Archive for the ‘Church’ Category

Oscar Romero at 10

March 23, 2015


25 years ago today  Paul Hansen Redemptorist priest and myself penned an article (March 23,1990) in the Globe and Mail.We pointed out that the Salvadoran bishop Oscar Romero who broke with the oligarchy and the rest of his brother bishops was also snubbed by the Bishop of Rome,John Paul ll.It was reported that on the day of his as assassination 25 years ago tomorrow, Romero’s dismissal as archbishop was on John Paul ll’s desk.

Romero now on his way to beatification was humiliated by the then pope, a man of blinkered vision when it came to Latin America. Reputedly it was the one thing he regretted. Romero had come to rome to plead his case and was made to wait outside the pontiff’s office. He never did get to see him.

Meanwhile for the people Romero had already been canonized for his prophetic stance against the cowboy capitalism of the USA.
As we stated in our article “For decades Washington had supported local oligarchs Somoza of Nicaragua, Pinochet of Chile, Trujillo of the Dominican Republic all who had turned their backs on los pobres de la tierra.They had become mere satraps of the dominant centre.” The Polish pope never understood why some of the better US bishops were critical of Reagan’s America. Once he queried Cardinal Bernadin asking, “Why do you not support your president”.At that time Rome and Washington were at war with the USSR.But Washington was making war on Latin America.
Earlier in the decade Cardinal Ratzinger had come out against liberation theology, suggesting it was pure Marxism.The great Latino bishops convinced JP ll he was dead wrong and to the pope’s credit in 1985 when he was taken aside by the men closest to “smell of the sheep” he declared that liberation theology was not only useful but necessary.
We asked “Has the pope learned anything from this?” It was dubious given the brutal papal appointments through the southern cone, men who had little credibility but who adopted the harsh Roman line.
We pointed out that Vatican “has closed seminaries which champion close association with communities,imposed traditionalist bishops with whom they could not work,denigrated the prophetic work of Dom Helder Camara and Paiulo Evaristo Arns,towering churchmen and fierce defenders of the marginalized.As one prelate said,’for us the vatican is but a sect within the church”.

We went on to state that “a parallel church was emerging which increasingly distances itself from the hopes and joys of the world which Vatican ll encouraged us to serve.Instead of leaven in the dough the church is becoming a loaf unto itself,preoccupied with internal concerns, obsessed with power and discipline rather than love and service. Brazilian bishop Mauro Morelli described the Vatican as “neurotics for orthodoxy.”

We went on to criticize the pope for “the heavy handed imposition of Romanized clerics as bishops who brook no dissent,his harassment of theologians and prophetic bishops made us ponder the words of the 1971 synod,’anyone who wishes to speak to people about justice must first be just in their eyes.hence, we must undertake an examination of the modes of acting found within the church itself.
We concluded that “the death of Oscar Romero was a watershed for the modern Catholic Church.It signifies the permanence of justice and peace as the church’s agenda.It speaks to us of the church as servant not master,as a sign of the kingdom yet not the kingdom.It reminds us that convertsion is possible,that the final word, for the Chruistian is love not power.
As believers in the sensus fidelium, the wisdom of the baptized, we understood that the base church was way ahead of the hierarchs.

Romero had been proscribed by both Ratzinger and John Paul ll only to be rehabilitated by the present pope who saw Romero for what he was, an authentic voice of the humiliated people and a saint for our times.
Many clerics of that time did not dare to raise the life of Romero up.He was not ‘in season” in a time of reactionary papacies. Rather than being adorned with “the smell of the sheep” the Romanized yes men acted like sheep and became idolators of the papacy.
Today we give thanks for a Vatican ll pope who sees the church like Romero as a field hospital after battle. rather than seeing Vatican ll as a grave error that must be corrrected Francis like Romero sees the Church as committed to the poor.This is not Marx, it is Jesus.

Uppity Irish woman challenges Pope Francis

March 17, 2015


Pope Francis is holding women back due to misogyny, former Irish president Mary McAleese has warned.

Pope Francis has been very vocal about the baptized speaking candidly both in an out of synods. For the time being it appears that the sycophants are out of step.In Canada we have one notorious priest known as the chameleon who now has reinvented himself to be on the same wave length as the Pope.Previously he was a cheerleader for conservative reaction to Vatican ll.But I digress.

Reminded me of W.H.Auden’s Unknown Citizen

Our researchers into Public Opinion are content

That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;

When there was peace, he was for peace: when there was war, he went.
Recently the very bright former president of Ireland Mary Mcaleese took Pope Francis to the woodshed and called him out on his regressive attitude to women.

Pope Francis is holding women back due to misogyny, she warned.

She referred to his “blindness hat comes from a kind of a priestly formation that leaves so many good, decent, gentlemanly men like Francis still carrying an element, a residual element, of misogyny that closes them off to the dangers of not dealing with these issues,”.

Dead on.

Francis seems blinkered or rather chained to an outmoded but understandable protocol about not contradicting former popes ,the last two being particularly blind to women’s equality within the church, the right to aspire to every role that males enjoy—and that means priesthood.

McAleese like many is sympathetic to the pontiff.He is trying to reverse the reactionary retreat from Vatican ll by the previous two. he knows his time is short but he seems stuck on the female question.
“I don’t think that he gets it. Still. He’s very gentlemanly, he’s a lovely person, everybody likes him and women like him. We love his smile, we love his openness, we love his accessibility, we love his frankness, we love the ease of him. But we also know that that’s not enough.”

Mcaleese focused on the structural problems of a huge church.

“I’m talking about an altogether different phenomenon and that is the structure of a universal Church that comprises 1.2bn people, half of whom are women, and who do not have appropriate vehicles at parish, diocesan or universal level that fully respect the role they play in the Church or could play in the Church,”

Can you hear so many audibly groaning at the candor of this uppity woman? Get used to it.

McAleese previously caused a stir by stating that “a very large number” of Catholic priests are gay and the Church is in denial about the fact. “It isn’t so much the elephant in the room but a herd of elephants.”

Bishop asks collar-wearing clergy to rally at city meeting

March 15, 2015


So says the headline in the National Catholic Reporter

KANSAS CITY, MO. The bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., who hopes to raze a former parish school and build a faith-based dormitory on that ground, has invited all the priests and deacons of his diocese to appear at a city planning meeting to show support for his plan.

“If you attend it would certainly be appropriate for you to wear your collar,” Bishop Robert Finn tells the clergy in a letter dated March 13 and sent as an attachment to emails on Friday.

OK, I have no problem with this but come on, Bishop Finn and the many like you.Get in the justice parade, brother.

It’s always said about the Roman church,if  it’s not leading the parade it’s not in it.always wanting control not solidarity.

Do you ask your priests to don their collars on serious social issues? Hardly. You are absent on these major issues…much like most of the JPll/Ratzinger bishops who seemed obsessed with pelvic orthodoxy.

These men appear to have no understanding of “kingdom “politics,the imperative to promote social justice in the world.

Jim Wallis of Sojourners Magazine has correctly stated

Ultimately, as followers of Christ, climate change is about our faith, our theology, our moral identity, and our calling as God’s children. Climate change is not another issue to move higher up the list of our concerns. Rather it is the concern central to all other issues.

So priests, put those Roman collars and join ordinary folks in remediating “the blood stained face of history” (Camus)

Saving the Church

February 18, 2015

Bob Betterton of Saving the Catholic Church newsletter compares two pontiffs in his latest missive

The Irony of Two Popes: Benedict and Francis

One would have to say that Benedict XVI is a highly conservative theologian, a traditionalist, a fundamentalist and a cleric’s cleric. He is also a severe critic of Vatican II, a bit of a misogynist, an absolutist, an enemy of change and an opportunist.

Francis on the other hand seems to be the antithesis of most, if not all of those attributes. This is best illustrated in the way he has approached the changes he considers essential. It is logical, deliberate and collegial. It is Vatican II-like.
The incredible irony lies in the reality that we are all sub-consciously wishing that he would be more Benedict XVI-like. For example:
• Under Benedict there would not be any advisory group of Cardinals to consult and there certainly would never been a questionnaire circulated on any subject.
• He absolutely would not convene a synod to discuss anything of consequence. The only opinions he has ever found relevant were his own.
• Finally, he would not be considering increasing the size of the College of Cardinals.
Benedict would issue a few encyclicals describing the way things are going to be from here on. He would summarily get rid of anyone who disagreed with him and he would “pack the College of Cardinals” to assure that the new way of doing things could not be changed for a century.
I am coming to believe that Benedict XVI did not decide to retire. It was the work of the Holy Spirit, inflicting a deserved Penance for the disaster imposed on the Church through his systematic dismantling of the vision of Vatican II.

I agree with most of this. The previous two popes formed one papacy, that of reaction.It was to be expected.They drove too many thinking Catholics away with their absolute refusal to hear the Spirit rising in the faithful.They were almost totally tone deaf in this regard.Any institution hates to give up power as Frederick Douglass reminded us:“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
Betterton goes on to describe elements of the Church Francis can’t fix.
A smart theological friend of mine is pessimistic about the Francis reform, says it will die with him because of the reactionary bishops the last 2 popes named, men who acted as stenographers for everything that came out of Rome.These men, Betterton maintains “for the most part, the archbishops and bishops are opposed to change of any kind and they can delay those changes by obfuscation and inaction.” this is largely true.There may be some conversions but don’t hold your breath.
This is substantially true. Simply look at the stunning inaction around climate change.This is a grave scandal which I highlighted when the Archbishop of NYC looked like a goof by doing nothing when 250,000 marched a few months ago for climate justice. Wasn’t even on his radar. And there’s nothing happening in parishes here,no leadership from the top and generally inadequate pastoring everywhere. The few Vatican ll guys are departing and they are running out a 38 year old priest north of the city, wildly popular because of some pathetic liturgical aberration.
What will save the Church from this is a massive uprising of the faithful. The first part has already happened —massive defections in the best educated parts of the church. This will probably continue on account of the very poor quality of priests being ordained. The laity have gone way past “pay, pray and obey” and are much more theologically in tune and will not tolerate the ”my way or the highway” approach of the insecure new ordinands.

Catholics absent on israel/Palestine

January 22, 2015


On January 20 the United Church and Christian Jewish Dialogue of Toronto sponsored a day long seminar on Israel/Palestine. It was billed as a day of discernment and thoughtful discussion. Anybody who paid their money could show up was welcome. About 60 people showed.
Irrespective of the dialogue that ensued, it was a good attempt at raising the issue for church and synagogue people.
The United church to its credit has been grappling publicly with this for decades and its working group on Israel/Palestine put forth a policy in 2012:

It names the Occupation as a major contributor to the injustice
It advocates the end of all settlement construction
Calls on Israel to dismantle settlements and separation barrier
It identifies equitable access to water as a critical factor
It calls on Canadian government to provide leadership
it also affirms non-violent resistance to the occupation is justified
Acknowledges with deep regret the past policy of calling on palestinians to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state as a prereq to peace.
This was the grounds for discussion.
One question: where is the Catholic dialogue on this cardinal issue?
Why the timidity of the largest church in Canada to even discuss this?

Pope Francis moving ahead on climate justice

December 29, 2014


More indigestion for the JP ll/Ratzinger bishops who showed little or no interest in the greatest moral issue of our time: climate change. It is just reported that Pope Francis will be speaking for climate justice in the new year. Catholics will be specifically targeted with a papal encyclical after the pontiff visits Tacloban the Philippine city devastated by the typhoon Hayan in 2012. Undoubtedly there will be a fresh call to the 1.5 billion Catholics to get moving on this issue—and put the pelvic issues aside for now.

Pope Francis will have his hands full with the world’s 5,000 bishops, most chosen for their strict adherence to everything that came out of Rome in the long pontificates of Woytyla/Ratzinger. In reality this was one reactionary pontificate a pushback against the liberal reforms of Vatican ll. iI was pure Newtonoian physics, action and reaction. The reaction eventuated in massive lay defections from the Roman Catholic church particularly in the developed world where the best educated Catholics in history resided.

The Woytyla/Ratzinger papacy was long on topdown Soviet-style diktats from Rome central to the outlying provinces. The absolute ecclesial thought control failed for two simple reasons.In the 50 years since the end of the Council lay theological education accelerated and the quality of the priesthood declined. Foreign imports came with a reactionary theology topped off too often with a misogyny. In a culture nourished on human rights and participatory democracy, North American Catholics rebelled.

Secondly there was the lay internalization of the sensus fidelium, that the Holy Spirit was given to the whole church not to a subset of clerics. When the hierarchs refused to listen to the collective wisdom of the baptized the faithful resisted the ecclesial thought control and walked. 30 million left the Catholic church in the USA.

Today a pope who shows little concern for how he is perceived by his bishops is moving ahead with celerity on the agenda of Vatican ll where social justice is an integral part of the gospel and baptism not Holy Orders is the essential sacrament.

So immovable object (the JP ll/Ratzinger bishops are meeting the irresistible force, a progressive pope and the lay people who are buying into his Vatican ll agenda.The pope in many ways is way ahead of his bishops so much so that he is almost being seen as “the enemy”. many are not happy campers.
So far in Canada the JPll/Ratzinger bishops have failed the laity. The classic example was in Toronto, the largest Catholic diocese, where nothing was done by the hierarchs to engage the laity in adding their insights to the synod on the Family. This was requested by the pope bug basically ignored and never promoted by the archbishop.There was no pastoral plan or active engagement with the faithful.
Pope Francis has correctly identified climate justice as the morel issue of the day but do not look for the weak bishops of the last two decades to get on board. They have collectively shown little or no interest in this. Their focus is inward. They have lost the next generation who intuitively understand how dire the situation is and do not look for the church for any inspiration here.

It is absolutely stunning that there has been no pastoral planning around this crucial issue.

Make no mistake. This Jesuit pope has his ear to the ground and his eye on the overwhelming “sign of our time”, the destruction of the Body of God, our earth. He has already told the Latin American and asian landless peasants “Climate change, the loss of biodiversity and deforestation are already showing their devastating effects in the great cataclysms we witness.”

Now Pope Francis is going deeper by ratcheting up the stakes among his bishops. Watch how the Canadian bishops respond.

Exciting times for sure.

News which made me laugh

November 24, 2014


A first, on Bill Maher’s HBO show which runs of Friday nights.

Maher is a funny smart guy, an English grad from Cornell who actually reads books and follows the news.His whole show and the bright guests he brings on, comment on the events of the day.Maher’s wit provides the laughs.He always has some Tea Party type on,  usually a guy who makes you wonder about democracy.There’s always a lead off interview with newsmaker-Maher plays it straight and  is a good interviewer.Last week he had Naomi Klein on.

Now nobody’s perfect and Maher has real blind spots about religion.He even made a bad movie about “believers called Religulosus or something like that, a cringe inducing types cheap shot at the most embarrassing types of Christians..An ex-Catholic he prides himself on his atheism.He loves Dawkins and Sam Harris. He will never have a sharp Jesuit on who might disrupt Bill’s cardboard versions of Christianity.

Last week Andrew Sullivan appeared, a frequent guest, thoughtful gay Catholic who blogs for the Atlantic. They both gushed over the authentic Catholicism of Francis and his canning of one of the worst “serf decorator” Cardinals we’ve seen in a long time.Cardinal Burke.

Then they got to the nub.The very difficult job of a a pope who has totally embraced Vatican ll taking on the sad Yes men  JP ll and Ratzinger inflicted on Catholicism, widely considered a buch of croppers whose main talent was to obsess over pelvic orthodoxy, men who answered only to the constituency of one—Rome and totally ignored the best educated generation of Catholics in history.These bishops ( Canada is full  share)of are like deer caught in the headlights,so out of touch with the authentic evangelical thrust of Francis that they do appear like cardboard dummies.They just wished he’d go away. an interest discussion

Funny it happened on a comedian’s show and not on the CBC or CTV.

Pope Francis obviously a commie

October 30, 2014


Pope Francis said Catholic social teaching defines “land, shelter and work” as “sacred rights,” yet “if I speak of this some people conclude that the pope is a communist.”

Francis is riffing the great bishop of Recife,Brazil, Dom Helder Camara who used the line 40 years ago. John Paul ll fixed him and replaced him with an Opus Dei bishop who never had the smell of the sheep on him.

He urged an international gathering of grassroots social activists to struggle against the “structural causes” of poverty and inequality, with a “revolutionary” program drawn from the Gospels.

“The poor no longer wait, they seek to be protagonists, they organize, study, work, demand and, above all, practice that special solidarity that exists among those who suffer, among the poor,” the pope said Oct. 28, to a Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Popular Movements.


Most of the JP ll bishops would never go near such a meeting.They don’t go where they can not control the agenda.And poor people.Forget it.


The pope said solidarity entails struggling “against the structural causes of poverty, inequality, the lack of work, land and shelter, the denial of social and labor rights,” and confronting what he called the “empire of money.”

“Today I want to join my voice to yours and accompany you in your struggle.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if Canadain bishops showed such solidarity with working people?

Pope Francis said Catholic social teaching defines “land, shelter and work” as “sacred rights,” yet “if I speak of this some people conclude that the pope is a communist.”

Deploring the displacement of his “brother peasants” from their “native soil,” the pope warned that traditional rural life is at “risk of extinction.” He also said “financial speculation” on food prices was to blame for the starvation of millions around the world.

“I’ve said and I repeat: a home for every family,” Pope Francis said. “Family and shelter go hand in hand.”

Obviously a commie or a fellow traveller.

Torah not the uniting factor?

September 30, 2014



That wonderful reporter from the NY Times Laurie Goodstein was at her best when she sussed out reactions which are simmering in the rabbinate over the stunning disproportionate response in the latest Gaza slaughter(515 Palestinian kids killed.


The usual childish responses were in evidence: I quit the synagogue because you criticized israel.(she didn’t but prayed for those dead kids and Israeli soldiers).3 left the synagogue. One said she was spreading Hamas propaganda. What planet are these so called religious on?
Goodstein reported that that many rabbis say it is impossible to have a civil conversation about Israel in their synagogues. Just too hot to touch. And the High Holy days are here!


The big problem is that young Jews raised in the USA have an inherent appreciation of human rights and can’t stomach Netanyahu and his coterie of warriors. They have exited the synagogue.

On the other hand the Alte kockers, the old folks mit the geld (no translation necessary) are more attached to israel as are the volunteers.
An interesting comment, candid to be sure was from Montreal rabbi Ron Aigen
It used to be that Israel was always the uniting factor in the Jewish world,said the reb who has served Congregation Dorshei Emet in Montreal for 39 years. “But it’s become contentious and sadly, I think it is driving people away from the organized Jewish community. Even trying to be centrist and balanced and present two sides of the issue, it is fraught with danger.”
The worst part of Goodstein’s article was this comment:
Israel is still, without a doubt, the spiritual center and the fondest cause of global Jewry.
The kindest thing you can say about this if its true: this is idolatry, making a state not the God of justice your god.

For young teachers: read the signs

September 22, 2014


What we saw in New York City  on Sunday and in several other global cities is called “a sign of the times.” During the Second Vatican Council the Church said in Gaudium et Spes (1965): To carry out such a task, the Church has always had the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel.”

The “signs of the times” was a direct quote from Matthew’s Gospel. He has Jesus saying:
When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 16:3

In other words,  you are pretty good at reading nature’s clues  such as the colour of the sky means fair weather but are clueless at discerning the finger of God in history.

Where is the Divine calling us? What is the holy voice of God saying to us at this moment in time?  What message is he addressing to me while I am on my smart phone, cruising the mall as a fashionista etc

Since the end of the Council 50 years ago there have been many “signs’ or distinctive  messages which are indisputably of God. To name a few: The cry of the poor (as evidence in Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement, the growing awareness from new media sources that our human family, largely in the south needs dramatic help while the top 1% are living like gilded royalty; the cry of peace and latterly the  desperate cry of the earth—the tidal waves, the bizarre weather patterns, the melting icebergs etc

As teachers  the above sign is speaking directly to you.
What do students at any level see as they look at you?


Are you a mere technician passing on information or are you a committed campaigner for God’s reign on earth (the kingdom)?


Are you another adult whose actions do not match the gospel call for transformation?


Are you one more reason why the Church  has so little credibility today?
Just what kind of a role model are you?
Rabbi Heschel tells us


Everything depends on the person who stands
in front of the classroom. The teacher is either a witness
or a stranger. To guide a pupil into the promised land,
the teacher must have been there themselves.
When asking themselves: Do I stand for what I teach?,
Do I believe what I say?, the teacher must be able to
answer in the affirmative. What we need more than
anything else is not textbooks, but text people.


The promised land is not only in the classroom but in the streets.


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