Thursday, August 23, 2012

Dolan: Blessing but not Endorsing ... Yeah, right!

So I wake up this morning to the news that red-faced Cardinal (!) Dolan will bless a presidential candidate on the night of his acclamation as official candidate.  But that's not an endorsement...  the Cardinal's office assures us.

Look...  If Jesus had blessed a Roman emperor....  If Moses had blessed the Pharaoh...   Do I need to go on?

Did Dolan's mother never tell him:  Actions speak louder than words?

Did Dolan never consider the principle:  Lex orandi, lex credendi?

When it comes to ethics it is hugely important to make sure that one's actions do not even give a hint or a whiff of impropriety.

Ok, what's gonna be the result of this blessing genuflection?

I seriously doubt it will sway any worldly votes.  Though it may energize some Romney supporters.  On the other hand...  it is just one more nail in the lengthening list that should be nailed to the Vatican wall or hammered onto the Vatican's rusty coffin of misbehavior.

Are there no good men left?  Men, who are humble.  Men who avoid the limelight.  Men, who, upon being asked to bless a candidate - at a national convention - likely with TV cameras running... would say, without hesitation:  It would be inappropriate for me to give the appearance of endorsing... 

But no...  the good men are never asked!  Or if they are, they refrain so quietly we never even know about it.

So what's gonna be the result of this blessing?  A serious backfire.  More folks heading for the church doors.  A sense of something gone terribly wrong.

RCC to the faithful:  No pastoral care for thee.  Alliance with worldly power for me. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

God Bless you, SISTERS!

The Sisters have voted to continue their mission - to stand with the Laity and follow God's leading in their religious life.  We can do no less.  It behooves us all to seek - in our deepest depths - the call of God and its meaning for our lives. 

The sisters have concluded that their discussions with the bishops will not start with doctrine but with their understanding of religious life.  This, to me, means that their identities (hidden in God) are on the line.  And that their responses will be in line with their vows to God and their ongoing discerning of the "signs of the times" with regard to God's call.

I can do no more than to suggest for all of us what I suggested when I first learned of the Vatican's crackdown on the LCWR:  Where they go, we should go.

I urge all who read here to search your consciences and lend every possible support to the sisters.  They need our prayers.  They need a continuing groundswell of encouragement:  verbal; written; and financial.

In my view their response to the Vatican is prophetic.  It includes a concern for the laity and particularly for the role of women in the church.  I thank God for their witness and their leadership!

Glory to God!!!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Vatican vs LCWR: A Trinitarian Controversy?

I've been praying for the nuns.  And as I pray, I've been pondering how this current crisis is a clash of differing assumptive worlds.  Differing ways of living.  Of praying. 

We are led to question:   What is church?   How does one lead (or exercise authority)?  And at an even more basic level:  How does this relate to - even spring from - the Trinity?  Who is this God of Mystery whose Divine Life we are invited to share?  In whose image we are made.

It seems to me that the Vatican and the LCWR are literally working from different theologies.  And I think it boils down to the very basics of the Creed.  The nuns are working from one play-book.  The hierarchs from another.  In how decisions are made.  In how relationships are structured.   

Key here, I think, is the role of the Holy Spirit.  How the Spirit's procession is conceptualized.  How the Spirit's guidance is sought and implemented.

The Vatican uses a top-down process.  Guided by the assertion of infallibility.  And apparently by a view of God as someone who demands unquestioning submission to his agents in Rome.  Think back to the Roman Empire and it's dictatorial oppression of dissentThink back to Saul as a complicit bystander of the stoning of Steven, a disciple who saw heaven open as he was martyred.  Recall too how Jesus later asked Saul:  Why are you persecuting me? 

Somewhere along the way the Vatican took Imperial Rome as its Icon.  Rather than the We-Community of Triune Holy Mystery

The LCWR, on the other hand, uses a communal process of leadership and decision-making. Following the edicts of Vatican II, a council which took the Spirit as it's guide and model, the LCWR views each of its members as integral to communally discerning the Spirit's guidance.

So which group better images the We-Community of the Trinity?

This question leads us back centuries and centuries into the distant past.  To 325.  To conflicts over the Creed.  Conflicts, which, I now believe, have bearing on the nun crackdown of our day. 

As you may recall, the Council of Nicaea painstakingly hammered out a creed.  And one of the tenets of this Creed, a tenet still recited by the Eastern Church, relates to the procession of the Holy Spirit "from the Father."  Some time later, in the Iberian Peninsula, there arose a change in the creed, which later made its way to Rome - where it stands to this day.  The Roman version has the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son.

Now this may seem like a small thing.  But consider the image of the Trinity as described by Irenaeus (late second, early third century):  the Son and the Spirit as "the two hands of God."  That's a pretty understandable image.  Unless you recite the Roman version of the creed.  When the image of the "two hands of God" turns into an image of one hand... and then what?  I don't know about you but it's pretty hard for me to wrap my mind around an image of the Spirit (hand) as proceeding from both the Father and the Son (hand).  While it is so easy to take Irenaeus at his word, envisioning the Trinune God as Our Father extending to us his two hands. Directly!

Our Baptismal Calling is to participate in the Divine Life.  To be immersed in Holy Mystery.  Once christened other Christs, we are members of a Holy Priesthood - guided by the Holy Spirit.  It is our task to transfigure the world.

This is what the sisters are doing!  And what the Vatican seeks to undo!

And if you ponder the Mystery, it makes me wonder if the Holy Spirit is doing way more than animating the nuns to do good works.  Something much larger - which bears on our understanding of the Trinity may be at stake here.

I've merely sketched this out.  But you can do your own research.  And ponder this for yourself.   I hope you will!

Monday, July 16, 2012


Unlike Mitt's taxes - This is in the Public Domain

Mitt's box is closed.

   Mitt has a LOCK on the box.

   Is the box off-shore?

   Why won't Mitt turn the handle?

   What is in the Box?

   **Cross posted with more Mitt humor here.**

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

House of Cards

Wish I knew Hebrew.

I know that Bethlehem means House of Bread.  And isn't it interesting that Jesus, born in Bethlehem, later announced:  "I am the Bread - of Life."

But how would you say House of Cards?  I wonder if the Hebrew would sound something like Vatican.  Or an equivalent term:  Vat-I-can.

For those who were young during the Vietnam War, there was a theory called the Domino Theory:  why we had to stay in Vietnam.  It was similar to the theory for why we had to stay in Iraq.  To fight them over there so we wouldn't have to fight them here.  "Them" was communists during Vietnam and the theory was that if that country fell (to the communists), it would set off a chain reaction...  like a bunch of dominoes falling.  Never happened!  Theory didn't work this time either (although no one dared mention dominoes).  All we did was create terrorists, where none existed...

The Vatican must have some theory going.  For why they're fighting nuns here.  Do they think if the nuns fall, it will set off a chain reaction.... with dominoes falling?  Somehow increasing church attendance?  Or decreasing contraceptive use?

I don't think it's gonna work...

Instead... like a House of Cards ... something like the house built on sand (instead of rock), I think there's gonna be a fall.  

Ok, it might take years.  Vietnam did.  Iraq did.  But when you get your theory wrong, and you put a lot of time and money and propaganda into something, and it doesn't yield results...  you get troop withdrawal.   A paradeVictory is declared.  And a lot of folks suffer PTSD.  

Jesus preached Good News.  He suggested his disciples learn to read the signs of the times.

When the House of Cards falls... remember:  You heard it here first!

Addendum:  Now this...  "loyalty oaths" for religious ed teachers... who are resigning.  Hmm... seems Vat-I-can has spawned:  Vat-I-can'tTroop withdrawal...

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Chief Justice tips over conservative tables!

Did Chief Justice, John Roberts, suddenly find Jesus?  Or at long last discover his balls?  No matter, this is a day for rejoicing!

For sure he is now headed for a confrontation with the virtue (and the suffering) of the Eighth Beatitude.  And as someone wrote, his "apostasy" will plunge the conservative movement into deep gloom.

I had no idea this news would move me to tears...

Praise for God’s Surpassing Greatness

        Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
   praise him in his mighty firmament!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
   praise him according to his surpassing greatness!

Praise him with trumpet sound;
   praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
   praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with clanging cymbals;
   praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

God has a Sense of Humor (Psalm 2)

Psalm 2 underscores this blog's basic premise (see sidebar).  Well, actually Psalms 1 and 2 together.  I dealt with them previously as "gate posts" to the Psalm Garden here.

But I'd like to point out now that Psalm 2 specifically tells us that God has a sense of humor.  Which I always suspected.  But one never tires of finding little scriptural signposts indicating that one's suspicions are actually supported and even extended.  It's that second aspect that prompts this post.

Psalm 1 opens with a blessing on the One who (courageously) ignores:  the path of the wicked; the siren call of the wicked; or the (unceasing) attempts of the wicked to mock them.  And Psalm 2 picks up this theme of mockery as it pertains to worldly rulers contending for control of what, this psalm makes clear, is not theirs to control or contend over.  For:
 4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
 the LORD derides and mocks them.
Humor is very powerful.  Psalm 1 sees the wicked as using it against the just one.  There a single self is depicted, contending against the wicked many, but nevertheless planted beside the waters of Life, flourishing (in spite of evil efforts to lure or mock).  Psalm 2 turns the tables.  Telling us that God himself mocks evil.  That God laughs at the wealthy and the powerful.  Just before venting fury upon those who would devour and plunder the good earth and the people created in his image.

Yes, we should not judge.  Ultimate judgment belongs only to God.  But we are nevertheless required to discern.  And point out.  And sometimes...  God help me, I do that with humor.

Before signing off, I'd like to make a plug for the first two psalms.  And their overall importance in a very serious sense (which relates to discernment).  So I'll quote just a paragraph from that post I linked at the beginning:
Just as Genesis begins with separating light from darkness, Psalms 1 and 2 also remind us of “separation” – in terms of good from evil. As in Genesis morality enters along with the awareness of being a single self – in the company of other selves. We emerge into a world where choices have been made long before us. Choices we must contend with, whether we like it or not. Choices we ourselves must make. Consequences we must face. We are given advice. We can choose which advice to follow, which company to keep. Psalms 1 and 2 deal with the separation of good and evil – the discernment that morality requires: individually; socially; the anguish of one’s need to choose; the question of one’s relationship with Ultimate Mystery, with one’s inner self, with the mysteries of evil and suffering.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Vatican Concession

Now the word "concession" above has two connotations.  It means the Vatican has "conceded" - that it lacks the mojo of "authoritative communication" it has previously asserted.  A line going directly back to Christ.  Or so they claim.  Concession also means a form of purveyance, to coin a term.  Like a little kiosk - hawking wares.  It's an Opus Dei kiosk.  As it turns out.  So the "keys" to the Kingdom have been turned over to a secretive group with fingers in so many pies it gives me heartburn.

Am I making sense?  Well, after all the Vatican has now conceded that it cannot make sense!  By appointing a spokesman.  Someone to shape and mold the message.  (Yes, those exact words were used!)  Which, if you consider what Jesus said about this very topic, is a little like shaping and molding fruit.  (As in: "You will recognize them by their fruits...")  Which is a rather like finding moldy fruit (at the  PR kiosk) actually.  (I hope you're finding this humorous...)

So the long and the short of it is this:  Vatican hires U.S. journalist to help media relations. 

The journalist, to my mind, is doubly experienced in the purveying of propaganda.  Being Opus, for one thing.  And former Fox for another.  A perfect choice for a tiny piece of real estate that claims to be a State and a Religion - a type of religious Dicktatorship, which means it's male and authoritarian and merges spiritual with temporal, especially temporal power and money.  Part of an effort to "restore a climate of serenity and trust" ...

So you have a Vatican concession.  A little kiosk of PR.  Totally different from a voice crying in the wilderness who came as a witness to the WORD.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What does "shocks the conscience" mean?

Yesterday I read that the pope is mystified by the fact that priests (and on up) have sexually abused little children (and on up).  Actually he said it is a "mystery" how someone could participate in the sacraments (he mentioned specifically Eucharist and Confession) at the same time as they were engaging in such horrific crimes.  Well, he did not use the words "horrific" or "crimes" - instead he used euphemisms, a bland manner of speech, which led some people to humorously describe his words as enunciating a "new Mystery" for the faith.

Now today I happened to reread an old blog of mine, related to torture, which addressed the question:  What does "shocks the conscience" mean? (A question related to the constitution's protections against cruel and unusual punishment.)   My words at the time were an attempt to try and get folks to SEE something many prefer to rationalize away.  But if you read them now, in light of things going on in the RCC, it illuminates, I think, a tone deafness at the top of the Vatican, in its recent vendettas, that drives many of us crazy.  Not just an inability, perhaps, to really get the degree of egregiousness and the horror evoked in us at the thought of a priest damaging the soul of child through rape.  But equating that to the ordination of a woman to the priesthood?

What does shocks the conscience mean?  Certainly rape of a child!

But ordination of a woman?  That is cause for REJOICING!

And that, I hasten to add, is one more reason for these thoughts from a post below:
Somewhere along the line [the pope] has entered an alternate universe...
[or is] yearning for an alternate universe.  Of abstractions.  I can imagine Euclidian Geometry would really please him.  Those neat proofs.  No sex.  Triangles and Squares being their different "genders" so to speak, each with their different "roles" so neatly laid out, nothing amiss.
Apparently, something is deeply amiss.

And it all seems to turn, I now see, on what shocks the conscience.  Or not....  What undermines the faith.  Or not.
Could the nation bear to watch?  That question is very important.
In our case:  Could a church congregation bear to watch?  (Rape of a Child vs Ordination of a Woman - to name just one example)
I hope that settles the question!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Numbers Game

In the Middle Ages it was:  How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

Today, it's a numbers contest - as if a religious order's average age or total number of members or number of habits worn is a PROOF of something. 

Jesus never did speak much about angels.  Though we hear that angels were instrumental at certain points in his life, death, resurrection and ascension.

But Jesus did in fact speak about PROOFAnd his words said nothing about numbers proving anything.  He taught us instead:
You will know them by their fruits.
So let's have a little humility and assume God knows whom he's calling and for what purpose.

Could it be that right now God is calling so many conservatives to contemplative life so that their prayers may assist the sisters under scrutiny?  Or maybe such prayers are needed for those women whom God has called as priests.  Or perhaps for those who have suffered for righteousness sake due to loving someone of their own sex.  Or any number of reasons that:  Only God knows.  

Friday, June 8, 2012

Pope's Pet Peeves Proclaimed ~ in Abstract Drivel

This post is a rejoinder to a speech given by the current pope in 1989, posted at Enlightened Catholicism.  (Read it, please, if you can.)

With all due respect to an elderly bishop and theologian, to me his musings on the dynamics of the psyche, his diagnosis of modern man's psychopathology, and his proposal of a cure via philosophical evangelization - all presented in abstract language void of any concrete basis in Scripture or the Fathers - leave the reader awash in a sea of airy abstractions, punctuated by fanciful conceptual leaps.

Driven by the same pet peeves we see today - an agenda with no discernible resemblance to the Gospel - the pope is clearly on a mission laid out 23 long years ago.   And to this clinical psychologist, the speech reads as little more than abstract drivel - missing a human touch - but tinged, I hate to say this, with something akin to nuttiness.  As Shakespeare might have opined:  "Sound and Fury.  Signifying nothing."

Sorry to assign reading, but I beg you, if you haven't already done so, to go and read the speech.  As I want to be fair and allow you to form your own opinion, despite my opening remarks.  But folks...  I am aghast!

Here are some initial parts of the speech (all I could bear to closely analyze), which set the scene for my remarks below (but feel free to skip over 1-19, a tedious necessity, to ensure a careful analysis):
  1. General Pet PeevePeople in the pews are questioning papal authority.  He calls the laity's concerns "difficulties with the faith" = "a litany of objections to the practice and teaching of the Church"  (However, you will notice below that the difficulties have nothing to do with basics defined in the creed!)
  2. Specific Burrs under pope's saddle:   "principal elements of this litany" = pelvic/gender issues (birth control, same-sex attraction) and "sacramental order" (divorce/remarriage & admission to Eucharist, women's ordination) - in other words, our "faith" somehow stands (or falls) on these crucial (Gospel?) gender/sex/marital issues! 
  3. Bottom Line Pet PeevePeople should not think for themselves, since "individual conscience"or "freedom" (of "conscience") = bad, bad, bad ... (This in spite of Vatican II pronouncements to the contrary, not to speak of our God-given free will.)
  4. Concluding Diagnosis:  "They [laity's concerns - #2 above] spring from one and the same vision of humanity within which there operates a particular notion of human freedom."[#3 above]  (How right he is, except most people do not view this as a pathology.  Here we enter different worlds.)
  5. Stop and NoticeNothing about the Gospel.  No scripture.  No Patristics.  (Pet Peeves of a pope.)
  6. Broad generalization:  "modern man would find it difficult to relate to the Church’s traditional sexual morality" = lumping everything together as if people are endorsing prostitution, child abuse, bestiality, polygamy, adultery, promiscuity, etc.  (Sexuality and Authority = the Gospel?)
  7. Broad assumption: "the Church’s traditional sexual morality" is being critiqued "no matter how meaningful [it] may have been under past historical conditions." (No history cited and history might offer a very different view here...  Plus, how dare we question?)
  8. Reformulated Diagnosis: "we are no longer prepared to subordinate [our conscience] to some external authority" = let your fingers do the walking and we'll do the talking.  (There's that dreaded God-given freedom.)
  9. Prescribed Treatment = We will think for you!  (Conscience as a sort of robotic method issued from on high = Rome.)
  10. Stop and NoticeThe proposed robotic method has nothing to do with the Gospel. 
  11. Reformulated Diagnosis:  "aura of morality" [our choices] = "surrender of moral integrity, the simplifications of a lax conscience."  (Laity's failure to bow to Rome's sexual fixations has led us to a point of total depravity across the board.)
  12. Prescribed Treatment = "conscience understood as that knowledge which derives from a higher form of knowing."  (Conscience trickles down from on highWe will think for you!)
  13. Broad strange assumption:  One's relationship to one's body "changes" if we think for ourselves, if we don't follow these norms from on high "as the ultimate arbiter of one’s obligation." (Termed an "assumption" as this appears to be an important part of his "argument" - but no evidence or reasoning is mustered to support the claim.)
  14. Strange logic:  Body now being discussed as if it were an appendage - instead of us!  (Is he delicately referring to the male sexual organ??  Or perhaps due to "robotic" view of how people should or do make choices?)
  15. Strange logic:  "No longer does man expect to receive a message from his bodiliness as to who he is and what he should do..." (You got me, folks!  Where this comes from ...  I cannot fathom.)
  16. Stop and NoticeNothing about the Gospel!  No scripture at all.  No Patristics.  (In this supposed anthropology or psychology which bears no resemblance to Jesus!)
  17. Reformulated Diagnosis (phrased in strange logic):  So perverse [my word] have we become, apparently, that "the body no longer expresses being at all, on the contrary, it has become a piece of property." (Dualism.  At best!)
  18. Strange logic and assumptive leap:  "this way of thinking first became an actual possibility through the fundamental separation—not a theoretical but a practical and constantly practiced separation—of sexuality and procreation."  (Translation:  Birth control has deranged humanity.)
  19. Strange logic leading to Weird Bottom-line Diagnosis and Plan to Assess for Treatment:  
It would be interesting to follow in detail this revolutionary vision about man which has appeared behind our rather haphazardly concocted litany of objections to the Church’s teaching. Without a doubt this will be one of the principal challenges for anthropological reflection in coming years. This reflection will have to sort out meticulously where quite meaningful corrections to traditional notions appear and where there begins a truly fundamental opposition to faith’s vision of man, an opposition that admits no possibility of compromise but places squarely before us the alternative of believing or not.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Holy Spirit has Hierarchy on the Ropes!

Things keep backfiring for the Vatican.  Bishops sue the govt and the faithful see politics at work.  Papal commissions go after nuns and the faithful rise up - in favor of the nuns.  Vatican bans a book; it soars on Amazon!  Vatican tries to herd cats... er catholics; and the sensus fidelium takes over instead.

The Baptized are seizing their Spiritual Priesthood as never before and the prelates simply can't figure out what to do... what to do.

It's comical really.  It's like the hierarchy has entered a ring for a prize fight.  A fight chosen by them alone.  With all the swagger of one of those comic wrestlers, they throw a powerful punch!  Into thin air!  Without anyone else really punching back, without anyone else even in the ring, the crowd begins to jeer, and another hierarch topples over - onto the ropes!  Then they all get busy telling the referee press how unfair it all is....

So picture them... They choose the fight.  They throw a punch into the air... The crowd jeers.  And they are so stunned by this, that they flop over onto the ropes!

Or maybe they're just getting into the Spirit.

Because apparently this is just a warm-up.  For this Fall's Evangelization Extravaganza!

Who am I? Who are you? Who is God?

Catholic identity.  This whole idea gives me problems.  As the Vatican appears to be promoting a kind of uniformity.  A type of robotic thought and behavior.  Controlled from Rome!  (Even the unearthed Chinese army of clay soldiers has each one manifesting uniqueness!)

I think we have to start with the assumption, amply validated in scripture, that our identities are hidden with Christ in God.  That the Holy Spirit dwells within each of us, immersed in constant prayer (whether we know it or not).  That our task is to gradually live out the Image of God, allowing the Spirit to form us in God's VERY Likeness.

Uniformity has no part in this!  And the Gospel is a call within the heart of each person.  It calls us to a unique "identity" - yes, formed in God's likeness - but God reaches out to each of us in a unique relationship.

Catholic identity?  Honestly, I'm not sure what that means.  Unless it means a humility which few, if any of us, ever achieves.

To manifest the Presence of God, this is our calling.  And God's presence, I submit, is so personally overwhelming, it could NEVER be uniform.

To me the question should never be:  Who are you as a Catholic?  (Recall that many Christians recite the Creed!  Not just Roman catholics.)

The question, it seems to me, is:  Who are you in your deepest heart?  Who are you in the eyes of God?  Who is any of us when most present to the Holy Trinity flowing/dwelling within?  Or to the Trinity met in every person?  In every aspect of nature?

See this wonderful interview posted at Blue Eyed Ennis during her blogging break - which leads exactly in the direction I'm discussing:

Catholic identity?  This Abbot has got it!!!

Monday, May 21, 2012


This blog is taking a Rest.

May the Author of Rest guide and protect the persecuted sisters.

Peace be with you.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Big Tent

Do you believe it?  I hardly believe it!  Bishops run amok...  The meddling in politics.  The meddling in service organizations.  The meddling in speakers or thinkers at any RCC college or sisterhood or... The meddling in bedrooms.  The meddling.... 

Today's Vatican hierarchy looks like:  A bunch of busy-bodies!

The need for turning over of tables in the Temple has never been greater!  Due to RCC bishops' need to look under every table.  And inside Mother Church's every skirt!  Dictating.  Dictating.  
Dick - Tating!    (Yes... you read that right.)

Whatever happened to the Big Tent?  Christianity as whole.  The Big Tent.  With a simple rule of faith, its tenets functioning like tent posts.  Its boundary lines,  The creed

So I picture this Big Tent.  All of the baptized.  With the creed as our basic commonality for gathering under the Tent.  The Gospel as our guide.  And beyond that... REALLY, we should allow a flourishing!

And the tent is pitched in this wonderful pasture...  Why try and control the pasture???  Let the sheep graze!  Where they willCouple up with whom they will.  Live as they will.  Let them listen to the speakers they will.  Read/write as they will.  Think as they will!   
Follow the Gospel.  Without hindrance!   

I am so, so tired of busybodies...  men dressed in absurd feminine clothing - hectoring like so many schoolmarms run-amok!  It's getting old.  It's getting tiring.  And it looks not only silly - but ridiculous.  Bordering on insane!

Can we have some sanity now, please?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mirror, Mirror on the Vatican Wall...

Have you ever wondered about those civilizations that suddenly vanished?  Those ruins that show up in the middle of a jungle maybe.  Whole cities with temples and buildings and roads.  All covered with vines and monkeys, maybe some parrots.  And no people!  A whole civilization gone.  A whole population vanished.  Culture, religion, civil institutions... all gone.

And you wonder... how did that come about?  What factors were behind the decline of this civilization?  Did it happen all of a sudden?  Or did they have warning signs?

Have there ever been people who actually wanted a decline?  Could a desire like that get out of hand?

"Smaller.... purer...."    Where have I heard that before? 

It's this latter desire, I think, that is a warning sign.  Could even be a sign of coming decline

Here's my fantasy:
You know that childhood fairytale.  The one where the witch has a magic mirror.  And she looks into it... wanting to be assured that she is the fairest of them all.  But, unfortunately the mirror tells her the truth.  Which puts her on the warpath.  
Well, my image is of the bishops and cardinals and pope.  Each of them, so full of ... something, that they need to wear these really fancy outfits.  Ones that are getting more and more fancy all the time.  Strange, weird costumes.  Very costly ones, I might add!  
So I picture all these people... needing to look into a mirror...  Often
If only there were a magic mirror - that would tell these people the Truth!
But, you have to ask yourself, at this point in the story:  What is the Question?  Do they ask if they're the "fairest"?  I doubt it.  Do they ask if they look like a candidate for "next pope"?  Maybe.

Here's what I picture:
"Mirror, mirror on the wall.... Who's the purest of us all?"
Each one of the pure hands, fancy dress club, especially the ones special enough to ordain others (to pure hands).   Especially those who get to vote the next White-Garbed Pope.  Each one clothed so weirdly... looking into the mirror,  all hoping to become the one.
I call it the purity trapCuz, one by one, they don't get the answer they're looking for.  Instead, the mirror shows them nothing but tarnish or else pure nothingness shining brightly... So they all begin to vie with each other.
Do you have any idea what happens when a big bunch of people have a lot of status and power and you gather them all together?  I've seen it in colleges and universities.  All chiefs and no Indians.
So, each of them, tries to become more and more pure.  Indeed most pure.  They vie for being the most doctrinaire.  Or maybe for sporting the purest gold or the purest silk.  Saying the purest Latin.  Giving the purest dictates for more and more control of the faithful.
And little by little they exclude one another - indeed everyone they deem less pure.  
There's no end to it!  There's no end to the purity trap.  No end.  
The supposed search for purity of orthodoxy or could be orthodoxy of purity just trails off, I think, like the ending of Psalm 1.
One of those lost civilizations...

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Hubris and Risk Management

Now you might think, from the title, that this is a post related to the stock market or hedge funds or banks losing billions.   But you'd be wrong.  It's actually about hubris in another area entirely.  But the insight, yes, came when I was reading a brilliant blog, which I'd describe as hedging for dummies.

As I was reading,  a little light bulb came on:  All of life is basically risk management. From cradle to grave we're learning.  How to do this or that - without making a mess or toppling over.  School.  Career.  Marriage.  Parenting.  Same thing.  Till we get to old age when suddenly we go into reverse gear, maybe needing a cane or a walker.  All to manage risk.

Now risk management, I've concluded, relates to unpredictability.  Trying to manage that or reduce it if possible.  If something is totally in the hands of one person, you've reduced the risk of having to negotiate decisions, but you may magnify risks, if you have failed to consult those you're trying to manage.  On the other hand, the more people who are involved, the more difficult the decision-making process, but the greater likelihood those involved will sign on to the decision.

This insight not only explains one's own life.  It explains everything.  Suddenly I can see why politics is so polarized.  It gives us insight into history.  We see, for example, St. Paul concerned about "factions"- urging people to cooperate - presumably to reduce the risk of his little churches breaking up.  Once upon a time, for example, the Catholic Church insisted that everywhere in the world Masses would be in Latin.  Similar strategy to what Paul was doing.  Probably for the same reasons.

So where does hubris come into this?  Let's go back to that blog I read:  The Tale Of A Whale Of A Fail.  JP Morgan Chase just lost 2 billion dollars (and counting) due to one big risk management trader (they call him a whale due to his HUGE financial bets).  This guy apparently backed himself (and Chase) into a corner they can't get out of.  Not till all the hedging contracts he bought and sold expire...  And no one knows the ultimate outcome here, since the market for such contracts has now dried up.  Something they never expected!  Due to hubris - since they believed they had a sure bet (and the market cornered) to make a bundle of billions!  Except their bet was so big other people noticed... and took precautions (risk management!).  And now no one will help them get out of the corner they've backed themselves into.

I think something very similar is happening in Rome.  Let's take a look:

Friday, May 11, 2012

Enforcer of Conformity

Interesting description of a public figure.  Especially in today's world.  If you hear such a description, who springs to mind?

Actually, I read the term here.  But you might easily have wondered if you'd find it here.

One thing is for sure.  You will not find it here!  And that's because you won't find it here.

Current events are challenging us.  Questioning us.  Jesus was comfortable enough to pose the question:  Who do you say I am?  

It is instructive to use our own answers to that question.  As a measure.  Of any leader.  We might choose.  To follow. 

My own answers?  For long.  For shortFor starters...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Vatican, Take a Lesson from Exxon's Mistakes!

A little light bulb went on for me this morning, when I read an article at Reuters, analyzing how Exxon's corporate "religion" and bullying tactics are now affecting its bottom line:

Insight: When the Exxon way stops working

It's instructive to read the article and see the many ways in which the Vatican hierarchy is caught in the same trap, down to the insistence on all dressing alike and maintaining inherited corporate dogma - despite changing times and against all obstacles (it tries to squelch - rather than adapt to).  

Here are some conclusions the Vatican resists (just like Exxon):
"The game has changed. You can't act like you have all the power anymore," said the chief executive officer of a close competitor.
 Or as Joe Tatusko, fund manager ... who holds Exxon stock, put it: "You have to share".
In a section of the article, Reuters calls, "THE RELIGION OF COMPLIANCE," Exxon's way of doing things rings so reminiscent of the Vatican:

That buttoned-down culture, underpinned by a disciplined, top-down management system, has long been credited with making the company the most efficient operator in the business: strict standardization means it can employ the same business approach around the world and save money.

Its uniformity of thinking extends even to dress sense - the CEO of one rival oil firm joked that male Exxon staff invariably turn up for meetings in blue suits, white shirts and red ties.
Sticking to the "compliance manual" (so to speak) the Vatican (and Exxon) have put themselves in straight jackets.  But every time the straight jacket effect kicks in, the "obstacle" they are trying to squelch into submission is blamed, rather than the antiquated "compliance manual" itself.'m thinking of the proverbial "monkey trap" where a piece of food is left in a jar.  A jar a monkey can put a hand into.  But the jar opening is so narrow that only an empty hand fits.  Once the monkey gets hold of the food, however, it will not let go.  So, like the Vatican, like Exxon, the monkey is stuck!  An angry monkey, because it can't retrieve what it wants and it refuses to let go.  

Monday, May 7, 2012


There are certain unwritten rules in life. Children learn them. They even become obsessed with rules in the early grades. And one of the main reasons for fights during recess has to do with the keeping of rules, whether or not the rules have been broken, and what the rules really are.

Have you ever punched someone? Yes, it's wrong to do that! But I will honestly own up to one instance of socking a boy, after he called my mother a name.  I was the very obedient child of an extremely strict and punitive mother. But that boy had broken a cardinal rule! A rule I hadn't really known I'd known till I found myself slugging the kid. And then I ran like crazy! Because his sister was after me.

The rule? Do not publicly shame a kid by calling their mother a name!

Now, I think it's exactly this kind of rule that the Vatican broke. Which has led to an outpouring of nun-support the likes of which the good sisters never saw coming!

You see, no matter how strict the nuns ever were, they were our nuns! Our teachers. Our mentors. And the public shaming that constitutes this nun-quiz-ition has put many of us on a war path we did not know we knew till we were already a part of it.

Now, my mind tends to work with metaphors. And the metaphor that's come to mind, from my childhood, is baseball. Mind you, I don't really follow baseball. But I do drive past a baseball stadium every time I go back and forth to my little Eastern Orthodox haven of peace. (One more refugee from the reverse-gear, Benni-bent, self-perpetuating, roman circus. Call me any name you like. Just don't cast aspersion on the good sisters!) But I digress...

Friday, May 4, 2012

LCWR Sisters and the Way Forward

Here's what I think underlies this Vatican attack on the  LCWR sisters.  Vatican II happens.  (I remember it well.)  The nuns, as called to do, open their convent doors, put on some ordinary clothes, and go out into the world to see what the needs might be.  Out there, they found a world of hurt.  Pondering what they saw and felt - in the light of the Gospels - they set out to be the Heart and Hands of JESUS in a hurting world.

They likely found that, disguised as ordinary people, they had to let go of all the exaggerated obeisance nuns in religious garb had been receiving.  But at the same time they found the letting go of that opened doors.  Into people's hearts and minds.  Into the dark corners of society, where the hurt was deepest.

Along comes the sexual abuse crisis.  The nuns respond to that too!  Because, after all, WWJD?

Oops!!!!  Somewhere in the Vatican a fissure began to emerge methinks.  All the centuries of covering up, all the cardinals and bishops, vowed to go along to get along.  All the priests currying favor in order to move up the career track.  All these folks could SEE that the sisters were following a different drummer.  A drummer that counted victims and women and gay people as, well PEOPLE!!  People who deserved the attention of Jesus, which is exactly what the sisters believed they were called to SEE and minister to.

So we have these two very different roads that were being followed.

The Vatican CAREER TRACK.  Open only to men.  Men in special clothing - reminiscent of women.  A track which seems to have veered further and further from Vatican II - due to the absolute terror, it would seem, of people (like the good nuns) simply following the Gospels wherever they led.  I can imagine these "career" hierarchs feeling like they were in a canoe which was headed for rapids and there was NO WAY they were going on that perilous journey!  Fear.  It all comes down to fear, I think.  And the failure to listen to Jesus, who told the scared disciples:  "Fear not."

Meanwhile, the nuns continue on their journey...  Into the unknown.  Holy Mystery.  A journey which the hierarchs have mostly abandoned; instead the Vatican (and its minions) begin reversing course. Looking backward.  Assuming that the path "forward" is to paddle back upstream as fast as they can.  They enlist others to their cause.  Allying with the Opus.  Etc.  (You know the story...)

So now we have two journeys going on.  And any metaphors you find better than mine, I'm open to.  But it amounts to people following the Spirit's call, as Abraham did, to leave the "known" and journey into the "unknown" - scary as that might feel.  It's the journey each of us is called to.  Individually.  And corporately.  You can read it in Genesis and Exodus.  That's one journey.  And the second is unlike it.  It amounts to turning back.  As if Abraham had turned back.  Or Moses had listened to the grumbling people, rather than to God, and he had gone back to Egypt.  (Again, I'm open to other metaphors.)

But basically, the journey backwards, going upstream, against the current, requires a lot more "manpower" (or could be woman-power) than the one downstream.  Downstream, even if the stream is in flood and it looks very scary, you're in the River of Life - you're in touch with all of humanity.  Which indeed is what Jesus was doing.  Immersing himself in the humanity of his times.  (While the priestly cast - and its adherents - were carefully avoiding the dregs and the dirt and whatever they viewed as "impure" and doctrinally unkosher.)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Inquisition Redux – A Latin Proof

How much is a nun worth? This is the subject of our spoof... er, proof.

Since the Vatican likes it best when English wording of something is very close to (tortured) Latin, first we need to get some terms straight:

Redux: From the Latin, reducere, which means to lead back.

Nun: From the (late) Latin, nonna, a woman belonging to a religious order; especially : one under solemn vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

Inquisition: From the Latin, inquirere, to inquire; (a) Tribunal for the discovery and punishment of heresy; (b) an investigation conducted with little regard for individual rights.

Working backward from modern English (nun), we find that the Latin nonna was first translated into Middle English as nonne. Now, notice that if we reduce (see Redux above) the word nonne, we get none. Which means nothing! From which we get the formula: Nun = 0. Which is actually very close to the English, when you say it aloud ("nun" equals "zero")! Thus, via two methods (visual and auditory) we arrive at the same formula from which the Vatican seems to be working!

One nun. Multiple nuns. The Vatican formula remains the same. Because no matter how many nuns they have, the result is always 0. The math is very simple! One nun = zero. Twenty nuns, forty nuns... you name it, 20 x 0 = 0 … 40 x 0 = 0 … and so on. Therefore the two formulas could be expressed best as:

Nun(s) = 0

Now, for those US nuns who accept the formula (Nun = 0), life is easy: Pray and Obey. No need to think. Just follow the Latin Leader (Papa), whose infallibility (infallibillis) is a principle of Vatican dogma, or Dog-pa (the more patriarchal equivalent).

To recap:   Nun(s) = 0.    Papa rules!

Moving right along... Some US nuns are now daring to think for themselves. Questioning. Doubting their worthlessness. Consulting their own consciences for answers. Asking: To whom do I owe my allegiance? As in: To whom were their vows really made?

Ah, now there is the crux of it! (Crux, from the Latin cross or torture.) Which brings us to Inquisition (inquirere), an entity (now renamed but responsible for the nun-crackdown).  

The Papa-Endorsed Dog-pa Crackdown,  a form of Inquisition, whose principle method of investigation used to be torture, is now in full swing, going after God-Loving "sisters" who refuse to be Vatican zeros!

Today the torture is not physical. But no matter... they're still making use of methods Jesus SURELY would have frowned on!
The nuns view themselves as living out the Gospel at the margins. Which, in my view, is the authentic living-out of one's Baptismal call to spiritual priesthood (deification). And what does this entail?

I think it means living at a crossroads.  Between time and eternity.  Between Creation and our origin in Holy Mystery.  Internalizing a sense of solidarity with all humanity, especially those who suffer or are marginalized, disenfranchised, victimized in whatever ways. Identifying with them.  Lifting up their concerns and the entire cosmos to Christ, who will ultimately bring all things to the Father.  And mediating the Inspiration of Holy Mystery back into the cosmos.  In all we do.  In all we are.  In our limitations.  In our creativity.

...  [as] current events [signs of the times] or sacred writings call to us, speak to us of our common solidarity within the Cosmos and our common plight as human beings, our common dignity, our potential for transformation, indeed for transfiguration.

Now I ask you: Isn't this exactly what these courageous sisters in Christ are doing?