Saturday, April 19, 2014

Saint by numbers...

Next week’s double pope canonization extravaganza is creating a lot of sainthood “buzz” in the air right now.  Therefore, I thought I’d offer some tips for sainthood. 

First, Catholic dogma says the Communion of Saints includes official canonized and beatified saints, anybody in heaven, and all believers on earth.  So, if you believe in Jesus, congratulations, you’re already a saint!  You can stop reading now and go do something more productive.

However, this common, garden-variety sainthood does not land people on religious trading cards and rarely results in statues being erected in your honor, or churches, schools, and ritzy vacation spots being named after you.  If you’re going for that high-profile, high-revenue type of sainthood, then keep reading.

I’ve been plowing through saint records and building a database to catalog demographic information for well over 10% of the canonized and beatified folks.  If my calculations are correct, the sampling I’ve done so far yields statistics with a 3.5% margin of error for projections across the full canonized / beatified population.  Good news, some of these statistics are so skewed, the 3.5% margin of error is kitten’s play.

My advice if you want to be an officially recognized saint: 

1.  Be male.  Based on my sample set, 84% of canonized and beatified people were male.  You might scratch your head in confusion since 80% of the church’s work is done by women, and women are over 50% of the world’s population.  This might seem backwards to you.  No, no…I beg of you; don’t let facts, equity and reality confuse you.  If you insist on logic and equity, you probably should stop reading now before you injure your brain or sense of righteousness.  That statistic simply reflects church hierarchical members’ value system and helps us quantify it.  They see men as being over five times more virtuous and holy than women…end of story.   

2. Be a priest, monk, or religious brother.  About 60% of all official saints were ordained or religious males.  If we look at only the male saints…that tiny 84% majority of all saints…the number jumps to around 70% who were ordained or religious.  So if you’re going to be male, be a priest too, to up your odds.

3.  Be a bishop. 37% of saints and 44% of male saints were bishops or abbots.  I know the cynics are probably starting to suspect that the beatification and canonization process is simply a ruse for apostles to pat themselves and their own kind on the back…sort of as a self-glorification thing.  Again, let’s not get all hung up on facts.    

4.  Be pope.  Despite many papacies being riddled with scandals including the criminal behaviors of soon-to-be-canonized John Paul II in aiding and abetting child rapists, about 1/3 of all popes throughout the entirety of history have become saints.  To put this in perspective, let’s look at the ratio of saints across the full sea of Catholics.  Since I can’t find a statistic for the number of Catholics throughout all time, we’ll use the number for today’s 1.2 billion Catholics, knowing this will yield disproportionately high ratios.   

Using the number of saints across all history and current number of Catholics, we see that less than one one-thousandth of a percent of Catholics are canonized or beatified and less than 1/3 of one one-thousandth of a percent of laypeople are canonized or beatified.  This is compared to over 1/3 of popes being canonized or beatified.  The decimal place simply shifts five positions to the right for popes…a small factor of 100,000.  If you thought the statistic for bishop-saints reflected a mutual-admiration society, then you now realize it is simply a gentle air-kiss compared to the emphatic bear-hug of self-admiration amongst the popes.  

5. Be Italian or French.  About 22% and 17% of saints were from the geographic regions now called Italy and France respectively.  Again, please don’t be confused by the fact that Italian and French Catholics each represent only about 5% of the Catholic population.  If God evenly distributed saints, Brazil with 16% of the Catholic population would have 16% of the saints instead of the 4 tenths of one percent of saints that it actually has. 

Canonization and beatification are expensive businesses and though Brazil is swimming in Catholics, the per capita income is about a third and a quarter of Italy’s and France’s per capita income levels respectively.  Brazilians seem to be spending their money on frivolities like food, shelter, clothing, and healthcare instead of canonization and beatification…and these skewed priorities really show in their saint numbers.   

The same is true in Mexico with almost 10% of all Catholics yet less than 1% of Catholic saints, as well as the Philippines with about 7.5% of Catholics yet less than one tenth of one percent of saints.  You guessed it: Mexico’s and the Philippines’ per capita incomes are lower than even Brazil’s. 

Let's face it; the popes seem to believe it's more difficult to imitate Christ whilst walking and living amongst poor people. No wonder we have so many bishop mansions...two in my for the active and emeritus bishops each.  They are simply trying to increase their chances for sainthood by fleeing the impoverished.  

I know you might be thinking, "...but didn't Jesus walk amongst the poor...matter of fact...wasn't Jesus one of the poor?"  Yeah, yeah, yeah...but that guy could walk on water, too.  Let's give the bishops a fighting chance and let them live where people can better afford virtuous behavior or at least better afford to pay for creating images of virtuous behavior.

6. Be a Benedictine.  Saints from Benedictine religious orders are outpacing the next most prevalent order at a six to one ratio.

7.  If you insist on being female…which really craters your chances of sainthood…then for heaven’s sake, do not have sex, or if you do, be of royal birth. 70% of female saints were nuns or virgins and only a paltry 5% of saints were females who were neither nuns, virgins, or royalty.  This compares to 25% of saints that were males who were neither ordained, religious or royalty.  Again, we have laymen outpacing laywomen at a 5 to 1 ratio in the virtuous category. 

But you see, many of those virtuous, holy non-ordained men were soldiers who killed in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.  Perhaps this is why we have St. Adrian as the patron saint of arms dealers…who knew we needed a patron saint of arms dealers….  But, I digress.  If you’re going to insist on being a sexually active female, your best chances for canonization might be to carry a weapon.  It worked for Joan of Arc but then she was burned at the stake as a heretic…and I think maybe she was a virgin too.  Oh, never mind…  Let's face it; sexually active women, are pretty much screwed when it comes to vying for sainthood.

Let me paint an even clearer picture as to the value the church hierarchy ascribes to women and their work via the canonization process.  The stats show us the popes believe:

  • Men are 5 times more virtuous and holy than any woman
  • Men are about 17 times more virtuous than sexually active women
  • Popes are over 270,000 times more virtuous and holy than any woman
  • Popes are over 860,000 times more virtuous and holy than sexually active women

Hence, we see John Paul II, a man whose criminal neglect enabled the rape of thousands of children, being canonized next week while Mother Teresa, who merely imitated Christ by caring for the poorest of the poor, still awaits canonization.  At least Mother Teresa was an avowed religious woman so her chances of making full sainthood are exponentially better than those of any mother who actually bore and raised children.

8.  If you can time your death, try to die on May 1st.  There seem to be over 1.5 times more saints who died on May 1st than who died on the next most common date for saints’ deaths.

So, I think the optimal saint profile is this: Italian male Benedictine pope (or bishop) who dies on May 1st.  It also helps to either have a lot of wealth or hang-out with wealthy people who can fund your canonization process.  Oddly enough, aside from the date of death dimension, that bears striking resemblance to the people who canonize and beatify people…hmmm.  Interesting. 

Do you think the list of canonized saints accurately reflects the most holy and virtuous people in history?  Do you care?  Does the heavy skew towards canonizing hierarchy members expose a deep brokenness in them that they feel the need to memorialize their herd in this way?  Do we help fuel the canonization industry?  Should we?

Bonus question for the hierarchy: If you are concerned about the societal devaluation of motherhood, should you perhaps be first examining your behaviors towards women and mothers?  Do you treat them even as good as secular society does?

A little Easter levity for you.  Easter joy this day and always!

Friday, April 11, 2014

"Do you love me?"

A scene keeps playing in my mind similar to when Tevye from “Fiddler on the Roof” asks his wife of 25 years whom he first met on their wedding day, “Do you love me?  However, instead of Tevye asking his wife this question, in my daydream it is me asking it of Pope Francis, the bishops and clergy.  And, instead of the touchingly awkward but sincere affirmative response Tevye gets from Golde, his wife, I just get dropped jaws accompanied by terrified looks with eyes darting wildly about in search of an escape route.  This daydream evidently is a musical because at this very moment I hear Earth, Wind and Fire singing the lyric from the song “Can’t Hide Love” that goes, “You turn down love like it’s really bad; you can’t give away what you never had.

What’s wrong with this picture?  The clergy say they are married to me as a member of the Church yet I cannot imagine one bishop, including Pope Francis, looking me or most of their flock squarely in the eye and saying, “I love you” with any degree of depth or sincerity.  I think even my own bishop, with whom I have very amicable relations, would be very, very, very uncomfortable telling me he loved me if, in fact, he does.  And regardless of if he thinks he loves me, I think he’d turn on me in a heartbeat if preserving his esteem with the hierarchy called for it.

I ask you to imagine yourself standing before your bishop, eye-to-eye, asking that question.  What do you envision as the response?  Am I wrong to surmise that most people imagine scenes like the one I do…where men who claim to be the world’s greatest experts on and advocates for love dance around in nervous evasion of it, seemingly incapable of imitating Christ’s passionate sincere expression of it...especially towards women?

The bishops these days sound a little like Dire Straits wistfully singing the line, “so far away from me…” as though their children have abandoned them.  But, they seem to lack the self-awareness to realize that the majority of members are actually singing the same line right back to them, “You’re so far away from me – so far I just can’t see. 

I wonder if subconsciously we know that if like Tevye we asked of our bishops, “Do you love me,” we would hear thunderous silence – a response which would speak louder than their words.  And again borrowing from Earth, Wind and Fire, “Ain’t it funny how the way you feel shows on your face?  And no matter how hard you try to hide it states your case?  I am tempted to ask my bishop this question just to weigh his facial expression.  Without saying a word, it will state his case no matter how hard he tries to hide it.

My daydream continues with me standing in calm serenity waiting for the bishops’ responses when I suddenly hear Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons sing a compelling question at me, “Who loves you pretty baby?  Who’s gonna help you through the night?  Who loves you pretty momma?  Who’s always there to make it right? 

Rather than seeing bishops “always making it right”, scenes dance through my head of bishops paying lobbyists and lawyers to defeat child protection legislation and abuse lawsuits so that they always make things right for church monies instead of church members.  Similarly I recall them paying lobbyists to enact legislation that denies women’s rights as well as their traditional condescending metaphorical pats on women’s heads trying to usher them back into subservient roles.  And I hear myself answering the question, "Who loves you?" with flat, unemotional, realism in my response, “Evidently, not them.”

For the bishops to express their love for me with any credibility, I would need to see them capable of healing abuse victims by doing as Jackson Browne sings, “reaching into the heart of the darkness from a tenderness within…” or mimic the passionate devotion and care expressed by the Proclaimers in the song, “I’m Gonna Be”, “I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more just to be the man who walked a thousand miles to fall down at your door…  Rather than spend money on their trinkets, buildings, and bling as well as initiatives that harm me and my loved ones, I’d see them live the lyric, “and when the money comes in for the work I do I will pass almost every penny on to you.” Instead of owning one or more mansions, they’d be helping house, clothe and feed those without.  And, before someone sings the praises of Catholic Charities, please note that the vast majority of that money comes from governmental agencies – not the bishops.  And what money does get routed from church coffers to Catholic Charities is a sad, small fraction…far from “almost every penny.”

So here we are with many if not most people disheartened because they feel they pour their love into the Church without receiving reciprocal love from those who claim to lead the Church.  It’s as Dire Straits sings, they’re “tired of being in love and being all alone.” Similarly, they see Pope Francis omit Fr. Tom Doyle from this new child abuse commission despite Tom being one of the strongest if not the strongest advocate for child abuse victims and they hear Big Country singing, “another promise fallen through – another season passes by you.

We see a couple of reactions by the disheartened masses, one being akin to Aaron Neville singing, “I’m gonna love you even if my heart would break.  These folks try to show the hierarchy a bridge to the future, wincing through their shortcomings.  But others feel taking that approach would cause them to teeter too close to co-dependent behavior, working hard in a grossly imbalanced relationship trying to receive the love of men who seem afraid of it or incapable of giving it.  I envision those folks singing along with “Big Country”, “I thought that pain and truth were things that really mattered but you can’t stay here when every single hope you had shattered.  Those folks are already crossing the bridge into the future.  They see the bishops as having strayed too far away from them to pursue them anymore.

So, who is the enemy?  Is it our apathy ignoring abuse victims’ healing needs?  Is it our desire to downplay the abuse crisis because we are too tired to deal with it and want it to be over? Is it our “go along to get along” mentality that sometimes enables injustice or disables love?  Is it our ability to rationalize funding the institutional church despite seeing its many corrupt practices?  Is it our willingness to let men who seem incapable of deep love co-opt authority and declare themselves the supreme discerners and defenders of it?

Let’s return to Tevye for a moment.  He asked his wife, “Do you love me?” because he saw bit by bit that the “Tradition” he once heralded as a life-stabilizing force is incompatible with love.  He realized that to love sincerely he had to depart from Tradition.

The two great commandments are to love God and love God’s people.  If our Catholic traditions are incompatible with loving others, then they must be dropped.  Maybe this is why Jesus asks, “and why do you break God’s commandments for the sake of your tradition?”  And maybe this is why we must never tire of calmly and steadily asking it of the bishops.

By the way, Jesus also asked Peter, “Do you love me?”  Unlike today’s bishops, Peter was able to express his love credibly.  And when he did, Jesus told him to feed (not fire….not excommunicate…not starve…) his sheep (John 21:15-17).

And so to my bishops and Pope Francis I ask, “Do you love me?”  If the answer is “yes,” how would I know based upon your track records?  If the answer is “no” then what are you doing in your positions?

But, on the flip side, are the laity able to love the bishops and pope despite their many shortcomings and knowing full well that this love probably won't be reciprocated?

By the way, this blog post is brought to you courtesy of the shuffle mode on my iPod.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Some "theology of women" from a woman

Today is my mom’s birthday and were she alive we’d be having some sort of combined St. Patrick’s Day / birthday celebration.  Since she has started the eternal chapter of her life, I’ll instead honor the day by offering some “theology of women” thoughts based upon witnessing her faith for over 40 years.

The Roman Catholic hierarchy seems to assert that Jesus’ sexual organs are his most important body parts.  Why do I say this?  The hierarchy asserts that a priest must “naturally” remind people of Jesus’ physical body and only other men can do this.   The most differentiating physical attributes between a male and a female are sexual organs.  So, it’s easy to surmise that the hierarchy believes Jesus’ most important physical attributes are his sexual organs if they are required to evoke recollection of the man. 

This is curious in its own right because the hierarchy further asserts that Jesus never used his sexual organs for their natural intended purpose so why are they so all-fired important…but I digress.  Regardless of the hierarchy’s generous willingness to tell me what my thoughts and feelings should be, I know what they are.   The person who most reminds me of Jesus’ physical person is my mom. 

No, I wasn’t raised by a “mom” who was really just a man dressing in drag.  I wasn’t raised by a woman who later had a sex change operation either.  I was raised by my natural mother who was female all her life.  Yet, she reminded me physically of Jesus more than any other person I’ve encountered.  You might ask, “Why?”

Even if you don’t ask, “why”, I will elaborate because that …and maybe a little jetlag following my return from Southeast Asia find me awake in the wee hours of her birthday.

Jesus fed his flock, not by knocking out 80 hour weeks and turning over his paycheck to his wife so she could buy groceries that she would later cook and serve as meals to the flock.  Rather, he fed the world by offering himself, his own body.  No man I know does this but mothers do it all the time. 

My mother fed me and my numerous siblings from her very body. She fed us when we were in utero, where a mother’s body sacrifices nutrients to her child even to the detriment of her own body.  After we were born, she continued to feed us from her body, nursing us each for several months post-partum.

Jesus also welcomes us to enter into his Body.  Thus, we become part of the Body of Christ.  I think maybe this is Jesus’ way of saying, “I love you so much that I will make myself vulnerable so you can enter my body…”  This is a profoundly deep expression of love.  Women as wives and mothers welcome others to enter their bodies also, through sexual intercourse or through pregnancy.  My mother welcomed me into her body via her pregnancy carrying me.  She made herself vulnerable to allow me to enter her body and be a part of her body, even when I was no longer a physical resident of her body.

Thus, I readily see Jesus, not only in my mother but in many mothers whose greatest joy comes from making themselves vulnerable to allow others to share their body so that they may have life.

People say Jesus is our “brother” but my brothers never permitted me nor did I ever want to enter their bodies.  There’s nothing that poured forth from my brothers’ bodies that I found suitable for consumption or nourishment.  There is no part of their flesh that fed me.  Yet, there was from my mom as there is from Jesus.

Since the hierarchy asserts that physical recollection of Jesus is required of the person leading a Eucharistic celebration of the Mass lest we sacrifice sacramental validity, then it would seem that hierarchy would need to also assert that this person must be a mother.  No other type of person has sacrificed their body to give life to others.  No one else intimately knows what is involved in feeding others from their own flesh.  How curious that only one man did what many women do, and how comical to say only ordained men understand and portray it.  Donning effeminate garb does not fool me into thinking a male priest has the slightest clue about sacrificing his body to feed me like my mother did or Jesus does.  It was not the superficiality of my mother’s clothes that fed me.  It was the fiber of her physical being.  When I became a mother myself, I better understood the profound life-giving, sacrificial, deep love my mother expressed.  It became my inspiration to try to imitate her and Christ as best I could.

The experience of feeding another from one’s own body is beyond the experience of every man in history except Jesus.  At best, other men can observe others literally feeding others from their own body, but they cannot do it themselves.  Maybe because men are incapable of this primary life-giving experience, they suppress or discredit the expressions of those who do.  Maybe this is why women’s voices are so often ignored in the church unless they echo the experiences of men. 

The bottom line is that I didn’t live in the time of Jesus so didn’t see his physical body and thus, I have never seen his sexual organs.  Believe it or not, even if I had met Jesus face-to-face in his time, I sincerely doubt his sexual organs would have been my focal point because it’s not my focal point when meeting men today.  I just don’t say, “There’s a guy; he sure reminds me of Jesus because they have the same standard sexual equipment package.” 

I can imagine that this fixation on a priest having the same sexual organs as Jesus might be especially offensive to survivors of clergy sexual abuse; it is to me and I was never sexually assaulted by a priest.  If Jesus’ sexual organs are so important to remind us of Jesus, how dare they be used for sexual violence?  How dare anyone tolerate that, enable that or minimize that?  Quite frankly, this is a no-brainer: people who use their flesh to violate others or who minimize another’s use of flesh to violate others do not remind me of Jesus.

Conversely, it’s just a no-brainer that my mom’s or any mom’s holy, joyous sacrifice feeding her flock from her own flesh physically reminds me of Jesus.  Active use of her body parts to feed others reminds me of Jesus far more than the male clergy's passive non-use of body parts.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Why do Catholics leave the church?

Ever since my daughter’s copy of “The Rolling Stone” magazine arrived with Pope Francis’ smiling face on the cover, Dr. Hook’s 1970s song, “Cover of the Rolling Stone”, has been playing in my head.  I keep wondering if Francis “bought five copies for his mother.” 

According to the song’s lyrics, making the cover of “The Rolling Stone” epitomizes success, beyond any amount of money or other material goods.  Therefore, in today’s world of spirtu-tainment approaches to faith, I wondered if church attendance was sky-rocketing with a Francis “bump.” 

As luck would have it, that same week the local parish bulletin published the diocese’s October, 2013 Mass count numbers.   In 2013 6 of the 10 diocesan counties experienced their all-time lowest Mass attendance since the history of Mass-counting began.  Overall diocesan Mass attendance was down year to year in 2013.  These reflect similar findings of a Pew Research study which indicated 2013 U.S. Mass attendance dropped.  Furthermore, between 2000 and 2013 my diocese’s overall geographic population grew 3% yet diocesan Mass participation dropped 28%.  At my parish we rattle around like B-Bs in a shoebox.

Evidently Francis alone cannot reverse the multi-year downward participation spiral.  Why not? 

Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) conducted a survey about Mass attendance.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t tell an accurate story because CARA limited respondents’ choices for reasons they miss Mass to the following:
Busy schedule or lack of time
Family responsibilities
Health problems or a disability
I don’t believe missing Mass is a sin
Conflict with work
Inconvenient Mass schedule
I’m not a very religious person

There are glaring omissions from that list.  CARA’s survey provided more insight as to their sincerity for understanding the issue than on the issue itself.

The Pew Forum conducted a more insightful study entitled, “Faith in Flux: Changes in Religious Affiliation in the U.S.” which inquired why people changed religions and to what religion they migrated.  This 2009 study indicated that former Catholics number as one of the largest religious demographic groups with an almost even split between ex-Catholics becoming unaffiliated versus joining another denomination.   Here’s a summary of the most common reasons for leaving the Catholic Church.


Responses from a 2013 Vatican survey about marriage, family and sexuality are also trickling into the public domain.  Regardless of country, common themes repeatedly appear that strongly align with the Pew Forum study’s top reasons for leaving the church.  Therefore, it would seem many remaining Catholics are “at risk” for departure since their frustrations mirror those of already departed Catholics.  It would also seem urgent to address these issues.

It’s been 5 years since the insightful Pew Forum study.  How are the departure reasons being addressed?

To slow or reverse the exodus, church leaders embarked on a “New Evangelization” campaign.  This seems to consist of telling people with whom they disagree that they are wrong and/or damned but delivering the message with a perky smile, modern lingo and perhaps a “friendly” handshake or over an adult beverage.  I suspect that just more regularly and stridently, or even more “kindly” and colloquially deriding people will only lose not regain members.  The statistics seem to support my assertion.

“New Evangelization” tactics seem based on incorrect assumptions that lapsed Catholics don’t know church dogma or scripture and just need these screamed or sung at them in bars, Jesus pep rallies, and other spiritu-tainment venues until the person wakes up and says, “Hallelujah, I’m going back to church.”  However, study after study reveals Catholics do know dogma and just disagree with, if not outright reject facets of it.  Church doctrine espouses this practice as a way of fostering the organization’s continual maturation but many church leaders reject it.  Furthermore, many Catholics left the church because of familiarity with gospel teachings and belief that the hierarchy strayed too far from those teachings.  Floating amongst all this is a lot of “us vs them” mentality.

Strongly fueling the “us vs them” mindset is the hierarchy’s belief that it has cornered the markets on truth and correctly interpreting scripture.  Insistence on supreme “listening-to-God” qualities creates an impasse perhaps beyond resolution.  It is impossible to be just “us” - one integrated Body of Christ - as long as any individuals or factions believe they serve a superior versus a different function within the body.   The Spirit is violated and faith in the Holy Trinity is replaced by worship of the organization itself via making adherence to “tradition” more sacred than truth or love.

If church leaders sincerely want lapsed Catholics back, it’s time to quit before getting farther behind in the infallibility game.  It already has pinned the institutional church into what the hierarchy perceives is an inescapable and what others perceive is an intolerant extremist corner on homosexuality, birth control, treatment of women, divorce and remarriage as well as abortion – the top reasons people leave the church.  In the past 5 years there have been increased political lobbying expenditures and activities, excommunications, threats of excommunications and job terminations pertaining to all those topics.  I suspect if the Pew Forum survey were taken now, the top departure reasons would be even more pronounced.    

Continuing down the list of departure reasons, we hit the sex abuse tragedy.  The institutional church refuses to address the clergy abuse scandal in an effective way that holds bishops accountable and works towards institutional reconciliation.  Instead it continually tries to downplay the scandal’s impact and existence despite scandal after scandal unfolding and the recent publication of a scathing U.N. report.   

Right after sex abuse we hit clergy celibacy.  A simple stroke of Francis’ pen reinstates the practice of married clergy because no theological reason prevents it.  Why hasn’t this happened? 

We finally arrive at topics associated with clergy’s personal charm and Mass quality.  The cardinals did select a personally charming pope, charming enough to make the cover of The Rolling Stone.  Aside from that, there’s a reversion to the Council – not the Second Vatican Council but the 1500s Council of Trent.  Seminarians seem dipped in heavy impenetrable wax coatings of Tridentine philosophy which features weak biblical scholarship, fears the God-created world, promotes misinformation about human biology, sexuality and psychology and further fosters an “us vs them” relationship with the laity.  Significant investments were made to re-translate the Mass but this was done to adopt more Tridentine-esque language and aura despite about 90% of former Catholics saying the church’s departure from old traditions had absolutely nothing to do with their departure from the church.

Help me understand how re-entrenching on things that caused people’s departures while “fixing” things that didn’t is going to bring people back?  Is there an ounce of sincerity in lamentations about missing those who’ve left if even the simplest reforms are not made?

Please note that Francis’ laudable favorite topic of poverty is pretty far down the list of reasons people leave the church.  Perhaps laypeople and religious sisters living Catholic Social Doctrine already defined the Catholic experience enough on this topic that finally having a pope aligned with it just doesn’t move the attendance needle.

Piecing this together makes sense.  Addressing Catholics’ lesser concerns by electing a more personable, poverty-minded pope does not negate ill effects from neglecting people’s most impacting concerns. 

Where do we go from here?  How do we work as “us” when groups continue to foster “us vs them” mentalities?  Is the Body of Christ – the church - really dismembered or just in diaspora?