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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.”

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For reasons of health  and advanced age, Pope Benedict XVI will resign on February 28, 2013.

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What will they do? Will they elect a new King?

 

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And continue to close their eyes to their crimes?

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Or will they search for the light of the Holy spirit?

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And imagine a New Beginning, A New Creation?

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And what will the Church do? Because … they are not the Church; the People of God are the Church. And it’s time to stop waiting for Rome to change – or for the perfect Pope, the Council that best expresses your views, the best translation of the liturgy. Start being the Church you want the Church to be. Like the brave women and men who have recently received excommunication.

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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.”  …

Dominican nuns serve heroically in midst of Iraq’s violence  from Catholic Culture.org.

“Early in the crisis, especially in 2003 and 2004, most of Iraq’s hospitals closed down,” she added. “We run Al-Hayat Hospital in Baghdad, and we stayed opened. We stayed open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We stayed open for the people.”

The Dominicans have been serving in Iraq since the thirteenth century.

“The War in Iraq has drawn the attention of the Christian world to the presence there of a native church with roots extending all the way back to Apostolic times. There are also about 200 Dominicans there. Dominican friars first came to Mesopotamia, the country the world now calls Iraq, in the thirteenth century.  They established a small community in Baghdad to minister to Christians there  and to study Arabic and the culture and history of the people at the University of Baghdad. A church and priory were built in Mosul in the northern part of the country.”

For more details you can visit the Dominican Life site. Or click on the logo below for a list of articles about Dominicans in Iraq.

I’ll come home when:

— I see a bishop or cardinal or abbot prosecuted instead of promoted for harboring and reassigning priests who have admitted to sexually abusing minors

— I see accusations of abuse handed over to the criminal justice system and not filed away in secret personnel records

— I can send my grandchildren to Catholic grammar schools trusting that they will NEVER come into contact with a priest who has uninvestigated accusations of criminal abuse of children in his records in any diocese in any country in which he has formerly served

— I can overcome my anger and regenerate my trust

— AND I can receive the sacraments from women deacons and women priests, and sadly this is probably the most unlikely of all.

According to the Jesuit poet G.M. Hopkins, the “grandeur” of God flames out in the world and in nature.  Hopkins believed that, despite our destructive ways, humankind cannot destroy the presence of God’s grace in nature, renewed by the Holy Spirit each day at dawn. In a similar vein, I believe that the sins of the Catholic leaders cannot destroy the power of God’s grace being experienced today in the faith and hope of so many Catholics.

Thousands of Catholics are committed to a church in which the priestly vocations of women are treated with equal respect to the priestly vocations of men, and in which a life of celibacy is not a pre-requisite for a life of priestly ministry.

This is a time for renewal, a new dawn for our Church.  The momentum for change is building at the grass-roots level, the people of God.  All the disenfranchised need a voice; all the abused and betrayed deserve to be heard.  And the journey forward will not be easy.

But what about the abusers in our church? Can’t a priest be forgiven and receive the grace of God to overcome his compulsion to abuse children? As Elizabeth Dreyer eloquently expresses in Manifestations of Grace, grace has the power to transform, to bring life out of death, hope out of despair. I firmly believe in God’s grace and that I am alive only through the power of God’s grace. God’s grace is not in question. The issue, however, is not God’s grace, but the power of the human person to remain open and respond to that grace.

Repentance is not enough; reception of the sacraments is not enough. Neither personal repentance nor communal sacraments have the power to change a sexual disorder.  Our bishops made this assumption in the past with horrific results, But now it should be clear to them: credibly accused pedophile priests must be taken out of ministry, regardless of statutes of limitations.

As a survivor who still considers herself a Catholic, the most pressing issue right now is not how can I heal (I have learned what I need to do) but how can the church heal?I do believe, as Jesus himself modeled, that the greatest challenge for any Christian, any human being, is to turn evil into good. Great evil has been perpetrated against our children, and also against our whole church community through the deceptions and cover-ups that made the Catholics in the pews unwitting accomplices in a morally corrupt institutional structure. The pain of healing will be no less than the pain caused by that evil. Our journey to forgiveness and healing will be long.

There is nothing sensible that can be said in defense of this news today:

 WASHINGTON (CNS) — The Vatican’s decision to declare the attempted ordination of women a major church crime reflects “the seriousness with which it holds offenses against the sacrament of holy orders” and is not a sign of disrespect toward women, Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington said July 15.

The archbishop, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Doctrine, spoke at a news briefing in the headquarters of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops hours after the Vatican issued new norms for handling priestly sex abuse cases and updated its list of the “more grave crimes” against church law, including for the first time the “attempted sacred ordination of a woman.”

What I suggest is that we all get more involved in organizations like: Future Church; Call to Action; Voice of the Faithful; Women Priests; Catholic Women’s Ordination; Women’s Ordination Conference.

You don’t have to risk excommunication to lobby for women’s rights. From the Women Priests website:
“We are faithful Catholics who show why the exclusion of women from priesthood is wrong. We raise awareness and facilitate informed discussion about women’s ordination. We work for reform from the center of the Church.”

Other groups are willing to step beyond the current boundaries. One decision all concerned Catholics have to face is whether continuing to work from within the church is worth the grief. Then again, only Catholics can bring about change to the Catholic Church.  One view of the news today is that it represents a Church hierarchy scrambling to re-assert its authority in the light of impending collapse of current structures. Maybe. We can only hope.

 Here’s a page of other links that might be worth visiting in order to revive hope in the future of Catholicism. http://www.futurechurch.org/links.htm.

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