Archive for the ‘Church’ Category

Prophets come to Forum

February 4, 2016

Can Forum possibly contain two Catholic prophets?
It is beyond felicity, synchronicity or sheer good fortune and it’s no joke that it is occurring on April Fool’s Day. But it is happening. A Catholic embarrassment of riches to be sure.
Quite possibly the two greatest prophetic voices in contemporary catholicism are joiningi forces at Forum this year.
Forum is the brainchild of the Liverpool born Catholic John Quinn who has never stopped believing that the catholic church should be be what it promised 50 years ago at Vatican ll, “ecclesia semper reformanda”, a church which always need to update itself.

And so Diarmuid Omurchu and Sister Joan Chittister are coming this year. Omurchu is the Irish-born social scientist member of the Sacred Heart Missionary Order whose books have kept alive the progressive spirit of Vatican ll during the ice age of Catholicism under John Paul ll and Benedict XVl. This quote gives you a flavor of Omurchu’s candid assessment of this moment in ecclesial history.
We have come a long way from the fiery prophetic figure Jesus of Nazareth who shocked and disturbed the conventions of his day in the name of justice and liberation. Our respectability has taken a terrible toll on the authentic calling of Christian life.We have lost sight of the deeper vision and lost heart for the passion and enthusiasm of God’s New Reign. The following of Jesus is not a respectable religion.

Sr Joan Chittister is the brilliant Benedictine nun whose faith-filled writings reflect the Magdalene moment in the Catholic Church. We have moved beyond the Petrine moment and even that of Paul. It is time to listen to the Magdalene moment, the feminist voice which includes the ecological, prophetic and sacramental.

In 2001, the Vatican forbade Chittister to speak on discipleship at a women’s ordination conference in Ireland. Supported by her Prioress and Benedictine community Chittister spoke anyway and the Vatican backed down on its threats.

“You cannot order Catholics not to think,” she said in an interview recalling that confrontation with church authority. “I remember thinking then, ‘You can’t scare me.’”

For Chittister, the role of women raises “theological, scientific, sociological and human questions that you cannot stop thinking about. You have to open the door to the conversation in the name of the integrity of your theology.”

The Canadian Forum on Theology and Education April 1 and 2 ( has the privilege of hosting Chittister and O’Murchu working publicly together for the first time when they present Evolution and the Spiritual Life: Exploring changing images of God and the Implications for daily life and spirituality at St. Joseph’s Ukrainian Catholic Conference Centre, 300 River Oaks Blvd. East, Oakville, Ontario, L6H5T1

Register online at or contact John Quinn at or 905-934-9115

Episcopal silence in Flint

January 30, 2016

There’s a shocking story brewing in Flint,Michigan.The facts are well known and even the major news outlets are covering it.Leave it to Flint native Michael Moore to get to the truth.

Republican governor, Rick Snyder, nullified the free elections in Flint, deposed the mayor and city council, then appointed his own man to run the city. To save money, they decided to unhook the people of Flint from their fresh water drinking source, Lake Huron, and instead, make the public drink from the toxic Flint River. When the governor’s office discovered just how toxic the water was, they decided to keep quiet about it and covered up the extent of the damage being done to Flint’s residents, most notably the lead affecting the children, causing irreversible and permanent brain damage. Citizen activists uncovered these actions, and the governor now faces growing cries to resign or be arrested.

How does this governor keep his job?


Moore lays out 10 things the media wont trell you,”but i will.” And Moore like the good investigator digs in.It’s all onhis  website…a brief summary

While the Children in Flint Were Given Poisoned Water to Drink, General Motors Was Given a Special Hookup to the Clean Water.

For Just $100 a Day, This Crisis Could’ve Been Prevented.

There’s More Than the Lead in Flint’s Water.

People’s Homes in Flint Are Now Worth Nothing Because They Cant Be Sold. Would you buy a house in Flint right now? Who would?

While They Were Being Poisoned, They Were Also Being Bombed.

The Wife of the Governor’s Chief of Staff Is a Spokeswoman for Nestle, Michigan’s Largest Owner of Private Water Reserves.

In Michigan, from Flint water, to Crime and Murder, to GM Ignition Switches, It’s a Culture of Death.

You might expect the Catholic Church to be enraged over the profanation of and abuse of water, a key sacrament in the church’s life.

The bishop of  Lansing’s response? Abstract nonsense, a total flight from history, a denial of incarnation.

Earl Boyea, the less than prophetic bishop:

“The City of Flint has undergone many trials in recent years. Often, its people have faced the temptation to lose hope, to surrender to despair. The water crisis again presents that temptation, but again the answer must be to find strength in the love of God and the support of men and women of good will.”

He went on to ask for prayers for the people of Flint, for “a season of peace” and that “crime and violence abate.”

Where’s the outrage? Prayer without action is irrelevant.

Half of Flint’s population is black and pretty poor. half are below the poverty line. You would like at several levels this bishop would speak some truth to power, join the people in their resistance to this shocking abuse of both power and nature. But not Earl Boyea, named a bishop by JP ll in 2002.

Now you know what Pope Francis is up against.



Martyrs and Misfits

December 3, 2015

The indefatigable pacifist Fr.Chas McCarthy has written a powerful remembrance of the American church women  murdered in El Salvador 35 years ago yesterday.


What horrible memories this brings back of  the misfits, thye destroyers of hope,  Ronald Reagan, Alexander Haig, Jeanne Kirkpatrick all loyal servants of the American empire totally disinterested in social justice. Also it recalls the sad collusion of Pope John Paul ll who was led to believe that the nuns were more Marxist than loyal disciples of Jesus. How out of it, the Polish pontiff was here and indeed in his subsequent humiliation of St.Oscar Romero.  Remember he had the breathtaking question to the head of the US bishops Cardinal Joe Bernadin, “why do you not support your president’s policies in Central America?

Two guesses, pontiff, and the first one doesn’t count:  he is killing the saints  there!

Charley’s reflection:
Jean Donovan, Sr.Ita Ford, Sr.Dorothy Kazel and Sr.Maura Clarke were raped and murdered in El Salvador thirty-five years ago this day, December 2, AD1980. Let those who remember, pray today for the repose of their souls.

May we also today be attentive to the Eternal Holy Spirit of Christ within us, and try to sincerely pray for those responsible for their rape and murder? Daniel Canales Ramirez, Carlos Joaquin Contreras Palacios, Francisco Orlando Contreras Recinos and Jose Roberto Moreno Canjura are the four El Salvadoran National Guardsmen convicted legally of the crimes in 1984. In 1993, a United Nations Truth Commission report concluded that Col. Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, the director of the National Guard in 1980, and Gen. Jose Guillermo Garcia, the Minister of Defense at the time, had organized an official cover-up. (Both men have been granted residence in the United States and now live in Florida.) Sergeant Colindres Aleman was also convicted of the murders. He was the head of that contingent of four National Guardsmen. After the women were taken captive and brought to a remote area, he went back to a telephone to get instruction on what to do with them. When he returned the order, ”una orden superior” he gave to the four—according to their own testimony was, “Liquidate them!”
In testimony to Congress in 1981 General Alexander M. Haig Jr., then Secretary of State, argued that the churchwomen might have been shot while trying to run a military roadblock. Even an official State Department post mortem on El Salvador policy that was published in July 1993 reiterated the prevailing wisdom that it was ”more likely that the chaotic and permissive atmosphere at the time, not high-level military involvement, was behind the crime.” In 1983, Judge Harold B. Tyler Jr., after conducting an investigation for the State Department, concluded that ”Colindres Aleman acted at his own initiative” and that ”the evidence of lack of higher involvement is persuasive.” But that finding was based largely on a piece of secret ”special evidence” that was made available to him by the United States Embassy I El Salvador and that remains classified to this day.
But, the operation was led by a sergeant, Colindres Aleman, acting out of  “a persuasive combination of political, financial and sexual interests,” a political officer at the American embassy, Carl Gettinger, wrote in a top secret cable to Washington a few months after the killings. His conclusions were based on a conversation between the sergeant, Colindres Aleman, and a Salvadoran lieutenant who had recorded it secretly for the embassy. “Extraordinary secrecy surrounded the tape,” Gettinger reported; it was kept in a safe in the embassy, “from where it was roused infrequently.”
Robert White, who was the American Ambassador to El Salvador at the time of the killings, said, ”when the act was done, I knew immediately it was the military.” Secretary of State Alexander Haig, asked White to send a cable stating that the military was making progress in the investigation of the murders. White, a career diplomat who had served under every president since Eisenhower balked, and sent his own cable: “I will have no part of any cover-up.” ”It is totally outrageous for the U.S. Government to have singled out four guys who were following orders and to insist they get punished, at the same time it is practically conniving to get the people who were the intellectual authors of this terrible incident off scot free,” White said. Later White added. ”That they have been let off not only with their reputations intact, but with the right of residence in the United States.” Soon thereafter, he was forced out of the foreign service.
The Reagan administration blamed the victims. “These nuns were not just nuns,” said Jeanne Kirkpatrick, one of Reagan’s top foreign policy advisors and his first ambassador to the United Nations,  “They were political activists.”
There is more, much more that could be added, e.g., the women were murdered Mafia style, a shot in the back of the head. But no more details are really needed to spiritually and morally assess this Satanic event. It was the fingers of the four National Guardsmen that pull the triggers of the guns that murdered Jean Donovan, Sr.Ita Ford, Sr.Dorothy Kazel and Sr.Maura Clarke. But what moved those four men to squeeze those triggers is a chain of men and women, who only God can totally name, but who we know stretch back at least to the Dulles brothers, through the School of Americas to the very nano-second before Satanized human energy was intentionally transferred to the firing mechanisms of those guns.
And so we pray,
Requiescant in pace, Maura, Ita, Jean and Dorothy;
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
-Emmanuel Charles McCarthy

Claude Lacaille, priest

November 23, 2015

Toronto Launch and Talk - Claude Lacaille Rebel Priets

Claude Lacaille came to Toronto last Friday night and charmed a full house at that boiler room of great new ideas Beit Zatoun. What a great story he had to tell.What a grand priestly life. What a model for young priests.
In the mid 80s he returned from the missions in Brazil to a Quebec he did not understand. At 23 decades earlier he had gone into a hut in Haiti and experienced a transformation: he was asked to give the last rites to a 30 year old woman who was dying, leaving 2 children orphaned.Then a new priesthood was born. He grasped the utter futility of the one of the big SACRAMENTS, formerly called Extreme Unction.There was absolutely no connection with the sacrament and the the broken lives of the radically poor in Haiti, and later in Ecuador. The sacrament had lost its power. It no longer signified anything.It was a text without a context.
And most of the time there is no sacramental connection here in our advanced capitalist neoliberal world.Eucharists are celebrated daily with little effect and lesser knowledge that Jesus celebrated but one-and then was murdered.there is little connection between the “broken bread” on the altar and the price we must pay to heal the world, our disrupted “broken lives” we pour out for God’s kingdom of peace and justice or as the Jews would say for “tikkun olam” for the healing of the world.Capitalism and its blandishments too often takes the dynamite out of the gospel.
In most of the parishes foreign born priests are piloted into a new context and asked to “Priest” God’s people. For the most part, they have no understanding of the Canadian context, their language skills are lacking and they bring a very mediocre theological education at best. As well many are infected with a deep misogyny.They are caught in a time warp, not of their own making. Those who bring them in from Poland and Nigeria to keep a dying institution alive are betraying the Catholic people by being utterly subservient to Rome and refusing to demand the great sin of the Roman church, gender injustice. The necessary talent is right in front of their episcopal noses—married men, women–but these craven bishops will not demand the necessary end of a sexist priesthood.
The worst example is on the margins in Canada’s north.The great Oblate bishops, many from France, for decades begged and pleaded to ordain native ministers, indigenous men whose culture has never accepted celibacy. For 50 years or more Rome ignored the advice of these great missionaries, forced aging men to travel huge distances in Canada’s polar regions. In the same period the Anglican church ordained over 50 native priests—usually married. Similarly in Ontario’s north, Bishop Alexander Carter (d.2002) made the same request of Rome. Denied. It broke his heart.
“We’re stuck”, he told me.

Now we have empty churches. In Trois Rivieres Claude’s hometown, there are 3 parishes.There used to be 17. Yet the Holy Spirit still is on the move, usually outside the stunned institution. The JP ll bishops were afraid of the Spirit, relying on harsh diktats from Rome.The churches emptied. Between 2000-2010 the Pew Research said 30 million Catholic left the Church in that period. The American bishops shrugged their shoulders.They are still autistic. In their latest meeting they set their priorities:
• Evangelization
• Family and marriage (including attempts to rollback same-sex marriage and support for government officials who refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-gender couples)
• Ending abortion and limiting access to contraception
• Vocations to priesthood
• Religious liberty


Nothing about the poor, climate justice etc. Poor Pope Francis having to deal with these men.

The fault of course is not entirely that of a moribund institution. Jews and Protestants are having the same problem. We have moved from a communal paradigm of family, clan and traditional stratified societies to a more dynamic one where people are demanding the freedom to choose. As we saw in Quebec and now in Ireland traditional societies “priest ridden” as James Joyce called Ireland to more fluid and dynamic cultures. This radical change was named in Vatican ll’s Gaudium et Spes(1965).
Today, the human race is involved in a new stage of history. Profound and rapid changes are spreading by degrees around the whole world. Triggered by the intelligence and creative energies of man, these changes recoil upon him, upon his decisions and desires, both individual and collective, and upon his manner of thinking and acting with respect to things and to people. Hence we can already speak of a true cultural and social transformation, one which has repercussions on man’s religious life as well.

The institutional Catholic church thought that the top down hierarchical model of Father knows best would last forever. They built huge seminaries only to find them empty within a few years. Lay people’s theological education exploded. No more,”pay, pray and obey”. Soon the new theological literacy began to quickly make the local parish priest seem outdated. The 60s shattered the mental horizons of so many priests leaving them in the dust, frustrated and often bitter. Their seminary education had nor prepared them for the change. They refused to come to terms with the Holy Spirit’s gift of feminism, thereby alienating both educated men and women. By the mid 70s the most creative priests had left.Those who stayed bravely carried on but many had lost energy as they watched the best and brightest leave and an old institution caught in a paradigm change and seemingly unable to change.A church which thought in centuries was caught flat-footed in the new rapid computer age.


The JPll/Ratzinger pontificate was the last dike in the wall, the last failed attempt to resurrect the hierarchical, patriarchal model of church. The best educated generation of lay people had moved on but the JPll/Ratzinger bishops were still in charge of local dioceses. It is painful to watch.


But great priests like Claude Lacaille and indeed several others adapted, heard the deeper cry of liberation among the people and responded. They were encouraged by a new pope who had really bought into the vision of the great Council. They embraced the Spirit’s call and were excited. Pope Francis said it well:



We want the Holy Spirit to sleep,We want to domesticate the Holy Spirit, and that just won’t do because he is God and he is that breeze that comes and goes, and you don’t know from where.People think it’s better to be comfortable, but that is not what the fire of the Holy Spirit brings.The council was a beautiful work of the Holy Spirit But after 50 years, have we done everything the Holy Spirit in the council told us to do? The answer, is “no.”


Claude Lacaille found his legs once again with the young in Quebec who saw through the neoliberal attempt to marginalize the poor and turn its back on the common good. His priesthood continues, radically integrated with the social struggle we are all engaged in.

Irish priests: ordain women

November 3, 2015


Fr. Tony Fannery CssR

Some priests are no longer afraid…and why should they be? The Vatican ban on female ordination, an idee fixe of John Paul ll never made any sense. It simply flew in the face of contemporary wisdom and gender justice. Brave priests like Roy Bourgeois got canned for daring to speak truth to this nonsensical dictum but now the dam is bursting and where else but in Ireland.

Long ago the sensus fidelium of the Catholic church, those who actually live with women and who have daughters simply cannot abide this rank injustice.Not much the Vatican can do with such as these.

Many good priests just lower their heads in embarrassment at this medieval prejudice but for many it is a serious justice issue.

Poor Pope Francis is caught on the horns of the papal dilemma and tradition—you don’t contradict a previous pope, so we wont see much movement on his part.

Meanwhile the cries get louder and we welcome the guts of the Irish priests below.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3, 28)
In the Catholic Church women, despite being equal to men by virtue of their Baptism, are excluded from all positions of decision making, and from ordained ministry. In 1994 Pope John Paul II declared that the exclusion of women from priesthood could not even be discussed in the Church. Pope Benedict reaffirmed, and even strengthened this teaching by insisting that it was definitive and that all Catholics were required to give assent to this view. Pope Francis has said that Pope John Paul II had reflected at length on this matter, had declared that women could never be priests and that, therefore, no further discussion on the ordination of women to ministry is possible. In reality, Pope John Paul II did not encourage or facilitate debate on the ordination of women to priesthood or diaconate before he made his decision. Furthermore, there was virtually no discussion on the complex cultural factors which excluded women from leadership roles in many societies until recently.
We, the undersigned, believe that this situation is very damaging, that it alienates both women and men from the church because they are scandalised by the unwillingness of Church leaders to open the debate on the role of women in our church. This alienation will continue and accelerate.
We are aware that there are many women who are deeply hurt and saddened by this teaching. We also believe that the example given by the Church in discriminating against women encourages and reinforces abuse and violence against women in many cultures and societies. It is also necessary to remember that women form the bulk of the congregation at Sunday Mass and have been more active in the life of the local churches than many men, mirroring the fidelity of the women who followed Jesus to the end, to his death on Calvary. The command of Jesus “Go, teach all nations” was addressed to all his followers, and by failing to accept the full equality of women, the church is not fulfilling this commission.
The strict prohibition on discussing the question has failed to silence the majority of the Catholic faithful. Survey after survey indicates that a great many people are in favour of full equality for women in the Church. But it has managed to silence priests and bishops, because the sanctions being imposed on those who dare to raise the question are swift and severe.
We believe that we can no longer remain silent because to do so colludes with the systemic oppression of women within the Catholic Church. So, in the spirit of Pope Francis constant encouragement of dialogue, we are calling for free and open discussion concerning the full equality of women in all facets of Church life, including all forms of ministry. If this were to happen, the credibility of the Catholic Church would gain strength, especially when it addresses women’s issues.

Eamonn McCarthy

Kevin Hegarty

Roy Donovan

Padraig Standun

Adrian Egan

Benny Bohan

Sean McDonagh

John D. Kirwin

Ned Quinn

Donagh O’Meara

Tony Conry

Tony Flannery

Grandma’s lament for a desiccated church leadership

October 26, 2015


Deborah Rose-Milavec wrote this fine piece for Future Church which I will happily pass on. It is a direct repudiation of the bloodless “church of the little flock” which Benedict XV1 tried to foist on the Catholic people. This crabbed vision of a people set apart, of an island of holiness in a corrupt world was a non-starter from the beginning. In interviews which went back decades Ratzinger reiterated that the future of the Church will be smaller, maybe “a mustard seed where it will exist in small seemingly insignificant groups. These groups, of course, will be utterly loyal to anything which comes out of Rome.

Pope Francis at the recent synod told the bishops to stop obsessing over rigid doctrine .He has little patience for those clerics  who would ‘indoctrinate’ it in dead stone to be hurled at others.” Ever the  pastor who has his head above the sand Francis inveighed against“scheduled faith” which can not  adapt to new circumstances and in turn  could leads to people’s suffering being ignored.

This narrow vision is the entithesis of Francis who is doing his best to embrace humanity in all its fallibility, a church of sinners, of fallible people who strive against many odds in the corrupt capitalist culture to do the right thing. Francis knows the truth of Kant’s famous observation that” Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.” So what. Francis identifies himself as a sinner. Mercy is his watchword.

In 1971 Karl Rahner saw what Josepf Ratzinger was up to with his “little flock” riff, the polar opposite to James Joyce’s definition of Catholicism as”Here comes everybody” and Jesus’ very own injunction to ignore the 99 and go seeking the lost one.
In a brilliant small book The Church of the Future written in 1971 after Vatican II, Karl Rahner had this to say about “the little flock”:
“When we speak of ourselves today as the beginning of a ‘little flock’, we first remove a misunderstanding. ‘Little flock’ does not mean a ghetto or a sect, since these are defined by a mentality: a mentality which the church can afford in the future even less than today. A sectarian or ghetto mentality is propagated among us — not under this label, but under the pretext that we are becoming Christ’s little flock which has to profess the folly of faith and of the cross. Any deviation must be fought with the utmost severity in the name of true faith and authentic Christianity.
“If we talk of the ‘little flock’ in order to defend our cosy traditionalism and stale pseudo-orthodoxy, in fear of the mentality of modern society; if we tacitly consent to the departure of restless, questioning people from the church so that we can return to our repose and orderly life, and everything becomes as it was before, we are propagating, not the attitude proper to Christ’s little flock, but a petty sectarian mentality. This is dangerous because it shows up, not under its true name but in an appeal to orthodoxy, church-loyalty and strict, Rome-dictated morality.”

this is Grandma Rose-Milavec’s piece:

Change comes painfully and slowly in this Church. Too slowly.  As a mother of five and grandmother of eleven, I have very little patience with the snail’s pace of reform in my Church or for those doctrinal police, the pharisaical crop, who would like nothing better than to keep the people I love at bay in order to keep their world of who-is-in and who-is-out neat and clean.

We have lost a generation of young people, many who are my children and grandchildren, who will not be eating at our Eucharistic table and who will not find the nourishment of the Gospel in one of our local parishes because they are so turned off — not by some entrenched secularism and individualism — but by the hard, pasometimes cold hearts of the stors they meet in a Church that has wanted to be “smaller and purer” for far too long. I raised them to love, to nurture and to have open hearts. And that is what they do. And when they don’t see that love incarnated, modeled in the priest and people they meet in a parish, they stay away.

Tell them that LGBT people are “intrinsically disordered” and they will roll their eyes. They know better. Tell them that a divorced and remarried person can’t receive the sacraments and they won’t give you another look.  Tell them that women can’t be priests or deacons or make important decisions in our church, and they will stay home on Sunday mornings, make a big breakfast, play with the kids and make their own world of love.

We can no longer afford to be the Church we have been.

Personal conscience and private confessions are not enough.  While the don’t ask – don’t tell model of Church may have sufficed for my generation, it just doesn’t cut it with the next.  The next generation is not biting their nails trying to think of how to get to Communion if they are divorced and civilly remarried, or LGBT and married. Somewhere deep down their instinct tells them that the Church doesn’t know God’s heart and doesn’t practice God’s love.

Pope Francis “played” in Washington

October 3, 2015


The truth finally emerges: Pope Francis did not hold a private meeting to express his support for Kim Davis’s efforts to block gay marriage licenses.
According to an official Vatican statement, Kim Davis was among “several dozen persons” attending a reception at the Vatican embassy, “the pope did not enter into the details of the situation,” and “his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support.”
Like many of us expected Pope Francis seems that he did not request Kim Davis be invited. As a matter of fact he was “played” most likely by Carlo Maria Vigano, a conservative church official who was appointed by Pope Benedict as Vatican ambassador to the United States.

Francis relies on the locals to fill him in on ‘who’s who” and would not even know about Davis.It is not exactly news that very many JP ll/Ratzinger bishops are not in love with Francis and Vigano would be one.
This pathetic trick almost hijacked Francis’ vist to the USA. Most Catholics werfe incredulous after listening to Davis gush about this “secret meeting.” Francis would never allow this to happen.
Many are calling on Vigano to resign.
Michael Sean Winter, a writer and reporter with the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) and a Visiting Fellow at Catholic University, believes that if Vigano approved a controversial, albeit short, meeting between Kentucky county official Kim Davis and the pope, he should step aside. “Seeing as the meeting happened at the nunciature in Washington, it could only have happened with the approval and participation of the nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano,” Winters wrote about the meeting. “If the President visits a foreign country, and the ambassador, against the advice of the State Department, nonetheless introduces the president to someone who causes a controversy that reflects badly on the president, that mistake is laid at the feet of the ambassador, not the president. If this meeting was all the nuncio’s doing then he should, in conscience, quit too.”

Vatican press secretary Fr. Federico Lombardi laid out the broad context of the putative “meeting”.

“Pope Francis met with several dozen persons who had been invited by the Nunciature to greet him as he prepared to leave Washington for New York City. Such brief greetings occur on all papal visits and are due to the Pope’s characteristic kindness and availability.”
As far as this so-called intimate blessing of Davis’s position, fuhgeddabout it.

Watch what happens to Vigano in the next year.

Jimbo was a good priest

July 22, 2015


He was a very good pastor who just retired. Jimbo was a Vatican ll guy who lived the vision. In the end he outlived the reactionary papacies of Woytyla and Razinger, the failed attempt to return to the status quo ante of clerical control and top down management. He really believed in the sensus fidelium, that the Spirit was not the province of celibate leaders but really belonged to the people of God. And oh yes, baptism was the central sacrament not Holy Orders.

Years ago his parish was flooded with evacuees from one of those sad right wing orders which proliferated under the previous two papacies. He did what he could under the harsh regimes of bishops imposed by Rome. In every parish he raised up the lay voice to leadership positions and he then retired with much respect and his dignity intact. He was enthused by the new Francis pontificate.

He told me about his sadness at seeing so many young people leaving the church, at looking out and seeing only the grey heads at mass. He wanted to dedicate his remaining years to alleviate this sad scene.

In many ways Jimbo was constrained by the lack of freedom he had as an official rep of an authoritarian church which seemed fixated on the pelvic issues. Lay people had a much greater freedom to speak. He knew that every parish had the Catholic thought police which would report every putative deviation from what is seen as “orthodoxy’.
Jimbo did not feel free (nor did many other clerics) to really say what was on his mind. He knew he would be derricked by the ecclesial politburo who got where they were by swearing fealty to the Polish pope that they would never ever deny the birth control encyclical or mention horribile dictu the ordination of married men or women. He would be out on his ass with no pension. Many priest friends told me this. What do you do ahen you are 55 and out of a job? While it was true the ratio for celibacy was that it gave you more freedom to speak truth to power because you had no family, that was only partially true. In the top down military command centre, you obeyed or took a hike.
I told Jimbo it was obvious to me why youth had deserted the institute—and the synagogue as well. Young people are really idealists at heart. They want to be engaged in history and their parishes never were. My former students all told me the same thing. They left our school on fire for the call of the kingdom and when they had kids of their own and went into parishes there simply was no engagement or it was one issue abortion and that was it.
The priests never twigged that having male clerics telling women what to do with their bodies was a very bad optic. And that celibates should be the last to lecture married people and women who have few rights in the Catholic church
The most recent example of this is the radical failure of the Catholic church to confront the climate change issue. Maybe 1 or 2 parishes in Toronto have their young people engaged here but most are doing nothing—or maybe greenwashing a bit. Jim Wallis of Sojourners said this

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.”

Wallis also said that you have to ask yourself about any parish meeting, is this connected to a movement outside the church? If not you are wasting your time.Pious navel gazing, a church outside of history, no cross, no crown.The old Catholic truism, if we are not leading the parade we are not in it. What do I have to learn from Suzuki, Friends of the Earth or the Sierra Club. Every Catholic parish should be linked to one of these organizations.

So the young go where the action is, where there is life and this sadly is decidedly not in Catholic parishes.

It was once—when Youth Corps thrived but the bishop canned that, too much lay control.

I do not know how Jimbo can change this. Pope Francis is sending radical signals but the gatekeepers in major dioceses are the JP ll dogmatists who have never shown any interest in justice of any kind.

Sheep without a shepherd, Jesus said as he looked at the turgid leadership of his time so he as a layman started the kingdom rolling.

That’s where the action is.

Fr. Antonio Sarducci leaks Pope Francis admonition to Canadian bishops

June 22, 2015


For many years Fr. Antonio  Sarducci has been climbing the Curial pole  as the one who consistently tells the truth to the Supreme Pontiff. Unknown to most Vatican watchers, Fr. Sarducci,the brother of  the infamous  Guido the  former  gossip columnist for L’Osservatore Romano, has steadily deepened his spiritual life. After a 40 day retreat on Toronto’s Centre Island  in the year 2001, Sarducci returned to Rome a changed man. Today, mirabile dictu, he has become an intimate of Pope Francis.

Though living in Rome, Antonio  through modern communications has stayed in touch with many Toronto friends and has often leaked Pope Francis’ message to the cardinals of the Roman church.

After the groundbreaking encyclical on the environment Laudato Si  Papa Francesco immediately sent a strong missive, to all of Canada’s bishops. Fr.Tony  has graciously forwarded this to us. In the pope’s own words:

Fratelli in Christo

You all received an advance copy of my latest encyclical in which I ask you as putative leaders in the Church and indeed “all Christians to recognize and live fully this dimension of their  conversion” to ecological justice. As you undoubtedly remember in the long-forgotten 1971 Synod of Bishops document Justice in the World, our brothers in Christ in the glow of Vatican ll stated:

Action on behalf of of justice and participation in the transformation of the world appear to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the gospel

Apparently this has been forgotten in the last few decades, never taught in our seminaries and that is why I am asking you to awake from your slumber and stop placing the church at the heart of your ministry. As our beloved predecessor Pope Paul Vl reminded us in his prophetic Exhortation of 1975 Evangelization in the Modern World the only thing which is ultimate is the reign of God:  peace, justice and the integrity of creation. As our forefathers stated then “It makes everything else irrelevant”—and that includes, the church, the priesthood and the sacraments—everything.

In previous speeches, I have asked you to subordinate your fascination with what some have called “pelvic orthodoxy.” Catholics by now have heard this episcopal drumbeat for all too long (a one note Samba as we say in Argentina) .The faithful in case you have not noticed have made giant strides in their theological sophistication since the end of Vatican ll. They have well understood that the gospel of Jesus the poor man of Galilee is so much more than sexual ethics which seems to have consumed us celibates. They correctly name the gap between the rich and the poor, the imperialism of money, peacemaking, the cry of the excluded and in our time the deep cry of our sister, the womb that nourishes us all, the earth. As I wrote in section 2 of the encyclical

This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22).

Fr Tony has reminded me that the prophetic, to quote a song of the 60s, is “often written on the subway walls.” And he has directed me to a song by a Detroit singer Bob Seger. It is called It’s Your World

It’s Your World

Let’s talk about acid in the ocean
Let’s look at all the dying coral reefs
Let’s talk about shorter growing seasons
Let’s talk about what we’re gonna eat

Say a prayer for the victims of extinction
Say another for the redwood trees
Say another for arctic and the tundra
Let’s talk about who we’re tryin’ to please

It’s your world

The rich keep bitchin’ and the rest keep wishin’ it away
All these children have to face our mess someday

Let’s talk about mining in Wisconsin
Let’s talk about breathing in Beijing
Let’s talk about chemicals in rivers
Let’s talk about cash as king

Let’s talk about runoff from the mountains
Check the levels on Lake Mead
Let’s talk about mortgaging the future
We borrow and we borrow and we borrow, borrow, borrow

It’s your world


Apparently Mr Seger gets it. It indeed is our world. This is the great economy in which everything else must be subordinated; the earth is primary, the very basis of all human and non-human life. Destroy this base and nothing all matters. Leaders like your Prime Minister seem to have been locked into a death-dealing economic fundamentalism. I gently hinted this to him in our 10 minute meeting.

Now as your leader I am asking you “to get it.”

In section 219 of my encyclical I have directed you “beyond the personal”.

Social problems must be addressed by community networks and not simply by the sum of individual good deeds. This task “will make such tremendous demands of man that he could never achieve it by individual initiative or even  by the united effort of men bred in an individualistic way.

So I am asking you to make links and common cause with those secular groups who have worked so hard in defending the earth while your parishes have absented themselves from the social struggle. Fr.Guido has told me
that the Suzuki Foundation, Friends of the Earth and the Sierra Club are all active in Canada. Embrace them; learn from them .The old adage “If Catholics are not leading the parade,  they are not in it’ has sadly been true.This must stop. Humility demands that our parishes act in loving concert with those salvific elements in our society.

So, my brother bishops, I am requesting that within 30 days you convene your parish, engage the many experts, Catholic and non-Catholic, whom you have heretofore ignored and get moving. This encyclical invites you to study, prayer and necessary action in defense of our holy earth which has been maltreated for far too long.

I conclude with words from my encyclical:

It must be said that some committed and prayerful Christians, with the excuse of realism and pragmatism, tend to ridicule expressions of concern for the environment. Others are passive; they choose not to change their habits and thus become inconsistent. So what they all need is an “ecological conversion”, whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them. Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.

In solidarity with you and the earth,

Papa Francesco

Pope Francis rocks the world-and Catholics too

June 18, 2015


Pope Francis second Encyclical is entitled Praise be to you, my Lord or On Care for Our Common Home which I am sure this teaching will be known. For many of us encyclicals and papal letters are are known by their Latin names (Populorum Progressio, Octogesima Adveniens etc) so in this case Laudato si . The central question posed by Francis: “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?” (no. 160).

I love the way Francis refers to our common patrimony, the earth. Much like the man from Assisi of the 13th century, he speaks in relational terms. He refers to the earth as “our sister.” Right off the bat he lays out the harm which humans have inflicted on the earth.

This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.

Francis deeply understands what economic fundamentalists such as Stephen Harper simply does not get, namely that the environment is the primal economy, the basis of all our human and non-human life. Destroy the base and nothing else matters.As the great cosmologist Tom Berry reminds us,”our real threat is from the retaliatory powers of the abused earth, not from other nations.”

The Harpers of this world are captured by one dimensional and destructive thinking of GDP and wealth production(in our case Tar Sands oil) a closed system of commercial transactions, production an exchange of goods. This is the blindness of contemporary neoliberal economics. It absolutely fails to understand that the earth and its life giving sources are primary, not secondary to runaway wealth creation. What is the pricer of earth, air and water?Instead of GDP we need to worry about Gross Earth Deficit, how our industrial economy is closing down the planet.

This is a brilliant start which should challenge somnolent pastors into action and give great hope to those who have laboured long and hard trying to bring sanity to an industrial world out of control. Catholic pastors, by and large, right now, are totally out of the gospel loop. Few have understood that they must hitch their narrow parish wagons to movements beyond their heretofore narrow parish concerns. Each parish in this country should unashamedly have a ginger group of committed activists linked to the David Suzuki Foundation, Friends of the Earth, the Sierra Club , all organizations which have been doing the heavy lifting in the defense of the earth.


Many young Catholics have become so disenchanted by a church which has become so depoliticized, so abstract in its commitment to our common struggle that they have left in droves.Pope Francis may give them confidence that they have been right all along, that their church has been woefully behind the call of the Master to see that “thy will be done on earth”. This includes our defense of creation, the greatest moral challenge of this century.


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