Saturday, September 27, 2014

Some thoughts on the upcoming Synod on the Family

I've been reading many different perspectives and speculations about the upcoming Synod on the Family.  Repeatedly from the camp of guys who don't actually live in or lead family units...that would be the hierarchical leaders...I hear variations on the, "We are right; we always were right; we will always be right; therefore the following people can't have communion" theme.  I have two observations / questions regarding this:

1.  Humility is the ability to say, "Maybe we were wrong."  Why do you collectively and individually lack the humility and quite frankly, the self-confidence, to ponder that question?  Did you not read in last Sunday's first reading, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways says the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts (Is 55:8-9)."  Why do you think that your interpretations are immovable and accurate?  Why can't you allow for the possibility that your thoughts and ways are not synonymous with God's thoughts and ways?  Have you idolized yourselves through idolatry of your roles to the point you find your thoughts and teachings equal to God's?  If so, is that acceptable?

2.  Even if your teachings are 200% correct, so what?  Why would that preclude sharing the body and blood of Christ with people who violate certain teachings?  The gospel notes time and again that Jesus shared himself, dined at table, with some of the most notorious sinners.  Can you be credible Vicars of Christ if you can't imitate that signature trait of his?  

Why are you only threatened by welcoming certain categories of sinners to the table?  You certainly are comfortable welcoming to the communion table members of the sinner category, "irresponsible bishops and sexually abusive priests."  Some of them you not only allow to receive communion, you permit them to consecrate the hosts!  This, evidently does not threaten you in the least.  But, women who disobey you by claiming to have more insight into their relationship with God than you do...well, gentleman, that seems to scare the holy excrement out of you.  Why? 

It is my understanding that many of you are gay and even regularly, actively engage in homosexual activities albeit clandestinely.  Those of you who do this, would be living a lie.  Yet, you welcome closet homosexual clergy living duplicitous lives at table and again, even permit them to consecrate the hosts.  However, homosexuals who honestly portray their sexual orientation, you do not welcome.  Why are you threatened welcoming to the table people who have the courage to present themselves authentically but are not threatened welcoming to the table people whose lives are a tangled web of lies and hypocrisy?

Why are you threatened by welcoming at table people whose lives were broken in a failed marriage but who have perhaps found a healthy, healing relationship in a new marriage?  You certainly welcome at table yourselves, many of whom who have "divorced" one diocesan spouse and "re-married" a new diocese as your second, third or even fourth spouse.

Why are you threatened sitting at table with couples who use birth control?  Or women who have had abortions?  Or politicians who vote differently than you wish?

Are you threatened welcoming "sinners" to table because they might interfere with some delusion of your own perfection?  

Guys, quick review here...Jesus came as a healing remedy for sinners not as a highfalutin reward for saints.  You seem to have manufactured these "who can have communion" concerns from your pretentious belief that you cannot be wrong mixed with your historical perversion of the Eucharistic sacrament as a doggy treat for the well-behaved.  

This just really isn't hard at all...except for the arrogant and snobbish.  But for humble followers of Christ, it's a no-brainer. Welcome everyone to the table... Done.  You guys can vote once, get this done in 15 minutes and all go out for nachos to celebrate and then head home saving your respective dioceses tons of hotel and restaurant expenses.

Even better, create a mobile app that pushes this question to every voting members' mobile phones, "Can we just welcome everyone at table?"  Everyone clicks "yes" and there's maybe a $0.05 data charge per travel required. You could spend the extra time in your diocese talking to people or, perish the thought, helping them.  You could use the money to ...wait no...don't go there....NOT for another golden chalice...but for food, clothing, housing, utilities, healthcare, etc... for some economically challenged person.  And, no again, a bishop who declared bankruptcy to evade paying abuse settlements does not qualify as economically challenged.

Rather than think you all arrogant or snobbish, I'd prefer to think that some other systemic issue causes your collective blindness and confusion in the "who can have communion" realm.  I've pondered this a lot and might be on to something.  Are your cassocks and zucchettos (little skull caps) so tightly affixed to your persons that they restrict blood flow to your brains?  Loosen up guys. Ditch the dresses and beanies if they interfere with humbly embracing humanity exactly where it is and you are.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

European and male hegemony in the church...

I recently read, "Pope Francis: Untying the Knots," a book by Paul Vallely.  The book indicates Pope Francis is not a fan of people from Europe and North America having over-riding influence on the Catholic Church.  He thinks most Europeans and North Americans don't have a clue about life in Africa and Latin America.  Therefore they aren't credible guides.

Furthermore, he sees the church thriving to the point of busting at the seams in these same developing areas while it atrophies amongst the European and North American/European-descent crowds.  Therefore he further questions the European folks as credible guides. It's sort of a "walk a mile in another person's shoes" kind of commentary in that Francis thinks the European and North American folks lack street creds to tell Africans and Latin Americans what to do.

He also disagrees with having a shrinking minority group within the church guide the growing majority.  Basically Francis describes why he's tired of Western / European hegemony within the church and why it's an invalid governance model.

Amen, Brother Francis! I am standing up applauding you, but I am also shouting, "Welcome to the world of women in the church, my friend!"  We are as thrilled with male hegemony in the church as you are with European hegemony..

I think Francis understands how hegemony blinds people because he's felt the stinging ill effects of it.  I can only hope that he is self-aware enough to see the parallel.  He is frustrated by a bunch of people with a different worldview trying to boss him around - i.e., "hegemony."  Francis, do you understand that male hegemony isn't any more fun or effective than European hegemony?

Unfortunately, a persistent issue when addressing hegemony is the hegemonic group's lack of self-awareness to acknowledge that they, in fact, are part of a hegemonic group.  This historically has been the case with Catholic hierarchy with regards to male hegemony, but I'm hoping Francis' primary experience being outside of one hegemonic group opens his eyes to realize he operates within another hegemonic group.

Francis, to see the parallel, in the description below, try substituting "Europeans" where you see "men," or "clergy."  Then substitute "Africans and Latin Americans" where you see "women."   I'll help by making the substitutions in parentheses.

Men (Europeans) in the church tell women (Africans and Latin Americans) what to do.  Yet men (Europeans) lack primary experiences to understand women (Africans and Latin Americans)  Plus, women (Africans and Latin Americans) are the increasing majority of the church while the clergy (Europeans) seem to be doing many things to shrink the church...and their own ranks.  Men (Europeans) who lack understanding and experiences of living as a woman (Latin American and African) make decisions that don't resonate with women (Africans and Latin Americans), don't apply to women (Africans and Latin Americans), or outright harm women (Africans and Latin Americans).

I hope that helped. However, not only are men in the church guiding women.  Unmarried men who have given birth to zero children are telling women how to conduct themselves regarding conception, pregnancy and birth.

I hesitate to call priests "childless" because, especially in the developing nations, more than a few priests father children clandestinely.  For example, in my recent trip to Africa, one of the Peace Corps workers told me a big cause for unwed mothers in her village was the local priest impregnating girls.  So, in some cases, men who don't publicly acknowledge children they father feel qualified to tell women how to raise their families.

Unfortunately, I don't think Francis has yet seen the similarities around the two forms of hegemony.  He recently announced the attendees for his upcoming Synod on the Family and all 26 voting members are unmarried, childless, ordained men.  Yet, they are going to make decisions about women...and families...and child-rearing.

Actually more than 71% of the 250 synod participants are unmarried, male clergy.  Even amongst the non-voting observers and experts, only a minority are women.  Pretty much all of those women are either avowed religious sisters...and no offense sisters, but you don't have much child-bearing and child-rearing experience either...or are employed by church organizations.  Somehow, I don't think a woman who runs a natural family planning organization represents the huge majority of Catholic women.

Francis, you say the church is a woman.  Where are the women's voices of this womanly church?

Francis, you chose participants that do not mirror the church.  Do you think the church will see herself in what they write or hear herself in what they say?  Why should she listen to a disconnected minority?