Tag: church

Humpty Dumpty Had A Great Fall…

I’m not sure why, but as I was thinking about a title for this commentary, one of my childhood nursery rhymes popped into my head. It was almost as if I were having a mystical experience. But why I thought? What does he have to do with despair or hopelessness for in the Church? Then I remembered as kindergartener I could never figure out why Humpty fell off the wall in the first place. Did someone push him or was it his own fault that he fell, and why couldn’t they ever put him together again?

Then in my adult mind it dawned on me, perhaps is an analogy for the situation the Catholic Church is in. There are many who believe the church is at a breaking point or already has “had a great fall” and can’t be put together again. An increasing number of us no longer have the energy to “fight the good fight”, and are ready to admit defeat, and move on. The question is, can be put together again? This commentary will consider whether the ness for renewal in the Church that I covered in my last commentary, makes me a Cockeyed Optimist, like the song in the Broadway musical, by Rodgers and Hammerstein, South Pacific. Or is it time to join the increasing numbers of what Tom Roberts calls ‘had it’ Catholics? [LINK].

SOURCES OF HOPELESSNESS

I believe that many of the reasons for our hopelessness for can be traced to actions or inactions of the hierarchy. Since there are so many examples of our leaders stonewalling adult dialogue, and examples of their own misbehaviors, I decided to limit the sources of hopelessness to a few fairly recent sources.

I’ve been reading Brian Lennon S.J.’s book published in 2012; Can I Stay in the Catholic Church?, with the hope that it would provide new information for how we decide our standing in the Catholic Church. Here’s a website, Building a Church without Walls, [LINK] with information about his book and links to other articles that he’s written, as well as links to articles by the website’s editor. Lennon clearly identifies the most logical reasons for leaving the church, and seems to be incensed by the behaviors of our church leaders. He asks the question, “So why do I choose to remain in the church?” I don’t mean to spoil the suspense but, his final decision is to remain in the church. I respect his decision, but I was surprised in the way he arrived at it. Lennon replays all the scandals over the centuries, from slavery which was “…imposed in the Third Lateran Council of 1179 on those helping the Saracens.” [LINK] to the crusades in the 11th and 12th centuries, to the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th century, up to the scandals of present time. When you come right down to it, I believe that he uses all the past scandals to confirm his thesis that eventually, the Holy Spirit will intervene and the church will bounces back magically from the current discontent, as it has in the past, but that change might take decades or more.

To me, it reminds me of playing baseball in grammar school, before we came up to bat we’d pray, “Hail Mary full of grace, let me get to second base” and expected divine intervention. I don’t mean to dismiss the Holy Spirit or prayer, but Lennon is basically making the argument, that because other incidents of malfeasance by our leaders have eventually been resolved, or faded from our memories, that’s the way the Holy Spirit works. It just doesn’t fit with my understanding of outside intervention by the Holy Spirit.

Episcopal John Shelby Spong wrote an essay recently that I believe is an example of why the majority of the catholic laity doesn’t buy the church’s position on same sex marriage. The title of the essay is, You Are Profoundly Wrong: A Response to the Archbishop of Newark and Others.[LINK] Spong answers a lengthy article by Archbishop John J. Meyers, When Two Become One: A Pastoral Teaching on the Definition, Purpose and Sanctity of Marriage. [LINK]

He starts his essay in a very civil fashion by acknowledging that he has no reason to believe that Meyers is not a good and sincere person but, he advises the Archbishop that “…one has a responsibility to be well-informed on the issues about which one speaks.” He suggests that it is not acceptable to just quote the authority of the magisterium of one’s church to support ideas or “…to quote traditional religious conclusions, as if they are viable or still acceptable in academic and intellectual circles.”

If you look at the references at the end of Meyers’ article you’ll see that most of them are quotes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church or what popes or early fathers of the church had to say. It’s like me quoting something from an article I wrote years ago, to prove a point on a current issue. This doesn’t make any sense, unless you’re in the type of denial [LINK] that can make an otherwise intelligent individual behave in an unintelligent manner, because they are too threatened by the Truth, and are unable to process what is perfectly apparent to most people. Spong goes on to “…try to unravel this maze of incoherent conclusions.” The article is well worth reading if for no other reason, to see how a contemporary scholar responds to a clergyman stuck in the past, whose mission is to impose the teaching of the church on the consciences of others, in this case sane sex marriages. Thus, denying us the primacy of our conscience.

THE BISHOPS’ POLITICAL CAMPAIGN

This reference is hot off the press. It’s a response from Americans United for the Separation of Church and Stateto President Obama’s re-election on November 6, 2012. The title of the article, Election Outcome is Bitter Defeat for Catholic s and [LINK] is essentially a response to the Catholic s and their religious fundamentalist allies’ attempt

to control the outcome of the election. Many of us believed that the bishops’ casuistic strategies in their campaign to defeat the Obama administration, was an abuse of the power of the political pulpit. Attacks by some bishops and other clerics were blatant assaults on the President (like comparing him and his administration to the Nazis and worse). When the bishops were criticized publically, they tempered their rhetoric. They prefaced their statement by assuring their readers that they weren’t telling the faithful whom to vote for, but if you vote for a politian who supports legislation in favor of contraception or abortion etc., you are putting your immortal soul in jeopardy of eternal damnation. I questioned their approach in several commentaries on the website, one was entitled Obama vs. Dolan, [LINK] challenges the way the bishops abused the church’s tax exempt status to surreptitiously promote the election of political candidates who didn’t agree with their positions.

HANS KUNG HAS HAD IT!

Since the day that spent a pleasant four hours at Castel Gandolfo in 2005 with his former colleague, and newly minted Pope Benedict XVI, Kung has reassessed his optimism for Benedict’s papacy several times. I remember when Kung came to Phoenix for a lecture about two weeks after his meeting with the pope, and I had the pleasure of having an “intimate dinner” with him along with a group of 30 or 40 members of the Jesuit Alumni Association of Arizona. He told us “privately” that he had decided to talk about things that both he and the pope agreed on to avoid any awkwardness. His immediate response after their meeting was that they had a cordial reunion talking about old times and issues they agreed on, and he was “cautiously optimistic”.

Fast forward to 2009 when Kung called for a Third Vatican Council, and listed a number of issues that had not even been discussed at Vatican II. [LINK] At the same time he recognized that “…another global council would not happen because the Vatican was afraid…and was trying to restore the pre-Vatican II church…”

Kung’s next major announcement was a five page, single spaced letter addressed to all the Venerable s. [LINK] He first apologized for the open letter format, and adds that “…unfortunately I have no other way of reaching you.” After expressing how his hopes for the pope’s papacy along with “… so many engaged catholic men and women have been unfulfilled…”, he spends over a page pointing out the missed opportunities for rapprochement with every religious group that Benedict has estranged. He particularly highlights the Jews, when he “… reintroduced into the liturgy a pre-conciliar prayer for the enlightenment of the Jews…and the Muslins in his 2006 Regensburg lecture…(when he) caricatured Islam as a religion of violence and inhumanity…”

Kung gives his assessment of what he thinks were serious faux pas on the pope’s part, like promoting the medieval Tridentine Mass, and reinforcing the anti-conciliar forces in the church by his curial appointments. He goes on to discuss some major crises that were poorly handled by the pope. At the top of his list “…comes a scandal crying out to heaven-the revelation of the clerical abuse of thousands of children and adolescents …and to make matters worse, the handling of these cases given rise to an unprecedented collapse of trust in church leadership.” He concluded the letter with six proposals for the bishops to consider.

I’m not sure if any of the Venerable s personally responded to Kung’s letter but the Vatican responded on the front page of its official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, under the headline, Dear Hans, followed by a bit of tactless sarcasm from the author, Pier Giordano Cabra. [LINK] He told Kung that “…perhaps if your letter had breathed a bit more of the hymn to charity, it would have turned out to be a more elegantly evangelical gesture of congratulations” for Benedict’s 83rd birthday and fifth anniversary as pope, as well as “a more fruitful contribution to the church that is suffering for the weakness of her sons.” The weakness of her sons, indeed!

“Comes the revolution!” On October 5, 2012 an article appeared in The Guardian entitled, Catholic Theologian Preaches Revolution to end Church’s ‘Authoritarian Rule’. [LINK] Guess who the theologian was? You got that right! Apparently Fr. Kung’s letter to the bishops and all his previous strategies of , revival, or renewal didn’t have the effect on the Vatican that he hoped for, and he proposes a new strategy, revolution. He’s following an old dictum “If the strategy you’re using is working do more of it, if it’s not working, do something different.” This was not the first time Kung mentioned a more aggressive approach for change in the church, for example, the comprehensive transcript of an interview by Anthony Padovano presented at the meeting in Detroit of the American Catholic Council [LINK], and an article in Der Spiegel [LINK] entitled the Putinization of the Catholic Church, both in 2011. It’s apparent in reading these articles that Kung was getting more and more impatient with the hierarchy, not only for their digging their heals in, but if push comes to shove, they would take a laissez faire position and settle for a much smaller church.

THE SYNOD AND THE ‘NEW EVANGELIZIATION’, MORE DISAPPOINTMENTS!

The title of an article in the Catholic News Service on October 26, was Faith in Jesus Means Being Optimistic about the Future, Synod Message Says. [LINK] I’m sorry, I have faith in Jesus, but I don’t have the same faith in the 260 cardinals, bishops, and s who attended the synod. Unlike the optimism that the documents of Vatican II inspired in many of us fifty years ago, I found the end results of the synod disappointing. Although the New Evangelization at times seems like talking points prepared by a Madison Ave. PR agency, there are some encouraging words. For example, an article entitled, Message of the Synod: Look with ‘Serene Courage’ to the Future of Evangelization, [LINK] is mostly positive. They point out issues of families, poverty, the importance of parishes, need for dialogue and how they “…want our communities to harness and not suppress, the power of their enthusiasm.” They talk about dialogue, dialogue, dialogue! [LINK] But given their recent history dialogues is not their best suit. We need actions not just words. The bishops know how to “talk the talk, but not how to walk the walk” as they say in the twelve step programs. I’d be more if they had added a sentence with a touch of humility, something like, “Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa, we realize we haven’t always been open to dialogue, nor have we been consistent in being transparent, but we promise to be more transparent and committed to dialogue in the future.”

They reflect on Vatican II as, “the great Council of the Church”, which proclaimed the need for the faith to be communicated anew to the modern world.” This doesn’t match their recent rhetoric and actions. They acknowledge Lumen Gentium, for setting “…the groundwork…by laying out the Church’s mission; Gaudium et Spes, in which the Church dedicated herself to “dialogue,…changes in the social order and shifts in attitudes to morality and religion….”; Ad Gentes tell us the how of evangelization…” etc.

Much of text in The New Evangelization’s document reminds me of a song that Frank Sinatra sang in the early 1940ies, I’ve Heard that Song Before. Some of you might remember, the first line: “It seems to me I’ve heard that song before, It’s from an old familiar score, I know it well, that melody.”Now don’t get me wrong, I love nostalgia and I believethat some of the content of the New Evangelization can be helpful, but not as it’s presented in the synod documents, where they don’t mention the faithful having any role in the governance of the church. They are clear that our role is to evangelize, to spread the faith, “not that there’s anything wrong with that”, but they apparently plan to continue to dictate to the faithful what they must believe, without listening to what the sensus fidelium has to contribute to their decisions.

DECISIONS, DECISIONS, DECISIONS

In the space available for this commentary and my last one in , Hope Springs Eternal …, [LINK] I’ve provided examples to help balance the pros and cons for whether to remain, leave, or take a sabbatical from the Roman Catholic Church. But, I don’t think it’s enough for us to just add up the pluses and minuses to make a decision. I wish it were as simple as it is for someone like Bill Donahue, “…the chronically peeved president of the Catholic League…” as Bill Keller referred to him in an article in the New York Times, The Rottweiler’s Rottweiler. [LINK] In Donohue’s new book Why Catholicism Matters, his characteristic response to someone who disagrees with the church’s teaching, on say gay marriages, would be, Shut up or go! Would that it were so unequivocal!

I think the major reason why it so difficult for many of us to buy into Donohue’s shut up or go philosophy, is that the decision to leave the church is not just a black and white cognitive decision. It involves emotions that we might have struggled with for years. Looking back on my , there have been a number of occasions when I had to make a decision to stay or leave. I remember how I agonized about leaving the active ministry. It took me at least five years before I wrote Pope Paul VI a letter requesting a dispensation (It took him two years to answer me). Then there was the dilemma of my divorce. In some ways leaving the church is similar to getting a divorce. My personal experience of getting divorced, and my professional experience as a therapist, where I counseled couples and families through their divorces, and gave workshops on divorce recovery, supplied me with ample anecdotal and empirical information of just how heartrending it can be. Leaving the church, despite its many moral weaknesses, is not an event as much as it is a process. No matter how much reflection, how much support, how much praying we do, when push comes to shove, only the individual can make that decision, we are the deciders; not the pope, not our bishop, not our confessor, not our parents, only we can make that decision. But that’s a whole other commentary.

As I’ve said a number of times, I believe change in the institution of the church has to come from the bottom up. I don’t belong to the same Roman Catholic Church of my youth. I don’t kowtow to Rome or its minions. I follow the mantra of “Keep the Faith, but question the beliefs”, and have eliminated those beliefs that no longer make any sense to me. I intend to continue to be part of those lay movements that are working from inside the church for change, as I have for years. Will all the changes I’d like to see, happen in my time? I doubt it! In the meantime unless they kick me out of the Catholic community, I don’t plan to change religions. Living in a retirement community, where the good Holy Cross fathers preside at the liturgy every Sunday, meets my need for a sense of being part of a spiritual community. But I am open to the sharing responsibilities for the disenfranchised with other spiritual and religious communities.

So, as a former professor of mine used to say, “We shall see what we shall see!” 

The Hierarchy and the Lowerarchy

In Obedience to Authority and Loyal Dissent I indicated that in my next posting, I would share my viewpoint on how the governing structure of the Church has been dysfunctional and how that affects the People of God.  Briefly, my fundamental belief is that the majority of the problems the Church has experienced both pre and post, II, are rooted in its ancient and absolute monarchial governance.  As a first step, the very least the hierarchy needs to consider is a bona fide agreement  to acknowledge and operationalize the sensus fidelium’s (the sense or mind of the faithful) lawful right to participate in decisions on faith and morals. This needs to be a sine qua non, otherwise there will be little chance for reform or renewal, accept as the sensus fidelium is defined by the .

In this commentary I will provide background information on the legitimacy of the sensus fidelium;  and of how the hierarchy has consistently ignored the mind of the people; and how an egalitarian dialogue is an essential component for change. I will also provide information on a promising document approved by the ’s International Theological Commission, which supports the role of the faithful; plus statements by high ranking members of the hierarchy who don’t go along with the party line.

EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN

Long before the Arab Spring and movements were launched, faithful layfolks had established a number of reform organizations whose s were to assist in changing controversial and divisive positions of the church. Their efforts have been met with varying degrees of success, which I will expand on later. But for the most part, although these reform groups have clear goals and appropriate plans of action, they have been stonewalled by the hierarchy when it comes to the Church even considering a change in its structure of governance; or even seriously accepting the input of the lowerarchy.

Over the years there have been various interpretations of sensus fidelium.. They range from the degrading declaration that Pius X made in his encyclical Vehementer Nos in 1906, in which he stated “The duty of the laity is to allow themselves to be led, and like a docile flock to follow their pastors.” (Every time I read that quotation, I think, and he was infallible?) Contrast Pius X’s prose with the more magnanimous message of Saint John Henry Newman in his article On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine:

“Consulting the people is not to be regarded as just a friendly gesture on the part of the pope or bishops. Consultation is something the laity has a right to expect. Their view may serve at times as a needed witness of the truth of a revealed doctrine.”

More recently,  Lumen Gentium, Chapter II, On the People of God one of II’s most important affirmative documents, declared that the charisma, of the Holy Spirit are available to all the faithful “of every rank”.  To put this in economic language, “the hierarchy doesn’t have the corner on the market on doctrine.” Referring to Jesus, Lumen Gentium, sections 40, 41 states:

“He does this not only through the hierarchy who teach in His name and with His authority, but also through the laity whom He made His witnesses and to whom He gave understanding of the faith [sensus fidei] and an attractiveness in speech so that the power of the Gospel might shine forth in their daily social and family life.”

An even more contemporary study is one approved  by the ’s International Theological Commission and was reviewed in America Magazine’s April 2, 2012 issue entitled Commission Text Holds Surprises on the Role of the Faithful. The title of the Commission’s study is : Perspective, Principles, and Criteria. America describes the study as, representing “…a forward looking consensus view, in this case it’s about the role of theology in the life of the Church.”

The study declares, “Attention to the sensus fidelium is a criterion for theology. Theology should strive to discover and articulate accurately what the faithful actually believe.” The is a conviction “…deeply rooted in the people of God, who receive, understand, and live the Word of God in the Church.” The study goes on to describe how the body of the faithful, especially the laity and lay theologians are part of “…the interface between the Gospel and everyday life and have a role to play in the church’s interpretation of the signs of the times.”  For those who are interested in learning more about the report, here is a complete copy of Theology Today: Perspectives, Principles and Criteria  approved by the whole Commission on November 2011 and released with the approval of Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the .

I believe the Commission has chartered a vision of the Church of the 3rd Millennium.  Whether it will be embraced is questionable. As the America article points out, despite the fact, that Benedict XVI strongly emphasizes the eternalness of the Apostolic Tradition, “…the affirmation (in ) of historicity is a daring move.” It goes on to assert that the Commission boldly asserts, “The council’s uses of the expression ‘signs of the times’ shows that it fully recognizes not only the historicity of the world but also of the Church.”

At the risk of over-dramatizing the Commission’s position, I believe it echoes President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, which I would like to paraphrase:

…and that this Church, under God, shall have a new birth of freedomand that governance of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Perhaps I seem a little too optimistic about the power of the Commission’s report! But I do have my doubts. Even as I was writing this section, I began to wonder if the rest of the and the bishops had even read , and if they had read it, did they just file it in their “circular file”? What made me wonder are some of the recent responses to the faithful,  by the bishops. They still seemed dismissive of the sensus fidelium.

The bishops’ responses to suggestions for an adult dialogue, is not a new position. It seems their mind-set remains, “Let us sit down and discuss this issue together, but in the end, we’ll do it our way.” Even though the old “my way or the highway” approach, doesn’t work, they refuse to change their tune. It’s analogous to the definition of insanity that’s attributed to Albert Einstein, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.”    It’s their position of tradition!  They remind me of Tevye and Golde, in the musical Fiddler on the Roof,singing the opening song “Tradition”, when they bemoan the reality that their daughters aren’t going to submit to the age old tradition of husbands being chosen by a Matchmaker. Like Tevye and Golde, the bishops are living in a world that no longer exists; a world where almost everyone thought that the earth was the center of the universe and, was created in six days. They don’t seem to have the same vision of the sensus fidelium that the Commission expressed. Underlying the mind-set of the bishops is their belief that they, and they alone as successors to the apostles make the rules and everyone else should sheepishly follow their shepherds.  Or, as I’ve heard repeatedly in reference to the hierarchy, especially in the case of the sexual abuse of children by s, “They just don’t get it!”

The most blatant example of the difference between the ’s document and the hierarchy, was Paul VI’s so called contraception encyclical Humanae Vitae, when the pope trumped the decision of his Commission, and banned “artificial”  contraception. For details see my commentary in ,Humanae Vitae: The Turning Point for the Catholic Church, which traces the history of birth control and raises the question of whether the encyclical was about, sex and contraception, or Papal authority and the inability of the hierarchy to admit the teaching in Pius XI’s encyclical Casti Connubiion Christian Marriage, needed to be revised. The decision that was made definitely doesn’t fit with the Commission in Today’s Theology’s”signs of the times”. Nor does it agree with the sensus fidelium.  As we know, thousands of people left the church or if they remained, they continued to practice some type of artificial contraception. But Paul VI was the decider!  Ipse dixit!  Literal translation “he himself has said it” or, the definition from Webster-Merriam, “something alleged: something asserted dogmatically and without proof”.

Here’s a voice with much more authority than I have, who disagrees with Paul VI’s decision.  It’s an article entitled Cardinal Martini’s Jesus Would Never Have Written  “Humanae Vitae” by Sandro Magister that speaks for itself. I also think that Cardinal Martini’s assessment is in harmony with .

There are many other examples since then that illustrate the difference between the spirit of Today’s Theology and how the hierarchy responds to the faithful when they try to exercise their legitimate role as part of the sensus fidelium, but I’ll mention just one recent example.

THE NUNS AND the HIERARHY, DIALOGUE WITH THE DEAD?

One of the most publicized examples is the current conflict between the Nuns and the hierarchy over the rights of the “lowerarchy” to a bona fide dialogue as faithful members of the People of God. Many of the Nuns’ backers believe that the focus is the manner in which the and the bishops are mismanaging the current conflict with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).  Here are several situations that I believe are typical of the way that the bishops’ idea of dialogue does not conform with the sense of “signs of the times” as expressed in the ’s own document, .

To give the hierarchy the benefit of the doubt, perhaps the problem is that both sides have different understanding or misunderstanding of the word dialogue.  To me dialogue and compromise suggest that both parties are on an equal level. One definition of an egalitarian dialogue is one “… in which contributions are considered according to the validity of their reasoning, instead of according to the status or position of power of those who make them.”  As I read John L. Allen Jr’s interview with Cardinal Levada on his view of the LCWR, it became crystal clear to me that his Eminence’s view of dialogue was not the same as the Nuns’ or mine.  I guess if you’re His Eminence, it’s not possible to imagine the Sisters to be at your same echelon. It certainly didn’t sound that way in the interview. The Cardinal’s responses made me think of Martin Buber’s classic book, I and Thou.  Buber basically contrasted I and Thou with I and It. His Eminence does not believe that the Nuns are worth of an I and Thou relationship because that “…is a relationship of mutuality and reciprocity.” The Nuns only merit an I and It relationship because it is “… a relationship of separateness and detachment.” Here is a YouTube Presentation of Martin Buber’s “I and Thou. So much for the benefit of the doubt! Nevertheless, it might be helpful for all of us to keep Buber’s words in mind if we expect to have productive dialogues with one another.

Jamie Manson’s article LCWR’s Annual Meeting: Some Reflections and a Little Back Stop in the National Reporter,points out that many of the reform groups that have tried to transform the church’s  structures, can’t dialogue or negotiate with the hierarchy because “… the climate has become so uncompromising…”.  She quotes Sister Pat Farrell, when she was president of LCWR as saying, what the Nuns want at some point in the process is to “…be recognized and understood as equals in the church, that our form of religious life can be respected and affirmed…it might sound like just asking for dialogue is vague, but I think ultimately, one of our deepest goals is to create that kind of climate in the churchnot just for ourselves, but for the church throughout the world.”

In an article by Joshua J. Mc Elwee, Overseeing Bishop: LCWR ‘Not in Accordance with Church he makes it clear what Sister Pat Farrell was reacting to in Bishop Leonard Blair interview on the radio program, Fresh Air.  Blair is the Bishop of the diocese of Toledo, Ohio, one of three bishops appointed by the to oversee the LCWR.  Farrell asked the question on the same program a week earlier, “Can you be and have a questioning mind?” When the bishop was asked whether he or the other two bishops who are involved with the LCWR’s revision were open to dialogue, Blair replied, “…that would depend on the sisters’ definition of dialogue.”  He went on with his definition of dialogue that was not close to being an I and Thou dialogue as described by Martin Buber. It was a very legalistic response that would suggest that if your idea of dialogue is not the same as his, there’s no point in having a dialogue. You can read his response in the title of the article at the beginning of this paragraph and decide for yourself.

ADDENDUM, REQUIESCAT IN PACE

This is an article from ROME (Reuters), September 2, 2012 In Final Interview, Liberal Cardinal Says Church is 200 Years Out of Date. It reports the death of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, the former Archbishop of Milan. He was 85. As you’ll recall I quoted him above from an earlier article where Cardinal Martini questioned Paul VI’s decision on Humanae Vitae. This current article quotes him from and interview two weeks before his death, as saying, “The Church must admit its mistakes and begin a radical change.”  Wow! I’ll drink to that! What adds weight to his opinion is the fact that he was papal candidate, once favored by progressives to succeed Blessed John Paul II of happy memory.  Here are two other quotes by the Cardinal that give his vision of the future of the church.

“Our culture is aged, our churches are big and empty and the church bureaucracy rises up, our rituals and cassocks are pompous. “

The Cardinal’s final message to Benedict before he died was “…to begin a shake-up of the church without delay.”

For me, Cardinal Martini offers hope for change in the church. Like John XXIII, they were both harbingers of the future. Even though they were part of the hierarchy, they understood and took into consideration the hopes of the people of God, and were willing to take a stand outside of the rigid box of tradition. They were willing to acknowledge the need for urgent change. My hope is that there are many more members of the hierarchy who are willing to take courageous positions as they did. Their spirit gives new meaning to the prayer I haven’t thought of in years:

“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.”

I will continue, in my next commentary to provide more specifics for how we, the People of God, can become part of the efforts to “renew the face of the earth and the church.”

My Calling to the Clerical Culture

I’d like to share some anecdotal information that I personally experienced both as a and , who became part of the culture. There certainly were “benefits” but there was also a price to pay for being put on a pedestal by parishioners as well as people outside the Church, who had some unrealistic images of anyone who wore a Roman collar. I’m not suggesting that my experiences represent the majority of those who were ordained in pre- II, but I think my experiences can resonate with others who were ordained during that period of time, and for those who are interested, they can vicariously identify with the dynamics of becoming part of the culture.

In my next commentary, I will move from my personal experiences as a former “cleric”, and consider the concept of the culture from an institutional, sociological, and psychological perspective. I will first examine the abuse of—and—and addiction to power in the Church, from the on down. Second, how the perpetuation of culture has contributed to the sexual abuse of children. Finally, I will propose how I believe that we, the people of God can begin to change this elitist culture of ism.

Naïve and Immature

I have a section in my memoir entitled My Calling. It describes a casual conversation I had with Father Harry Hinds. He was the director of the Youth Program (CYO) for the diocese of Albany, NY. I worked in his office as his assistant during my last year in high school. One day while we were working on the spring baseball schedule, he asked me what I was going to do after I graduated. I told him I was thinking of going to Siena College to study social work. He asked if I ever thought about becoming a . I told him I thought about it, but I didn’t think I had a calling. The next thing I knew, he was on the phone talking to the Chancellor of the Diocese telling him he had a young man in his office who was thinking about a vocation to the hood. By the end of his phone call, he had made an appointment for me to talk to Monsignor Rooney about my vocation. I was a little surprised to say the least, but part of me was flattered that he thought I was worthy enough to join their club. I was also more than a little naïve and immature. To make a long story short, the next September, I was off to St. Thomas’ a minor Seminary in Connecticut to become part of the culture. My parents never questioned or pushed my decision, but being “good s”, I sensed that they were pleased with my “choice”.

Seminary Days

I took to the seminary like the proverbial “duck to water”. The sports, the camaraderie,  the feeling that I would have a in that would not only bring me closer to God, but would give me an opportunity to help others to know and serve God. In my puerile mind, I imagined myself as being like Bing Crosby in the two movies Going My Way, and The Bells of St. Mary’s, where he playedFather Chuck O’Malley. For me, being a was like being a member of a Fraternity. We even had our own song, Ecce quam Bonum, the first line from Psalm 133, “Behold how good and how joyful it is for brethren to dwell together in unity”.  That was also our chosen class song at the major seminary, St. Mary’s Seminary and Pontifical University.

The Hot House

During the eight years I was in the seminary, we were required to spend eight weeks of our summer “vacation” at Camp Gibbons, the diocesan camp for s on Schroon Lake in the Adirondack Mountains. The schedule was much more relaxed than the seminary’s. In the morning they bussed in children from parishes in several towns near the camp for religious instructions. It was a chance for us to teach catechism.  The rest of the day was time for swimming, playing tennis, sun bathing, and living a of luxury. Our colleague from other dioceses accused us of being put in a “hot house” for the summer to maintain our chastity by not being open to the temptations of the outside world. Looking back, I suspect that they were right. Especially, since we were under the watchful eye of our bishop, who spent his summer with us in what he called “his Villa”.  At the time I thought it was just another opportunity to bond with your brother s, after all they would be my major support group after ordination.

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When I was getting close to ordination, one of our neighbors, a non-catholic woman wrote a poem that she dedicated to me. The title was, He Walks with the Hand of God. I just remember the first line or two, a little corny but it was her perception. “Not long ago a boy I met, who my kind of did not covet, for he walked with the hand of God. His air was so proud, and he so perfect, for he walked with the hand of God.” You see what I mean about it being a little corny? Thinking about it now, it’s a little scary—me, perfect?—years later I used to do a workshop entitled Be Ye Perfect: Mission Impossible! I must have intuitively known before my ordination that perfectionism was not achievable, at least for me.

Here’s another example of the perfection that was expected of me. One of the meditations that I often used in the seminary was written by a Dominican , Father Jean Baptist-Lacordaire, who lived in the nineteenth century:

Thou Art a Priest Forever

To live in the midst of the world with no desire for its pleasure; to be a member of  every family, yet not belong to none; to share all sufferings; to penetrate all secrets, to heal all wounds; to go daily from men to God to offer Him their homage and petitions; to return from God to men to bring them His pardon and hope; to have a fire for charity and a heart of bronze for chastity; to bless and be blessed forever. O God, what a and it is yours, O Priest of Jesus Christ!

At the time it seemed like a very quixotic role to play. But even then, I used to wonder, why me? There were so many guys in my high school class who were: smarter than I, holier than I, more popular than I, why was I the chosen one? Looking back, Father Lacordarie’s description of the role and responsibilities of a was indeed a “mission impossible”. The expectations seem overwhelming.  When I expressed my doubts to my seminary confessor, he told me they were just goals and that no one could meet them all the time, and that no one is perfect, we just do the best we can. When I told him about my concern about having “a heart of bronze for chastity”, andthat I was struggling with impure thoughts and temptations, he reassured me that once I was ordained, God would give me the grace that I needed to overcome those temptations.
It was not until I read A.W.Richard Sipe’s book, A Secret World: Sexuality and the Search for Celibacy, published in 1990, I realized just how many other were struggling and often losing their battle to have a “heart of bronze for chastity.”  Sipe is a former , and now is a psychotherapist, who has been engaged in research on the institution of the and ly celibacy for over thirty years. The research for this book presented empirical of sexual activity by almost 50% of the Roman . I wonderedif my seminary confessor knew that there were that many who were ordained and did not ipso facto receive the grace of celibacy. And if he did, would he have given me different advice.

Ordination

At my first mass there was a line of over 200 people waiting to receive my blessing. I realized that it was not Don Fausel they were waiting for, but Father Fausel—but it was still a rather spine-tingling feeling to have everyone from my long lost relatives to Erastus Corning II, the mayor of Albany kneeling at my feet as I pronounced in Latin, “May the blessing of Almighty God, Father Son and Holy Spirit, descend upon you and remain forever.”

After I finished blessing everyone, my boyhood friend, Muggsy McGraw, pulled me aside, and brought me down to earth in his own inimical way, “Look Fausel, you got your butt in a tub of butter, three squares a day and no heavy lifting, don’t screw it up! You got instant status, instant security, and a job for . Yesterday you were nobody and today you’re Father Fausel. Ya get my drift? ” How right he was!

But I was elevated again when I got to my first parish. Like most parishes in those days, there was an older lady that acted as cook and housekeeper for the . We ate at a formal table with a white table cloth, the pastor sitting at the head carving the roast; solid silver eating utensils, expensive China dinnerware, and a little bell to summon the cook for dessert or coffee. I’d come a long way from the kitchen table where my family ate our meals and where I thought my mother ate the neck and wings of the chicken because she liked them.

I remember one morning I went into the kitchen after Mass to let the housekeeper know I was ready for breakfast.  I noticed a note scotch taped to the wall that said, “Father Fausel, turned over easy.” My immediate thought was someone had been monitoring my sleeping habits, until she told me the note was a reminder of how I wanted my eggs. Sitting at that table alone for breakfast, I always felt like the “poor little rich boy.”

Then there was Mamma Leone’s Italian restaurant on West 48th Street off Eighth Avenue, one of the most popular eating places in New York City. When I was a student at Columbia, occasionally several of us cleric types would go there for dinner dressed in our clothes.  We’d be standing outside in a long line, when a Maitre D’ would spot us and rush out to say loud enough so others could hear him, “Fathers your reservations are ready”, and then usher us into the restaurant, leaving dozens of dinners waiting behind . Of course we didn’t have reservations. As I became more accustomed to similar privileged treatment, it was easy to assume it was an entitlement.

In my memoir I recalled an incident about the pastor of the I was assigned to in the Schenectady, NY. It was in the early sixties, I was on duty at the rectory, when I received a phone call from the captain of a police precinct in New York City. He introduced himself and asked if we had a Father Mac (factious name) stationed at our parish. He went on to tell me that they picked him up at a local hotel down near the Bowery and he was “drunk as a skunk” and didn’t have money to pay for the hotel room. He told me they wouldn’t press charges, and asked if we could pick him up. I told him I’d be down the next day and thanked him.  Before hanging up he sheepishly gave me some advice, “Look Father, this poor guy needs some professional help. Our records show that this ain’t the first time we picked him up. You know what I mean?”  The next day I was off to NYC to pick up our pastor. It was a sad one hundred and fifty mile drive back to Schenectady. Father Mac was either apologizing profusely or crying, or both.

This episode demonstrates several things about the culture: the deference the police captain had for hood, and the willingness he had to cover up for a drunken . Plus my congenital condition of being an enabler and coming to Fr. Mac’s rescue, so he wouldn’t be embarrassed for having been charged with a crime and the parishioners wouldn’t be scandalized by his behavior. The good news is that the other associate pastor in the parish and I arranged a quasi-intervention to persuade Father Mac to get professional help. Which he did!

Priests Need Priests

There were number of us relatively newly minted stationed in Schenectady. A few of us decided we’d like to get together on a regular basis to go out for lunch. The group grew to about eight or ten. We would meet at different restaurant each week, have lunch and chat mostly about what was going on in our parishes, complain about our pastors, gossip about who might be made a pastor, etc. Some of us would play golf together, maybe go to an occasional movie, or go to NYC for a Broadway musical, and several of us when to Cape Cod for a week’s vacation. Our mantra was Priests need Priests. There’s certainly no question about that, who else were we going to relax with or enjoy our free time with? It only occurred to me recently, even though we might talk occasionally about theological issues or the up-coming Council, it was always on an intellectual level. Even if we discussed mandatory celibacy it was not about our getting married if they changed the rules, it was as if we depersonalized it. As I remember we never talked about feeling or personal problems that we might be struggling with. At least that I was struggling with. Being able to share feelings should have been one of the major reasons the Priests need Priests group were meeting for.

Fast Forward to 2002

On June 12, 2002, my friend John Rusnak and I boarded a plane to Dallas Texas to attend the meeting of the United States Conference of Bishops (USCCB). We were not invited quests of the bishops but where members of Call to Action (CTA). John was the president of the Arizona Chapter and I was a card carrying member. We had been reading the news papers accounts about the out- break of the scandal of pedophile in the Boston Globe, and we were a tad cynical that the bishops would have the integrity to put the best interests of the victims and their families ahead of their history of secrecy of protecting the . As we buckled ourselves into our seats and the cabin door slammed shut, I looked at John and said, “What the hell are we doing going to Dallas?” Neither of us had a rational answer, but our plane was taxing down the runway as we both shrugged our shoulders as if to say—beats me!

Well, here we are ten years later! Little did we think that the sexual abuse of minors would be worldwide.  In the United States most are still not satisfied with the bishops’ negligible response to the sexual abuse debacle, or with the fact that the bishops refuse to acknowledge, and take responsibility for their part in covering up for the perpetrators.

So contrast those experiences I described above, when I was wearing a Roman collar to about forty some years later to the USCCB 2002 meeting in Dallas. In addition to attending some very stimulating workshops, one of the other activities our CTA group participated in was a protest march from a local parish to the luxurious Freemont Hotel where the bishops were holding their meetings. The closest we could get to their hotel was across the street, where we set up our signs of protest and peacefully demonstrated. At one point I had to go to the men’s room. When I tried to cross the yellow tape police markers, I was informed by a policeman, that I wasn’t allowed in the hotel unless I was a guest. When I explained my urgency, he accompanied me into the hotel, turned me over to another officer who told me I would have to give him my driver’s license before I could take care of business. The men’s room that I used was not even close to the room where the bishops were holding their meeting. I guess they weren’t taking any chances.  Since the media was out in full force, the thought briefly went through my mind to make a scene, but nature’s call prevailed.

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The few experiences I described about my as a and (I have a million of them) might seem rather trivial, but they’re typical of the unearned deference and distinction made between and “ordinary folks” that underlies ism. It’s the same distance that the Occupy Wall Street movement brought to our attention when they pointed out the disparity of the 1% of the top of the economy to the 99% at the bottom. As we definitely were part of a privileged class, not just in those little acts of reverence we were given, but more significant Father was always right. After all, at that time had more education than most of our parishioners. We had spent four years after college studying theology; we had the power to administer all the sacraments; we were always in a place of honor at any parish event. The only ones in the Church that were above us were the bishops and the pope.

Remember as we were at the bottom rung of the latter.  Although there was often a gap between and people, I don’t believe that gap was the same for every , or that most had ambitions to climb up that latter. Nor do I believe that every bishop is equally addicted to the power that corrupts to the point that he loses sight of the children he is suppose to protect from predator , or the disenfranchise in society, and puts his own or the ’s interest first. But given the structure of governance of the , its current culture, its process of how clerics are groomed, and given the psychosocial up-bringing that many clerics bring to the table, major changes are essential for the future of the Church. Please join me on my next blog, where I will discuss solutions to these issues.