The Dysfunctional Catholic Family is desperately in need of a huge dose of healthy female input is the thrust of Tom McMahon's argument in today's lead commentary. His commentary points to a series of women who have been important influences in his own outlook towards life. He also points to developments in contemporary society where women are moving into positions of leadership that ought be emulated in the Roman institution.
Two influences on Tom McMahon's outlook on life...
There are times when Tom McMahon seems to be riding an extraterrestrial bicycle like in the final scene of ET; the straight arrow law abiding forces look like they have the kids trapped when WHOOO….S over the top they fly on their bikes. Where did this McMahon fellow, the little kid from 15th street, San Francisco, get all these ideas that seem to fly in the face of the Old Roman Guard? I'll answer my own question based on two basic experiences that have been the core of my personal life.
The influence of Mom McMahon: Some readers might guess that the primary knowledge I have concerning the dsyfunctionality of Roman leadership came from my mother. As a young boy I witnessed and absorbed from her conduct and silent approach a counter action that was peaceful and unnoticed when it came to clerical crisis, often healing problems by her not so innocent awareness. Mom was sister to Father Thomas I. Bresnahan, 7th native son of San Francisco ordained in 1922. Family was tight and problems were shared. In the 1930s my mother was parish and personal secretary to Bishop Thomas Arthur Connelly (TAC later to be the tyrannical Archbishop of Seattle). I was the pastor's "go-for" as well as psuedo church caretaker when the sexton was drafted in WW2. There were five priests in residence at the Mission Dolores rectory. Connolly ruled with an iron hand and life was difficult for the clergy. There was top down authoritarianism with poor communication. Even today a priest can play it safe by merely dealing with routine sacraments, avoiding critical social issues common to humankind; this type of priest need remain "forever 14", semi-autistic, and a non-person in society. This type of priest is dysfunctional in modern society.
I have room for only one story which hopefully will offer a meaningful picture of tensions in which my mother played a silent role. I was 11 years old, 14 years away from ordination, yet possessing a keen ability to observe. I knew every bishop was a republican and thought himself ontologically different from the human race. As a boy I was in and out of where they slept and ate, totally aware of their humanness.
A 1939 story: For months when recording the collection envelopes Mom had quietly set aside in an envelope paper money and coin (perhaps $3.55?) that had been overlooked as the priests counted it together on Sunday afternoon. Except for one priest on duty, three would be free to go off for the evening after the collection was finished. Ruckus in the rectory alerted my mother to the pastor's wrath having himself discovered the oversights, he threatening all the priests with no Sunday time off. Time went on and dribbles of left over money persisted. One Monday morning TAC politely said to my mother "Mary, I took the envelope from your desk with the money left over from envelopes that the priests failed to find". Without hesitation stony faced Mary looked right at him saying "I wondered who had stolen the envelope. It was money entrusted to me for the Ladies Sodality." Case closed and an embarrassed episcopal canon lawyer quietly returned the money with an apology. I am the only person who has ever told this story. As a kid I saw the human fallible side of the infallible clergy. When in doubt I have always viewed a bishop as sitting on a sacred toilet seat. (I'll pass on Tom Unsworth's story later.)
Male attitudes towards women...
A second story of dysfunctionality: I shall be short on my second "story" on dsyfunctionality of the clergy that comes from the first 13 years of my ministry. Myself ordained in 1954 I was supposedly a helper/assistant to three alcoholics: one godless thief millionaire, and a misogynist-child hater, all who were canonical (by church law) established pastors. For and to the people I was the pastoral person. I met Erik Byrne of I'm Ok, You're OK fame in 1956. By the early 60's I was fast into psychological studies, having started by placing myself into psychiatric hands to see if I was the crazy one. A year after I was ordained I began to realize I was stuck in the "forever 14" mold. Future study and mixing with ordinary human beings offered me insight that Jesus had come to set us free — from fear and childishness. Today I hope I am a human being in maturing process. Celibacy and involvement with the people of the world are like water and oil, a bad mix.
A major sign of a mature adult male is how he handles relationships with women. This entails the way he speaks publicly of the feminine, revealing innocently what are his inner thoughts. Smutty body jokes and snide off-handed, put down remarks have no place with the mature. Erick Byrne's definition of maturity was the ripening of body tissue from the impact of energy coming from outside into body which we are beginning to appreciate is closely connected to the brain. Healthy skin contact is the instrument of growth, a never-ending process begun in infancy. Again I limit myself to one example of how Western Culture males are cheated, blocked, from the maturing process. I use a story of my son Tommy when he was 11. Keep in mind Tommy had asked for a Playboy subscription which we had granted him for "in our house use only".
Mother and Dad were watching BAY WATCH, Tommy sitting directly in front of the TV turned and asked "does a woman have to have implants to get on this show?" After a short exchange acknowledging our lack of appreciating Hollywood standards we had a discussion of women's breasts.
Tommy ended the exchange by saying "I feel sorry for some guys who think they are getting the real stuff, only to find out in marriage some of its fake." (Tommy today is parent of Audrey 3 and Adam 6 months, a real hands on maternal-father.)
Women moving society forward...
I conclude with examples of women moving forward in society...
From the past I select Dorothy Day, Obl.S.B., (November 8, 1897 - November 29, 1980) was an American journalist, social activist and devout Catholic convert; she advocated the Catholic economic theory of distributism. She was also considered to be an anarchist, and did not hesitate to use the term. In the 1930s, Day worked closely with fellow activist Peter Maurin to establish the Catholic Worker movement, a nonviolent, pacifist movement that continues to combine direct aid for the poor and homeless with nonviolent direct action on their behalf. [Quoted from Wikipedia.]
AND neutral in the experience, I offer here an example of how American politics is embracing women. This type of endorsement floods my e-mail box. Certainly nothing like this is on the RC horizon.
A trailblazing former police chief. A decorated war hero. A lifetime educator and community leader aiming to become the first woman to represent Iowa in Congress. These three terrific women House candidates are all giving right-wing GOP incumbents a run for their money – and they're all counting on you to help them meet critical July fundraising goals. We have just seven days to help Val Demings, Tammy Duckworth and Christie Vilsack hit the July 31 goals that will allow them to ramp up their media and field strategies – and help Democrats recapture the House.
The Great Courses send many educational catalogues. Summer of 2012 has this photo. I am impressed with Sharon Hirsh's strength and energy. Look at her helping hands. The Vatican could use her enthusiasm.
Time's up and I am behind in sending this to Brian as I took off a few days up at our chalet in the mountains where we have no computer or TV. Keep in mind Joan Chittister and Sister Simone Campbell whom Time magazine (July 2, 2012) calls a "Holy Strategist" as this registered lobbyist leads a bus tour of nine southern states to promote social justice issues.
Tom bids you farewell for this week and a "fare ye well" to these fine women who will continue to influence society at large and hopefully the presently male-run Roman institution.
Tom McMahon, San Jose, Ca. ... on the run to bring my sister to the doctor. 26Jul2012
What are your thoughts on this commentary?