Monday, April 23, 2012

Don't mess with nuns

May 9, 2014

Cardinal Gerhard Müller:
Since Barbara Marx Hubbard addressed the Assembly on this topic two years ago, every issue of your newsletter has discussed Conscious Evolution in some way.

. . . futuristic ideas advanced by the proponents of Conscious Evolution are not actually new. The Gnostic tradition is filled with similar affirmations . . .
Müller questioned if their programs were promoting heresy. LCWR states in reply:
We do not recognize ourselves in the doctrinal assessment of the conference . . .  We experienced . . . genuine interaction and mutual respect. . . .
LCWR was saddened to learn that impressions of the organization in the past decades have become institutionalized in the Vatican . . .
LCWR builds on Pope John Paul II.  Long fascinated by science, he had the Vatican begin a process that would eventually lead to a statement in 1992 admitting church officials had erred in condemning Galileo. . . .
…. The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, pondering their traditional mission as pioneers in service and education,  . . . asking themselves how their missions could assist in reconciling Catholic thought with some of the 20th-century changes in cosmology.

……… The term “conscious evolution” was not coined by Barbara Marx Hubbard, although she has made significant contributions in understanding the implications of conscious evolution for our age. …………..
………. the idea, expressed by Teilhard, that we humans are the arrow of evolution, the crest of the ongoing evolution of the universe. We are co-creators of an unfinished evolutionary process toward more being…..
….. Does an evolutionary perspective bring any light to bear upon theological anthropology, . . . the problem of Christology – and even upon the development of doctrine itself? . . . especially in light of the vast future of our universe?
Reader response to  the Vatican rebuke to LCWR:
I think some of our clergy get real nervous when confronting women who are more intelligent than most.
          Stiff necks and closed minds will never concede that women know more than they do.

May 1, 2012
Catholic nuns are not the prissy traditionalists of caricature. No, nuns rock!

They were the first feminists, earning Ph.D.’s or working as surgeons long before it was fashionable for women to hold jobs. As managers of hospitals, schools and complex bureaucracies, they were the first female C.E.O.’s.

They are also among the bravest, toughest and most admirable people in the world. In my travels, I’ve seen heroic nuns defy warlords, pimps and bandits. Even as bishops have disgraced the church by covering up the rape of children, nuns have redeemed it with their humble work on behalf of the neediest.

So, Pope Benedict, all I can say is: You are crazy to mess with nuns.
Nicholas Kristof
Read the whole of Kristof’s article to see why I say, not only do nuns rock, but Kristof rocks! Remember, he’s the author of Half the Sky, which I blogged about a few posts ago, and his name has appeared here before. Kristof’s work for women’s equality has no parallel in today’s media world.

Once again, the Catholic hierarchy's bullying (see below), intended to stifle dissent, has instead revealed its own decay— its theological straggling and its fear of losing control. Also, of course, embarrassment over its own scandals. From the wealth of media attention to this issue, we can see that its attempts to intimidate are not working.

I surmise that one reason the Vatican is launching crackdowns on dissenting voices is Pope Benedict's advancing age. Maybe he wants to whip the Church into his idea of good shape before his term is over.

The boat of women’s work has not tipped, as we can see from LCWR plans moving forward. On the agenda of its next assembly are prophets steering us toward a new consciousness, stars in the firmament of an evolving spiritual awareness—Barbara Marx Hubbard and S. Sandra Schneiders, IHM.

I rejoice, as I feel the Spirits working in, under, behind, and through all this!
Sing a new song to El Shaddai, the Breasted One;
                           sing a new song to the Comforting Friend;
                           sing a new song to the Rock of Salvation,
                           sing a new song to the soaring Mother Eagle;
                           sing a new song to the nurturing Mother Hen;
from “Psalms of Thanksgiving” by Jann Aldredge-Clanton
American Catholics stand in solidarity with nuns as the hierarchy tries to impose top-down power.

Now I turn to a huge ruckus going on in the Catholic Church. The Vatican shot itself in the foot by attacking the one religious group that is above reproach and universally admired—religious sisters. Its Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, notorious for suppressing freedom of conscience, accused the U.S. Leadership Conference of Religious Women (LCWR) of flouting Church teaching.
The congregation had three major areas of concern with the group:
  • The content of speakers' addresses at the annual LCWR assemblies;
  • "Corporate dissent" in the congregation regarding the church's sexual teachings; and
  • "A prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith" present in some of the organization’s programs and presentations.
No group, inside or outside the Church, has done more than American nuns to promote the common welfare through their work in health, education, social work, and spiritual care. These spiritually and intellectually mature women have the guts to think independently and that’s what riles the hierarchy.
Sister Campbell suggested that her organisation's vocal support for President Barack Obama's healthcare bill was behind the slapdown.
"There's a strong connection," she said. "We didn't split on faith, we split on politics."
A recent challenge to bishops came from S. Margaret McBride, the hospital administrator who allowed the termination of a pregnancy that would have resulted in the death of both the mother and the child. She was excommunicated for this “sin.”
Outrageand scorn have come swiftly:
These nuns—“radical feminists,” says the Vatican—have failed to understand that the bishops are their “authentic teachers.”
Does that include Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law who, after obstructing justice in one of the most horrific chapters of the pedophile scandal, now lives in Rome as a prince of the church?

S. Campbell said, “I don't think the bishops have any idea of what they're in for."

Neither does the Vatican. But it will learn that, instead of bolstering obedience, its foolish move will cripple Vatican authority.

April 25

A new NCR blog gathers the latest news, actions and reactions arising from the Vatican ordered reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the umbrella organization for 80 percent of American Catholic sisters (see below).
American bishops are tight-lipped about their role in the Vatican order. They seem to have learned some caution from the theological community’s indignation over their rash condemnation of S. Elizabeth Johnson’s book, Quest of the Living God.
The general public’s fun with this latest controversy shows in this headline: “Pope Says American Nuns Too Focused on Poor, Not Enough on Gay Bashing.

My optimism, not to say exhilaration, over this furor, mystifies some readers. Let me explain. I see it as forcing the hierarchy—lumbering, blundering, baffled and bewildered but determined to stay in control—closer to losing their control.

View from the left, May 12
When shenanigans of the hierarchy get me down, I read National Catholic Reporter for evidence of sanity in  my church. Recent samples:

Jamie Manson writes about radical obedience to the voice of God.
His concern was for “true obedience,” Benedict said, “as opposed to human caprice.”
Of course, the pontiff fails to point out that Jesus was obeying God while also radically disobeying the religious leaders and laws of his time. Like so many archconservative Roman Catholics, he is confusing God with the institutional church and its doctrine.
Another writer observes the hierarchy’s panic over losing control.
The Catholic hierarchy from the papacy on down seems to be roiling through a series of manic episodes in which they execute perverted power plays against those perceived as enemies. . . .

Catholicism and Saudi Arabia are the last all male kyriarchical monarchies left on the planet.
Tom Roberts wonders why bishops want Catholics to think that Obama threatens religious liberty. He quotes Margaret O’Brien Steinfels who asks,
Is it religious liberty, as they insist? . . . Is it a desire, conscious or unconscious, to reassert their authority after the dog days of the sexual abuse scandal?  Is it simply anti-Obama prejudice?
My answers to these questions are No, Yes, and Yes. Another factor is retaliation for having their authority conspicuously undermined by Catholics who obey their conscience, not themselves, the bishops.

The NCR editorial comments on the words of Bishop Robert Lynch who tried to calm the fears of sisters after the Vatican takeover of their leadership conference. Lynch explains that the “Holy Father” does not dislike women; it’s just “the way things work over there . . . turf protection and a pecking order . . .” 
What Lynch describes -- and what the Vatican continues to demonstrate -- is a dysfunctional, secretive palace culture of another age. . . .
Lynch obviously means well, but his language is that of the older brother in an abusive family where everyone knows Dad is beating up Mom and a few of the kids regularly. But older brother wants to assure everyone that it will work out all right in the end, because it always does, because Mom stays on for the sake of harmony despite Dad's quirks and flare-ups. Besides, he always ends up apologizing the next day, saying he loves us.
Finally, Joan Chittister writes about rape in the Congo (I cannot bear to call it a “Democratic Republic”).
From where I stand, it seems to me that male "protection," paternalism and patriarchal theology are not to be trusted anymore because the actions it spawns in both men and women have limited the full humanity of women everywhere, and on purpose.
I recommend one more article, this one in the secular media. It reports—no surprise and no small matter—that American churchmen instigated the Vatican attack on American nuns, among them the notorious Cardinal Bernard Law and Cardinal Raymond Burke.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Pagan Easter 2

Life includes death
The opposite of life is not death, the opposite of death is rebirth. Life has no opposite.
Carl Moschkau
To continue Carl’s meditation, death is part of life, and we experience little deaths every day—losses, failures, and disappointments that can spur us to be transformed. Life is a series of changes and each change is a little death and resurrection. Christians and other non-materialists have confidence that the final death of the body we presently inhabit does not mean the end of us. It is a rebirth, the beginning of a new life.
Eleusinian Mysteries
Before the life of Christ modeled the dying and rising motif central to every human life, the myths of non-Christian religions played it out. For close to two thousand years the most revered religious rites among Greeks and, for some centuries the Romans, were the Eleusinian Mysteries, which commemorated events in the lives of Demeter and Persephone. This divine Mother and Daughter pair prefigured the Father and Son deities of Christianity.

A Homeric hymn to Demeter, Goddess of earth’s fertility, by an unknown author c. 600 BCE gives the official story celebrated and recreated in the Mysteries. Demeter’s daughter Persephone also was the daughter of Zeus, lord of the sky and of Mount Olympus, dwelling of the gods. While playing in a field and gathering flowers, Persephone was abducted by Hades and forced down into the underworld, abode of the dead where Hades was lord. He did it with the consent of Zeus, his brother. Demeter heard Persephone’s cries but didn’t know where they came from. Grieving lamentably, she wandered the earth looking for her beloved daughter.

On the 10th day she heard the truth from Helios. Angry at Zeus, Demeter vowed never again to let the earth be fruitful or to set foot on Olympus until she saw her daughter. Zeus gave in and made Hades send back Persephone. But because he had given her pomegranate seeds to eat and she had eaten food from below, Persephone had to spend a third of the year with the dead before ascending to Demeter and the other Olympian deities. Demeter returned fruitfulness to the earth and stopped her wanderings at Eleusis, where she was hospitably received. There she requested and received a certain potion to drink, and she rewarded their hospitality by teaching the leader of the people her mysteries. This was the beginning of the Eleusinian Mysteries commemorating Demeter’s gifts to humanity.

Many parallels exist between the Greek and Christian myths:
·         The Homeric Hymn attributes the Mysteries to Demeter, as Christianity claims that Jesus founded our religion.
·         Hades lives in Christian mythology as the abode of the dead. In the Apostles Creed we say, “He descended into hell (etymologically related to Hades).”
·         In the Greek myth it is the daughter, rather than the son, who descends to the dead and rises again, symbolizing transformation.  
  • The Mysteries took place in spring over the course of weeks—like Lent, Holy Week, and Easter—not far from Corinth where Paul established a Christian community.
  • Christian rites are called “mysteries,” having borrowed the term from pagan rites.
  • A certain drink taught by Demeter had importance in the Mysteries, as a drink of wine has importance in the Mass.
  • The Mysteries included sacred objects, fasting, a procession, and a stupendous spectacle contrasting darkness and light with fire to effect a mix of contrasting emotions in those participating.
Under pain of death, participants were prohibited from revealing what happened in the sacred culminating ceremony (mysterion meant “secret”), leaving historians to guess the proceedings with difficulty, but ancient writers such as Plato, Pindar, and Plutarch found rich meaning in them and described a state of exaltation. Like Christian rites, the Mysteries focused participants on inward truth apart from outward bustle. They conveyed a new spiritual status, a closer relationship with the Holy, and hope of blessedness in the hereafter.

Some ruins at Eleusis still stand and give evidence of the religion’s breadth. Beginning from about the thirteenth century B.C.E., the complex of buildings went through periods of construction lasting seventeen centuries. In the center stands the temple of Demeter, the Great Mother credited with revealing the knowledge of agriculture because she allowed the earth to become productive again when her dying and rising daughter Persephone returned from Hades.

In 364 C.E., Catholic Emperor Valentinian prohibited nocturnal celebrations with the aim of abolishing the Mysteries. Horrified, a proconsul in Greece said it would make life unlivable for Greeks if they were prevented from observing the sacred Mysteries, “holding the whole human race together.” Here we see another parallel to Christians, those who believe Christ saved the whole human race and cannot imagine the Holy working outside of their own religion.

This post is titled "Pagan Easter 2" because it follows the first "Pagan Easter,"  and I say more on the Eleusinian Mysteries  in "Easter Symbolized." I invite readers to contact me for sources to this information compiled from books in the St. John's Library. It's worth repeating that correctly reporting pagan history does not invalidate the core Christian message but does invalidate exclusive claims and literal interpretations.

Pagan Easter Response, April 18
The information in my “Pagan Easter” post pleased many, and their responses please me, because it shows that Christians are growing up, opening up to unfamiliar brands of spiritual food. Notice also the comment of my favorite ultra-conservative Florian. I used to answer his charges but now I just let readers do it on their own. Let me know if you’d like me to address particular points of his.  The following email responses were so good that I asked permission to quote:
Brenda Asterino: 
I like this very much.   And one might say that this is again hidden in Christianity in that Mary was also a virgin birth (many Catholics believe this), which means she came before Jesus and according to Catholicism...she ascended without dying.   When one gets into this... it gets us back to the Magdalenes [religious groups in medieval times] and their beliefs which were not unlike Druidic in many ways.    

I also love the books by Tim Wallace-Murphy because he shows that connections between the Essenes, the Druids, the Egyptians, the ancient Persians, the …—can’t think of it...but one of the Indian belief systems—all overlap and they shared their advances through alchemy with each other..... and all had to be hidden from the marauding groups working to delete herstory and only have one history.
It is Enough.   .... and time for change!  
Malcolm Nazareth:
You keep reminding us that Christianity needs to give up its pretensions of having fallen clean from the sky. We are from earth, of earth.
We are made of myths, beliefs, and practices recycled from earlier wisdom traditions and religious streams.

Our "unique" religion gradually took on the accoutrements of systems of domination and oppression down the centuries as a glacier picks up elements on its journey and makes it part of its own corpus. . . Today, at our own peril, we neglect to recognize and 'fess up to the history of our fashioning.
We risk becoming the most widespread, dominant, and therefore also the most oppressive religious tradition to plague humankind and planet earth. 
As promised before, I plan to post some wonderful songs and readings by Jann Aldredge-Clanton honoring the Divine Feminine.