Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Please don't blame your sexism on Jesus...

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I understand some hearts are aflutter after Cardinal Sean O'Malley's recent interview on the US television show "60 Minutes."  During the interview Sean hinted that he felt convicted-criminal-for-failure-to-report-child-abuse-and-active-Opus-Dei-bishop-of-Kansas-City, Robert Finn, maybe shouldn't be an active bishop anymore.  Rather than rejoicing, I find myself disillusioned that a) O'Malley is the first of the more than 5,000 worldwide bishops to open his mouth on this...over TWO YEARS AFTER Finn's conviction and b) this STILL has not been addressed by the pope. Talk about a "no-brainer" action to take...

In Roman Catholic Clergy time, perhaps two years is the equivalent of breaking the sound barrier for speed, but to me, it seems slow and underwhelming.  After all, I repeat: Finn is still the active bishop of an entire diocese despite Sean's groundbreaking public criticism. If Finn had ordained a woman, he would have been relieved of his duties before the sun set on the next day.  It doesn't speak well to papal priorities that the welfare of children is something to ponder for years before acting.

Sean also said the Vatican's handling of the US nun's visitation was a "disaster."  Thanks, Sean...Glad you caught on to that one too, albeit a little slower than the Finn situation.

But what really caught my attention were Sean's statements about women and Jesus. Here's a synopsis:

Reporter Norah O’Donnell asked if excluding women from the hierarchy was “immoral.”  O'Malley replied, “Christ would never ask us to do something immoral. It’s a matter of vocation and what God has given to us."

He went on to say, "Not everyone needs to be ordained to have an important role in the life of the Church...Women run Catholic charities, Catholic schools …. They have other very important roles. A priest can’t be a mother. The tradition in the Church is that we ordain men."  (Note the touch of "Venus envy" in that statement..."guys can't have babies so we need to prevent women from doing something men can to even the score" kind of mentality.)

Then in true "Happy Projection and Passive Aggressive Day" form, O’Malley smiled and uttered this humdinger, “If I were founding a church, I’d love to have women priests. But Christ founded it, and what he has given us is something different.”

You see, Sean tells us it's not him and the rest of the clergy who are sexist; evidently it's Jesus who is.  Sean really, really, really and I mean a million times really wishes he could ordain a woman but gosh darn it, even though Jesus said Peter could hold whatever he wanted loosed or bound....there was a disclaimer written in invisible ink only discernible by clergy eyes that says something like this, "except when it comes to ordaining women, approving of homosexuals or using birth control...there I draw the line guys...and I mean the 'guys' part literally..."

Sean, Christ didn't ordain anyone and didn't ask anybody to ordain anybody in Scripture. So, what you said on national television...Prime Time at that, was a falsehood.  Ya broke the 8th Commandment on that one, my friend.

Scripture does record Jesus naming some "apostles", a word that simply means "one who is sent."  And scripture also does record Jesus deliberately sending a woman...Mary the Magdalene...so she was by definition an apostle.  She was sent to announce the original "gospel" / "good news" of Jesus' resurrection.  And, Sean, in Mulieris Dignitatem, John Paul II acknowledged that she was an apostle.  So, it seems you've got at least two strikes against you in the truth department.

Furthermore, Sean, riddle me this....how come the first proclaimer of the gospel/good news of Jesus' resurrection was a woman but you and your band of brothers don't let women proclaim the gospel during Mass...at all...ever?  What happened to all that "we can't deviate from scripture" malarcky that you chaps like to repeat until it clangs against my ears like a noisy gong when it comes to excluding women?  You seem to forget that rule when it comes to including women.

But, I think the most offensive thing that you said, which I know you're just parroting what other sexist clerics have said before you, is the bit about blaming your and the clergy's sexism on Jesus.  I must insist you all stop doing that.  Please own your sexism and stop using Jesus as your scapegoat. Christ didn't give us an all-male priesthood.  The men and their male hegemonic culture gave us an all-male priesthood. Truly, for heaven's sake, own your discrimination; own your sexism.

Sean also prattled on about the abundant leadership roles women have.  Since my last blog article which introduced the idea of clergy key performance indicators (KPIs) was such a hit, I thought I'd define a few more clergy KPIs to measure equality.

Here's what I'd like Sean and all the other clergy to disclose so that the statistics can demonstrate just exactly how "important" they find women:

Number of priests who report to male leaders (R):_____
Number of priests who report to women leaders (r):_____ (I think that number is 0 but please humor me and fill it in.)
Number of men leading Curia offices (C):_____
Number of women leading Curia offices (c):_____  (Pretty sure this one is 0 too...)
Number of doctors of the church (DOCS):__35___
Number of female doctors of the church (docs):__4___
Number of saints (S):_____
Number of female saints (s):_____
Number of people who get to vote on bishops and popes (V):_____
Number of women who get to vote on bishops and popes (v):_____ (I know that number is 0 but again, please fill it in to take ownership of your responses.)
Number of doctrinal documents (D):_____
Number of doctrinal documents written by women (d):_____
Number of doctrinal documents actually referenced (REF):_____
Number of doctrinal documents written by women actually referenced (ref):_____
Number of people you talk to on a typical day (P):_____
Number of women you talk to on a typical day (p):_____
Number of people who advise you (A):_____
Number of women who advise you (a):_____
Frequency of receiving advice from people (F):_____
Frequency of receiving advice from women (f):_____

The Stained Glass Ceiling Indicator (SGCI) is calculated by dividing "r" by "R" and adding that to the result of dividing "c" by "C".  The closer that number is to zero, the lower the leadership roles for women.  I believe currently the SGCI is precisely 0.  That would be a ceiling that rests firmly on the floor with exactly zero millimeters of height.  Sean, your story is crashing to the ground and rests upon all those women leaders you tout.

Doctors of the church and saints aren't named until after death so we will handle them in a different category of posthumous indicators.  The At Least We Value Dead Women Indicator (ALWVDWI) is calculated by adding "docs" and "s" and dividing that by the sum of adding "DOCS" and "S". The closer that is to 0.5, the more equitable value of women in the church.  We know the number of doctors and female doctors of the church and in a previous blog article I reported that about 16 out of 100 saints are female.  So, we can actually calculate this one ourselves.  (4+16)/(35+100) = 0.148  Hmmm, 0.148 seems a lot smaller than 0.5....Sean, your story that crashed to the ground is now digging its grave.

The Feminine Voice of the Female Church Indicator (FVFCI) is calculated by adding v and d and dividing it by V+D.  This number should be 0.5 or higher if the female church actually has a feminine voice because voting and dogmatic writings are two of the official voices in the church.  A number of 0.5 or higher means the church's voice consists of at least as much female-originated content as male-originated.  However, this number is actually very, very low...approaching zero.  Thus, our female church's voice has a breathtakingly masculine sound.

The Deaf to Women Indicator (DWI) is a little bit more complex to calculate, so I'll break it into steps.  Multiply f by a and add the product to the sum of p+"ref".  This will be divided by the result of multiplying F by A and adding the product to the sum of P+"REF".  For the math geeks out there the formula is: ((f*a)+p+"ref")/((F*A)+P+"REF").

An example might help.  If a bishop typically talks to 50 people in a day and 5 of them are women and 1 of his 20 advisers are women and he receives advice from the woman 1 time per day while receiving advice 30 times per day overall and he typically references zero doctrinal documents written by women but 10 written by men per day, the result would be ((1*1)+5+0)/((30*20)+50+10) or 6/660 or 0.009.  If women and men are consulted equally then the DWI is 0.5.  The closer the number is to zero, the more deafness towards women.  "Aaaaaaaay, what did you say?..... I can't H-E-A-R you....."

Sean, I really wish you and some of the guys would complete this assessment and send it to me.  And, then, if the numbers do not support your claims about women leadership and importance in the church, I'd like you to go back on "60 Minutes" and say, "I'm sorry; I was very badly mistaken about that women leaders / women are important thing.  Jesus, I'm sorry I blamed my sexism and male hegemonic blindness on you."  Please let me know when this will air as I will not want to miss it.

In the meantime, until your Stained Glass Ceiling Indicator (SGCI) approaches 2, your At Least We Value Dead Women (ALWVDWI) and Deaf to Women (DWI) Indicators approach 0.5, and your Feminine Voice of the Female Church Indicator (FVFCI) exceeds 0.5, please stop spouting this fairy tale about women in leadership filling important roles.  Otherwise, you will leave me with no other option than to call "bullshit!"

 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

How to determine if clergy listen humbly and learn...

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Soon to retire Cardinal George of Chicago said before last week’s US bishops’ annual fall meeting that he doesn’t get what Pope Francis wants him to do.  “He says wonderful things, but he doesn’t put them together all the time, so you’re left at times puzzling over what his intention is… What he says is clear enough, but what does he want us to do?"

I don’t know… Maybe follow the gospels?  Maybe imitate Jesus’ effusion of inclusion, love and mercy?   

It’s a bit ironic that a 77 year-old self-acclaimed career Jesus-expert suddenly becomes confused when asked to imitate that very guy.  Maybe thoughts like this are rattling through his and other clergy’s heads these days, “The last two popes were so much easier….  You just really couldn’t go wrong with mindless regurgitation of their words and ruthless expulsion of people who disagreed with them…perennial Vatican crowd pleasers…like serving cake at a wedding reception.  It certainly got me where I am today, anyway… ” 

It seems sumptuously dressed Cardinal Raymond Burke is also confused.  Before his recent removal as head of the powerful Apostolic Signatura, Burke said, “At this very critical moment, there is a strong sense that the church is like a ship without a rudder”.   

Ray, a ship heading in a direction you don’t like is not a rudderless ship.  It’s a ship going in a different direction than you want.  Getting a new job during a corporate reorganization is not the work of Satan.  Shifting power from you to another albeit most likely less stunningly dressed prelate is not grounds for a delicately worded public temper tantrum.  Calm down.  It’s still a bunch of guys in gowns who live in rarefied environments running the show.  I realize Francis’ focus on Christ-like simplicity might threaten your penchant for donning fancy threads and bejeweled mitres but as Jesse J sings and I think Francis is trying to say, it “ain’t about the ba-bling, ba-bling…”

During his November 12th general audience, Pope Francis said, “Bishops and priests must listen humbly and learn.”   To the average person, those words are very clear and unambiguous.  However, each of those words: listen, humbly and learn, pose a challenge to anyone unaccustomed to listening and with infallibility induced learning disabilities.

As a consultant, I often help clients set or improve their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).   The sayings in the business are, "what gets measured gets done" and "measurements drive behavior."  If Francis wants to change behavior, he needs to alter the church's current KPIs.  Things like Pew Counts (or what event coordinators informally call "buns in seats" numbers), to me, encourage clergy narcissism where revering clergy by showing up at Mass is equated with adequately imitating Christ and money accumulated via offertory collections are confused with Christian community vibrancy.

Desiring to apply my gifts to help my church, I decided to define new KPIs that Francis can use with the clergy.  Here’s an assessment I created to help clergy calculate their effectiveness in things like listening, humility and learning. 

Please fill-in your numbers for the following statistics and then in the subsequent section, please follow the instructions to calculate your KPIs.  After having an independent non-clergy-rah-rah accounting firm certify the veracity of your numbers, please submit your scores to the Vatican and publish them for your flock to see.  Then host town meetings and roundtables to discuss next year's objectives and improvement plans for reaching those objectives.

Catholics in your parish/diocese (C):_____
People in the area served by your parish/diocese (P):_____
Ordained Catholics worldwide with whom you regularly interact (O):_____
Non-ordained Catholics in your parish/diocese with whom you regularly interact (c):_____
Non-ordained people in your parish/diocese with whom you regularly interact (p):_____
Ordained Catholics in your parish/diocese with whom you regularly interact (o):_____
Laity employed in church-related occupations with whom you regularly interact (e):_____
Number of suggestions implemented (S):_____
Number of clergy originated suggestions implemented (s):_____
Number of leadership positions (L):_____
Number of leadership positions held by clergy (l):_____
Money received for your parish/diocese annually (M):_____
Parish/diocese bank account and investment balances (B):_____
Money spent helping the poor (m):_____

Divide C by P to determine your Catholic Saturation Ratio (CSR).  For example if there are 60,000 Catholics in the geographic area of your diocese which has an overall population of 1,000,000 people, your CSR is 60,000/1,000,000 or .06.  6% of the population you should serve is Catholic. 

Divide (c+o) by p to determine your Inward Focus Rating (IFR).  A high IFR indicates you spend way more time with Catholics versus outwardly ministering amongst all God’s people.  Here’s an example.  If you typically talk to 50 priests, 100 Catholic laypeople and 200 people altogether, your IFR is (50+100)/200 or 0.75.  If you typically talk to 50 priests, 100 Catholic laypeople and 1,000 people total, your IFR is (50+100)/1,000 or 0.15.

Your IFR (Inward Focus Rating) must be viewed along with your CSR (Catholic Saturation Ratio).  Presumably if your area served is 90% Catholic, 90% of your time might be dedicated to interacting with Catholics so an IFR of 90% would be reasonable.  If you serve an area with 3% Catholics, you might expect a lower percentage of your time is spent interacting with Catholics and so might expect an IFR closer to 3%. 

Next, let’s calculate your Inward Navel Gazing Ratio (INGR).  A high INGR indicates you mostly talk to clergy or people employed by the church and thus are most interested in church bureaucracy rather than caring for people.  INGR is calculated by dividing (o+e) by p.  Here’s an example.  If you talk to 50 priests, 20 people employed by the church, and 100 regular folk total, your INGR is (50+20)/100 or 0.7.  70% of your interactions are associated with church bureaucracy.   If you talk to 50 priests, 20 people employed by the church and 1,000 regular folk total, your INGR is (50+20)/1,000 or 0.07.  In this example you spend only 7% of your interactions on church bureaucracy.

Your Clerical Preoccupation Factor (CPF) is determined by dividing O by p.  A higher number means you spend most of your time talking to clergy in or outside your diocese rather than regular folk.  For example if you typically interact with 75 clergy and 10 non-ordained people your CPF is 75/10 or 7.5 as compared with someone who interacts with 10 clergy and 75 non-ordained people whose CPF is 0.133.  The goal is for a CPF far below 1.

Your Hierarchy Infatuation Index (HII) indicates how much you value clergy versus regular folk.  Higher numbers indicate higher value placed upon clergy than laypeople.  It is calculated by multiplying two ratios, dividing s by S and dividing l by L.  For example if 10 of 10 ideas implemented are from clergy, and if 9 out of 10 leadership positions are held by clergy, your HII is (10/10)*(9/10) or 0.9.  This is a 90% Hierarchy Infatuation Index.  A contrasting example is if 1 of 10 ideas implemented are from clergy and 2 of 10 leadership positions are held by clergy, your HII is (1/10)*(2/10) or 0.02 or 2% infatuation with hierarchy.  The goal is to get this as close to zero as possible.

Finally, calculate your Rendered Unto God (RUG) number by dividing m by the sum of M+B.  This measures the amount of money used to help the poor versus hoarded in investments or used on inwardly focused things like decor, regalia, accessories, and institution perpetuating staff salaries.  Clarification: expenditures subsidizing people's Catholic school tuition only counts as money helping the poor if the family's income was well below the demographic median for the geographical area in question.  School tuition subsidies for the economically blessed do not count.  The goal is for this number to be as close to 1 as possible. 

So an example of calculating RUG is as follows.  If you receive $500,000 in donations and have $2 million in investments, and give $10,000 per annum to the poor, your RUG would be 10,000/(2,000,000 + 500,000) or 0.004.  This equates to only 4 tenths of one percent of money collected being used to help the poor and clearly requires immediate attention.  Sadly, I think many if not most parishes and dioceses will have lower RUG numbers than my example because instead of apostles collecting material goods and redistributing to those in need as directed by Christ in the gospels, they have tremendous money hoarding and self-funding fixation issues.

Back to Francis' guidance...by asking clergy to listen, Pope Francis is asking you to align your IFR (Inward Focus Rating) with your CSR (Catholic Saturation Ratio) numbers to ensure you are listening to people inside and outside the church.  Similarly he wants you to decrease your INGR (Inward Navel Gazing Ratio) and CPF (Clergy Preoccupation Factor) numbers to ensure you listen to people outside your fraternity and fraternity cheerleader and enablement squads.  By asking for humble learning, he wants you to decrease your HII (Hierarchical Infatuation Index). 

Improving these five numbers along with your RUG (Rendered Unto God) number is kind of like lowering your bad cholesterol by altering your behavior and consumption patterns.  Unlike high cholesterol, there’s no pill to offset bad behavior.  But, like high cholesterol, they really destroy the body if not addressed.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Some thoughts on the upcoming Synod on the Family

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I've been reading many different perspectives and speculations about the upcoming Synod on the Family.  Repeatedly from the camp of guys who don't actually live in or lead family units...that would be the hierarchical leaders...I hear variations on the, "We are right; we always were right; we will always be right; therefore the following people can't have communion" theme.  I have two observations / questions regarding this:

1.  Humility is the ability to say, "Maybe we were wrong."  Why do you collectively and individually lack the humility and quite frankly, the self-confidence, to ponder that question?  Did you not read in last Sunday's first reading, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways says the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts (Is 55:8-9)."  Why do you think that your interpretations are immovable and accurate?  Why can't you allow for the possibility that your thoughts and ways are not synonymous with God's thoughts and ways?  Have you idolized yourselves through idolatry of your roles to the point you find your thoughts and teachings equal to God's?  If so, is that acceptable?

2.  Even if your teachings are 200% correct, so what?  Why would that preclude sharing the body and blood of Christ with people who violate certain teachings?  The gospel notes time and again that Jesus shared himself, dined at table, with some of the most notorious sinners.  Can you be credible Vicars of Christ if you can't imitate that signature trait of his?  

Why are you only threatened by welcoming certain categories of sinners to the table?  You certainly are comfortable welcoming to the communion table members of the sinner category, "irresponsible bishops and sexually abusive priests."  Some of them you not only allow to receive communion, you permit them to consecrate the hosts!  This, evidently does not threaten you in the least.  But, women who disobey you by claiming to have more insight into their relationship with God than you do...well, gentleman, that seems to scare the holy excrement out of you.  Why? 

It is my understanding that many of you are gay and even regularly, actively engage in homosexual activities albeit clandestinely.  Those of you who do this, would be living a lie.  Yet, you welcome closet homosexual clergy living duplicitous lives at table and again, even permit them to consecrate the hosts.  However, homosexuals who honestly portray their sexual orientation, you do not welcome.  Why are you threatened welcoming to the table people who have the courage to present themselves authentically but are not threatened welcoming to the table people whose lives are a tangled web of lies and hypocrisy?

Why are you threatened by welcoming at table people whose lives were broken in a failed marriage but who have perhaps found a healthy, healing relationship in a new marriage?  You certainly welcome at table yourselves, many of whom who have "divorced" one diocesan spouse and "re-married" a new diocese as your second, third or even fourth spouse.

Why are you threatened sitting at table with couples who use birth control?  Or women who have had abortions?  Or politicians who vote differently than you wish?

Are you threatened welcoming "sinners" to table because they might interfere with some delusion of your own perfection?  

Guys, quick review here...Jesus came as a healing remedy for sinners not as a highfalutin reward for saints.  You seem to have manufactured these "who can have communion" concerns from your pretentious belief that you cannot be wrong mixed with your historical perversion of the Eucharistic sacrament as a doggy treat for the well-behaved.  

This just really isn't hard at all...except for the arrogant and snobbish.  But for humble followers of Christ, it's a no-brainer. Welcome everyone to the table... Done.  You guys can vote once, get this done in 15 minutes and all go out for nachos to celebrate and then head home saving your respective dioceses tons of hotel and restaurant expenses.

Even better, create a mobile app that pushes this question to every voting members' mobile phones, "Can we just welcome everyone at table?"  Everyone clicks "yes" and there's maybe a $0.05 data charge per member...no travel required. You could spend the extra time in your diocese talking to people or, perish the thought, helping them.  You could use the money to ...wait no...don't go there....NOT for another golden chalice...but for food, clothing, housing, utilities, healthcare, etc... for some economically challenged person.  And, no again, a bishop who declared bankruptcy to evade paying abuse settlements does not qualify as economically challenged.

Rather than think you all arrogant or snobbish, I'd prefer to think that some other systemic issue causes your collective blindness and confusion in the "who can have communion" realm.  I've pondered this a lot and might be on to something.  Are your cassocks and zucchettos (little skull caps) so tightly affixed to your persons that they restrict blood flow to your brains?  Loosen up guys. Ditch the dresses and beanies if they interfere with humbly embracing humanity exactly where it is and you are.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

European and male hegemony in the church...

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I recently read, "Pope Francis: Untying the Knots," a book by Paul Vallely.  The book indicates Pope Francis is not a fan of people from Europe and North America having over-riding influence on the Catholic Church.  He thinks most Europeans and North Americans don't have a clue about life in Africa and Latin America.  Therefore they aren't credible guides.

Furthermore, he sees the church thriving to the point of busting at the seams in these same developing areas while it atrophies amongst the European and North American/European-descent crowds.  Therefore he further questions the European folks as credible guides. It's sort of a "walk a mile in another person's shoes" kind of commentary in that Francis thinks the European and North American folks lack street creds to tell Africans and Latin Americans what to do.

He also disagrees with having a shrinking minority group within the church guide the growing majority.  Basically Francis describes why he's tired of Western / European hegemony within the church and why it's an invalid governance model.

Amen, Brother Francis! I am standing up applauding you, but I am also shouting, "Welcome to the world of women in the church, my friend!"  We are as thrilled with male hegemony in the church as you are with European hegemony..

I think Francis understands how hegemony blinds people because he's felt the stinging ill effects of it.  I can only hope that he is self-aware enough to see the parallel.  He is frustrated by a bunch of people with a different worldview trying to boss him around - i.e., "hegemony."  Francis, do you understand that male hegemony isn't any more fun or effective than European hegemony?

Unfortunately, a persistent issue when addressing hegemony is the hegemonic group's lack of self-awareness to acknowledge that they, in fact, are part of a hegemonic group.  This historically has been the case with Catholic hierarchy with regards to male hegemony, but I'm hoping Francis' primary experience being outside of one hegemonic group opens his eyes to realize he operates within another hegemonic group.

Francis, to see the parallel, in the description below, try substituting "Europeans" where you see "men," or "clergy."  Then substitute "Africans and Latin Americans" where you see "women."   I'll help by making the substitutions in parentheses.

Men (Europeans) in the church tell women (Africans and Latin Americans) what to do.  Yet men (Europeans) lack primary experiences to understand women (Africans and Latin Americans)  Plus, women (Africans and Latin Americans) are the increasing majority of the church while the clergy (Europeans) seem to be doing many things to shrink the church...and their own ranks.  Men (Europeans) who lack understanding and experiences of living as a woman (Latin American and African) make decisions that don't resonate with women (Africans and Latin Americans), don't apply to women (Africans and Latin Americans), or outright harm women (Africans and Latin Americans).

I hope that helped. However, not only are men in the church guiding women.  Unmarried men who have given birth to zero children are telling women how to conduct themselves regarding conception, pregnancy and birth.

I hesitate to call priests "childless" because, especially in the developing nations, more than a few priests father children clandestinely.  For example, in my recent trip to Africa, one of the Peace Corps workers told me a big cause for unwed mothers in her village was the local priest impregnating girls.  So, in some cases, men who don't publicly acknowledge children they father feel qualified to tell women how to raise their families.

Unfortunately, I don't think Francis has yet seen the similarities around the two forms of hegemony.  He recently announced the attendees for his upcoming Synod on the Family and all 26 voting members are unmarried, childless, ordained men.  Yet, they are going to make decisions about women...and families...and child-rearing.

Actually more than 71% of the 250 synod participants are unmarried, male clergy.  Even amongst the non-voting observers and experts, only a minority are women.  Pretty much all of those women are either avowed religious sisters...and no offense sisters, but you don't have much child-bearing and child-rearing experience either...or are employed by church organizations.  Somehow, I don't think a woman who runs a natural family planning organization represents the huge majority of Catholic women.

Francis, you say the church is a woman.  Where are the women's voices of this womanly church?

Francis, you chose participants that do not mirror the church.  Do you think the church will see herself in what they write or hear herself in what they say?  Why should she listen to a disconnected minority?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Marriage and the bishops

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A friend of mine recently was ordained a bishop and I was honored to receive tickets to and to attend his ordination.  He seems like a good guy and I wish him and his new diocese well.  I hope he is open to the flow of the Spirit in his new office and does not confuse it with the flow of cash from financial backers for his episcopal trousseau nor with the flow of obsequious flattery from clerical groupies.

But, you must give the guy credit.  He's well-aware of my blog and even occasionally reads it - and he still sent me some tix to his hierarchical hootenanny.  (This may come as a shocker but I'm typically not on the "A", "B", "C", or possibly all the way down to the "Z" invitation list for hierarchical hootenannies.  I'm much more likely to top a bishop's shit-list or "people we will ignore and hope go away" list.)  Anyway, we have either found common ground for mutual respect or we find each other amusing diversions...or maybe his invitation and shit lists got mixed up.  I'd like to think it's the first scenario.

The bishop of my diocese delivered the ordination Mass homily and something he repeatedly said keeps ringing in my ears...so much so that it's painful.  He said that my friend's "new bride" was this new diocese and that my friend would cleave to this "bride" until death parted them.

New bride? NEW bride? NEW? What, pray tell, happened to the old one?

In January I had an enjoyable and meaningful discussion with said homily-delivering-bishop.  I told him I was really, really tired of the bishops yammering on about "defense of marriage" and blaming all sorts of factors for what they consider the disintegration of marriage when the bishops, themselves, provide such a piss-poor example of marriage. His words at this ordination, which occurred about seven months after that fine January discussion, offer just one example proving my point.

You see if my friend, in becoming a bishop now has a "new" wife in this new diocese, that means he abandoned his "old" wife, his previous diocese.  And I would bet my entire retirement savings that if the hotline from the Vatican rang asking him to be bishop over yet another diocese, he'd do it.  I think that's called seeking a "trophy wife."  Yep, yep...that's what it's called allright. 

Therefore, I found myself choking back laughter when this statement about lifelong commitment between bishop and diocese "bride" was made...that this commitment would remain until death parted the two.  Give me a freaking break.  The guy that delivered the homily, himself was ordained bishop in a different diocese than he serves now...we are at best his third wife.  If you consider all of his assignments, we are something like his 9th or 10th wife. Furthermore, if this same bishop were asked to take on a larger diocese or archdiocese or don a cardinal's red hat, he would drop his 10th wife for his 11th faster than you can say "Jesus, Mary and Joseph."

To put this in perspective, Liz Taylor only married 8 times.  So, please, let us start using the hierarchy as the gold standard for "lack of marital commitment" rather than her.

I don't know which is more absurd - the notion of a bishop's lifelong commitment to his diocese "bride" or the idea of the bishop's diocese being his bride at all.  I just keep hearing in my head the group "Honey Cone" singing, "Wanted...young man - single and free.  Experience in love preferred but we'll accept a young trainee."  If you guys are married to us, the church of your dioceses, then it would really help if you loved us personally...and if not, then we sure would like the opportunity to train you.

Ah, but new bishops are indeed trained - by the Vatican - at new bishop school.  I'm trying to imagine what that curriculum looks like but somehow, I'm doubting that it involves the bishops' "brides" administering any of the training.  This is so like marriage, you know.... Two young folks tie the knot and then rather than using a honeymoon to deepen their intimate understanding of each other, the husband flies away to a husband training camp which bars wives from attending.

But, hey, let's face it.  We didn't get a chance to select our bishop husbands.  They were forced upon us in arranged marriages made by a bunch of husbands who also don't spend much time with their wives.  Again...stellar example for marriage.   

Let us recall the wisdom expressed in the movie The Princess Bride, "Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam... And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva... So tweasure your wuv." 

Guys, we're just not feeling the "wuv, tru wuv" or feeling "tweasured" when you dump us for what you perceive as a better opportunity.  Therefore, can we please stop with this "mawage" charade and just use plain language?  The clergy and bishops move from assignment to assignment just like people in any other career.  It's about your career, not any marriage to us.  You didn't know us before you became our bishops and most of you continue ignorant of most of the people comprising your "wife."  That's because you are corporate executives who develop and maintain relationships with your clients and employees similarly to how other corporate executives do.  You have as much commitment to them.  You have similar or less vested physical and emotional stake in them as do corporate execs. 

There is another source of guidance for bishop qualifications, that we might consider using.  1 Timothy 3:1-5 tells us, "...whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task.  Therefore, a bishop must be irreproachable, married only once, temperate, self-controlled, decent, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not aggressive, but gentle, not contentious, not a lover of money.  He must manage his own household well, keeping his children under control with perfect dignity; for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of the church of God?"

Ah, it would seem, according to Scripture that bishops, above all should be married with children...you know...real ones - not metaphorical ones.  The kind that require you to change a dirty diaper here and there, mop vomit, and genuinely, physically and emotionally care for specific people.  Because if you can't demonstrate your ability to care for specific people in your personal household, how will you do so for the church of God?  Just curious.  And, no, babysitting for younger siblings when you were on break from the rarefied seminary world does not count.