In the past week and on different sides of the Pacific Tom McMahon and the editor have attended funerals. Tom left the funeral he attended with feelings of anger which triggered the thoughts he shares in today's commentary. Why does the institution foist on the people priests who are little more than magicians who confect the Eucharist and not spiritual pastors and guides for their people? The editor shared his thoughts on the funeral he attended in the forum.
A silent, smouldering anger...
Rarely am I emotionally upset when I begin to write; today I am angry, a silent smoldering anger. I brought my anger forward yesterday as I attended a wake service in a church where I was priest 50 years ago. I use anger as a defensive barrier when I am being attacked, fight or flight being a human response. I am aware that I was also being protective of the large congregation of mostly sincere Italian people who had come to pay their respects to the deceased and her family. Spiritually they might have been given bread but they got stones … they got theological garbage, as has been their case for generations.
I sat throughout five decades of the rosary and the presentation of "authentic" Catholic doctrine preached forth by an arrogant Filipino priest who had absolutely no appreciation of his audience, totally aloof and separate from these innocent people. His theology was totally pre-Vatican Two, heavenly myths being interpreted as sure scientific facts. The priest was like a robot, his theology "vatican correct" and distantly abstract, fit for an illiterate age. Maurice Blonel, late 1800's, "speaking of heavenly realities that are added to human life from outside" says "the ordinary Christians in all churches have begun to complain that the religion they inherited often deals with a realm that has nothing to do with life and hence distracts them from what they regard as their primary task and mission to live responsibly." (Blondel wrote over 100 years ago. See: MAN BECOMING by Gregory Baum, 1970.)
Let me set the full stage. 50 years ago I was sent to this parish to put oil on rough waters; a priest had insulted the people from the pulpit, a stupid and foolish move by one of a long line of poor grade priests that had cursed these people. When I went there in 1959 there were only two young women in college education, few of the parental age having graduated from high school. Education was tough but my forte and the people were receptive; during my last years we had Vatican Two to work with and great strides were made in understanding Jesus and a church of service. Nothing was abstract. ( In fairness there is a period around the 1990's where the people had good solid people orientated priests in the likes of Bill Justice who is now an auxiliary bishop in San Francisco. )
As I sat in the new church built after my time I reflected on the pastors and priests who had been assigned to this Italian ghetto. None of the hundreds who filed up to view Jeanie in her casket would have known the Irish pastor of old who held funeral services outside the church door, disallowing non-practicing Italians to enter and dousing them with holy water so as "to put out the fires of hell". The first funeral I celebrated there was not a man in the church, all outside smoking cigars during the Mass. And yet they came back, undergoing a line of miserable priests, the bishop punishing the people by punishing a wayward priest by sending him to the monsignor who had been, viva voce, elevated to that rank by Pius the 12th. The clerical chancery office game did not benefit the people. A mockery of religion had been going on for 25 years when I was asked to go there … for just one year … to see if I could bring peace. I matured in the hell fire of money-marked religion and deceit of the people, gaining a total contempt for the Roman system while enjoying a great camaraderie with the people. I would eventually marry Elaine who grew up in that parish and today has a complete and total rejection of anything that looks like religion. Elaine and the deceased Jeanie were grade school classmates. I knew Jeanie well.
The new church is a poor imitation of St. Cecilia's in San Francisco, the one that according to the pastor who built it was "the finest, the greatest, and the best". Archbishop Mitty, sick at the time, blessed this replica of Rome's famous St. Peter's, staying not for the grand clerical dinner celebration, and summing up the mind of many when he responded to the uppity pastor "Archbishop, what do you think of St. Cecilia's?" Mitty, a former chaplain at West Point replied "too god damn expensive, Harold" and he was driven away. The clerical builder of All Souls in South San Francisco also took advantage of the people brow beating them for money when they had been so tricked and deluded by his predecessor. The old man I served "wit /under" died in 1961 with one and a half million dollars in his personal treasury. On Sunday night I grieved for the People of God as they were again abused by a power house Roman clergyman. Sexual abuse is not the only abuse the people have suffered at the hands of the clergy. The Body of Christ, the community of believers, has been abused powerfully by an imported foreign clergy.
The teachings of Jesus have been supplanted...
Power is the name of the game that masquerades as Roman Catholicism. Power and secrecy are the overcoat that suffocates essential Christianity and the power-minded have had their way, except for a few like John the 23rd, since Constantine moved to use the Christian people by the Edict of Milan in 311. There began the involvement of Christian elders/ bishops/presbyters with the power of the Roman Empire; they became strange bed fellows. Over a period of seven hundred years the teachings of Jesus have been supplanted by the power methods of the declining empire, corrupt popes in power until Vatican Two and many question the present pontificate.
I continue on the trail of that illusive psychological link that continues to appear in 2009, coming all the way down the centuries from early Roman days. The disguise of secrecy, lying to, and taking advantage of the people for the good of the third estate (institutional church) is the same method used by Pope John Paul the 2nd as he protected the sexual abusive priest founder and leader of the Legionnaires of Christ, Fr. Marceil Marcel. As the Ryan Report [on Clerical Sexual Abuse in Ireland] circulates among the people they will become aware of the massive cover up of the sexually abusing clergy that goes right to the top and can be found in nations and dioceses throughout the world. The Roman Catholic Church has a group of ermine clad liars posing as pastoral figures. I look forward to reading the likes of Jason Berry who I am sure will do a much better job in revealing this criminal conduct in detail. I can hardly wait for a cardinal or a bishop to go to jail.
The History Channel offers a program on volcanoes; I use as a model the pre-common era Santatorini Eruption that caused seven tsunamis that left on the coast of Crete terrifying disruption and multi layers of rock embedded with debris for study.
Imagine the decline and fall of the Roman Empire as a huge volcanic eruption followed by social tsunamis, such as the sacking of Rome by the Visigoths.
Following this layer model I search for the illusive psychological clues that remain today in the Roman psyche, having survived from the days of Constantine. Here's a rough chart with which to work.
Year 11bce: Augustus, Pax Romani, divine, born of Apollo CLUE: Rome's god
Mix up the clues and try to make sense of it...
Now imagine the mix up of the above CLUES as if hit by a tsunami/buried in history, and 1000 years later educated people sifting through the layers of debris, hoping to make sense. Next week a set of Year/Clue will cover the 2nd millennium up to the Irish Government's Ryan Report on Clerical Sexual Abuse. An investigator and psychologist would expect a great amount of chaos-debris-confusion to be in the psyche of those who are trained/have been trained in the medieval seminary of today in preparation for work in the Roman clerical system that highly depends on suppression of natural feelings. The priest of today knows little of the above. In the future I will have my eye on the word crisis keeping in mind the psychological theory of Flight or Fight.
It will be Maurice Blondel in 1896 that beckons us back to the examine the humanity of Jesus. Let's hear more about the Blondelian theory next week … Jesus is human.
Tom McMahon, San Jose, Ca. (29/07/09)
What are your thoughts on this commentary?