Archive for June 2013

Dear Pope Francis

June 29, 2013


Dear Pope Francis:

Many around the world – Catholics and non-Catholics alike – hope that your election will mark a turning point in the history of the Church. We are encouraged by your decision to create an advisory commission of mainly residential bishops from around the world to reexamine how the Church governs itself. We are especially pleased by your new style of leadership, less a monarch, more a simple servant-bishop who listens to the people of God. We, the undersigned, people of all walks of life from all over the world, would like you to hear us.

Church governance was defined fifty years ago at the Second Vatican Council: “The order of bishops… together with their head, the supreme pontiff, and never apart from him…have supreme and full authority over the universal church.” This says very clearly that the world’s bishops, together with the pope, should be governing the Church. Since the Council ended, however, the Roman Curia, an institution far removed from the people, has edged the bishops aside and often made bishops feel they are working for the Curia. Now is the time to return to the spirit of Vatican II by putting more emphasis on two of its principles: collegiality, placing responsibility in the hands of many rather than in the hands of one, and subsidiarity, that no decision be made on a higher level that can be made more effectively on a lower level.

We are well aware that, over the centuries, the governance of the Church has changed in many ways. The early Church members elected their own bishops. Going back to our roots and returning to the earliest tradition in the Church, we’d like to join with many church leaders worldwide in urging you to encourage  the people of God throughout the world, led by the local clergy, to elect the bishops of their diocese. Over time, as current bishops retire and new elected bishops take their place, such a move would give the people a voice, a vote and citizenship and lead to a more accountable Church.  Then local churches, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, could collegially address the many issues facing them today and serve as a resource to their bishop in addressing them. Listening bishops, in turn, will be more prepared to help the pope deal with issues facing the universal Church.

You know that, for decades, numerous scholars, theologians and church leaders (including Joseph Ratzinger when he was still a cardinal) have been talking about the Church’s need to decentralize because, as many say, the Church has become “unmanageable.”

We submit this proposal in a spirit of love for our Church and a deep concern for its future. If the Church is to “be the place of God’s mercy and love, where everyone can feel themselves welcomed, loved, forgiven, and encouraged to live according to the good life of the Gospel,” as you have said, there should be a system of governance that allows for more input from the people who make up the Church. And if the Church is to “have open doors so that all might enter,” even the input of those outside the Church must be welcomed. We close with the urgent request that you decentralize the Church and put the election of bishops by the people on your October meeting agenda.

A Vatican ll pope

June 28, 2013


Eugene Kennedy put it  very well in the National Catholic Reporter

Why is it that, although Pope Francis only entered our lives a season ago and Pope Benedict XVI spent eight long — and I mean long — years as our Holy Father, does Francis seem like someone we have known a long time while we may say of Benedict what the Irish say of Johnny, that we hardly knew ye?

Benedict for all his intellectual gifts always spoke like the professor he was, his words hardly ever connected with human experience and ordinary lives.

A  cursory look at his life shows us an ethereal, discombobulated existence devoid of depth experiences. He has lived within the womb of the Church and its books  much too long. His theological work hardly ever touched ground.It never appeared to mine the depths of real living. His one term as a  pastor in Munich was not successful, He did his job as papal enforcer with a ruthless efficiency, often destroying theological careers and lives with a stunning equanimity. To be fair, as pope he did change, became less judgmental and more pastoral but he never really connected with Catholic people.


Francis is a breath of fresh air, a throwback to John XXlll to whom he is being compared. He is home in his own skin, never hectors people and prefers like John “the medicine of mercy” rather than condemnation. His life has been filtered through his work with those on the periphery, the marginales.His simple gestures, his eating with others, his eschewing the papal apparel of the “Flutterers” as irish writer Colm Toibin calls the high plumaged clerics.

Kennedy attributes all of this to Francis being a Vatican ll priest like ones many of us knew before the restoration of the highly clerical and hierarchical church under JP ll and Benedict. My friend Jimmy was one of those priests. He died at 81 and  at our last meal together he shared with me a letter from his former bishop in an American city. This Vatican ll pastor-bishop lamented the rightward swing of the institutional clerical leaders  and its docile authoritarian bishops who constantly genuflected to Rome and spurned the insights of the People of God. The bishop praised Jimmy for his pastoral work and hinted that a more democratic church would return.

Why does Francis seem so appealing. Kennedy writes:

Francis seems familiar because Catholics have already known him in the Vatican II priests who have been their pastors and sacramental ministers over the years since that council brought new life to an old church. Catholics have known him in the bishops and priests who brought the spirit of the council to their dioceses and parishes. Every Catholic can list the Vatican II priests who have helped them and their families get through the spiritual challenges of life.

That, alas, was not Benedict’s strong suit, as he was determined to diminish the influence of that council that he insisted had been misunderstood and misinterpreted. For Francis, Vatican II’s spirit seems second nature, as it was and remains in the Vatican II priests now often under siege by Benedict’s efforts to reform the reform of Vatican II.

Francis seems familiar because you have known him already in the many good priests who have remained faithful to the church and its people even when the sex abuse scandal cast its shadow unfairly across their lives. Francis seems as if he has always been in your life in the ministry of the Vatican II priests and bishops. Francis seems to be defined by the “spirit of Vatican II,” a phrase that Benedict’s self-righteous reformers of the reform condemn as close to heretical.


Catholic silence on Occupation

June 26, 2013



The  United Methodist annual (regional) conferences in New England, Minnesota, Pacific Northwest and Upper New York voted this month to divest from companies involved with Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land including Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, Hewlett Packard, and General Electric. They joined conferences in West Ohio, New York, Northern Illinois, California Nevada and California Pacific which have already taken similar action. This brings the total to nine regional bodies representing thousands of churches nationwide.

And one may ask where is the docile, play it safe Catholic  church on this issue of Israeli oppression?

At least five other conferences — Virginia, Rocky Mountain, North Central New York, Baltimore Washington, and Detroit — have called on the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Pension and Health Benefits to divest its millions of dollars in holdings in companies that profit from the occupation.  Two more conferences, Susquehanna and Eastern Pennsylvania, established official task forces to examine the issue.

In March, the Mennonite Central Committee U.S. unanimously decided that — effective immediately — it will not invest knowingly in companies involved in the Israeli occupation.” They adopted the investment screen developed by the American Friends Service Committee, which includes the aforementioned companies and more than two dozen others.

There does not appear to be one prophetic bone in the US hierarchy on this major issue of our time.

Fix Palestine, call Israel to account on its outrageous crimes and land theft, and you defuse tensions in the Arab world. But the largest religious body in America appears terrified of the Israeli lobby in Congress.

There was an old Protestant hymn whic captured this pusillanimous betrayl of the gospel.Its refrain was “No cross, no crown.”

Bravo for the courage of the United Methodists for its part in keeping Christianity relevant.

Interested in the facts on the Occupation?

and the wonderful Canadian group

The New Evangelization is old

June 24, 2013


A nice letter from Tornto’s Cardinal Collins inviting teachers to the 12th annual Education Mass at  St.Paul’s Basilica,This will take place just before school on August 28.The event, the idea is to bring Catholic educators at any level together to deepen their understanding of the great vocation.

After the mass there will be a meal and Cardinal Collins will speak on The New Evangelization and Education. The cost of the event(which includes a meal in the parish hall) is $50.00 payable to the Catholic Teachers’Guild  a group not known to most Catholics or to most teachers. No matter the idea is a good one.

Many Catholics are unaware of the New Evangelization but it has been talked about in church circles.Bishops are  directed to promote this. Basically it is about the Church being in a new moment and the means to tap into this in order to promote gospel values. Pope John Paul ll was a big promoter and for him it was  mostly about  the need to “rediscover  and promote the inviolable dignity of every human person” For Catholics this is the Jesus way, the Jesus life to be “the person for others.’The Pope expressed this important role of the laity in a number of documents especially Apostolicam Actuositatem. and the better known Apostolic Exhortation of 1988, Christifideles Laici. 

This all makes sense but one of the major problems is the terrible lack of credibility the institution has among so many people. The New Evangelization largely has come to mean a return to the hierarchical, priest centred-Church. Again and again the ultra conservative groups like Opus Dei, Communio e Liberazione, Focolare,the Neocatechumenate  and the Legionnaires of Christ are seen as models of church. Few have any purchasing power among youth. They are top-down organizations which really don’t understand that we are in the new moment of educated Catholics who are no longer interested  in the old model of “pray, pay and obey.” Catholics demand greater transparency, accountability and a say in how the organization is run. This has not been forthcoming  and so the faithful have been rejecting this tired model by the millions. As we look around Canadian cities the official Catholic church, the majority Canadian church is absent from the great societal issues. The old adage goes, if the Catholic Church doesn’t lead the parade it’s not in it.

The New Evangelization however is taking place.It is by serious Catholics leaving the institution, speaking with their feet loud and clear: Change the channel.You are not connecting. These disaffected ones are telling church leaders to re-engage in society, live the kingdom life, and follow through on Vatican ll.Stop your obsession with pelvic orthodoxy and understand that the greatest moral issue facing us is climate change.The planet’s right to life is paramount.The clerical leadership is not hearing this reverse evangelization of the majority baptized.Their response is to keep pushing the old agenda.The new wine, the new energy is outside the institutions.

Men who are close to the people

June 22, 2013



In his latest shot across the ecclesial bow, Pope Francis took aim at the bourgeoisification of the institutional church. Addressing the Vatican legates around the world he told them they risked ridicule if they lived overly comfortable lives, What immediately comes to mind was the absolute disgust JP ll showed when  he went to Haiti and saw the papal rep living like a king among the squalor.

More interesting however than the warning against “the bourgeois style of life” was Francis’s comments on the role that the legates have in making recommendations for clergy who should be made bishops.It is universally accepted that John Paul ll as the Brits would say, “made a hames of this” .In short his episcopal choices were uninspired. The poor candidates appointed by the Polish pope were long on dogma and very short on pastoral ability, As the great ecclesiologist Richard McBrien often stated “these men answered to a minority of one-Rome.” Sadly the Catholic Church is still lumbered wit these men who are virtually tone deaf to the sensus fidelium. They are monologists  afraid of dialogue, utterly uninterested in what the Spirit may be say ing to the baptized.

Francis warned these ambassadors of appointing the “overly ambitious or those “who exhibited a “princely psychology and comfortable and tranquil life.

Which takes us back to the great papal legate Jean Jadot. high born of a wealthy belgian family, Jadot was a Vatican ll man who caught the spirit of a church engaged with the people. Pope Paul Vl told him to seek out the best pastoral men he could find.Boy did he ever.No grey monochromatic hacks here. Men like Raymond Hunthausen of Seattle who challenged America’s fascination with nuclear overkill,He called the Trident submarine “the Auschwitz of Puget Sound”, refused to pay taxes to support a foreign policy of mass nuclear murder. Leroy Matthieen of San Antonio was another great one, asking nuclear workers to leave their jobs.There were may more  whom Jadot placed at the head of dioceses.

In Canada we had some wonderful bishops who walked with their people  into history—Remi De Roo, Donal Chiasson,George Flahiff,Tom Fulton, Bernard Hubert, Alex Carter, Joe McNeil, Jim Hayes, Adolphe Proulx and many others,They made the Church credible. Those who followed , in general were not up to their predecessors.

Look to Francis to appoint men “who are close to the people …are mild-mannered, patient and merciful; that they love poverty … (and lead) simple and austere lives,. Be careful that they are not ambitious, that they do not seek the episcopate.Those that want the episcopate … no, that’s not right.”

Bill Maher shreds Ronald Reagan

June 8, 2013


As Jimmy Carter was leaving the presidency in 1979 one of his last acts was to install  solar panels on the White House. He said:

In the year 2000 the solar water heater behind me, which is being dedicated today, will still be here, supplying cheap, efficient energy. A generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken, or it can be just a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people.”

This solar panel over the West Wing of course was demolished by the incoming president Ronald Reagan  whom Carter identified as one of the worst presidents in American history, yet strangely adored by the US right. Last night on HBO  Bill Maher absolutely nailed the horrible legacy of Reagan:

Ronald Reagan was an anti-government, union busting, race bating, anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-intellectual who cut rich people’s taxes in half, had an incurable case of the military industrial complex, and said Medicare was socialism that would destroy our freedom. It sounds to me like he would fit in just fine. …

Even though Reagan did a few things today’s GOP would not like, he wrote the playbook for them for every issue of consequence. Sure he raised taxes a few times, but when you look at where he started with taxes and where he ended, this is where our income inequality problems began. He invented voodoo economics. …

On race his ideas could not be more ‘Tea Party’. He ran on states’ rights. He invented the notion that black people get all the breaks. …

He described the New Deal as Fascism, Medicare recipients as waiting for handouts, unemployment insurance as prepaid vacation for freeloaders. When they hold up signs that say no socialized medicine, where do you think they got it from? …

Worst of all Reagan inspired a whole generation of people who hate government to get into government. …

Stop agreeing he was a saint especially when his two miracles were turning water into polluted water and walking on the poor.

Bill Maher did what few in today’s media are willing to do. He disregarded Ronald Reagan’s very amiable characteristics and tone, concentrating entirely on his campaigning method and policies. Most importantly Maher points out that the genesis of the path back to exploding inequality was a direct result of Ronald Reagan’s policies. Holding him in high regards is an affront to the poor and middle class.

“Il a gagné ses épaulettes” Jackie Robinson

June 6, 2013



The movie 42 has done well at the box office. It apprises  another generation about the incredible struggle of  Jackie Robinson  as he became the first black to play major league baseball. The film zeroes in Robinson’s two years (46 and 47 when he broke the colour ball in the professional leagues.The movie is very accurate in this regard telescoping as films must interrelated events into snap shots. Robinson’s cause was championed by an extraordinary baseball exec named Branch Rickey, a serious Christian who could not abide segregation. He also knew that there was a motherlode of talent in the Negro leagues which he could profitably mine. In this he was proved correct. But back to Robinson.

If any white person thinks he knows and understands the travails of blacks in Jim Crow America, get that out of your mind. Arnold Rampersad’s  1997 biography of Robinson outlines  in excruciating detail the depths of cruelty inflicted on him by wool hats and ignorant crackers. Simply reading this, makes one’s blood boil. Robinson’s enemies even included the ignorant yahoos he played with—-and ultimately won over with his class.

Robinson was a brilliant four sport athlete excelling in track, basketball and football as well as baseball. At one time he was the best broad jumper in America one  who would have competed in the 1940 Olympics were it not for the war. Part of his deal with Dodger GM Branch Rickey was that for two years he had to take the high road of never complaining, of “having the guts not to fight back” as Rickey ordered him. Robinson was a Christian and  with herculean discipline he did turn the other cheek but after that he took no guff and for the rest of his life he spoke his mind about Jim Crow and in particular the failure of the US political system to integrate blacks in the public and cultural life of the country.

Robinson was forever grateful to Canadians, in particular Montrealers who embraced him in his first year in pro ball, 1946.”I owe more to Canadians than they’ll ever know”, he said in retrospect. ”They were the first to make me feel my natural self.”

In 1946 led by the clutch-hitting Robbie, the Royals captured the Little World Series and Robinson made the mistake of appearing on the field after the game and the ecstatic largely French Canadian crowd  hugged him and kissed him  and literally mobbed him before he could break away, The crowd sang, “il a gagné ses épaulettes” (He has earned his stripes).This led Robinson’s friend Sam Maltin, who was a sportswriter for  socialist papers (including the Pittsburgh Courier) to write, “It was probably the only day in history that a black man ran from a white mob with love instead of lynching  on its mind.”

Robinson earned his stripes alright.Isaiah had a similar take on this  when he said “By his stripes we are healed” 53:4-5.This is a reference to the Suffering Servant motif by which Jesus identified himself. A better riff on this would be  instead of Jesus died for my sins would be the Protestant hymn, “No cross, no crown, No Golgotha no Easter. No Good Friday, No Easter. No Exodus no Promised  Land. Robinson took on the struggle and prevailed.He blasted a path for other blacks and ultimately healing for America.It was Rabbi Heschel who understood the importance of the civil rights movement for religion and the churches. Their whole credibility was at stake.The black churches came through the fire.The  white churches never paid the price being too mired within a middle class straightjacket.

Jackie Robinson died young (of diabetes) at age 52 but his courage and incandescent talent paved the way for an end to Jim Crow.He played only 10 years but his witness gained him immediate entrance into baseball’s Hall of Fame. His number has been retired by major league baseball for his remarkable pioneering life.

Segregation equals apartheid

June 3, 2013

Machsomwatch ( describes itself as “ a movement of Israeli women, peace activists from all sectors of Israeli society, who oppose the Israeli occupation and the denial of Palestinians’ rights to move freely in their land.

In the above sense Israel acts like a democracy. There are marvelous Israeli resisters to the Occupation.The state knows that it must give the appearance of being a true democracy by minimally allowing such groups to exist. and hoping Europeans and Europeans are not watching too closely.

The overwhelming evidence however is that israel is indeed an apartheid state.This is  beyond dispute. Anybody unfamiliar with the lived reality can check a host of websites delineating this fact.Try this one  or

Machsom recently published this horrifying (only to the uninitiated) opicture and commentary


For all our non-Hebrew-reader friends,the yellow sign in front of the ferris wheel reads:

“Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays for Jews.Mondays and Wednesdays for Arabs.”

This sign  is in amusement park called Superland, in Israel (near Tel Aviv).One wag added a tagline in German: “Ordnung muss sein” or in plain English “Order must be maintained”

The signs of course are eerily familiar to the “whites only” which were ubiquitous  in South Africa and the southern USA.

It is fairly obvious segregation=apartheid.

If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…..