Monday, June 30, 2014

The results are in...

Remember that brief 39 essay question survey the Vatican issued a few months back? You know… the one soliciting opinions about the church’s teachings on human sexuality and marriage to act as input to this October’s Synod on the Family.  Well, the Vatican has compiled and released its preliminary findings from the survey in a document called an instrumentum laboris.  Literally translated from Latin as…and we know the Vatican is all about literal Latin translations… granting us, O Lord, we pray, to hear about impoverished Jesus having an oblation in a gallant chalice held by his holy and venerable hands on a regular basis…  But, I digress.  Literally translated, instrumentum laboris means “instrument of labor”, basically a tool.

If you don’t want me to spoil your pleasure reading the 85 page report yourself, then stop reading now.  However, if you don’t want to invest numerous irretrievable hours of your life reading a report that could have been written without surveying a single person, you might prefer reading this summary instead.

When it was first issued, I wrote this about the survey in a November 2, 2013 blog article, “…do not place too much hope that the Vatican seeking your opinion means the Vatican will actually heed your advice.  It might again just inspire the Vatican to write another really long document in Latin explaining why you are wrong.”

It turns out that statement was prescient other than the Vatican crowd did disappoint by writing the original report in Italian rather than Latin.  Don’t despair.  We can still hope that some dreadfully long academic admonition in Latin emerges from the Synod itself.

To be fair, amidst the 85 pages of “We are right so how do we get these stubborn, misguided idiots to follow us…”, there were 2 entire sentences acknowledging the hierarchy’s lack of credibility as a moral authority since its culture enables criminal sexual abuse of children (paragraph 75).  And there was a half sentence which came dangerously close to acknowledging cultural sexism, “In some places characterized by a somewhat sexist cultural tradition, there exists a certain lack of respect towards women…”  (paragraph 55)

Don’t fret though.  The guys in Rome were not speaking of their own overt institutional sexist culture but the “somewhat” sexist secular culture in certain geographical regions only.  Vatican-originated sexism seems to be getting brasher as the idolized pope Francis recently boldly evaded Italian journalist Franca Giansoldati’s compelling questions about women by making sexist jokes.  For example, Giansoldati was trying to get Francis to be specific about these greater church roles for women he often touts by asking if Frank might appoint women to lead any Vatican departments.  Francis felt that serious question merited this response, “Well, priests often end up under the sway of their housekeepers.” 

Help me understand, Francis.  What message were you trying to convey about women and why did you think evoking the image of a stereotype rooted in both sexism and clericalism would convey it?

Anyway, here’s a summary of the report.  Brace yourself for the insightful void of insight:

  1. Unmarried, childless, clerical men, often lacking healthy intimate relationships, who like to parade in bejeweled gowns, know more about relationships, marriage, and child rearing than people who are actually married or have children.
  2. Said men are right, were right and will always be right.
  3. If you disagree with the hierarchy, you must be ignorant, stubborn or misguided and will be labeled “lost” even if you have a better grasp of the gospel messages than hierarchical leaders and consider them lost.  Please see item (2).
  4. Any information you provided through the survey was just to help them help you by “enlightening” you about your sinful ignorance in more “loving” and effective ways.  See item (2).
  5. If people have difficulty accepting what the hierarchy teaches, it must either be a problem of how the hierarchy expresses its teachings or how you receive it because the teachings themselves are, did I mention this yet….”right.”  See item (2).
  6. Gender studies that unmask the hierarchy’s sexism and misogyny are evil due to them inspiring people to question item (2).
  7. Information and facts are your enemy unless they are filtered through Vatican approved spin-doctors.  They cause you to realize when the hierarchy is wrong and again, please see item (2).
  8. If anything inspires you to question item (2), it is evil.
  9. By studying science and nature, people have figured out that the hierarchy’s invented “natural law” notion is, much like this term, qui fabricati (fabricated..made up).  Since this is confounding the hierarchy’s ability to confound nature, rather than correct themselves…because please see item (2) above…they might need to consider inventing a new slogan.
  10. Life situations that do not align with the hierarchy’s romanticized, academic, theological musings must be miserable because if they aren’t, it might lead to contradicting the immovable premises set forth in item (2) above.
  11. Model your marriage after the Holy Family….you know, the family that procreated without having sex.
  12. If the hierarchy feels you are unworthy to receive communion because of your marital and/or sexual practices, you need to just accept that they do this for your own good and overlook the hypocrisy of the sexual escapades and/or crimes of the men consecrating the hosts and ordaining the men who consecrate the hosts.
  13. Despite the gospel indicating Jesus came for the sinner, the hierarchy perpetuates the notion that communion is only for the worthy, and hierarchical leaders will, of course, define who is worthy…please see item (2). 

I offer this as food for thought.  The morning my mom died I asked her what she wanted for breakfast and she responded, “I want…I want…oh, what is that thing called…I WANT THE CHILD THAT IS MEDICINE!!!  That woman could barely breathe or think clearly but she about blew my hair back barking with fierce certainty that she wanted the Eucharist…the child that is medicine.

Gentlemen of Rome, please take note from my dying mother.   Communion is medicine for the misbehaving (that is all of us) not a treat for the well-behaved.  Who then that desires communion should be denied it?

By the way, I’m not surprised by the report; I could have written it last November before the first response was submitted.  I would call it a vastate labore (wasted effort) rather than instrumentum laboris (instrument of labor).

As I mentioned in my previous blog article, the hierarchy thinks it is married to the church (the people of God).  With this example of the hierarchy’s unhealthy marital relationship “dialogue” practices…asking questions for the sole purpose of gaining ammunition to prove your spouse is wrong…should the hierarchy  perhaps gaze in the mirror or at theology and Canon Law more than at T.V.s, newspapers, the internet, gender studies, secular governments, science or smartphones when pondering the underlying causes of strained interpersonal relationships? 

Marriage isn’t about who is right and who is wrong.  It is not a True/False quiz.  It is about learning, sharing, bending and being together in love.  My dear brothers in the hierarchy, as long as you set yourself above and apart, how can you be credible examples of or proponents for marital love?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

US bishops staying the course...

What a curious week.  On one hand I read that the US bishops voted in their annual spring meeting to “stay the course.”  My initial reaction?  Oh goody!  We can look forward to yet another year of bishops trying to expand their theocracy’s marginalization of women and homosexuals further into secular government.  And, we’ll be treated to an encore performance hearing them intermittently and indignantly ejaculate “Religious liberty!” while they do it despite them trouncing on others’ religious liberties in the process. …Something about “self-awareness” keeps popping into my head.    

Wait a minute…I’m also getting a reading from my psychic barometer.  It predicts these ejaculations will increase in frequency and volume the closer we get to the US’s mid-term elections.  Yippee!  Can’t wait.

On the other hand, this week I also listened to one of my friends describe how his kids’ Catholic school enrollment has been cut almost in half after experiencing a raging alcoholic pastor followed by one who is a Protestant convert still enveloped in Protestant charismatic preaching styles.  Now, this is a new trend it seems…the iconic mega-church fundamentalist Protestant preacher in Catholic priest’s clothing.  Don’t say the old dogs can’t learn new tricks sometimes.  But, since this trend began before the bishops decided to “stay the course,” I think that means this new tactic is part of the course they will keep.  I can only guess that the objective is to cut Catholic school enrollments in half again. 

On yet another hand, this week I also read the deposition of Robert Carlson, a man some people call “archbishop” but for whom I cannot choke out that word since “bishop” means “overseer” and when I read his deposition he exhibits no behaviors associated with tending his flock like a caretaker.  His favorite three words in the deposition were “I don’t remember.”  It is so prevalent that I wonder if the man can remember what color pants he wears, though presumably it is standard clerical black … every … single … day. 

Here’s a selection of his responses from just the first ten substantive questions in the deposition.

  1. “I do not.” (In reference to if he recalled something.)
  2. “I don’t remember, but I really can’t say.”
  3. “I really can’t remember with any accuracy.”
  4. “I don’t remember.”
  5. “I don’t remember with any accuracy…”
  6. “I don’t remember…”
  7. “As I remember, no information came to me about him that I could say with any accuracy.”

Yes, 7 of Bob’s responses to the first 10 questions were variations on “Bob Can’t Remember A Darn Thing.”  I haven’t tallied the responses for the deposition’s full 156 pages, but having read the entire document, I’d guess that the 70% forgetfulness rate is a pretty close estimate if not conservatively low.

I found myself puzzling over this.  If Bob struggles to remember things, how can he remember the teachings of the faith?  Bishops are entrusted with teaching the faith.  How can he teach what he doesn’t remember? 

How can he remember the subtleties associated with tenets of faith when he can’t remember major traumatic events like a priest sexually assaulting kids…repeatedly?  Wasn’t it important enough to carve out a storage location in his brain? Most compassionate people would have a seared permanent image from it, I suspect.  Maybe Bob once stored that info but has subsequently overwritten it with fascinating notions about “religious liberty.”  I don’t know.

Is Bob an incompetent bishop due to his memory issues?  Call me a skeptic, but I think Bob is not being 100% truthful.  I think he’s having selective court-induced memory problems (SCIMP).  If that’s the case, then he is even less competent to be a bishop than if he were suffering early-stage dementia symptoms because selective memory failure falls into the category of “bearing false witness,” one of those pesky Ten Commandments.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m a big fan of letting humans be human, including bishop humans.  But, since bishops declare themselves to be THE penultimate guardians of truth, they force us into holding them to a zero-tolerance standard for their deviating from it.  Ergo, if Bob was playing selective memory-loss games with a severe case of SCIMP, he is truly not competent to serve as bishop.

But wait! There’s more!  In addition to forgetting just about everything except his name, Bob expressed during his recent deposition that some years back when handling abuse cases, he didn’t know that sexual assault of a minor was a crime!

Attorney Jeff Anderson: “Archbishop, you knew it was a crime for an adult to engage in sex with a kid?”
Bob Carlson (St. Louis’ current sitting archbishop): “I’m not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not.”
Attorney Jeff Anderson: “In 1984, you are a Bishop in the – an Auxiliary Bishop in the Archdiocese of St. Paul / Minneapolis.  You knew it was a crime then, right?”
Bob Carlson: “I’m not sure if I did or didn’t.”
 (Pages 109 - 110 of the Deposition dated May, 2014)

Good news!  Bob did admit he now knows that raping kids is a crime.  He just doesn’t know when he came to this understanding.  I don’t know what device we have to thank for Bob’s enlightenment either but let’s give three cheers for him grasping this concept sometime before his upcoming 70th birthday. 

However, despite his eventual enlightenment, this exposes a certain appalling and unacceptable callousness that might justify finding him supremely unqualified to be a bishop.   Please do not suspend your activities awaiting his resignation or apology, though.  No, he is already implementing the brotherhood’s “Stay the course” strategy and issued a statement defending himself instead.  He joins the ranks of so many other bishops, archbishops, cardinals and popes in taking this evasive approach regarding sexual abuse, I’m sure he feels it’s a winning strategy.

As an aside, according to Bob’s statement, it seems he, who possesses the intellectual capacity to earn multiple advanced degrees, just didn’t understand the question despite one of those degrees being in … wait for it…. CANON LAW!  I guess Canon Law must be a lot easier to understand than secular law, at least maybe when one is imbued in the culture that produced it.  You saw how confusing the questions were…very tricky in that special, direct, straight-forward manner.  Maybe he’s so used to clerical obfuscations that clarity is just downright unclear for him.  We feel your pain, Bob.  You guys are making less and less sense to most of us faithful, too.  Right back at ya, buddy.

Tying all these strange things together, I realized that the Holy Spirit is working in her mysterious way.  The bishops “stay the course” not only on culture war matters but on accountability and truth-telling too, thus continuing to endanger children in their care.  Coincidentally, they forsake many Catholic traditions, theological teachings, and gospel messages in favor of attracting and ordaining mega-church iconic personalities.  This in turn inspires parents to protect their kids by yanking them from Catholic schools.  Perhaps eventually, the clergy’s sexual assault of children and its cover-up will end when there are no more children in their system?  Can't we please get rid of the incompetent bishops instead? 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Marriage and the Hierarchy

How about we do a marriage assessment today?  Don’t worry single people; you can participate too because you won’t assess your marriage to someone with whom you exchanged rings and vows.  Rather, you will assess your marriage to the Roman Catholic clergy. 

In case you’re unaware that you’re married to the clergy, here’s a quick summary of the church’s teaching.  The clergy believe they wed the church because they think this is required for them to imitate Christ whom they believe married the church.  You might be wondering, “Isn’t it polygamy when multiple men marry the spouse of the person they’re imitating?”   However, the answer to that is either “it’s a mystery” or “twice the square root of the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin simultaneously.”  I forget which.

You also might wonder, “Do they really believe they’re married to the church?”  I think the answer is, “yes” based upon doctrinal writings and hierarchical utterances.  For example, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said in his November, 2011 General Assembly address to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), “I look out at 300 brothers each of whom has a ring on his finger, because we're spoken for, we're married.”  Tim definitely thinks he and his brother bishops are married; just look at their rings.

Since the church is the people of God, that means they are married to you and me.  When did this marriage take place?  Well, that is not clear but from the time you are baptized, you’re kind of “in” so let’s say you entered this marriage at your baptism. 

If you’re like me, baptized as a newborn, you probably pulled out your copy of Canon Law and started rattling off all the Canons that are broken by an infant entering this marriage.  However, just in case your life is too interesting to read Canon Law, let me share a few highlights with you here. 

  • Canon 1063: both parties must understand the holy state of matrimony before entering it
  • Canon 1065: both parties need to have been confirmed
  • Canon 1083: minimum valid marrying age is 16 for a boy and 14 for a girl. 
  • Canon 1095: marriage is invalid if either party in the marriage lacked reason, or consent
  • Canon 1096: both parties must understand marriage’s permanency
  • Canon 1103: marriage is invalid if either party is forced or coerced into marriage
Violation of any of these establishes grounds to annul a marriage. Yet, all of them are violated by pulling an infant into this mystical marriage with the clergy by baptizing them as members of the clergy’s spouse, the church.      

Even if the hierarchy thinks the faithful enter this mystical union at Confirmation, it violates several Canons.  Regardless, let’s not get caught up in Canon Law.  After all, we all know how forgiving the hierarchy is when it comes to rules that don’t suit their interests. 

Let’s just play along and say we are validly married to the clergy because if we don’t, how can we take this nifty quiz the USCCB has called “Grade Your Marriage.  What fun!  We can grade the hierarchy as our spouse…using the hierarchy’s very own standards for good marriages!  I’m sure they’d love for us to do this because they are huge advocates for strengthening marriages.  Therefore, I’m confident they want to strengthen their marriage with you, the people of God so as to set a good example.

The quiz asks each spouse to rate their partner on a scale of 1 to 10 in 15 areas.  I’ll relax the rules and permit a 0 to 10 scale, but please, no negative numbers no matter how tempted you may be.  The specific assessment areas are listed below.  Remember, you are to rate the church hierarchy as your spouse.  Therefore, I added some contextual description associated with the clergy / church marriage. 

  1. Shared Values: How well do your and the clergy’s values and priorities align?
  2. Commitment: How committed are the clergy to you?
  3. Communication: How well does the hierarchy communicate with you?
  4. Conflict Resolution: How skilled are clergy members at resolving conflicts with you?
  5. Intimacy/Sexuality: Let’s ignore the sexual dimension on this one.  How much interpersonal intimacy do you have with the clergy?
  6. Spirituality/Faith: How well do the hierarchy’s faith and spirituality align with and support yours?
  7. Money Management: How satisfied are you with the clergy’s management of money?
  8. Appreciation/Affection: How well does the clergy express appreciation towards you?
  9. Lifestyle: How compatible is the clergy’s lifestyle with supporting your lifestyle needs?
  10. Recreation: How satisfied are you with the leisure time you spend with clergy?
  11. Decision Making: How satisfied are you with the hierarchy’s decision making practices?
  12. Parenthood: How satisfied are you with the clergy’s parenting skills and support for raising your children?
  13. Household chores / gender differences: Remember, no matter your gender, in this marriage, you are the female church.  How satisfied are you with the gender roles and division of labor between you and the hierarchy?
  14. Careers: Is there adequate support from the clergy for your career?
  15. Balancing Time: How well do the clergy balance time when it comes to their relationship with you?
The instructions say any assessment area rated at 8 or above is in good shape while anything in the 4-7 range is considered to be in a danger zone.  The instructions then say to total scores for all 15 assessment areas and declare any total score higher than 100 as being an “A” for the marriage overall. 

I can’t help noticing that if you scored your spouse an average of 6.66 out of 10 (66.66% or a “D” on most grading scales) on every single question (solidly in the “danger zone” for every question), that results in a total of 100 and an “A” for your marriage overall on the hierarchy’s scale.  Evidently in “bishop math” fifteen “D”s = one “A", a phenomenon closely related to Jesus’ loaves and fishes gig.

I will not influence your assessment by providing mine here.  I do hope you take the survey and discuss it with your hierarchical leaders.  If people send me their responses, I can tally them and provide stats in a subsequent blog article or send them to the USCCB.  However, based upon listening to people, I think the results will indicate the hierarchy needs some serious marriage counseling with their spouse.

Survey aside, I have a few other thoughts regarding the clergy’s marriage to the people of God.  What’s up with excommunication?  The hierarchy should never set aside their spouse via excommunication.  The official viewpoint is that excommunication is “medicinal” versus a “divorce” but, how many of you stop feeding your spouse if they disagree with you?  “…You don’t want my mother visiting???? I think you can bloody well go without any food until you change your mind.”  And how many of you consider withholding nourishment as an acceptable form of “medicine?”  “…You’re sick, dear?  No food for you until you’re healthy…it’s for your own good, honey.”  

Canon 1135 says there’s equality between marriage partners, but that isn’t the case when it comes to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, is it?  In a healthy marriage, both parties make amends and forgive, recognizing they both err.  However, with the hierarchy, those of us constituting their wife are always the erring party, always the ones needing to confess, always the ones receiving penance, always the ones needing forgiveness…and from them.  “We’re equal, sweetie, it’s just that you’re always the one to screw up.  But don’t worry because I’m here to forgive you for all these screw ups.”  There are marriages like this where the husband is always right but they are typically categorized by one word, “abusive.”

Finally, what’s up with Canon Law calling me a “subject” if I’m married to the hierarchy?  Have you ever heard a wedding end with, “I now pronounce you man and subject?”  If Christ is king, then his bride is queen, not “subject.”  If the clergy fancy themselves princes, then we’re their princesses, not their “subjects.” 

Do you think the hierarchy is married to the people of God?  Do you think the marriage is healthy?  If not, do you think it can be saved?  What kind of marriage therapy might work?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Dear Pope Francis, I'm really confused....

Dear Pope Francis, I’m really confused.
Because I read the very same day in the news

With abusive priests they claim their arms only reach the Vatican wall
But with the American nuns, suddenly across the ocean, those same arms can sprawl?

For predator priests the Curia says they must respect the law for each land.
Shouldn’t they do likewise when American nuns’ Constitutional liberties are at hand?

Maybe like the game my kids used to play,
They simply think that it’s “Happy Opposite Day?”

Because in my land, the land of the nuns in question
Free-speaking women are no problem, but sexually abusive priests deserve incarceration.

The pedophile priests are only part of the problem.
The Vatican ignores bishops shuffling predators round-robin.

Then pretend the problem disappeared and any worry is for naught

Money is hidden; bankruptcies are filed.
Bishops evade accountability while victims are reviled.

And the person who appoints every bishop … pssst…. That’s you
In my culture is considered somewhat responsible too

Popes appoint all bishops who ordain every single priest.
They have censured some people quickly for supporting certain causes, even in the least.

But with abusive priests they claim by their own admission
They lack extra-Vatican authority, or is that just an excuse for sins of omission?

This selective impotency when it comes to abused kids
Has really put the whole church’s reputation on the skids.

And, I know by laypeople it’s been repeatedly stated
That the hierarchy’s credibility by its own actions has been negated.

If you claim national borders prevent you from stopping predator priests
Because you think they operate as independent disconnected uncontrollable beasts

Then kindly refrain from the obvious hypocrisy
Of trying to control independent nuns you accuse of apostasy.

Either you control the worldwide church or not
But please stop with this morally relativistic rot.

If you can’t control the priests then you don’t control nuns. 
If you want to control your daughters, please, first control your felonious, abusive sons.

The Curia speaks of dialogue but issues edicts instead.
This also is confusing from the guys wearing red.

I realize the bishops approve the sisters’ communities’ existence or not
But after that, the community makes most of the decisions, I thought.

The sisters elect leaders and vote on community members and rules.
A bishop just listens to them take poverty vows while dressed in his mitre and jewels.

I’m trying to understand why the CDF is so frustrated.
Maybe realizing their powers’ limitations leaves them feeling somewhat castrated?

Or do they covet the sisters’ hospitals and schools
Thereby inspiring them to impose overbearing rules?

Perhaps there’s a culture gap emerging from language skill
After all, that last Mass translation exposed their English abilities as being almost nil  

Yet, the priorities are apparent to most people with children
Thumbs up for strong sisters; thumbs down for negligent churchmen