s gold as the system is so stacked against serious change. Any guy who pays taxes on a million bucks like Obama  does will hardly move the yard sticks unless people put the fire to his feet. Casting a ballot is always the least political thing people do.
Democracy to flourish needs constant vigilance an almost impossibility in the Distraction Society (How bout those Blue Jays! Who will win the Cup and did you hear what Billy Bob Thornton said). Let me enjoy the perks of my life. I voted for Obama didn’t I?
The only answer Obama should give is the one FDR gave when t6hose who voted for change came to see him and demanded he act. FDR said: “I agree with you.Now make me do it.”
The  middle class has a poor record of “activism”, of staying awake and staying in the streets until the politicians  are forced to act.
Most lives are lived small in the public realm and large in private pleasures .
I fear there will be no staying power in America.Guys like Larry Summers should have been fired a long time ago.

Practicing Catholic

April 17, 2009


Is this the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end?

Poor Mother Church has been reeling for a longtime, the restoration of the status quo ante having failed. The shock to the aging medieval system with its clericalism, patriarchy and its unbecoming triumphalism was so unexpected and so severe that it was bound to cause a reaction.

This was the formidable but totalitarian papacy of John Paul ll.In a horizontal age where information flowed freely and the laity became much better educated it was bound to fail despite the charismatic gifts of the Polish pope. Never able to come to terms with the holiness of democracy, the feminist gift of radical inclusion and the growing insight  that the sensus fidelium would not accept a top down command Church, John Paul ll despite his personal holiness attempted to remake the Catholic church as a grey monolith . Unlike Leo Xlll he only appointed bishops who agreed with him. 

The People of God  had other ideas and insisted on being heard. They weere tired of monologues and demanded a serious dialogue which has yet to take place.

James Carroll’s laterst book Practicing Catholic is another excellent primer which has arrived outlining the continuous deterioration of this church of creaking structures, this ancient vessel whose wineskins have finally burst wide open under the hammer blows of steadfast resistance and the quieter exits of so many good good people.

Carroll like other critics of conscience before him marks the pedophilia episcopal leadership crisis which alerted Catholics to their own failure to demand a fuller mode of participation. He catalogues the quite stunning acvtivities of Joseph Ratzinger as the chief enforcer—the denial of inclusive language in scripture transaltions and liturgy, the rejection of Anglican orders as an infallible teaching, the amazing statement that the Virgin Mary predicted the assassination attempt of JP ll, the silencing of so many theologians  with whom he disagreed, the naming  of liberation theology as “heresy”, the rejection of the word “martyr” to describe Bishop Romero.The list is stunning and painfiul to read—women as priests raised to an infallible teaching, a palpable interference in the US election which gave the world 4 more years of George Bush. And the latest shocker of inviting men back to the Church who refused to accept the highest of all teachings—that of an ecumenical council.

Carroll is not afraid also to name Ratzinger’s cruelty in silencing so many  theologians who have served the Church so well. “That is because the ideology he advances for Roman Catholicism cares less for actual people than for esoteric abstractions…He is the chief sponsor of the new Catholic fundamentalism, enforced with no regard  for the real cost to human beings.”

Jim Carroll cares enough about his church to stay in as a loving critic who has every right to demand that his church become more inclusive, more ehgalitarian and more faithful to Jesus.

Palm Sunday: weird Christians

April 7, 2009


They marched out of their small church, carrying palms and singing a hymn in Latin,a refrain repeated over and over. The people on Bathurst Street gazed in stupefaction at this weird remnant. Palm Sunday liturgy was about to start.

John Shea wrote Christians gather together, break the bread and tell the Story.There is no story like it as Fulton Oursler wrote years ago—it’s the greatest story ever told. But its fraught with danger.Good Friday always comes before Easter and the two can never be separated.Danger lurks on every page of the New Testament. A cross is being constructed for the disturber of the peace and the destroyer of the national consensus. The state will murder him in a way saved for political criminals. Religion will hand him over to be crucified.

So these crazy people processed out into the street, then moved inside to hear the Story.It is the only story which can stand up to the powerful cultural story which sings in our ears 24/7.

Daniel Quinn in his novel Ishmael says this: Once you learn to hear it because I wanted you to have at least a vague idea of you are getting into here.Once you learn to discern the voice of Mother culture humming in the background telling her story over and over again to the people of your culture you’d never stop being conscious of it.wherever you go for the rest of your life you’ll be tempted to say to the people around you,”How can you listen this and not recognize it for what it is?”

The Palm Sunday story which ends on a cross once again reminds us what a dangerous Story we are in. Do we realize this or have we become so accustomed to these gospels as simply entertainment?

Palm Sunday:”We’re all donkeys.”

April 5, 2009


When fishes flew and forests walked 

And figs grew upon thorn, 

Some moment when the moon was blood 

Then surely I was born; 

With monstrous head and sickening cry 

And ears like errant wings, 

The devil’s walking parody 

On all four-footed things. 

The tattered outlaw of the earth, 

Of ancient crooked will; 

Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb, 

I keep my secret still. 

Fools! For I also had my hour; 

One far fierce hour and sweet: 

There was a shout about my ears, 

And palms before my feet.


 Entering into a visualization of the Gospel on today’s Palm Sunday reading I became the donkey which Jesus rode into Jerusalem on. Chesterton’s well known poem came to mind.Hey the donkey sure had his day outside of Bethany those many years ago.

No matter what we make of that scene in Mark’s gospel the point is this: The master comes riding in on a humble animal. This scene is probably an example of what Dominic Crossan would call “prophecy historicized” , the donkey is “borrowed” from Zechariah:

Rejoice heart and soul, daughter of Zion! Shout with gladness, daughter of Jerusalem! See now, your king comes to you; he is victorious, he is triumphant, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).

Jesus is the king of nobodies riding not on a war horse at the head of a triumphant army but on a poor donkey. Mark’s gospel written in the glow of the searing memory of the Roman decapitation of Jerusalem is nothing more than “a passion narrative with an extended introduction” as one great German scholar called it.

The Palm Sunday reading is a reminder of what the demands of discipleship really are. Bonhoeffer had it right: “When Jesus calls us, he bids us come and die.” This long reading has so many characters to identify with but in this day of advancing understandng that creation includes all of sentient life, why not become the donkey?

Billy Maher: back to school

April 3, 2009

cockburn_340Bill Maher is a funny cat—and an intelligent one.Ivy League degree and well read—in many areas.

His HBO show is always interesting with guests who can string a few sentences together on the issues of the day. And like good satirists (Jon Stewart,Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl come to mind) who prick societal balloons he is often right on, asking the impertinent questions like why the USA has all these military bases around the globe.

Bill is also a film maker. His movie Religolus is a failed attempt to come to terms with the perduring mystery (Bruce Cockburn sings about the 9 billion  names for God). I laughed like hell at parts but Bill’s evangelical and fundamentalist straw men were easy targets.

Bill sadly is a secular fundamentalist with little or no understanding of scripture. He rants about what he knows not. Little humility here about the religious impulse. Last week he head the pompous Christopher Hitchens on whose book God is not Great is embarrassing.

Imagine Martin Luther King Jr without faith? Hitchens does. He actually claims the Doc was not a Christian. Mmmm.

We do not look for much historical depth or sensitivity here. That’s OK but a little humility might be in order.