Sunday, January 14, 2018

Pews Emptying

It happens sometimes that I read one of my letters in a publication, agree with it, and discover I’m the author. (I admit my countless letters are one reason I haven’t blogged faithfully.)

It just happened again. I came upon a letter I submitted to National Catholic Reporter in December. It applauded an article about “churchless nones.” They are identified as non-affiliated with any religion in surveys of religious participation by the Pew Research Center. The article that drew my comment accepted “nones” as often being spiritual without being religious.
. . . If you’re looking for a place to comfortably park your soul, coming out as spiritual offers benefits.
But it wondered what the “nones” believe. I wrote,
What do they believe? It matters not what God-images draw them to the Inner Realm. But what’s better than the images given by the spiritual master Jesus? The inner Reign is like yeast, like a seed, like buried treasure, like a pearl (Matthew 13). I vastly prefer these images to the father-son gods created by the religion that claims to represent Jesus of Nazareth. 
I believe Catholic pews are emptying because the gods imposed by stale Mass language are no more credible among educated persons than pagan gods. We need a hierarchy that spreads teachings of the spiritual master Jesus instead of regulating liturgies to promote a god and male supremacy.

Thursday, December 21, 2017


On the winter solstice I think about its meaning for our northern climate when the sun rarely companions us. The brooding darkness naturally directs us inward, not a bad thing. This darkest time of the year also begins the ascent to ever more sunshine. It's lovely to anticipate that.

Christmas descends from pagan traditions that celebrated the rebirth of the sun on this day. In the third century, Christian leaders borrowed from them the idea of honoring the birth of the sun with a feast. What evolved was Christmas. Calendar adjustments threw its date off kilter.

Christians call this the Paschal Mystery—death giving birth to new life. May new life grow in peace initiatives in our country and around the world.
Blessed Solstice and Christmas and New Year to all.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Religious Freedom Subverted

The Supreme Court is hearing a case about religious freedom. A baker in Colorado refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, but state law bars discrimination based on race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Whose sincerely-held beliefs should prevail—those of the baker or gays?
Is the issue religious freedom or discrimination?

This case addresses the same issue that the court sent back to lower courts in 2016. The Little Sisters of the Poor did not comply with the Obama administration’s mandate to provide contraceptive services for their employees. Their name—Little Sisters of the Poor—made it easy for right-wingers to accuse Obama of bullying.

My sympathies lie with women employees too poor to pay for contraception and for whom pregnancy would be disastrous for medical or economic reasons. The Sisters apparently do not know that moral theologians on the birth control commission in 1967 advised Paul VI to change church doctrine banning contraception. The Little Sisters should be educated, not encouraged in their rigid orthodoxy.

Their case was settled by having the insurance company pay for contraception and the sisters didn’t have to offer it in their health plan. But Donald Trump became president, zealous to overturn Obama’s legacy. With encouragement of his administration, the Little Sisters contend their own religious freedom is violated because their workers have the freedom to practice birth control that the Sisters consider immoral. Their argument defies logic.

Another company, Hobby Lobby, claimed religious grounds for denying coverage for certain types of birth control they consider abortifacients. The Supreme Court, now right-leaning with the addition of Neil Gorsuch, ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby. All three women justices dissented along with Stephen Breyer.
Hobby Lobby’s health plans will continue to cover vasectomies and Viagra!

I deplore the triumphal crowing of Catholic bishops over this decision.  From the time the so-called religious rights issue arose, I have considered the bishops’ naming of it ironic. What they call “religious freedom” denies others the freedom to follow their conscience. That the bishops disagree with women’s conscience is irrelevant. It is not the bishops’ bodies or their finances at stake.

How would this issue have been handled if women had decision-making power? Or if lay men and women in the Church did? Answers to these questions clarify our thinking about it. If ultra-right moral police sincerely want to reduce the number of abortions, they will let women do it with contraception.

Like the Little Sisters, religious officials want the right to force their moral judgment on others with different moral views. They claim "the right to discriminate against any class of people" who disagree with them, writes Pat Perriello in National Catholic Reporter.

Whose sincerely-held beliefs should prevail? All sides were accommodated by having insurance companies pay for birth control. It is no burden for them because birth costs them more than preventing conception.

The issue is not religious freedom. It is discrimination.  

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

All Hallows Eve

To mark All Hallows Eve, which celebrates the saints, I am retelling true stories of encounters with saints told by their family members still living in this material world. Our secular world refuses to accept the interpretation I give them. I think they give evidence of spiritual reality—what we call “God.”

But first I want you to know why I've been neglecting this blog. I've been working on my memoir and getting letters published in papers. The latest, supporting gun regulation, appeared on Sunday in the St. Cloud Times.

Now, stories of saints. Mindy's dad passed to the Other Side years ago:
Just recently I was in a terrible dream in which I was in a woods, lost and hungry. I was crying. Suddenly, quite serenely, my dad walked out of the woods, wearing the khaki pants and flannel shirt I remember him wearing. He held out his arms and hugged me. Then we walked into an adjacent room and we danced. It happened to be Father's Day eve! I woke up happy and nothing that day could have changed my happy, calm, peaceful mood, even though the weather was dreary. It's given me pause to think about him and feel his love for me in strong ways I never felt before.
Death is the threshold connecting this material world with the immaterial, spiritual world. About three months after her father’s death, Faye was sitting on her couch, grieving his passing, and thinking, “How can we go on? All the ways he helped us—what will happen now?”

A bright light enveloped her, not like the shining sun, but pulsing. It was beautiful and she immediately felt her dad’s presence. Without hearing words, she felt the message, “All will be well. You are strong.”

She sent a message in return, “We love you. Goodbye.” And it was goodbye. Nothing similar  happened again. She knows that this, not his funeral, was the real goodbye.

Cindy contributed her story for my blog:
Mom was very ill with breast cancer and died November 2005. She knew she was dying but wanted absolutely no one to know about it, including her doctor. She dealt with it all alone and in silence. Before Mom died she had some visitors. She told me these stories ten days before she died, and they are shocking to all of us. She said she was lying in bed when Dad, who had died in 1994, lay down next to her.

"Did he say anything?” I asked. “What did you do?"
"He didn't talk, he just lay there. I didn't talk to him either. I just worried about what I was going to make him for breakfast. I had nothing in the house."

Another time she was in bed and at the foot of it stood her father with a very young child. They smiled at her and left. She said he really was there, but she didn't know who the child was. She thought it was a girl because the child was wearing a white long dress. My cousin assured me it was no girl. She is more into the paranormal than I, someone I need to introduce you to someday. She said she was sure Pa brought Mom's older brother to meet her. This almost-two-year-old had died from some childhood disease.

Bob’s mom was an immigrant. Approaching her room in ER, he heard her having a conversation in her childhood language, but when he got to the room, no one was there but she. Several times during the last weeks of her life, she communicated with her deceased sister and other relatives. Asked how that could happen, she said, “They come to me,” and added, “I do not have a fear of death.”

Her doctor said many patients are able to cross over before their bodies finally let go of this life. On one of those last days, Mom saw a shining golden light with angels inside it. “Do you not see that?” she asked.

Bob tried many medical avenues to save her life, and she fought to stay alive for him and his wife. But then he heard her praying to be taken. Two weeks before she died, he had a fruitful conversation with her and said, “It’s OK to go.” His wife noticed that she seemed more at peace after that—her face had lost its anxious look. When she passed, her face became a visage of joy.

Hospice workers tell people to give their loved ones permission to leave, and there are many stories of dying persons waiting until they have that permission, then dying in peace.

One more story, this one by professional writer Linda Marie, after the loss of a valued friend:
It was July and we were planning a get-together for several mutual “city” friends to be held on my deck. I talked to Coleen one morning, firming up the details, and that night she was gone.
One day the next spring, I was leaning on the railing of my deck, just sort of reflecting on the lake and life and nature.
I looked down and saw a turtle climbing out of the lake onto the sand. It was the first one I had seen that year. Thoughts of Coleen, her massive turtle collection and her unusual intrigue for the shelled species came immediately to mind.
The turtle, just a few feet in front of me, stayed very still, with its neck stretched farther out of its shell than I could recall ever seeing, and it was turned directly toward me for—oh—for a very long time . . .
I never tire of stories like these, often told after the death of a loved one. To me they liberate spiritual reality from institutional religion and materialist science.
Although I love them, real encounters fill some people with dread. This must be the reason Halloween evolved with its spooky ghosts and goblins. I enjoy giving candy to the kids at my door, but I wish our secular culture would take seriously the real evidence of the immaterial, spiritual realm.

You can find these and other stories under "Paranormal" in my blog index.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Illicit but valid

It sounds like an oxymoron. Catholic officials used it to deny facts.

Vern is a musician for Catholic womenpriest Masses whose enthusiastic support of women’s ordination led to this email exchange. It followed a forum after Mass with our Mary Magdalene, First Apostle community.
We chatted about the phrase, “sacramentally valid but illicit.” And I think I remember you mentioning that the phrase was not said by any "authority" of the "regular" Roman Catholic Church. You went further to say the regular authority will not even discuss it.
I was wrong in saying the official Church does not apply the phrase to womenpriests, but right in saying the official Church does not allow womenpriests to administer sacraments.  In other words, womenpriests who say Mass, baptize, officiate at marriages and the like, make it really happen (it’s valid) but they're not allowed to do so.

They are like other priests not authorized to act as priests. One example is a friend of mine, an immigrant from India who is a married priest.  He and his wife have come to several Mary Magdalene, First Apostle events.
I remember back in the 1990s Pope John Paul II even ordered discussion [about womenpriests] not only to stop, but also not be brought up in the first place. His decree was most likely, but not exclusively, the result of the story of Ludmila of Czechoslovakia becoming globally public after the fall of USSR Communism.
Why did Vern remember Ludmila? He is a descendent of Czech immigrants. I went to Google to refresh my memory.

Ludmila Javorová was the first modern woman Catholic priest. She was secretly ordained in 1970 by a male Roman Catholic bishop in the underground Czech Church during communism’s oppressive rule of Czechoslovakia. When Soviet domination ended and Ludmila Javorová’s ordination was revealed, the Vatican refused to accept it. “Illicit but valid,” said a Czech archbishop. He based his ruling on Canon Law.
Could you tell me who and from where that phrase first came from?
I am so happy having places like MMFA for me to come and "rest" my questioning self.
Thanks for your help. St. Mary Magdalene Prayers to you always, Vern 
Vern’s modesty is remarkable. I don’t know when Canon Law first used this ridiculously rationalistic distinction, and I have to admit that Vern was more knowledgeable about the subject than I was. He led me to researching it.
Something tells me I heard that phrase, “illicit by valid,” or something like it came up when all the clergy abuse surfaced. There was a question about the validity of the Sacrament of Eucharist when Mass was conducted by a priest who abused. 
The validity question also came up in talk about the priest himself confessing, being forgiven, and then continuing to say Mass. There was also the question of an abusive priest hearing confession of his victim(s) and the confessions being valid.
Vern had deliberated on “illicit but valid” more deeply than I had.
I am impatient with the legalistic distinctions, and I'd guess Pope Francis would agree with me that the Church should instead reach out with compassion and mercy to all people who cry out for care. The insistence on official permission violates both conscience and common sense.

Vern agreed that insisting on permission violates conscience and common sense.
 Thank you, Vern, for caring so much. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Mind over Matter

A few days ago, I was in an office at the doctor’s getting a referral appointment set up, when our conversation turned to a common phenomenon. The appointment secretary said it often happens to her. She’ll think about someone she hasn’t thought about for a while, and right then that person calls. We agreed that it’s uncanny and science can’t explain it. Her gift appears in more striking ways. She thinks of some event happening, and then it does.

“I bet you don’t talk about this to just anyone,” I said.

“Some people don’t like to hear about it,” she said, “but I think it’s pretty neat.”
I think her gift points to many phenomena that cannot be explained by the physical sciences. It makes scientists who deny the existence of non-physical reality so uncomfortable that they dismiss the phenomena or come up with wildly-improbable explanations in pursuit of anything to avoid admitting that spiritual reality exists.

But they cannot dismiss evidence from their own experiments.

It is hard to give an accurate sense of just how shocked physicists are by the implications of quantum mechanics, say physicists Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner in Quantum Enigma. They write,
For many physicists, this mystery, the quantum enigma, is best not talked about. It displays physics’ encounter with consciousness. It’s the skeleton in our closet.
When I first learned of the observer’s role in wave/particle experiments, I was flabbergasted too. Immediately I saw the spiritual implication, which apparently disturbs physicists. A colleague of Rosenblum and Kuttner objected to their teaching of the enigma.
[P]resenting this material to nonscientists is the intellectual equivalent of allowing children to play with loaded guns.
I probably am the kind of person that scientist worried about because I find evidence for non-physical or spiritual reality in this enigma that Einstein called “spooky.”

Unlike experimentation on other scientific theories, quantum experiments always—in 100% of cases—yield the same result. Stated in nonscientific terms, whether a thing is a wave or a particle depends on the decision of the experimenter. The material result—whether wave or particle—is produced by the scientist’s choice. The scientist's thought process, his or her consciousness, causes the outcome.

Scientists who are scientific materialists hate this because it apparently says that non-physical reality determines physical reality. They insist there is no non-physical or spiritual reality. I don’t see how they can skirt this conclusion: Spiritual reality not only exists, it is paramount.

Many physicists try to avoid the issue and just ignore the “Spooky Interactions” by pursuing practical applications of quantum mechanics in technology. Rosenblum and Kuttner write,
One-third of our economy involves products based on quantum mechanics.
But physics’ encounter with consciousness demands the attention of theoretical physicists, and the quantum enigma, say Rosenblum and Kuttner, “depends crucially on free will.” They quote this materialist position:
"You," your joys and sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.
Why should cells and molecules give rise to our sense of identity and free will? The authors of Quantum Enigma ask this and add,
. . . no mere account of physical process will tell us why experience arises.
They quote J.A Hobson:
Those of us with common sense are amazed at the resistance put up by psychologists, physiologists, and philosophers to the obvious reality of free will.
What follows from accepting our spiritual consciousness may be even spookier, but I have become comfortable with it. I have come to believe we create our own reality. The way this plays out is complicated. 

It’s not as easy as doing right instead of wrong, because each of us is part of the collective consciousness, which contains many, many layers of thought from multitudes who created the reality we were born into. And each of us has hidden beliefs, attitudes, expectations, and so on in our consciousness that influence our decisions. Understanding ourselves takes work.
 If you are fascinated by the debate between scientific materialists and people who accept the reality of the Inner Realm, you can get more of it by clicking on posts under Scientific Materialism” in my blog index. And this article by an esteemed scientist may intrigue you.  

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Hysterical & thought-provoking

This video made me laugh so hard that my body ached. 
Besides laughs, it conveys the absurdity of  literal religious belief.

I hasten to add that the humor comes at the expense of a religious sister. 
She does not portray nuns accurately. 
Take it from me. I am acquainted with many, many sisters. 
They're not preachy. 

But enjoy the fun for the point about literal religious beliefs.