The essential question Tom McMahon examines in his commentary today is why those who control the institutional agenda constantly want to revert to medieval culture and thinking from around the era of the Council of Trent and want to stuff Vatican II back in some box as some kind of historical aberration? It's a mystery almost more confounding and perplexing than the Mystery of the Trinity! What do they find so attractive from that period of human history?
All people, and institutions, have a story to tell…
All people have a story to tell, even faceless corporations. Story is the favorite human way to communicate. In recent times we have become aware of the ugly story of the Enron fiasco where the CEO's cheated the ordinary workers who were left holding the bag. The Roman Catholic Church Institution has a story as well and I was part of that corporate story for fifty years of my life. Locally I lived and wrote a goodly number of local chapters into the old Roman good news book, it being the core of my youth and into my graying years. Vatican Two was a vital part of that Catholic story, particularly as its refreshing teachings came just eight years after my ordination. After 1965 I had no difficulty in including Jesus in the story of my church. Outside of midnight Christmas Mass with cute nativity scenes and Holy Week re-enactments the historical Jesus got little play as the life teacher from Nazareth throughout the Catholic liturgical year. I find it strange that the social encyclical Rerum Novarum of Leo the 13th in 1891 follows Marx's Das Kapital by 24 years. Both write about "new things to come".
Catholica has offered me the opportunity to write new chapters which are in reality the story of a church entering the new age of technology. All life is evolutionary and so too is my story and yours. I have become aware that my version, taken from my ministerial experience, has often clashed with the "same old" Roman experience. Allow me, the once faithful priest servant, to open my mind and share the process and progress with which I now feel at peace. In conscience I am today more faithful to Jesus than to a pope, or an antiquated Nicene Creed. Next week I will address the issues of submission, revolution, and reform, along with the vital role women will play in this evolutionary and revolutionary experience.
My meeting with Pope John the 23rd saved my sanity...
In brief, readers of my Catholica commentaries know my story: the boy from 15th street, San Francisco who in 1954 realized, as venerable Joe Higgins kissed my hands within three hours of my ordination, that I was on my way to being special and no longer being treated as an ordinary human being. My first 16 years of working under demented pastors held me close to the people and my meeting with Pope John the 23rd saved my sanity, preserving my bond with the joyful goodness of human nature. For those 16 years the great foe of bringing the whole Jesus story to people was the commercialism of the Roman institution, bogus pastors who were nothing more than CEO's of a parish business, exclusion of women, and a general ignorance of healthy religion in everyday people. Success with people, eventual marriage, children and grand children are happy entries into the diary of my maturing life. John the 23rd offered role play on that memorable Ash Wednesday of 1961, pretending he was God talking to John, God asking merely one question at life's end: "John, did you enjoy the gift of life I gave you?" And John replied "I have given it a great try". I hear my God asking me that question every morning of my life and I have memorized and repeat daily John's answer. That's my story; now on to the problemed story of the Church of my youth? I hope to live long enough to hear many more people stories; in ordinary people is where I find Jesus most active.
The evolution from "audience congregation" to "people's participation community"...
In my Catholica commentaries (Apologia Pro Vita Sua Series on priesthood, 2010 index #150's, April and March [LINK]) we boarded the Polar Express as it zoomed trackless into the Age of Technology. I tried gently to point out the conflict as we compared the medieval story of the Roman Catholic Church to the vision of Vatican Two. A week ago on Sunday, 10th April 2011, Harvard professor and Baptist minister Harvey Cox of Secular City fame gave us good insight to the progressive turn about of early Christian community independence (Ephesus, Corinth, etc.) to top down authoritarianism after Constantine and the Council of Nicea in 325 ce. We have studied at our Senior Center the development of organized Romanism and the literal take over of civil governments during the Carolingian period and the Middle Ages by a well positioned powerful papacy. Aware of a modern turn about, Cox sees the departure from a long standing, centuries-old audience congregation to a peoples' participation community. In reality Catholica is one of many new worldwide communities of people dialogue. No longer do we have a worldwide Roman Catholic Church that merely listens on Sundays but a People of God who is beginning to act on what they now know and are learning. (See Tom Reece SJ's analysis in NCR, 18 Apr 2011: The hidden exodus: Catholics becoming Protestants).
In the meantime to counter the peoples' new advances Rome offers "the same ole, same ole" under vague guises such as "keep the faith" and "be loyal to the Church". What we need to do is clarify how old the present day church organization is. It certainly does not have a consistent 2000 year history. The present day papacy and the organized Roman Church is an evolutionary historical product of centuries of people making good and bad substantial religious and spiritual changes. The age old challenge: "ecclesia semper reformanda" (the church always in need of change) is a dead give away to evolutionary progress. The essential problem remains in the over all control of the world-wide institution by the Bishop of Rome and his Curia. Take a look at what the Curia is: :
The Roman Curia is the administrative apparatus of the Holy See and the central governing body of the entire Catholic Church, together with the Pope. It coordinates and provides the necessary central organization for the correct functioning of the Church and the achievement of its goals.
The return to Trent...
What I experience both in the above reading and in ministerial experience is that the court of the Bishop of Rome claims jurisdiction over the entire Catholic world by holding the local bishop and his diocese in submition to a foreign power and Latin mentality. In plain language the Pope and Curia of Rome, acting as a nation-state (they are such in the UN) demands that Christianity must be expressed in old Roman language and antiquated theologies — the "same ole-same old " that really comes from the Council of Trent in 1542.c.e. and bypasses the evolutionary progress of Vatican Two. The present-day revision of the language of the Mass is sure evidence of the want to return to Trent. Aware his church could become irrelevant, John Paul the 2nd himself addressed the issue of needed change in the governing structure of the Roman Church. The present day Roman organization is stuck in an outdated medieval system and the world speeds past it. The Roman system is not telling the story of Jesus to the world. The revelation of the cancer of clerical sexual abuse is a sordid chapter in the story of an outdated priesthood.
Since my time and space are short I close temporarily (continued next week) with the recent story of the 12 American bishops who condemned Elizabeth A Johnson's QUEST FOR THE LIVING GOD. (See NCR links at the end of this commentary). Dennis O'Brien defends Johnson's position by quoting Karl Rahner as he says: "what people hear in the preaching and teaching of the church draws on a primitive idea of God unworthy of belief". It is not the book which I wish to highlight here but for now just the fact that the American bishops condemn the work of an intelligent woman. Amongst my peers the question is asked "did they read the whole book? or did they merely fall back on the 'same ole, same ole' with the added notion that a female cannot offer any wisdom?"
Tom McMahon, closing with "I am particularly at peace with the new ideas of God that were first brought up by Karl Rahner in the 1930's" and very aware that Karl had an anum kara. 18/04/2011
Next week: The issues of submission, revolution, and reform, along with the vital role women will play in this evolutionary and revolutionary experience.
What are your thoughts on this commentary?