Monday, June 30, 2014

The results are in...

Remember that brief 39 essay question survey the Vatican issued a few months back? You know… the one soliciting opinions about the church’s teachings on human sexuality and marriage to act as input to this October’s Synod on the Family.  Well, the Vatican has compiled and released its preliminary findings from the survey in a document called an instrumentum laboris.  Literally translated from Latin as…and we know the Vatican is all about literal Latin translations… granting us, O Lord, we pray, to hear about impoverished Jesus having an oblation in a gallant chalice held by his holy and venerable hands on a regular basis…  But, I digress.  Literally translated, instrumentum laboris means “instrument of labor”, basically a tool.

If you don’t want me to spoil your pleasure reading the 85 page report yourself, then stop reading now.  However, if you don’t want to invest numerous irretrievable hours of your life reading a report that could have been written without surveying a single person, you might prefer reading this summary instead.

When it was first issued, I wrote this about the survey in a November 2, 2013 blog article, “…do not place too much hope that the Vatican seeking your opinion means the Vatican will actually heed your advice.  It might again just inspire the Vatican to write another really long document in Latin explaining why you are wrong.”

It turns out that statement was prescient other than the Vatican crowd did disappoint by writing the original report in Italian rather than Latin.  Don’t despair.  We can still hope that some dreadfully long academic admonition in Latin emerges from the Synod itself.

To be fair, amidst the 85 pages of “We are right so how do we get these stubborn, misguided idiots to follow us…”, there were 2 entire sentences acknowledging the hierarchy’s lack of credibility as a moral authority since its culture enables criminal sexual abuse of children (paragraph 75).  And there was a half sentence which came dangerously close to acknowledging cultural sexism, “In some places characterized by a somewhat sexist cultural tradition, there exists a certain lack of respect towards women…”  (paragraph 55)

Don’t fret though.  The guys in Rome were not speaking of their own overt institutional sexist culture but the “somewhat” sexist secular culture in certain geographical regions only.  Vatican-originated sexism seems to be getting brasher as the idolized pope Francis recently boldly evaded Italian journalist Franca Giansoldati’s compelling questions about women by making sexist jokes.  For example, Giansoldati was trying to get Francis to be specific about these greater church roles for women he often touts by asking if Frank might appoint women to lead any Vatican departments.  Francis felt that serious question merited this response, “Well, priests often end up under the sway of their housekeepers.” 

Help me understand, Francis.  What message were you trying to convey about women and why did you think evoking the image of a stereotype rooted in both sexism and clericalism would convey it?

Anyway, here’s a summary of the report.  Brace yourself for the insightful void of insight:

  1. Unmarried, childless, clerical men, often lacking healthy intimate relationships, who like to parade in bejeweled gowns, know more about relationships, marriage, and child rearing than people who are actually married or have children.
  2. Said men are right, were right and will always be right.
  3. If you disagree with the hierarchy, you must be ignorant, stubborn or misguided and will be labeled “lost” even if you have a better grasp of the gospel messages than hierarchical leaders and consider them lost.  Please see item (2).
  4. Any information you provided through the survey was just to help them help you by “enlightening” you about your sinful ignorance in more “loving” and effective ways.  See item (2).
  5. If people have difficulty accepting what the hierarchy teaches, it must either be a problem of how the hierarchy expresses its teachings or how you receive it because the teachings themselves are, did I mention this yet….”right.”  See item (2).
  6. Gender studies that unmask the hierarchy’s sexism and misogyny are evil due to them inspiring people to question item (2).
  7. Information and facts are your enemy unless they are filtered through Vatican approved spin-doctors.  They cause you to realize when the hierarchy is wrong and again, please see item (2).
  8. If anything inspires you to question item (2), it is evil.
  9. By studying science and nature, people have figured out that the hierarchy’s invented “natural law” notion is, much like this term, qui fabricati (fabricated..made up).  Since this is confounding the hierarchy’s ability to confound nature, rather than correct themselves…because please see item (2) above…they might need to consider inventing a new slogan.
  10. Life situations that do not align with the hierarchy’s romanticized, academic, theological musings must be miserable because if they aren’t, it might lead to contradicting the immovable premises set forth in item (2) above.
  11. Model your marriage after the Holy Family….you know, the family that procreated without having sex.
  12. If the hierarchy feels you are unworthy to receive communion because of your marital and/or sexual practices, you need to just accept that they do this for your own good and overlook the hypocrisy of the sexual escapades and/or crimes of the men consecrating the hosts and ordaining the men who consecrate the hosts.
  13. Despite the gospel indicating Jesus came for the sinner, the hierarchy perpetuates the notion that communion is only for the worthy, and hierarchical leaders will, of course, define who is worthy…please see item (2). 

I offer this as food for thought.  The morning my mom died I asked her what she wanted for breakfast and she responded, “I want…I want…oh, what is that thing called…I WANT THE CHILD THAT IS MEDICINE!!!  That woman could barely breathe or think clearly but she about blew my hair back barking with fierce certainty that she wanted the Eucharist…the child that is medicine.

Gentlemen of Rome, please take note from my dying mother.   Communion is medicine for the misbehaving (that is all of us) not a treat for the well-behaved.  Who then that desires communion should be denied it?

By the way, I’m not surprised by the report; I could have written it last November before the first response was submitted.  I would call it a vastate labore (wasted effort) rather than instrumentum laboris (instrument of labor).

As I mentioned in my previous blog article, the hierarchy thinks it is married to the church (the people of God).  With this example of the hierarchy’s unhealthy marital relationship “dialogue” practices…asking questions for the sole purpose of gaining ammunition to prove your spouse is wrong…should the hierarchy  perhaps gaze in the mirror or at theology and Canon Law more than at T.V.s, newspapers, the internet, gender studies, secular governments, science or smartphones when pondering the underlying causes of strained interpersonal relationships? 

Marriage isn’t about who is right and who is wrong.  It is not a True/False quiz.  It is about learning, sharing, bending and being together in love.  My dear brothers in the hierarchy, as long as you set yourself above and apart, how can you be credible examples of or proponents for marital love?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

US bishops staying the course...

What a curious week.  On one hand I read that the US bishops voted in their annual spring meeting to “stay the course.”  My initial reaction?  Oh goody!  We can look forward to yet another year of bishops trying to expand their theocracy’s marginalization of women and homosexuals further into secular government.  And, we’ll be treated to an encore performance hearing them intermittently and indignantly ejaculate “Religious liberty!” while they do it despite them trouncing on others’ religious liberties in the process. …Something about “self-awareness” keeps popping into my head.    

Wait a minute…I’m also getting a reading from my psychic barometer.  It predicts these ejaculations will increase in frequency and volume the closer we get to the US’s mid-term elections.  Yippee!  Can’t wait.

On the other hand, this week I also listened to one of my friends describe how his kids’ Catholic school enrollment has been cut almost in half after experiencing a raging alcoholic pastor followed by one who is a Protestant convert still enveloped in Protestant charismatic preaching styles.  Now, this is a new trend it seems…the iconic mega-church fundamentalist Protestant preacher in Catholic priest’s clothing.  Don’t say the old dogs can’t learn new tricks sometimes.  But, since this trend began before the bishops decided to “stay the course,” I think that means this new tactic is part of the course they will keep.  I can only guess that the objective is to cut Catholic school enrollments in half again. 

On yet another hand, this week I also read the deposition of Robert Carlson, a man some people call “archbishop” but for whom I cannot choke out that word since “bishop” means “overseer” and when I read his deposition he exhibits no behaviors associated with tending his flock like a caretaker.  His favorite three words in the deposition were “I don’t remember.”  It is so prevalent that I wonder if the man can remember what color pants he wears, though presumably it is standard clerical black … every … single … day. 

Here’s a selection of his responses from just the first ten substantive questions in the deposition.

  1. “I do not.” (In reference to if he recalled something.)
  2. “I don’t remember, but I really can’t say.”
  3. “I really can’t remember with any accuracy.”
  4. “I don’t remember.”
  5. “I don’t remember with any accuracy…”
  6. “I don’t remember…”
  7. “As I remember, no information came to me about him that I could say with any accuracy.”

Yes, 7 of Bob’s responses to the first 10 questions were variations on “Bob Can’t Remember A Darn Thing.”  I haven’t tallied the responses for the deposition’s full 156 pages, but having read the entire document, I’d guess that the 70% forgetfulness rate is a pretty close estimate if not conservatively low.

I found myself puzzling over this.  If Bob struggles to remember things, how can he remember the teachings of the faith?  Bishops are entrusted with teaching the faith.  How can he teach what he doesn’t remember? 

How can he remember the subtleties associated with tenets of faith when he can’t remember major traumatic events like a priest sexually assaulting kids…repeatedly?  Wasn’t it important enough to carve out a storage location in his brain? Most compassionate people would have a seared permanent image from it, I suspect.  Maybe Bob once stored that info but has subsequently overwritten it with fascinating notions about “religious liberty.”  I don’t know.

Is Bob an incompetent bishop due to his memory issues?  Call me a skeptic, but I think Bob is not being 100% truthful.  I think he’s having selective court-induced memory problems (SCIMP).  If that’s the case, then he is even less competent to be a bishop than if he were suffering early-stage dementia symptoms because selective memory failure falls into the category of “bearing false witness,” one of those pesky Ten Commandments.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m a big fan of letting humans be human, including bishop humans.  But, since bishops declare themselves to be THE penultimate guardians of truth, they force us into holding them to a zero-tolerance standard for their deviating from it.  Ergo, if Bob was playing selective memory-loss games with a severe case of SCIMP, he is truly not competent to serve as bishop.

But wait! There’s more!  In addition to forgetting just about everything except his name, Bob expressed during his recent deposition that some years back when handling abuse cases, he didn’t know that sexual assault of a minor was a crime!

Attorney Jeff Anderson: “Archbishop, you knew it was a crime for an adult to engage in sex with a kid?”
Bob Carlson (St. Louis’ current sitting archbishop): “I’m not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not.”
Attorney Jeff Anderson: “In 1984, you are a Bishop in the – an Auxiliary Bishop in the Archdiocese of St. Paul / Minneapolis.  You knew it was a crime then, right?”
Bob Carlson: “I’m not sure if I did or didn’t.”
 (Pages 109 - 110 of the Deposition dated May, 2014)

Good news!  Bob did admit he now knows that raping kids is a crime.  He just doesn’t know when he came to this understanding.  I don’t know what device we have to thank for Bob’s enlightenment either but let’s give three cheers for him grasping this concept sometime before his upcoming 70th birthday. 

However, despite his eventual enlightenment, this exposes a certain appalling and unacceptable callousness that might justify finding him supremely unqualified to be a bishop.   Please do not suspend your activities awaiting his resignation or apology, though.  No, he is already implementing the brotherhood’s “Stay the course” strategy and issued a statement defending himself instead.  He joins the ranks of so many other bishops, archbishops, cardinals and popes in taking this evasive approach regarding sexual abuse, I’m sure he feels it’s a winning strategy.

As an aside, according to Bob’s statement, it seems he, who possesses the intellectual capacity to earn multiple advanced degrees, just didn’t understand the question despite one of those degrees being in … wait for it…. CANON LAW!  I guess Canon Law must be a lot easier to understand than secular law, at least maybe when one is imbued in the culture that produced it.  You saw how confusing the questions were…very tricky in that special, direct, straight-forward manner.  Maybe he’s so used to clerical obfuscations that clarity is just downright unclear for him.  We feel your pain, Bob.  You guys are making less and less sense to most of us faithful, too.  Right back at ya, buddy.

Tying all these strange things together, I realized that the Holy Spirit is working in her mysterious way.  The bishops “stay the course” not only on culture war matters but on accountability and truth-telling too, thus continuing to endanger children in their care.  Coincidentally, they forsake many Catholic traditions, theological teachings, and gospel messages in favor of attracting and ordaining mega-church iconic personalities.  This in turn inspires parents to protect their kids by yanking them from Catholic schools.  Perhaps eventually, the clergy’s sexual assault of children and its cover-up will end when there are no more children in their system?  Can't we please get rid of the incompetent bishops instead?