You might at first wonder where in the dickens Tom McMahon is heading with this commentary. Stick with him though as by the end of his argument you'll understand – but may, or may not, agree with him. Society puts before us many "images of perfection". So does the Church. What "models of perfection" will be of value in the world of tomorrow?
"Perfect" and "Untouchable"...
Tom McMahon could not ask for a more timely picture as he winds down looking at the words "Perfect" and "Untouchable" in reference to the Roman priesthood. Remember Tom working on the Latin words, per and facere which convey the idea of making something through a model. We shall return to the Trentan priest after we offer an explanation of why Tom choose the above newspaper printouts. I know only American youth today and their demand for perfection.
The boys of summer are fast at work in America; today baseball is king. The San Francisco Giants boast of 121 consecutive ticket sell outs of 41,000 seats — big money. Ads speak of the fans as members of the baseball family and signs in the stands mention loving and adoring hero players. Public relations bring a game to life; making personnel popular. They clearly know how to sacramentalize an athletic team as a pleasurable human necessity. The age of technology leaves much time that must be filled with action for a generation that is bored with life. The baseball Giants tradition is one hundred and twenty nine years old, yet seventeen years younger than the stories of my grandfather James, born in 1866. A revolving roster of players records old times and new events. History is made, and used, as a money-making corporate tool.
A snippet from Wikipedia that will help in understanding my future comparisons...
History of the New York Giants (NL) The Giants began as the second baseball club founded by millionaire tobacconist John B. Day and veteran amateur baseball player Jim Mutrie. The Gothams, as the Giants were originally known, entered the National League in 1883, while their other club, the Metropolitans (the original Mets) played in the American Association ... the Gothams won its first National League pennant in 1888, as well as a victory over the St. Louis Browns in an early incarnation of the World Series. They repeated as champions the next year with a pennant and World Series victory over the Brooklyn Bridegrooms.
Look carefully at the facial and body language as three professional athletes leap jubilantly over the PERFECT GAME pitcher Matt Cain has thrown. (Farmboy-made-famous holds glove high to left and is the excited small picture to right.) [A "perfect" baseball game: no hits by opposing team; no walks by Cain; no errors by fellow team mates ... an extraordinary feat over nine full innings!] Subsequently an entire 40-man team wildly expressed their joy, claiming the ultimate team prize of being NUMBER ONE. Outward expression of human emotions are heavily limited in our Angelo-Saxon culture. Time and space for expression are carefully guarded. We are still in the suppression days of Queen Victoria and must keep a stiff upper lip. As I work through this writing I wonder how the issue of emotional expression will pan out, particularly in America and Australia — countries where heavy culture-blending immigration is underway and the familiar patterns of ethnic suppression of feeling may deepen. Minority immigrants tend to be careful and silent about emotional expression. I address this silence as "adult autism" which is fast becoming a way of life.
If I had time and space I could go on about my grandsons' suppression of feelings except in sport when they claim to be #1. Losers are out and a problematic future lies ahead for those who come in second. We are fast becoming a culture of inflated or deflated egos. Such will become serious spiritual problems in our age of technology.
Now where in Hades is McMahon going with all this? .........
I'll let the victory speak for itself as the lesson I take from the event concerns expression of emotions and the modern day American male. Publicly the male must "play it cool", something like the Marlboro Man who straddles his horse, his manhood identified by a cigarette — he is distant, sterile, never making a mistake, a conformist out of touch with neighborhood life, untouchable — but aching within and lonely.
Now let's look at the bare-legged beauty in the Kohl's ad at the top of the page who will get you $10 off your next shopping spree. Externally she is sexy ... perfect in body ... skin attracts the male eye ... and who knows what her mood might be once the photographer's lens has no need of her smiling face? Here is the untouchable American female whose emotional expressions are hidden, perhaps culturally-trained not to be known even to herself. This depersonalized "she" is a powerful tool of the corporate world. To continue to sell products she must remain a non-person. Any show of personal and negative emotions will cost her job. Consumers fall in love with images.
Now the "perfect" priest...
FINALLY the priest, perfection and untouchable ... image ... the seminary's perfect production.
Has McMahon lost his bearings? A few negative cells running wild in his brain? Or can a reader put the word "Priest" in the above Giants' scenario? It takes this writer little imagination to see the once untouchable Roman Catholic priest touched daily by unfavorable publicity. The world has daily access to Catholic bishop, priest, and institution on sex abuse trial in Philadelphia. Or the latest from the Mail Online at left about a Brazilian bishop. Does the Roman Catholic Church have traditions? Yes, we do, ancient ones of fine value to humankind. Are these valuable traditions popularized or have they been forfeited by present day papacy for the sake of maintaining power over the minds of ordinary people in medieval fashion? Has assassinated Archbishop Oscar Romero been taught to our young as an example of a bishop defending his oppressed people? Has the love and forgiveness of Jesus been passed on as essential to genuine spirituality? Has the model been the historical Jesus who never mentioned contraceptives or marriage outside the church?
Need a priest go to seminary to become perfect? Does he become perfect just because he is there? Who will be his model — a pope who condemned spiritual female writers such as Sister Elizabeth Johnson, or Margaret Farley? Need a priest be "untouchable", as required of himself and others in being celibate? Need the institution continue to deny Jesus may have been, or actually was, married, continuing the forbidding of a married clergy? The tradition of Trent requires an unmarried priesthood, a way-of-life riddled today with hypocrisy as Anglican clergy with wife and children enter the Roman priesthood ... surely more duplicity and lack of genuine tradition await our study. Genuine education comes through observation.
A church always in need of reform...
VATICAN TWO was a genuine attempt to bring the Roman Catholic Institution and its people into the modern world. The institution was already in the corporate world, replete with money-making ownership of property world-wide yet lacking in the very fundamental principles of justice and truth taught by Jesus. The Roman Catholic Church is a human organization, founded by humans while ascribing to be "Christian" — that is following THE WAY OF JESUS.
The ancient Latin saying "Ecclesia semper reformanda", that is "Church always in need of reform", applies today as it did a thousand years ago. The human church has never been perfect and it never will be. Vatican Two was an open invitation to sit down and seriously talk about our difficulties. The lost generations of our Catholic youth with their modern iPods and perfected cell phones will never again listen to a Sunday Mass sermon from an aging priest who has no idea of texting. The Beatles in the '60's spoke of Father Mackenzie writing a sermon no one would hear.
What we need today is the example of the laity, using the daily sacrament of encounter (saying hello to a stranger on the bus) in place of the Trentan Sacraments that supposedly give grace automatically. We don't need "perfect priests". Institutional priesthood is bankrupt of the way of our Jesus, especially bishops. The world needs women and men who are working at being better persons, modeling their conduct on the person of the historical Jesus. We need Jesus' priests who live his spirit in the world that is his Abba's creation.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer when he returned to Germany — there to be hanged by Hitler and his thugs — spoke of the folly of "cheap grace". Such is a tradition we cannot afford to pass along to younger generations, lest we eventually become aware we have been pouring water into sand. Yves Congar warned in the 1930's of baptism becoming a cute infant ceremony.
Tom McMahon, in San Jose, the imperfect who struggles with I'm ok and you're ok and who else is ok? 17Jun2012
What are your thoughts on this commentary?