NAVIGATION: You are presently looking at Part XV
Jesus sets us free…
Time Magazine has left the pope off of its list of influential persons. I have no want to debate their decision. Popes are usually academics and/or curial chancery office personnel who were rarely pastoral priests working down at the people level. While writing this series I have rarely averted to the bishop as pastoral or Jesus priest, they being CEO's of a worldwide corporation that has lost touch with the people and conservative men who refuse the life-giving transfusions of Jesus into the old roman model. An Irish priest some fifteen years ago said that the Trentan priesthood deserved a decent burial; it has served well, a stop gap measure in evolutionary history from the fading years of Feudalism, during which Jesus was buried, to the Vatican Two rebirth/resurrection of the ever living one. Hopefully from his European burial plot Jesus, truly the one and only genuine priest, will rise bedecked in the costume and mask of the laity. We have always had the Beatitudes as core Christianity. Ordinary people can be skilled at loving and sharing … Jesus priests.
As I watch the History Channel's scientific presentations on the formation of the earth 650 million years ago I make my act of faith that a God-Creator formed the evolutionary whole. I by-pass the explanation in Genesis that God took six days and rested on the seventh — a primitive explanation of the great mystery of all life. I dismiss the medieval-pope who condemned Galileo as ignorant and unable to see beyond the tiny narrow kingships of the shrunken political Vatican states. At the dawning of the age of steam in the first half of the 19th Century Gregory the Sixteenth condemned locomotives as instruments of the devil and in 1870 Pius the Ninth declared the pope to be infallible. In 2008 Benedict the 16th, dressed in 17th century white soutaine and velvet red slippers rides down 5th Ave. in a bullet-proof popemobile and small crowds cheer him as the leader (papa) of the world's catholics … how many ascribe to the old dying system? Human beings have a need for pop heroes, images to which they attribute protective power and/or fantasized union; in the case of clergy bright-colored costumes often do the trick of uniting people to the sky God. I am beyond this ancient pomp; I am a pioneer of the future, no longer a prisoner of and mere exile from my childhood religion. Jesus has set me free to explore the mystery of his Father and the wonders of creation. I find all awesome.
Recently I repaid an old time debt by coming out of moth balls to witness the wedding of a grand-daughter of a woman who had been so helpful to me as a young priest fifty years ago. The smooth glaze of an ultra-expensive setting masked temporarily the tangle of social webbing; the couple and I had talked at my home and I evaluated them as solid persons who could make a marriage of themselves in today's jungle society. My sense is they were bewildered by the human being I am today, they expecting the magic man who pronounced traditional words of wisdom and a promise of eternal happiness in marriage; a world had changed for me yet I sensed the sun stood still on the romantic notion of the Bing Crosby priest of old. When I came home after the ceremony I haunted myself with a curiosity as to how many seminarians today could have handled the complex relationships that underlay the extended family dynamic; reading out of a ritual would have gone over like a lead balloon. I will address this further in my summer series on sacraments; working with a couple who is marrying in today's complexity takes the skill and wisdom of a Star Wars astronaut
In his latest treatise on Australian Catholicism, Believers: Does Australian Catholicism Have A Future?, author Paul Collins, is equally skeptical referring to World Youth Day: "Perhaps for a tiny minority it will be a life-changing event but most will revert to their previous patterns of existence … with a lingering positive memory of living Catholicism." Archetypes are deep and difficult to adjust.
Genuine spiritual people have a movement in the United States that wants "to take back our church" and I ask "to what?". The present-day Roman Catholic institution continues on, based in three negative pillars: a primal take-over of Christianity by emperor Constantine and the Roman political machine; the corruption of authority and power under medieval Roman bishops; and the paranoid thinking of papal infallibility. These have dismissed Jesus from the church and held people in ignorance and fear for centuries … then came John the 23rd and his easter/pentecost agornimento that leads back to Emmaus. Over the next 100 years Roman thugs will hold tight to institutional lands and property, truly belonging to the people of God but usurped by wiley Roman cleverness; we see it in the power struggles (Bishop Burke, St. Louis –vs– the people of St. Stanilaus) in the United States. Jesus will have no part in this manipulation of people. Jesus always rises; the Romans will hold property but will lose the people, as they walk away much like the Myans who disgusted with human blood sacrifices abandoned their great empire and temples. The Holy Spirit that led these Central American folk will lead us. People who say that these power struggles have nothing to do with Jesus are the comfortable Catholics whom Jesus spoke of as vomiting out of his mouth.
A priestly people…
Saturday last I attended a wedding, two hundred people in a forest nature setting, the groom, a once fellow seminarian who walked away from the Roman Catholic priesthood years ago to turn his attention to the beatitudes, especially working with God's poor in South and Central America. Those there to bless the marriage were the Jesus priests of the work of IF (a non profit involved in food for the hungry and dignity for the person, etc.); some were blind and lame, many old and some young (Chris, 32 and father of two babies, works with law-breaking neglected teens; I told Chris I was jealous, unable at 79 to toil in that special vineyard). A priestly people (A PRIESTLY PEOPLE by Robert A. Brungs, SJ, 1968 … an outdated primer) were at home with one another as we broke bread together by sharing corn tortillas; the holy Spirit of Jesus sat at every table.
A skilled counselor knows that every family guards a hidden family secret. Richard Rohr, well known Franciscan author and retreat master wrote (I have lost the original) that the "hidden secret" on many of his retreats was the issue of human sexuality. A hidden confusion masked creation in Victorian age hypocrisy, using words such as "unmentionables" and attempting to control the movie display of female biology by the Hayes Office catholic code of conduct; when I duck into old time TV movies I am hit hard by the comparison to modern shots of Victoria's Secret engulfing my eyes with huge ¾ naked balloons. Recently in preparation for this series I went back to my bookshelves, finding: HUMAN SEXUALITY, NEW DIECTIONS IN AMERICAN CATHOLIC THOUGHT, a 1977 study commissioned by The Catholic Theological Society of America; a chart, appendix page 292, lists 13 methods of contraception. Morality is cautiously addressed — I presume the authors had a copy of Paul the 6th's 1968 HUMANAE VITAE close at hand: "The Council Fathers (Vatican Two) call attention to the idea of human nature as dynamic and relational and this in accord with our modern self understanding." In no way am I able to comment on this text in this paper; I offer it for its use of vague academic words that are used throughout, in spite of the sexual revolution of the 1960's and the realness of peoples' lives … and priests wonder why no one goes to them for confession any longer.
The above book offers little improvement on the 1930's SEX EDUCATION AND TRAINING IN CHASTITY by Rev. Felix M Kibsch OFM Cap, PHd, Litt.D, Benziger Bros, printers to the Holy Apostolic See (if one wants to beat around the mulberry bush this is the book to read). As I thumbed through these old texts I thought of my fiend Larry Walsh, now married and in public education, fellow seminarian for years and Jesus priest (one of the best!) at St. Agnes parish in the heart of the famous Haight-Ashbury district during the height of the flower children of San Francisco. Monsignor Millet insisted that the six priests have supper together in proper cassock as the old pastor forcefully poured expensive wine into each bowel of soup, Larry being a member of the Pioneers, a group of priests pledged to abstinence. On a Saturday night Larry opened his confessional door to find a naked damsel sitting in his seat. I'm sure neither of the two books above were of any help to the woman or Larry. Our monastic seminary training did little to help us involve with the sexual revolution of the 1960's; when our youth group toured Europe in 1967 every kid knew the words (and meaning) of _ucy in the _ky with _iamonds. In the late sixties I had teenagers approach me.encouraging me to "get with it" … smoke a little pot and have a little sex … one priest, now dead, made inroads with the young by sharing some of his marijuana.
And so my friends I come to the end of this series on priesthood. For me priesthood has been a glorious journey through seven decades of evolutionary change with the one constant of Jesus. I take some time off now, aware that these fifteen essays have left much untapped. In writing at times I am emotionalyl drained, even physically upset with harsh dreams but I return to calm when I think of the Jesus journey to Jerusalem; recently as I was sharing with a group of married priests this series in Catholica two of them turned and just walked away. There is such potential in priests who have married and men who have left seminary before ordination; their message is profound, alas too often never voiced. In June I will send along a series of sacraments for the age of technology, in May sending to Catholica a few articles from LETTERS TO MY CHILDREN, hopefully preface like letters written over 30 years to my two sons explaining to them their father's life, my Apologia Pro Vita Sua. Sayonara for now and as Brain's says CHEERS!
Tom McMahon, the running-with-wolves once lieutenant at lonely outpost San Jose, Ca. … the inidgenous people have taken me into a life-saving community … I share a wigwam with Jesus. 05/05/08
NAVIGATION: You are presently looking at Part XV
What are your thoughts on this commentary?