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Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Friday, February 28, 2014

Church stuff and Star Trek


- link

- The Vatican survey results in Ireland shows the same disconnect between church teaching and people's lived lives as has been shown in other survey results from around the world .... Catholic teaching on contraception, cohabitation, same sex relationships, the divorced and remarried is “disconnected from real life experience of families – and not by just younger people”, said Archbishop Diarmuid Martin last night.

- More on the divorce/remarriage front: Kasper's "secret" speech to the other cardinals, Müller disagrees with Kasper's more lenient view, and the pope seems to be leaning towards Kasper.

- Related: You can be a faithful Catholic without taking Communion, says Nichols. I guess this is about trying to reconcile divorced Catholics to the church ... those who are not being allowed to take communion ... but still the idea that communion isn't necessary is so atypically Catholic - I like it :)

- I see the ex-AB of C is upset that the religious freedom to kill animals in a cruel fashion is being trampled upon in Denmark. I wrote about this in 2011 - The spirit and the letter of the law.

- Yay! :) I think Francis is having second thoughts about canonizing Pius XII (I've written many times about Pius XII and his unfitness for sainthood). COMMENTARY: It’s time to open the wartime pope’s records ...

London’s Sunday Times reported that Francis wants to make public the Vatican’s archives of Pius XII’s pontificate .... Francis wants to release the Pius XII papers for study before determining whether to consider his controversial predecessor for sainthood. Francis has already “fast-tracked” the path to sainthood for John XXIII and John Paul II, but not Pius XII ...

- Finally, on last night's episode of Star Trek TNG, Captain Picard plays music with a friend. I really liked the way this song sounded in the echoing jeffries tube - kind of like Paul Horn in the Taj Mahal :). Here's the song ...


Thursday, February 27, 2014

PBS' Frontline documentary

I watched this yesterday at the PBS site ... here. It's titled "Secrets of the Vatican" ... it's kind of hard to watch and you might think it's sensationalist‎, or that there's nothing in it new and worth watching, as In All Things seems to say, but I don't think the average person would agree. As an editorial in the Seattle Times states ...

[...] Viewers might easily imagine they’ve heard it all. Oh that. Why bother? Take everything you have ever heard about the Catholic Church and the global clergy child sexual abuse scandals, the dodgy Vatican bank, add in drug abuse, and multiply it all by ten. A primary insight is that Pope Benedict really did not step down from the papacy so much as flee the job ...

The film features commentary by The Tablet's Robert Mickens, abuse victim's advocate Fr. Tom Doyle, and Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, among others. The PBS page also has some interview posted with these people and others, and some articles by guys like John Thavis, former Rome bureau chief for the Catholic News Service, and Thomas Fox, editor of NCR, are posted at this page.

Is it worth watching? I think so. Yes, I'd heard about most of what was mentioned, but it is one thing to remember having read that Marcial Maciel was a bad guy, and it's another to watch an interview with his son ... it's one thing to be aware that Fr. Tom Doyle has helped abuse victims, and it's another to see him as a young priest first exposed to the corruption in the church and making a hard decision to fight it even as he watches his career deteriorate because of that choice. Also there's some positive stuff about Francis. And maybe not the top concern for most viewers, but I found the images very interesting - good cinematography. Anyway, for those who are interested (beware: details about sexual stuff included) ....


The Spiritual Exercises and the virtual world


- virtual Mont St.Michael

At NCR: Pope's interviewer tells Vatican congress to reevaluate spiritual quest ...

Changes in technology have fundamentally altered the human quest for spirituality and require Catholics to reevaluate how they approach society, a Jesuit known for interviewing Pope Francis told an international communications conference Tuesday ....

Spadaro ended his talk by comparing the Internet to the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, one of the founders of the Jesuit order. Traditionally given as a 30-day spiritual retreat, the exercises focus on having the retreat maker imagine themselves inside a Gospel story — hearing, feeling, and touching all that is present in the story.

The exercises, Spadaro said, have a "sense of virtual reality." "It is the same dynamic of a video game," he said. "See yourself inside the scene contemplating Jesus, Mary, Joseph and yourself acting. This is very interesting.” ...


Speaking of my freakishly good memory for strange things, this article reminded me of my 2007 post about Fr. Spadaro and the virtual realm of Second Life, as well as a Tablet article by John McDade SJ on the effect virtual experiences can have on us. Here's what I wrote then ....

For those familiar with the missionary history of the Society of Jesus ... from Francis Xavier's mission to the Far East, to Emilio Sandoz's mission to the alien planet of Rakhat (The Sparrow) ... it will come as no great surprise that the Jesuits are thinking of missioning to the virtual world of Second Life..

The Jesuits, for 500 years in the front line of Catholic evangelisation, have decided that Second Life, the online virtual world, can be fertile territory for spreading the Gospel. In an article in their official organ, "Civilita’ Cattolica," they suggest that just as they once penetrated the jungles of Africa or distant China, today they should be present in Second Life.

Father Antonio Spadaro, the literary critic of "Civilta’ Cattolica" and an expert on new technologies, writes: "This virtual Second Life is becoming populated with churches, mosques, temples, cathedrals. synagogues, places of prayer of all kinds. And behind an avatar there is a man or a woman, perhaps searching for God and faith, perhaps with very strong spiritual needs." .....

The magazine’s deputy-editor, Father Michele Simone, confirmed that the article reflects current thinking among the Society of Jesus. "Today we have more than 200 missionaries in China," said Father Simone. "I don’t see there is anything so astounding if we have a few avatars in Second Life. The article presents Second Life to our readers, then points out its positive and negative aspects, the potential dangers. We therefore came to the conclusion that it would not be a mistake for Jesuits to be present as well, to help people not to fall into pseudo-religious traps," he said .....
- Gospel 2.0: Jesuits move into Second Life, Financial Times

The 13 page article in Civilta’ Cattolica is mostly devoted to a description of how Second Life works and the implications of living in a virtual world .....

"The best way to understand (the Second Life phenomenon) is to enter into it, (and) live inside it to recognize its potential and dangers," ..... Because one's real identity is confidential, one's virtual appearance can be completely open and honest, "but on the other hand one can also get caught up in a spontaneity that knows no limits or discretion," ..... in creating or being part of such a lifelike, imaginary world, one might become alienated from the real world and begin to identify oneself according to one's self-created myth ..... - CNS

I wrote something about Second life back in January - Second Life and St. Ignatius - quoting a Tablet article by John McDade SJ, Mine is the Kingdom, on Second Life and its possible dangers. I thought then, and still do, that Ignatian spirituality and a virtual environment can be a good fit. The Jesuits are always on the cutting edge technologically, but even more, the Spiritual Exercises make serious use of a virtual world ... that of the imagination.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Cardinal Pell

There's much in the news about the pope choosing Cardinal Pell to head financial reform (not of the Vatican Bank but of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See). I find it odd that most who have commented on this have just ignored the negatives about Pell. One exception was the Australian Jesuit site, Eureka Street, which mentioned ...

[I]t is not hard to compile a list of those who will be glad to see Pell go. It would include most liberal Catholics, many priests who have served under him (one of whom once described him as 'a memory of all those silly stereotypes of authority that used to haunt us as children'), and many of his fellow bishops, who saw him as too eager to please Rome and too prone to do his own thing without acting in concert with them.

Just to reiterate, Pell was the head of Vox Clara, the Vatican commission responsible for the much hated English translation of the missal (read Jesuit Philip Endean's Tablet article on the translation process), and he is a committed foe of conscience. One can also read an essay out about him - The Prince: Faith, Abuse and George Pell by award-winning journalist David Marr (you can read an article by Marr on the book, with some extracts from it at ABC Religion & Ethics). Much of the essay has to do with Pell's handling of clergy sex abuse in Australia. In 2012 I posted a video interview with 30 year veteran Senior Detective in the NSW police, Peter Fox, who alleged a cover-up by the church in Australia and who urged the government to investigate ...



And I linked to Pell's response too in which he took absolutely no responsibility.

2010: Odyssey Two



The latest book I'm reading is Arthur C. Clarke's 2010: Odyssey Two. I've not ever read any of Clarke before, though of course I'd seen the film made from 2001: A Space Odyssey. What made me decide to read the book was remembering bits on tv from the film version, which starred Roy Scheider, John Lithgow, and Helen Mirren.

Here's the basic plot from Wikipedia ...

The story is set nine years after the failure of the Discovery One mission to Jupiter. A joint Soviet-American crew, including Heywood Floyd from 2001, on the Soviet spaceship Alexei Leonov (named after the famous cosmonaut) arrives to discover what went wrong with the earlier mission, to investigate the monolith in orbit around the planet, and to resolve the disappearance of David Bowman. They hypothesize that much of this information is locked away on the now-abandoned Discovery One. The Soviets have an advanced new "Sakharov" drive which will propel them to Jupiter ahead of the American Discovery Two, so Floyd is assigned to the Leonov crew ...

The book is pretty good so far - Clarke's a good writer :) Here's a a clip from the film version ...


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Happy birthday, George :)

It's been 50 years this month since the Beatles invaded - The Beatles Invasion, 50 Years Ago: Tuesday, Feb. 11, 1964 - and today would have been George Harrison's 71st birthday. I'll take this chance to recommend Martin Scorsese's film, George Harrison: Living in the Material World. And here are some of George's songs I like ....









Ok, this one below is Clapton ;) with Paul and Ringo (and George's son), but still, George's song ...


Photos

Despite the drought, spring is still happening here :) ...






Sunday, February 23, 2014

Carrot cake and Sherlock


- the villain's home, Appledore, is really Swinhay House

Eating carrot cake and watching His Last Vow, the last episode in season 3 of the BBC series, Sherlock. The storyline in this episode is based on the original Sherlock Holmes story, The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton, and in that story, the bad guy's character was based on real life blackmailer Charles Augustus Howell, an art dealer who was acquainted with many of the Pre-Raphaelites. Some trivia: a memory palace is mentioned ... I posted about that once (Matteo Ricci & the Memory Palace), and the bad guy is played by Lars Mikkelsen, brother of Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen, one of my sister's favorite actors :)


Friday, February 21, 2014

A Fistful of Datas



Tonight watched one of my favorite Star Trek TNG episodes, A Fistful of Datas ...

Its title is a play on the title of the Sergio Leone "Spaghetti Western" film A Fistful of Dollars ... Worf reluctantly joins his son Alexander in a holodeck adventure set in the town of Deadwood, South Dakota in the American Old West, later joined by Deanna Troi. The three play the role of lawmen in Deadwood, where Eli Hollander, the "Butcher of Bozeman", is wanted.

All is going well until a glitch in connecting Data's positronic brain to the ship's computer turns the bad gunslinger Hollander into a version of Data, with all his android abilities. I guess Data is supposed to resemble Clint Eastwood's character in the Leone film, but he reminded me more of Val Kilmer's Doc Holliday :) ...



Hard to find a good video clip, but ...


The Vatican survey and the woman at the well



At NCR: Japanese bishops: Vatican mindset doesn't fit Asian church ...

Japan's bishops have publicly responded to a Vatican survey of global Catholics' views on family issues, stating bluntly that church teachings are not known in their country and the Vatican's Europe-centric view hampers efforts at evangelization in places where Catholics represent a small minority of the population ....

In response to a question on couples who live together before marriage, the Japanese say, "The pastoral practice of the Church must begin from the premise that cohabitation and civil marriage outside the church have become the norm."

"In developing a pastoral orientation, it is perhaps important to recall that the only time in the gospels that Jesus clearly encounters someone in a situation of cohabitation outside of marriage (the Samaritan woman at the well) he does not focus on it," they state. "Instead, he respectfully deals with the woman and turns her into a missionary." ...


Even so :) Why, I wonder, is this aspect of the story of the woman at the well so infrequently mentioned: Jesus doesn't criticize her at all for multiple marriages nor for living with someone outside of marriage. Here's the word-for-word example of that scripture passage from the movie The Gospel of John ...


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Some links



- Speaking of a comment to my last post, the idea that aminals feel no emotions, I saw this today in the news ... Asian elephants show remarkable empathy, say scientists (+video) ... :)

- It's often thought that all Christian denominations are against women's access to reproductive health care, but that's not so ... Clergy urge access to reproductive health services

- At NPR read and listen to a spot about The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe by David I. Kertzer, a history professor at Brown University. There's also a post about the book at the Daily Beast here. This reminded me of a past story in The Guardian, How the Vatican built a secret property empire using Mussolini's millions, and also related, this Wikipedia page on Bernardino Nogara.


Monday, February 17, 2014

What I read about today

- Liam Neeson reportedly joins film adaptation of Shusaku Endo novel 'Silence' I haven't read the novel ... the story of a Jesuit missionary sent to 17th century Japan, who endured persecution in the time of Kakure Kirishitan ("Hidden Christians") that followed the defeat of the Shimabara Rebellion. ... maybe I'll look for it at the library.

- Another podcast from Duke NT professor Mark Goodacre on historical Jesus research, with mentions of EP Saunders, JD Crossan, and NT Wright: NT Pod 68: Where do we begin Historical Jesus research?

- Another religious article about breastfeeding: The Beauty of Breastfeeding These have been cropping up especially since the pope told a lady to breastfeed her baby in church. Breastfeeding is a slippery subject in my view. On the one hand, one wants women to feel unembarrassed about doing it in public. But on the other hand, the male conservative wing has, I think, gone to the creepy place with their romanticizing of breastfeeding as almost religiously beautiful. As Carla Escoda writes ...

Why do otherwise intelligent, educated folk insist on romanticizing breastfeeding? It is no more of a "beautiful experience" than putting food on the family table -- which men do just as well as women. Profound "beauty" can be found in the way nature works to provide the right sustenance for newborns -- the efficiency and economics of which may appeal to Paul Tudor Jones -- but the delivery system is no reason to get all dewy-eyed. In fact, many modern mothers complain about the process as much as they revel in it: hellish feeding schedules, leaky breasts, mastitis, sleeplessness, teething babies, lack of appropriate public spaces for nursing, and so on. The fact is: breastfeeding is a bodily function important to the wellbeing of newborns, but not essential to bonding or any other social good.

I can't help thinking this romanticizing and religiocizing of breastfeeding is just another way to pigeonhole women - come on, guys: breastfeeding is simply a natural thing all mammals do, from three toed sloths to my cat Grendel :) ...


Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Returned


- a once dead butterfly revives, bursting from its display case

My latest DVD rental is The Returned ...

a television drama series created by Fabrice Gobert and shown on Canal+ in France, BeTV in Belgium, Channel4 in UK and SVT in Sweden .... It is an adaptation of the 2004 film They Came Back (in French titled Les Revenants) .... In 2013 it won an International Emmy for best drama series .... In a small mountain town, many dead people reappear, apparently alive and normal: road accident victim teenager Camille, suicidal bridegroom Simon, a small boy named "Victor" who was murdered by burglars, and Serge, a serial killer. They try to resume their lives as strange phenomena occur; amongst recurring power outages, the water level of the reservoir mysteriously lowers, revealing the presence of dead animals and a church steeple, and strange marks appear on the bodies of the living and the dead.

I've just watched the first episode so far but it is intriguing, despite the effort of reading the subtitles, and reminds me a bit of Top of the Lake, given the setting of a small remote mountain town, dead animals beneath the lake, and the grimness. Stephen King is apparently a fan, perhaps because it's reminiscent of Pet Sematary. For those who are sensitive ... there's a lot of violence in the show. Here's a trailer ...


Noah

Update: oh, I've read the movie will feature the Book of Enoch's fallen angels (with six arms apiece) .... maybe it will be worth a watch after all ;) ... Aronofsky’s Noah may be even stranger than you thought



Watching the trailer for the movie, Noah ...



[A]n upcoming 2014 American biblical epic film directed by Darren Aronofsky and written by Aronofsky and Ari Handel. Starring Russell Crowe, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, Jennifer Connelly, Douglas Booth, Logan Lerman, and Ray Winstone, the film is based on the story of Noah's Ark and is set to be released in theaters on March 28, 2014.

Read more in America magazine: The Controversial 'Noah'.

The trailer looks grim, and that's no surprise as the story in the bible is grim too ... because of some bad guys, God destroys all life on Earth, save for a few exceptions. It gives a whole new meaning to the expression 'collateral damage' and it's this kind of story that makes it hard for me to believe in a good God.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Sarah Coakley and Ellen Page

Reading this: Two interrupted by Three: Gender Difference and the Desiring God by Anglican theologian Sarah Coakley ...

My specifically theological hypothesis about gender is as follows. Not only is divine desire more fundamental than human sexual desire, I argue, because it is its ultimate incubus, source and refiner; but also, and by the same token, that same divine desire is more fundamental than gender. The key to the secular riddle of gender can lie only in its connection to the doctrine of a desiring, trinitarian God.

I think this article is in a good cause but reading it made my head hurt ;) and also made me sad at the tortured efforts some in Christianity go to in order to make something acceptable within the given and unchallenged parameters.

Meanwhile, in the real world, I saw that actress Ellen Page (Juno) has come out as gay. The reason I especially noticed this was that last night I watched X-Men: The Last Stand in which she has a role :) ...


Friday, February 14, 2014

The Gospel of John ...

and the historical Jesus. Duke NT Professor Mark Goodacre has a new podcast: NT Pod 67: John's Gospel and the Historical Jesus



When I first starting blogging I belonged to a bible study blog and one of the first gospels we read and commented on was John's gospel. Though it has some of my favorite stories within in ... the wedding at Cana, the woman at the well, the adulterous woman, the raising of Lazarus, etc. ... it also has a lot of "talking head" time, so perhaps a more interesting way to "read" the gospel of John is to watch the movie. Here's the last part of the film ...


Sherlock, Francis, Umberto Eco, David Cassidy, and Dresden ...

on love for Valentine's Day ...


- Sherlock gives a speech at John Watson's wedding reception

More from the church on the idea (which I find bizarre) that love is not an emotion: the pope says ... Marriage must be built on the rock of love not the shifting sands of emotions ... What?! He goes on to say ... “But what do we mean by ‘love’? A mere emotion, a psycho-physical state? Certainly, if it is just this, it cannot provide the foundation for building something solid.

And at Thinking Faith, here's a longer discussion about love, which actually made my head hurt - ‘As Barbara Cartland says…’. Umberto Eco gets mentioned ...

Umberto Eco questions whether a declaration of love can carry such weight. He takes as his focus a man who loves a very cultivated woman, and knows that he cannot say ‘I love you madly’ because he knows that she knows that these words have already been written by Barbara Cartland. Are we to conclude that declarations of love are impossible? Or at least, that they are impossible between those who are suitably cultivated? Eco denies that this is so, claiming that there is a solution to this (postmodern) predicament: the man can say ‘As Barbara Cartland would put it, I love you madly’. At this point, Eco continues, ‘having avoided false innocence, having said clearly that it is no longer possible to speak innocently, he will have said what he wanted to say to the woman: that he loves her in an age of lost innocence. If the woman goes along with this, she will have received a declaration of love all the same’.

That reminded me of the scene from Four Weddings and a Funeral in Hugh Grant's character says "In the words of David Cassidy, while he was still with the Partridge Family, I think I love you." ...



Finally, something from The Dresden Files ...

“You can have everything in the world, but if you don't have love, none of it means crap," he said promptly. "Love is patient. Love is kind. Love always forgives, trusts, supports, and endures. Love never fails. When every star in the heavens grows cold, and when silence lies once more on the face of the deep, three things will endure: faith, hope, and love."

"And the greatest of these is love," I finished. "That's from the Bible."

"First Corinthians, chapter thirteen," Thomas confirmed. "I paraphrased."

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Müller, Yoder, marriage

- Müller on women's roles in the church ...

As far as women’s role in the Church is concerned, Müller said they could be given some high-ranking positions in the Vatican: not in the Congregations but in the Pontifical Councils, for example the Pontifical Council on the Family (which is led by Bishop Vincenzo Paglia) or for Health Care Workers. The Prefect clarified, however, that as it is ordained ministers that hold jurisdictional power, neither lay people nor women can become heads of Congregations, that is, the dicasteries that have the jurisdictional power to act on the Pope’s behalf. Other areas in which women could play a greater role are theological research and Caritas, although Müller is against the introduction of set quotas of women.

Oh yeah .... no one will even remember the women's ordination movement once they see these great new jog opportunities opening up for women in the church (NOT). Sigh :(

- The Woody Allen Problem: How Do We Read Pacifist Theologian (and Sexual Abuser) John Howard Yoder? ....

[...] Whenever these cases surface, they're accompanied by a discussion about whether or not we can or should appreciate the work of artists and writers who are accused of doing terrible things. It's a question without any satisfying categorical answer, which I suppose is why it generates so much copy. The nuances are endless: does it matter if the artist in question is alive or not? If he or she is dead, does it matter how long? Is there a difference between music that has words and music that doesn't? Between loving a movie made by an alleged sex offender and loving a work of theology written by one? How on earth do we weigh all of this? .....

I'm still not sure how people can appreciate without cringing the work of someone who has done "bad" things. It's not that I don't feel the tension between liking someone's work but disliking what they've done, and it's not just about wanting to take the high moral ground ... I really don't understand how something good (not just technically beautiful or elegantly clever) can be created by someone who is morally broken.

- Marriage: What’s love got to do with it? Historically, very little ...

“The Greeks thought lovesickness was a type of insanity, a view that was adopted by medieval commentators in Europe. In the Middle Ages, the French defined love as a ‘derangement of the mind’ that could be cured by sexual intercourse, either with the loved one or with a different partner,” Coontz writes in her 2005 book, “Marriage, A History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage.” Couples wed to make political alliances, to raise capital, to expand the workforce and for a whole array of practical purposes.

I think one of the reasons the church is so out of touch with their stance on marriage .... divorce and remarriage, marriage equality, creepy Theology of the Body stuff, etc ... is that they are invested in marriage's history of commercial contract rather than seeing marriage as the result of romantic love.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Remembering B16

A year ago today B16 announced he would retire. Today there are tons of articles on this, most of them praising Benedict and his reign. I feel differently - I think he was a pretty bad pope, and for so many reasons, but perhaps the biggest - the way he handled the sex abuse problem. So let's take a moment to recall a 2012 documentary film by AlexGibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Taxi to the Dark Side) ... Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God .... about the Lawrence Murphy case, the investigation of which led right up to the Vatican (Pope accused of failing to act on sex abuse case - BBC).

The New York Times wrote about the movie ... A Silent Trail Leads Beyond a Cover-Up of Protracted Abuse

And Roger Ebert reviewed it, giving it 3.5 stars ... here

Francis X. Clooney SJ

Reading Jesuit Francis X. Clooney's defense of Mary Hunt and her article, The Trouble With Francis: Three Things That Worry Me.

I haven't been visiting America magazine so much lately but i almost always liked the articles/posts there by Fr. Clooney. Some that I especially liked: 30 Years a Priest: Gratitude, Joy, and a Quiet Lament (2008) ... The Silenc/ing of Roger Haight, SJ (2009) ... Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Art of Staying Catholic (2010) ... Dominus Iesus 10 Years Later: Part III (2010) ... 700 Years Later: Marguerite Porete, Burnt at the Stake, but Unforgotten 92010) ... Holy Thursday 2010: Foot-washing without Hierarchies (2010)

Here's a bit of 30 Years a Priest: Gratitude, Joy, and a Quiet Lament, which dwells on women's ordination ...

[...] This issue -- does God call women as well as men to ordination? -- seems likely to remain one of the great divides in the Church of the 21st century, and we all, men as well as women, are, or should be, suffering through the experience. That the Vatican has definitively ended the discussion does not make it less likely that many will continue to have hearts rent by the issue. I am sure God hears many a prayer, many a day, on the topic. But no matter what we think, there is room for quiet lament, and particularly those of us who are ordained should feel this sadness mingled with the joy appropriate to anniversaries of ordination. The priesthood is, as I have said, a great gift, and I know how very sad it would be to have been barred from it, from the start or along the way. I can only try to imagine the sentiments of a woman who has experienced, with humility and conviction, this calling, faced as she is with the prospect of the Church’s insistence that it is incapable of ordaining women -- as if to say: "Even if God calls, the Church cannot." It is clear that some women have moved on, and do not want Roman Catholic ordination any more; others never did; many more have found ways of living out their vocations fruitfully in Church and world. Nevertheless, some still grieve, many who know them and their gifts still grieve, and it is with them all, at my 30th anniversary of ordination, that I lament. It is mindful of them, and for them, that I shall be celebrating the Eucharist on June 10. I think it most appropriate that every priest celebrating an ordination anniversary, most often around this time of the year, take the occasion to pray with, mindful of, women who have discerned that God is calling them to ordination in the Church.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Some misunderstandings

Another post about how wrong the UN was in its criticisms of the Vatican ... Is the Vatican Violating Children’s Rights?. I think the criticisms of the UN in this and other articles are built upon some unrecognized misunderstandings. Here's part of the post ...

[T]he [UN] committee also addressed subjects on which everyone does not agree. It suggested that the Vatican alter its positions on abortion, contraception, and homosexuality in order to meet its obligations under the Convention. For example, the committee stated that the prohibition of abortion “places obvious risks on the life and health of pregnant girls”and urged the Vatican to amend canon law to “identify circumstances under which access to abortion services can be permitted.” It expressed “serious concern” about the Vatican’s policy of “denying adolescents access to contraception.” The Vatican must put “adolescents’ best interests” ahead of other concerns, the committee said. And the committee expressed concern that the Holy See’s disapproval of homosexuality may lead to discrimination against LGBT children and the children of LGBT parents. It recommended that the Holy See amend canon law to recognize diverse family arrangements. ... [but] ... the recommendations obviously conflict with fundamental teachings of one of the world’s great religions.

I assume that when the post states "one of the world’s great religions" it is referring to Christianity. The misunderstanding made in this and other articles is in the belief that the Vatican's stance on contraception, abortion, and gay rights is based on some universal and "fundamental" Christian understanding. The fact is, not all Christian denominations hold the Vatican's views .... for example, the Episcopal Church is supportive of gay rights, the Presbyterian Church leaves the decision about abortion and its morality up to the conscience of the individual, and the UCC is fine with contraception (Pew Forum)

Not even all Catholics agree with the Vatican's stance on these issues, and in fact a large number appear to believe the opposite .... Pope Francis faces church divided over doctrine, global poll of Catholics finds ... Synod on family surveys: German, Swiss Catholics reject teachings on marriage, sexuality

Also, a lot of the outrage I've seen directed at the UN's criticism seems to be over the idea of "religious liberty" being violated .... the thought that the Catholic Church is being told it cannot teach what it believes. I don't think this is exactly what the UN meant. I think the UN would grant the Church the right to believe and teach what it wants, but the Church goes far beyond that .... the Church runs human trafficking charities with government grants but doesn't want to give victims access to contraception ... the Church works with AIDs patients in Africa but doesn't allow the use of condoms ... the Church runs hospitals around the world that provide OB/GYN care but will not make some decisions necessary to save women's lives.

Pius IX once said "The state must recognize [the Catholic Church] as supreme and submit to its influence. . . . The power of the state must be at its disposal and all who do not conform to its requirements must be compelled or punished. . . . Freedom of conscience and cult is madness." (link). It was against this mindset that John Courtney Murray SJ worked so hard for *true* religious liberty.

I think what bothers the Vatican so much about the UN's recommendations is not that they are a threat to fundamental Christian beliefs or a threat to religious liberty, but instead something else ... a threat to what has been up to now the Vatican's complete lack of accountability.

More music ...

from The 4400; "Falling by the Wayside" from People in Planes ...



Sunday, February 09, 2014

Jazz Me Blues

Still trying to beat the flu. Here's some music to cheer myself up - Les Paul's Jazz Me Blues. I first heard it on an episode of Fringe :) ...


Thursday, February 06, 2014

Defending the cover-up of sex abuse



And ...

NYT editorial - The U.N. Confronts the Vatican

For more see - Times Editorial on U.N. and Vatican, Plus Vatican Apologists Begin Their Spin: Ten Critical Questions .

I'm very glad the UN has spoken up about this. What makes me almost sick is the defense of the Vatican by the many Catholic apologists like Austen Ivereigh of the conservative lobby group, Catholic Voices.

The pregnant teacher and the German/Swiss bishops

Catholic school fires pregnant unwed teacher. When I see stories like this I think the Catholic hierarchy must live in am alternate universe. In their universe, no one has premarital sex, while in our universe, about 95% of people do. In their universe, no one uses birth control, while in our universe, most people do. In their universe, no one gets divorced, though some do get annulments. In our universe, a third to a half of people get divorced and only a tiny minority even apply for annulments. In their universe, gays cannot love each other or marry, but in our universe, they can and they do.

It's not just in the US that this disparity exists between what the Church teaches and how people, including Catholics, actually live their lives ...

Synod on family surveys: German, Swiss Catholics reject teachings on marriage, sexuality

Reports from bishops' conferences in Germany and Switzerland show a clear divergence between what the church teaches on marriage, sexuality and family life and what Catholics -- even those active in parish life -- personally believe.

The differences are seen "above all when it comes to pre-marital cohabitation, (the status of the) divorced and remarried, birth control and homosexuality," said the German bishops' report, posted Tuesday on their conference website in German, Italian and English. (Read the German bishops' report here.) .....

German dioceses reported that "'pre-marital unions' are not only a relevant pastoral reality, but one which is almost universal," since between 90 percent and 100 percent of couples who seek a Catholic wedding are already living together, despite church teaching that sex outside of marriage is sinful. "Many, in fact, consider it irresponsible to marry without living together beforehand," the report said ....

The bishops' conference said one-third of all marriages in Germany end in divorce, and while "Catholics' marriages are somewhat more stable than average," the difference is not great .... reforming and streamlining the church's annulment process would not make a big difference in Germany, the bishops' report said, because most remarried people do not regard their original unions as "null and void," but rather as having failed. "They therefore frequently consider an annulment procedure" -- which declares that an apparent marriage was null from the start -- "to be dishonest." .....

Both the German and Swiss bishops' surveys found the vast majority of Catholics reject or simply ignore church teaching that every sexual act between a husband and wife should be open to the transmission of life, therefore ruling out the use of artificial contraceptives ....

The Swiss bishops said that "approximately 60 percent of participants in the consultation support the recognition of and a church blessing for homosexual couples," .... The German bishops said Catholics in their country, which has recognized "civil partnerships" of same-sex couples since 2000, largely "regard the legal recognition of same-sex civil partnerships and their equal treatment vis-a-vis marriage as a commandment of justice."

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

The Jesuits and John Dear

There's an article about John Dear leaving the Jesuits at NCR - John Dear and the Jesuits: Another view - in which Tom Roberts disagrees with Dear's assertion that the Jesuits are putting less emphasis on social justice.

I don't think the issues surrounding John Dear's dismissal are as simple of the article makes out, and I think there are some questions to ask ...

1) What was the vocation of the early Jesuits?
2) How did the resourcement of the Second Vatican Council and the leadership of Pedro Arrupe impact that?
3) How is the present diminishment in numbers of Jesuits affecting a Jesuit's discernment of his personal vocation in integration with the Society's vocation?

I'm just another outsider looking in, and I don't have answers to all the questions above, but I have a few thoughts ...

1) John O'Malley writes in The First Jesuits that ...

The Jesuits had an agenda of their own ... "to help souls." In the Autobiography, Constitutions, and his correspondence, Ignatius used it again and again to describe what motivated him and what was to motivate the Society ... By "soul" Jesuits meant the whole person. Thus they could help souls in a number of ways, for instance, by providing food for the body or learning for the mind. That is why their list of ministries was so long ... No doubt, however, the Jesuits primarily wanted to help the person achieve an ever better relationship with God. They sought to be mediators of an immediate experience of God that would lead to an inner change or a deepening of religious sensibilities already present. With varying degrees of clarity, that purpose shines through all they wrote and said as the ultimate goal they had in mind when they spoke of helping souls ... (pp. 17-19)

2) The Vatican II document, Perfectae Caritatis, called for ... renewal of the religious life ... both the constant return to the sources of all Christian life and to the original spirit of the institutes and their adaptation to the changed conditions of our time. - Vatican document.

How this was put into action by Pedro Arrupe, the Superior General of the Society from 1965 to 1983, has been a source of some contention - conservatives thought he was abandoning the Jesuits' vocation of "helping souls" for social justice, but most, including me, think differently. Kevin Burke SJ writes this of Arrupe in The Legacy of Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., in Celebration of the 100th Centenary of his Birth ...

[...] I side with those who consider Pedro Arrupe a great man. He ranks with the three or four greatest Catholic leaders and saints of the 20th century, people like Oscar Romero, Mother Theresa and Pope John XXIII. He was, of course, a human being and, as such, a person of his times and his own training, with shortcomings of temperament and experience, with passions, biases, and even peculiarities. But his life itself serves as a parable of contemporary Christian discipleship. I believe his visionary leadership represents a gift to us who, a generation or two later, long to follow the path he followed out of love for Jesus Christ and a fidelity to his gospel ......

The Council met from 1962 to 1965 and ignited an extraordinary process of renovation in response to the signs of the times. Vatican II dramatically reshaped Catholic liturgy and devotions. It renewed the forms of religious life and rediscovered the role of the laity. It shifted its relationships with other Christian churches and redefined its relationship to other religions, to secular institutions, and to the world itself as “secular”.

Taking his cue from the Council, Fr. Arrupe urged Jesuits to rediscover their call to contemplation in action, to a spirituality of a profound engagement with God in the World. The first companions who founded the Jesuits understood this to mean a spirituality of “finding God in all things.” For Arrupe and the Society he led it meant finding God even in the tragedies and tensions of world history and personal history, finding God in a world marked and symbolized by Hiroshima and Auschwitz, a world fraught with division and oppression. And the real trick is finding God and not just our own images of God, our own projections of what we think a god should look like. This requires us to discern the signs of the times, an important biblical saying adopted by Vatican II in its Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.

Fr. Arrupe helped the Society of Jesus rediscover its fundamental call to discernment, its call to read the signs of the times. Before the council Jesuits ran schools, sent missionaries to so-called ‘mission lands,’ and did retreat work and spiritual ministries. After Vatican II, with a renewed sense of discernment, Jesuits found they were not so much called to abandon their schools or missions or retreat work, but to do all these things in new ways. We serve the Church by being at the growing edge where the church is constantly running up against the world. In the early 1970s, at General Congregation 32, the Society of Jesus asked itself this question: What is it to be a companion of Jesus today? The answer it gave is memorable. It is to engage, under the standard of the Cross, in the crucial struggle of our time: the struggle for faith and that struggle for justice which it includes ....


3) The numbers of Jesuits is in decline. In the US ... Fewer Jesuit priests this Easter, but more people learning Jesuit ideals ... and in the UK ... Jesuits to hand South London parish over to diocese .... the Jesuit high schools, colleges, churches, and retreat houses are often staffed by an increasing number of lay people and they are sometimes closing as well.

Does this dearth of Jesuits mean that those like John Dear who feel unique vocational calls must give them up for the greater good of the Society? I don't know the answer, but I do know that while the majority of US Jesuits teach, there are lots of Jesuits who have other kinds of jobs .... Guy Consolmagno is an astronomer, Daniel Berrigan is a peace activist and poet, Greg Boyle works with gang members, William Barry is a spiritual director, James Martin is a writer, William Hart McNichols is an artist ... and though I could be wrong, I doubt any of them would be asked to give up their present jobs to instead teach high school, as Dear was.

So, I'm still confused as to why Fr. Dear was dismissed - it would be nice if some Jesuit spokesperson would clarify things.

Monday, February 03, 2014

More about hell


- Chartres, south portal, showing a small piece of Hell

Reading Matthew's Nonviolent Jesus and Violent Parables by Barbara E. Reid, O.P. from the Center for Christian Ethics. Here's a bit of it ...

[...] In Matthew 5:38-48 Jesus gives the most elaborate of his teachings on how to respond to violence with nonretaliation, nonviolent confrontation, love of enemies, and prayer for persecutors. This teaching is in the section of the Sermon on the Mount .... A disciple must love enemies in imitation of God because it is the righteous thing to do. There is no assurance that the love will be effective or be reciprocated. What is also unstated, yet implied, is the effect on the evildoer or the enemy. Just as God’s offer of indiscriminate love and graciousness to the unrighteous aims to bring them into right relation, so too does that of the disciple. It invites the estranged one away from enmity into the path of forgiveness, repentance, and reconciliation.

[But ...]

The portrayal of God in Matthew 5:45-48 clashes greatly with eight of Matthew’s parables that end with violent consequences for those who do evil .... The punishments God metes out to evildoers include throwing them into a fiery furnace, binding them hand and foot, casting them into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, putting them to a miserable death, cutting and breaking them into pieces and crushing them, destroying murderers and burning their city, depriving them of the presence of God, and putting them with hypocrites or with the devil and his angels for all eternity.

What has happened to the boundless, unreciprocated divine love described in the Sermon on the Mount (5:44-48)? If disciples of Jesus are children of God who are supposed to emulate divine ways, which are we to imitate? Further, does God change? Is divine love not so boundless after all?

There are a number of ways to explain this tension in the Matthean narrative. I will offer seven possibilities and evaluate their merits ...


The two possibilities she liked best were the last two she gave ... one was that God wants us to continuously forgive people as he does while in this earthly existence, but once we die, all bets are off ... and the other was that God does forgive people, but if they in tern don't forgive others, they then doom themselves (a sort of CS Lewis fix that gets God off the hook). I didn't like either of these explanations. Instead, I found the very first possibility she mentioned and discarded to be the one I have de facto accepted, though it has its problems ...

One possibility is that Matthew did not sufficiently understand the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Missing the point that God’s love is unconditional and boundless, even when not reciprocated (5:44-48), Matthew has capitulated to the prevailing myths about violence and portrays God as acting in violent ways toward unrepentant evildoers. It is from Matthew himself, or his special source of information about Jesus, that the bulk of the violent depictions in these parables comes.

And the reason I go with this explanation is exemplified by what she writes about Jesus in another part of the article ...

In the Gospels we have no examples of Jesus’ use of violence, even toward those who brutalized and executed him. Instead, in Matthew’s account of Jesus’ arrest, Jesus calls Judas “friend” (26:50) and admonishes, “all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (26:52). When Jesus is spat on in the face, struck, and slapped (26:67), he does not retaliate. In the resurrection appearances he says not a word about those who perpetrated the violence or the punishment they will meet, but only encourages his disciples not to be afraid (28:10), assures them of his presence with them, and sends them out to proclaim the gospel to all (28:19-20).

If when we look at Jesus we see God, then the idea of hell makes no sense, at least not to me.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Sing :)

Singing Changes Your Brain

[...] What researchers are beginning to discover is that singing is like an infusion of the perfect tranquilizer, the kind that both soothes your nerves and elevates your spirits.

The elation may come from endorphins, a hormone released by singing, which is associated with feelings of pleasure. Or it might be from oxytocin, another hormone released during singing, which has been found to alleviate anxiety and stress. Oxytocin also enhances feelings of trust and bonding, which may explain why still more studies have found that singing lessens feelings of depression and loneliness. A very recent study even attempts to make the case that “music evolved as a tool of social living,” and that the pleasure that comes from singing together is our evolutionary reward for coming together cooperatively, instead of hiding alone, every cave-dweller for him or herself ...


Mentioned in the article: singing along to David Bowie's The Man Who Sold the World. You can sing it with a choir ...



Or like me, you can just sing it with David :) ...



We passed upon the stair, we spoke of was and when
Although I wasn't there, he said I was his friend
Which came as some surprise I spoke into his eyes
I thought you died alone, a long long time ago

Oh no, not me
I never lost control
You're face to face
With The Man Who Sold The World

I laughed and shook his hand, and made my way back home
I searched for form and land, for years and years I roamed
I gazed a gazely stare at all the millions here
We must have died alone, a long long time ago

Who knows? not me
We never lost control
You're face to face
With the Man who Sold the World

Inventing a religion

There are posts at both Pray Tell and the Episcopal Cafe about a story at Religion Dispatches - Millennials Invent New Religion: No Hell, No Priests, No Punishment. The story is from a college teacher who asked her students to invent their own religions. When the students all came up with religions that had no priests, no obligatory meetings, no absolute dogma, and no hell, the teacher flipped her wig .... some of the conclusions she drew about their choices sounded pretty defensive to me. Here's a bit from the article ...

There were several components of religion that were glaringly absent. Not one of them had career clergy who were in charge of services, rituals, or care of the congregation. There were, for the most part, no regular meetings of the faithful. Some had monthly or annual gatherings, like conferences, but most were very individualized religions, centering on personal growth and enrichment away from a physical community.

So, right off the bat, this generation has dumped its religious leaders, its priests or gurus, and has dispensed with the obligation of coming together each week as a community. I guess, if there's no one there to deliver a sermon or wisdom talk, what's the point of gathering together once a week?


She's never heard of Quakers? She's not read Garry Wills' book?

The most intriguing thing for me, however, was the fact that not one of the religions crafted by the student groups included a concept of hell, or any form of punishment for not following the prescriptions of the religion.

This actually seems like a plus - one of the most hard to reconcile inconsistencies of Christianity for me is how a God who is love and who wants us to always forgive others does not do so himself.

By ignoring the question of suffering of humanity, and role of religion in addressing that suffering, I am afraid that this new generation is denying itself the opportunity to truly connect not just with the divine, if that's their thing, but with each other.

She thought their emphasis on 'feel good" stuff meant they didn't take human suffering seriously, but I see it as just the opposite .... most religions spend an inordinate amount of effort in making human suffering acceptable (and in some cases even laudable) instead of outing it for the obscenity it is. The students seemed to get this problem of the problem of evil.

The one part of the article I agreed with was at the very end ...

The problem, as I see it, is not with the lack of imagination of this new generation, but with religious institutions themselves—many of which have allowed their leaders to become rock stars, their communities to become clubs of like-minded believers, and their doctrines to become rigid, with an over-emphasis on discipline and damnation for things (like homosexuality) that millennials see as simply judgmental and unfair.

When people are young, they're idealistic, they haven't yet made the kind of compromises with hope and faith and love that many of those who are older often embrace just yo keep going ... and that's a good thing.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits

Today I came upon a Jesuit journal I've sometimes read copies of from the library - it's online too :) The copies I'd seen at the library were all pretty old but the website has the latest issues - the archive is searchable and the issues downloadable. One of the older issues (1978) had articles by spiritual directors William Barry SJ and William Connolly SJ - Affectivity and Sexuality: Their Relationship to the Spiritual and Apostolic Life of Jesuits ... and the latest is, not surprisingly, by Jorge Mario Bergoglio SJ (Francis) - Writings on Jesuit Spirituality II, translated and edited by Philip Endean SJ.

London Boulevard and Blowup

Today my sister was telling me about a British movie she watched last night - London Boulevard, a gangster film with Colin Farrell. She didn't like it much but she was impressed with the soundtrack featuring The Yardbirds ... notable for having started the careers of three of rock's most famous guitarists: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page :) ...



This reminded me of an old movie by Antonioni - Blowup - in which The Yardbirds appeared ...