Church hypocrisy

Religion and politics are intertwined. Religion is not the same as spirituality, particularly if we’re talking about institutional religion.

The political structure of the Catholic Church works against spiritual goals that should be the main concerns of religion—kindness, fairness, and compassion. Instead, Catholic hierarchy wants to tell people what to believe and what to do. It wants to judge what’s good and what’s sinful.

Pope Francis’ dislike of judging sins and his focus on loving kindness do not sit well with Catholic conservatives, who flourished under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. They have veered further right since then. I believe Benedict resigned because he realized he could not fix financial and sexual corruption rampant in Church hierarchy. Pope Frances was voted in to reform it, but he receives steady pressure from right-wingers.

The extreme right is led by Cardinal Raymond Burke, who claims to know the “authentic” teachings of the Catholic Church. His anti-Francis views are spewed on Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) and the National Catholic Register.
The extreme right generally stands against empowering women, against gays, against married priests, against contraception, against other religions, for capital punishment, for the Latin Mass and priests facing away from the congregation, and for the privileged status of priests.
Clerical privilege is what caused the sex abuse crisis, according to most analysts.

The right likes sin-talk—other people’s sins. Pope John Paul kept taking money from sex criminals, most blatantly the Legionaries of Christ, after being informed of their crimes. Yet, Pope Benedict blamed the sex abuse crisis on modern secularity and the sexual revolution. In such acts, Catholic hierarchy perfectly exemplifies the religious “frauds” and “hypocrites” whom Jesus’ condemns in Matthew 23.

While elements of the Catholic hierarchy spew anti-Francis rhetoric (because of his supposed “heresies”), Catholic officials also bemoan Catholics leaving the Church. At the same time, they balk at Francis wanting to bring back into the fold divorced Catholics who remarried.

How that goes over shows in these words from a former student of mine. She wrote this after reading my memoir, Beyond Parochial Faith: A Catholic Confesses.

I found your book to be very interesting on two levels. On one level, I felt empathy for all the psychological and physical struggles you endured while still being a parent, educator, writer. I have gone through some struggles, too, but have been lucky in health, thankfully, so can't imagine adding all of your physical issues and coming out ahead like you have.

Your thoughts on spiritual issues struck me in a very personal way, because I also had many of the same thoughts, but did no research as you had.  I went to 8 years at a Catholic school and then to the College of St. Benedict. (They didn't have my major, so I didn't graduate from there.)

I asked the priests and nuns many questions regarding my confusion on believing some of the teachings, dogma, etc. I was told once by a nun not to ask the priest any more questions.  I was also told more than once that I was a "doubting Thomas."

So, when I read your book, I connected with the spiritual part of it and your concept of Jesus being a prophet, charismatic human being, revolutionary of the time, etc. I do not attend a formal church as you do, but feel very spiritual from the there again, I connected. 

I was divorced and didn't feel I needed to go through men to annul my marriage. Felt it was personal and I would deal with it.  I got remarried and had a wonderful husband for 25 years that my kids loved. He was there for all the births of the grandchildren and he was their favorite grandfather. He died of cancer 3 years ago.

The grands are now receiving 1st Communion, etc., but I am not welcome to receive that sacrament. Talked to a priest about that. He said I would have to get an annulment for the 1st marriage, and confess to a sin for the second one. 

Goodbye again, Catholic Church. My 2nd marriage was not a sin, and I will never confess it as such.... nor will I ever go to confession.  I can talk to God myself. Don't need a man to do it for me.

I also always felt frustrated about the roles of males, and lack of roles of females. Always wondered why all of the writings, positions of authority, makers of rules were all men!!! So, there again, I connected with your writings.

I will read your book again, because I read it very quickly and know I missed many areas that need more thought. 

I applaud Cheryl’s decision to leave despite my decision to stay in the Catholic Church. This writing gives evidence of her courage and sound moral bearings, which put to shame the behavior of Catholic officials.

CHURCH  HYPOCRISY, February 23, 2019

Again I offer an excuse for not writing here more often. I've been preoccupied with getting my memoir ready for publication. That consumes my writing energy--how many hours it takes amazes me--but I keep up with my usual reading of magazines and newspapers. For Catholic news, National Catholic Reporter is tops. The latest NCR turns my attention to the following.

Officials in the Church finally are responding to outside pressure and removing the cloak of secrecy hiding their sexual misdeeds.  German Cardinal Reinhard Marx admitted that Church files documenting sexual crimes were destroyed or never created. Victims' rights were "trampled underfoot."

The word "hypocrisy" now is heard in official  mea culpas.
An excerpt from a new book, In the Closet of  the Vatican, contains facts that surprised me, despite decades of reading about sex abuse in the Church. I thought I had a pretty good idea of what was going on. I didn't.

Author Frédéric Martel spent four years investigating, "living immersed in the Church" by installing himself "inside the Vatican" one week every month. The outcome is this book. He writes,
The Vatican has one of the biggest gay communities in the world, . . .
According to Martel,  what bothers Pope Francis--and I think it should bother us--is not that the cardinals and bishops in the Vatican are gay but that they publicly denounce homosexuality while actively practicing it in secret.
. . . the dizzying hypocrisy of those who advocate a rigid morality while at the same time having a companion, affairs, and sometimes escorts.
In Minnesota, John Nienstedt, Archbishop of St. Paul, demonstrated such hypocrisy, although not with a regular companion. Before a statewide election on gay marriage, he led a campaign against it by sending a DVD to every Catholic household in the Catholic parishes of Minnesota at the cost of a million dollars funded by an anonymous donor (Would that such largesse be used to relieve suffering!)

Martel confirms an observation of mine:
the more homophobic a priest is, the greater the chance that he himself will be homosexual.
After Nienstedt's campaign failed, I learned from two personal sources that Nienstedt himself was undoubtedly gay. Subsequently, his reputation has been completely destroyed amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

Finally Church officials are admitting some things: that secrets must be aired and victims compensated, that Church officials cannot police themselves and clear guidelines are needed for bringing prelates to justice.

The biggest lesson has not been learned or even talked about.

Martel writes that "the broadly homosexual dimension"is key to understanding "facts that have stained the history of the Vatican for decades . . ." Among them he lists the disastrous prohibition on artificial contraception by Pope Paul VI and "unfathomable misogyny of many cardinals and bishops."
And, "alas," he writes, homosexuality is one key to explaining institutionalized cover-up of sexual crimes. Martel himself is gay and likes the gay men in the Vatican, but he gets it. I also like gay men and my book reveals one reason.

I admire Martel's insight as far as it goes. Neither he nor other commentators on the sex scandal have seen its connection to the exclusively male image of God imposed by the Vatican in liturgical language.

Think about it. Misogyny (hatred of women and girls) and God having to be lord, father, he, him, his without fail. Of course, they're connected. So thoroughly has the male god been drummed into people that my computer rebels every time I write "She" in reference to God.

I don't believe the Catholic Church can clean up its sex scandal without cleaning up its sexist God-talk.

March 1, 2019

On Sunday I went to Mass with the Mary Magdalene, First Apostle community, after which we discussed In the Closet of the Vatican, the sex scandal, and my blog post (above).

Malcolm (see his comment in last post) asked, “Why are men in the Vatican misogynists?” Good question.
He pointed out that you’d think men who belong to minorities (gays) could be expected to sympathize with other groups who are marginalized. 

The “unfathomable misogyny of Vatican cardinals and bishops” is both enlightening and befuddling. Gay men I know seem to understand the feminine perspective better than straight men. 

I experience gay men as talented and creative, less focused on sports, more appreciative of the arts, and more supportive of women than many straight men.
Gays don’t hate women. So why are cardinals and bishops in the Vatican misogynist?

Is it because the hierarchs have given themselves privileges? They claim that ordination sets them on a level higher than ordinary humans. Excluding women from their exclusive club worked for years.

A Benedictine friend bemoaned the Church’s abuse scandal. I confess I’m glad of it.
The Church hierarchy is being called to account. That's good.  The Catholic Church does not have hegemony where it once did. That's good. People are thinking more critically about religion and spirituality. That's good. Spirituality is becoming less tied to specific religions in localities. That's good.

Now we need to evolve to the ultimate lesson taught by Church sex scandals—the need to stop worshiping lords.

Catholic teachings change, January 11, 2019

In a conversation about the Catholic Church's infallibility doctrine, someone insisted that its teachings have never changed. This claim upholds its infallibility doctrine, but the claim is easy to refute. I quickly compiled this list.

The Church changed its teaching on slavery. In Paul's Letter to Philemon, he assumes that the slaveholder Philemon rightfully owns his slave Onesimus but urges Philemon to treat Onesimus kindly. Today the Church teaches that slavery is intrinsically sinful or always wrong.

The Church changed its teaching on usury by first saying it's always wrong to saying we ought to charge interest fairly and reasonably.

The Church changed its teaching on cosmology. I need only mention Galileo, whom the Inquisition found guilty of heresy and placed under house arrest for the rest of his life for saying the earth revolves around the sun instead of the sun revolving around the earth.

The Church changed its teachings on women and this change continues. Hierarchical statements in the past disrespected women to the point of doubting women have souls. Today official rhetoric professes to respect women, but actions demonstrate unwillingness to share power with them. Unofficial attitudes range from ignorant bias to pressuring the official Church for more women in decision-making roles. Most Church faithful disagree with the official ban on ordination of women.

The Church continues to change its positions on gender and sexual matters, including the hot-button issues of gays, contraception, divorce, and women's ordination. Again, people outside of the hierarchy or magisterium are leading the way.

Decades ago, international aid organizations started realizing the need to listen to and learn from people in communities they wanted to help. Catholic officials need to do this, but fiercely they resist. I think their resistance is driven by fear and hatred of women's sexuality and power.

So far the magisterium still controls; Vatican bureaucracies remain in place. But they can't prevail much longer. A shift away from top-down decisions is happening in all society and affecting the institutional Church.

Clergy sex abuse finally prods lay Catholics, especially women--as in secular society--to reject the authority of the Vatican. Individuals bypass it and make their own decisions on deeply personal matters. Inevitably, lay Catholics will triumph and change official positions on issues that inflame public discourse.

The question is, how long will it take? And how many more Catholics will leave in the meantime?

Changes on issues inflaming public debate work hand in hand with changes in teachings on divinity and our relationship with it. Libraries are filled with them. Catholic educators today include science and other religions in reflections on transcendence. I detect less focus on the Father/Son myth and more focus on teachings of Jesus. I hope this leads away from worshiping God-images to building healthy relationships.

Although the Catholic Church is changing, its pace is too slow for me. I don't go to Catholic sources when I seek spiritual guidance, but my Catholic heritage accompanies me always. I find that, when an author affects me deeply, he or she often was nurtured by the Catholic Church and then moved on. It suggests that others are walking a path like mine.

For religion it is the best of times and the worst of times. As the shrinking globe feeds religious imagination a richer diet, it is forced to grow beyond the restricted images of one religion. Traditional religions are giving way to generic or what I call secular spirituality, independent of religion. It is an exhilarating time to live.


This all shows that the Latin Church has a long ways to go in moving towards a more enlightened "weltanschauung." However, unlike the ELCA or the Episcopal Church, the Latin Church (which some folks call Roman Catholic) is spread across the planet in a wide range of countries and cultures, liberal & others quite "conservative." If such disparities in thought span the gamut in the world-wide Anglican Communion, try to imagine how it might be across the expanse of the Latin Church. As ripe with hypocrisy as it seems, just try to imagine the differences across continents, cultures, not to think of disparities between ideologies! Paul August Jasmer
Malcolm N said…
"I don't believe the Catholic Church can clean up its sex scandal without cleaning up its sexist God-talk." This hits the nail on the head, Jeanette. It's a statement fully in sync with all that you've been writing about for so many years with great dedication and insight. Throw into the mix of sexist God-talk and clericalism gone wild (as seen in sex scandals), the hypocritical calls from Rome for equity between men and women, on one hand, and, on the other, the steady drumbeat against women's ordination and inclusive language in the liturgy. All of the above are inextricably intertwined--another description of intersectionality.

I would like to joyfully recall the memory of the late Prof. Jerry Mertens along with his beloved spouse Sylvia, also of happy memory. They never reneged on their committed stance re. Catholic women's ordination as St. Cloud members of the Church of St. Mary of Magdala and also of Christ Church Newman Center. Jerry fearlessly and relentlessly took on backward pastors who betrayed their anti-woman positions in what they said and did. Perhaps some of these pastors were/are gay or just poorly trained?

Good Papa Francis, like all of us (and the moon), has his "spots" which show up when he speaks, for example, about this same vexed topic of Catholic women's ordination in the 21st century. I wonder if deep down Francis too may be misogynist or that he really isn't able to think through his various utterances and their real, structural connections with misogyny. Or, more likely, is it that the pervasive gay Vatican culture wields so much clout that the cabal of high powered cardinals and bishops (there as well as in Minnesota) has somehow been twisting and distorting Francis' governance into a peculiar version of patriarchal gobbledeegook. Non-inclusive language in the lectionary is a case in point. As a lector, I have to deliberately change the exclusionary words which seem strange to me. Why does the US Catholic Church continue to be so ignorant and backward even today?

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