Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Betrayal: The Concept of Sanctuary Perverted

[From an original blog of mine. Part II of a series. ]

I love it when somebody distills a tangled series of problems into one brilliant thoughtBwakfat did that for me.  And this post is an attempt to tease out her insight (below) - one, which I think crystallizes the Roman Catholic Church's current crises (sexual abuse, abuse of authority, failure of responsibility, betrayal of trust) into one powerful overarching image .  And beyond that, I want to consider how the church, using fuzzy logic, turns the essence of "sanctuary" inside-out.  Bwakfat's insight (link now broken):
For me, the bigger issue is ... the concept of "sanctuary," the giving of protection ... It has a rich history in the church, and traditionally for the most noble of reasons. The church has kept safe people fleeing from political persecution and other injustices. That they must face the consequences of doing so, is a given, and one of the most powerful aspects of the concept of sanctuary.

What the Pope and others have done in this instance is to corrupt the concept of sanctuary, and endanger it. To me, this is unacceptable. It goes far beyond the heinous abuse of children. It's so wrong on so many levels, I have problems wrapping my mind around it.
Wrapping one's mind around it.  That is the subject of this blog.

I suspect Bwakfat is getting at the incredible hypocrisy going on.  First of all, what happens when a religion assumes the power of a state, even a tiny, so-called city-state?  Because inherent in Bwak's concern about sanctuary is a contradiction between a faith tradition calling itself "holy" as well as demanding all the rights, power, and privileges - but none of the responsibilities, I might add - of nation status.

Only one religion claims to be a nation - when it suits the pope.  And pretends it isn't - when it also suits.

Something tells me that when the Vatican began to view itself as both Holy City and nation-state it sold its soul.  It expected papal visits, for example, to be state visits.  It expected other nations to listen to its religious dogmas as if they were diplomatic messages, handed over from one head of state to another.

First a little background.

The pope resides in Vatican City.  It's a tiny area the size of a neighborhood.  With churches, museums, seminaries and residences for those who live and work there.  Whether this neighborhood constitutes a "state" or "quasi state" has never exactly been settled.  And the Vatican seems to operate according to fuzzy logic, shape-shifting according to needs of the Papal Palace at any given point.  Indeed,  one wonders if the Roman Catholic edifice isn't perched precariously upon the same fuzzy logic, the shifting sands of casuistry and dogma and self-protection that it deems an unchanging, infallible rock.  Inside this tiny enclave the Pope is a virtual Dictator or Monarch.  Though the Vatican exchanges ambassadors with most nations, it actually only holds an "observer seat" at the UN.   Nonetheless it claims diplomatic immunity and privileges.  Even asserts mystifying rights, for example the right to secret church tribunals in lieu of open courts, an exalted position above the law, and the right to meddle in the internal affairs of nations, by virtue of its claim to heavenly wisdom and the divine right of popes to expound on that. 

But let me skip over geography and history.  And go right to the matter at hand:  The pope is in the dock!  And the long arm of the law is creeping ever nearer to the Vatican, which claims the title of Holy City or Holy See, (tiny holy diocese).

And that brings us closer to the heart of the matter.

Let's consider a little parable.  A teaching story.  About Jesus.  Back in Jerusalem.  2000 years ago.
Jesus went to the Temple.  And threw the money-changers out!
He cried out, in a loud voice, that his Father's House was a House of Prayer.  That the Temple was a Sanctuary.
Not a place of business.  Not a museum.  Not a bank.  Not a fashion show.  Not a gift shop.  Not a seat at the UN.  Not a diplomatic site.  Not a palace.  Not a den of thieves.  Not a house of prostitution.  Not even a place of celibacy.  None of that!
The Temple was Holy.  A refuge of intense longing.  Of festal pilgrimage.  A place between time and eternity.  Lovingly described, over and over, in the Psalms as:  Presence of Holy Mystery
Of sacred rest.  Of peace.  Inner joy.  Beauty.  Deep contemplation.  Where the psalmist longed to spend "all the days of my life."  That kind of place.
Now this may be way more than Bwak was thinking.  But she gave me leave to ponder her words and their import.  And the more I think about this, the deeper my thoughts bore into the mire, the filthy stench of something rotting - a decay process - an institution, which has strayed far from its roots, far from the words of its anointed founder.  (Fact:  Christ means anointed)

And where are those roots today?  From acamus (link now broken) I think we find an answer:
One of the coolest people I ever met was [at] my first place when I moved out from my parents. My neighbor in this triplex was a nun who spent most of her time down in Central America. I was seventeen and was focused on partying and such, and I definitely didn't think anyone associated with an institutional church had anything to say to me that was worth listening to.

But one day I found myself talking with her out on the front steps. She told me about the work she was doing with the people down in the villages, dealing with things like clean water and government militias. I asked her why she did what she did. I can't remember what she said exactly, but she responded by saying in effect "it was the right thing to do. It is what my faith tells me I need to do."
And yet, contrary to sanctuary the Vatican is investigating and trying to intimidate these same nuns!  Women who clearly "get" the Good News, whose lives are witness to sanctuary.  Turning inside-out the very "faith" the faithful value and yearn for - as the psalmist yearned:  Lord, I love the beauty of your house; the place where your glory dwells.  And where is that place of glorious sanctuary today?  Surely not the Vatican!

The Vatican:  Place that gives abusers and their enablers sanctuary.  Preferring the love of power over the power of love.  Source of misbegotten shepherds, who have defiled and betrayed and perverted and corrupted a sacred trust - and have thereby destroyed sanctuary.

Yet there is reason for hope and I love this (link now broken) from evildoer:
Think of the pitchfork as you think of the cross.
The cross is the sign of an event, a transformation. That event was the resurrection...
The pitchfork is the sign of another event, an insurrection, the peasant revolt.
Between resurrection and insurrection there is the common ground of the event, the eruption of a new possibility which divides time into before and after. After the event one can be true to it by totalizing one's labor under its sign. The event makes life (spirit) possible to those who follow it, because it allows for the reconciliation of being and mind, which the life of submission (death) separates.
But of course, one can carry the pitchfork in vain just as one can carry the cross in vain. "by their fruits you shall know them."
This is where we are right now.  Stuck in the mud of this crisis.  Between resurrection and insurrection.  Standing on the ground of a new possibility.  

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