Thursday, December 8, 2016

A day that will live in irony...

75 years ago yesterday, Franklin Roosevelt said it was a “date which will live in infamy.”  However, yesterday in Catholic hierarchy land was a day which will live in irony.  Here are a few highlights:

Since it first emerged in the 15th and 16th centuries, the Vatican never had an organization for female employees – a group currently numbering around 750 or 20% of the Vatican population.  I’ve not found many details on the new organization’s activities but I suspect they do not include grooming women for executive positions in the Vatican.  In general, women are not groomed for anything in the church other than obedience and servitude.

However, boys and men willing to consider the priesthood merit volumes of guidelines, programs and efforts to support their development.  The latest in the lot was published yesterday. 

Reading the updated priest formation guidelines kind of reinforces my sneaking suspicion about the Vatican’s women’s organization lacking executive leadership development.  The document is a masterpiece of self-admiration for clergy calling themselves “diamonds” and emphasizing how grateful we all should be that priests are better than other humans.  It is a truly bizarre document feigning humility whilst reeking of hierarchical arrogance.  It scorns clericalism but is so very clerical itself.  It says priests should be shepherds that smell like sheep but then extols priests hanging out with other priests.  It says priests should learn how to interact with women but then suggests myriads of clerical figures to help, etc.... 

Meanwhile, Pope Francis, who leads an organization which sometimes makes stuff up and declares it “truth,” appeals to media outlets not to spread misinformation or disinformation.  He thinks the media shouldn’t just make things up and pass them off as factual news. 

Though I agree that spreading disinformation is reprehensible, I found the pope’s plea rather ironic.  I can provide a litany of examples where hierarchy members spread disinformation…from various hierarchy members’ lies covering up for abusive priests, to rejecting scientific understandings about human physiology and psychology, to pretending women were never ordained as deacons though they were for centuries, to made-up “facts” about women and their roles, to a September, 2015 US bishops’ smear campaign which propagated false news that a US social service organization sold aborted baby parts. 

However, the pope’s disinformation concerns carry exceptionally exquisite irony due to his timing expressing them…the day before the Feast of the Immaculate Conception…a feast day honoring a doctrinal belief spun from pure myth yet one of the two beliefs the Catholic hierarchy declares absolutely infallible.  The Assumption of Mary, the other doctrine declared infallible, equally rests upon a mountain of myth. 

Maybe the pope would be more at ease if the various fake or shoddy news outlets declared themselves infallible?  Or maybe the pope doesn’t like news outlets competing with clergy for making shit up?  Perhaps the pope is ok with the hierarchy telling what my mother used to call “pious fairy tales” because he thinks they are happy and positive but fake news stories are downers?  Maybe he’s ok with clergy playing fast and loose with facts if it leads to reinforcing some happy myth the hierarchy wishes to promote?  I don’t know. 

Pope Francis also speaks about a sickness in the media feeding people’s desire for scandal.  I agree some media outlets feed some people’s attraction to scandal but some news organizations practice what is called “good investigative journalism.”  For example, Marty Baron, current editor of the Washington Post and former editor of the Boston Globe who guided that paper to investigate the extensive abuse scandal in the Boston Archdiocese, should be canonized as a living saint, not portrayed as a sinner feeding people’s fetish for scandal.  The Globe’s hundreds of stories shed much needed light on a very dark corner of the church.  Thank you. 

Francis also commented that some media sources seem to never let scandal die.  I agree with him that one should not indefinitely live under a shroud for past sins.  However, I also believe that if we do not remember and discuss candidly the facts surrounding unfortunate historical situations, we are destined to repeat them. 

Francis provided no specific examples regarding unrelenting fixation on scandalous stories.  Ironically, one of the shoddy news sites – a favorite amongst many US Catholic clergy – must have used its mind-reading abilities or just made shit up to say that Francis obviously referred to excavating stories about US President-elect Donald Trump.  However, Francis actually stated that scandals should be relinquished after penance and restitution.  I’m uncertain if penance or restitution have occurred for any of those scandals.  Alas, I digress.

It is ironic too that many Catholic hierarchy frequent some fake news sites though Francis condemns such sites.  It is ironic but not surprising.  There is a high degree of alcoholism amongst the clergy and alcoholics live dishonesty to a point they normalize it in their lives.  About 50% of priests are sexually active and thus live dishonest lives regarding sexuality and relationships…again normalizing dishonesty within their lives.  Many priests will teach things they do not believe but do so to remain in good standing with the church…again normalizing dishonesty within their lives.  Maybe this is why I personally have not found the clergy to be any more truthful than any other demographic group.   A few have actually turned out to rank amongst the most dishonest, unscrupulous people I’ve ever encountered.   

Yet, the clergy formation document tells us they are “diamonds.”  Well, the saying is “diamonds are a girl’s best friend” and the clergy formation document does say priests need to learn to be friendly with women because they are the majority within parishes…after 2,000 years they figured it out!  However, it kind of discusses women as though they are unique non-human creatures so it’s hard to see us becoming “besties.”  Reading the clergy formation guidelines’ description of women, I felt a little like a wild creature that Marlin Perkins of “Wild Kingdom” might have discussed…”here we see the female human operating in her natural habitat…notice how she….”  

Kudos for realizing most priests do not work well with women.  However, in the litany of human resources to teach future priests how to work with women, we mostly find richly diverse categories of priests…folks who ya just said don’t tend to work well with women.  Isn’t that like having an anti-Semite teach Jewish culture appreciation classes to other anti-Semites to help them be less anti-Semitic?

Anyway, from the three topics we see:   
1) Priests need to work better with women and thus should entrench themselves amongst clergy to learn how to do this.   
2) As part of the “we love women” campaign, women in the Vatican can have a club.   
3) Don’t make shit up and spread it around unless you are ordained.  
 4) If you are ordained, you’re a diamond and we all know diamonds don’t shit. 

Just a side thought…could they mean priests are diamonds as in hard, impenetrable entities that are expensive to keep and merely glittery ornaments? 


  1. This is the real, not fake and not good news.

  2. I do so much appreciate all your good thinking and thoughtful comments. Thank you. I am always glad to see a new post from you.

  3. Very true, and very sad. The problem is that the people who need to read and understand this will continue to emulate the ostrich and fail to heed the lesson. It's no wonder that the second largest group of religious people inthe United States are former Catholivs.