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Author Topic: Catholicism in the news: time for reform?
<johnboy>
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(I've edited your subject title JB, to indicate the topic at hand and have used your opener to share the article Jim and Tyra Arraj sent to you and I for review. Phil)

Fellow Catholics, what's our next good step?

Sisters and brothers of other faiths, what's our next good step as Catholics?

What should our hierarchy do?

What should our laity do?

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shalom,
jb

[ 04-12-2002, 10:06 PM: Message edited by: Phil ]

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Phil
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My friends Jim and Tyra Arraj of Inner Explorations sent this to me yesterday with permission to post part of a discussion on this very topic. Their post follows:

(JB, I've retitled your opening post to try to indicate the topic of this thread.)

---------

Beyond Clerical Sexual Abuse

The problem of clerical sexual abuse has to be addressed: justice and compassion for the victims, pastoral guidelines to limit it as much as possible in the future, due process and compassion for the perpetrators, and so forth. But the Church, which is galvanized by the problem, should have the courage to look what lies beyond it.

There are two fundamental issues, one more interior and psychological, the other more exterior and community oriented. The first deals with clerical sexual abuse as a symptom of problems of psycho-sexual maturity among priests and religious which, in turn, is symptomatic of the institutional Church‚s inability to deal with a whole series of interconnected issues in this area: birth control, and the critical question of world population, mandatory celibacy for priests, married priests, women priests and the role of women in the Church, homosexuality in the clergy and in religious life, etc., all the way to developing a genuine theology and spirituality of married life. These problems have a common root in the inability of the male-dominated institutional Church to be genuinely able to relate to women. This is a problem they share with men in general, as can be seen from the high rate of divorce, the incidence of domestic violence, and so forth. Clearly this is not a problem that will be simply solved by ordaining married men. Men, whether vowed to a life of celibacy or not, face one of the greatest challenges of their lives in relating to the women around them, and to their own feelings. In the institutional Church these basic male problems take on their own particular color. A resistance to the feminine, whether inside or out, is cloaked in religious language and the real issues are not dealt with. The Church cannot be objective about psycho-sexual issues and the problems they lead to because it cannot be objective about women and the feelings men have about them. It is not unreasonable to imagine that women, and married couples, know something about these issues, and could help the Church grow in these areas.

The other fundamental problem is that we have a clerical-dominated Church which is identified with the hierarchy rather than with the entire Christian community, especially the vast majority of Christians who are married people and their families. The old pyramid of pope, curia, bishops, priests, religious, and last and definitely least, lay people, breeds problems for everyone. Power is hoarded at the top, leaving most people feeling powerless. What is needed is a new kind of community that starts with each Christian who takes responsibility to grow in his or her Christian life as much as possible, and goes on from there to be centered on the Christian family and small communities.

What stands in the way of such a change? On the one side it is the old clerical institution, itself, which although it has made a mess of things, guards its supposed power jealously. On the other side it is the laity conditioned to a passivity that leaves them believing that they have to wait for Father‚s permission before they exercise their own creativity in renewing the Christian community.

What should be done? The Church as a whole needs to come together and talk about these fundamental issues and other ones, as well. Each individual, each family, each circle of friends or small community, each parish or diocese should take the sorry spectacle of clerical sexual abuse as a wake-up call that they cannot leave the responsibility for the health of the Christian community in someone else‚s hands.

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- John 1: 3 -

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nick m
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Dear Phil:

I'll stick a toe out on this one, as I'm not a Catholic, but concerned and hopeful that this is potentially a healing crisis for the church, with repurcussions beyond how the RC handles things. I agree almost entirely with what the Arraj's are outlining, but would offer some cautions which may or may not be substantial in the short run.

If I'm reading the post correctly, I would take some exception to the idea that what is happening in the RC is primarily a male problem, and I would encourage a view of the feminine to be almost as much a challenge to women as it is to men, if by "feminine" we are refering to a psychological construct, or archetype, and one that is never just one side of the polarity. The arrest to psychosocial development, however it may appear in the life of the church, is an equal predicament for both genders.

Of course, the vast majority of pedophiles at large in society appear to be men, but how this arises, while likely having to do with some unique, distorted aspects of male socialization interacting with psychobiology, probably also involves a broader and more complex etiology that includes the influence of women in abusive families as well. I'd be stepping too far in trying to speak as though I had certain professional knowledge on the issue of pedophilia, but I fear there are some causative influences which antedate these perverse, destructive behaviors that may limit how well the church will be able to heal itself as long as the pathology of its larger social context is left untreated in a preventive sense.

As long as child psychosocial development remains a chance affair in our affluent society, I personally don't see institutions such as the church, which inherit the fall-out, being able to do much beyond raising awareness of its internal risks, besides what Arraj points out in terms of larger ecumenical transformations. Certainly these changes would make the RC a less attractive refuge for pedophiles looking for a clandestine lifestyle.

[ October 29, 2007, 09:19 AM: Message edited by: w.c. ]

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johnboy
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One could not have hoped for a more substantive opening response. Now, to prayerfully consider it. Yes, this is difficult. Thanks, therefore, all the more. The views from non-Catholics have a special giftedness and a valuable perspective to our Catholic family. Thanks for your meaningful contribution, taking us one more step toward our healing and wholeness.

pax tibi,
jb

[ October 29, 2007, 09:20 AM: Message edited by: w.c. ]

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And you will know that all manner of things shall be well-Julian of Norwich

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Brad
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If you’d like an outside (non-Catholic) view, and one that is neither friend nor foe of the Church…

There’s an oppressive and cheerless side of the Church that I think depends more on authority and obedience than love and willing devotion. Whether this manifests itself in some of the problems we’re talking about now I can’t be sure, but some of what Jim and Tyra say rings true to me.

What the Church needs to do in the short term is to go for full disclosure. Any Arthur Anderson-type cover-ups now, after the fact, would be devastating. Many, especially in the media, are going to enjoy turning this scandal into a witch hunt (the irony of this will not be lost on them) as they self-righteously use this clear opening to bash religion. That is not meant to downplay the seriousness of child abuse. But this will cause the remedy to this situation to be tilted toward systemic changes to the Catholic Church rather than other actions, such as disciplining those responsible (as high as it may go). Perhaps there are fundamental things that do need to change in the Church, but the Church has existed and thrived on traditions and institutions that are centuries old. We certainly don’t dispense with the idea of Democracy or the Presidency because a Bill Clinton happens every once in a while. If there are fundamental problems with the Church then they should be dealt with but I would avoid scapegoating the Church for the evil actions of individual men.

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Phil
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Yes, excellent points. There is a much larger social issue underlying the problems in the Catholic Church, but the way we've structured ourselves as Church frustrates our ability to deal with it, and, as you noted, actually attracts some pretty unhealthy people into that leadership layer of the institution.

For my opening remarks, I'd like to acknowledge that after working in the institutional Church for many years with several religious orders and in several dioceses, the reality is that most of the people involved in institutional leadership are very good people. It's a shame that they're all being tainted somehow by the current scandals, but that's part of the reality.

I'd also like to note that there's very little about the current scandals which have bearing on Catholic teaching concerning the Christian mysteries, the spiritual journey, etc. But there again, the current scandal has caused many to wonder whether the Church can be trusted in this matters. This part is just plain tragic!

Seeing Cardinal Law persist in his notion that the Boston Archdiocese is better served with him as leader than without makes my blood boil, especially considering how I was twice fired from jobs in the Church for the most petty of reasons when I was doing good work and receiving pay raises and excellent evaluations from my directors. And that's the primary problem in the Church, imho: we have essentially a two-tiered organization, with the leadership level having no accountability whatsoever to the people whom they're supposed to serve, and, as the Arraj post noted, a deeply conditioned passivity among the laity concerning this matter.

There is no reason why things need be this way. In doing spiritual direction with several Protestant ministers, I've been most impressed at how their communities are involved in the processes of calling their ministers, evaluating them, and even sending them on their way when they need to do so. Prospective pastors interview several times with a call committee and even give a homily to the congregation to show their preaching ability (can you imagine priests being asked to do so?). In short, there is a discernment process in choosing one's leaders, and this includes the choice of elders and even bishops. Some might protest that this circumvents the prophetic possibility of a minister, but it doesn't at all. It only highlights the importance of prophetic ministers bringing their people along through education and dialogue instead of clobbering them with the word of justice from on high. We Catholics have much to learn from the Protestants concerning how to organize a process of leadership in the Church.

Another problem with the two-tiered system is that it doesn't really allow for any kind of evaluation of the sensus fidelium--the sense of the faithful concerning matters of faith and morals. The proper role of the magisterium (Bishops, Pope) is to clarify what the Church actually believes, not tell us what we should believe. What has passed for reviewing the sensus fidelium in recent times has little connection with the beliefs and experiences of lay people. One exception was the Birth Control Commission in the early 60's, which interviewed over 3,000 married couples concerning their experience in living out the Church's teaching on this matter. The hard-core traditional bishops and theologians on the Commission, who had been assigned to insure that the traditional teaching would be left intact, experienced a change of heart when they entered into this dialogue and voted 35-4 to allow for a change in the teaching. Pope Paul VI essentially went with the minority report, however, which noted that the perception of the Church's strong leadership would be weakened by changing the teaching. The two-tiered system was thus reinforced and has only gotten sicker since. No bishop is chosen who doesn't agree with Paul VI or JP II's re-frames on this teaching, and on other teachings which might in some way threaten the existence of the male, celibate priesthood.

What to do about this situation? I don't really know. The first step is always to call something by name, and I'm glad we can do our little piece here. We need to say that Catholicism is sick because of this two-tiered system, and we need to say why.

Phil

P.S. Brad, your post was added while I was typing this one. I think you make some excellent points, and as JB noted, the non-Catholic perpsective on this issue has an important contribution to make unto our healing.

[ October 29, 2007, 09:21 AM: Message edited by: w.c. ]

--------------------
"The Light shines on in darkness . . ."
- John 1: 3 -

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Brad
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<<It only highlights the importance of prophetic ministers bringing their people along through education and dialogue instead of clobbering them with the word of justice from on high.>>

Phil, great post. And never do I have any sense of sour grapes from your perspective as one who has had, let's say, "issues" with the Church. Hasn't the Catholic Church always been a top-down organization? And with God and Christ at the top it seems impossible to argue with this arrangement. If what you’re saying is that God lives equally in the hearts of lay people as well then they too must have a say in things. It’s hard to argue with this perspective as well. So it all comes down to an issue of people protecting their power and authority, ostensibly for “the good of the Church,” when in actuality it might be for the good of themselves. Is this too harsh an evaluation?

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Phil
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Hasn't the Catholic Church always been a top-down organization? And with God and Christ at the top it seems impossible to argue with this arrangement.

LOL! Well, it's not quite that "top-heavy." Paul speaks of Christ being the "head" of the Church, which is his Mystical Body, but he also notes that no part of the body can say to the other that it is not needed.

The Church has always had a level of leadership since the days of the Apostles, and that's not a bad thing, imo. Often, those leaders were chosen from among the people by the people. And often it was the faith-expression of the people which influenced the development of Catholic doctrines--some pertaining to Mary, for example.

If what you’re saying is that God lives equally in the hearts of lay people as well then they too must have a say in things. It’s hard to argue with this perspective as well. So it all comes down to an issue of people protecting their power and authority, ostensibly for “the good of the Church,” when in actuality it might be for the good of themselves. Is this too harsh an evaluation?

I think that's very good. It's not good for the people to be so dis-empowered and so lacking in a voice concerning their leadership, and to have leadership essentially without accountability to the people--none-zero-zip, as my kids used to say when they were little.

Right now, the only real power I see people having is with their pocketbooks. But that's no good either. In depriving a troubled diocese of money, for example, the intransigent leaders will only sell off property to pay the lawsuits--property often purchased with the donations made by people who wanted their own places of worship, education, etc. We end up shooting ourselves in the foot.

Phil

P.S. Glad you don't think I come across as sour grapes. I decided a long time ago that that leadership level can't be given so much power over my happiness. I do respect what they stand for, however, and the role they're supposed to play in the Church. And again, most of them are really very good people who are honestly trying to do good ministry.

--------------------
"The Light shines on in darkness . . ."
- John 1: 3 -

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Brad
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<<The Church has always had a level of leadership since the days of the Apostles, and that's not a bad thing, imo.>>

Agreed. It should not be (nor have you) concluded that I am against an authoritative structure. Churches especially should be free to organize themselves as they see best. As you have taught me, Phil, the structure and doctrine of a church and all that goes with it can be a way to consistently pass on the beliefs of the Church without being distorted and influenced unnecessarily by the vagaries of this month’s popular opinion. Thus I did caution against, in essence, throwing the baby out with the bath water under the current circumstances.

Whether women should be priests and whether priests should be celibate I see as separate issues (and, frankly, none of my business). There are pedophiles in any walk of life and where power and influence exists people will abuse it. Potentially lost in the current scandal is the focus on the evil and misguided deeds of individuals which may have nothing or everything to do with the way the Church is organized and run. This scandal, like any wrong-doing, has the potential to change the hearts and minds and attitudes of those in power so that they re-connect (if necessary) with their true functions. Making complete and full restitution to the victims is the proper start as well as a healthy dose of sending a few of the overseers and enablers of such wrong-doing to whatever the Catholic equivalent is to The Russian Front.

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Phil
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Whether women should be priests and whether priests should be celibate I see as separate issues (and, frankly, none of my business). There are pedophiles in any walk of life and where power and influence exists people will abuse it.

I agree completely. The only connection I see between the pedophilia issue and women priests, etc. is how thoroughly the magisterium controls the agenda on dealing with both. But we could sure have women priests and still have pedophiles, not to mention a whole new set of problems.

Potentially lost in the current scandal is the focus on the evil and misguided deeds of individuals which may have nothing or everything to do with the way the Church is organized and run.

Right. And that's the immediate issue which has to be dealt with, for sure.

This scandal, like any wrong-doing, has the potential to change the hearts and minds and attitudes of those in power so that they re-connect (if necessary) with their true functions. Making complete and full restitution to the victims is the proper start as well as a healthy dose of sending a few of the overseers and enablers of such wrong-doing to whatever the Catholic equivalent is to The Russian Front.

I agree with this in principle, but have become quite skeptical about Church leaders "reconnecting with their true functions." My sense is that much of what's going on is in the "cover your butt" genre of responses to make darned sure that absolutely nothing will change in the way the Church is organized--and that includes the preservation of positions like Cardinal Law's, who is supposedly a darling of the Roman hierarchy.

--------------------
"The Light shines on in darkness . . ."
- John 1: 3 -

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Brad
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But we could sure have women priests and still have pedophiles, not to mention a whole new set of problems.

Not speaking from a theological point of view but purely from a practical one, I think having a choice of a woman or man with whom to confess would raise the comfort level for a whole lot of people. Remember the Seinfeld episode where George was uncomfortable with getting a massage from a man? Sort of like this.

And women can be more sensitive listeners in certain matters. If I were having problems at my job I'd want to talk to a man. If I were having problems of an emotional nature I would want to talk with a woman. If I were having problems with a girlfriend, well, only God could possibly help because who else understands women? [Wink]

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nick m
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Dear Brad and Phil:

Question: do either or both of you support action being taken against Cardinal Law by the state? Of course, like the perpetrator(s), Law is protected by the statute of limitations as far as criminal proceedings are concerned, but in reference to Phil's view of the hierarchy protecting its power at all costs, do either of you think that the only message that would force their hand is one where the state police the situation from bottom to top, including the Pope? i.e., showing that clergy will not be given special consideration either as abusers or as conspirators.

I enjoyed your humor, Brad, in reference to women and men and the clergy, but whenever I see men deferring to women (not that you necessarily were) based solely on gender, I get a little frisky, since I think many women have ridden the coat-tails of the feminist movement (which has much more good than bad to it), allowing them to assume that they are inherently more empathetic than men. And I've seen this in therapy, both as a client and a therapist, where women will often posture behind the protective screen of gender bias, with their husbands more exposed and closer to accountability. And my experience as a child therapist supports this as well, with both genders equally sensitive to internal dynamics, although socialization certainly begins early.

[ October 29, 2007, 09:22 AM: Message edited by: w.c. ]

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Brad
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Question: do either or both of you support action being taken against Cardinal Law by the state? Of course, like the perpetrator(s), Law is protected by the statute of limitations as far as criminal proceedings are concerned, but in reference to Phil's view of the hierarchy protecting its power at all costs, do either of you think that the only message that would force their hand is one where the state police the situation from bottom to top, including the Pope?

Much is misunderstood about the “separation of church and state.” But here we might have an example of a problem were the law to use other means to snare wrong-doers in the Church, particularly when considering Amendment I of the US Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” If law enforcement acts with sufficient suspicion that laws were broken or are being broken then you can arrest a Cardinal as surely as a taxi driver (with great care due to the nature of not wanting to give the impression of harassing a religion).But should the Attorney General decide to use the RICO statutes (which I suppose they could) to “bring down” the Catholic hierarchy the same as they would a gang of mobsters (as an example – not a correlation) then Congress should be expected to waste no time in putting a stop to it. Sadly it might not be for Constitutional reasons that they do so but for political reasons. There are a lot of Catholic voters!

I enjoyed your humor, Brad, in reference to women and men and the clergy, but whenever I see men deferring to women (not that you necessarily were) based solely on gender, I get a little frisky, since I think many women have ridden the coat-tails of the feminist movement (which has much more good than bad to it), allowing them to assume that they are inherently more empathetic than men.

If I didn’t laugh I’d cry. [Wink] I was aware at the time that I was furthering the stereotype of women as being more sensitive, better listeners, etc. I’m so glad there are some critical thinkers out there such as yourself. Yep – load of crap. It all depends on the individual person as to who is the better listener or is more sensitive. However I have no problem with generalized statements as to the differences between men and women because there are differences, thank goodness.

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johnboy
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Phil wrote:
quote:
Another problem with the two-tiered system is that it doesn't really allow for any kind of evaluation of the sensus fidelium--the sense of the faithful concerning matters of faith and morals. The proper role of the magisterium (Bishops, Pope) is to clarify what the Church actually believes, not tell us what we should believe. What has passed for reviewing the sensus fidelium in recent times has little connection with the beliefs and experiences of lay people. One exception was the Birth Control Commission in the early 60's
Of all the major Traditions, Hinduism seems to be the most pluralistic, inclusivistic, tolerant and affirming of other religions. Catholicism maybe comes in second? The scholars can affirm, deny or clarify. Catholicism does teach the salvific efficacy of other religions and affirms the truth in those great traditions and even in nonbelievers and atheists who live the good and moral life, while holding that this efficacy derives from Jesus' saving action. This Christocentric inclusivism is certainly an explicit expression of our belief that the Holy Spirit is alive and well in peoples of other faith and in people of implicit faith.

This is consitent with Jeremiah's prophecy of the law being written on all hearts. This is expounded in Rahner's anthropological methods and transcendental theology, in Maritain's connaturality and was prompted, in my mind, by Phil's reference to the sensus fidelium.

How can we, in one instance, be so optimistic about humankind's existential orientations to transcendental imperatives, be so optimistic about the Holy Spirit's indwelling and role in conscience formation, both individually and institutionally ---

while, on the other hand, being so pessimistic about the laity "getting it right"?

Philip Kaufman, in Why You Can Disagree and Remain a Faithful Catholic [Crossroad, NY, 1994] writes:
quote:
At the 1980 Synod on the Family in Rome, Archbishop John Quinn of San Francisco reported findings of a Gallup Survey: 76.5% of US Catholic women practiced birth control, 96% of them used methods condemned by the encyclical, and only 29% of the clergy believed that use of artificial contraceptives was immoral.
I have found a lot of good discussion at Birth Control & the Catholic Church.

From notes I took long ago for which I have no noted reference (sorry) but which I'm sure can be attributed to Richard McCormick, S.J., our approach to Catholic moral theology must become more:

1. Christocentric, "anchored in charity vs. one-sidedly philosophical;"
2. universal in its appeal, as opposed to a narrow, parochial approach;
3. attempting to use subsidiarity -- "if it can be done at a lower level, don't let a higher level do it." Today, Father McCormick stated, "we turn to Rome for everything." He believes that parish problems should be solved at the parish level, diocesan problems at the diocesan level, and so on;
4. personalistic, in contrast to "biologistic," emphasizing the centrality of the human person;
5. more "modest and tentative," vs. infallible;
6. ecumenical, drawing on other sources outside Catholicism for ideas;
7. inductive, using the insight of laypersons, vs. deductive;
8. pluralistic, allowing for differences according to individual cases, rather than seeking universal conformism;
9. aspirational, rather than minimalistic -- "appealing to the spiritual hungers of people, vs. basic obligations;" and
10. a theology done by experts, using specialists in fields like international relations or bioethics to create moral standards.

What I have come to appreciate more fully, from Jim & Tyra's most thoughtful essay, is that I have to take responsibility for this change in the way WE do church.

The thought I ponder and throw out for everyone's consideration is, notwithstanding what THEY do or when, they being the moral theologians, the hierarchical part of the Magisterium, and whomever ---

what can I / WE do, the other part of the Magisterium, to 1) better build more upright and more mature consciences; 2) advance the changes summarized by McCormick in my parenting, in my evangelization efforts, in my catechesis; 3) avoid contributing to and advance the healing of polarizations in our Church on these issues; 4) to
take part in a dissent that is both in and for the Church? 5) Add what you will to this list.

And, as the Spirit leads [Wink] make some concrete suggestions in response to the above questions, such as, for instance:

1) Participating in dialogue at Shalomplace.
2) Sitting down with my children and discussing these issues.
3) Making an inventory of web resources, library bibliographies and other reference materials and sharing it in small group discussions in my church parish.
4) Add what you will to this list.

Let us draw distinctions, define positions and differentiate our worldviews toward the end of our ultimate unification.

Let us pray.

Respectfully,
johnboy

In fide, unitas; in dubiis, libertas; in omnibus, caritas. Augustine of Hippo

[ 04-15-2002, 01:27 AM: Message edited by: QuiEst ]

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http://christiannonduality.com

Don't you know it's gonna be alright-John Lennon
And you will know that all manner of things shall be well-Julian of Norwich

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nick m
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Dear Phil:

To clarify my question in a previous post: When I spoke of forcing the church's hand, I was wondering if you or others felt that legal steps outside the church to mandate its disclosure of documents showing knowledge of offending priests would be necessary. I've read of dioceses that have been prompt in reporting, which looks like a behavior favorable to the church in the long run. So is the church even obligated to make disclosure to law enforcement based on existing records, or is that only for professionals under laws of licensing? Regarding Cardinal Law in particular, I was thinking of his position, where he could order such an extensive disclosure if pressured to do so.

[ October 29, 2007, 09:22 AM: Message edited by: w.c. ]

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Wanda
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Hi....

You have all given me way too much to think about here! Maybe I'm off base but I am not sure the real problem is pedophilia and I don't think it is uniquely a Roman problem either, but one found in most denominations to one extent or another.

The question I kept coming back to in all of this is why did it take so long to come out? Why were there priests able to get away with it for so long? Surely someone along the way noticed things, became a bit uneasy, maybe even fairly certain that things were not as they should be... but why did they not speak up?

Knew a woman who had trouble understanding her pastor's sermons. Thought he was wonderful, had a good relationship with him but his sermons were too "intellectual" for her and she felt for many in the congregation. This was a church who hired and fired their own. Yet, she simply could not tell him... could not criticize. That would not be right, he was her Pastor. Who was she to tell him how to preach, but I was the secretary and could I please say something to him? There was a very real feeling that if she criticized his preaching, she was criticizing God.

Perhaps a silly, simplistic example but an attitude I ran into time and time again. The Pastor, priest, deacon, is better - holier - more "god" like..... if there is a problem it must be with me. Who am I to criticize, doubt, question, disagree with, a man/woman of God? We put our clergy on pedestals - and that can be a perilous place. When we put someone on a pedestal we put them in a position where they have to be more and at the same time put us in a place where we can be/are less.

Watching Tiger Woods walk down 18 yesterday I was struck by how exhausted he looked. Sure it had been a tiring week but here was victory... the adulation of the crowds, all of that. Yet, he looked as if he wanted nothing more than to walk away from it all. Oh the smile was there but it seemed a bit forced and never touched his eyes really. It's a hard place we've put him in. So young to be carrying all of our expectations around.... to be tottering atop the pedestal.

Read somewhere that a being minister is a high stress job - and many are prone to alcoholism, depression and other stress related problems. Sounded a bit strange but when you think about it, we put a lot on their shoulders and we never give them "time off" - seldom relate to them as simply people.

How often when someone doesn't fulfill our expectations we begin yelling "crucify him" all over. With our clergy we forget that while they are special - chosen - they are still humans... still people and they too bleed.

I don't think punishment and rules and all of that will end the problem here. I think that the change must go much deeper and it has to begin with us.

Peace,
Wanda

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And I've seen this in therapy, both as a client and a therapist, where women will often posture behind the protective screen of gender bias, with their husbands more exposed and closer to accountability.

Yes! Likewise! Kudos!

But I think Brad's point was simply that some women might be more comfortable going to confession with another woman, perhaps because of "women's issues." That's not really a theological issue, as he noted, but it is an important pastoral consideration. Sometimes, I feel like sharing my problems a man more than a woman, and I'm sure the converse is true.

As for the Church's responsibility in reporting cases of sexual abuse, I think the law for clerics is similar to what it is for other helping professionals, at least that's the situation now. I'm very much okay with that, although things become complicated when the abuse is reported to the priest during confession. When a priest is the guilty party, however, church authorities are duty bound to report the incident to the state. This hasn't always happened, and I'm not sure why. Perhaps the state didn't want to get close to the issue of the confessional seal.

There's really not much that Cardinal Law could do right now to regain trust amongst those who feel he has put the welfare of priests above the welfare of children, and so I don't think full disclosure is the answer, although I suspect he'd be more than willing to comply. The trust issue would remain, however, and when a leader loses trust among a significant number of constituents, his or her effectiveness is seriously compromised.

I'm sure that from now on, offenders will be given short shrift, promptly booted from service. Lessons have surely been learned, although there are many other areas where priests are given a much longer leash than lay employees in the church. And so, on the one hand, making a response to the immediate issue of abusive priests isn't so complicated, really, although it is surely a messy and expensive. But I strongly favor seeing this problem in the context of the kinds of larger issues facing the church as outlined in some of the post above.

Phil

[ October 29, 2007, 09:23 AM: Message edited by: w.c. ]

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That was a great post, John! It seemed like a manifesto of sorts. I don't really have anything that add to the lists you've started, at least not now. For one thing, I'm very skeptical about the prospect of structural change taking place in the church. But, if anything is to happen, it must begin with a discussion concerning the nature of the problem, and at least we're doing that.

I enjoyed your post as well, Wanda. My guess is that while most Protestants view their pastors with great respect, none of this quite approximates the way Catholics were taught to view their priest, a possible exception being among the Episcopalians. Many of us, especially of the pre Vatican II generation, were pretty much taught that in the hierarchy of being, there was God, Christ, who was God, of course, then the pope, bishops, priests, religious, etc.. Priests were mediators of sorts between God and human beings. Whatever the personal faults of the priest, this privileged role exempted the priest from some of the criticisms we wouldn't hesitate to meet out on civic authorities, for example. Also, in most Protestant churches, there is at least some structure for accountability built in, so that even if an individual is afraid to give negative feedback to the minister, that individual might give the feedback to an elder's committee, or another administrative group.

As for Tiger Woods, it's pretty hard to feel sorry for him, and I don't at all follow your point about us having laid some great burden on him. Much is expected of him first and foremost by himself, and that's the way it should be for any great athlete. Whatever we expect of him shouldn't give him any stress, really. He's already had some very nice dances all the way to the bank, and if he never has any more wins, he's already made his place in golfing history.

But I think the analogy you were drawing is that we expect much from our clerical leadership in the same way. Some have learned to share this responsibility better than others. But, you make a point that echoes one made by Jim Arraj above, which reinforces the kind of two-tiered system that I referred to.

Good discussion! and so, Jim and Tyra, when are you going to jump in?

Phil

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Wanda gave a pertinent and concrete anecdotal example of how clericalism can operate, how entrenched it is, how hard it will be to reform it, how difficult it is to work around it. This, to me, appears consistent with Jim & Tyra's views re: clericalism/passivity and, I think highlights how our unilateral responses, especially those taken as we come out of our passivity, alone, aren't going to be enough.

Still, we must do the little we can cf My Manifesto [jeepers Phil & Brad] I'm starting to feel like Martin Luther, cybernailing my exhaustive and esoteric theses on the virtual doors of the Shalomplace CyberCathedral --- maybe I have joined the other side? you know: Rome Has Spoken being met with Johnboy Has Spoken ! I am rotten to the core with paternalism [Eek!] Yikes!

Seriously, though, I do recall that in our struggles we wish to avoid becoming like our opponents and further, I wish to explore that, if we are in opposition, how can we be a true loyal opposition , if we do dissent, how can we do so from within and on behalf of our Church?

Most of us get along okay with the dysfunction we all have in our homes. It's part of life. Some, however, have had such deformative experiences in their family life and such deep woundedness, they truly need to get out in order to get better. It is so complicated, though, because leaving Catholicism may be easy enough to do from a "resigning from the institutional Church" perspective but it is very difficult to get out of one's very marrow, particularly following Andy Greeley's notions of being Catholic, sociologically: sharing an analogical imagination, loving its stories and their beauty, the way you fundamentally view the world, etc etc etc

I applaud the little sidebar on gender issues, gals and guys. However much we fully round out our personalities, integrating anima and animus, fully individuating a la Jungian concepts, I'm with Brad --the differences remain and I'm glad of them. Peter Kreeft well points out that we will remain sexual beings in heaven (we'll start a thread on that in July 2002).

Wanda was right on, not off base at all, suggesting that the real problem is not pedophilia. Jim & Tyra echoed her references to clericalism and then also stated: These problems have a common root in the inability of the male-dominated institutional Church to be genuinely able to relate to women. This is a problem they share with men in general ...

I can affirm this perspective but let me take a stab at restating it from several broader perspectives. It is not just a Venus vs Mars thing. The institutional Church is unable to relate to me as a man. Because it has such an approach to my personhood that is too essentialistic vs existentialist, too philosophical vs psychological, too biologistic vs personalistic, too minimalistic and mechanical vs aspirational and soulful --- it does not relate to me as a man but moreso as a primate without a soul.

The Church has this Natural Law philosophy (which is essentially good) that when disconnected from the human sciences (the social sciences, the humanities, the arts, medical science, sociobiology, psychology, etc ad infinitum) yields moral conclusions that reveal the disconnect. We don't have the level of problems with modernity that Islamic nations seem to have too much of, Thank Allah, so I am optimistic that this crisis can be a turning point. I won't further describe this disconnect other than to say it is at the root of gender issues: celibacy, homosexuality, women priests, divorced and remarried, birth control, etc and is why the values related to the merely procreative, the merely genital, the merely conjugal, the mere sexual orientation are ripped from their unitive context, in the whole, and swollen to madness in their isolation from it. Assuredly, other natural law dynamisms could be discovered in a more fruitful exchange that is more universal in its appeal, as opposed to a narrow, parochial approach; that is more Christocentric, "anchored in charity vs. one-sidedly philosophical"; that is in touch with the sensus fidelium component of the magisterium; whose conclusions are more "modest and tentative," vs. infallible and affirming of probabilistic moralizing; that is more ecumenical, drawing on other sources outside Catholicism for ideas.

But here's the other major rub: Why aren't we more inductive, using the insight of laypersons, vs. merely deductive? Let me make a provocative suggestion. Could it be because we are afflicted by an insidious dis-ease which involves how we look at what is often called traditional teaching or consistent teaching or constant, consistent teaching and how it gets received or not by the sensus fidelium.

Here is a Recipe for Moral Disaster:

1) Revelation gives first principles, major premises. Science and human experience provide minor premises (these minor ones keep a coming, so to speak). Combine the major with the minor and there you get your conclusion.

2) The major premises are changeless even as their reforumlation remains a constant theological challenge, a difficult chore.

3) The minor premises continue to change because science and human experience keep adding to our knowledge.

4) Take your minor premises and treat them like major premises. Do this because you are confused. Do it because you are afraid. Do it because you don't know better. (I don't think anyone does it because they are power hungry misogynists, sorry.)

Voila! You have a Moral Credibility Crisis and lose your authoritative voice in this or that given age or time

Good news is, this happens over and over and we recover, over and over, albeit glacially.

Why the polarization? Some ultra-progressives indeed try to take essential teachings and major premises and bring them down a notch or two, at times. Some ultra-conservatives indeed try to elevate accidentals and minor premises to an undeserved status. All of us lapse in charity, at times, and accuse folks of bad will based on their positions regarding major and minor premises, essential and accidentals.

Our dialogue needs to focus on the issues, on the ideas, without imputing motives to one another. We are taking various positions out of fear, out of deformative upbringing and woundedness, out of confusions between the levels of basic premises, out of ignorance of the human sciences.

One Cardinal on the birth control commission actually said to a layperson on the commission that it would be scandalous to change the teaching after already having sent millions to hell over the decades! She replied with an answer that went something like this: "And just what makes you so sure your orders were carried out?"

I don't see the magisterium as made up of power-hungry, imperialists anymore than I see the priesthood as made up of pedophiles. There are power hungry imperialists and pedophiles in all walks of life and assuredly a few get to be bishops, many more get to be priests. It is not useful to say that this or that dialogue partner says this or that, or takes this or that position because of __________________ . It is useful to define the positions taken but it should not be equated with an insidious and implicit attempt to define the persons taking the positions or to impute their motives as imperialistic, paternalistic, driven by divide and conquer-eseque oppressive aims. That keeps it from being "dirty" work. It's just theological work and, yes, somebody has to do it. It doesn't need to get ad hominem or advanced by adnauseum whining and nitpicking (which is kind of like obscenity, hard to define, but you know it when you see it).

What's the Recipe for Getting Out?

Well, 1) the Manifesto, thanks? Phil [Wink] , partly addresses that, 2) getting the major and minor premises defined properly partly addresses that and 3) a better understanding of Church history could liberate those magisterial elements who are either a) afraid to depart from constant teaching based on new information re: changing minor premises or b) are ignorant of what has and hasn't been constant: usury, slavery, etc.

In the meantime, take solace that primacy of conscience is a VERY Catholic teaching. Even when honestly mistaken, your conscience is your immediate arbiter of moral decisions. We must overcome ignorance and seek formation of our consciences and this means taking Church teachings seriously, whether authoritative, ex cathedra and otherwise. We must work to overcome invincible ignorance of ourselves and others.

O.K. - JB Has Spoken - Bring me back the broomstick, ahem, Shepherd's Staff/Crozier of the Wicked Cardinal of the CDF! GO! NOW!

Ignore that, folks. Join me in prayer, rather, for JPII, Ratzinger, et al as I know McCormick and Haring pray for us, too, now that they are in a position to KNOW they WERE RIGHT [Wink]

shalom,
jb
probabilism works

[ 04-15-2002, 06:43 PM: Message edited by: QuiEst ]

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Johnboy, allow me to sign my name on the same page as your cyber-protest.

This has been one tremendous thread! I don't have much to add except to say that today the Pope called American Cardinals to Rome, supposedly a trip to the woodshed. Wanna bet how many will come home with pink slips? [Mad]

A few years ago a Franciscan named Michael Crosby wrote a great book entitled "The Dysfunctional Church." He compared the institution with a dysfunctional family and said the core addiction is protecting the tradition of the male, celibate priesthood. I blew it off at the time as an extreme analysis, but the more I think about it, the more it helps to explain why those pedophile priests were protected by their superiors. Smell the coffee, gang: it's because they were priests! Any negative publicity might raise questions that the powers that be don't want to address. Fear, as Johnboy noted, is part of that equation; fear of losing their privileged status in the Church.

I don't know what the answer is, but I think it's becoming real clear what the problem is.

Chris

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Fear, as Johnboy noted, is part of that equation; fear of losing their privileged status in the Church. Chris
+++

Chris, yes, and I'll nuance it a tad further. There are some general misunderstandings and disagreements about what constitutes our "constant teaching". A lot of this is tied up in concepts of infallibility. It comes down to what teachings indeed wear the cloak of infallibility. Karl Rahner nails the origin of the confusion regarding specific moral teachings where Rome has issued authoritative statements that "can make no claim to be definitive" and yet "are nonetheless presented in such a way as though they are in fact definitive". [Journal of Ecumenical Studies vol.15, no.2 pg.212] When Ratzinger states that infallibility is not a category that can be collapsed simply to solemn declarations, it sends everyone scrambling, wondering how then to identify which moral doctrines are or are not infallible.

At this stage, it is LESS important to SOME in the Magisterium what the teaching is that happens to be at stake and more important that the faithful NEVER get scandalized by the Church ever being revealed to have been in error on something previously declared infallible, After all, the Hols Spirit promised .... !!! And to reveal oursleves as having been mistaken is to undermine the very core of our faith tradition and its apostolic succession. What is at stake here, folks, is NOT where this or that Cardinal's next meal is coming from, or what royal trappings and privileges he enjoys or who gets to ride in the PopeMobile. Rather, some of these very good men would be faced with existential faith crises of major traumatic preportions. Their faith, and they fear our faith, too, could not weather the storm of a scandal that might ensue in the wake of CHANGING a previously declared solemn authoritative and binding teaching on matters of faith or morals. They are STUCK in a dichotomous mode that the teaching must be right because the Holy Spirit would NOT have let us be wrong! And their way out is to step back and realize, again, that the essential teaching from the Holy Spirit is what will always be right but that the minor premises and truths outside of Biblical Revelation keep changing and we have a demonstrated history of changing with the times (not quickly albeit) and ought to make the necessary changes.

The question is simple: What must be believed with Catholic and divine faith? The three answers were: 1) solemn declaration of Pope;
2)solemn declaration of a Council or 3) teaching by the ordinary and universal magisterium.

The response is simple: one gives assent which is an act of faith. Cool [Cool]

What about teachings that don't meet the above criteria? The response is obsequium or respect and deference, sometimes compliance.

So, alls ya got ta do is figure out what requires assent and what requires obsequium!

Philip S. Kaufman, OSB writes:
quote:
There exist no solemn conciliar decrees or ex cathedra papal teaching on moral issues. No exercise of the universal and ordinary magisterium can be cited that meets the criteria of infallibility.
[Why You Can Disagree and Remain a Faithful Catholic - Crossroad 1994]

End of problem? NYET

On moral teachings, The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Roman Magisterium have been explicitly calling for, not the assent of theological faith due only certain definitions --you know - credal stuff and marian dogma, for instance -- but nevertheless have called for more than mere obsequium -- those vatican two-ish categories I set out above. They are calling for "loyal and full assent, interior and not only exterior, to the encyclical".

Now there would perhaps be a case for this, such as regarding Humanae Vitae, which would result in no dissenting opinion being allowable, if the Magisterium could demonstrate that it had never made an error in its authoritative moral teaching, in other words, if it had always combined those major premises, which were changeless, with those minor premises, which change with new info from human experience and modern sciences, and never found out that it had made a mistake when doing so.

This list of mistakes is LONG and some claim that whatever would appear to be mistakes today were in fact proper in the past and appropriate for the times and circumstances. They haven't read Innocent IV's teachings on torture in judicial interrogations or on witches; Gregory Great's condemnation of pleasure in marital intercourse; or Pius XI's condemnation of the proposition that "freedom of conscience and of worship is the proper right of each man". I mention these to augment what you all already know about the history of our moral teachings on slavery.

My point is that one dynamic is that some clerics in the magisterium would have their faith rocked if they couldn't defend, somehow, through the silliest convoluted logic that the teaching office wasn't always infallible. They aren't resisting, necessarily because they are control freaks and power hungry (just think of how the faithful's pocketbooks might flow and the money coffers would fill if they capitulated). It is their experience of faith as a Catholic, however deformative and early formed at a very young age and reinforced for many, many decades. Those of you who have rejected some of your traditional notions of what it requires in order to be a Catholic, haven't you felt a pang of guilt or doubt about whether or not you might go to hell for it [Wink] Haven't you felt like joining a self-help group to overcome the deeply entrenched Catholic fundamentalism which has made you neurotic and scrupulous and even OCD [Wink] Some of these men are in legitimate existential pain. For my part, I am glad their mistakes have been so glaring and obvious and some of their positions so very absurd. That knowledge that the hierarchy CAN be SO far out to lunch, I found quite liberating --once i was able to recover my faith in the essential doctrines that is and once I learned how to distinguish between the essentials and accidentals!

That's, again, just my nuancing of what MAY be some of the dynamism involved in the hierarchy's resistance to change. For all the same reasons they did not want to scandalize the faithful by suggesting they were wrong on birth control, they didn't want to scandalize the faithful by letting them know Father Funny Uncle was a pedophile. The problem then is NOT that we ever made mistakes with noninfallible pronouncements on moral issues. Neither is the problem that we had a few pedophiles invade our ranks. The problem is the COVER UP. Certainly, some made mistakes out of invincible ignorance about the intractability of pedophilia. Unfortunately, even once this invincible ignorance was conquered, the COVER UP mentality persisted, likely for fear of scandal. And they are right. There is a scandal. Some will lose their faith knowing their Pastor was a pedophile or from having been victimized indirectly or directly by a pedophile. The bigger story is now how, like Scott Peck's __People of the Lie__ , certain elements in the hierarchy tried to protect what was a sick identity structure , a house of cards which the winds of modern times may not have been able to blow down but which the Fiery Winds of the Holy Spirit of God will destroy.

Clericalism is on the way out because of faulty notions of what is essential vs accidental. Actuarial tables don't lie. A Diasporic Church age will be ushered in and a laity will re-emerge because there will be no priests for miles around in many places. Women will take new roles and enjoy a flowering of freedom to serve in more ways than ever. Tutt-tutt. Looks like rain. But this will be a good day for Pooh and his friends.

I don't know if I will live to see the democratic church emerge. I am watching the painful spectacle of its collapse into ruins all because a few old men are afraid they'll let the Holy Spirit and the Faithful down by revealing more of the human side of this Divinely Instituted Visible Structure. The Mystical Structure is alive and well, struggling to emerge from this tough, rubbery Chyrsalis though. It will break through. We mustn't tear it to free the wings. We must patiently let superNature take its course while keeping prayerful vigil and doing what we can in our home and parishes to witness to an ecclesial vitality that transcends clericalism's death scene.

Okay, this was really top of head, out of my heart stuff. I reserve my right to change my mind if drug before any inquisitions [Big Grin]

ecclesia i love ya
jb

[ 04-16-2002, 05:48 AM: Message edited by: QuiEst ]

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Wow , this is a great thread! I can agree with almost everything posted and some posts are giving concrete form to issues buzzing in my head that I hven't sorted out yet. Thanks.

I have a couple of small points in the form of questions. Re: Cardinal Law (or others) resigning. If they show that they are willing to change, would it not be better to keep them? The issues are so involved that I don't think this is a case where one must 'fix the blame before you can fix the problem.'There is blame all over the place on every level. There are victims all over the place on every level. The malais needs to be addressed and fixing blame could just be a wild goose chase. Cardinals are not only spiritual (?) leaders, but organizational leaders and the Church is very short on people who can fill these types of positions. As for losing crdibility...considering the issues like birth control that have polarized the Church already, how much credibility did any high ranking leader have? I guess I'm saying , might he not be needed as an organizational leader instead of a spiritual leader, which he wasn't much of any way? What am I missing?

As regards to being "loyal opposition"...This one is a Gideon's knot, I think. Forums like this inspire me to think there is hope for the Church. Here are intelligent, compassionate, open- minded, spiritual people who are really trying to work things out. There doesn't seem to be any hidden agendas or politics; the solutions seem Christlike. Now, in the real world what do we do with this growth? Where is the forum high enough in the Church structure that will listen? Those of us learning here will gain spiritually, and that is no small thing. Well, maybe I answered my own question here. It is no small thing to find people you respect who think like you do and to realize that perhaps 'loyal' is as important as'opposition'. I am a loyal Catholic. And I do disagree with an immense amount of the minor premises that have been treated as major premises. And you all let me know it is ok.
Thanks,
Ana

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JB, it that was all off the top of your head, then I'd like to see what comes out of a process of focused reflection. [Wink] Those have been some mighty fine posts, and I think you've put your finger on several things--especially the confusion regarding what teachings should be regarded as infallible or quasi-infallible, and which are authoritative but subject to ongoing revision. Clearly, any which base themselves on Natural Law belong to the latter category, and so that would include the birth control teaching.

Your point about a faith-crisis among the hierarchy (and many laity) regarding a breakdown of some kind in the supposed clarity of present teachings is also right on. I'm not as convinced that it explains the resistance to change unto a more democratic Church, but it surely contributes some of the energy unto this end.

Ana, I think you make some good points, too, about being careful about a blame game. With Cardinal Law, however, it seems as though the issue has become more one of trust--that even though he vows full disclosure now and boots all the abusive priests, he's lost so much credibility with so many that this undermines his ability to lead effectively. For thousands in his diocese, he will always be known as the Archbishop who took better care of his priests than he did the children they abused. That's a pretty smelly albatross to have hanging around your neck! [Frown]

You note: Now, in the real world what do we do with this growth? Where is the forum high enough in the Church structure that will listen? Those of us learning here will gain spiritually, and that is no small thing..

No small thing indeed! And even if no one of note is listening to us, these points are being made in "high places."

It is no small thing to find people you respect who think like you do and to realize that perhaps 'loyal' is as important as'opposition'. I am a loyal Catholic. And I do disagree with an immense amount of the minor premises that have been treated as major premises. And you all let me know it is ok.

Yes, very much OK! I'm glad you feel that way.

Phil

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- John 1: 3 -

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Phil wrote: "Your point about a faith-crisis among the hierarchy (and many laity) regarding a breakdown of some kind in the supposed clarity of present teachings is also right on. I'm not as convinced that it explains the resistance to change unto a more democratic Church, but it surely contributes some of the energy unto this end."

As I pondered what the reasons for resistance to change might be, I started by giving everyone the benefit of the doubt and then speculated on how some of those "doing" the most "resisting" might be exculpable. It did occur to me that my speculation might be just as idle and uninformed as that speculation of those who always seem to offer culpable motives for resisting change (eg hanging on to power). After I wrote what I did, although I put "MAY" in caps, I still struggled for a way to articulate how my musings were clearly speculative and how, even if some of the psycho-spiritual dynamisms I had described were in some cases determinative of some dysfunctional behavior, in no case were my musings intended to be set forth as clearly exhaustive regarding all such behavior. My major thrust is that I find it useful for dialogue not to place uncharitable interpretations on the hierarchy's behavior. I likely failed in this regard anyway by offering a rather condescending apologetic. I would like to be able to put the whole issue of my dissent in a nice little box and to say that people of large intelligence and profound goodwill can disagree on any issue and then to go my merry way and leave the CDF alone. I think it is becoming increasingly obvious that these people can not be left alone, however, no matter how exculpable, because the consequences of the dysfunction, whatever its etiology, are too devastating and far-reaching. I can only hope and pray that, if mine is a voice of authentic prophetic protest, that it is coming from a sufficiently rooted and prayerful spirituality. I am willing, therefore, to make mistakes in judgment, those of the head, and hope I don't make any of the heart. This is difficult when one is very angry, coupled with sick and tired. I'm both where Rome is concerned.

Truth will win for it and Beauty are One.

pax tibi,
jb

[ 04-16-2002, 04:25 PM: Message edited by: QuiEst ]

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. . . I can only hope and pray that, if mine is a voice of authentic prophetic protest, that it is coming from a sufficiently rooted and prayerful spirituality.

I'm sure you're OK in that department. [Smile]

I am willing, therefore, to make mistakes in judgment, those of the head, and hope I don't make any of the heart. This is difficult when one is very angry, coupled with sick and tired. I'm both where Rome is concerned.

I don't know that you made a mistake in judgment. I took your "top of the head" remark to signify something on the order of brainstorming, and I'm sure the motive you ascribed to resisting change is a significant. I'm sure there are others, too, and they probably differ from cleric to cleric. And, of course, there are many--maybe the overwhelming majority!--of clerics who would actually welcome change unto a more accountable relationship between the hierarchy and the laity.
It seems to me that we have a pretty complicated topic, here. It's easy to see that something is wrong--namely pedophilia/sexual abuse and the cover-ups!--but more difficult to identify the larger context which contributes. I don't claim to know, that's for sure.

My primary positive suggestion in the "solutions" department is some kind of movement toward accountability, which would mean for me the end of the two-tiered system. The resistance to doing so is quite formidable, whatever it's roots and causes.

Phil

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"The Light shines on in darkness . . ."
- John 1: 3 -

Posts: 7539 | From: Wichita, KS | Registered: Aug 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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