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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.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Everything Pope Benedict Knows About Human Sexuality

John McNeill in a strong critique of Benedict’s recent comments on gay marriage in Portugal wonders what alternate universe the pope inhabits.  It is also possible to wonder what the pope knows about human sexuality.

McNeill’s analysis is a strong indictment of the traditional catholic teaching on sexuality and a condemnation of Benedict’s continual attacks on gay people and gay marriage. In Portugal Benedict inferred that gay marriage is the most insidious threat to the human family. In the same article McNeill blasts Benedict for overlooking so many real threats to the human family from nuclear war to inner city violence.

In a particularly profound part of his critique, McNeill says of Benedict’s theology of human sexuality that the pope equates human sex with animal sex. It seems to me, Benedict's knowledge of human sexuality is more mechanistic.  Sex for the pope is like the man and women in the picture in the plug and receptacle costumes.  McNeill says that Benedict’s theory of human sexuality is based on gender difference and gender complementarity and not on the uniqueness of the two individuals entering into a marriage relationship.

McNeill argues that Benedict does not understand the reality that when two unique people enter into a marriage relationship it is much more than a fusion of biological opposites.  McNeill moves far beyond simple gender complementarity as a basis for the marriage relationship pointing out that the two individuals bring a range masculinity and femininity to the relationship not based on biological gender.

Here are the two relevant and extremely significant paragraphs from John McNeill’s article.  You can read the whole article here.

 “Every human psyche has both masculine and feminine attributes. Both parties following the patriarchal model must accept only those aspects of their psyche that accord with their gender identity. Males, for example, should only accept the masculine dimension of their psyche and suppress the feminine, which they then must project out onto their female partner. Women, in turn, must suppress everything masculine in their psyche and project out the masculine on their husband. Many psychically healthier women today, who are more in touch with both their masculine and feminine dimensions, and see themselves as whole persons, increasingly are unwilling to play the role of being mediators of the feminine emotional, spiritual and compassionate needs of men. They want a man who is a total human person in himself! They are demanding, and rightly so, that we men get in touch with our feminine dimension”

“Many men, in turn, are coming into touch with both the masculine and feminine dimensions of themselves and refusing to play the role of being the mediator of the masculine needs of women for assertiveness and autonomy.” …”Both genders are being called on to develop the fullness of their own humanity, so that they can approach each other as complete, independent persons and not remain essentially dependent on the other gender for their completion.”

In McNeill’s analysis that coming together of two unique human persons to form a marriage relationship is much more than the coming together of two people at the level of gender difference.   A further reality is that over the course of a relationship these two unique individuals will access differing aspects of his or her masculine/feminine polarity as they mature together.

McNeill’s conclusion is powerful saying that the coming together of two people whether male and female, male and male, or female and female in a marital relationship is much more than the coming together of two biological gender opposites. McNeill offers that there is a whole range of masculine and feminine psychic energy that comes together in a marriage relationship. This opens up so much more what the reality of marriage is. The reality is that when two people come together to form a committed relationship, marriage, that it is a union formed on a psychic, emotional, and spiritual level. Benedict’s theory of human sexuality is very one dimensional.

Instead of condemning gays and gay marriage Benedict should be praising it.  Here is McNeill's powerful rebuttal. “Gay marriage then, rather than being a threat to the family, opens up a new paradigm for a fuller, more human and fulfilling love between the partners.”

Saturday, May 15, 2010

My Refrigerator Magnet

Since Benedict could not get through his Portugal trip without obliquely condemning gay marriage, I thought I would put Benedict’s picture up on my blog which is from a refrigerator magnet given to me by a gay couple.

Now be truthful when you answer the question on this refrigerator magnet.

Here is a further reflection as you gaze at Benedict.

Professor Mark Jordan from the Harvard Divinity School, who wrote The Silence of Sodom: Homosexuality in Modern Catholicism, suggests all the protests by popes, cardinals, and bishops against gays and gay marriage is an attempt to distract and hide from the laity the reality that there is a significant number of gay men in the priesthood and a strong element of homoeroticism in the Catholic Church.

There are quite a number of other comments from other bloggers about Benedict's recent trip to Portugal and his continual condemnation of gays and gay marriage.

Here is the opening paragraph from John McNeill’s blog Spiritual Transformation. “On his recent pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal, Pope Benedict XVI used the occasion to announce that he thought the greatest threat to the human race, apart from abortion, was gay marriage! To my knowledge no mention was made of the nuclear arms race; no mention of the destruction of the environment; no mention of disease, poverty and starvation which afflict the vast majority of humanity; no mention of the decrease in respect for the sacred value of the human person which has led to a remarkable increase in genocide, violence, murder, torture and enslavement. Which leads me to wonder what alternate universe the Pope lives in; what alternate reality is he dealing with?”

You can read the whole thing here.

Some bloggers have noted that Benedict may have been more restrained in Portugal when it came to the things he loves to condemn. This may be a positive movement. Unless Benedict can cool the anti-gay rhetoric all his renewed calls for dialogue will be hollow. One could hope that someday there might be a dialogue with hierarchs in the Vatican and gay and lesbian people. Popes, cardinals, and bishops just might learn something. They might also begin to learn something about themselves.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Whose Sins

Pope Benedict on his way to Fatima in Portugal had this to say: "Today, we see in a truly terrifying way that the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from outside enemies, but from the sin within the Church itself," the pope said on the plane taking him to Lisbon for the four-day tour."

Benedict needs to be more specific about the sin within the church. If Benedict is going to keep pointing the finger at others blaming them for the sexual abuse crisis without looking at his role, the role of the clerical system as part of the sin within the church, then there is not much hope for reform.

It seems talking about the sin within the church is another theological diversinary tactic.