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Eminence, the emeritis cardinal archbishop of HGN

Monday, May 31, 2010

An Anniversary Reflection

Today is the anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. It is one of those significant numbered ones that normally are celebrated. Over the years I have not gone in for big celebrations for myself of priestly ordination. Part of the reason is that I wanted to downplay buying into the clerical system with all its “rights and privileges.” This as it turns out seems to me to have been a pretty good decision when bishops are abusing their power trying to excommunicate people all over the place and religious women are dying so that bishops and cardinals can dress up in their capae magnae.

As I look back I am grateful for being able to have been in pastoral ministry for fifteen years in the south, to have worked in training and formation programs and personnel work. Finally in recent years I have been responsible for running a religious house and managing an office.

I did allow myself the opportunity to celebrate with a small faith group I have been part of for the last four years whose focus is peace and justice. I told them this past Tuesday that I had transferred my Sunday obligation to Tuesday evening and celebrated Pentecost with them. The following are some thoughts I shared that evening.

At the time of Vatican II we prayed for a new Pentecost. I think at the beginning of the 21st. century the time has arrived not only to pray again for a new Pentecost; we must work to bring the Spirit of Pentecost to our world and the Catholic Church. We need to bring the excitement that the disciples had in that upper room on the first Pentecost again to our world.

We had determined that we would discuss Han Kung’s recent letter to the bishops. There is so much in that letter for us. I blogged twice in recent weeks using Han Kung’s letter. At one point I lamented that perhaps the wrong man was elected pope. 

What struck me about Hans Kung’s letter was how filled it was with the Spirit of the Second Vatican Council. I could feel the excitement again as I read his letter, the same excitement that I felt back in the 1960’s during and shortly after the Council. As I read his letter, especially noting the criticism of Pope Benedict and litany of the many missed opportunities and unfinished agendas, I felt saddened that the vision of the Council seems for the moment lost; yet I still am hopeful.

These recent weeks have seen intense worldwide pressure put upon the papacy. Kung’s letter trying and hoping to restore a lost vision of the Vatican II Church is a ray of hope. In these past few weeks another article appeared ranking right up there with Kung’s letter.

Gary Wills, who wrote Papal Sins has an article in the May 18th. Issue of The New Republic on why he stays Catholic. It is a long article. You can find it here. I think there would be some support and advice for all of us in that article. Wills lays out the present difficult situation the church finds itself in today and then launches into a historical review of the papacy with the help of Lord Acton, remember Acton’s famous quote, “All power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Wills reminds us that Lord Acton was a very devout Catholic who was almost excommunicated. I want to quote one paragraph. It is my favorite.

“Though Acton lived before the Second Vatican Council defined the Church as ‘the people of God,’ the entirety of Acton’s writings prove that he never equated Catholicism with the papacy. He was too good a historian for that. The Pope is a freak of history—specifically, of medieval history. His office does not date from the early history of the Christian community. Peter was not a Pope, or a bishop, or a priest—offices that did not exist in his lifetime. There are no priests in the New Testament. Peter was not the leader of the Church in either Jerusalem or Rome—communities led, respectively, by James, Jesus’s [sic] brother, and Clement. Paul, at the famous clash in Antioch, showed that he did not think Peter a sound interpreter of Jesus’s [sic] message. Males were not the only ministers at the outset, as the apostle Junia proves. In fact the early preachers of the Gospel were often a husband-and-wife team.”

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful with the Fire of your Love! Anymore when Benedict does something stupid, or a cardinal or a bishop abuses his power. I am just going to say: “The pope is a freak of history.”

Oh! and that picture at the top of the blog.  It is supposed to be me, I guess.  A gay couple gave it to me a couple of years ago at Christmas.  It seems they found this framed picture of some former bishop of Chicago that was being thrown out frame and all.  They gave it to a friend who is artist with a photograph of me.  He painted my face on to the picture.  It is a resonable resemblance except for the episcopal robes.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Wild, Congratulations on your ordination. I got as close to ordination as is possible and in the same community. You are a good priest and I am glad to have been in seminary with you and for your friendship over the years.

    At this moment, you are the kind of priest we individuals and communities trying to live out and further the Spirit of Vatican II (not the destructive revisionism that is being proposed by Benedict and the hierarchy).

    Hans Kung knows what Vatican II intended to bring to the Church and the world. what I like the most, it courage and willingness raise so many critical issues and his ability to use theology, history and philosophy so ably in light of contemporary life.