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Love, No Matter What – Begins With Acceptance

I was watching a TED talk by Andrew Solomon on unconditional love and it occurred to me that there are parallels for love and acceptance that can teach a lesson in love for the Catholic Church.

The lesson can extend to ecumenism, but why not begin within our community.

Andrew began his talk by defining culture where people don’t typically see one.

“I became convinced that deafness was a culture. That people in the deaf world said ‘we don’t lack hearing,’ ‘we have membership in a culture,’ ‘we’re saying something that was viable.'”

“It wasn’t my culture and I didn’t particularly want to rush off and joint it, but I appreciated that it was a culture and that for the people who were members of it, it felt as valuable as Latino culture, or Gay culture, or Jewish culture. It felt as valid as even American culture.”

What most people see when the discussion involves deafness, dwarfism, homosexuality, etc. is an illness, a defect, or a weakness. Perhaps you and I see it that way still. We must understand that there are people who live in that culture who see it differently.

It takes empathy to understand how other people see their culture. It may not be a culture we desire to embrace. That does not make it a less viable culture.

Similar to the deaf culture, which is made up of the people who see themselves as members, there is a diverse Catholic culture. This culture is also made up of people who see themselves as members. We see might require empathy to understand the viability of the culture, but that is an expectation of love.

Andrew went on to explain how cultural identity is perceive.

“There are really two kinds of identity. There are vertical identities that are passed down generationally, from parent to child. Those are things like ethnicity, frequently nationality, language, often religion. Those are things you have in common with your parents and with your children. While some of them can be difficult there is no attempt to cure them. Nobody is trying to ensure that the next generation of African Americans and Asians will come out with creamy skin and yellow hair.”

“There are these other identities which you have to learn from a peer group. I call them horizontal identities because the peer group is the horizontal experience. These are identities that are alien to your parents and that you have to discover when you get to see them in peers. Those horizontal identities, people have almost always tried to cure.”

As the human race goes, we all begin with the same vertical identities such as gender, ethnicity, etc. It is the horizontal identities that fill out the shape of our Catholic culture. This is also where people perceive a threat to their Catholic culture.

If we only see another person’s Catholic’s culture as an illness requiring a cure, we will see them as a threat.

It is empathy that will allow us to see another’s Catholic culture as viable.

We may not be willing to join them and be a member of their culture, but the viability of that culture can still be acknowledged.

Andrew went on to explain that with time we can accept the cultures of others as part of the broader human experience.

“There were three levels of acceptance that need to take place. There’s self acceptance, there’s family acceptance, and there’s social acceptance. They don’t always coincide. Acceptance is something that takes time. It always takes time.”

Accepting that there are a wide variety of Catholic cultures and identities that are all valid will help to unify the Catholic Church.

“Stories of families negotiating these extreme differences reflect to the universal experience of parenting. It turns out that each of these individual differences is siloed. There are only so many families dealing with schizophrenia, there are only so many families of children who are transgender, there are only so many families of prodigies, who also face similar challenges in many ways. There are only so many families in each of those categories, but if you start to think that the experience of negotiating difference within your family is what people are addressing then you discover it is a nearly universal phenomenon. Ironically it turns out that it is our differences and our negotiation of difference that unite us.”

Within the Catholic Church our differences and can unite us. The dialogue around negotiating the differences between, say – traditional and non-traditional cultures, is universal with negotiating the differences between other Catholic identities and cultures.

This dialogue all begins when we recognize viable cultures and identities. We then validate the viability of the culture and accept it as part of the Catholic Church.

For example we can recognize that there is a pre-conciliar Catholic culture. This culture cuts across many identities, but it is a viable Catholic culture.

We can also recognize that there is a post-conciliar Catholic culture. This culture cuts across many identities, but it is a viable Catholic culture.

If we can negotiate the differences between these seemingly competing cultures, and they each accept the other, these cultures can become united within the Catholic Church. As a consequence the Church becomes stronger and we can ensure that there will be a Catholic Church in the future.

It will take courage from the Church hierarchy and laity to take these steps, but I believe we can do it.

God bless,

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Homily: The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph [B]

How lovely, how tender, the way aged Simeon, the frailties of his years draped over him, cradles the infant Jesus in his arms. Imagine holding in your arms this most wanted child, the hope of the ages, the yearning of your entire life.
James C Howell

The readings for The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Luke 2:22-40) cycle B can be found here.

Anybody familiar with the Liturgy of the Hours will likely have heard the words of Simeon. Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine, secundum verbum tuum, in pace. Lord, let your servant go in peace, as you promised.

The Nunc Dimittis is said at night prayer, usually vespers or compline, and is derived from the Gospel reading used this Sunday.

Aside from that bit of trivia, the scripture scholar will tell you that the witness of Simeon and Anna marked Jesus as the new Temple. To understand this better we need to understand what the Temple meant to the people in Jesus’ day.

Heerak Christian Kim tells us that “during the Hasmonean period, it was priestly individuals who assumed royal powers, not the Davidic line. …where to be priestly was essential to rise to power… The Jerusalem Temple was the source of power and authority. The Jerusalem Temple is what granted individual and corporate salvation on the religious level. The Jerusalem Temple was too sacred and too central to the experience of the Jewish people to be ignored or opposed.”

Simeon and Anna represented the Temple cult and God’s people who were waiting for the the Messiah. By the time Luke wrote the Gospel the Jerusalem Temple had already been destroyed by the Romans. Jesus was recognized by the Lucan community as the new Temple where salvation was granted. The witness of Simeon and Anna gives meaning to the redemptive power of Jesus.

The witness of Simeon and Anna also provides a model for our witness today. Helmut Flender explains that “Luke expresses by this arrangement that man and woman stand together and side by side before God. They are equal in honour and grace, they are endowed with the same gifts and have the same responsibilities.” We are all called to share in this witness.

Simeon and Anna recognized that the unfolding events meant that the wait was over. With Jesus, came the kingdom.

Today, our witness to the redemptive power of Jesus, the new Temple, includes God’s kingdom here and now. This is our responsibility as Christians.

Christianity is not simply a doctrine: it is an encounter in faith with God made present in our history through the incarnation of Jesus. Try by every means to make this encounter possible, and look towards Jesus who is passionately seeking you. Seek him with the eyes of the flesh through the events of life and in the faces of others; but seek him too with the eyes of the soul through prayer and meditation on the Word of God…

Saint Pope John Paul II “Message of the Holy Father John Paul II to the youth of the world on the occasion of the XIX World Youth Day 2004”

If you take one thing away from this homily it should be that we are all called to witness to God’s salvation in Jesus. This salvation is meant for everybody, not a select few, as God’s promise is for all.

Jewish understanding of salvation was limited to obedience to the law. Our understanding of salvation is to seek Jesus and bear witness in the events of our lives and the people we meet.

“Living fully, loving wastefully and being all that we can be” is my definition of seeing the presence of God in human life.
John Shelby Spong

My all time favorite explanation for witnessing to Jesus comes from Bishop John Shelby Spong.

If we can all strive for this type of witness, God’s kingdom will come.

God bless,

Homily: Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome [A]

Jesus had been made to identify his body with the Temple… The function of the Temple, John argues, had now been taken over by the life of Jesus, whom the very defenders of the religious tradition of the past had crucified. God, however, had raised him up in glory.
– John Shelby Spong (The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic) p. 145

The readings for the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome cycle A can be found here.

At the time the Gospel was written 40 years had passed since the Temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed. Scripture scholars will tell you that the Johannine community interpreted the story of the cleansing of the temple as referential to the resurrection of Jesus. As is the custom in John’s Gospel the Jewish leaders take Jesus’ words literally and think He means to take down the brick and mortar structure and rebuild it quickly. Jesus explains that the new temple is found in the resurrection.

The Johannine community also held the words of Jesus in the same regard as they did the Jewish scriptures. Jesus quotes from Psalm 69 as He cleanses the Temple.

For zeal for thy house has consumed me, and the insults of those who insult thee have fallen on me.
Psalm 69:9

The tenor of the Psalm is passionate support for the efforts of rebuilding the Temple, even if it means facing insults. The Psalmist uses the language of the present, as zeal has already consumed the Temple supporter. John has Jesus speak the words in a future tense. The passionate support for the rebuilding efforts will be reflected in the resurrection. We only need to look forward to the raising of Lazarus to find that future.

John’s Jesus says to Martha: I AM the resurrection and the life. The verb is present tense, not past or future. The power of Jesus’s message is the certainty of eternal life here and now, not there and then.
Sea Raven

This life we lead is our eternal life. There are people who will tell you about the promises of heavenly treasures. We spend out lives looking toward that last day, where we will see the promises of heavenly treasures fulfilled. Martha, like many people we meet, refers to the resurrection on the last day. Jesus tells Martha, and us, that He is the resurrection and the life today. We need to remember these words of Jesus. We are living our eternal life right now, and Jesus at this very moment is the resurrection and eternal life.

If we remember this message from our Sunday Gospel our lives will be profoundly different. All the words of Jesus, held in the highest regard along side the Jewish scriptures, come into focus and make sense.

Love God and love your neighbor have much more meaning to our lives today if we believe in the resurrection today. We need to be passionate about cleansing old notions of resurrection from our lives, our speech, our theology and our liturgy. Jesus created a whip and drove out the sheep, oxen and the dove sellers because they corrupted the Temple. That is our lesson this Sunday.

If you take one thing away from this homily; be consumed by the passion to support the resurrection in our eternal life today. For our salvation remind those people we meet, who’s resurrection is focused on the last day, that Jesus is the resurrection and the life – today.

God bless,

State of the Church, Vatican II, Realism, and Wishful Thinking

Linguam Latinam Amo. Surfers, if you spend enough time hanging around the Catholic Church you will have to learn a little Latin. It permeates the culture and no discussion of the Church can be complete without it. For that reason we will begin with Seamus Heaney.

‘In principio erat Verbum et Verbum erat apud Deum, et Deus erat Verbum. Hoc erat in principio apud Deum.’

‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’
—venerable as this English sounded, it came across as secondary. For whatever reason —maybe because of the numinous force which Latin then possessed as the medium of the liturgy and of the Church’s magisterium, maybe because of some older need for a magic language that would altogether open and close the world— for whatever reason, the Gospel heard in my own tongue sounded smaller…

Seamus Heaney

To Mr Heaney, the enjoyment of the Latin “has little to do with the confession of faith. It arises from a source commonly acknowledged by myth and meditated upon by linguistic philosophers, and it is shared by all poets.” Listening to a Latin Mass can bring mystery from ancient times to the liturgy you know. For those old enough to remember the feeling is akin to nostalgia.

In this post we will continue discussions about the future of the Catholic Church. We can’t have a discussion about the future of the Church without first dealing with the past and confusion regarding the “error of the post-Conciliar Church.” Strap yourselves in because we will dive head-long into the quagmire as we bring a focus on the current state of the Church.

Many know the famous phrase of a well-known Soviet theoretician: “If the facts do not agree with us, all the worse for the facts”. This maxim fits the attitude of all too many Catholics today. Faced with the obvious crisis in the life of Grace, faced with the corresponding crisis in the Church, they insist that there is no need to change pastoral directives, the direction in which things have been moving, the specific initiatives of the last ten years.
Professor Corrado Gnerre (European University of Rome)

Professor Gnerre loves the Church. He believes that there are too many Catholics today who see the facts and the crises but hold fast to the opinion that nothing needs to be done and no change is required. In the interest of full disclosure, I could be categorized as one of those Catholics.

If you are not familiar with all the facts of the obvious Grace crises and the corresponding crises of the Church I will guide you through one later in the blog post. Right now understand that Professor Gnerre has advocated, in his words, radically changing the moral teaching of the Church and breaking through the ideology that prevents the Church from seeing things as they are. The good professor’s understanding is that “Christians of a traditional mind-set… read things as they are” while the majority of Christians “indulge in the illusion that things are going well when they are not going well at all.”

When Professor Gnerre uses the word “things” he is speaking about “recognizing the difference between the past and the present… [and] the longing for another time.” The time he is longing for is a pre-conciliar time, or before Vatican II. Unlike Seamus Heaney, Professor Gnerre is not speaking about the mythic sounds heard as part of the Latin Mass. The good professor wants to roll back all of the Vatican II initiatives.

To reiterate the words of Professor Gnerre, if you have a traditional-mindset you recognize the difference between the pre-conciliar Church and the present day Church. Also, you see clearly that the present day Church is not going well at all, therefore a return to the pre-conciliar Church is in order.

You have now heard the argument for a return to pre-Vatican II discipline. Now is the time for the spoiler alert. If you strongly connected with the words of Professor Gnerre you can stop reading and just enjoy the link to his writing. While I do not believe the present day Church is going well the last thing I would want is to return to pre-conciliar discipline. The hairs on the back of my neck stick up just thinking about going back.

Mine is a strong reaction and in my view Corrado Gnerre exhibits a silo mentality where the like minded people form a clique to build high the wall to protect against perceived threats. The wall prevents us from talking and sharing our mutual Catholic knowledge and interests. I would like to see the whole Church open up to discussing the facts that Professor Gnerre sees. The trouble is the mere idea that there might be some question regarding the facts will elicit an angry response. The anger is part of the wall built as a security blanket to protect against threats. I am not asking the traditional-minded Catholics to submit to the Novus Ordo I am simply asking for some constructive dialogue to help make our future Church stronger.

One of the facts that traditional-minded Catholics see as a crisis in the Church is the pedophile priest scandal. The perception is that the present day Church is not going well because since Vatican II hundreds of priests have been defrocked for pedophilia. The perception is this would not have happened in the pre-conciliar Church. Cause: Vatican II. Effect: pedophile priests and crisis in the life of Grace. Seems plausible unless you understand Church history.

One of the most striking missives is the 1049 letter to Pope Leo IX from St. Peter Damian, the patron saint of church reform, in which he recommended zero tolerance. He taught that any priest having sex with a minor, mostly boys and young clerics at the time, should be stripped of his clerical office.
A. W. Richard Sipe

This means we can take the pedophile priest scandal off the table as a fact caused by Vatican II. This crisis in the life of Grace is a genuine concern that we need to address, but let us all agree that returning to the pre-conciliar Church is not the answer. Now is the time to stop the rhetoric and solve this problem. As a side note anybody who believes that by eliminating celibacy we will solve the pedophile priest issue will be disappointed.

Celibacy was a voluntary ascetic practice of early Christian monks and some clerics, but not universally required of Roman Catholic priests until 1139.
A. W. Richard Sipe

Every fact and crisis in the life of Grace that is seen clearly by the traditional-minded Catholic has a cause other than Vatican II. Every one. Don’t allow yourself to be swayed by the conviction of Catholics with an agenda, including mine. So how is it that all the traditional minded Catholics have come to blame Vatican II for all of our current crises? The professor, and those like him, are under the influence of a human condition called false consensus bias. Never heard of this human condition? Keep reading.

As individuals trapped inside our own minds 24/7, it’s often difficult for us to project outside the bounds of our own consciousness and preferences. We tend to assume that most people think just like us — though there may be no justification for it. This cognitive shortcoming often leads to a related effect known as the false consensus bias where we tend to believe that people not only think like us, but that they also agree with us.
Projection Bias

False consensus bias is part of being human. Now, surfers, I don’t expect you to believe as I do or even agree with me on this subject, but if we are going to have a serious discussion we need accept that our human condition comes with limitations. False consensus bias is a subset of confirmation bias and we all are affected by this condition also.

We love to agree with people who agree with us. It’s why we only visit websites that express our political opinions, and why we mostly hang around people who hold similar views and tastes. We tend to be put off by individuals, groups, and news sources that make us feel uncomfortable or insecure about our views. The often unconscious act of referencing only those perspectives that fuel our pre-existing views, while at the same time ignoring or dismissing opinions — no matter how valid — that threaten our world view.
– Confirmation Bias

Does confirmation bias sound familiar? Can you see it reflected in your own life? If we are going to seriously discuss the state of the Church, Vatican II, realism and wishful thinking we need to understand our own limitations. Start by hanging around people who hold different views from our own. If we find individuals and news sources that make us feel uncomfortable – good – don’t get put off or dismiss their opinions. By recognizing how we feel we can make a conscious act to put our insecurities aside and openly discuss the future of our Church.

Tu autem, Domine, miserere nobis. Amen.

Time’s Arrow and Mature Faith

Surfers, I would like to introduce you to Gerald Warner. Gerald is a dyed in the wool Catholic, as am I. Gerald has a strong opinion and a strong desire to fight against the injustices he sees in the Catholic hierarchy, as do I. Railing against a bureaucratic leadership and screaming into the stiff breeze that drowns out the cries for a Christianity that represents good faith is a common platform Gerald and I share. With all of this said, why, when I read the words Gerald writes, do I hang my head and sigh?

The world and his dog knows that the Second Vatican Catastrophe was the worst disaster ever to afflict the Church. It led to the abandonment of their vocations by half a million priests, monks, nuns and religious, the apostasy of countless millions of laymen, the loss of any familiarity with basic doctrine and, due to the rejection of all moral discipline, a massive sexual scandal. This they called “Renewal”. Vatican II renewed the Church in the way that the atomic bomb improved the environment of Hiroshima.
Gerald Warner

You better believe that I was prepared to write a blog post that was scathing and loaded with facts. Then I realized that I was not going to be leading others to God if I continued down that path. I try to always lead others toward God and not cause any crisis of faith. Where I live I have chosen to raise my family within a Parish comprised entirely of Geralds. I grew up here within this tradition and family is more important than my personal ideology. Oh, but it leads to bouts of frustration.

I tell you all this because you, dear surfer, may have the same frustrations that I do. I want you to know that you are not alone. I don’t have any data to support this contention, but I believe there are more of us than there are of Geralds within Catholicism.

I know what you are thinking; “how do I bring the Geralds of this world around to my way of believing?” Catholic worship would be so much better. It is certainly not by acting out your frustrations in anger, including a blog filled with vitriol. There is no reasoning or argument that will sway Catholics who want to go back in time. John Shelby Spong tells us that a belief system like Gerald’s “grows out of fear and insecurity and can only be engaged when that fear level is lowered and the insecurity needs are calmed.” He goes on to say that we need to love them and bring the principles of justification and sanctification to bear in our relations.

…starting with a radical acceptance of where a person is (that is what I believe justification means) and then loving that person into being all that they can be (that is what I believe sanctification means).
John Shelby Spong

In order for us to radically accept where Gerald is currently in his faith development, I have brought you a quote.

A frightening transformation in the faith and life of Catholics has taken place and is called Protestantisation. As Cardinals Ottaviani and Bacci wrote to Pope Paul VI in their Brief Critical Study:

‘ […] we consider the innovations implied or taken for granted which may of course be evaluated in different ways, the Novus Ordo represents, both as a whole and in its details, a striking departure from the Catholic theology of the Mass as it was formulated in Session XXII of the Council of Trent. The “canons” of the rite definitively fixed at that time provided an insurmountable barrier to any heresy directed against the integrity of the Magisterium.”
An editorial from Radicati nella Fede

Suffice it to say that the Council of Trent took place a long time ago. Gerald’s Catholic faith development is fixed in time, 1564 to be exact. The concept of the arrow of time is defined in the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Even the stars cannot shine forever, and time only runs in one direction.

Our psychological sense of time is based on the second law. It summarizes what we have seen, what we have experienced, what we think will happen. Unconsciously, you are mentally comparing what you see now with your past practical experience — and that has all followed the second law.

… the second law is blocked by the strength of chemical bonds.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics!

Surfers, understand that Gerald, and the Catholics like him, have done everything they can to block the 2nd law, freeze the practices of faithful Catholics, and maintain the glory that was the Council of Trent.

As the chemical bonds weakened over the years(scientific discovery / advancements in theology) the arrow of time moved forward and the fears and insecurities of Catholics like Gerald increased.

There is a desire among these Catholics to restore Catholicism to its former glory. This requires the arrow of time to move backward, but the 2nd law tells us this cannot happen. Time moves in one direction only.

He [Diocletian] and leading intellectuals of his regime believed that the old world could revive in all its glory, if only social and spiritual unity were restored. (as it relates to Rome’s final attempt to limit the expansion of Christianity.)
Richard E. Rubenstein

I don’t fault them for trying, but others have tried to restore the past, to no avail. I believe it was the novelist George Santayana who said “Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.”

Surfers, if you can radically accept Gerald, with all of his fears and insecurities, it is time to move on to the stage where we love him to be the best he can be. This requires a mature, or maturing faith on our part.

Here are the top signs of faith maturity. (taken from here)

A mature faith allows a person to cope well with change. A person who’s faith is mature will not resist change. The change may be difficult for that person to make, but someone with a mature faith will realize that this change is necessary. A mature faith can handle changes and will adjust for those changes.

When a person with a mature faith becomes angry, they avoid verbally or physically hurting someone. They can handle criticism, and do not feel attacked every time they receive criticism of their beliefs. They are able to forgive others and do not hold grudges for past actions. They have patience for mistakes that people make.

A person with a mature faith will seek solutions to problems in their worship. When faced with challenges, they do not show self-pity and take little action to improve their situation. They are willing to find different solutions to address the challenges in their worship.

Persons with a mature faith are hopeful. They believe that worship can change and get better. They understand that with faith, effort and acceptance, things can improve.

A person with a mature faith is a giver. They are able to give back to others. They believe in returning favors to others. They happily do kind things for love of neighbor. They are willing to sacrifice some of themselves to help someone grow in faith.

A person with a mature faith is resilient. When times get tough, they learn to adjust and handle those difficulties. This may be a lengthy process but resilience happens.

A person with a mature faith can step out of their comfort zone. They are willing to worship in ways out of the ordinary and gradually get away from a situation that may seem secure. They can take risks in worship practices, doing something that feels a bit uncomfortable at first.

Persons with a mature faith live in the present. They don’t allow past circumstances to strongly impact their faith life now. They are able to realize that worship practices change, and can learn to adapt.

Perhaps after reading through this you realize that you might have an immature faith in some areas of your worship. I know that I do. I also know I can increase my maturity, with Jesus and John Shelby Spong as my guides, and better accept Catholics where they are and love them to be the best they can be today. You can do the same.

God bless,

Predicting Future Catholicism

Have you ever wondered what the Catholic Church will look like in the future? If you had asked that question to Catholics in 1953 would they have been able to describe the church of today? That was 60 years ago and it seems like forever. What about if we asked the question to Catholics in 1993 instead? Would the Catholics only 20 years ago be able to describe the church of today?

Alright, I am asking you today; what will the church look like 20 years from today? You can’t say? I don’t blame you. Who knows what courageous Catholics will step up in the next 20 years to shape the church? I am personally hoping for another voice like Fr. Andrew Greeley who speaks from the source of conviction and uses data to cut through the morass of opinions.

There are some Catholics who are willing to make a prediction, or at least speak their hopes or fears, of the future in 20 years. Most of the predictions I have read state their own vision of a utopian Catholic Church or warn against some apocalyptic vision. I have not found one of these predictions to suit my own desires for the future, but perhaps you might.

I will offer, for your evaluation, one such utopian vision in this post. It is one that is getting popular circulation in recent days, so you may have already read it. This is called “Looking Backwards” by Fr. C. John McCloskey. Take a moment to read it now before we discuss its contents.

2030: Looking Backwards

Now that you have had a chance to read the words of Fr. McCloskey, let’s break down his vision.

I am reminded, however, of a story, apocryphal I’m sure, told about St. Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo, in Northern Africa (and probably about other particularly wise men and women). Someone is supposed to have asked him what God was doing before God created the world. His answer was that God was creating hell for people who ask questions like that!
We have a strong tradition of prophetic voices in the history of the church. Chief among them is John the Baptist. People reportedly came from all Judea to be baptized by John the Baptist. His message was simple, repent and prepare for the coming of the Lord. Another voice is that of the prophet Amos. Amos is known as the prophet of justice. “But let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” The message of Amos was to remember the Ten Commandments and the covenant we have with God.
~John Shelby Spong

Much like John the Baptist and the prophet Amos, Fr. McCloskey has been preaching a message of renewal to older traditions, and he has been directly involved in the conversion of many people. Based solely on his writings Fr. McCloskey has been preaching that we have fallen away from our roots and need to remember where we came from in order to create the future we desire.

In the interest of full disclosure I must tell you that I don’t know Fr. McCloskey and I dislike his vision for the church. In all honesty the position of Fr. McCloskey could not be farther from my own.

I am not here to support his vision, but instead to help you decipher the messages of Fr. McCloskey, and the others like him, so you can make your own informed decisions.

Fr. McCloskey is focused on the problems that need to be overcome. We will review what he sees as the real problems. In the back of your mind remember the messages of John the Baptist and Amos.

Lots of the problems of the 50-year period after the close of the Council could have been avoided particularly in the West, had they been seen in the perspective of the history of the Church…

… the problem was really a question of proper ecclesiology and that problem has been solved.

… the problem was not at all with rites but rather with reverence, obedience to the rubrics, and the interior lives of those celebrating the sacraments.

There are always problems in the Church given its human nature combined with its Divine Personality.

If you run into some problems, as you will, stay close to Mary.

Fr. McCloskey makes a compelling argument and you might feel inclined to believe the Church has strayed from the straight and narrow. A great thing about the Church; we all don’t have to agree to get along. All of these problems relate to the obedience to rubrics and proper ecclesiology that existed before Vatican II. These problems could all have been avoided if we would have kept the history of the Church in proper perspective.

These problems are really not about repentance or breaking our covenant with God. Fr. McCloskey is not really providing a prophetic vision of the future. I believe, surfers, that the good Father is really talking about fundamentalism security. These Catholic fundamentalism aspects of 1930’s ecclesiology and obedience to dusty rubrics are really a security blanket that Fr. McCloskey feels he needs. To satisfy his needs he created a vision of the future that is nothing more than a cover for his insecurities.

…because religious discussions are not really about religion. They are about people’s personal security and anything that confirms their security becomes what they believe. People move out of fundamentalism when they are ready to move, not when someone like you tries to push them.
Fundamentalists have simply ignored these [modernist biblical and theological] discoveries and insights if they could and they have denied them if they could not ignore them.
John Shelby Spong

Beware of future predictions that are not related to the universality of our experience of God and Church. I can’t predict the future, but I will offer one last message from John Shelby Spong that comes very close to what I feel the future holds for us. If this message makes you uneasy, that is good. If the message forces you to ask more questions, that is great.

A theistic God is, by definition, a supernatural external deity who is believed to come to our aid in time of need… Suppose we think of God, not as a being to whom we have to relate, but as a presence that can be experienced, but not defined, a presence understood as the source of life flowing through the universe, the source of love enhancing life in all its forms and the ground of being discovered when we have the courage to grasp and even to be what we most deeply are. God then becomes a verb, not a noun… I think Paul was right when he described God as that in which “I live and move and have my being.”
John Shelby Spong

God bless,

Ascension Solemn Blessing

For years I have been attempting to bring to you, surfers, an alternate point of view regarding changing events in Christianity and especially the life of the Catholic Church. Too often the only point of view on some of these topics is fundamentalist or Vatican spin. In this post I will share with you my biggest fears. Seems self-endulgent, and in that statement there lies fact. Truth be told, I have been writing this one post for 5 months. It is not easy, but perhaps you may share my fears and thus I might validate your feelings. With that in mind we begin.

I have been struggling with my faith. Whoa! Shocking revelation? I trust not because we all struggle. This struggle of mine has intensified since 2008. I have been trying to wrap my head around just where the Catholic Church Leadership is heading. You may wonder why I even try, and I sometimes wonder that too. “Come and worship the Lord. For we are His people, the flock that He shepherds. Allelulah!” These words put to song are from Psalm 95 and are meant to bring all people together because we are all part of God’s flock.

The Holy Spirit guides me and the messages cannot be ignored. As a result I struggle with profound sadness. These days I find myself weeping as I read the divine office, say the chaplet of divine mercy, and sing along with John Michael Talbot. These pietistic traditional practices used to still my soul, but now I can no longer even worship on Sundays with my community.

I still receive the blessings revealed to me through the Holy Spirit, but gone are the days when I used to be able to discuss them openly within my community. These days when I reveal the message of the Spirit openly I am rebuffed. Slowly, over the years as I continued to grow in faith the Church has seemingly stopped growing with me. I realized that the faithful (both lay and religious) are merely parroting the message from Catholic leaders in Rome or Menzingen. The approved definition of God becomes more narrow with each passing day. There is no place I can question this shrinking definition. I am in exile.

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
– Philippians 2: 3-5

I urge you, dear surfers, to model yourselves after the example of Paul’s Jesus. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do make a safe place to ask questions. Let me provide an example of questions that need to be asked from my own life.

In preparation for posting info on the new Roman Missal I reviewed some resources related to the 3rd Edition Roman Missal implementation. A bit of catechesis, if you will. I came across a presentation by Msgr. Bruce Harbert on historical catholicity. Msgr. Harbert was the Executive Director of ICEL where he oversaw the committees working on the 3rd Edition translation. In the presentation Harbert reviews the “theological clarity” of the new translation.

Ascension
Solemn Blessing
May almighty God bless you,
for his Only-Begotten Son
pierced the heights of heaven on this day
and unlocked for you the way
to ascend where he has gone.
3rd Edition Roman Missal

See the theological clarity in that blessing? Okay, sarcasm is not fair. The promised questions are coming, so please be patient.

Msgr. Harbert had access to every text related to the new Missal. He clearly chose to use this blessing as a prime example of the great changes in the new Missal. Of all the changes in the Missal he chose this one: Why? Who was the audience that he was trying to reach? What sort of Catholic would search out and educate themselves using his resources? It should be clear from my reaction that I was not the target audience. When I heard the words of Msgr. Harbert I was distressed. This decision is an example that reminds me that our Catholic leadership is rearward facing. As I watched the video I desperately wanted to find an topic that I could use to get excited about the new translation. What happened instead was a revelation that the good Monsignor was parroting the message of the leadership in Rome. Repackaging a bunch of old words that no longer provide meaning. We deserve better.

I hear you saying, “what is he grousing about?” I will provide another example that rubs my hair in the wrong direction.

Ascension Day is an interesting event to celebrate, and I will admit that this is a feast which carries some complications for a scientific minded, late twentieth-early twenty-first century North American like myself… This knowledge of the universe, and this perspective of the universe, makes it difficult for many of us to think of Jesus as floating up to heaven… So instead of celebrating Jesus floating up to heaven, let us prepare for the celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit.
– Padre Mickey (a priest blogging from the Global Center)

What was that message about? Ignore the floating Jesus? We will speak the words of the blessing, but we all know that the words have no meaning, so let’s all agree to ignore them. Where I come from we call that a cop-out (A failure to fulfill a commitment or responsibility or to face a difficulty squarely). On one hand we have the rear facing nature of the text offered by Msgr. Harbert that revolves around the three-tier universe description of the world. On the other hand we have Padre Mickey who has the knowledge and skill to realize that changes are needed but is not willing to advocate for future of the people he serves.

Here is a question for Msgr. Harbert: Why does the blessing emphasize God as separate from us? God “out there” is not a credible concept for the future of Catholicism. Here is a question for Padre Mickey: Why are you looking to your own interests at the expense of the interests of the others? Ignoring a problem is not a way to secure the future of Catholicism.

I hear what you are saying; it is too easy to chuck stones at people and have indignant feelings from your ivory tower. This is true, but I am prepared to offer a solution to both Msgr. Harbert and Padre Mickey. It is the same solution I offer to you, surfers.

A study of the New Testament will reveal that Paul saw the resurrection of Jesus as Jesus having been raised into the meaning and life of God, out of which he appeared in some visionary way to certain chosen witnesses. To say it differently, resurrection for Paul was not physical resurrection back into the life of this world, but was much more like the ascension, even though the ascension itself came to be literalized by the 10th decade and began to be thought of as a physical rising into the sky by Jesus… Affirming the reality of the resurrection experience is quite different from affirming a late first century explanation and interpretation of the resurrection.
~John Shelby Spong

This I believe is is where we can begin to prepare for the future. From this reality of the resurrection experience I can see myself going back to Sunday worship and having meaningful discourse on building the kingdom of heaven on earth. A little education in the Bible and a little courage to listen to the Holy Spirit is all that is needed.