Sunday, October 31, 2010

Does the infallibility doctrine drive people away from the church?

My previous posting discussed how the Vatican partially attributes the U.S. church’s pedophilia problem to priests not clearly understanding their hierarchical superiority over laity.  It also discussed the pope’s concern about people leaving the church and his belief that it ties to people not hearing enough of the church’s catechism.

I’ve continued reflecting on the concept of hierarchical superiority and I keep returning to the example Jesus set for the original twelve apostles.  Jesus said the greatest were the least (Lk 14:7-11, Mark 10:36-44).  He rode on a borrowed donkey not in a Mercedes Benz modified SUV Popemobile equipped with hydraulic lift. He promoted humble service and modeled the humility he expected of leaders.  Assuming the lowliest household slave’s position Jesus washed feet and instructed his followers to do likewise (John 13:4-17).  Outside of Holy Thursday’s ceremonial washing of feet, when’s the last time the pope washed dirty stinky feet, changed a dirty diaper, or mopped up someone’s vomit?

I scoured the Bible seeking examples of Jesus telling the apostles to think themselves superior to others and I didn’t find any.  I found passages where he rebuked apostles trying to be superior (Mk 10:36-44).  He did say whatever Peter held bound would be held bound but that seemed more related to desiring “mercy not sacrifice” (Mt 16:19, Mt 9:13, Luke 6:36)  or that “the measure with which you measure will be measured against you” (Luke 6:36-38) rather than superiority.  Also, just four verses later in Mt 16:23 Jesus called Peter, “Satan”, because he so completely misunderstood him.  So much for Peter’s infallibility…

This brings me to reflect upon the church’s infallibility doctrine.  When I err, I know I’m fallible and thus, can retract my words.  Fallibility carries a lot of freedom.  I always get a “do over”.  If I admit I am wrong or don’t know something, I have a profound opportunity to learn and grow towards becoming a better person. 

Conversely, belief in one’s infallibility hinders learning new things.  Here’s an analogous example.  Think of water in a pitcher as representing all knowledge.  Pour a few drops from the pitcher into a glass; that represents your knowledge.  When someone thinks they “already know” something it closes the mind like covering the glass with plastic wrap.  It’s pretty much impossible to intake any more.  When invoking infallibility doctrine, church leaders seem to cover their glass with plastic wrap, disallowing further learning opportunities.

What is the infallibility doctrine?  It says the church must accept certain papal teachings on matters concerning faith or morals.  Such teachings must emanate ex cathedra (from the chair of the pope), meaning from the pope’s office as the church’s chief shepherd.  Papal infallibility was promulgated formally during the First Vatican Council in 1870 though several pre-Vatican I documents discussed the concept too.  Papal infallibility rarely has been invoked, the last time being in 1950 by Pope Pius XII regarding the Assumption of Mary.  Ecumenical councils’ teachings can also be infallible. 

For a teaching to be infallible it must clearly state that it is definitive and binding.  Often a statement of “anathema” accompanies it saying that anyone who dissents is outside the church.  For example, these words accompanied the doctrine about the Assumption of Mary, “Hence if anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or to call into doubt that which We have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith.”

Infallible teachings can contradict previous church teachings.  However a previously stated infallible teaching cannot later be decreed as infallible.  The infallibility doctrine itself contains an anathema statement.  Thus according to the church’s current rules, it can’t decide it erred in creating the infallibility doctrine and negate or retract it. 

An interesting statistic is that only about 39% of Catholics believe in papal infallibility.  Perhaps they share prominent British historian and Roman Catholic, Lord Acton’s philosophy, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Regardless, in denying the infallibility doctrine’s infallibleness, evidently 61% of Catholics are ex-communicated implicitly and they either don’t know it or don’t care.   

I wouldn’t want the burden of having to be infallible on anything.  To me, once a person or group decides they are perfect in even one area, it seems very easy to blur boundaries between areas of perfection and imperfection.  It might become very tempting to adopt Mac Davis’ song, “Oh Lord it's hard to be humble when you're perfect in every way” as your theme song.

Are humility and infallible perfection mutually exclusive?  I attended a bishop’s installation a few years ago and his homily tried to express his “humble” perfection.  In referring to himself he said that we were to “…rightly thank God today.  Why?  Because our Almighty Father has loved us so much as to provide another, unworthy though he may be, as your bishop, a successor to the Apostles.”   This statement appalled many lay people in attendance.  To fallible lay people someone saying “you should thank God because I, humble as I am, have been appointed to rule over you” comes across as many things but humble is not one of them.

Fortunately mostly fellow semi-infallible clergy attended the installation so few laity heard the message.  I’ve not learned the bishop’s “humble” homily inspired anyone to leave the church.   

Unfortunately, when the church declared its infallibility doctrine, it caused lots of people to leave the church.  But, because church leaders decided they were right, they had to lay blame elsewhere for people’s departure.

Is this same concept coming into play now?  People flee the church now usually because of church leaders’ actions: hypocrisy, lack of accountability, abuse of children or power, or discriminatory policies.  Since church leaders believe they are perfect in some dimension, they rarely if ever consider their actions or non-infallible teachings as the root cause for people’s exodus. Instead they have to find another reason.  

Thus, the pope believes people leaving the church just haven’t heard enough of clergy’s infallibly perfect teachings.  Do people leave because they’ve heard too little of infallible teachings or because they feel they’ve heard enough?  Do they leave because they have heard church leaders teach the catechism but not seen them live the gospel message of humble service? 

What drives people from the church?

In June, 2010 Pope Benedict XVI established the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.  He created this organization out of concern for what he considers the de-Christianization of historically Catholic countries, especially in Europe.

On October 12, 2010 the pope issued an apostolic letter pertaining to the same topic and outlined his hypotheses for factors contributing to the shift from Christianity.  He cited advances in science and technology, individual freedoms that give rise to various lifestyle choices, economic changes, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic dynamics and global societal interdependencies as contributors to the spiritual shift.

The pope believes de-Christianization stems from lack of familiarity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church. 

I agree that many people are leaving the church.  I agree only partially with the pope’s speculation regarding the reasons.  Being an engineer and mathematician by training I look for root cause, beginning with facts.

According to German government reports, 472 Catholics left the Munich Diocese just in the one month of March, 2010.  The cause was not science, technology, globalization, personal freedoms or a lack of awareness of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  It was disgust with church leaders’ mishandling of clergy abuse cases in Germany.  Germans were familiar with church teachings and seemed disillusioned that church leaders preached what they did not practice. Germans were particularly disgusted with their fellow countrymen, the pope and his brother.

By the way, that statistic has a high degree of accuracy because German citizens must register and de-register their church affiliation.  

The Germans are not alone.  The Irish Commission this year released its investigative report on clergy abuse and cover-ups that occurred in Ireland.  Their investigation and analysis revealed church leaders’ priorities in the Dublin Archdiocese, “were the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the church, and the preservation of its assets.  All other considerations including the welfare of the children and justice for victims were subordinated to these priorities.  The Archdiocese did not implement its own canon law rules and did its best to avoid any application of the law of the state.”  

Again, it seems the problem is church leaders not practicing what they preach versus laity’s ignorance of doctrine.

As Thomas Doyle, a canon lawyer, became more familiar with church leaders' practices skirting norms, he commented that attempts to reform the church to address pedophilia and cover-ups have been like, “trudging through what can best be described as a swamp of toxic waste.”

In the United States Rick Romly, district attorney in Phoenix opined that the church was “openly obstructive” of justice blocking his attempts to uncover the truth.  He said the church’s actions represented the worst obstruction of justice he’d experienced in his entire career.  Why are church leaders not prosecuted for obstruction of justice?  Why do they think they are above laws protecting children and social order?

In response to the many abuse claims, the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) commissioned the John Jay School of criminal justice to research the problem.  In reading the full report dated 2004 I learned that the USCCB commissioned the report and dictated the questions that John Jay could ask.  Furthermore, the bishops supplied the information based upon complaints they received and offered only that information they chose to supply.  No victims or pedophile priests were contacted.  Thus, the exercise was akin to perpetrators launching an investigation into their crimes, telling the investigator what to ask them, supplying the answers to the questions and then judging and sentencing themselves. 

Should we then be shocked that the church reported merely 24% of alleged abuses to the police?  Should we be shocked that only 11% of alleged abusers either left or were removed from the priesthood?  Should we be shocked that only 2% of accused priests served prison time?

Also in response to the abuse claims, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith performed an Apostolic Visitation of U.S. Seminaries in 2008.  The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith is the office formerly known as the Office of the Inquisition.  Thus, a “visitation” is an inquisition versus something where one might expect to serve tea and crumpets and chat about this weekend’s cricket match.

The inquisition’s report indicated that U.S. seminaries, in forming priests, focused too much on priestly service and not enough on priests’ hierarchical superiority.  It also felt it was problematic that some seminaries offered theological education to laity and seminarians.  The report seems to imply, “How can the Star-bellied Sneetches feel superior if those without ‘stars upon thars’ are permitted to attend Star-bellied Sneetch ‘picnics or parties or marshmallow toasts’?”  The inquisition’s report implied that the problem with pedophile priests is priests don’t behave with enough superiority.  

Let’s see.  Pedophile priests molested children, weren’t reported to the police; those that were, the diocese obstructed justice.  All of the accusations are enshrouded in secrecy.  Bishops ignored their own norms.  Few accused priests left the priesthood, fewer are prosecuted, fewer yet served prison time, many are moved somewhere to harm other children.  Meanwhile throughout this process church leaders cry “persecution” that people want them held accountable and organizational reform; they tell the faithful that the matter is settled and people need to move past their transgressions.  Beyond “struggling”, many church leaders become downright frustrated or angry that people continue to cry for justice and reform.

The definition of “hubris” is extreme haughtiness or arrogance, often indicating being out of touch with reality and overestimating one's own competence or capabilities, especially for people in positions of power.

Are Europeans leaving the church due to lack of familiarity with the catechism or do they flee in rejection of what they see as church leaders exhibiting a textbook case of hubris?  

Friday, October 29, 2010

Where is our focus?

Last week the parish where I usually attend Mass moved their tabernacle from the sanctuary’s side onto the altar directly behind the altar table.  This complied with the bishop’s directive regarding tabernacle placement.  My understanding is the bishop wants the tabernacle on the altar because it houses the Body of Christ and everyone should focus on the presence of Christ.  Perhaps he thinks visual focus begets mental focus begets spiritual focus.

This change caused me to observe and reflect upon the presence of Christ during Mass.  The church teaches that during Mass Christ is present in the Eucharist (consecrated bread and wine), the clergy, the Word and the people. 

Christ’s presence in the people seems to receive little visual focus if the altar defines that.  Only select lay people stand on the altar, mostly remaining to the sides until their role requires movement into the center.  People approach but do not go on the altar to receive the Body and Blood of Christ at Communion.  As people receive the Body of Christ, in addition to becoming living tabernacles, they become what they receive, the Body of Christ.  Most do this without ever being on the altar.

If visual focus begets mental focus begets spiritual focus, then as the faithful proceed from Mass, should they least remember Christ’s presence in themselves and their fellow human?  Borrowing from a 7-Up slogan referring to caffeine, does the limited visual focus during Mass engender an attitude about Christ’s presence in people of, “Never had it; never will.”?  If so, suddenly the parking lot road rally after Mass would make sense as would the gossip that some engage in before reaching the church’s exit.

Christ’s presence in the Word receives limited visual attention during Mass.  Parishes that display the Bible during the liturgy tend to do so near the pulpit, again on the altar’s side.  Many only visually display the Word immediately before and after the gospel reading.

However, the Word is proclaimed at least three or four times throughout Mass: during the first and second readings, the gospel and the responsorial psalm.  Many liturgical prayers also emanate from scripture.  Thus, though the Word doesn’t occupy visual prominence, it does maintain audible prominence.  Hopefully lack of visual focus on scripture doesn’t deter mental or spiritual focus on it.

Throughout Mass, the priest seems a persistent visual focal point.  Several times during Mass the priest blocks my view of the tabernacle now that it’s behind the altar table.  This occurs when the priest kisses the altar table, during the Presentation of the Gifts, Preparation of the Altar, Prayer over the Gifts, Eucharistic Prayer, and the Sanctus.  Indeed, until the bread and wine are consecrated, the priest blocks visibility of the tabernacle every time he stands behind the altar table.  In some churches, the priest blocks the tabernacle through most of Mass because his chair is in front of the tabernacle.  Since the priest stands before the tabernacle, does this imply that I should focus more on him than on the Eucharist?

If visual focus begets mental focus begets spiritual focus, am I supposed to emerge from Mass primarily focused on Christ’s presence in the priest?  If that’s the case, priest groupies who never question, challenge or expect accountability from clergy suddenly make sense as do some clergy who expect to be treated like a regal messiah. 

Keep in mind that The Messiah was questioned, scorned, persecuted and rejected versus treated like royalty, and he rebuked those who felt he should evade suffering.  Jesus himself received regal gifts from the three Magi, non-believers who saw more profundity in his simplicity than many believers did.  He received regal anointing only from an audacious woman, mocked and scorned by religious leaders who felt her sins were more offensive to God than theirs.  He only received regal ornamentation during his trial and that was as a mockery. 

The Eucharist itself is quite plain and simple, reminiscent of Jesus born into poverty wrapped in swaddling clothes, living in poverty, dying in poverty stripped of all garments.  The Eucharist itself is consecrated bread and wine.

The Eucharist itself is also rarely visible.  It is visible when elevated at the consecration and during communion.  Sometimes, when a parish uses glass ciboria and chalices, people can see the sacrament more. However, mostly the Eucharist is hidden from view stored in ornate tabernacles, ciboria and chalices made of precious metal.

The Eucharist is not the tabernacle, chalice or ciborium that holds it.  That would be like saying an oyster shell is the same as the pearl it contains.  I’ve never found myself thinking, “If I stare at this oyster shell I’ll appreciate the pearl inside a lot more; as a matter of fact I should make the oyster shell really ornate so I better appreciate the pearl.”.  I would think if an oyster shell got too fancy, a person actually might be inclined to lose sight of the precious gem inside.

If Jesus could give us the Eucharist stripped of every worldly adornment, why do we adorn Eucharistic vessels now?  If visual focus on the Eucharist is important, why don’t we get to see the actual Eucharist more versus receptacles containing it?  Why would the priest block people’s view of the tabernacle? Since people are living tabernacles, why are they a lesser focus than inanimate tabernacles that hold the Eucharist? 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

How did apostles go from not carrying a spare tunic to fueling a fashion sub-industry?

Part of the Catholic Church’s justification for barring female ordinations comes from literally interpreting scripture where Jesus selects twelve guys as the original apostles.  Because a female is not mentioned explicitly in these passages church leaders say Jesus didn’t give them authority to ordain women.  As mentioned before, they ignore scripture where Jesus does select Mary Magdalene as an apostle but I won’t dwell on that now.  

Since the church literally interprets scripture to justify its ordination rule, it stands to reason that we literally interpret those same passages where Jesus tells these twelve male apostles what to do.  As we examine this topic, keep in mind church leaders say that unless Jesus explicitly said to do something, he didn’t authorize it.

Apostles are supposed to proclaim the kingdom and “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons” (Mt 10:8).   The account in Mark’s gospel only mentions that Jesus sent apostles “forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons” (Mark 3:14-15). 

He didn’t give apostles the authority to do things like be administrators, chair committees, attend meetings, build buildings, lead parishes, conduct fundraisers, be political lobbyists, provide counseling, prepare couples for marriage, or act as personnel managers.  Why do these unauthorized activities consume so much of clergy’s time? 

Present day clergy do anoint the sick.  However, I don’t know any who cure the sick though the original twelve seemed like whizzes at curing people’s infirmities.  I’m not aware of any priests raising people from the dead.  Some throughout history worked with lepers but I can’t think of any in my diocese who do that now.  Aside from the exorcism rite in baptismal anointing, I’ve only met one priest who performed an exorcism, driving out demons.   Why did the apostles’ role experience such severe scope shift over time?  

Jesus also instructs them, “Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick” (Mt 10:9-10).  Evidently he didn’t think the apostles needed to focus on clothing or fashion because he instructed minimalism and didn’t give them authority to decorate their clothing at all, not even with a spiffy Roman collar.  This is not surprising from a guy born into poverty.  (As a side note, the Roman collar didn’t appear until the 15th century when priests began following the fashion trend of the day (reference EWTN Q&A on Roman collars).)

The modern version of a priest’s “tunic” might be considered his black clerics.  Perhaps some consider it the alb, the white robe worn under other priestly vestments during Mass.  Regardless, every priest I know has multiple sets of clerics and albs.  Why do priests have multiple tunics when Jesus explicitly said they shouldn’t?

The original twelve apostles traveled to the people, often covering great distances.  In the Roman Empire travelers often wore a casula, a poncho-like outer garment.  Whether or not the apostles wore a casula is a mystery because scripture does not indicate Jesus authorized them to wear one.  Regardless, the modern version of a casula is the chasuble, the colorful outer garment worn during the celebration of Mass.

One might interpret Jesus’ tunic instruction as implying all clothing which would include an outer wrap.  However, if we allow implicit rather than explicit interpretations, wouldn’t we need to allow that Jesus implied all people not just males when he selected the twelve apostles?  Also, wouldn’t the “don’t have a second” thing apply implicitly to outer garments as well?

How many chasubles do priests, today’s apostles, actually own?  The exact number varies but they have at least one for every color associated with the liturgical calendar:
  1. White for Easter, Christmas, weddings and funerals
  2. Red for Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Pentecost Sunday, Apostles’ and Evangelists’ feasts, and celebrations of Martyr Saints
  3. Green for Ordinary Time.
  4. Violet or purple for Advent, Lent or optionally for funerals.
Many priests also have at least one of the following optional colors:
  1. Gold or silver for more solemn occasions
  2. Rose (pink) for Gaudete Sunday (Third Sunday of Advent) and Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent).
  3. On more solemn days, they may use vestments “that are festive, that is, more precious, even if not of the color of the day” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal).
  4. Black as an optional color for funerals.
Indeed, most priests have at least a dozen chasubles giving rise to a fashion sub-industry.  
The Church Supply Warehouse advertises no less than ten subcategories of chasubles.  Each subcategory contains dozens if not hundreds of styles with prices ranging from under $50 to around $5,000.  Though most are priced in the hundreds of dollars range, some are listed as “Price upon request”, loosely translated as “if you must ask, you can’t afford it”.  As of this writing, there are 816 varieties of chasubles offered for sale on eBay. 
The chasuble fashion industry accommodates taste variances from the very plain to the excessively ornate that could act as magpie bait.  Some are so ornate with glitter, gold and silver, if suspended from the ceiling and spun they might double as a disco ball. 
How did apostles who Jesus explicitly instructed to have only the clothing on their back wind up fueling an entire sub-industry of fashion?  How did apostles, who Jesus explicitly instructed to not carry gold, silver or copper in their belts wind up wearing them on their backs?  More importantly, why do apostles give more weight and emphasis to something Jesus didn’t state explicitly while ignoring things he did?  Why do apostles feel they have the authority to expand upon Jesus’ explicit instructions but not on what they infer are his implicit instructions regarding ordination?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Why is Paul accepted as an apostle but not Mary Magdalene?

An apostle (one who is sent) is different from a disciple (a follower). The Catholic Church considers ordained clergy to be apostles while laity and avowed religious nuns and brothers are disciples. 

According to church teaching, to be an apostle, one must be baptized and then receive "laying on of hands" from another apostle.  This is the foundation of the church's apostolic succession, tying apostles all the way back to the original twelve appointed by Jesus.   Also according to church teaching, people cannot just declare themselves apostles through the authority of their relationship with God.  They must become an apostle by the Holy Spirit working through another apostle who can be traced back to the original twelve.  Doing otherwise would break apostolic succession. 

Here's what puzzles me about Paul.  He was not one of the original twelve apostles.  He did not meet Jesus until after Jesus' death, resurrection and ascension.  His meeting was a spiritual/mystical post-ascenscion encounter with Jesus.  Also, Paul received "laying on of hands" before he was baptized.  Furthermore, Ananias did the "laying on of hands" but Ananias was a disciple not an apostle.  The "laying on of hands" was done for healing purposes rather than as a commissioning (Acts 9:1-30). 

Paul declared himself an apostle based upon his direct interactions with Christ (Gal 1:1) rather than through the action of any human.  Lest someone think this is my own interpretation of scripture, please be aware that the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops' website indicates the following in the biblical commentary for this passage, "because of attacks on his authority in Galatia, Paul defends his apostleship. He is not an apostle commissioned by a congregation or even by prophets but through Jesus Christ and God the Father."  The official church acknowledges that Paul was not "ordained" by an apostle.  He represents a break in apostolic succession. Based upon Paul's writing and biblical commentary, we see that many people were concerned about Paul's authority because he did not follow apostolic succession.

I raise this question because Mary Magdelene was also directly sent by Jesus (the definition of "apostle") (Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:10).  She was sent to be the first bearer of the gospel's "good news" of Jesus' resurrection.  However, church leaders call her an "apostle to the apostles" (Mulieris Dignitatem) rather than accept her as a full fledged apostle because scripture doesn't indicate she received laying on of hands from an apostle.  Well, neither did Paul.

The eleven remaining apostles did not believe Mary, though she was sent as an apostle by Jesus. "When they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe." (Mark 16:11) Perhaps church leaders' continued refusal to acknowledge Mary as an apostle ties to the original eleven's disbelief.  However, Jesus chastised the eleven apostles for their reaction to Mary, "... later, as the eleven were at table, he appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised." (Mark 16:14)

Why is Paul's apostleship accepted as valid despite breaking all the "rules" while Mary Magdalene's apostleship is reduced to some non-descript junior grade apostleship of "apostle to the apostles"?  Is the pope's pronouncement about female ordinations just a perpetuation of the original eleven male apostles' disbelief and hardness of heart for which Jesus rebuked them?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Why are ex-communication and public shame used on politicians that commit no grave delict or secular crime but not used on priests who commit both?

I thought I would continue on this theme reflecting upon grave delicts. 

As a consultant I am trained to examine what someone doesn't say as much or more than what they do say.  What a person omits can sometimes be as profound of a statement as what they verbalize. 

My last posting focused on that.  I compared what was stated in the grave delicts with what was not stated in them.  There is a grave delict against a priest absolving a woman from the sin of committing adultery with him. (Likely this ties to conflict of interest.)  There is also a grave delict against ordaining women. 

However, there are not grave delicts against raping or murdering women.  This easily could be interpreted as church leaders saying that the worst things a clergyman could do to a woman are to forgive her from the sin of having an adulterous encounter with him or to ordain her.  If there were things worse than those two, wouldn't they have a grave delict? 

Another thing I'm trained to look for as a consultant is a person's or organization's consistency between words and actions. What are the patterns between an organization's professed governing principles versus actions upon those principles?

My posting about toy Mass kits focused on that.  On the one hand we as a church state that simulating the celebration of Mass is the gravest of sins.  On the other hand, numerous Catholic organizations sell toy Mass kits, encouraging children to simulate celebrating Mass.  I've not yet heard of Catholic parents or children being ex-communicated for purchasing or using toy Mass kits. I've not heard of any of the vending companies that sell such kits being censured by the church either.  Indeed, the toy Mass kit market appears to be growing. Why is that?

There is a grave delict against priests sexually exploiting or abusing children.  Not only is it a grave delict, it is a felony in the United States.  However, I rarely hear of priests being ex-communicated for this.  Either it's not happening or it's happening very quietly.  Perhaps the secrecy and quiet discretion around such ex-communications are meant to preserve the priest's dignity rather than publicly shame him for committing the gravest of sins as well as a felony.

Aiding and abetting a felon is also a felony.   Yet aiding and abetting a child-abusing priest is not a grave delict.  Therefore, though bishops who move or ignore child-abusing priests rather than enforce this grave delict against morality do not commit a grave delict themselves, they do commit a felony.  Why isn't there a grave delict against bishops who move, hide information about, defend or otherwise fail to hold accountable child-abusing priests?

Conversely, there is no grave delict against Catholic secular politicians voting opposite the wishes of their bishop.  A politician voting their conscience is not illegal in secular law either.  Yet, in the United States there is a growing trend of bishops who wish to refuse communion to (ex-communicate) secular politicians who vote differently than the bishop wishes.  When this occurs, it carries a great deal of publicity, trying to publicly shame the politician.  Some might see such bishops' actions as using the Holy Eucharist as a political device, which to many represents sacrilegious abuse of the sacrament (a grave delict).

Why are ex-communication and public shame used on politicians that commit no grave delict or secular crime but not used on priests who commit both?   It would seem that matters related to grave delicts would be fodder for ex-communication and public shame before matters that do not.

P.S.  Keep in mind, a great theologian named Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) once spoke of the importance of following one's own conscience, even over the pope's edicts if necessary, to ward against the church becoming a totalitarian state:

Over the pope as expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there stands one's own conscience which must be obeyed before all else, even if necessary against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. This emphasis on the individual, whose conscience confronts him with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups, even the official church, also establishes a principle in opposition to increasing totalitarianism.
(Joseph Ratzinger in: Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II ,Vol. V., pg. 134 (Ed) H. Vorgrimler, New York, Herder and Herder, 1967). 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Is it a worse crime for clergy to objectify, rape, kill or ordain a woman, according to the Catholic Church?

As I mentioned in my previous blog posting, inspired by the church naming female ordination as a grave delict, I’ve read and been thinking about the Vatican’s substantive norms enumerating all the grave delicts, the gravest infractions according to Roman Catholic Canon Law.  I embarked on this process to understand through comparison what is or isn’t considered “really bad” by the church as well as to understand church leader's value of women.  I’ve learned a lot in the process.

Grave delicts fall into one of two categories:
  1. Delicts against sacraments
  2. Delicts against morals
Here’s a quick summary of the church’s list of the “worst of the worst” offenses.

Article 3 pertains to delicts against the sacrament of Eucharist.  Those offenses include sacrilegious use of the consecrated species and simulation of celebrating the Eucharist.

Article 4 pertains to delicts against the sacrament of Penance.  This includes simulating the sacrament, violating the sacramental seal and adulterous involvement by priests with penitents.

Article 5 pertains to delicts against the sacrament of Holy Orders.  The only delicts involving ordination are related to ordaining women.  

Article 6 is the only one related to moral delicts and pertains to those against the 6th commandment (adultery) committed by a member of the clergy with a minor or someone with the reasoning skills of a minor.  It also pertains to the acquisition, possession or distribution of pornographic images of youth under the age of 14 “for the purposes of sexual gratification” by a member of the clergy.  This one category awaits a sustained record of effective enforcement.

I’m dumbfounded that the list of moral delicts is so short.  A priest who murders a person doesn’t commit a grave delict?  A priest who rapes an adult doesn’t commit a grave delict?  A priest who acquires, possesses or distributes pornographic images of males or females over the age of 13 doesn’t commit a grave delict?   

Since female ordination is included on the list of grave delicts, it seems the church believes ordaining women is worse than all things not on the list.  Therefore, are church leaders then saying they think it’s better for clergy to rape a woman than ordain her?  Do they think it’s better for clergy to be sexually gratified viewing pornographic images of a woman than to ordain her?  Do they think it’s better for clergy to kill a woman than to ordain her? 

And church leaders wonder why many women are outraged?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Bless me Father for I have sinned… but at least I used your endorsed product?

Today, I was thinking about the Roman Catholic norm published in July that classified ordaining women as the same sin gravity as priests raping children.  The classification is called graviora delicta, translated as “grave delict”.   For those of you like me who don’t regularly use “delict” in everyday speech, it’s an offense that injures another.  A “grave delict” is the most serious kind of offense in Canon Law.

I wondered what else appeared on the list.  I figured a comparison would help impress upon me how dreadful the church deems female ordinations.  Here are some examples from the list:

Article 3 includes “grave delicts” against the Holy Sacrifice and Sacrament of the Eucharist.  Those offenses include sacrilegious use of the consecrated species and simulation of celebrating the Eucharist.  I agree that desecration of the Eucharist is serious. 

However, I don’t know if I’m more confused or amused by the severity classification for simulating Mass since so many Catholic websites sell or advertise child’s play Mass kits.  Are these children all subject to ex-communication?  If not, at what age does playing Mass become the most severe of sins from something that, “Many bishops and priests used … when they were small boys and this relationship with the Mass when they were young helped to inspire them to enter religious life.” (From the “Official Play Mass Kit" website) 

There’s the “Wee Believers My Mass Kit” which states, “My Mass Kit is a children's version Mass kit designed for reverent play. Its design is even approved by Catholic Clergy!”  For the low, low price of $69.95 and with clergy endorsement, you too can set your child on the path to committing the gravest of sins? 

Since Article 5 classifies female ordinations as grave sins, perhaps if you buy the kit for your daughter it’s “bad”.  Maybe sons are exempt from this but only if you enroll them into “Our Lady of Pampers” pre-school seminary?  Or does the grave sin classification hit you once you surpass the same mark that lets you ride on roller coasters?  “You must be at least this tall to ride this ride or go to Hell”?  This would be somewhere between the age of reason and adulthood.

For the more economical minded, suggests creating your own play Mass kit.  “Hey kids: Gather some old towels, Mom's best china, and Necco wafers, and you've got Mass”.   True to its commitment to serve the poor, the church offers equal opportunities to entice impoverished and financially privileged youth into committing a most grave sin?

Since this sin category is so severe I want to make sure I understand.  It’s o.k. to pretend you’re celebrating Mass as long as you’re not pretending to celebrate Mass?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Who anointed Jesus to make him the Christ?

Jesus' last name is not "Christ".  The word "christ" means "anointed one".  Being anointed indicated God's hand in the matter choosing a person for a special role.  Thus, the term "Jesus Christ" says, "Jesus, the Anointed one of God."

Since humans do not have the mind of God, sometimes the person chosen to be anointed caused people to scratch their heads a bit and wonder.  For example, Jesse had lots of older, larger, stronger sons whom humans found to be logical choices for Israel's second King.  Instead the Lord directed Samuel to anoint David (1 Samuel 16), Jesse's youngest, weakest son and a harp-playing shepherd. Jesus, the poor son of a carpenter who died the most humiliating death of his time, was another choice that might seem illogical to humans.

But what about the people chosen as instruments of the Holy Spirit who perform the anointing?  Were they logical choices?  In David's case, scripture clearly indicates that the judge Samuel anointed him.  The judges were religious political rulers so that might seem very logical. 

But, who anointed Jesus to make him the Christ?  Scripture only records Jesus permitting women to anoint him (Luke 7:36-38 and Mark 14:3-9, Matthew 26:6-13, John 12:1-8).  As noted in the biblical commentary footnotes of the US Council of Catholic Bishop's online Bible, the anointing of Jesus' head by Mary Magdalene indicates a regal messianic anointing.  Was the selection of Mary Magdalene to anoint Jesus another humanly illogical choice?

Church leaders establish and use a rule in justifying the all-male clergy that goes something like this.  "If scripture records Jesus only interacting with one gender for a particular thing, then Jesus must have wanted that thing reserved for that gender for all eternity."  Only women anointed Jesus and scripture only records Jesus commissioning the male apostles to anoint for purposes of healing.

Wouldn't consistent application of church leaders' own rule lead to the conclusion that only women should anoint people for things like baptism, confirmation and especially ordination? Wouldn't consistent application of their own rule restrict male clergy to anointing people for healing purposes such as in the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick?  Or is this rule applied relativistically depending upon the situation?  Since Pope Benedict has been a big critic of relativism, I would think he would find these questions very compelling.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Who do you say that I am?

“Who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29)  Jesus asked this of his disciples. That’s an interesting question and a foundational element of spirituality because faith is a relationship.  And, it’s difficult to have a healthy relationship without knowing the other party.  It’s also difficult to have a healthy relationship without knowing yourself.  “Who am I?”

Before Jesus asked the disciples who they thought he was he also asked them who other people thought he was.  Other people’s perspectives can influence our relationships.  However they are not a substitute for our own insight.  Perhaps this is why Jesus guided the disciples through a reflection process.  “Who do others say that I am?”  O.K.  That’s nice but they don’t control our relationship.  Now, more importantly, “Who do you say that I am?”  You can’t have a healthy relationship with me living someone else’s relationship or interpretation of what the relationship should be.

This brings me to the concept of “tyranny of should”.  I forget who coined this expression but I think it is very poignantly descriptive.  "Tyranny of should” occurs when a third party’s opinion dominates the opinion one holds of one’s self or others.  The third party tells you how you should perceive and interact with others.  Or, they may tell you how you should think, feel or act.  Or, some people impose their opinion of what your relationship with God should be instead of what God wants it to be.  This is a dehumanizing behavior because it invalidates you as a person and violates your free will. It sort of says, “God talks to me about you more clearly than God talks to you about you”.

Gender stereotypes are one example of “shoulds” imposed upon others that can be dehumanizing.  Instead of acknowledging the person’s authentic God-given gifts or encouraging pursuit of God’s authentic call, the “should” tyrant tries to invalidate the person.  “Because you’re a woman you should like to shop.”   “Because you’re a woman you shouldn’t like math.”  Because you’re a woman, you should want to stay home with your children.”

The story of Martha and Mary offers an example of “shoulding” upon someone.  As theologians note in biblical commentary, Mary sits at Jesus’ feet assuming the position of a disciple, violating gender-based norms.  Martha thinks Mary should be focused on traditional female activities hosting a dinner party.  I imagine hearing Martha’s criticism was unpleasant for Mary.  However, Mary had a strong enough relationship with God and sense of self to not be dissuaded by her sister’s opinion.  As Teresa of Avila states, “For a soul surrendered into God’s hands does not care whether they say good or evil about it.”  

Evidently Jesus didn’t care about Martha’s opinion either.  He affirmed Mary and rebuked her critic.  He did not permit Martha to “should” upon her sister.

I have been “should” upon as well. For example, many times based upon my gender, men in a meeting with me think I should make coffee.  Now, I don’t drink coffee and am told by people who do that my coffee-making skills suffer.  So, trust me, no, I shouldn’t make the coffee.  Contrary to some people’s belief, there is no scientific correlation between an XX chromosome pairing and making coffee.    

Similarly, at one time I found myself the object of unchristian gossip and disparagement by some parishioners who believed I should belong to our Altar Society assisting in parish hospitality duties just because I am female.  Like Mary, I knew I wasn’t called to associate with that organization and, like Jesus, the pastor supported me.

These are small examples of gender-based “shoulds”.  More impacting ones often occur around career decisions or parenting styles.  “Because you’re female you should be a nurse or a teacher.”  “Because you’re a female you shouldn’t be a pilot, pastor, programmer, police officer or pro football player.” 

God called me to work outside the home and be a parent.  I am a better parent and person because I answered both calls.  Yet, many critics tried to “should” upon me encouraging me to stay home when my children were young.   

The church “shoulds” upon women when male church leaders tell women what they should be in documents such as Mulieris Dignitatem, “Theology of the Body” or Dans le Cadre. The curious thing is that Pope John Paul II called women a “mystery”.  Since women are mysterious to male church leaders, how are they credible authorities on what women should be?

St. Augustine says our souls are not at rest until they rest in God.  I think many women’s souls are not at rest because they find themselves pulled between polar tensions of what God calls them to be and gender-based shoulds imposed upon them.  Maybe rather than listen to others’ opinions of God’s intention for us we just ask God, “Who do you say that I am?”

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I Sent This Blog's Link to Church Leaders Today

As I mentioned before, I began this blog as a forum for healthy dialogue, not for ranting.  Since much of what the blog discusses is trying to express the female voice to the cast of all-male church leaders, I sent the blog's link to some church leaders.  I hope they will enter into the dialogue and perhaps they already have through comments.

I sent church leaders to whom I sent my book manuscript this blog's link.  This included the pope, Cardinal Levada (head of the Doctrine of Faith Office in the Vatican), Cardinal George (president of the US Council of Catholic Bishops), Archbishop Wuerl (Chair of the USCCB Doctrine of Faith Committe), Archbishop Vigneron (Detroit Archdiocese), Bishop Boyea (Lansing Diocese) and some other diocesan church leaders.  I asked for their prayers that my writings reflect authentic prophetic voice.

Please forward the link to this blog to other members of the clergy, if you are so inspired.  Without multiple views, this is a monologue not a dialogue.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Reflections on Martha and Mary

As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me."   The Lord said to her in reply, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.  There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her."  (Luke 10:38-42)

This is today's gospel reading.  I linked the scripture reference above to the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) website where they have an online edition of the Bible.  If you click on that link, scroll down to footnote 14 (or click on this link)

Most homilies and theological reflections about this passage focus on the concept of "active" and "contemplative" spiritualities.  In these reflections Martha is said to represent an "active" spirituality wherein a person gives witness to their faith via doing "stuff".  Mary represents a "contemplative" spirituality that involves a lot of listening, quiet and prayer.  The "aha" moment of these homilies is always that we're supposed to balance between doing stuff and praying.

The biblical commentary found in the USCCB footnote is hardly ever discussed.  As the footnote indicates, Mary Magdalene broke religious and cultural norms having the audacity to assume the position of a disciple, something normally reserved for men.  Jesus not only permitted her to violate gender-based religious and cultural norms, he praised her.  He said she chose the "better part" over Martha by breaking tradition in her desire to be near the Lord.

Yesterday I wrote about Pope Benedict's call for holy and courageous women and how he felt such women would defend long held religious traditions.  In today's reading, we hear Jesus praising a woman for being holy and courageous enough to challenge long standing gender-based religious traditions. In what circumstances today do church leaders follow Jesus' example, praising female pioneers willing to violate religious norms in their desire to be near the Lord? It does not seem to be in the grave ex-communication of females seeking ordination. 

Perhaps because I am a woman, the passage speaks differently to me than to the countless homilists focusing on active vs. contemplative spirituality.  I see the passage being less about one active and one contemplative person and more about one woman bound by gender stereotypes and another courageous enough to break from them...and Jesus saying "YOU GO GIRL!" to the tradition breaker.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Holy and Courageous Women

During his September 9, 2010 papal address, Pope Benedict asked the Holy Spirit to, “raise up wise, holy and courageous women” like St. Hildegard of Bingen to help address issues like clergy abuse.  That same week we also learned clergy abuse and absence of accountability in Belgium linked directly to at least 13 abuse victims’ suicides.  

However, the pope clarified in his address that he believes “holy and courageous” women do not, “subvert the very nature of the church" by actually challenging wrongs.  Rather, he thinks “courageous” women defend the hierarchical culture that enabled abuses.  Isn’t one definition of insanity to repeat the same actions but expect different results?

First, please be aware that Hildegard of Bingen actually defied church hierarchy.  So, why did the pope use her as an example of being docile?

Second, what's intrinsically courageous about being docile?  Please name me one prophet that didn't speak sharply against injustice.  Great church reformers such as Teresa of Avila or Catherine of Siena were none too popular in their day.  Pope Gregory XI probably wasn't thinking, "now there's a nice docile gal" when St. Catherine told him to haul his holy carcass from Avignon, France back to Rome.

But more importantly, what does the pope think today’s Catholics seek that would “subvert” the church’s “very nature”?

Catholics want accountability, especially for bishops who withhold information about or move pedophile priests.  The church’s “very nature” insists upon accountability.  Hence, we have the sacrament of reconciliation.

Catholics want culture changed to stop enabling power and child abusers.  Enablement occurs when people accept rather than challenge alternate realities forged of lies, manipulation and denial.  Truth prevents enablement of abusers and often arises from questioning. Thus, Canon law expresses the laity’s duty to question the church.  The church’s nature stands upon truth and questioning.

Catholics want gender equality, an aspect of human dignity.  Rendering human dignity is part of the church’s nature.    

Most Catholics want female ordinations.  The last statistic I saw was just under 80% of Catholics support female ordinations.  Some do believe this would subvert the church’s nature but their beliefs are based upon easily questionable reasons.  Let us be holy and courageous enough to question and explore these inconsistencies:
§  Some say Jesus only appointed male apostles, despite him directly sending (the definition of “apostle”) Mary Magdalene with news of his resurrection, the most important news in Christian history. 
§  Others declare they have authority to put words in Jesus’ mouth by inferring he absolutely wanted only male apostles despite him never stating this.  However, they then say they lack the authority to take out the very words they placed in his mouth. 
§  Others ignore New Testament female apostles or discount their apostleship because there is no record of them receiving “laying on of hands”.  Yet, no initial male apostles experienced this either. 
§  Others think if Jesus wanted female apostles, he would have apointed his mother as one. Since he didn't, they infer he must not have wanted any women...ever.  This reasoning assumes Jesus would abandon his pattern choosing weak (Peter, Thomas, Judas) and despised (Matthew, Paul) men as apostles by selecting the most virtuous woman in the world as an apostle.
§  Others say that a person must see the presence of Jesus in a priest and that it would be impossible for anyone to see this in a woman.  Yet the church teaches that men and women bear the image of Christ. I also don't understand how someone who doesn't know me can tell me who reminds me of Jesus.  I know a lot of women who remind me more of Jesus than several clergy I've encountered.
§  Some say male Jesus mystically married the female church so male priests must continue mystical union with the female church to retain male and female presence in the union.  Yet, the all-male Magisterium constitutes the official voice of the female church. Thus, it sort of seems like the all-male clergy marries the all-male Magisterium.

Let us be “holy and courageous” enough to question or reject practices that enable abuse, avoid accountability or treat women unjustly.  In this way we will emulate St. Hildegard and support the church’s “very nature”.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Mothering tips for Holy Mother Church

The Catholic church refers to itself as "Holy Mother Church".  As I mentioned yesterday, Holy Mother Church's official voices all proceedeth from the mouths of men, most of whom have no children.  I have three children and almost 25 years of parenting experience.  Despite Holy Mother Church being around for over 2,000 years, I seem to have more practical parenting experience than the guys in charge of the church.  So, I thought today I would offer some parenting tips from a real mother.

1.  Focus on doing what's right not on image management. 

In March, 2010 Pope Benedict wrote a pastoral letter to Irish Catholics stating that there had been, "a misplaced concern for the reputation of the church and the avoidance of scandal" by church authorities in failing to deal with abusive clergy.

Parenting 101 says that one's reputation develops based upon actions.  If one desires a positive reputation, then follow the advice of Micah 6:8. "You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God."  No where in there does it say, "but above all else, make sure you look good".  What is the genesis of church leaders' pre-occupation with image management?

The way church leaders handle the topic of child molesters is akin to parents who cover up their child's legal infractions.  This benefits no one.  The child does not learn responsibility or accountability and usually becomes more of a bane to society.  If bishops are father figures to priests, then why don't they act like it by insisting upon accountability? 

I remember a story about a young man who committed a crime in my community years ago.  His defense attorney commented that the parents wanted to know options but wanted to do the right thing.  Thus, the attorney advised if their son was guilty, then the right thing to do was for him to plead guilty and experience the repercussions of his actions.  That's what the kid did.  Those parents and attorney have great reputations...they earned them. 

If church leaders righteously deal with abusive priests and suffer some damage to their image as a result, I direct them to Matthew 5:10-12, "Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven."

No where does Jesus say, "Blessed are they who hide truth and avoid justice for the sake of reputation". 

2.  Always "siding" with your child is a recipe for raising brats and bullies.

When someone raises a concern about one of my children, I do not immediately defend my children.  I seek the truth.  If truth indicates the concern is valid, I address it with my child.  If not, I defend my child.

Most concerns voiced to bishops about their priestly "sons" fall upon deaf ears.  Rather than seek truth, the assumption seems to be that the priest must be in the right.  This seems to be the case regardless of the topic of concern.

If I always defended my children regardless of their actions, they would learn very quickly that they could do whatever they want and suffer no consequences.  Parents who use this approach seem to offer the world bullies and spoiled brats.  Why should bishops expect anything different from their "sons" if they do not hold them accountable?

3.  Honestly IS the best policy.

When my siblings or I did something wrong, my parents used to say that it was better to admit our wrong-doing and face the music than to lie about it or hide the truth.  Consequences for attempted cover-ups were far more severe than for the initial error.  Furthermore, if we tried to cover-up our transgressions, our reputation rightly suffered.  Restoring one's good reputation took a lot of work.  My siblings and I carry this tradition forward with our own children.

On a monthly, weekly and sometimes daily basis we learn of cover-ups by church leaders regarding handling clergy abuse.  Do church leaders realize how much they have damaged their credibility?  Do they know they must work to restore their credibility?

4.  Reconciliation is a great thing but make sure you hit all the steps.

The steps of reconciliation are to admit wrong-doing, express sorrow, repair damage (if possible), do penance, commit to changed behavior to avoid the sin and ask for forgiveness.

How's the church doing on all those steps with regards to clergy abuse?  From my vantage point, they still struggle with step 1.

5.  Forgiveness occurs when the injured party decides to extend it.  It can not be commanded.

My children know that though they can humbly seek forgiveness, they don't get to decide when it's extended or when trust is reinstated.

In November, 2009 at the annual meeting for the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal George, the group's president told the faithful that the church was beyond the clergy abuse matter and needed to just move past it.  Excuse me Cardinal George but you guys are the transgressors; you don't get to tell the faithful whose trust you've grossly violated when they shall forgive you and begin trusting you again, particularly since you haven't humbly sought it.

Furthermore, let us please review the avalanche of new horrendous abuse stories pouring forth since Cardinal George made that statement.  Belgium where several suicides by abuse victims are attributed to abusive priests, Ireland where abuse and cover-up were rampant, Austria and Germany and the tragic mess in the U.S. regarding the deaf children abused by priests.  I do not have access to strong enough hallucinagens to share your delusion that we are past this issue.

6.  Do not confuse "persecution" with "prosecution".

Criminals are "prosecuted".  That is not considered "persecution".  Child molesters are criminals.  Seeking their prosecution is not persecution.  Aiding and abetting a felon is also a felony.  Bishops who cover-up child molestations are accesories to felonies and thus felons themselves.  Those are also crimes that should be prosecuted.  Expecting bishops who commit felonies to be held accountable is not persecution.

My children know better than to act persecuted when they are being held accountable for their wrongs.  Throwing a pity-party for one's self when being held accountable only makes matters worse in my family.

7.  As the song says, "To know, know, know you is to love, love, love you..."

I could not love my children if I did not know them.  I invest a lot of time to learn about my children so that I can lovingly meet them where they are in life.  This involves more listening than telling.  It did not take a master degree in counseling, divinity or theology.  It just took a genuine interest and a lot of patience and humility.  How do priests, bishops, cardinals and the pope know their "children"?  If they don't know them, how do they love them?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Questions from a Ewe

I have been encouraged to start a blog on the topic of the role of women in the Roman Catholic Church.  I'm new to blogging so let's see how this goes.  This is meant to foster positive dialogue through posing and exploring questions.

Before anyone gets their knickers in a knot, please be aware that Canon Law says it is not only a right but a duty to question the church.  Furthermore, Canon Law also provides an over-riding power to the sensus fidelium (sense of the faithful).  By this, Canon Law says that if the sensus fidelium (collective of the faithful) reject a law, it is not valid.

Consider this a labor of love for the Body of Christ, the universal church.  However, God made me with a sense of humor and slightly sarcastic bent.  Thus, you will see this woven into the fabric of my posts.  It does not make my posts any less a labor of love.

O.K.  Let me get started on my first blog entry.

According to Archbishop Wuerl, Chair of the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops Doctrine of Faith Committee, women account for 80% of lay ministry in the Catholic Church (reference Catholic News Service article dated July 16, 2010).  Despite women performing such a high percentage of the work, women have an inverse proportion of the church's voice, especially in official church bodies. 

Actually, to say women have an inverse proportion of the church's official voice overstates women's voice by implying they have one.  Official voting bodies such as councils of bishops or the college of cardinals are reserved for the ordained.  Thus women are excluded from official voting bodies. 

The official teaching authority of the church is the Magisterium, composed of bishops, archbishops, cardinals and the pope - all men.

The thing I find curious is that the church refers to itself as female, mother and virgin.  (Mulieris Dignitatem, Lumen Gentium)  How is it that this female entity has only male voices?

Church teaching speaks of the equality of men and women and the importance of both.  Why is one gender important enough to have an official voice and the other not?

I begin with this question of voice because I tried to pose my questions from this ewe to the shepherds of the church and received a few responses but precisely ZERO answers.  I posed my questions via an approximately 150 page unpublished manuscript entitled, "Questions from a Ewe to Her Shepherds".  I sent it to the pope as well as some cardinals, archbishops and bishops.  One batch I sent on the feast of Pentecost in 2009, the other on the Feast of All Saints Day, 2009.  After about a year of waiting, I'm interpreting their thunderous silence in the answer department to mean I should not be expecting an answer anytime soon.

In sharing my manuscript with others, I find many men and women who have questions similar to mine.  Also many people said they found growth, healing or comfort in reading my manuscript's exploration of questions.  Several people, including a few noted theologians, have encouraged me to seek publication.  However, since I assembled my questions in the manuscript as a sincere effort to hear the church's answers or challenge the church to explore these areas, I'm pursuing a public domain approach first.  I guess if the document is meant to be published, it will happen.  But, right now my energies are best spent doing things other than constructing book proposals or hounding publishers and agents.