Tom McMahon's commentary is a "tidying up the desk" affair, or "clearing the decks" for a new series he hopes to begin next week examining the clerical abuse crisis. He explains that he has found the phenomenon of abuse difficult to discuss with his community over the past 35 years and ponders why that should be.
Tidying up my desk in preparation for a new series...
Without getting into detail I share with my readers a mental and physical health report. In my adult years I have never had such mental clarity, this based on my ability to listen and study in spite of being an octogenarian. Having had three TIA's [Transient ischemic attack/mini-stroke] and showing signs that a stroke could end my life before I finish this page, I daily face death with a great sense of satisfaction that my life has been well-lived and that I have dedicated my life to the study of the human Jesus and have had the privilege of teaching his way since 1950. I was cemented into this conviction by John the 23rd on Ash Wednesday of 1961 – a human experience that turned my life around [conviction = con/with and vincere/to overcome].
Editor Brian has asked me to review THE BOYS OF ST. VINCENT and I have taken from my archives the video and four boxes of dusty newspaper clips on clerical abuse. I am challenged to write a series that enters the clerical mind and I copy here a sentence already written: There is such irony and complexity in being called to be a priest. I hope to detail this. I have on my office wall a picture of the famous circus clown; the inscription reads: "Share with me your sadness and I will share with you my joy". There is only one priest under scrutiny in this entire series, namely Tom McMahon. Such a tactic is my only way of remaining credible. No priest ever knew the inner most thinking of another priest. In the meantime I shall send on material I have written on church reform, some dating back thirty years.
The one subject I was constantly rebuffed on by faithful community members for the past 35 years, never allowed to go "in depth", was clerical abuse and pedophilia. Was the priest so sacred and tied so closely to God that the subject was out of bounds.? I shall be careful as we tread on sacred territory.
I'll miss our fireside chats yet I will pursue Catholica's Forum. Keep up your VOX POPULORUM, that wonderful VOICE OF THE PEOPLE. Remember laity means duty. What are our baptismal obligations? This is the age of the laity. The sleeping giant is waking up. Ask yourself if you want to be a follower of the man from Nazareth? His way is powerfully personal and peaceful. Salvation is inner peace in the here and now.
The unequal playing field between laity and clergy...
Lay person Paul Lakeland in CATHOLICISM AT THE CROSSROADS gently prods the Catholic laity to recognize the unequal playing field of education between laity and clergy. Most ordinary people have only a first communion/early child education in religion whereas the clergy have years of study. The present problem is the priest is stuck in obsolete theological theory as well as outdated morality that is no longer relevant to society. In this age of modern education the laity have surpassed the clergy in human knowledge, surely certain persons having greater wisdom of religious mysteries. Keep in mind that the institutional church considers nuns as laity. I see the nuns/women on the bus as a great sign.
As I go into the series on clerical abuse I realize the danger to my psyche, and yours. As we plunge into such I need fortify myself with some simple Jesus' love and thinking. I send along one article that I will keep before my eyes as I descend into this pit-of-hell series. The world is a fine place and there are many good people as well as good priests.
ANAM CARA In the Celtic Tradition there is a beautiful understanding of love and friendship. One of the fascinating ideas here is the idea of soul-love; the old Gaelic term for this is anam cara. Anam is the Gaelic word for soul and cara is the word for friend. So anam cara in the Celtic world was the " soul friend". In the early Celtic church a person who acted as teacher, companion, or spiritual guide was called an anam cara. It originally referred to someone to whom you confessed, revealing the hidden intimacies of your life. With the anum cara you could share your inner most self, your mind and your heart. This friendship was an act of recognition and belonging. When you had an anum cara your friendship cut across all convention, morality, and category. You were joined in an ancient and eternal way with the "friend of your soul". There is no cage for the soul. The soul is a divine light that flows into you and into your other. This art of belonging awakened and fostered a deep and special companionship. In his Confessions John Cassian says this bond between friends is indissoluble. "this, I say, is what is broken by no chances, what interval of time or space can sever or destroy, and what even death itself cannot separate". [Source: ANAM CARA by John O'Donohue (1997), Harper Perennial]
The journey to maturity of the priest is frought with danger and loneliness. The Creator's gift of companionship – one who eats bread with another – is denied by today's mechanical celibacy. We need keep the mercy taught by Jesus always before us as we carefully approach what seems to be juvenile maturity in the clergy.
Tom McMahon, San Jose, Ca. 11Sep2012
POST SCRIPT: a final note of praise and gratitude for Cardinal Martini from a layman which I received by email. Note the reference to fear as the stumbling block to church reform.
Italian Catholics paid their respects to their beloved Jesuit cardinal who said the Church is "200 years behind the times."
What are your thoughts on this commentary?