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A Mother – protecting her children (the membership) from historical truth and theological insight, and the responsibilities of independent thought. Trying desperately to keep her babes from leaving the nest.

A Lioness – protecting her cubs (the clergy) by hiding them from attack, redirecting attention away from them, retaliating against their attackers.

A “Uriah Heep” – whose only concern is to protect and gain control over the moneys taken in by the business. Motivated by greed, and putting on a face of insincere humility.

A model of the Church of “Bishop” Francis? – I remain hopeful.

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A powerful message from Sr. Joan Chittister, National Catholic Reporter, March 6

Read the entire post here:
NCRonline.org/blogs/where-i-stand.]

“To a vast population of the world, the papacy of the Roman Catholic church is some kind of meaningless monarchy, colorful, intriguing and irrelevant. It is a fantasy game played by Catholics. How seriously is something like that to be taken when the issues to be dealt with are so contemporary, so important, not only to Catholics and their idea of church and faith and the spiritual life but to the world at large? How can we believe that the answers arrived at in a medieval setting have anything to do with the real world?

And so, when the pope waved goodbye from the balcony at Castel Gandolfo, I felt a twinge of sadness — for him, for us and for the world at large. Because of his presence of mind, because of his willingness to step out of a position that has been surrounded by fairy-tale expectations, the church has been brought to a new point in its own conversion and development. And those points are not easy for anyone. In fact, women religious have themselves known them in a very special way.

For that reason, women religious may have something to teach the church about the process of conversion and development at this very important moment.

Religious life, too, had been encased in another world. Women religious lived separately from the world around them, they dressed in clothes that had been designed centuries before, they gave up a sense of personal or individual identity. As a result, they got further away from the people they served by the day, further away from their needs, further away from their feelings.

The renewal process of religious life required three major changes before they could possibly pursue anything else of a particular nature, like future planning or ministry decisions. Renewal, they discovered, was a matter of demystification, integration and relevance.

Religious life had its own kind of monarchies to be deconstructed before anything creative could possibly happen or the gifts of its members be released for the sake of the world at large.

The first step was to take the Second Vatican Council’s direction about collegiality and subsidiarity, the concepts of shared responsibility and personal decision-making. That meant that the kind of absolute authority that had built up around religious superiors had to be relinquished. Major decisions began to be shared with the community at large. Personal decisions began to be entrusted to the sisters themselves, all adult and educated women who had been deprived of the minutest decision-making: for example, the hour at which they would go to bed; the right to make a doctor’s appointment; the structure of their lives between prayer times. Major superiors began to be expected — and allowed — to be Jesus-figures in the community, spiritual leaders not lawgivers, not monitors, not queen bees.

In the second place, religious had to learn to integrate themselves into the society they were attempting to serve. That did not necessarily mean eliminating a kind of symbolic dress, but it did mean updating it in a way designed to simplify rather than to separate. Most women religious chose, like Jesus, to set out to be the sign rather than do it the easy way and wear the sign.

Grave and sober voices everywhere warned women religious that to do something like that would eliminate generations of respect from the people around them. I can only speak personally for my own community, of course, but I can promise you that separated from the people, locked away from the world like specters from another planet, and dressed to prove how special we were in relationship to everyone else around us generated nowhere near the mutual respect the community feels now from those who come to the community to seek spiritual support, to search out individual sisters for compassion and guidance, and to take their rightful places with us in ministry and spiritual reflection.

Finally, addressing the questions of the time that plague the world — peace, justice, women’s issues, sustainability — and admitting the questions undermining the current credibility of the church, as well — clericalism, sexism, sexuality, the implications of interfaith societies — make sisters honest and caring members of a pilgrim church.

From where I stand, the church hierarchy itself could well take the opportunity, the crossroad, that Benedict provides us now and themselves do a little demystifying, a large bit of collegiality and a serious amount of communal discernment with the people of God on the great issues of the time.”

A history lesson the whole church should be given!

Another Voice

I thought I would take advantage of “sede vacante”……there NOT being a pope……to reflect on facts and fantasies about the papacy.

Concerned about the Catholic Church and the survival of the papacy, one of my pen-pals has been sending emails, reminding people that “Our Blessed Lord picked Saint Peter to be the first pope and he will surely take care of the church today by selecting a new one.”

An American archbishop wrote in his diocesan paper a few days ago that “Our Lord selected St. Peter to be the first pope, making him the rock on which the Catholic Church would be solidly built.”

There are facts, for sure. There are a lot of fantasies as well.

Let’s start from the very beginning……..

Peter was a young married man, probably around twenty years old. Most likely he had children but we don’t know for certain. He must have been…

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The changes in the Liturgy are being imposed on Catholics this Sunday. 

  • Do you wonder why a liturgy that was written 400 years ago (1600 years after Jesus, in a language that is long dead and which was not used by Jesus or the Apostles) is being held up as more legitimate, more TRUE than the liturgy that was developed just 50 years ago, a liturgy that has enabled us to enter into the meaning and spirit of the mass is a deeper way and participate in it more fully?
  • Do you wonder why obscure Latin phraseology is thought to be better than contemporary syntax?  Is the goal greater understanding or greater feelings of unworthiness?
  • Does it concern you that “Christ died for ALL” has been changed to “Christ died for MANY?”
  • Is the leadership of our Church simply exercising power or really concerned to help us engage in the Mass and experience spiritual enrichment?
  • Are you saddened that “for us MEN and for our salvation” has not been changed to simply read, “for US and our salvation?”
  • Does it seem to you that we are now regressing to a less inclusive message of salvation, a more anti-female liturgical practice (more and more churches rejecting female altar servers)?
  • Do you think Jesus held anything other than a cup made of pottery at the Last Supper? Certainly not a “precious chalice” that would have adorned a Roman Emperor’s table?
  • Can we honestly say that the Church is becoming more reflective of the message of Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God, who came to save all of humanity and treated women with respect and equality – sending Mary of Magdala as the first witness and “apostle” (one officially sent with a message and given the authority of the one who is sending) of the resurrection?
  • Is the church you attend looking and behaving more like the New Testament churches of Peter and Paul or more like the medieval Roman churches in which the members were ignorant, illiterate, superstitious peasants and the priests and bishops lived and behaved like aristocracy and kings?
  • Most importantly … do you care enough about your universal Church and your local church community to take a stand in favor of good liturgy, lay empowerment and involvement, and fidelity to the teaching of Jesus?

Call to Action has prepared a flier you can download here:  JC-National-Liturgy-Flyer. It suggests the need for inclusive dialogue with Catholics on these changes, and also suggests ways in which faithful and committed Catholics can make their concerns heard and their resistance felt.


BALTIMORE (CNS) — At the start of their annual three-day fall assembly in Baltimore, the U.S. bishops were urged to restore the luster, credibility and beauty of the Catholic Church in the hearts of its members.

In reading the reviews of this General Assembly and looking at the photo above, it seems that women or women’s issues were only present in the discussion of the nature of “true” marriage and in the archaic (one commentator says creepy) metaphor of bishops being wedded to the Church (personified as a woman).  Working for a female religious leader in a non-Catholic religious institution I am more and more offended, intellectually and even viscerally, by the all-male leadership of our Church. How can we move forward when half our membership (actually probably more than half) is not even represented in the language by which we name ourselves, let alone the authority structure.

Our liturgy continues to say, “For us MEN and for our salvation.”  Why could we not take out “MEN?” How can a years long review of the liturgical language not give that small concession to the women in the Church? Simple!  There were no women in the “we” that decided on the new translation, only men and why should they care to change it even if they noticed its sexism, and I doubt they did. Just as there were no women present when the leaders of “our” Church met to discuss our national concerns and blithely continued the use of a gender-specific metaphor that inherently denies the possibility of women ever being included in the ranks of priests and bishops.  How can a female bishop be spiritually wedded to the Church personified as a woman?

Language does not just convey meaning it creates meaning, and hence changes how we perceive reality.  If we cannot change our Catholic language – our pronouns and metaphors – we have no hope of changing our Catholic reality. And that is a damn shame. No progress only regress.

For those who are interested, the November 2011 General Assembly of the United States Catholic Bishops is available as a video record here:

http://usccb.org/about/leadership/usccb-general-assembly/video-on-demand.cfm

According to the article in Commonweal quoted below, the principles guiding the new translation include: maintaining a literal translation, adopting archaic Latin syntax, using words that are not part of our everyday usage and are therefore more difficult to process. The assumption seems to be that if it is unassailable to the intellect of the ordinary Catholic it is holier.

Jesus, in the  tradition of Jewish teachers, made it a practice to engage his audience using metaphors and language that were accessible, drawn from the everyday. It was his desire, it seems, to bring people closer to God, not to obscure God. Our Bishops must have a different agenda.

Our Bishops seem to be as committed to making our liturgical experiences engaging and meaningful as they are to full disclosure of the personnel files of accused sexually abusive priests: not at all.

Which is “truer” – closer to God’s Truth – something that we can understand enough to engage our minds and hearts in the liturgical moment, or something that is intentionally constructed to make such engagement more difficult?  Using Jesus as the model for developing religious language, the answer is clear.

Is this another case of, “power talks and the truth walks?”

 

“It Doesn’t Sing ~ The Trouble with the New Roman Missal,” Rita Ferrone

“Clarity and intelligibility were principles of liturgical renewal specifically named by the fathers of the Second Vatican Council in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. Until 2001, those who translated liturgical texts into English placed a high priority on the council’s mandate for clarity and intelligibility. Those were essential guiding principles of liturgical reform, not secondary considerations.

Since the publication of the new Vatican instruction on translation Liturgiam authenticam in 2001, however, other principles are deemed more important. They include: the exact rendering of each word and expression of the Latin, the use of sacral vocabulary remote from ordinary speech, and reproduction of the syntax of the Latin original whenever possible. When a choice must be made, those principles trump the principles of clarity and intelligibility. The result has been, not surprisingly, a translation that is filled with expressions not easily understood by English speakers. It has resulted in prayers that are long-winded, pointlessly complex, hard to proclaim, and difficult to understand.

There are many places in the new translation where the words simply don’t make sense in English. On the First Sunday of Advent, we pray that we may “run forth with righteous deeds.” What does that mean? Many expressions sound pompous: “profit our conversion,” “the sacrifice of conciliation,” “an oblation pleasing to your almighty power.”

Rita ends her article thus:

“Yes, we can get used to the new translation of the Roman Missal. But we shouldn’t. The church can do better, and deserves better, than this.”

http://commonwealmagazine.org/it-doesn’t-sing

An exceptional young Latin scholar (in college at the age of 16) has written a critique of the New Translation — posted on NCR.com — that is receiving a lot of response. I can’t respond to his Latin issues, having studied Latin for all or 3 weeks before switching to German (a decision I regret to this day), but I am impressed with his passion for the mass itself. He is angry with Rome for messing with something that is important to him.

I feel that one good thing that might come out of the backwards trend of Catholic liturgical “development” is a growing discomfort, among practicing Catholics like Erik, with this recurrent assumption in the post(anti)-Vatican II era that God’s truth, and thus Catholic doctrine, found its greatest, highest, most accurate, most pure formulations in the medieval church and in the Latin language. Why does Rome assume that? Why is Trent still the benchmark of God’s truth? And why is Latin the sacred language, not Greek, not Aramaic, not Hebrew? Why couldn’t Vatican II be understood as the most current doctrinal benchmark? In fact, shouldn’t it be? Shouldn’t the most recent council be assumed to be the most current expression of the Truth that God wishes us to follow, through the guidance of God’s Spirit in the Church? Or did that end with Trent and with the Latin mass?  Had God’s Spirit stopped guiding the Church since we dropped the Latin? Is she pouting?

Perhaps the translation is just another manifestation of the desire for control, power, separation of clergy and laity, lay submission to authority?  And how are those in authority expressing their spirituality these days? How are they communicating the guidance of the Holy Spirit?  Apparently the Holy Spirit is concerned with preserving property and reputation, and rewarding those who protect both rather than protecting children. (Anyone read the reports of Cardinal Law’s big birthday bash in Rome?)

It is time for pew Catholics to rebel, and maybe this translation will be the last straw for some. And that would be good. Perhaps the only good that could come out of this translation.

Latin whiz, 16, finds new liturgy language lacking

…Ultimately, the whole affair just begs the question of why the Latin Mass has any particular spiritual significance. It’s certainly not Scripture, and it’s often just an amalgamation of various communal prayers used throughout Europe for several centuries. In fact, many early bishops would write their own Masses or translations to best fit their community’s needs. And that’s the essence of Mass.

The reason why we come to Mass in the first place rather than just praying by ourselves is the interaction with others that has spiritual importance. In the Mass the people become the Body of Christ, conceived as the organic whole Paul
writes about in the famous passage from 1 Corinthians: “for the body is not one member, but many.”  …

Yesterday, two US organisations, SNAP (The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and religious) and The Center for Constitutional Rights (a New York-based nonprofit legal group) appeared at the International Criminal Court in the Hague, to request that the Pope and three Cardinals of the Catholic Church be investigated for crimes against humanity. To put this in perspective, the ICC is currently hearing cases of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur, particularly against civilians.

Should the officials of the Church be held responsible for the spiritual genocide of thousands of children perpetrated by “officers” of their organisation, who used their “uniform” and authority to elicit dread obedience from children ranging in age from kindergarten through high school for the purpose of sexual gratification?  Perhaps not, you think? After all, the criminals were each responsible for their own crimes.

But…

Should the officials of the Church be held responsible for creating and/or enforcing of directives that established protocols for a response to victims that relied on threat, intimidation, and the enforcement of oaths of secrecy?

Should the officials of the Church be held responsible for creating and/or enforcing directives that established protocols of mis-representation and re-assignment in the treatment of accused and/or admitted pedophiles and ephebophiles in the priesthood?

Should the officials of the Church be held responsible for ignoring or undermining the directives established by the USCCB and other national Catholic bodies for the protection of children from the criminal behavior of sexually predatory Catholic priests and religious?

Without a doubt!

Will bringing this case solve the problem? No.  Will it make a difference? Simply by the enormity of the public scandal, yes.

According to Tom Reese SJ, on the America Magazine Blog, at the installation the new Cardinals will take an oath of fidelity and obedience to the pope and his successors. Text below: 

I [name and surname], Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, promise and swear to be faithful henceforth and forever, while I live, to Christ and his Gospel, being constantly obedient to the Holy Roman Apostolic Church, to Blessed Peter in the person of the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI, and of his canonically elected Successors; to maintain communion with the Catholic Church always, in word and deed; not to reveal to anyone what is confided to me in secret, nor to divulge what may bring harm or dishonor to Holy Church; to carry out with great diligence and faithfulness those tasks to which I am called by my service to the Church, in accord with the norms of the law. So help me Almighty God. [Translation by Zenit.]

One comment on the blog already raises the question about the appropriateness of such an oath given the fact of the scandal regarding abusive priests. Surely a greater scandal was caused by the secrecy regarding the protection of molesters and rapists and their multiple re-assignments which led in so many documented cases to multiple new victims. As a victim myself I have often reflected on the fact that my abuse, even the abuse of my siblings, was not enough to rob me of my faith in the Church, it was the scandal that came to light regarding the official policies of the ecclesial authorities that caused the greatest damage:

  • the systemic and documented policies of support for the perpetrators
  • avoidance of the truth (!) when asked about the personal histories and personnel files of individual priests
  • protection of the perpetrators from criminal charges
  • imposition of silence on the victims under threat of excommunication or removal of support
  • funding of aggressive lobbying against the removal of statutes of limitations

There are, as so many commentators have pointed out, sex abusers in every religious and social organisation and in many families. Finding evidence of abusers in the Catholic Church was not surprising, finding evidence of organized sanctioned cover-up was devastating. 

I am in mourning for my faith in my Church.

Washington Post,  November 8

Pope Benedict XVI has summoned cardinals from around the world to a day-long summit in Rome next week on the clerical sex abuse scandal and other issues facing the Catholic Church, the Vatican said Monday.

The Vatican called the session “a day of reflection and prayer” that also will include discussions on threats to religious freedom, relations with other religions and procedures for disaffected Anglicans to join the Catholic Church. Five Church of England bishops announced Monday they were converting to Catholicism following Benedict’s invitation to disaffected Anglicans.

Really? Sex abuse, religious freedom, ecumenism, and Anglican ministers joining the church … all in one day? Is this just a publicity gesture? Certainly, prayerful reflection is an important tool for Catholic leaders to utilise — would that more of them had used it in the past.  But what is the point of identifying so many issues as the focus for a single day? Nothing substantial can possibly be achieved in one day, except the eliciting of agreement on already formed papal opinion. Is that what the church needs right now — more yes men?  We can’t even get a decent English translation of the New Missal. How can we expect any real growth on the issue of abuse unless the pope is willing to actually address it with meaningful investigation, prayerful reflection and input from professionals in such fields as medicine, law enforcement, psychology, psychiatry and criminal law.  And by “willing to address it” I mean a month or a couple of weeks not a couple of hours, however prayerful.

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