Sunday, July 6, 2008

Justice for poor, marginalized

The Catholic Church preaches justice, compassion, and aid to the poor. Over the centuries Catholics have lived out that commitment in many ways, but certain actions of its hierarchy send the very opposite message.

John Nienstedt succeeded the beloved Bishop Raymond Lucker in the Diocese of New Ulm and caused consternation with his hard-line, rightist positions on sexual morality and other matters. Then the ultra-conservative was promoted to become Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Fears of the consequences have materialized. His office has attacked two vibrant Catholic parishes in Minneapolis, some would argue, the two most active promoters of justice—St. Stephen’s and St. Joan of Arc—by thwarting their ministries to the marginalized. In both, their offense in his view apparently was that the parishes affirmed gay and lesbian persons.

A board member of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities called the archbishop’s action “another volley of dehumanizing spiritual violence” under his “reign of homophobic hatred.” St. Joan of Arc parishioners are speaking out. At St. Stephen’s a group broke away to continue worshipping as it thinks appropriate. Nienstedt’s outrages galvanize Catholics who might otherwise slide passively along in a Church with “leaders” who lag way behind their supposed followers.

Conscientious Catholics are resisting the tyranny of cruelty disguised as morality. Another example is the subject of “Community supports ousted nun.
Sr. Louise Lears is a faculty member in theology at Saint Louis University known for her work for peace and justice, for the poor, for survivors of torture and war trauma, and for the homeless. Saint Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke banned her from ministry and from the sacraments, after which he was elevated by the Vatican to a higher position. So much for the official Church’s preaching about justice and human rights.

To non-Catholics it may seem incredible that Catholics stay in a Church with dictatorial and wrongheaded officials. It’s a question I wrestle with in the first chapter of God Is not Three Guys in the Sky.

8 comments:

Florian said...

Jeanette makes passing reference to one Raymond Lucker, bishop of New Ulm until he died in 2000, before launching into her vicious critique of John Nienstedt. Jeanette only says that Lucker was a "beloved" bishop.

But I'm sure Lucker was not pleasing to all in his diocese. He actively tried to destroy the orthodox faith in the New Ulm diocese. For more information, I direct readers to the link

http://www.catholicculture.org/library/view.cfm?recnum=3961

which has an article entitled: "Bishop Raymond Lucker: A Tragic Figure of the 'New Catechetics'."

To advance the 'New Catechetics', the article says that "In March 1981, Lucker was the first bishop in the United States to appoint pastoral administrators (who are often radical nuns) as leaders of parishes. He created an international sensation when he placed one of his rural parishes under interdict until every member received psychological counseling. The parishioners' crime: They objected to a nun-catechist trained in New Age spirituality by Matthew Fox catechizing their children, and her decision to replace the crucifix in the church's sanctuary with a 'cosmic pillow.'"

I'm sure that Lucker was not so "beloved" by the parishoners of that parish he put under interdict. That interdiction seems more "tyrannical" than anything Nienstedt has ever done.

The article in the link concludes:
"Lucker remains a "poster child" for the theologically confused. It helps explain why he was unable to provide Catholic teaching to the people of New Ulm or the neomodernist catechetical establishment he supported. Unable to distinguish definitive doctrine from disciplinary, administrative, canonical, and hortatory enactments by Church authority, Lucker epitomized the doctrinally inept bishop blind to the dismal truth that the neo-modernist "experiential catechetics" ends in disbelief."

I, for one, praise John Nienstedt's "hard-line", insofar as it helps reverse the damage done to Catholics in recent decades by people like Raymond Lucker. 'New Catechesis' has only undermined Christian piety, holiness, and morality, and has made Catholics confused about their faith and confused about what religion is in general.

Jeanette said...

This comment illustrates the essential character of conservative, I would say, fundamentalist Catholicism:
"We own revealed truth from God on high, and a certain elite group has the power to say what that is. This truth must remain pure and uncontaminated, which means that new, unfamiliar, and unaccustomed ideas are unacceptable."

The truth is that, since the beginning, Christians have responded to spiritual influences from outside “the true faith,” because after all they are human. Basics of “the true faith” such as the God-man and Word concepts are not unique to Christianity. At its inception Christianity borrowed from Judaism and the pagan religions swirling around it, and since then it has continued to evolve by responding to a continual flow of new concepts.

Specifics about this along with sources to mine for more information are in God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky.

That Christianity borrowed from pagans does not devalue it. All ideas, both religious and secular, become more fruitful when circulated and melded to manifest in new ways. This augments their power. Conversely, when ideas are hoarded, they stagnate.

Deepak Chopra writes about this cross-fertilization:
“In every seed is the promise of thousands of forests. But the seed must not be hoarded; it must give its intelligence to the fertile ground. Through its giving, its unseen energy flows into material manifestation.”

Today we are receiving more seeds of spiritual wisdom from unfamiliar sources. Let’s not refuse them.

Florian said...

Jeanette, you have yet to explain how your "great ideas", though unfamiliar, are compatible with New Testament teaching. I will take that to mean that they are not compatible. What you are really trying to do is start a whole new religion (as if you are a god). Well, fine. Go found a new religion if you want; just get out of the church.

Anonymous said...

Based upon your comments, the Florians in the church you would be in charge of would not be tolerated. No room for that thinking. The inflexible feminine. How ironic.

Jeanette said...

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to let readers know that my interpretation of the New Testament is quite familiar to theologians because it rests on their work, as my notes and bibliography indicate. To results of biblical research, God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky adds studies in mythology, Jungian psychology, and comparative religion. Quantum physics and mystics such as Meister Eckhart are included in my synthesis as well.

Now to the accusations: Unlike Florian, I don’t demand that persons with a faith different from my own leave the Church. I quote from my book: “Those who enter into a personal relationship with Christ are inspired, motivated, nourished, and graced. To the extent that they turn to Jesus as their personal savior, he is literally that, and his image gives them stability, strength, creativity—eternal life.”

I have wonderful friendships with people who don’t question the divinity of Jesus and satisfying exchanges with them about spiritual sustenance.

I do find fault with church leaders and others who insist on exclusive Christian claims. For global peace, Christians need to abandon them. My voice is one of many today giving scholarly evidence that refutes the claims.

Florian said...

Well, Jeanette, you still have not explained how your ideas are compatible with New Testament teaching. You just said your interpretations of the New Testament are familiar to theologians. But, there are, of course (liberal) theologians who endorse ideas which are in fact not compatible with New Testament teaching. And, in any case, Christians have never regarded theologians as the final authority on doctrine; that authority belongs to the magisterium, the apostles, the New Testament, the Holy Spirit, or the church as a whole, depending on which Christian denomination you believe in.

Interpretation has been abused by radical theologians/scholars to the point where they are simply interpreting the New Testament away, and giving people an excuse to ignore it.

Just to give one example of what I am talking about, one can go to 1st Corinthians chapter 15 and find Paul giving a summary of the gospel: "I passed on to you what I also received, that Christ died for our sins... was buried... and on the third day rose from the dead."
Now, this is not only Paul's teaching, because he "received it" from someone, presumably the other apostles. What's more is that the best scholarly estimates date this summary back to very beginning of the church, practically. So, it was not just Paul or some obscure set of Christians decades after Pentecost who believed in this summary of the gospel; the whole church believed in this from the beginning.

Of course, Jeanette will cry, "No, not the whole church!" Well, the church believes now that the whole church did believe it back then. That's our faith, based on the New Testament and other pillars of the faith. Even if we look at the evidence, and not just faith, we don't find proof that there were Q-Christians or whoever who believed in an alternative Christianity. (Proof, not just some suggestive evidence that tantalizes only the conspiracy theorists who will only believe that there must have been some cover-up of the real history of the early church).

We notice in the gospel summary of Paul that Christ "died for our sins." This is the doctrine of the atonement, which Jeanette flatly rejects. This is but one example of the many ideas of hers which are clearly incompatible with New Testament teaching.

"At its inception Christianity borrowed from Judaism and the pagan religions swirling around it, and since then it has continued to evolve by responding to a continual flow of new concepts," Jeanette says. This is true as far as it goes. But she fails to notice that Christianity, in spite of all the changes it has undergone, has carefully preserved doctrines like the atonement for 1900 years. Doctrinal evolution has not eroded away the core doctrines of Christianity set down forever in the New Testament. And Christians have always put up some resistance to changes in the core doctrines. They are sacred to Christians. They are believed to have been revealed by God. By tampering with them, or "shaking them up" as Jeanette says in her book, we may be deleting the very message that God is trying to communicate to humanity. But Jeanette has no concerns that she may be being too reckless with the doctrines. It seems she has never really believed them; and therefore she has never really been a part of the Catholic Church, in a sense.

Florian said...

It may look bad that I demand persons with a faith different from the church leave the church, but I don't let that stop me from proclaiming what I believe is true.

I don't see how Jeanette doesn't get this: if Christians have different faiths, then nothing substantial unites them into a single church. Maybe Jeanette would say a common way of worshiping unites Christians; they have a common way of getting in contact with "Spirit". But maybe she wouldn't say that either, as she defends St. Joan's and St. Stephen's people who rebel against their archbishop in order to "worship in their own way." Jeanette seems to have been seduced by this modern notion of "personal" and "private" religion over and against "organized" religion. But that was not the original Christian Way, which was communal and not private or individualistic. What about the New Testament idea of Christians having "one mind and one heart", and being "one body, one spirit in Christ?"

Jeanette is not going to convert any devout Christians when she says "To the extent that they turn to Jesus as their personal savior, he is literally that..." She is then affirming their literal belief in Jesus as their savior. Then they will start asking questions like, "If Jesus is really my savior, and if Jeanette claims to be a Christian, then why isn't Jesus Jeanette's savior as well?" This is another thing, she has been caught up in relativistic babbling. Just as some say, "Well, there's your truth and my truth," Jeanette says, "Well, you have your savior and other people have other god-images which are literally their saviors..."

Somehow, someone will figure out a way to show Jeanette that her ways of thinking do not make sense. She indulges in nonsense. She says she is a Catholic but she will never acknowledge the authority that the Catholic magisterium has over her (doesn't that mean she is a Protestant rather than a Catholic?). She will refuse the label atheist, yet she doesn't believe that there is something in existence that we call God. She will say that she believes in the incarnation, but she doesn't believe Jesus or an creature-like being is a divine incarnation (She says the "nexus" of divinity and humanity lies at the core of all creation. But the core is not the creation, nor a part of creation, i.e. a creature. That can't be what she means by "core". Nor is creation the creator. So what is the core? It's nothing, as far as I can see. One is either the creator or a creature that is part of creation; there is nothing in between.) She believes in the divine presence in the Eucharist, but not in any special transubstantiation. God is not especially in the host because the divine resides in all creation (as if Catholics don't believe that also). Because she sees the divinity in all creation, she always rushes to the defense of pantheism, yet I've never been able to pin down whether or not she is a pantheist, or more specifically, a monist. Give us a straight answer, Jeanette: do you believe, like some Eastern thinkers, that nothing exists but One (God, "Spirit", Brahman, or whatever one wants to call it).

I and probably others have tried to help Jeanette clarify her thinking more, so that whatever she believes, she can always state it in an unambiguous manner. But alas, she would rather leave her beliefs vague, obscure, and undefined, it seems. It's like there's a fear of being more exacting, for in the process we might get at some particular truth, which might turn out to be an exclusive truth which Jeanette so dreads.

Well, truth will always catch up to us sooner or later.

Jeanette said...

The theme of EITHER/OR saturates Florian’s fulminations. BOTH/AND seems impossible to him and wrong. To answer his individual points would be to repeat my book.

I agree that “truth will always catch up to us sooner or later.” And Truth is One including many, as symbolized by the image of the Trinity. Thus the paradox of BOTH/AND.