Wednesday, March 31

2 guys, 2 girls, 2 popes and a lot of sex

Recently, there have been a number of stories regarding the RC church which have been, in the most generous of terms, unflattering.

In the first, you have the public scandal of institutionalized physical and sexual abuse in Ireland (along with His Holiness' non-apology).

Then, there is the matter of institutionalized paedophilia in then-archbishop Ratzinger's diocese, which the head of the German's Bishop Conference admits was known about and covered up for years.

Follow this up with a more local story, being the expulsion of a kindergarten girl from Sacred Heart of Jesus school due to her parents being lesbians. Please note that the Archdiocese of Denver was/is fully behind this. The same Archdiocese which has, in the last 10 years, settled 43 separate cases of sexual abuse by priests.

To expand our focus a bit, we have the paedophilic abuse of at least 19 (and possibly many more) boys by a priest for decades here in the US which was brought to then-Cardinal Ratzinger's attention by a bishop.

Finally, you have the matter of Marciel Maciel, the founder of the Legionares of Christ. Prelate Marcial had been investigated on three separate occasions for molesting seminary students (twice by Ratzinger) before being allowed to confess/apologize to his victims on his deathbed.

These last two are especially vexing as Cardinal Ratzinger was the head of the Vatican task force appointed to specifically address this sort of thing when the abuses were brought to light by people within the Church. His Holiness Benedict XVI, in the Palm Sunday homily, referred to all of these things as 'petty gossip' which the church would not be 'intimidated' by. I personally find it improbable to the point of incredulity that the Magesterium and the office of the Pope (as well as the personage of the Pope) was unaware of the gross and serial social injustices done by ordained members of the Church as well as the top-down cover-up.

OK...that's the setup.

There are two stories from scripture which I am going to mention here for different reasons.

The first tale comes from Daniel (the unabridged edition) and it revolves around a sexy, God-fearin wife named Susanna who takes a bath in her own house. Some pervy old peeping toms wanna get jiggy with her, and when she tells them to sod off, they try to blackmail her. Trouble is, the Peeping Toms are judges and elders with great authority and the people believe them over the 'victim'. At least, they do until a boy named Daniel shows up and lays the Jehovic smack-down on them. The people, realising they've been lied to, put them to death "in accordance with the law".

Here we have older men lusting after a nubile young thang and then using their authority and ecclesiastical law to cover up for their sins. The parallels and implications are clear.

Our second parable comes from John. The Pharisees want to get dirt on Jesus to try and have him arrested, so they bring to him a woman who was purportedly caught in the act of adultery and should be stoned "in accordance with the law" (which, btw, they misrepresent). Christ says that he who is without sin should cast the first stone, whereupon the judges slowly walk away, leaving the woman and Christ. He asks who has condemned her (no one), tells her the he doesn't condemn her either and for her to "go and sin no more".

This is, most coincidentally, the gospel reading from the 5th Sunday in Lent. This is what his Holiness said in his homily on the matter.

God only wants goodness and life for us; he provides for the salvation of our soul through his ministers, freeing us from evil by the Sacrament of Reconciliation, so that no one is lost but all have a way to be converted. In this Year for Priests, I would like to exhort pastors to imitate the holy Curé d'Ars in the ministry of sacramental Penance, so that the faithful rediscover its meaning and beauty, and are again healed by the merciful love of God, who even "forces himself willingly to forget sin," so that he can grant us his forgiveness!" ("Letter Proclaiming a Year for Priests").

Dear friends, let us learn from the Lord Jesus not to judge and not to condemn our neighbor. Let us learn to be intransigent with sin -- beginning with our own! -- and indulgent with people. May we be helped in this by the Holy Mother of God, who, free of every fault, is the mediatrix of grace for every contrite sinner.

I find those bold words, especially from the leader of an organization which consistently uses the withholding of the Eucharist as a weapon and the separation of people from God as a tool to extort external behaviours. The key to this forgiveness which IS very important lies in the second to last word - contrite. One must recognize the errors, feel remorse and desire atonement.

To quote from his Holiness' Palm Sunday Homily :

The Gospel for the blessing of the palms that we have listened to together here in St. Peter's Square begins with the phrase: "Jesus went ahead of everyone going up to Jerusalem" (Luke 19:28). Immediately at the beginning of the liturgy this day, the Church anticipates her response to the Gospel, saying, "Let us follow the Lord." With that the theme of Palm Sunday is clearly expressed. It is about following.

So here's the punchline....

Without attempting to judge, I openly wonder if Mother Church is following Jesus? Is the leadership, in fact, listening to the words they are saying and truly believing them? If so, how can they endorse harming innocents in the name of the law, and being lenient (or complicit) with the sins which have caused so much harm? Are they showing any contrition? If not, how can they expect to avoid the Elder's fate?

I would humbly submit that perhaps they, singly and wholly, should take heed to another Pope (Alexander Pope).

"Teach me to feel another's woe,
to hide the fault I see,
that mercy I to others show,
that mercy show to me.

Further reflections on Tomorrow's Catholic

So, I've been thinking (dangerous words, I realise).

The SCM (Standard Christian Model) sets the individual as a craven person from birth, unable to overcome his baser instincts and fundamentally unworthy to receive the mercy of the Divine, who is justified to pour wrath and misery upon them. There is no way for a person, without the mercy of the Divine, to enter a state of Grace. That means that a person is stumbling about in the dark, constantly being without any personal value and living in the hope that, at the end of days, some celestial accountant will note that they said enough prayers, apologized enough and performed enough good deeds to put their ledger sheet in the black. The SCM allows God, through his son, to put a thumb on the scales, but there are provisos with that as well.

Morwood's thesis is simple and yet shifts the theological paradigm. Note I don't use phrases like that, so I really DO mean it.

The Divine resides within all creation, which includes each and every one of us, so every person is born in a state of Grace. You START as worthy. Our spiritual journey isn't a matter of reconciliation, but of reconnection...not a matter of learning an untold number of arcane rules, but unlearning the selfish and short-sighted behaviours which are societally taught and embracing the basic idea that you should 'be excellent to one another' ('s perfectly valid and reasonable, despite the origin of the phrase).

This also means our own salvation is our own personal responsibility. With the lack of 'Original sin', everyone starts with a green-light. It is only by purposely and willingly turning away from the Divine do we get 'into trouble'. A note on that....I agree with the Angelic Doctor, who said that for sin to be real, one must understand/recognize the error. If I, through action or inaction, cause someone else harm and I have no knowledge of it, then there is no sin there.

That said, if the action/inaction is willful, and the individual wishes to cause that sort of harm, I would argue that the error has been made regardless of the outcome. Do not mistake this for Deontological ethics, however, for there is no specific 'duty' or 'moral code' that a person must follow. This brings things around to virtue ethics, where the individual's internal qualities drive their actions, not any perceived requirements. I recognize that this sounds like a bunch of malarkey, but I'll put it in simple terms.

I do what is right...
not because of what it will do for me,
not because others have told me that it is right,
not because it is expected of me,
not because that's the way it has always been.

I do what is right because, after examination, I know that it is right.

In short, the onus for 'being good' is on us. If we're unkind or cruel, thoughtless or's not the fault of God, Eve, the Devil, our priest or our parents. Society isn't to blame, nor are "the times". It is our responsibility. How's that for an empowering...and unpopular...notion?

First impressions of Tomorrow's Catholic

(note - this is a repost from my old blog)

I just recently read Tomorrow's Catholic by Michael Morwood. It is a fascinating and very divergent take on the basic concepts of Christianity as interpreted in the light of Millennial science.

In the first, Morwood lays out that both Scripture and christian tradition should be studied using a historical-critical approach (which is what most 20th century scholars in historically minded fields have been doing). As I have myself pointed out, the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed we recite every mass is a collection of refutations to heterodoxical beliefs which the church was dealing with in the 4th century - most of which no longer exist and/or matter. As my dealings in history have shown time and again, the more one understands the historical and social context in which a concept is born and developed, the more fully one can fathom and appreciate it.

To be brief, the collection of books which we presently consider canon was assembled over the course of several centuries. Indeed, the two testaments of the Bible are a literary compilation created from Jewish sources (Septuagint) and what was believed to be writings of various apostles and church fathers, with certain additions and deletions from the texts as was deemed appropriate at the time. It is very much a document which reflects the concerns, attitudes and beliefs of (what became) the eastern Roman Empire in the 1st through 3rd centuries.

Just as our worldview and science has changed from Lucretius and Aristotle, Morwood argues that our spiritual and religious world-view should reflect the realities of the 21st century.

He starts with the premise that the Divine is everywhere, in everything. Not an old man who lives in a box at the front of the church or somewhere 'up in heaven', but an entity of any/all/no sex who exists everywhere and in every thing simultaneously. So, God is in you, me, the dog, the dog who lives on Antares 3, etc. This Divine presence is so radically different from us that it is fundamentally beyond our grasp to fully understand it. A being of (effectively) infinite power and knowledge, but also of infinite understanding and compassion.

To acknowledge this means that you acknowledge that you are part of God. That acknowledgment nullifies the idea that Original sin has caused a separation between mankind and God. In short, mankind, individually and collectively, are born in union with the Divine, which is commonly known as a State of Grace. The implications of this cannot be understated, as it entirely alters the relationship between ourselves and God as well as shakes the very foundations of the church structure. This simple concept theologically refutes not only Calvin, but all of Christian (and, truthfully, all Abrahamic) thought.

We are not morally depraved creatures who have screwed up and need God to clean up our collective mess. What we are is a bunch of people who tend to forget that connection to the Divine. We forget that everyone and everything is a part of God and is deserving of both God's love and our love. If you love someone, you don't steal from them, defraud them, hurt them or even be rude to them. So, we need to be reminded of that connection. You know..."Love the Lord your God...and love your neighbor as yourself". As I'm fond of saying, "Jesus says 'Don't be a dick!'"

Speaking of that carpenter's son, what about him? How does he fit into this? Well, the divinity of the Christ can't be in question, as we all hold the Divine in ourselves. Nor is there really any true question as to the humanity of Christ. Entirely ignoring the special circumstances of his birth, it is rather obvious that he was born. Morwood argues that the point of Christ's story is to cajole us back into that divine connection and to provide a social, moral, theological construct by which we can reclaim the spark of Divinity within us. That is the central message of the Christ.

And his sacrifice? If there is no Original Sin to wash away, was the blood of the Paschal Lamb was shed for naught? From what I read, Christ's death and resurrection was no less real nor less needed. All the major beliefs of the day held that sacrifices/offerings were a required part of communion with the Divine. To even have the conversation considered required that it be held in the language of the day. If the message was to get through, then these things had to happen.

What of the Eucharist? In a system free from Original Sin, where does the Body and Blood of Christ fit in? Paul says "You are the body of Christ, member for member." [1 Cor 12.27] . Augustine picks up on this in one of his homilies.

If you, therefore, are Christ's body and members,
it is your own mystery that is placed on the Lord's table!
It is your own mystery that you are receiving!
You are saying "Amen" to what you are­
your response is a personal signature, affirming your faith.
When you hear "The body of Christ"­you reply "Amen."
Be a member of Christ's body, then,
so that your "Amen" may ring true!

The Eucharist is, then an affirmation of our re-union with the Divine...a recognition that we are mortal and yet hold within us the spark of the Infinite.

Morwood discusses the Trinity as a model by which we may be able to understand the Infinite Divine, but it is not an accurate description of it. The trinitarian model is bound up with homoiousios and hypostatis, words which have specific and arcane theological meaning but may or may not have had identical meanings in 1st century greek as they do in our understanding of them today (or what the Church Fathers thought it meant). What is important is that we, not unlike the people in Plato's Allegory of the Cave, do not mistake the shadow of reality for reality itself - do not confuse the model of God for God itself.

In conclusion, I will say that Morwood presents an engaging narrative which embraces the essence of the early faith while radically challenging the cherished traditions and customs which have grown up around Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. Further reflection regarding the consequences of his ideas needs to occur, but for a Lenten-tide meditation, one could do worse than contemplate such things.


People must be such a disappointment to the Almighty some days

(note - this is a repost from my old blog)

So, my dear wulfsdottir posts this brilliant article on her page (thanks, sis) and there was some useful and enlightening discussion which was generated. The article is WS and is a series of interviews with former Jihadists, focusing on what brought them to fundamental Islam and what caused them to break with the movement. That article seems to resonate with another article I read recently by former President Carter and his decision to leave the Southern Baptist Convention after 60 years.

For those of faith, it seems that the underlying concepts of toleration, unity and forgiveness are scarce in these days of division and discord. The etymological root of the word 'kindness' is the OE gecynd, which traces back to the latin gens - the word for family or tribe. In world where we treat none with kindness...none like it no surprise that we are always treated as a stranger?

I read about how the 'righteous army of [diety]' will wage a holy war and cleanse the world of non-believers, establishing a paradise on Earth. We hear how the definition of 'non-believer' is someone who has ideological differences with those who proclaim that they have the one, true way....even if they worship the same diety as the 'non-believer'.

[Bob] has found "The Way". Because it is "The Way", there can be no variation, interpretation or compromise, lest "The Way" be lost. Ergo, any questioning of the authority or fallibility of "The Way" is an assault on [name of divine being/supreme authority here] and the entire foundation of the religion itself.

This quickly devolves into hatred and intolerance of anyone who is not of "The Way". In many (though not all) belief systems, this hatred and/or intolerance breeds violence. These patterns also strongly lead to insulation and isolation, which serve as an echo chamber.

So, what do the inerrant texts which must be read literally have to say on the matter?

"O My servants who have transgressed against their own souls, despair not of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Truly, He is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Surah az-Zumar 39:53)"

"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.(Ephesians 4:32)"

It seems, like so many zealots, these folks know the will of God, and therefore do not need to worry themselves with what their deity has actually said.

*sighs heavily*

Right then.

So, after having an account 'somewhere else' for a very long time, it was brought to my attention that I really should have a special purpose blog for discussions of philosophy, faith and discernment.

I have heard the Voice before and I feel compelled at this point to follow it. I have no idea where it shall lead, but I trust in the Divine to guide my path.

To assist in my own journey, and to help others, I will periodically post my thoughts on matters spiritual as well as links I find of value. I would politely request the same from y'all. Just be polite and respectful. Thanks.