Archive for May 2012

Parrhesia alive-in Cleveland

May 31, 2012

The Greek word Parrhesia means “plain speaking” an activity with an honourable history in the Catholic church.Inspired by the Spirit and freedom in Jesus, hordes of people were unafraid to call a spade a spade, engage in serious dialogue and fraternally challenge other Followers of Jesus. I do not use the word “Christian” to describe the most famous act of parrhesia—the early church was Jewish, they were simply “Followers of the Way”. Outside of Jesus challenging the Jewish establishment of his time—Paul’s act of parrhesia stands out  when he challenged Peter at the Council of Jerusalem in 43 CE. That’s how authentic tradition moves forward.We’ve had our great share of small  and large prophets who challenged their betters…Hildegarde, Eckhart, Clare, Francis, Dominic, Merton, Berrigans, Kung,Romero and latterly women like Theresa Kane challenging JP ll who literally turned his back on her when she spoke out fearlessly about women in the church.

As Yes men have been increasingly placed in diocese after diocese, many more are finding their voice, claiming their baptism and offering opposing opinions. They are speaking out about the monochromatic leadership being foisted on the People of God. Meet Fr. Doug Koesel of Blessed Trinity parish in Cleveland who wrote in his bulletin last week the following:

Many of you have asked me to comment on the recent investigation into
the US nuns. Here goes.

In short, the Vatican has asked for aninvestigation into the life of religious women in the United States.
There is a concern about orthodoxy, feminism and pastoral practice.The problem with the Vatican approach is that it places the nunssquarely on the side of Jesus and the Vatican on the side of tired old men, making a last gasp to save a crumbling kingdom lost long ago for a variety of reasons.

One might say that this investigation is the direct result of the John Paul II papacy. He was suspicious of the power given to the laity
after the Second Vatican Council. He disliked the American CatholicChurch. Throughout his papacy he strove to wrest collegial power from episcopal conferences and return it to Rome.

One of the results of the council was that the nuns became more educated, more integrated in the life of the people and more
justice-oriented than the bishops and pope. They are doctors, lawyers,university professors, lobbyists, social workers, authors,
theologians, etc. Their appeal was that they always went back to whatJesus said and did. Their value lay in the fact that their theology
and their practice were integrated into the real world.

The Vatican sounded like the Pharisees of the New Testament;—legalistic, paternalistic and orthodox— while “the good sisters” were
the ones who were feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, educating the immigrant, and so on. Nuns also learned that Catholics are intuitively smart about their faith. They prefer dialogue over diatribe, freedom of thought over mind control, biblical study over fundamentalism, development of doctrine over isolated mandates.

Far from being radical feminists or supporters of far-out ideas, religious women realized that the philosophical underpinnings of
Catholic teaching are no longer valid. Women are not subservient to men, the natural law is much broader than once thought,

Let brother Doug know of your support

The squandered capital of Catholicism

May 30, 2012

The sheen is coming off the public persona of Cardinal Collins here in Toronto. His squandering of so much “Catholic capital” over the word “gay” as in Lesbian/Gay clubs in Catholic schools is sad beyond belief. Given the richness of our Catholic Social Teaching, our principled defence of the common good, the obsession with pelvic issues as litmus tests of Catholicism is staggeringly narrow,

Collins  however does make a valid point—at some point administrators have to be vigilant over the naming of some clubs. Examples will abound.But using the  word GAY is not one of them.The Catholic premier, the head of the  provincial Catholic teachers’ union  have said so. Most Catholic teachers are probably in agreement. This after all is the year 2012.We have made massive strides in understanding homosexuality in our culture. Gay kids continue to be bullied. Affording them the opportunity to discuss this and gain mutual support would seem to be a good thing. The Catholic church  however is still at the level of calling homosexual people “defective”.This seems to be a criticism against the Creator who apparently loves diversity. Homosexuality in brief is not chosen.

For the Cardinal, silent on the major issues of our day (Particularly climate change and the growing gap between the rich and the poor) to organize and mount  campaign against our schools on an issue of “pelvic orthodoxy” is sad-making.

The irony is of course that so many of our priests are “defective” seems to have escaped Collins. How do these men feel when so much energy is spent on this sideshow?

The whole issue simply indicates a grave defect in church organization. imposing bishops, all cut from the same ideological cloth on the long-suffering people is more redolent of the Politburo than a modern democratic model, particularly given the increased education of lay citizens.

The needless contretemps on this issue pits a cardinal against the common sense of the Catholic people. It places Catholic education in jeopardy.It hands a golden opportunity to those who see the church as a hopeless reactionary institution which no longer should be supported. Who is advising this man? Or is he the voice of God for the Catholic people? This unilateralism is a deep insult to the “sensus fidelium”, the wisdom of the lived experience of the baptized.

In the long run this may be a good thing. The present monarchical  model of church governance  is more suitable to feudalism than respecting the more democratic people of God, the communal model of the Second Vatican Council. The cardinal has shown little respect for this. He has been told he is te Teacher. This contravenes the highest teaching of the Church—an ecumenical council.

As David Tracy the eminent  Catholic theolofgian says, “We are stuck.”

Millions are simply leaving the church, mostly over the poor lradership at the top.

Maybe as T. S. Eliot says, “The sickness must grow worse”, before we can move forward.

Faith is not belief

May 25, 2012



Aldous Huxley surely was one of the brightest men of the 20th century, an intrepid explorer of the inner and outer worlds. Brave New World certainly was one of the visionary dystopias ever penned. Huxley predicted the consumer onslaught just about to be unleashed in the post-war period.He saw the “friendly fascism” looming on the horizon where capitalist countries would not need oppressive measures to dull the citizenry and turn critical citizens into consumers and shoppers.

The rock poet Bruce Springsteen alludes to this in his prophetic dirge from his 2012 album Wrecking Ball, Swallowed Up in the Belly of the Whale
We’ve been swallowed up
We’ve been swallowed up
Disappeared from this world
We’ve been swallowed up

People would be so diverted and disengaged from critical thought that their critical faculties would be eviscerated by the cheap baubles of the captalist fantasy machine,How eslse can one explain George  Bush and  Toronto mayor Rob Ford?

One recalls the pathetic cri de coeur of the Savage in Brave New World.

“What you want is a Christianity without tears.”

Or “no cross, no crown” as the Protestant hymn succinctly put it.

Christians proved in too many cases that even the revolutionary gospel of Jesus, the call to the reign of peace and justice could be replaced by the harmless move to church attendance

But it really is an old story, recognized by many historians of religion.It was the wrong turn that the Constantinian arrangement made which turned the spirit-led faith movement into a mere adjunct of the state, as in “God bless America” intoned by all American presidents, as the Stars and Stripes present on too many Christian altars.


Faith then morphed into belief. something which you staked your life on, discipleship and the following of Jesus to the cross was replaced by this creed-heavy  “belief”, acceptance of certain doctrinal formulae, all presided over by a male hierarchy.

Huxley in another  prophetic book “Island” has his fictional islanders pray:”Give us this day our daily faith but deliver us from beliefs.”

All over the world and in many historical religions people are moving away from “belief”.They want more and of “faith” which is relational. transformative and engaged. They want deep participation, responsibility and accountability. Faith as cognitive assent no longer cuts it. Of course they are being resisted by hierarchs who do not understand that “faith” and “belief” are not the same thing.

Feminism, a valid sign of the time

May 21, 2012

The prophetcic meets the instituional when the Vatican takes on the nuns.

This is an old church story.The institution grows stale, moribund, starts doing things, business as usual, starts acting like a bloodless corporation, almost like WALMART. It gets hung up in the Age of Belief the period when the church ceased being a dynamic spirit-led institution and fell under the sway of the civil service of Constantinian Christianity. It aped the order and organization of the Empire and slowly began losing the spirit. It happens to all organizations, hence the need for the prophetic—Francis and Clare, Luther and the Beguines etc.

At Vatican ll  and realizing its imperfectibility the church defined itself as “a pilgrim people”, not a “societas perfecta”. It badly needed an aggiornamento; it declared itself “semper reormanda” always in need of reformation.

This was a threat to the Curia. Change is always threatening to those in power. The Curia gagged when John XXlll called the Council.

Meanwhile the nuns carried on, got educated and began to understand their own marginalization in the church. It made them even more sensitive to others on the margin. As the most creative left the priesthood, the nuns carried on in prophetic ministries. Of course they were feminists, apparently a no-no in Rome. Now they are under siege by the men of Rome.

The most prophetic nun in America, Benedictine Joan Chittister had this to say about  the Vatican’s demand for the LCWR to revise itself.

“When you set out to reform a people, a group, who have done nothing wrong, you have to have an intention, a motivation that is not only not morally based, but actually immoral,” she said.

“Because you are attempting to control people for one thing and one thing only — and that is for thinking, for being willing to discuss the issues of the age … If we stop thinking, if we stop demanding the divine right to think, and to see that as a Catholic gift, then we are betraying the church no matter what the powers of the church see as an inconvenient truth in their own times.”

In attempting to take such control of people’s thinking, she said, “You make a mockery of the search for God, of the whole notion of keeping eyes on the signs of the times and of providing the people with the best possible spiritual guidance and presence you can give.

“When I was a child in this town, I was taught that it was a sin to go into a Protestant church.
In my lifetime, the church, to its eternal credit, admitted that it was wrong. The scandal and the sin is that it took 400 years to do that.”

Chittister said women religious have been trying since Vatican II “to help the church avoid that kind of darkness and control … they have been a gift to the church in their leadership and their love and their continuing fidelity.

“When you set out to reform that kind of witness, remember when it’s over who doomed the church to another 400 years of darkness. It won’t be the people of the church who did it.”


Stephen Harper cannot hear the cry of the earth

May 18, 2012



The science of the situation is clear — it’s time for the politics to follow

Dr. James Hansen is director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and adjunct professor in the department of earth and environmental sciences at Columbia University. He is the recognized voice, the voice of consensus among the scientific community. He  was the first scientist to warn the US Congress of the dangers of climate change.


In a recent article in the NY Times he turned his attention  to the appalling ecological footprint of Alberta’s Tar sands. he wrote:


Global warming isn’t a prediction. It is happening. That is why I was so troubled to read a recent interview with President Obama in Rolling Stone in which he said that Canada would exploit the oil in its vast tar sands reserves “regardless of what we do.”

If Canada proceeds, and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate.

Canada’s tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history. If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now. That level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control. Sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities. Global temperatures would become intolerable. Twenty to 50 percent of the planet’s species would be driven to extinction. Civilization would be at risk.

That is the long-term outlook. But near-term, things will be bad enough. Over the next several decades, the Western United States and the semi-arid region from North Dakota to Texas will develop semi-permanent drought, with rain, when it does come, occurring in extreme events with heavy flooding. Economic losses would be incalculable. More and more of the Midwest would be a dust bowl. California’s Central Valley could no longer be irrigated. Food prices would rise to unprecedented levels.

If this sounds apocalyptic, it is. This is why we need to reduce emissions dramatically

Our PM Harper goes blithely on ignoring the sacredness of the “Greater Economy”. the natural world which sustains us. We have here a PM of massive tin ears unable to hear the pre-eminent sign of our time, the cry of the earth, the assault on the Body of God.

Richard Rohr reads “the signs”

May 16, 2012

When the Roman Catholic  church convened the Second Vatican Council in 1962, theological giants walked the land. They all had something n common.They had seen war first hand.They had  experienced the ultimate in scandals, Christians killing Christians in the heart of Christendom. The desiccated neoscholasticism, long on abstractions and intellectual formulations  had replaced ethics with a propositonal faith.The giants knew that this Christianity was dead.And so they went back to the drawing board, Many of them (Rahner, De Lubac, Chenu,Congar etc)  had been silenced earlier in their lives for daring to suggest that the Church was less than a perfect society, that it needed to heed “the signs of the times.” These theologians  had witnessed Nazism and Fascism. Blind obedience had become a cardinal virtue.Way overrated. The great Redemptorist  moralist Bernard Haring began his work on ethics, with responsibility replacing obedience. These church Fathers, having witnessed the liquidation of the human person in Europe then  produced the great breakthrough of the last century—a Council which would set the church on the right track, for a new engagement with the world. This dramatic U turn was halted after 14 years—the pontificate of John Paul ll and his enforcer Josef Ratzinger.

It proved to be too late. The new wine  had spilled into the old wineskins and burst them. Lay citizens were coming of age, the best educated generation o Catholics in history were acquiring voice. They demanded to be heard, to be active and not passive.

Still  prophets of the priestly class were still  around, still flush with the energy the Spirit unleashed. They were not afraid to speak.

One of them is Richard Rohr ofm whose reflection follows.

We must be honest and admit that there are only two remaining large systems in the world that are totally patriarchal in their style and in their leadership: Communist states and the Roman Catholic Church. Ours never looked quite as bad since we at least used the language of Jesus, the symbols of communion, humility, and service, and we men even dress in rather feminine robes. The Communist states make no display of humility themselves or respect for the feminine side of anything. But the real bottom lines in the Roman Church are becoming more and more apparent to thinking and spiritual people in the last decade or so. Despite the very clear reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960’s, the Roman patriarchy, a closed system that allows no prophetic critique, and their branch appointed officers (bishops) are step by step rolling back both the spirit and the letter of the Vatican II reforms – while pretending and saying they are not. (Remember, if you can reject this Council, then you have the basis for rejecting the other 20 Councils of the Church too! The Pope and bishops had better be very careful!)


Deceit and supposed magnanimity are at the heart of all patriarchies, or otherwise their subjects would see what they are actually doing. North Koreans also believe their “Great Father” is protecting them, as did many Filipinos under Marcos, and Russians under their Tsars and Tsaritsas.


No group accepted the reforms and tried to renew itself following the Council like the American Sisters. Yes, they made their mistakes, and also enjoyed certain matriarchal benefits over the laity. Nevertheless, this cruel, humiliating, and intimidating attempt by the Roman Curia (“the place that cares for”) to punish and control the American sisters is being seen for what it is, and what it is not: It IS male patriarchal control, hurt feelings because they are not that much in control any more, and it is certainly NOT anything like Jesus or the Gospel. Patriarchal systems normally engineer their own demise by such gross misuse of power. We all need to sincerely pray – and speak much needed Gospel to very worldly power.


– Richard Rohr, OFM

“Vatican Versus American Nuns”

May 10, 2012

Kipling and Mothers’ Day

May 13, 2012

Arise then…women of this day!

Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”
~ From the original Mothers’ Day  1870, by Julia Ward Howe

Yes, its’ true. Mothers’ Day, an anti-war screed.

The Civil War had done its job, turning fertile soil into killing fields. Over 600,000 slaughtered more than all American deaths in all other wars.

No more the mothers cried.

Then war fever struck again in Europe, the dumbest war ever but the ugly virus of tribalsim stoked war fever again.


The poor kid lasted a month before he took a bullett.

They never found his body.

The puffed up imperialist spent thousands of pounds trying to find the hapless John, a victim of his father’s gross stupidity.

Kiping compensated by hating Germans the rest of his life.

Instaed of war.

Press misses a huge story in Palestine

May 11, 2012

Can anyone doubt that if there were more than 1,300 hunger strikers in any country in the world other than Palestine, the media in the West would be obsessed with the story? It would be featured day after day, and reported on from all angles, including the severe medical risks associated with such a lengthy refusal to take food. At this time, two Palestinians who were the first to start this current wave of resistance, Thaer Halaheh and Bilal Diab, entering their 64th day without food, are reported by the prisoner protection association, Addameer, and the NGO, Physician for Human Rights-Israel, to be in critical condition with their lives hanging in the balance. Despite this dramatic state of affairs there is scant attention in Europe, and literally none in North America.

So writes the distinguished UN rapporteur on Palestinian human rights. Richard Falk.

An internationally respected former  Princeton professor of International Law pulls no punches in the latest edition of Foreign Policy Journal.

Read on—and shake your head at the steadfast bias of the Western media.

In contrast, consider the attention that the Western media has devoted to a lone blind Chinese human rights lawyer, Chen Guangcheng, who managed to escape from house arrest in Beijing a few days ago and find a safe haven at the U.S. Embassy. This is an important international incident, to be sure, but is it truly so much more significant than the Palestinian story as to explain the total neglect of the extraordinary exploits of these thousands of Palestinians who are sacrificing their bodies, quite possibly their lives, to nonviolently protest severe mistreatment in the Israeli prison system? Except among their countrymen, and to some extent the region, these many thousand Palestinian prisoners have been languishing within an opaque black box ever since 1967, are denied protection, exist without rights, and cope as best they can without even the acknowledgement of their plight.

Te west has always rued the fact of the missing “Palestinian Gandhi” (israel usually boots them out, Mubarak Awad a great example.

Now silence.

Falk throws up the incessant drum beating over the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit who was captured and held in captivity until the Israelis after 5 years released over 1000 prisoners held under administrative detention. Hysteria. Then when shalit came out, averred his good treatment by his captors, the media lost interest. And hushed Shalit’s dad up when he said if he were Palestinian he’d o the same.

Falk saves his parting shot for the omniscient NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman:

That rock star of liberal pontificators, Thomas Friedman, has for years been preaching nonviolence to the Palestinians, implying that Israel as a democratic country with a strong moral sensitivity would yield in the face of such a principled challenge. Yet when something as remarkable as this massive expression of a Palestinian commitment to nonviolent resistance in the form of this open-ended hunger strike, dubbed ‘the war of empty stomachs’, takes place, Friedman along with his liberal brothers is stony silent, and the news sections of the newspaper of the New York Times are unable to find even an inch of space to report on these dramatic protests against Israel’s use of administrative detention and abusive treatment during arrest, interrogation, and imprisonment. Shame on you, Mr. Friedman!

And shame on the press in general.

The prophetic is back-on the CBC no less

May 9, 2012

The prophetic

Just when you think the prophetic is waning up steps renowned war artist Allan Harding Mackay.

A renowned war artist Allan Harding Mackay  whose work is in the National Museum sent CBC host of Power and Politics into shock on Tuesday’s show when he ripped up one of his Afghanistan paintings.

Mackay was in the finest tradition of the biblical prophets—I’ll choose Jeremiah here-when he expressed his disgust at the direction of the Tory government’s treatment of veterans, aboriginals and in general their shocking ongoing trashing of democracy, what Mackay  names as their abuse of parliamentary power.

Jeremiah was an old hand at this. From 626 BCE he raved on as prophets do, calling the nation back to its senses. His disgust was a  the ruling priesthood of Jerusalem and he was no slouch at using symbols.

In Chapter 13, Jeremiah ruins a linen belt, shows it to a priest and tells him, just like this belt you are a useless leader “with a stubborn heart.” Yahweh has bound israel but the priests have broken the bond

In chapter 27, Jeremiah is told “Make a yoke out of straps and crossbars and put it on your neck.’ Presumably Jeremiah walked around telling fellow Jews, submit to Babylon. Don’t believe these false prophets that all is OK. You are corrupt.

Well put Allan Harding Mackay in that long tradition of the prophetic. He uses a dramatic action to call attention to the present miserable state of  governance Canadians are now being subject to. He is telling us to wake up.

My favourite piece of disgust is Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s dropping the corporate tax rate another 1.5% in January to 15%. From 2000 on, the rate has dropped from 28 % to 15 now. This means a loss of about 13 billion a year. That’s a lot of infrastructure not getting fixed etc.

I was disappointed in Solomon’s incredulity. This is a smart guy who studied under Grefgory Baum at McGill.

Guess he’s forgotten about the prophetic.

Bravo to Allan Harding Mackay for attempting to wake us up.

Awake,by the way is a well known salutation of both Buddha and Jesus

Sexism still abides

May 8, 2012


Mary Hunt the feminist theologian who heads WATER (Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual ) has it right.

“How dare they go after 57,000 dedicated women whose median age is well over 70 and who work tirelessly for a more just world? How dare the very men who preside over a church in utter disgrace due to sexual misconduct and cover-ups by bishops try to distract from their own problems by creating new ones for women religious?”

Hunt was referring to the latest Vatican crackdown on the the Leadership Conference of Women Religious,(LCWR)  a group that represents about 80 percent of the 57,000 U.S. Catholic nuns.

Tom Roberts of the NCR  said that “the eight-page doctrinal assessment — an indictment, really — calls into question the lives, motives, spirituality, fidelity, theology and ways of approaching the church and the world of members of the LCWR,”

The Vatican accused the LCWR of having “serious doctrinal issues” and “radical feminist themes” .They were caring way too much about social justice issues like poverty and ecology  and not speaking out enough about abortion, contraceptives and same-sex marriage. And oh yes, that big bo-no which the Vatican treats as irreformable dogma the ordination of women as priests.

One hardly knows where to begin here.The outpouring of support for the nuns has been fantastic,

Nobody has any trouble with authority.It’s authoritarianism which drives  faithful Catholics batty.

The bishops never tire (*and it’s always supported by Rome who remind their branch plant managers that “YOU ARE THE TEACHER”. Sister,don’t you get that!

We are the experts on faith and morals. Remember the sex abise scandal and the somnolent bishops who protected the institution and with the help of Cardinal Ratzinger were tone-deaf when it came to this issue and the bishops who never paid the price for their silence and their collusion.

Now they are seen to be going after the most loved religious in the Church the female religious.

What don’t they get?

Does anybody smell the rank odour of sexism here?

Vatican ll opened the windows for the Dove to fly in and let the bad air out. sexism sadly still abides.