Thursday, April 28

Magestirial Mumblings

Reading through today's news, I came across two distinctly different articles with two distinctly different messages.  The one thing they had in common is that both are from the 'teachers' of the Roman Church.

The first comes from Cardinal George, who has removed a priest from his parish and forbade him from sacramental duties because said priest refused to become the president of an RC high school.  Why would this priest do so?  Because he felt unqualified and inexperienced.

"A Catholic priest's inner life is governed by his promises, motivated by faith and love, to live chastely as a celibate man and to obey his bishop. Breaking either promise destroys his vocation and wounds the Church....If that is your attitude, you have already left the Catholic Church and are therefore not able to pastor a Catholic parish." (link)

The second comes from Bishop William Lori, speaking at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast.

“Religious freedom is the core of all human rights. The church and state are distinct, but they are also inter-related. … We must not be afraid to enact on our religious values in public and in private." and "Religious freedom, of course, belongs not only to individuals but also to churches, comprised of citizens who are believers, and who seek, not to create a theocracy, but rather to influence their culture from within. ...We look to the State not to impose religion but to guarantee religious freedom, and to promote harmony among followers of different religions." (link and link).

So,whom do we listen to?  The cardinal who says that obedience is key or the bishop who says we should not be afraid to enact on our religious values?  Is one to argue that there are different rules for laity and clergy, or are we all the Body of Christ?  Does a dog collar prevent a man from exercising his conscience?  Blessed Cardinal Newman didn't thinks so.

Tuesday, April 26

reflections on the reading

Using the Daily Remembrancer for scriptural inspiration, we find ourselves in 1 Corinthians.  Now, I normally don't use a dynamic equivalence translation for Scripture but I felt that there was more to the verse than the NASB translation was plainly stating.  After reading the original Greek and the commentary, I looked through about a dozen different translations to find one that captures the essence without requiring exposition, which lead me to this translation.

"Who says that you are any better than other people? What do you have that wasn't given to you? If you were given what you have, why are you bragging as if it weren't a gift?" (1 Cor. 4:7, 'God's Word trans')

Just slide in your demographic of choice for 'other people', be it race, political belief, creed, socio-economic status, colour, gender, physical shape or ability, gender preference, etc. etc.  There is so much here that COULD be said, but I feel like I'm gilding the lily.

We are all made in the image and likeness of the Divine, who has given each of us the charisms and gifts we have.  Of course, they're not all the same charisms and gifts, but everyone does have them and none are better or worse than the others.

Monday, April 25

The Tai Chi of Easter

As astute observers may have already noticed, I did not post on Holy Thursday or Good Friday.  That was at least a partially conscious decision.  Holy week is usually a whirlwind of activity and this year was even more so than usual.  In addition to the daily mass/service (including 2 shared services with the ECLA church we co-habitate with), I had the opportunity to listen to a poetry reading by Ernesto Cardenale and, separately, a lecture given by Noam Chomsky.  I mention these two events because they really highlight the current burgeoning issue which I am sitting with right now.

On the one hand, we have professor Chomsky filling a hall of over 2000, talking about the difficulties that the United States and her people face today and the causes which have precipitated these crises.  His extended lecture covered a lot of ground, establishing a compelling argument for his view of the collective problems facing us as citizens of the wealthiest nation on Earth.  In the Lutheran-led services this week, there was the familiar Protestant undertone that I was raised with, filled with comfortable anecdotes, rational discussions and logical constructs.  At the end of each, I walked away with the conceptions I walked in with affirmed, but neither overly perturbed nor moved.

In contrast, there was the poetry of padre Cardenale.  Tucked away in a small coffee shop, Cardenale read his poetry in his native Nicaraguan Spanish and the young translator to repeated the words about the unity of the mankind and the universe and the interplay of science and God put into metaphor and meter that subverts the mind and penetrates directly to the heart.  In the Catholic services, the use of symbolism and story thrust the message into a similar place, bypassing rational and logical processes and resonating on a level more profound.  At the end of each, my brain was satisfied but vaguely confused while the spirit and heart was moved and invigorated.  Cognitive recognition of what had happened only dawned later, in both cases with a smile of wonderment and realisation of the subtle changes taking place.

This all reminds me of two things I learned many years ago.  When I had progressed a while in my Tai Chi exercises, my sihing told me that the purpose of the form (the specific set of exercises, their order and designs) was to forget the form.  At a certain, undetermined point, one reaches a place where the mechanistic movements, breathing and all of that falls away.  You stop thinking about breathing and just breathe, you stop thinking about moving and just move. Further, books about the form are without any value.  If you understand the form, then you have no need for them and if you do not, you cannot learn them from a book.  They must be experienced.

Christ was this way in his teachings.  He was a learned teacher, well versed  in the law and scripture, but that didn't really matter.  He had progressed beyond them...penetrated beyond the words and rational, logical statements to the core of the matter which the law is only a pale shadow of.

When addressing the story of the Passion and the power of the Resurrection, one can wax poetic about the interplay and union of the temporal and the cosmic, covenants fulfilled and promises made, the circle of life and all sorts of related, valuable observations, but to discuss it in reasonable, logical terms can only convey (at best) the verisimilitude of the Divine's love.  These things will still reside only in the cognitive knowing of the mind, not in the experiential understanding of the heart.  It is only by transcending the rational mind and entering into that intimate space of the heart, where words and reason lose meaning, can we fully experience the Passion, the love of the Divine.  Once you've gotten there, you know and words are meaningless.  If you haven't, no words can describe the path, only point towards it.

Wednesday, April 20

The wheel turns and the cycle continues

A year and some ago, I started this blog with the following statement.
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.
Looking back down the path, I see how far I have traveled.  I understand so much more and see how ignorant I am.  So, today, we get this reading from Isaiah:
The Sovereign Lord has given me his words of wisdom, so that I know how to comfort the weary. Morning by morning he wakens me and opens my understanding to his will. The Sovereign Lord has spoken to me, and I have listened. I have not rebelled or turned away.... Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will not be put to shame. Who among you fears the Lord and obeys his servant? If you are walking in darkness, without a ray of light, trust in the Lord and rely on your God. (Is. 50 4-10)
She DOES speak and I DO listen to Him. I may fumble and falter in the gloom, I know that He will place my feet on solid ground.  Things are very different now, yet they are the same.  The Voice calls and I will follow.

Thanks Dad, for the opportunity.

Tuesday, April 19

Daily Remembrancer

"Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God." (2 Cor. 3:5)

LET us think of this, whenever we are cast down on account of our weakness, or the difficulties we meet with in our way. We are weak, but Jesus is strong; and His strength is made perfect in our weakness. He has given us His word, that He will work in us to will and to do of His own good pleasure. He speaks, and it is done.

The word of the Lord knows no obstacles or difficulties; all things must obey Him. When He sent Moses to Pharaoh, He said, "Certainly I will be with thee:" and the Lord's presence was his strength. He acts just so with us; His fullness is our sufficiency; it is opened to us in Jesus, and we receive from it according to our wants, weakness, and faith.

"Through God," said David, "I shall do valiantly."
"I can do all things," said Paul, "through Christ strengthening me."

Look not then at your own emptiness, or weakness; but look at what God is to His people, and what He has promised to give them, and sing,
"God is our refuge and strength; and as our days so shall our strength be."
"His grace is sufficient for us; His strength is made perfect in weakness."

Comment: I would add to those songs the verse 'those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.'

Thanks be to God.

Monday, April 18

My weekend

This past Saturday, I had the enormous good fortune to have lunch and spend the afternoon in a Celtic mass workshop with Br. Stefan Waligur.  The music was incredible.  Go and listen to his stuff.  It's AWESOME.  As for the rest, I won't attempt to describe what we did or the conversations involved, but the whole experience showed me that my observations, reflections and ruminations may be private but they are not, in any way, unique. 

Sunday found me missing the joint Palm Sunday service.  For a variety of reasons, I was not fit company for general people, let alone celebrate mass go to church with the Lutherans in that ecumenical spirit.  Yesterday was spent with a good bit of questioning where I'm going with this journey...where does that road lead, why the Divine tapped me on the shoulder and sent me on this road and what the Sam Hill am I supposed to do?

Then, I get today's OT reading, from Isaiah 42:
Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, Upon whom I have put my Spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations...Thus says God, YHWH, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spreads out the earth with its crops, Who gives breath to its people and spirit to those who walk on it:
"I, YHWH, have called you for the victory of justice, I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, To open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness. I YHWH; that is my name; my glory I give to no other,nor my praise to carved idols. Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare;before they spring forth I tell you of them."
Have I ever mentioned how subtle the Divine is? 

Thanks, Dad. 

Friday, April 15

Today's Reading

The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus.
Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?”

The Jews answered him, “We are not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy. You, a man, are making yourself God.”

Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, ‘You are gods”‘? If it calls them gods to whom the word of God came, and Scripture cannot be set aside, can you say that the one whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world blasphemes because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?  (John 10:31-36)
The full verse which Jesus quotes is as follows:
"I said, 'You are gods, and all of you are sons of the Most High'." (Ps. 82:6)
And that small Voice said: "You are a being of light, suffused with the Holy Spirit"

The Divine is within us and we are children of God.  We are ALL children of God, blinded to the fact due to our own short-sightedness.

Wednesday, April 13

From the Daily Rembrancer

"He cannot deny Himself." 2 Tim 2:13

GOD has opened His heart to us in His word. He has told us all His mind, He intends every word He has spoken, and will fulfill every promise He has made. He cannot deny Himself or falsify His word; He can have no temptation to do so. Man may be fickle, He is but a bruised reed; Jehovah is always the same, He is the Rock of Ages.

He will have compassion on the miserable who seek His face; and show mercy to all who plead with Him in Jesus' name. He cannot cast out a coming sinner, or refuse to receive a confessing backslider. He cannot turn a deaf ear to our cries, or refuse to deliver us when we call on His name. He will take His own time, but will never dishonour His faithful word. He will be rigidly faithful, both to His threatenings and promises.

Let us take courage and trust in Him; we have His word, it is true, from the beginning; we have this assurance, that HE CANNOT DENY HIMSELF. Let us then stay ourselves on the word of our God; let us trust Him, though the night be dark and the burden be heavy. He exhorts, "Trust ye in JEHOVAH for ever, for in JAH, JEHOVAH. there is everlasting strength."

Comment: There are days when it is so very hard to see The Plan, to hear God's Voice.  There are nights when destructive doubt has us ask questions with no good answers and to wonder if the Divine has our back.  The simple truth of things is that She does, for He could not be who She is if He did not.  If we ask, we shall receive.  If we wait upon the Lord, He shall provide.  Mayhap not with the way we expect or with the speed we would like, but the Calvary is coming...just wait for it.

Tuesday, April 12

Self-contradiction, Vatican style

"Denver Archbishop Chaput asked Notre Dame University Catholics this weekend to press for Church policy that would deny communion to U.S. Catholic politicians who support pro-choice or pro-gay rights positions. The speech comes in the wake of surveys that show most Catholics don’t agree with Chaput on the issues." (full story here).

In the speech, Chaput is attempting to argue for unity among the bishops to withhold Eucharist from those who, in conscience, hold social or political views contrary to those which the Church deliniates.  If he can achieve that, then it will become infallible doctrine as per the Ordinary Magesterium, even if the official standpoint of the RC Chruch changes at a later point.

The trouble is, that violates infallible doctrine regarding the Primacy of Conscience.

For a moment, let us ignore Scripture (Sirach 15:15-17, Luke 12:57,1 John 3) and patristic Tradition (Francis of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas, Cardinal Newman).  Ignore the Deposit of Faith entirely.  Let's just consider the Magesterium, as set forth at the  Second Vatican Council:
This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits. (Dignitatis Humanae, 2)
That would mean that Chaput and those bishops who agree with him are guilty of, as Aquinas puts it, "a species of infidelity in men who, having professed the faith of Christ, corrupt its dogmas" (II-II:11:1); that is, to say, heresy.  More importantly, it is heresy of the first degree, being pernicious adhesion to a doctrine contradictory to a clear point of faith defined by the Church.

Except, of course, if Chaput can get all the other bishops on board...maybe.

Monday, April 11

Oy, gevalt!

Oy gevalt, indeed!
Today, Dr. Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, took out a full page ad in the NY Times.  In it, he writes a long and spirited defense of the RC clergy.  There are some...well, issues, that I see in his analysis and defense.

The first is that the only substantive data which he quotes is from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice study on clergy and sex abuse.  If that doesn't ring a bell, it was the study commissioned by the USCCB as part of the Dallas Conference reforms. 
 "[The Jay study] found that most of the abuse occurred during the heyday of the sexual revolution, from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s. What we are hearing about today are almost all old cases."
Ignoring any sort of possible bias (in that 'studies funded by R.J. Reynolds say that smoking is good for you' sort of way), the dataset covers from 1950-2002.  Given that sexual abuse of children is often reported only decades after the fact (for a variety of psychological reasons), that is no great surprise.  Given the age of the report, it also means that the German, Belgian, Irish, Philadelphia and L.A. reports of systemic abuse (to name a few) don't show up. 
"[Penn State professor Philip] Jenkins wrote that “Out of 100,000 priests active in the U.S. in this half-century, a cadre of just 149 individuals—one priest out of every 750—accounted for over a quarter of all allegations of clergy abuse.” In other words, almost all priests have never had anything to do with sexual molestation.(emphasis his)"
According to his own John Jay study, 4% of american clergy have had charges of sexual abuse filed against them.  That would be 4,000, not 149.  Assuming Jenkins is correct and 149 priests are responsible for 1/4 of the allegations, that means over 2,600 complaints were reported (an average of 18/priest) against them.  That's not a clean slate for priests in the US and certainly damning evidence for those in leadership.
"The refrain that child rape is a reality in the Church is twice wrong: let’s get it straight—they weren’t children and they weren’t raped. We know from the John Jay study that most of the victims have been adolescents, and that the most common abuse has been inappropriate touching (inexcusable though this is, it is not rape).... In other words, the issue is homosexuality, not pedophilia."
Trying to split the difference between pedophilia and ephebophilia and aruging that the difference between 3rd base and a home run when it comes to non-consensual sexual contact matters are both legalistic and petulant defenses.  Children under the age of consent cannot, by definition, give consent (thus, statutory rape).  Some jurisdictions in the US include oral sex and non-consensual masturbation as rape (the latter could fall under Dr. Donahue's 'inappropriate touching').  The bottom line is that those under the age of consent are unilaterally off limits and 'no' always, ALWAYS, means NO!

The whole homosexuality angle is a canard as evidenced by a recent study by Duke university which showed that 96% of those who were convicted of sexually abusing boys identified as heterosexual, 2% were either non-straight or weren't sure and 2% were women.  This gets back to the fact that rape (and, by extension, sexual abuse) is about power, not the sex.

I will agree, in the broadest terms, with Dr. Donahue.  The issue isn't pedophilia.  There are two issues; Sexual abuse of minors (which would include, but not be limited to, pedophilia) and the protection of the perpetrators by the RC Church.  Every day the Church delays, demurs and distracts, the moral credibility of the Church is diminished, the name of those honest, upright priests are defamed and lives of children abused present and past are destroyed.

Saturday, April 9

Love one another....

I have been involved in a spirited discussion on another blog which started with Christian Dominionists and their anti-gay rhetoric.  During the exchange, I made a flippant, off-hand remark (a shock, I know) about that 'love everybody' stuff.  The response by one individual surprised me.
I highly doubt you love everyone as it is impossible.
It made me think.  In a strict sense, I guess the individual has a point.  It is difficult for anyone to truly love all of mankind.  Those who are distant or align with your views are much easier to love than those who oppose you in thought, word or deed.  Yet, that is precisely what Christ challenges to do in the Sermon on the Mount.
For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? (Mat 5.46)
We should realise that those who oppose us, those who hate us, they are all no less children of God then we.  They, too, have been made in the image and likeness of God and they, too, contain within them the spark of the Infinite Divine, making them beings of light.

Returning to the reply, I find issue with the phrase "as it is impossible" to love everyone.  God loves everyone.  Jesus, human in all ways but sin, loved everyone.  We are told to love one another as Christ loved us.  There is a thought which comes with this.  The more we love, the closer we come to God.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 Jn. 4. 7-8).
 I'll point out that there's nowhere that says that it would be easy.  Then again, all too often we find what is right and what is easy at cross-purposes. 

May we all have the prudence to discern the right from the easy and the fortitude to follow that right path, no matter how long or hard it may be.

Thursday, April 7

Thinkin about smex.

No, not like that, you sick little monkey.

A disproportionate amount of ecclesiastical rhetoric is directed at "proper behaviour" in the bedroom and 
I'm trying to understand the rationale of 'some people' regarding sex and sexuality as well as looking at an alternative reasoned response from the one I normally take.  So, bear with me, here.

1. All of mankind is made in the image/likeness of God.

2. Sexuality is a gift of God.

Those are, purportedly, hard-limit theological points which are beyond argument.  I see no great issue with either and there is substantive Scripture and Tradition behind this so, yah, let's move on.

3. Sexual orientation is a manifestation of that God-given gift of sexuality, not a choice.

As social scientist and lab researchers study the subject, we find that sexual orientation is principally not a choice and is genetically encoded (not unlike chirality) though later social/environmental factors can suppress or enhance the natural expression of orientation (again, like chirality).  Since orientation is a manifestation of a gift from God, it is inherently good and holy.  Thus, it is a question not of intrinsic order, but intent of expression in which the error (ἥμαρτον) lies.

4.  Expression of sexual orientation is reserved to people who are joined in marriage with the understanding that said expression is both unitive and procreative in nature.

There are two parts of this.  The first is that sexual expression (i.e. - sexual 'acts') must be for the aim of having children and bonding of people.  The second is that sexual expression is reserved for those who have received express license from the Church.  Therefore, any who have sex and are not attempting to bond with their partner, attempting to have children AND have their partnership approved by a priest is in sin.

Ergo, if the priest doesn't approve of the partnership and refuses to marry them or if the union of the two partners is unable, for whatever reason, to produce offspring, then one isn't permitted to express their love and devotion in the most intimate of ways, building those aforementioned unitive bonds.

The second argument is the easier to dispose of  : "So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."  No mortal knows the heart of another, but it is God who knows what lies in the hearts of all humanity and it is He alone who can know whether two people have emotionally/spiritually joined together and become one.  This 'one-ness' is independent of a public sacrament or piece of paper from a courthouse (I make this statement due to Reason, based upon my personal experience).

As to the first, I would argue that the necessity of having children is a cultural matter which has roots in rural-based society (where large families are needed) when infant mortality was high and the continuation of a family line was important to social stability.  In parts of the developing world today, those things (in part or whole) still apply, but in the developed world they simply do not. 

I would put forth that the procreative power of sexual expression, though important and not to be ignored, is the smaller portion of God's gift of sexuality.  The greater part lies within the unitive value of the act which, when used in accordance with Spirit-filled conscience and will of the Divine, functions as solid mortar to assist in deepening and strengthening the above mentioned 'one-ness'.  To put it in simpler terms, sex isn't about making babies, it's about making love.

A careful reader will note that the argument (and refutation) has yet to mention 'tabs and slots' and how many of each should be involved.  It applies equally to 'same' and 'other', 'both' and 'neither'. 

Wednesday, April 6

forget the ephemeral, focus on the eternal

There are so many things going on right now that I am starting to find difficulty in focusing on blogging properly.  I can point to a number of topics which I could discuss, but most are either well-trodden ground with no great new insights or matter which, upon reflection will bear no good fruit.  As it is lent, I am skipping over the saints (as is traditional) and the readings are not helping much.  So, I turn to my old book.

Last January, I secured an 1859 copy of Rev. James Smith's The Believer's Daily Remembrancer (which can be found in softcopy here).  It is a brilliant little volume wherein each day has a snatch of a bible verse, a simple exposition and a concluding prayer...all on a single page. 

The one I read today is taken from the story of Martha and Mary and says "One thing is needful" (Luke 10:42.
THE things of time are transient, the things of eternity are permanent. The world passeth away. The body must die; earthly connexions must be dissolved; but the soul must live for ever. The welfare of the soul is the one thing needful. If the soul is in a sanctified and healthy state, it will be found at the feet of Jesus; it will relish His words; and enjoy His communications more than the riches feast. We shall be seeking to know Him, love Him, believe Him, obey Him, and enjoy Him. Fellowship with Jesus is needful as an evidence of interest in Him, and as a source of satisfaction and comfort. He that finds a home at the feet of Jesus, will enjoy an eternal heaven in the presence of Jesus. Let not then the many trifles of time affect, distract, and bewilder you; but let the one thing needful be the constant object of pursuit and desire. Live at the feet of Jesus, and you are safe. Seek, above all things, to enjoy Jesus, and you will be happy. Aim in all things to glorify Jesus, and you will be holy. Look daily for the coming of Jesus, and you will be consistent. O Jesus! manifest Thyself to me; draw me to Thy feet, and keep me there!
Focus on the eternal and let the ephemeral pass along.  Don't be distracted by the shiny things or matters which enflame the passions of the moment.  In a time when there is a 24 hour news cycle and a firehose of information (aka, the internet), apparent crises are pushed upon us constantly.  We have 500 channels to distract our attention and more ways to fritter away time than arguably at any point in history.  It is so easy to become obsessed with minutiae and depressed with situations we cannot change that we forget the 'big picture'.  We become so consumed with chasing the butterflies of ephemera that we forget to stop, sit and focus on the enternal.

Forget the ephemera and focus on the Eternal.

Thank you, Rev. Smith and Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, April 5

Embarrassement of riches

Servant?  Or Princess? Clothes make the man.
So, in the course of my normal readings, I have come across a number of topics which really deserve discussion.  On the one hand, there is a prescient discussion of the marginalization of homosexuals within the RC church which resonates with me as someone who has always been a social 'outsider'.  There are a series of discussions (here and here, for a start) of the rise of fundamentalism and dogmatism which is something that I have seen as well.  There is a particular scripture reading I found which I will talk about at a later point, but I think I will engage probably the most controversial and problematic topic which has been presented to me - the Scriptural challenge of the authority of the RC hierarchy (and, possibly, the hierarchy of most apostolic churches).

Warning - potentially inflammatory statements below.  Check flame-throwers at the door.  You have been warned.

The can of worms was first opened last night when I read 1 Timothy 3, wherein Paul outlines the qualifications for a deacon and for a bishop.
Therefore an overseer (ἐπισκοπῆς, bishop) must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity (gravitas) keeping his children submissive (under control), for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (1 Tim. 3:1-8)
A bishop must be the husband of one wife?  That counts out arguably all the clergy (some deacons excepted).  On a less literal note, you want to have leadership who has practical understanding of the laity's daily concerns to provide context, understanding and the ability to 'lead from the front'.  Thus, a long-term, spousal relationship is rather key, whether the bishop is male or female...straight or gay.

Must manage his own household and keep the children under control? Again, this disqualifies all the orders (some deacons excepted).  If you don't have a household or children to manage, how can you gain the skillset needed to care for God's church?

Able to teach?  Before you can teach, you must know the material yourself and it is painfully apparent that there is an entire generation of clergy who have only the vaguest knowledge of Scripture and Tradition.  If you have the Magisterium spoon-feeding the laity, that's one thing.  When the Magisterium is arguably as ignorant as those they are supposed to instruct, then you get double-think.

Gentle? Hospitable? Not quarrelsome? Consider the rhetoric of Corapi, Zuhlsdorf, Dolan, Burke, the African bishops of the Anglican Communion and others.

Not a lover of money?  The Vatican bank has had ongoing scandals for the last 30 years.  Further, as one archbishop stated, the driving reason for not coming forward regarding the priestly abuse of minors was that it would expose the Church to nearly unlimited liability claims.

Speaking of priestly abuse of minors, the slow-roll train wreck has shown over and again that leadership (the bishops) were complicit, if not active in covering up the scandal.  That would go to 'above reproach' and 'well though of by others' requirements.  If leaders cannot be trusted and/or respected, they lose all authority.

So, let me see about bringing this home.  The basis of leadership is the establishment and use of rapport with the followers to gain respect and inspire.  If those in leadership are categorically disbarred from having those points of commonality, then they are intrinsically incapable of true leadership.  This isn't about a few 'bad apples' or even a cadre of good ol boys.  It is a systemic problem of self-imprisonment within an ivory cathedral.  The parallels between the pharisees/sadducees of the 1st century and the institutional, apostolic churches of today are disturbing. 

Monday, April 4

Reflections on Theologia and the Web of Jewels

The very center of our religious experience is our relationship with the Divine.  Indeed, Augustine defined the word theologia (the root of theology) as the reasoning and discussion of the Divine.  As to how that has morphed into a study of institutional religions, I will leave that as a 'finger-moon' problem. To enter into that discussion, one should identify our perception of the Divine.  Note that it is my contention that the Divine is both infinite and ineffable.  Therefore, full understanding of Her is beyond the capability of our finite minds. Thus, I wish to focus on our capacity of understanding certain facets of the Divine.

When I was growing up, I had the fortune of being 'exposed to' two disparate depictions of the Divine, both being familiar to the readers.

The first is that of Strict Disciplinarian Father.  This is the Old Testament YHWH, replete with long beard, Elizabethan English and smiting ready for all those who are naughty in His sight.  The parallel thought process with that is that we are all inherently (dare I say, intrinsically) naughty in His sight and it's only by the direct intervention of the Pascal Lamb that we can avoid the smiting that we are well and truly deserving.

As a compliment to the Disciplinarian Father model is the Nurturing Mother.  This vision of the Divine is a (mostly) maternal figure who is filled with love and acceptance - a non-judgmental and comforting figure full of mercy and compassion who emphasizes the innate value and worth of every human being.  In some versions of this understanding of the Divine, there is no Hell in the afterlife, for all are brought into the loving embrace of the God.

The second depiction of the Divine I grew up with was a variant on the Divine Watchmaker.  In this scenario, the Divine created all and was active in the lives of mankind.  At some ill-defined time between the Apostolic era and the Protestant Reformation, however, he stepped back and has let the watch run from there.  In this envisioning, God is a distant figure...neither overly loving or reproachful.  It is for us to read the book and follow the instructions, pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps when needed.

Then, there's the facet of the Divine which I perceive at present - a old friend and mentor who knows you better than you know yourself.  This aspect of the Divine gently guides, reminds and chides but doesn't overtly condemn.  Choice and self-responsibility is key, with a strong emphasis on fraternal love which can mean the occasional pat on the back or kick in the pants.

The question arises, which image of God is the correct one?  The answer is yes.  Our image of God reflects ourselves and what we, individually, bring to the table.  Those who feel a certain innate guilt about themselves or wish for divine punishment exacted on others for perceived sin see God as the Disciplinarian.  Those who have a need for love and compassion or wish to bring those traits into the world, see the Nurturer.  People who have a strong belief in self-reliance and a rational/scientific world without miracles have a distant deity.  I think you see the point.

Friday, April 1

reflections on the daily reading

Today's reading is the Mark account of the Golden Rule.  What is significant in this account is that we have the scribe's reply to Jesus' interpretation of Hillel.

The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher.
You are right in saying,
He is One and there is no other than he.
And to love him with all your heart,
with all your understanding,
with all your strength,
and to love your neighbor as yourself
is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

So, we're back to the Hosea 6 quote about how the Divine wants mercy, not sacrifice, acknowledgment instead of burnt offerings.  This is repeated in Micah and Isaiah (amoung other places) where the concept is transmitted in a bit more classic OT-Elizabethan english style (lightning bolts and fire from heaven sold separately).

All of these are talking about inward religion vs. outward religion.  The outward trappings are unimportant to the Divine.  It is that recognition of the Divine, within and without ourselves, the understanding that we are all connected and that to love God is to love one another that is vital.  If you have that, then the external signs will manifest as they should without effort or worry.

"It's not the rosary that you wear or that comb up in your hair;
It's not the direction that you pray or the number of times per day;
It's not what kind of food you nom, or where your parents are from.
What matters is what lies within, the love of God which resides therein." -T.Shead