Here's what I find troubling about the idea of conducting exit interviews (and here) with "fallen-away" Catholics: if Würzburg bishop Friedhelm Hoffman is correct and "every single departure hurts and is one too many," then the focus of Catholic pastoral leaders (and apologists for them,* such as Michael Sean Winters), ought to be on finding ways to keep those "fallen" Catholics in the church. Not on watching them walk away and then asking them why they've "fallen."
Friday, December 31, 2010
Yesterday, in discussing Marele Day's book Lambs of God, I said that the church we imagine depends very much on where we're situated, in terms of power and privilege. Men with clerical power and privilege often imagine a church quite different from the one imagined by others--as my excerpt from Day's book indicates. The church imagined (and lived) by the Cistercians of Tibihirine, Algeria, discussed in my other posting yesterday, represents a radically different model in which ordained men, who could rely on power and privilege to make their lives comfortable, renounce power and privilege to live in solidarity with the least among us, and to share their fate.
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Here's a picture of the reality of church--a picture of what the real church, as opposed to the ideal church to which it all too often appears many bishops and priests imagine themselves ministering, entails in many parts of the world--that you don't read everyday. This is Australian novelist Marele Day, in her hilarious, shocking, theologically probing novel Lambs of God (NY: Riverhead Books, 1998):
Steve and I saw Xavier Beauvois' brilliant prize-winning film "Of Gods and Men" yesterday, and I can't recommend it highly enough. The film follows the final days of a group of French Cistercian monks in Tibhirine, Algeria, who were murdered in 1996. The abductors and murderers of these Cistercians have never been identified. As the movie suggests, the monks were in some respects merely pawns in a dangerous, ideologically murky political game being played by local insurgents and a corrupt national army, and either or both may have been involved in their murders.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
As the German Catholic church takes account of what has happened in that national church during the past year, and finds that there is a huge exodus of Catholics from the church in Germany, Würzburg bishop Friedhelm Hofmann tells the media, “Every single departure hurts and is one too many." The diocese of Augsburg lost 11,351 Catholics this year, while 17,169 Catholics in the diocese of Rottenburg-Stuttgart left the church, and Würzburg lost 5,484 members.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
David Michael Green on Obama and Gay Rights: President Does Not Intend to Make the Moral Case for Rights
And finally (that is, finally with the political commentary this morning), in my view, David Michael Green gets it just right, re: Mr. Obama's role in the process that ended DADT, and what his behavior in the DADT debates predicts for the future, vis-a-vis his administration and gay citizens:
British journalist Johann Hari first came on my radar screen during the papal visit earlier this year. I liked his commentary at that time, and find him enlightening now as he talks about the behavior of David Cameron's "tea party" government in cutting social services and jobs, while protecting the assets of the top echelons of British taxpayers. His essay on these themes yesterday at Huffington Post provides a valuable complement to what I posted the same day here at Bilgrimage re: these matters.
The Catholic cardinal archbishop of Washington, D.C., Donald Wuerl, tells FOX news that the Catholic church has no position on DADT, but whatever happens as discrimination against gays and lesbians in the military is abolished must be seen in the context of Catholic teaching--which is that human sexuality must be exercised responsibly and within marriage:
Monday, December 27, 2010
John Allen on Tom Doyle and Benedict re: the Abuse Crisis: Classic Centrist Balancing Act, Going Nowhere
John Allen's recent NCR piece placing Pope Benedict and Fr. Tom Doyle side by side in a discussion of the crisis of clerical sexual abuse of children in the Catholic church is a perfect illustration of the game that centrism is all about. Centrists like Allen love to create false equivalencies between two incongruous positions--left and right, Benedict and Doyle--in what, on the face of it, purports to be a dispassionate dialogue between the positions. With the centrist as the impartial, objective, uncommitted arbiter.
Well, though I do find Jeff Danziger's Christmas-in-London cartoon funny, I have to say, our experience here hasn't been anything like this. We did fly into Gatwick on the 20th, a day after Heathrow had been closed by a snowstorm, and the problems at Heathrow apparently continued for days after that. Our flight was full of people who had been bumped from other flights. And we considered ourselves very lucky that it landed on time (even ahead of schedule) without a hitch, while so many other flights were being canceled.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
A thought for today, to complement what I have just posted: this is from Kathleen Norris, Dakota: A Spiritual Geography (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993):
Another journal entry to follow the one I posted yesterday as a Christmas meditation. This, too, is Christmas-themed, and I wrote it on the same day (24 December 2010) that I wrote the one I posted yesterday.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
The last few days, at the tail end of Advent, I've published snippets from journals I kept in previous years. As I've noted, I've been leafing back through my journals for one reason or another, and the pieces I published in the past several days leapt out at me.
Friday, December 24, 2010
Another journal entry in which I struggle with the recognition that my career as a Catholic theologian was effectively ended when a Catholic college chose to give me an unexplained terminal contract in the early 1990s:
There is only one pecan pie recipe in the whole world worth baking, and my family is lucky to have a copy. And here's how we happen to have it: as you may have guessed from previous rambling food commentary, which enfolds the bare bones of a recipe in layers and layers of swaddling narrative, my family's recipes invariably have stories attached. Even the little typed note cards I found in my grandmother's recipe drawer when my aunt and I divided the contents of her house have indications of who provided the recipe, when it was provided, in some cases, notes about when and how it was tried, and what might need to be altered to make it better.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
In this and several other postings from previous journals I'll be sharing in these days approaching Christmas, I reflect on the intense struggle Steve and I went through in the 1990s, when my job in the theology department at Belmont Abbey College was ended suddenly by a terminal contract that the college would not explain to me. I resigned after having been stonewalled, and have never again been able to find a job teaching theology in a Catholic institution. Nor has Steve.
I can't imagine that anyone celebrating Christmas hasn't already planned a Christmas meal, but on the off chance that some reader might still be shopping around for menu ideas, I thought I'd share a recipe that I shared a year ago with a number of readers who emailed me to ask about dressing, when I talked in a posting last year about chicken and dressing. This isn't an easy recipe to share, because I don't really have a recipe at all for dressing, made (as my family has always made it) in the traditional Southern way.
With the end to official discrimination against a targeted minority in the American military, I've received several fascinating comments here by someone who works as publicity director for a Catholic anti-abortion group in the U.S. He's clearly intently unhappy to see legalized discrimination against gay human beings ended in the military.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Another journal entry: this one is from 11 Aug. 1997. I'm commenting on Mary Oliver's poetry, with its constant intrusion of the surprising divine, and the occlusion of scripture for many us today who find more scriptural force, at times, in non-biblical sources (like Oliver's poetry, for me) than we do in the scriptures themselves. In the Scriptures as they're handed and proclaimed to us by our churches, that is . . . .
I love Frank Cocozzelli's annual Coughie award. Frank created the distinction to "honor" an American Catholic who, in the vein of the rantin' and ravin' anti-semitic priest-cum-radio personality of the 1930s, Father Charles Coughlin, "best exemplifies an exclusionary, strident interpretation of the Catholic faith." A true Coughie excels, in other words, at mimicking the toxic memes of the religious right, with its noxious mix of (right-wing) religion and (right-wing) politics and its underlying theocratic goals for the nation with the soul of a church.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
I begin to wonder if Pope Benedict is capable of taking a step forward in any area at all, without taking two simultaneous steps backwards. On the one hand, his fresh admission that the Catholic church has a quite serious problem on its hands with the situation of clerical sexual abuse of children (and the systematic cover-up of that situation for years on end) is welcome and should be applauded.
Another journal entry from the past, following a trip Steve and I made to Minnesota for a family reunion. As I've noted previously, Steve's family has deep ties to the German Benedictine communities in Minnesota. This reunion occurred near St. John's Abbey in Stearns County, where Steve's paternal ancestors settled when they emigrated from Germany. Many of Steve's relatives for generations have been monks at this abbey and nuns at the women's Benedictine community down the road.
Andrew Sullivan's response to Frank Rich re: centrism is telling for all kinds of reasons. First, it's interesting that A. Sullivan considers it important to counter Rich. I suspect that, in doing so, he's reflecting a centrist preoccupation of sectors of the mainstream media, which deem it necessary to marginalize what they judge to be the left wing of the Democratic party. And which continues to consider it worthwhile to try to offset any critical influence that what they see as the left wing of the Democratic party might attain.
Monday, December 20, 2010
Another selection from a journal entry of mine from the past. This one comments on the resignation of Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee after it became public that Weakland had had a consensual sexual relationship with an adult male, and had used diocesan funds to pay his former lover hush money when the affair soured. I actually wrote this journal entry in Milwaukee, where, as it happened, Steve had a job interview at the same time that Weakland resigned.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
And, as a complement to what I published earlier today about Meister Eckhart's creation-centered theology of revelation, this reflection from a journal of mine from a few years ago focuses on the indispensable and always inadequate task of trying to put into words and concepts the experience of the divine, which transcends language.
As Mary Raftery notes in the Irish Times yesterday, what's especially noteworthy--and exceptionally troubling--about the case of Fr. Tony Walsh in Ireland, who sexually abused more than 100 children, is how many clerics knew about what Walsh was doing, and colluded to cover it up.
I'm going through the commentary this morning about the DADT repeal vote, and noting the extent to which commentators are willing to spin this victory as a victory for the very folks who have made the repeal process so tormented, so unnecessarily vacillating. Congress and the president are receiving credit for having made a courageous decision that they should long since have made, while the real heroes who have made this possible are people like Lieut. Dan Choi, Fr. Geoff Farrow, and many others, who have been arrested protesting the policy in D.C.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
John Lewis and Louis Gohmert on Discrimination in the Military: Who Owns the Future of American Democracy?
Another way to put the point about Archbishop Dolan and Bill Donohue: these battles about who owns central Christian symbols are really also about who will ultimately prevail as history moves along, and as a rich, multifaceted tradition like Catholicism moves along with the current of history. And as the meaning of its central symbols unfolds under the impulse of historical development, as believers appropriate the symbols and apply them to their experience in ever-shifting cultural contexts.
Back in October, I blogged about the Anoka-Hennepin school district in Minnesota, in which there has been a horrific spate of suicides of students, several of them clearly related to bullying of gay youth. As I noted in my posting, in September, I tried to communicate my concern about what is going in in their schools to the Anoka-Hennepin school board, and got quite a run around from one of the local board members, a former Republican state representative.
When I posted Thursday about Archbishop Timothy Dolan's defense of Bill Donohue's attack on the Smithsonian for staging the work of AIDS activist David Wojnarowicz, I noted that Our Daily Thread, a new blog of the group Catholics United, had alerted readers to Dolan's defense of Donohue.
Without Stephen Colbert, I wonder how American culture would ever hear the authentic voice of Catholic social teaching these days? Lord knows, not from our bishops, who are too intent on
kissing up to Republican CEOs bashing artists dying of AIDS as they produce anguished, probing meditations on the meaning of the crucifixion. As they remain totally silent on significant social justice issues like the growing disparity between rich and poor. Or the bullying of teens to suicide because God made them gay.
Friday, December 17, 2010
And again, interesting to note the dovetailing of today's posting at Tea Party Jesus with what I've just posted about who owns the sacraments. Tea Party Jesus is mocking the recent claim of some anti-gay religious right groups to own the rainbow.
Theological Reflections on Who Owns the Sacraments: Bishops' Claim to Exclusive Ownership Contravenes Tradition
If readers can stand yet another reflection (again, from one of my journals of the past) on the mandate of Jesus to his followers to wash one another's feet, here's yet another bit of commentary. Though I wrote these comments in my journal on 23 May 2004, they do seem relevant to me today, as Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted threatens to remove the Catholic designation of a hospital in his diocese that has, he maintains, been disobedient to him as the definer of what it means to be Catholic in his neck of the woods. For background to the Phoenix story, see here and here.
It's almost as if Robert Borosage wrote his essay at Huffington Post today as a companion piece to Paul Krugman's New York Times op-ed on which I just commented. Re: Mr. Obama's feel-the-love meeting yesterday with top corporate CEOs, Borosage writes,
Paul Krugman on what any of us who expected our current U.S. financial crisis to be a teachable moment have actually learned from the way the government has handled the crisis:
I wonder if the new president of the U.S. Catholic bishops' conference Timothy Dolan and Bully Bill Donohue will be raising a fuss anytime soon about what Erik Prince has done to undermine the reputation of the Catholic church in the U.S. as a group standing for human rights--and human decency, and justice and love?
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Here--sadly--is a sign of the quality of leadership the U.S. Catholic bishops have just chosen with the election of Timothy Dolan as their president. In a posting on his blog today, Dolan praises Bully Bill Donohue--"Dr. Donohue"--for Donohue's recent opportunistic and politically motivated attack on the Smithsonian for staging the art work of David Wojnarowicz at an exhibit. Dolan accepts Donohue's claim that his objection to Wojnarowicz's work is that he found the art, which depicted a crucifix with ants crawling on it, to be blasphemous.
More on Jesus's Rejection of the Club of Manly Men: Dominance and Submission as the Hierarchical Skeleton of Patriarchy
And another selection from a journal entry of mine from the past. This one, written 25 Aug. 1994, offers a counterpoint to what I posted yesterday about the DADT debate and Jesus and the club of manly men:
A campaign is already underway to give President Obama cover for his tax-cut deal and his decision to bring in the master triangulator, Bill Clinton, to soft-sell that deal to the American public. I'm not persuaded by the apologists, though.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Dorothee Sölle writes, in The Strength of the Weak, trans. Robert and Rita Kimber (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1984):
And, as a companion piece to what I just posted about the DADT debate and the boys' clubs to which Jesus belongs (or, more appropriately, does not belong): another excerpt from a journal entry of mine some years ago. This one is from 8 June 2003:
A few weeks ago, I blogged about a proposal by the vice-chancellor and vocations director of the Catholic diocese of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to save the priesthood by ridding it of the vice of effeminacy. As I noted in that posting, this analysis, with its suggestion that the priesthood is now a gay club, and that the priesthood must be saved by re-populating seminaries with manly men, runs through important sectors of American Catholicism right now. Spend any time at all reading blogs of the Catholic right or watching the influential Catholic television network EWTN, and you'll encounter this gender-biased (and homophobic) analysis of the ills of the contemporary priesthood, and its concomitant proposal to save the priesthood by bringing back the manly-men priests we imagine of yore.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Another excerpt from one of my journals of the past—a passage I copied in November 1995 from Alan Jones's book The Soul’s Journey: Exploring the Spiritual Life with Dante as Guide (San Francisco: Harper, 1995). This strikes me as a valuable meditation piece for Advent, with its uncomfortable questions about whom we're willing to make room for in the inns of our lives and hearts.
Another excerpt from journals I kept in the past. This entry is dated 12 Feb. 1997:
A Lenten reflection: as I pray this morning (though I've forgotten that today is Ash Wednesday), I think of Isaiah crying out, "Make a straight path for our God" (40:2). I open the bible to find that verse, and instead, my eyes happen to fall on the following line: "Consider the work of God; who can set straight what he has made crooked?" (Ecclesiastes 7:13).
Thinking this morning about an interesting conversation that has come to me two different ways this week--first, through email correspondence with an insightful e-friend, and then on a Facebook thread through a friend there. This is a conversation about what lies behind the ability of some mothers to savage their children (or so it appears to those of us on the receiving end of maternal treatment at times).
A continuation of my reflections about John Paul II following his death on 2 April 2005. I wrote this piece in my journal on 17th April that year:
Monday, December 13, 2010
And, as a counterpoint to what I just posted a bit ago, on the callous response of Vatican officials to the abuse situation in the Irish Catholic church, here's another excerpt from one of my journals of the past. I wrote this on 8 Jan. 2004, after the national audit that followed the shocking revelations about clerical abuse of minors by American priests in 2002:
You know that line in the Catholic catechism that deplores discrimination against gay and lesbian folks? Well, it appears not all Catholic pastoral officials really believe the catechism, when it comes to this issue. As Eugene McMullen notes at Religion Dispatches today, the Catholic Archbishop for the Military Services Timothy Broglio opposes ending the ban on openly gay soldiers in the American armed forces.