Sunday, July 29, 2012

Bishop Blair-Voice of Catholic Fundamentalism

Subject: [New post] I Heard the Voice of Catholic Fundamentalism
I Heard the Voice of Catholic Fundamentalism
by John W. Greenleaf
Listening to Bishop Leonard P. Blair of Toledo, Ohio, on National Public Radio's "Fresh Air" program on July 25th, I heard the voce of Catholic fundamentalism. It is a dangerously arrogant voice; and we hear it ever more frequently in episcopal rhetoric.
Bishop Blair believes firmly that the bishops have the truth and the LCWR sisters need to conform and adhere to it. No one in fact has all the truth; and we should all be in respectful dialogue. But dialogue for Bishop Blair is not genuine dialogue. For him it appears to be more like a monologue demanding loyal submission of intellect and will.
On the dialogue that the LCWR would like to have with the Vatican, Bishop Blair said in the NPR interview: "If by dialogue, they mean that the doctrines of the church are negotiable, and that the bishops represent one position and the LCWR represents another position and somehow we find a middle ground about basic church teaching on faith and morals, then no, I don't think that's the dialogue the Holy See would envision. But if it's a dialogue about how to have the LCWR really educate and help the sisters appreciate and accept church teaching and to implement it in their discussions, and try to heal some of the questions or concerns they have about these issues, that would be the dialogue."
When the subject of women's ordination came up, the Toledo bishop made statements that are simply wrong. I will explain in a minute what I mean. First Bishop Blair's statement: "The church doesn't say that the ordination of women is not possible because somehow women are unfit to carry out functions of the priest, but because on the level of sacramental signs, it's not the choice that our Lord made when it comes to those who act in his very person, as the church's bridegroom. And you can say that sounds like a lot of poetry or you know, how do we know that's true, but if you're a Catholic, this is part of our sacraments and practice for two millennia, and it's not just an arbitrary decision of male oppression over women."
Now why the bishop is dead wrong.
(1) Jesus did not ordain ANYONE! In the church's first century, ordination, as we know it, did not exist.
(2) There is now ample and clear historic evidence that demonstrates beyond a doubt that women did in fact preside at Eucharist in early Christian communities; and women were called "apostles" by St. Paul and other early church leaders.
(3) And (as I indicated in an earlier post) there is also solid historic evidence that women were ORDAINED and functioned as deacons and priests even into the Middle Ages.
Yes.....Fundamentalism is hardly confined to just Islamic religion and is found in all societies and religions, including Roman Catholic Christianity; and the virus of Roman Catholic fundamentalism is pernicious, self-righteous, and devilishly destructive....
Increasingly, Roman Catholic fundamentalism (one need only reflect on many a red-faced outburst from the Cardinal Archbishop of New York) is a form of organized anger in reaction to social and religious change.
Fundamentalists find change emotionally disturbing and dangerous. Cultural, personal, and institutional religious "certitudes" are shaken. Today's Catholic fundamentalists, like Cardinal Raymond Burke wrapped in his medieval cappa magna (picture below) pushing to bring back the Latin liturgy of the Council of Trent, yearn to return to a utopian past or a golden age, purified of "dangerous" contemporary ideas and practices.
Todays Catholic fundamentalists, like supporters of Pope Benedict's New Evangelization, have aggressively banded together in order to put things right again – according to "orthodox" principles. They want to get things back to “normal"....Or as Bishop Blair said: dialogue is "about how to have the LCWR really educate and help the sisters appreciate and accept church teaching."
Today's Catholic fundamentalists are still troubled by: (1) the cultural revolution of the 1960s that questioned all institutions and brought profound social, economic and political consequences that continue to this day; and (2) the impact and immense cultural changes generated by the much-needed reforms of Second Vatican Council.
Catholic fundamentalism is becoming a powerful movement in the church to restore uncritically pre-Vatican II structures and attitudes.
Here are some clear signs of contemporary Catholic fundamentalism:
(1) Nostalgia for a pre-Vatican II Golden Age, when it is assumed that the church never changed, was then a powerful force in the world, undivided by the post 1960s misguided devotees of the Vatican II values. In fact, we know for certain that the church and its teachings have often changed. Some church statements have been shown to be wrong and were repealed or allowed to lapse.
(2) A highly selective approach to what fundamentalists think pertains to church teaching and belief. Statements about sexual ethics, for instance, are obsessively affirmed. At the same time, papal, conciliar, or episcopal pronouncements on social justice are ignored or considered simply matters for debate.
(3) An exaggerated concern for accidentals, not for the substance of issues, e.g., the Cardinal Burkes stress Latin for the Eucharist, failing to see that this does not pertain at all to the church's authentic tradition.
(4) Vehemence and intolerance in attacking people like LCWR who are striving to relate the Gospel to the world around them according to the insights and teachings of Vatican II.
(5) An elitist assumption that Catholic fundamentalists have a kind of supernatural authority and the right to pursue and condemn Catholics who disagree with them, especially "radical feminists" and theologians.
(6) A spirituality which overlooks the humanity, compassion, and mercy of Christ and stresses in its place an unbending and punishing taskmaster God.
Remember: Membership in Catholic fundamentalist groups is not a question of logic, but an often sincere, but misguided, search for meaning and belonging.
If we react to Catholic fundamentalists with heated expressions of anger we will only confirm them about the rightness of their beliefs.
Our best witness to the truths of our Catholic beliefs, as they continue to be explored and developed, is our own inner peace built on faith, charity, and concern for justice, especially among the most marginalized.
And a closing biblical refection:
Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave-just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:25-28; cf. Mark 10:42-45 and Luke 22:25-27)
John W. Greenleaf | July 27, 2012 at 8:03 am | Categories: authority in the Catholic Church, being a theologian, Catholic bishops, Catholic Fundamentalism, Catholic women priests | URL:
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Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Menonite writes about Pink Smoke

Comment:  This writer has eyes with vision!

"Every Christian man should watch this movie posted by Tim Nafziger on 07/08/12 at 06:12 PM
"Pink Smoke Over the Vatican" tells the story of the struggle for women to be ordained in the Roman Catholic Church. Through interviews and historical vignettes, it portrays the tragedy of deeply gifted women, called by the spirit, but rejected by their own leaders.
In watching the movie, it was tempting at times to distance myself from the Roman Catholic Church. After all, I'm Anabaptist, and we don't believe in the church hierarchy or that priests are a necessary bridge to reach God. But I realized that the story of the men in this documentary is my story as a Christian man."

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sunday school teachers balk at oath agreeing to all church teachings

Kathleen Riley knows her beliefs on the male-only priesthood and contraception put her at odds with leaders of her church. But as a fifth-generation Catholic who went to a Catholic school and grew up to teach in one, Riley feels the faith deeply woven through her. So when her Arlington parish asked for volunteers last summer to teach Sunday school, she felt called by the Holy Spirit to say yes.
A year later, the 52-year-old computer scientist feels the same spirit calling her to say no.
Last month, Riley joined at least four other Sunday school teachers and resigned from her post at St. Ann’s parish after a letter arrived at her home requiring her — and all teachers in the Arlington Catholic Diocese — to submit “of will and intellect” to all of the teachings of church leaders.
Although the St. Ann’s teachers represent a tiny fraction of the diocese’s 5,000 Sunday and parochial school teachers, the letter went out to parishes just as classes were finishing for the summer and diocese officials says they do not know how many teachers have received it.
The Arlington Diocese, which includes nearly a half-million Catholics across northern and eastern Virginia, is one of a small but growing number that are starting to demand fidelity oaths. The oaths reflect a churchwide push in recent years to revive orthodoxy that has sharply divided Catholics.
Such oaths are not new for priests or nuns but extend now in some places to people like volunteer Sunday school teachers as well as workers at Catholic hospitals and parish offices.
One in Baker, Ore., reiterates the sinfulness of abortion and says, “I do not recognize the legitimacy of anyone’s claim to a moral right to form their own conscience in this matter.” One in Oakland, Calif., requires leaders of a group doing outreach to gay and lesbian Catholics to say they “affirm and believe” official church teaching on marriage, hell and chastity.
The Arlington “profession of faith” asks teachers to commit to “believe everything” the bishops characterize as divinely revealed, and Arlington’s top doctrine official said it would include things like the bishops’ recent campaign against a White House mandate that most employers offer contraception coverage. Critics consider the mandate a violation of religious freedom.
The Arlington Diocese is considered among the most conservative in the country and was the next to last in the nation to say girls could serve at the altar. Teachers must give the new oath in front of a priest.
“The church is foremost a communion, not a building,” said the Rev. Paul deLadurantaye, Arlington’s head of education and liturgy. “And the church’s teaching is meant to be a service, not to coerce or oppress. . . . This is just to say the church is a reliable guide, more reliable in these matters than what I read elsewhere. There’s something more transcendent than just my own judgment.”
Diocesan spokesman Michael Donohue said the letter was sent to parishes this spring in response to Pope Benedict XVI’s direction that churches worldwide celebrate this year’s 50th anniversary of the start of Vatican II in various ways, including those that “profess our faith in the risen Lord.”
He said the oath is meant to be a positive sign to parents and called it uncontroversial.
“I can’t imagine there are many [teachers] who have issues with the church’s teachings on faith and morals,” Donohue said. Asked about polls showing that the majority of American Catholics use artificial contraception, forbidden by church doctrine, he said he “found it hard to believe” that anyone who had concluded that a church teaching was wrong would want to teach it.
But for some, particularly more liberal Catholics, the oaths are an alarming effort to stamp out debate in the church at a time when it is bleeding members and clergy in the West. They note that church leaders’ views have changed over the centuries on various subjects, including contraception.
“I’m just shocked, I can’t believe they’re asking me to sign this,” said Riley, who said she may keep her own children out of the parish education program in the fall. “The bishops are human, and sometimes their judgment is not God’s judgment. We always have to be vigilant about that. The Holy Spirit gives us the responsibility to look into our own consciences.”
The pastor and director of religious education at St. Ann’s parish did not return requests for comment, but Riley and others said about 20 teachers attended a meeting last week that the pastor held for people with questions about the new oath.
Riley and others said St. Ann’s is considered a community that deliberately doesn’t focus on such hot-button issues as abortion and same-sex relationships on which Catholics, like Americans generally, are divided.
“It’s an oasis of humanity,” said Rosemarie Zagarri, a history professor at George Mason University who also resigned last month from teaching at St. Ann’s.
Zagarri said the oath was a “slap in the face” to Catholics who have remained active and close to the church despite controversies.
“Although I fully understand the authoritative role of the Catholic hierarchy in defining the teachings of the faith, in my view only a person who is willing to abandon her own reason and judgment, or who is willing to go against the dictates of her own conscience, can agree to sign such a document,” she wrote to Arlington Bishop Paul Loverde.
“This is not in the spirit of what people go to a Catholic church for, which is community and a loving, welcoming environment. It’s exclusionary, a suppression of dissent, let’s all line up and be the army of God,” Zagarri said in an interview for this article.
To others, the oaths are an inspiring correction after a period when they think Catholic teaching has been watered down.
“The bishops have been appointed by the pope to let us know: This is the path you should be following,” said Kerri Polce, 31, who teaches at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington and says she has no problems signing the oath. “If you’re struggling with something, fine, don’t teach.”
Loverde, who called for the oath, was not available for comment. Catholic bishops have broad authority in their dioceses, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said there is no churchwide requirement for such oaths.
Some experts said the oath embodies the intense struggle in Catholicism today to define what makes someone a true follower. What teachings are core? What authority do laypeople have?
The Rev. Ronald Nuzzi, who heads the leadership program for Catholic educators at the University of Notre Dame, said many bishops “are in a pickle.” They want Catholic institutions to be staffed by people who not only teach what the church teaches but whose “whole life will bear witness.”
Nuzzi said he keeps a photo on his desk from the 1940s that shows all the German bishops in their garb, doing the Nazi salute.
“I keep it there to remind people who say to do everything the Church says, that their wisdom has limitations, too.”

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Pope Fires Slovak Bishop, Robert Bezak, In Rare Show Of Authority

Pope Fires Slovak Bishop, Robert Bezak, In Rare Show Of Authority
By NICOLE WINFIELD 07/02/12 01:00 PM ET AP
VATICAN CITY — The pope fired a 52-year-old Slovak bishop on Monday for apparently mismanaging his diocese in a rare show of papal power over his bishops.
Usually when bishops run into trouble – either for alleged moral lapses or management problems – they are persuaded by the Vatican to resign. But Pope Benedict XVI has become increasingly willing to forcibly remove bishops who refuse to step down, sacking three others in the last year alone.
His willingness to do so raises questions about whether he would take the same measures against bishops who covered up for sexually abusive priests. So far he has not.
In the most notable case to date, Benedict fired Bishop William Morris of Toowoomba, Australia, last year after he called for the church to consider ordaining women and married men. He also removed a Congolese bishop for management problems in his diocese and an Italian one in May for similar reasons.
On Monday, the Vatican said Benedict had "relieved from pastoral care" Bishop Robert Bezak of Trnava, Slovakia. No reason was given, but Italian news reports suggested administrative problems were to blame and Slovak news reports quoted Bezak as saying he thought his criticism of his predecessor may have had a role.
Bishops normally hand in their resignation when they turn 75 years old, their customary retirement age.
The exercise of the pope's ability to fire a bishop has important implications, particularly concerning bishops who mishandle pedophile priests.
In the face of U.S. lawsuits seeking to hold the pope ultimately responsible for abusive priests, the Holy See has argued that bishops are largely masters of their dioceses and that the pope doesn't really control them. The Vatican has thus sought to limit its own liability, arguing that the pope doesn't exercise sufficient control over the bishops to be held responsible for their bungled response to priests who rape children.
The ability of the pope to actively fire bishops, and not just passively accept their resignations, would seem to undercut the Vatican's argument of a hands-off pope.
Jeffrey Anderson, who is seeking to hold the Holy See liable for a case of an abusive priest in Oregon, said the Vatican was trying to have it both ways.
"They will remove, using their canon laws and their own protocols, bishops, priests and clerics for any reasons – for theological or any other reasons – but when it comes to sexual misconduct, they never use those same standards," he said.
Even the most well-known case, that of Cardinal Bernard Law, ended when Law offered his resignation after the sex abuse scandal exploded in his Boston archdiocese 2002. Law subsequently was named archpriest of one of the Vatican's basilicas in Rome, St. Mary Major.
That said, things may be changing: The Vatican's sex crimes prosecutor, Monsignor Charles Scicluna, warned in February that bishops could face possible church sanctions for malicious or fraudulent negligence unless they follow the Vatican's rules on handling sexually abusive priests. But he acknowledged that such bishop accountability needed to be "further developed."
Follow Nicole Winfield at .