Tom McMahon is now safely home in San Jose after his Aussie Odyssey — and he'll no doubt have a report on that in due course. In the meantime here's the fourth in his occasional series of Letters to his children.
Rusty Russian Submarines and Roman Catholicism………
Sunday's newspaper carried pictures of once proud and mighty submarines rusting away in the waters of the port City of Vladivostok, Russia. I carry a sadness concerning this deterioration as well as fond memories of my father and my own seafaring days. I vision an analogy to the church I served from my youth.
The father I knew for only two years (Al McMahon Sr. died in 1931) wrote my mother a love letter from Vladivostok, there in 1917 with an American expeditionary force. I hold the letter dear. I visited Russia in 1967 at the height of the cold war and found the people so warm and friendly; they had a good spirituality fashioned by war and pain. Memories were brought back of Tom Burns and I in a Snipe class sailboat, given to me by Monsignor Harry Lynne, crossing San Francisco Bay; the craft was trim, sleek, and fast, like the Russian fleet in past years, aware as Stanley Keleman offers in his LIVING YOUR DYING that all new life is proceeded by a form of death. I am sad to see the old depart and joyfully await the new; such are the rhythms of life set down by the Creator. Such is my trust in my God.
I spent an evening with a group of Catholic thinkers; we told our horror stories of old church, the priest who yelled in confession, the fear of going to hell for eating a hamburger on Friday, one's Catholic father divorcing one's mother and what the nuns had to say … etc. etc. etc. … you know the tales of woe. Such is "all getting to know you" and we moved on to better hope in a future religion. They wanted to remain in the Catholic Church, yet had difficulties putting a round peg in a square hole. Vatican Two had offered great solutions to these common problems of the Catholic people; the documents of the Vatican Council had removed fear and guilt and people were beginning to breath clean air of grace-filled renewal. And then, as is in all life dramas, the mystery of Simon LaGrie, with his sinister Curial moustache, enters the picture with the proclamations of Cardinal Ratzinger and an ailing Pope — a dying, rusting old European Church makes its dreaded re-entry. I recommend to this evening study group, and to all Catholics of good will, that they do more than hiss the villains. I am sad to see the church of my youth and ordination come to this sorry state; yet life must go on and there need be death to an old time priesthood so as to experience again the new life promised by Jesus. We are the possessors of Good News!
We spoke about the 14 new monsignors in the small diocese of San Jose and the proposed plan to confirm all children in the San Jose Shark’s Arena in one big Bishop’s gathering. Both have the overtones of showing off; come look at me as I strut my power and clericalism will be on display. I see nothing of Jesus in the folly. I imagine a hasty paint job over heavy rust.
At the evening study session when questioned about the health of the Catholic Church I easily responded that it was in glorious shape, ever-growing and active in the works of charity by the lay folk; clericalism is dying, rusting away in old age, and we can look forward to a new priesthood within ten years. (T McMahon prediction: priests, male and female will be chosen by the people from the people in ten years … with or without Roman permission and the seminary will be an open educational center). Not only a physical death overtakes men with whom I went to seminary but a lethargy has set in that paralyses their influence in society. Do you know a given priest or bishop that deeply affects the life of another person in a positive way? I know a small handful.
An isolated fear-filled segment of what used to be a vibrant church...
My encouragement to the people of God is to prepare to go it without a male ordained clergy. There will be clergymen, in ten years nearly 100% gay, serving an isolated fear-filled segment of what used to be a vibrant church. There will be those who go down to the sea and throw flowers on the rusting hulks and speak glorious of past memories; in contrast there will be those who leave the empty tomb of clericalism and move on "for He is not there; He has risen from the dead!"
We can talk about many experiences that Vatican Two in the mid 1960’s offered to spiritually minded people; nowhere is there to be found a condemnation, an excommunication, or a chastisement, certainly no "we are better than you". The world bishops of that Council sanctioned a modern translation of the Gospel written centuries ago. In unfinished text they encouraged us to go forward into the modern world armed with no more than the messages of love and forgiveness of our master Jesus. His is no hulky rust bucket; the Christ sparkles with new life and the edicts of the Ratzigarian Pilates can no longer condemn his body to death. Christ has died; Christ has risen; Christ will come again. I believe!
Tom McMahon (No date, unfortunately … somewhere around the year 2000, perhaps 1998?)
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What are your thoughts on this commentary?