Archive for March 2013

The Shepherd fires a curve ball at the sheep

March 30, 2013

“We worship not the Graces… but Fashion. The head monkey at Paris puts on a traveler’s cap, and all the monkeys in America do the same.”

So wrote that keen observer Henry David Thoreau in his 1854 classic Walden.

Then there is the 32 year old young fogey, Toronto diocese priest,  freshly minted from the seminary who said that he would never wash women’s feet  during a Holy Thursday liturgy. The famous Johannine story is only mentioned in the Fourth Gospel.It is of course a powerful parable of the servant Christ.

This sad priest is not very different from those bishops who continue to outrage Catholics by doing the same.

But wait!

The “head monkey” in Rome Pope Francis has just fired another shot across the calcified bow of the Holy Roman Church by (gasp, can it be true) washing female feet (and say it isn’t so, Muslim feet) at a juvenile detention facility in Rome.


This is against Roman church policy though most intelligent pastors reject it bit it would be worthwhile to find out how many putative leaders in Canada continue this outrageous discriminator practice.

Now it will be interesting to watch “the monkeys in america” these reactionary bishops who slavishly follow Rome’s outmoded dicta.

My guess is like all unimaginative  bishops they will quickly follow suit now that “head monkey” Francis has set such an inclusive example. And so it will be when we start ordaining women. The sheep will all chorus,”I always believed this but…..”

Good Friday 2013

March 27, 2013


We know Pharaoh is always with us, so in that realization  a small group of Catholic  teachers (Teachers for Social Justice) began this ongoing tradition in 1979. It quickly became  ecumenical and is a  welcome antidote to the  privatized spirituality in evidence today. The original crucifixion was a publi event and it placed in sharp contrast the  values of empire andf social justice.Crucifixion today is organized globally by corporate worldview which continues to place too many people on the margins of life. Christians today must be in the vanguard of taking people off history’s manifold crosses.

Marginalized Youth, Idle No More and the Sanctuary Movement to protect vulnerable refugee claimants will be the focus of ‘stations’ for the Ecumenical Good Friday Walk for Justice March 29. The annual event begins at 2 p.m. at the Church of the Holy Trinity, beside the Eaton Centre.

These three themes reflect issues of which the public has become acutely aware through recent events. The Ecumenical Walk in the downtown core – preceded and followed by worship in the church – links the injustice and suffering endured by Jesus of Nazareth 2000 years ago with injustices that afflict large segments of the population today.

A simple vegan meal follows the closing worship in the church at about 4:30 p.m.

The Mission Statement for the Ecumenical Good Friday Walk says, “Jesus entrusted us with an amazing gift: the gift of knowledge about what the real purpose of our lives is, a purpose dramatically at odds with a world marked by violence, oppression and alienation for far too many. … Conversion of our own lives and of the death-dealing power systems of our times is within our reach. … as we walk, we journey together with Jesus, enacting a hope that can be for all people, that had, and still has, the power to confront the myriad forces of death, and overcome them.”

The Ecumenical Walk for Justice began 33 years ago as an alternative to traditional Good Friday Stations of the Cross services  draws some 300 people from the GTA. Walk organizers are from the Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, United and Anglican Churches and Christian Peacemaker Teams. Everyone who wishes to participate is invited to join the walk on March 29.

Good Friday flyer 2013 (final2)

Phil Donohue’s truthful movie about Amerika

March 26, 2013



The thing I wonder about the Dads and Moms

Who send their sons to the Vietnams

Will they really think their way of life

Has been protected as the next war comes?

I have prayed for America

I was made for America

Her shining dream plays in my mind

By the rockets red glare

A generation’s blank stare

We better wake her up this time

Jackson Browne “For America

“They stand mute “says Phil Donohue to Chris Hedges. They the drugged out consumers of TV and escapist films. The walking dead. Life’s passive spectators seduced by corporate entertainment, mindless sitcoms and the sports juggernaut, a large part of the best entertained and least informed people on the planet.

Donahue a Catholic with a conscience was sacked for his principled rejection of the war in Iraq, The father of serious afternoon journalism wax sacked in 2003 from the putatively liberal MSNBC network for his stance. Remember the abuse Michael Moore took the same year after his prophetic outburst at the Academy Awards.

To me it is ironic how social justice permeated the Catholic bones of these two men while the official mitres remained mute.

Abraham Heschel wrote:

In biblical days, prophets were astir while the world was asleep;today the world is astir while the Church and the synagogue are busy with trivialities.

Well war and sentimental patriotism are never trivial.


It takes a mensch to stand against them.

Donohue never worked on TV again. For four years he worked on a powerful documentary Body of War based on the massive suffering of paralyzed Iraq War veteran Tomas Young.

You can guess what happened in the United States of Amnesia,

Please we want escape, car chases, cheap sex, any kind of mind candy but hardly ever  filmic truth.

Too depressing the commercial verdict. No promotion. Brief openings in a few major cities then nada, It will be university campuses, art houses etc.

As TS Eliot said, “Humankind can not bear much reality.”

And the BS artists who promoted the war—Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush, Wolfowitz, Feith and the the talking heads at Fox they still roll on with their toxic lies and venom. Those were the ones who sanitized the war, their brazen faces still outside the bars of a jail

As Donohue lamented, “Nobody sees the pain.” Not in the fantasy dream world of television.Not in the movies.Not in the daily papers.


March 25, 2013


Cover-23 sc00000ff0


A new book by Ted Schmidt   from the preface:

Why aren’t there teachers like you anymore?” the young teacher asked me.

I had never met him before he showed up at talk I was giving on scripture in 2010. His name was familiar to me and many people told me he was doing good things in the working class school he was in.

I brushed off his compliment and told him I thought there were lots of really good teachers around. I never was one for “old fartism” and genuinely believed that every generation produced stand outs. When he persisted with, “you know what I mean” I simply told him that in many ways we were products of our time. He had included my good friends the late Fintan Kilbride and Dwyer Sullivan in this grouping. We all had been honoured by the Catholic Teacher’s Union OECTA  with the Marion Tyrrell Award, a kind of “teacher of the year” for the province.

This memoir is my attempt to answer Steve’s question.

One never fully understands how one is viewed and I never attempted to forge a persona. If anything I often saw myself as ‘conservative’, simply trying to answer the Psalmist’s plaint uttered in Babylon,”How do we sing the Lord’s song in a new land.” I loved the tradition which was handed on to me. I resonated with the words of the greatest pope of the last century John XXlll

It is not that the Gospel has changed: it is that we have begun to understand it better. Those who have lived as long as I have were faced with new tasks in the social order at the start of the century; those who, like me, were twenty years in the East and eight in France, were enabled to compare different cultures and traditions, and know that the moment has come to discern the signs of the times, to seize the opportunity and to look far ahead.

I have always said that I never had a career in teaching. I had a life poured  out on the sacred soil of young lives. Career connotes ambition, plotting with one’s eyes on the next rung. It was about upward mobility. My horizon was about  downward mobility, an ever deeper immersion both in the lives of students but also into the never-ending search for wisdom. Triste dictu, I met too many careerists. They had their rewards but in my judgment they missed the many splendored thing. I chose the classroom as the place where the real action was, where the sparks flew, eyes were opened and laughter bounced of the walls.I was never cynical about people who chose to be admistrators.Some whom I name in this book had that charism. I take no  pleasure in saying that most did not. As the Bard said of such types ”Ambition should be made of sterner stuff.” Many indeed were decent people but they were not leaders in any significant way.

Available from the author

Obama ‘s weasel words in Israel/Palestine

March 22, 2013



It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of their own,” Obama told hundreds of Israeli students in a speech in Jerusalem. “Palestinians have a right to be free people in their own land.”

Yes, the president even asked Israelis to “look at the world through their eyes.” Obama is good at this.

Nice words but no action.

Predictably Obama said zoltz about the settlements, rien, nada, nothing. No matter how you cut it this was  a stunning ommission.The biggest stumbling block to peace in Israel/Palestine.

Jewish blogger Richard Silverstein aptly and somewhat cynically summed up this whole charade.

He even pulled out the “tikun olam” trump card.  Whenever someone wants to establish their Jewish social justice bona fides they tout their commitment to tikun olam and that, presto change-o, turns them into a morally conscientious Jew (or Jewish ally).  I got news for ya, Barack. Ya don’t walk the talk.  That phrase means something and you don’t get to invoke it without earning the right to.  You’ve got a Nobel Peace Prize?  Ya didn’t earn that either.  It may turn out to be the most embarrassing Nobel Prize moment in history.

Here is a timorous president who could turn off the spigot of America’s non-stop funding of injustice in the Middle East.

Pope Francis and Argentine fascism

March 21, 2013


One is not surprised at the sudden interest in the present pope’s performance  during the “Dirty War” in Argentina. This is quite natural and understandable and so far it shows us that as the senior Jesuit in that country nothing lurid  during ihis time has stuck to Pope Francis. The critical tipping point for one conversant with this ugly episode in Argentina was the comment of Peace Nobelist Perez Esquivel, himself a heroic figure at that time. Esquivel exonerates Bergoglio from the sad performance  of many clerics and bishops during this period.


Adolfo Perez  Esquivel

There was a lot of blame and cowardice to go around in those years. The Argentine bishops did not distinguish themselves nor did  Papal Pro-Nubcio Pio Laghi a career diplomat who later served in thet capacity in Washington. Laghi now deceased had admitted that he had knowledge of 6,000 cases of people who had disappeared. 20 years later the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo  marched in Rome demanding that he be prosecuted as an accomplice of the regime. What was well known was that he maintained very close contacts with the Argentine junta  and had a close friendship with Admiral Emilio Eduardo Massera, a frequent tennis partner and whose children he baptized. Laghi stated that President Jorge Videla (1976-81) really was “a good Catholic.” On December 22, 2010, Videla was sentenced to life in a civilian prison for the deaths of 31 prisoners following his coup d’éta and in July 2012, he was sentenced to 50 years in prison for the systematic kidnapping of children during his tenure.

Good people always emerge

As always there were heroes in the Church.One was Irish Passionist Fred Richards who edited his community’s newsletter The Southern Cross. This small paper written for the Irish community in Buenos Aires kept publishing reports of the disappeared as they occurred while at the same time the craven public  press kept mum. Richards later felt the enmity of the military vicar Bishop Adolfo Tortolo, an apologist for the military.

When the Order’s General, American Ted Folley visited Buenos Aires at that time he received a blistering letter from the Cardinal-Primate Antonio Caggiano. Richards had written an editorial the title of which which says it all  “The Silence of the Bishops”–who did not speak out against the abuses of the government.

The Passionist Order, founded in 1720 to keep alive the memory of the suffering Christ had honoured their charism.In 1995 Richards was honoured by Irish President Mary Robinson for his courage. The order had refused to shut up during a period of massive human rights abuses.

In El Norte and especially in Canada it is difficult to penetrate and fully understand the stunning actions of   a modern fascist government especially in a highly educated populace. We do not have the cultural awareness to comprehend such barbaric activity and such craven ecclesiastical performance.

Fascism and the Rat Line

A quick snapshot of Argentina may help here. Think Peron, think the Holocaust and World War ll when Croatian Franciscans organized “the Rat Line” to aid the escape of many Nazis to a fascist haven,Argentina. Croatia had been under the sway of the Poglavnik, Ante  Pavelich, the supreme leader of the Ustashe movement in the war years. Pavelich led a puppet state friendly to Hitler. He also unleashed a genocidal persecution of Jews,Serbs and Roma. After the war Pavelich escaped and fled to Argentina. Bishop Alois  Hudal, a Nazi sympathizer was key in  facilitating the escape to Latin America of other mass murderers, the commandant of Treblinka Franz Stangl, Gustav Wagner the commandant of Sobibor and Alois Brunner who commanded the Drancy camp near Paris. Both Stangl and Wagner escaped to Brazil (remember  the film Boys of Brazil ) another fascist redoubt. Brazil consistently refused all extradition requests. Adolf Eichmann of course was snatched from Buenos Aires by the Israeli government in 1960 and the worst of them all the commandant of Auschwitz Josef Megele hid out in Buenos Aires). Hudal’s disgusting activity (which finally saw him fired by the Vatican in 1952) was child’s play next to that of Croatian Framciscan Krunoslav Draganovic and his coterie of fascist priests.


Kronoslav Draganovic

The aforementioned Cardinal Caggiano of Argentina, a fervent leader of the right wing Catholic Action in 1946 went to Rome to facilitate the smuggling of these Nazis.. All of this was supported by Juan Peron,the  Argentine president.

To understand the “Dirty War” and the Church, one must have a basic appreciation of Argentinian history and its strange (to us) proclivity to fascism and right wing Catholicism, always attracted to uber order, hierarchy and absolute obedience.

Francis on the shoulders of giants

March 19, 2013


Cardinal Lorscheider


Cardinal Arns

A very high bar has been set for Pope Francis.

He stands on the shoulders of giant church men.

Most northerners of course know little or nothing of the heroic clerics but their witness is written in the book of  life and well known in Latin America. As are the thousands of lay martyrs to the cause of social justice.

First we must begin with the reborn church of Medellin, a direct response to Vatican ll which called the Church of Christ to be involved in the life of the poor.

3 years later in the summer of 1968, the Latin American Episcopal Conference (CELAM) met in Medellín, Colombia. Its purpose was to apply Vatican ll to the very different reality of Latin America, a continent groaning under  massive poverty and under the powerful sway of the United States. The Monroe Doctrine  proclaimed in 1823 warned Europe to stay out of the Americas. They were “owned” by the great hegemon, the United States.

A great Canadian missionary  Padre Harvey “Pablo Steele  SFM  described all of this in his widely read pamphlet Quien tiene America Latina —who owns Latin America? The United States and all of its satraps were employed to keep the poor invisible and the cheap goods flowing back to El Norte (the USA)

A series of dictaduras (hard dictators) were propped up by the States to break labour unions and facilitate the cheap goods flowing north. Their names, all friends of the USA live in infamy—Trujillo, Somoza, Duvalier, Armas, Videla, Pinochet, Garcia, Banzer, Duarte  shameless brutal men who lived like princes off the backs of their own people.

Medellin adopted “the preferential option for the poor”. Many of the bishops appointed by Pope Paul Vl caught this spirit of liberation and bravely defended the face of Christ in the poor. The  church officially left the embrace of the wealthy and was reborn in solidarity with the poor. Liberation replaced development. This gave rise to the theology of liberation. Peruvian theologian Gustavo Guttierez’s question rang out,”In the north you speak about the existence of God; we in the south are concerned about the existence of the human.”

Great bishops stood tall defending the poor and liberation theology. Aloisio Lorscheider, Helder Camara  and Evaristo Arns in Brazil, the martyrs Juan Gerardi in Guatemala and Oscar Romero in El Salvador,Sergio Arceo and Samuel Ruiz  in Mexico, Juan Landazuri in Peru, Raul Silva in Chile, Leonidas Proano in Ecuador were incredible leaders, champions of the poor. They “got” it long before the penny dropped for the present pope Bergoglio.

All the great bishops were replaced by highly conservative prelates, mostly members of Opus Dei. In this way John Paul ll did a major disservice to the gospel in Latin America, a continent he never understood. He was terrified of “Marxist analysis”, simply a tool for understanding oppression. It was a great failure of his pontificate.

Memories however are not short in the southern cone. People do remember the great bishops on whose shoulders the present pope stands.

Dualism haunts Christians

March 18, 2013

100 days before the horrendous  bombing of Iraq began 10 years ago, the actor Sean Penn flew into Baghdad and was quoted “As a father, an actor, a filmmaker and a patriot, my visit to Iraq is for me a natural extension of my obligation (at least attempt) to find my own voice on matters of conscience.”

He was pilloried by the US press.

In his just released book The  Iraq War: Among World’s Worst Events writer David Swanson puts the calamity in shocking context:

As documented below, by the most scientifically respected measures available, Iraq lost 1.4 million lives as a result of OIL, saw 4.2 million additional people injured, and 4.5 million people become refugees. The 1.4 million dead was 5% of the population. 


Prior to this, the US embargo had starved 500,000 million children to death and in a notorious interview (May 12,1996) US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in a  chilling statement which has come to haunt her said, “We think the price is worth it.”

In 2003 15 million people marched against this evil and  cried out NO. They were ignored by the Christian president.

Here was the Vox Dei living among the people proclaiming with their voices and their feet, “this is a  sacrilege”

We remember a smattering of Catholics in the march that bitterly cold day.

There were no bishops and no parish priests.

The John Paul ll bishops saw this a secular event.They were absent. Their concerns were ecclesial—much like today. They were the victims of a terrible dualism, in this case sacred/secular. God is primarily found in “holy places” like churches.

They were and are dead wrong.

The Iraqi children like those of the sex abuse scandal were ignored in the name of ecclesial concerns. They like the wounded man on the road to Jericho were left  to languish  as the clerics headed off to the Temple to do “holy things.”

The pagan Samaritan like the unbelievers who marched against the ugly war carried the energy of the Holy Spirit. they were in touch with the cosmic sacred story. The language  was unimportant.something deep inside of them spoke, “I am commanded, therefore I am.”

It should be easier for Christians steepd in the holy story to feel this.


March 17, 2013


A whimsy by Ted Schmidt

Camerlengo(Italian),a Catholic cardinal,  determines the death of the reigning Pope; then takes possession of the Ring of the Fisherman and cuts it with shears in the presence of the Cardinals. He is then involved with the preparations concerning the conclave and the Pope’s funeral.

Yes, you could say chaos resulted when I,Giuseppe Gioia,the Cardinal Camerlengo, a son of the Piedmont,  took charge when Papa Benedetto resigned.

I summoned all 115 of these dour men and read them the riot act.

What transpired was not chaos, it was the wings of the Holy Spirit, the Divine Disturber who had long been absent inside our Church.

Gentlemen, here are the rules for the conclave

1.If you can’t dance like Bishop Tutu, please remove yourselves. Dance is a fundamental requisite for the  See of Rome. The  Holy Fire of evolution has been coursing through the cosmos, flaring up in prophets’ faces especially in Jesus. Dance was our ancestors’ first response. to the divine Mystery. Too many of you have not heard the music. As a matter of fact you are tone deaf. A quick perusal of your music collection has indicated this to me. You have the words but not the music. The monotonous drum beat from Rome has crippled your imaginations and dispirited our people. As Lisa  Isherwood says, “the world is full of Christianity yet nothing changes.It may be time to change the tune”. Immediately 15 stepped back.

2. If  you do not have the following artists in your music library, you have not heard the cry of the cosmos  or the cry of the poor and ,you are not fit to be next pope.

Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Gil Scott-Heron,a box set of STAX CDs, Muddy Waters, Ray Charles and Bob Dylan.

If these  artists are strangers, please leave

15 more  moved to the rear..

3.If you have not been a missionary priest in the field or a parish priest for at least 15 years, you are inventing the human and have no idea of people’s needs.

17 more joined the outer ring.

4 If you have never had your heart broken in love, either male of female, please go now.

10 more shuffled to the back.

5.If you have never walked a picket line or demonstrated for justice, you have absolutely no idea of who Jesus of Nazareth was and is. Identify yourselves and please step back..

The rest, heads down, joined their brothers at the back of the chapel.

6.Why gentlemen, I asked them, are you all dressed in red? This is the blood the martyrs shed but you have avoided anything resembling a cross or struggle.You have given God’s people thin gruel for the journey—platitudes and abstractions are no substitute for God’s reign of peace and justice. You have offered respectability not risk, a middle class Jesus rather than the radical revolutionary who was murdered for the New World.You have no right to wear the Red. You resemble princes of a medieval court

7.Look around this room, gentlemen. One half the human race is not represented; where are the women and those lay people who represent 99% of our Church? They are outside these doors!  are outside these doors. The  Master’s question rings out, “Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? “ (Mk.8:18)

8.My final question: Did you not all swear to never raise the issue of celibacy and female ordination to become bishops? Was there not a higher authority than the bishop of Rome to swear fealty to? Where was Jesus and your conscience when you succumbed to “scarlet fever”?

I am asking you for the good of the Church and the gospel to return to your countries and find the poorest parish you can find and raise up the faces of the poor and neglected.

Vaya con dios, fratelli!

There was not a word in that chapel.It was then that I donned the new vestment, the chasuble  that all priests wear today, pure green, with a gorgeous picture of  our holy mother, the earth in the middle.

And then the people rushed in and proclaimed me pope.

And they insisted on naming me Pope John XXlV.

Breathing with one lung: a new pope

March 15, 2013


I thought I heard Buddy Bolden shout.
Open up that window, let that bad air out !
Jelly Roll Morton 1938

The new pope Francis got off to a good start.He spoke to all the faithful—and to all people of good will.He knows the Church has no corner on the Divine. It blows where it wills. He asked people to pray for him. He exhibited a new openness, maybe a fresh approach.He appears to be a step beyond the ideological Benedict XVl who countenanced only one theology.

Humility should go with the papacy.It did not with his two successors. Their intellectual abuse of over 100 theologians and teachers was scandalous. Although we have four gospels they accepted only one line—theirs.It was a narrow clerical hierarchical Church .All power stemmed from Rome. Oxygen was sucked out of local dioceses. Because of their lamentable disregard of serious administrative duties they allowed the Curia to claim more power.

The most egregious failure was their betrayal of the Vatican ll vision of the Church as the people of God, a communio. They had total disregard for the sensus fidelium,the Holy spirit who breathes through the entire Catholic people.They made little or no attempt to hear the people choking off valuable experience and insights.As a result people left in droves.In the democracies people  quickly turned their backs on a Church which appeared deaf and refused to dialogue. A Roman monologue was substituted for serious dialogue. The sole locus of truth lay in the papal and episcopal Magisterium.This is patently false. Its bad theology and bad theology begets bad practice.The whole church is the bearer of revelation.

The Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) states this:

Those who exercise episcope in the Body of Christ must not be separated from the ‘symphony’ of the whole people of God in which they have their part to play. They need to be alert to the sensus fidelium, in which they share, if they are to be made aware when something is needed for the well-being and mission of the community, or when some element of the Tradition needs to be received in a fresh way. (#30)

Contemporary theology tells us that we all share one baptism a participation in the divine wisdom. Each person has a “sensus fidei.” The Church  must get a feel for an understanding of the entire faithful (“sensus fidelium”). Cardinal Newman called this the “conspiratio fidelium at pastorum” the breathing together of the faithful and the pastors.”


Now I find out fratello Francis has only one lung.A symbol for the old  Church. Maybe we will grow another lung.there is a lot of bad air to exhale.