NAVIGATION: You are presently looking at Part XIII
Part 2 of 3 on "Jesus, touch and skin"
Skin and touch…
From birth, skin and touch are humanly real experiences; an infant is not mature enough for imagination, mother supplying immediate needs and knowledge coming normally by way of touch from eye and mouth. A curious toddler discovers the principal of cause and effect, aware of only a few feet ahead of himself, totally absorbed in self growth and survival, yet cautious as novel energy assails his human body (my grandson Sebastian is 2, very active in getting in touch with the world); a male teen experiences chemical testosterone and its driving force of propagating the species springs imagination to life. Girls become real and there is the normal desire to touch. Reality of genital power may come around full force when a human combines intellect, skin, and senses realizing social responsibilities, perhaps after a child or two are born. Ideally the power of touch and skin hopefully has matured into societal reality, much in need of adult control. I believe this is all within the plan of the Creator.
A person recently gave "arrested adolescent development" as a definition of a new word in Webster's; Romatism, a disease frequently contracted while in seminary. Concerning arrested development in clerics, psychologist Richard Sipe has offered "forever 14". (Understanding Piaget, an Introduction to Children's Cognitive Development, by Mary Ann Spenser Pulaski, 1971). Romatism/Romanism, stuck in the gloomy intellectual confusion of the Middle Ages, has deprived itself of much valuable knowledge since the days of Galileo; science is my chief source of information about the power and genius of the Deity. Skin and touch emerge from the Black Plague of the Middle Ages as a sinful/evil no-no, often a vowed contradiction to nature.
Born of a woman into a highly sensual culture did the historical Jesus develop as a normal human being, infant, toddler, teen, family man? Did testosterone alert Jesus to the attractiveness of the female body? Did the flesh body of Jesus truly suffer on Calvary's cross? Did the resurrected Christ have skin as he passes through wooden doors in the upper room? (John, ch 20 v 20) Is the Jesus of history a real vibrantly alive human being or is he a sterile intellectual concept, devoid of the same human nature as you and I? An early Christian group claimed Jesus did not possess a real body, his flesh being a phantasm of peoples' imagination. Around 300 ce The Docetists were condemned by the early Christian Church; their error is one of the reasons why you have such a physical body emphasis in the Nicene Creed … "suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried ". With the invention of the doctrine of Trinity did the Fathers of the Church rewrite Genesis, offering a 3rd category, divine, human, and a unique combo of the nature of God and the nature of man? Are there other explanations to this term SON OF GOD? What is the meaning of "the word made flesh"?
The God-man theory had been around for thousands of years before Jesus was born. and the Egyptian Osaris after being murdered and chopped into seven parts (3500 bce) is resurrected after his wife finds his parts and gives him back life by having intercourse with him, I go with Michael Morwood having as my life model the totally human Jesus; the mystery of what we call God and the Word of God are far beyond my intellectual capacity to weave into human experience. I accept the Gospel account of Jesus touching others in a healthy human way. I accept Jesus as fully human. I see no valid reason why priests cannot be fully human. I go with Australian Bishop Geoffrey Robinson that seminaries are not fit places for training a modern priest and should be closed.
As a young boy I took for granted the story of Jesus resurrected and celebrated it liturgically; I heard of Jesus-in-the-Eucharist but nothing of his humanity during my 12 years of seminary; as a priest and eventual psuedo church scholar I now recognize the contradictions offered in the Gospel accounts that have led me to ask if Jesus was truly human. I recommend Michael Morwood's IS JESUS GOD? As for myself I know my humanness, the innocent infant born from a mother who knew of my father's oncoming death, the curious toddler briefly held by my father and then he was gone, the searching kid-captain-leader of my grade school baseball team who saw in priest-coaches my departed father … and then I went to seminary and at age 13 I entered a dehumanization process before nature had developed my testosterone level; in my silent and lonely adolescence I became a stranger to skin, touch, and my sexuality, developing some strange ideas of what was in reality is marvelous creation. I used to pray extra at night for my brother who had recently married, at the time seeing the marital state as a possible detriment to eternal salvation. Suppression of the imagination can lead to severe mental damage; in later years I recognized a state of mind and body that I call THE TRANCE. I humbly suggest that many priests live out their lives in this trance, a system of denial of the real. Is it possible that the first taste of sexual pleasure, guided by a suppressed imagination, comes secretly to the clerical abuser in a first gross attempt at coming out of the trance? …which leads to addiction? (this for another paper) The psychologically sick and mind-twisted predator in reality commits an adult crime with the mind of an undeveloped child.
Trying to understand clerical sexual abuse…
By now a reader might ask "what has all this to do with priesthood?". I respond: people called my seminary the "PRIESTS' FACTORY" and I am writing about the psychological tools sanctioned by the institutional church to fashion the perfect clergyman — the grunt personnel of the corporation sole parish and diocese. The object of my 12-year stay in seminary was to produce the priest who could live aloof from the God-created world of nature, a world of touch, skin, and all the dynamics of human sexuality, a world made by God to attract (latin = to draw toward). The seminary of my day, especially by silent neglect, classified God's creation as sinful! I speak here only for myself as at ordination I tell my story as new priest leaving the sheltered highly ordered monastic world of seminary and entering the real world of many confusing attractions; I would live in the real world where females, wealth, and power abounded … and I was expected to live contra naturam (against my nature). I was 25, handsome and athletic, virginal, and child-like in the ways of the world. Did my classmates, my peers, fellow seminarians throughout the world undergo the same experience? I don't know; I have never asked and I am sure they won't tell. Seminaries were universally the same and as my mother often said "you are peas out of the same pod". I do not speak for my fellow clergy. I have seen over 50 years the power of money, sex, drugs, and ego seduce numbers of good men who in seminary strove mightily for perfection but in fatigue and disillusionment gave way to the noon day devil of disappointment, loneliness, and alcohol; the 1.4% (?) of the clergy that has exhibited criminal behavior as predators and abusers puzzles me, yet I dare to look back as I see them as sometimes strange in seminary behavior; there were always a few who got away with breaking the law/rule but that was not my business. I wanted for 12 years to be the best priest for people that I could be and that was through obedience. I have made mental health the center of my life effort and I shall continue to search for that illusive needle-in-a-hay-stack explanation of how some turned to criminal practices. How the pastor of the parish next to where I worked raped 9 little children is beyond my comprehension. I knew him as an orderly priest who daily said his breviary and lived an exemplary but isolated clerical life. I sense now that he was mentally confused.
Let me take you back to Benedict, an Italian born in 480 ce, "a time when roving monks were a social menace; during the barbarian invasions clerical celibacy was a bad joke, bishoprics with powerful as well as religious responsibilities were given to powerful chieftains … many could not read a line of the mass " … "The Second Council of Tours in 567 ce excommunicates for a year any cleric found in bed with his wife (tmc: they were lawfully married) … there was hardly a bishop or priest anywhere without wife and/or concubine (tmc: concubines are an interesting study) … In 8th century St. Boniface found such depravity that he begged Pope Gregory the 3rd to wash his hands of the whole crowd; all clergy were promiscuous … what was he to do?" (quotes from De Rosa, VICARS OF CHRIST, 1988) The pathetic outcome was the abolishment of clerical marriage and the enforcement on the rural secular clergy the life of a monk. Contra naturam (against nature) became an imposed way of life, today called mandatory celibacy. (More history in David Rice's SHATTERED VOWS, 1990 … one story of the German priest who comes on Sunday afternoon to visit his children and they know him as "uncle"). John Paul the 2nd called celibacy the crowning jewel of the priesthood; he was so far out of touch.
The combination of the Middle Ages and imposed celibacy would prove to be disastrous, a crisis temporarily subdued by the opening of seminaries after Trent yet destined to erupt again into chaos as Vatican Two opened the doors to the church in the modern world. By the 1970's it became obvious that, worldwide, many priests were living dualistic lives, one the glorified altar priest on pedestal and the other the very human person with feet of clay. People over the centuries forgot that every single priest is some mother's son. When my married priest friend went to Africa, his wife on a scholarship to teach Montessori, they attended a family fund raising Mass where the bishop-celebrant had wife #1 in the first pew with five kids and wife #2 in the second row with three offspring. When John Paul 2 went to Africa he was preparing sermons on celibacy when his advisors told him polygamy would be a better topic. In Central America a married priesthood has been a way of life for over two hundred years. In Honduras there are less than 400 priests, a city of 60,000 has only one.
Pope Benedict the 16th on his airplane trip to the United States said he was ashamed of the sinful conduct of the predator priests; cleverly he scapegoated priests (as a class) by-passing the bishops who have criminally moved these pathologically sick men from parish and diocese allowing them to continue to work with innocent unsuspecting families. Every Mass that goes unsaid on Sunday means no collection and corporate Vatican wants the dough. My computer is filling up with reports on the cardinal of Washington being involved with seminarians when he was in seminary work. The monk Benedict had in his 5th century rule severe penalties for pedophilic clergy. I recommend to the Pope a focus on present global starvation and children and mothers without food.
Benedict, a hermit from age 14, wrote a rule on how to be a perfect monk, a rule that to this day is the underlying backbone of every Roman religious order and seminary world wide. In the original there would be no pampering the body as sleep was interrupted every three hours for communal prayer (later on the breviary) and fasting was a normal approach to food; chastity would be maintained by harsh discipline of the senses and flagellation (read Jesuit practice in Robert Blair Kaiser's CLERICAL ERROR) My uncle, ordained to the secular priesthood in 1922, spoke of the seminary rule requiring a student who was preparing to go to sleep to wear his cassock while removing the clothing underneath and then putting on his nightshirt as if it were a shroud of death; I went to the same St. Patrick's seminary 26 years later, the rule publicly read annually having been mitigated and no longer having reference to this morbid custom. Our black clothing spoke of death to the world; they took for granted that depravation of the senses would become a permanent mode of life. The goal was to pass through this vale of tears with one's eye on the only true heavenly place of happiness; remember The Baltimore Catechism: "God made me to love him, to serve him in this world, and to be happy with him in the next". The Catechism did not have much to say about the wonders of creation, imagination, joy and peace, human sexuality, propagation and parenthood. One would wonder what the Gospel accounts would be like if Jesus had been born after the rule of Benedict and had become a hermit? I would more than likely not read them a second time if the stories of Jesus laying hands on the sick were not recorded or that Jesus refused to eat with the Tax Collector.
As Porky Pig says: THAT'S ALL FOLKS … for today … some may see my life as broken while I see it as an evolution from Abbot Marmion's CHRIST THE IDEAL OF THE PRIEST, 1952, to Fr. Donald Cozzens' THE CHANGING FACE OF THE PRIESTHOOD, 2004 (copyright by the Order of St Benedict).
Tom McMahon, San Jose, Ca., 19/04/08
NEXT WEEK: Come aboard next week with unfamiliar-familiar stops on the journey of this old time cleric as the Polar Express races away from the trance. … destination Emmaus where we meet up with the Master....who was/is for real.
NAVIGATION: You are presently looking at Part XIII
What are your thoughts on this commentary?