Archive for April 2010

Leo Xlll wasn’t afraid

April 30, 2010

The “problem” the Catholic Church is facing today has been with us for a long time.

In the early Chuch there were only Christians and disciples claiming Christ as their master. By the third century the bishop was still chosen by the people. Pope Leo the Great (440-461 CE) insisted that.”the one who is going to rule over all, be elected by all.” Sadly as the Catholic Church increasingly aped the Roman Empire, a monarchical papacy developed.

The pope who ushered in the  20th century Leo Xlll(1876-1903) recognized the danger and was secure enough “to appoint bishops who disagreed with me.” At the outbreak of World War ll,  Achille Ratti. Pius Xl (1922-1939)  told Alexander Carter, the future and much loved bishop of North Bay, to go back to Canada and raise up lay people to take their historical role back because “the Roman Catholic Church has become a monstrosity, its head was very large but its body is shrunken; the head is way out of proportion to its body.”

Twenty years later under Pope John XXlll an ecumenical Council (1962-65) reclaimed this idea and a new root metaphor, the church as the People of God, a discipleship of equals grasped and energized the people. Baptism not holy orders was the central sacrament. The Spirit was given not to a tiny clerical and celibate elite but to all the baptized.

It was the greatest change in thinking in the history of the Church and it created a powerful backlash and a restorationist papacy under Popes John Paul ll and the present pope Benedict XVi.

The results as we now see have been disastrous, a failure of nerve to continue the much needed reform.

The sensus fidelium

April 26, 2010

The secular media by focusing on the sex abuse particulars are missing the deeper story laid out in Hans Kung’s letter making waves across the Catholic world. KUng’s  letter to the bishops is a comprehensive catalogue of the failed attempt to reverse the democratic gains of the Vatican Council

That story is the adamantine refusal of the institutional church to understand the new moment (begun with Vatican ll) of the changed relationship between the People of God and the clerical caste. It is a case of power relationships deeply embedded in an ancient structure which is clerically dominated, hierarchic and patriarchal. This culture of secrecy will take decades to reverse.The present situation of the institutional church may have to get worse befpre ot gets better.

Bishops chosen by Rome by secretive processes have been imposed on dioceses to teach what headquarters deem as orthodoxy but not to listen or facilitate any serious dialogue bubbling up from the lived experience of the people.

The New Catholic Times:Sensus Fidelium ( is the online necessary attempt to renew the Catholic Church and respond to the ever present promptings of God’s Holy Spirit as she emerges in our generation. This is  a virtual impossibility without the full and critical participation of the baptized. This Church principle is called the Sensus Fidelium. The late Holy Father, Pope John Paul ll alluded to this sacred principle in the last months of 2004.

He gave these instructions to the U.S. Bishops:

An appreciation of the distinct gifts and apostolate of  the laity will naturally lead to a strengthened commitment to fostering among the laity a sense of shared responsibility for the life and mission of the Church,”

“Certainly this will involve a conscious effort on the part of each bishop to develop, within his particular Church,structures of communion and participation which make it possible… to listen to the Spirit who lives and speaks in the faithful,”

Can it be more clearer than that?

Suddenly lay input!

April 18, 2010

The Archbishop of Toronto suddenly wants lay input! He wants to hear from us!

How strange is that, a bishop actually soliciting the sensus fidelium.

And going on You Tube to prove how serious he is about strict protocols on sex offenders.

Not impressed.

Well that horse left the barn a long time ago.We know now that the RC church will not tolerate any coddling of priest molesters.Let’s move on, brothers to more substantive issues.

Sex abuse  is no longer the issue. Your inability to truly listen to the People of God is the issue.Honouring the sensus fidelium is the issue.

Can she tolerate mature believers who are demanding a say in how their church is run?

The archbishop wants a blue ribbon panel of largely women to oversee this.

Wow.Will he listen to what most women want to tell him: stop propping up a sexist church.

Will he call diocesan synod and truly hear the people of God he is supposed to serve.I doubt it. He has been told he is the “teacher” in “his” diocese like all the JP ll bishops, they answer to a majority of one—Rome and this is the crucx of the institutional problem.

No follow up on collegiality. No true dialogue.

Mancini comes close

April 14, 2010
Anthony Mancini the archbishop of Halifax, of all the Canadian bishops, came close to striking the right pose regarding the latest round of Roman missteps on the abuse file. As a shepherd should, Mancini exhibited intelligence, compassion and forthrightness. Gone were the sad-making prredictable  and knee-jerk defenses of the Vatican imposed other Canadian bishops. In came the obvious: the Church needs a refounding. We need more humble bishops like this.

In the ongoing story of the sexually related scandals which are affecting the whole church, I keep trying to figure out what the Spirit of God is saying to us. In part, the Spirit’s voice is making itself heard through the many persons who have written to me about their faith, their fears and their frustrations. I thank all of you for expressing your concerns, your criticisms and your hopes for our church. One consistent message has been the call for our Church everywhere, but at least here in Nova Scotia, to be more open, accountable and transparent.

In these expressed views, I hear the call to repentance, reform and renewal for our church, the mission of restoring the church’s credibility, the imperative of becoming more trustworthy and the task of being significant again in the lives of God’s people.

What the Spirit of the Lord appears to be telling me is certainly penitential, purifying and demanding, leaving me sometimes perplexed and often with more questions than answers.

Nevertheless, out of my reflection and prayer, I found myself responding to the needs and the circumstances of our time, with a vision, a concept and an expression which seems to fit and that is: “Re-founding our church.”

An excellent Good Friday

April 6, 2010

A meaningful Good Friday it was for the Roman Church.

Although the Roman Catholic Church descrived itself as an “ecclesia semper reformanda” at Vatican ll, the reformanda appeared to be sidelined around 1970 when the good man Paul Vl panicked and stopped the Dutch Church from going ahead with its Reformanda. They had collectively decided that celibacy and married priesthood were on the burner ready to be changed. Papa say no. This was going too far. Not far enough the people said.

The Dutch  were not sepeaking for anybody else but for  themselves.They had been convened and decided together at a real synod, This is the way we wish to go; this is our collective discernmemt.Paul was stunned. Surely the Reformanda was over. After alll we just ahd Vatican ll! Well, we know whatr happened the Dutch chuych began to fly apart. When JP arrived in Holland they turned their back on him—literally. You won’t listen to us, well Papa it’s a too way street.

Then JP ll who actually tried to reverse Vatican ll along with his enforcer Josef Raztinger. Pliant bishops were appointed everywhere to stem the democratic church the people wanted. Well, more folks simply left and the most creative priests, those who remembered Vatican ll departed. The young fogeys, not as bright began to take their place.

Still the “sensus fidelium” would not go away. The best educated generation of Catholics knew that the Spirit was not the property of the clerics, that the Vatican was not “the Church”, that the People of God was  an actual part of the Magisterium.

And now we see the Church imploding—and on Good Friday!

The new wine is exploding the old wineskins.The old church is starting to die.

An excellent Good Froday. Nothing to be afraid of. Easter is advancing.

Taking it to the streets

April 1, 2010

Bring your children, friends and show them the gospel of Jesus Christ is ever knew and relevant to our times

Taking it to the streets.

It’s much more than a line from a catchy song. It’s how a few hundred Toronto-area Christians choose to engage in Good Friday each year: by making their faith public through a “Walk for Justice” through downtown Toronto.

The walk draws inspiration from the New Testament accounts depicting Jesus of Nazareth as a political criminal. Good Friday walkers focus on sites that remind them of people who are dominated or cruelly neglected by today’s mainstream society. Walkers listen to short speeches; watch drama and dance presentations; sing, pray and reflect in a modern “Stations of the Cross” ritual that speaks to our world today.

Over the years walkers have stopped at government and corporate offices, warm-air grates where homeless people sleep, prisons, and political party headquarters. The Walk is organized each year by a diverse ecumenical planning team.

The Good Friday Justice Walk got its start in the early 1979,inspired by Catholic Teachers for Social Justice. It was aa period of intense protests focused on the Toronto manufacturer Litton Industries, builder of the guidance systems for U.S. cruise missiles. In 1982, hundreds of people from dozens of Toronto churches of many denominations participated in a Good Friday walk and prayer rally at the Litton site in Rexdale. A tradition was begun.

By 1985 the annual ecumenical Good Friday Walk for Justice had moved to the streets of downtown Toronto, broadening the focus to include a wide variety of issues of social justice and peace as it sought to provide a public witness against the forces of death in contemporary society that crucify people still.

As is apparent, the Good Friday Walk takes place because many Christians believe that this integral event for Christians belongs in the public domain, not hidden out of sight in churches. The Good Friday Walk’s mission statement notes:

The power that Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate thought they had over Jesus

Turned out to be illusory.

The Passion story unveils another kind of power at work in the world, and in the Word.

When Jesus said, “All power is given to me in heaven and on earth,”

He was not talking about domination and control

but about solidarity and liberation.

At enormous cost

Jesus confronted the life-denying forces of his day and entered death,

showing us that our lives too can confront and overcome the forces of death in our day.

Each year the Walk focuses on a particular theme, or issue. Various walks have focused on violence against women, reconciliation with Aboriginal peoples, homelessness, war (in Iraq and elsewhere), and health care, among other themes.
And each year, beginning and ending at one or other of the downtown churches, hundreds of people have walked and sung together, pausing for dramatic stations of the Cross at public spaces such as Nathan Phillips Square, a bank tower on Bay Street, a hospital, the courthouse, aboriginal community centres, and other symbolic locations reflecting each year’s theme. For four years the Provincial Legislature and its surroundings became the via dolorosa, before returning to the downtown in the late 1990’s. The Walk always ends with warm fellowship time over soup and bread.

Reflecting the belief that the world can be refashioned more in lines with the Gospel vision, each year small grants are given to local social justice organizations, using funds received through a collection taken at the Walk, which also covers expenses.

The Walk’s goals continue to include a commitment to:

♣ bring the Good Friday story to life, lifting it up in the public arena of our time and place;

♣ bring energy for the work of justice as we seek transformation locally and globally in a world which is scarred by violence, oppression and alienation;

♣ nurture a commitment to work for peace so that there can be ground for hope in the midst of brokenness and conflict;

♣ continue a journey that advances beyond Good Friday, providing an experience of shared engagement along diverse paths of involvement, witness and action;

♣ offer the opportunity to look into the eyes of suffering and death, in a world that spends much time in the denial of these realities, so that we may be clear about the forces we are confronting.