A Tale of Two Ecclesiologies

NCRep sums the LCWR meeting. Two commentators who were not present were quoted, among others. Jesuit Bruce Morrill:

To my mind, this is a stellar example of how fundamentally different are the cultures the LCWR and Roman Catholic hierarchy practice. The LCWR thus declares its willingness to continue ‘to work with’ Archbishop Sartain, but they do not describe any readiness to meet the CDF and the archbishop’s command that they henceforth submit their conference agendas and selected speakers for the archbishop’s approval.

Yes, and it’s not just a matter of women’s democracy versus men’ hierarchy. The essence of religious life is deeper: women and men who have a history that predates the curia of electing leaders and living a church life more communal, more shared, with mutuality. Maybe women have benefitted from not being ordained in the sense that they’ve been sucked into the power game. Certainly, the more open and shared governance model is not exclusively a female thing.

Ann Carey beats the drum:

LCWR has three choices: It can implement the reform required by the Holy See and remain a canonical superiors’ conference; it can go its own way as a professional organization without any canonical status; or it can disband. LCWR seems to be searching for a fourth option that would allow it to keep its canonical status while going its own way on doctrinal matters. Time may run out on them for that fourth option, however, for the reform is supposed to be completed by April of 2017.

Ms Carey assumes that the positive regard of authority is something for which to be sought. If the sisters gain no benefit from canonical recognition, then these three choices would be how Ms Carey would view it. And I suspect she would be obedient to the bishops and align her will with theirs.

There would seem to be no problem with option 2. If all the dialogue with Rome degrades into an occasional he said/she said smackdown, then what’s the point?

And doctrine? Where does doctrine figure in this? This is a political and administrative tussle.

Posted in bishops, women religious | Tagged | 4 Comments

Pell-Mell on Abuse

Cardinal_George_PellCardinal Pell is taking much heat for his comments on administrative accountability on sex abusers. Via Josephine KcKenna at RNS:

Using a hypothetical example, Pell said the church was no more responsible for cases of child abuse carried out by church figures than a trucking company would be if it employed a driver who molested women.

“It would not be appropriate, because it’s contrary to the policy, for the ownership, leadership of that company to be held responsible,” Pell told the inquiry. “Similarly with the church and the head of any other organization.

“It is, I think, not appropriate for legal culpability to be foisted on the authority figure.”

The analogy does not quite hold true. More accurate would be that if the trucking owners found that when one if its drivers attacked women on one route, they would simply extract a promise from him not to do it again, then transfer him to a different route to prey on new victims.

So … Cardinal Pell does not understand the scandal facing the bishops and their institution, it would seem. Does that make him unfit in his roles as a churchman? Unfit to be a bishop, I would say yes. He’s not quite on target as far as a good sense of culpability and sin. Is there a problem with his moral judgment? That’s a more difficult question, but we have to admit the question is actually in play.

We can say Cardinal Pell’s judgment on sex abuse and cover-up is impaired. Might that mean his judgment with regard to finances and administration is damaged? Outside of the hierarchy, I’d say there are significant numbers of people who might say yes.


Posted in bishops, sex abuse | Tagged , | 5 Comments

DPPL 31: Medieval Developments

STA altar at night smallIf DPPL 30 catalogued the liturgy-piety split, this section looks at some positive developments:

31. The Middle Ages saw the emergence and development of many spiritual movements and associations of different ecclesiastical and juridical form. Their life and activities had notable consequences for the relationship between Liturgy and popular piety.

+1 for the Dominicans and especially the Franciscans, it would seem:

The new religious orders of evangelical and apostolic life, devoted their efforts to preaching and adopted simpler liturgical forms in comparison to those found in the monasteries. These liturgical forms were often close to the people and to their expressive forms. On the other hand, they also developed and promoted pious exercises that encapsulated their charism, and diffused them among the people.

Lay people continued to live discipleship, even if the liturgy was more and more shut off from them:

The emergence of the Confraternities, with their religious and charitable objectives, and of the lay corporations with their professional interests, gave rise to a certain popular liturgical activity. These often erected chapels for their religious needs, chose Patrons and celebrated their feast days. Not infrequently, they compiled the officia parva and other prayers for the use of their members. These frequently reflected the influence of the Liturgy as well as containing elements drawn from popular piety.

The various schools of spirituality that had arisen during the middle ages became an important reference point for ecclesial life. They inspired existential attitudes and a multiplicity of ways of interpreting life in Christ and in the Holy Spirit. Such interpretations exercised considerable influence on the choice of celebration (e.g. episodes from the Passion of Christ) and were the basis of many pious exercises.

Passion plays feature in our memory of medieval dramas.

Civil society, constituted ideally as a societas Christiana, modeled many of its structures on ecclesiastical usage and measured itself according to the rhythms of liturgical life. An example of this is to be found in the ringing of bells in the evening which called the peasants from the fields and simultaneously signaled the Angelus.

Intentionality or happy accident?

The full document, the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, is online at the Vatican site.

Posted in Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, post-conciliar liturgy documents | 1 Comment

Creed at Liturgy

One memory of forty-four years ago, my baptismal day, was some concern about reciting the Creed. I had been going to Mass for a number of months, so the Nicene Creed was okay in my head. But there was enough to trip me up in the Apostle’s Creed. (I actually heard a priest this summer start reciting the Apostle’s Creed, then trailing off when the Mass went in two different directions on it. Before MR3, people might have gone with it.)

Anyway, I got into the baptistery and behind Father McCarthy, in stained glass, what did I see? “I believe in God the Father …” The whole thing. I kept my eyes focused on the water in the font. I figured I was doing better to take the Catholic thing seriously. I recited the Apostle’s Creed, no problem.

Speaking of MR3, it is approved to use the Apostle’s Creed now. How many parishes are doing it? Anybody have any tale to tell?

Posted in Liturgy | 5 Comments

Reconciliation Lectionary: Mark 2:1-12

mary-the-penitent.jpgThe appendix of the Rite of Penance offers a handful of themes to those prepare a liturgy. That preparation might involve a communal service at the Church. But it might well lead to a home celebration. In that instance, the penitent, usually seriously ill, will receive the Church’s ministry at bedside or elsewhere in the house.

Mark’s account of a group of friends lowering a paralytic man through the roof to get to Jesus. The homeowner might not have been pleased, but the Bible glosses over such a concern. The effort is made on behalf of the one brought for healing. The man is made to walk, but Jesus ties up sin and infirmity into a confusing knot for some observers. He has a ready answer. Let’s remind ourselves of the story:

When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days,
it became known that he was at home.
Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them,
not even around the door,
and he preached the word to them.
They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.
Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd,
they opened up the roof above him.
After they had broken through,
they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying.

Unconventional, but so far, typical of the faith many people showed in Jesus. Just touch me, say the word, do the smallest thing–it will have effect. From the viewpoint of believers, we have no problem with this scene. The picturing of bits of dried mud or thatch or even drywall and wood raining down on Jesus and his listeners might even bring a smile to mind.

In Mark’s Gospel, a first conflict with the traditionally religious is introduced:

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him,
“Child, your sins are forgiven.”
Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves,
“Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming.
Who but God alone can forgive sins?”
Jesus immediately knew in his mind
what they were thinking to themselves,
so he said,
“Why are you thinking such things in your hearts?
Which is easier, to say to the paralytic,
‘Your sins are forgiven,’
or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’?
But that you may know
that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth”

… which is the point this passage is included in the Reconciliation Lectionary. In hindsight, we know and accept that Jesus does have the authority to forgive sins. It is part of a long-standing sacramental tradition.

The healing commences:

—he said to the paralytic,
“I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.”
He rose, picked up his mat at once,
and went away in the sight of everyone.
They were all astounded
and glorified God, saying,
“We have never seen anything like this.”

This passage might be used for its vital imagery. It connects the notion of infirmity with forgiveness of sin. This, too, is part of the Church’s ministry to the sick. We anoint the sick, and we believe this sacrament too has powers to restore the interior person as well as the physical attributes.

I love this story. Great visual images. Much to chew on and to envision in one’s mind. A good passage for a communal celebration of Penance, as well as a visit to the home of a sick person.

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Man as Buffoon

Lou_Costello_Africa_ScreamsI think Pewsitter linked to Msgr Charles Pope’s blog where the lament of the descent of man was in full flower last week. The opener:

I’ve raised concerns in the past about the “men are stupid” variety of commercials that proliferate in our culture. The usual approach is to sell a product by showing some total buffoon of a man trying to use a product about which he doesn’t have a clue. And then some wise woman sets him straight—or even worse, the kids come to his rescue. The whole scenario goes something like this: “Gee, Honey, I’m just a stupid man. How does this product work?” And the wise wife responds, “Oh, Dear, that’s not how it’s done. Here, let me show you.”

A few things. If such depictions didn’t have traction, advertising experts wouldn’t be profligate in using them. In order to sell a theme, it has to sell, so to speak.

I suspect that this theme does sell for a number of reasons.

First, it’s often true. Think about the numerous politicians–the very definition of powerful and smart and competent guys who were tripped up by their own indulgences. Bill Clinton. Richard Nixon. Mark Sanford. Mr Nixon, in particular, who was wildly popular at the polls and positioned himself to go to China and the USSR, and his eventual opponent in the 1972 race gained, what, single-digit electoral votes? And he had to bungle a burglary.

Think about athletes who have frittered away their talent and strength on stupid things. Tiger Woods. Barry Bonds. Lance Armstrong. They travel that surprisingly short road from hero to butt (of jokes).

And celebrities–let’s not even go there. Robin Thicke simulates a sex act on stage with a former teen star. Her career launches. His tribute album to his ex-wife sells 530 copies in the U.K..

It will also sell as long as it’s comedy. When tv takes itself somewhat seriously, it still has strong male characters. And when it doesn’t, I can always look over the shoulder of the young miss to see female buffoons on kid, teen, and other comedies. There are at least as many stereotypes about girls and women in the media, and they get the laughs–and the product sales–too.

Next, it’s been going on for a very long time. Smart women giving men their comeuppance is as old as the movies–and I’ve watched a lot of 30’s and 40’s comedies with my wife to think of a number of clumsy men set straight by competent women. Before that, Chaplin, the Three Stooges, The Keystone Cops.

I suspect that for many men, it rankles for our sex to be portrayed as incompetent. I think we can watch comedy with others and laugh with it. Or we can excuse ourselves to work out in the garage or den. I don’t think it’s an anti-Christian plot to topple patriarchy. But it might give a few people pause as to what they laugh at, considering that laughing with others can be difficult at times.

Posted in Commentary, humor | 1 Comment

DPPL 30: Medieval Separation of Liturgy from Vernacular Piety

STA altar at night smallThe Church lists some reasons for the 7th-to-15th century split in Christian religious practice:

30. The following may be counted among the reasons for the development of this dualism:
• the idea that the Liturgy was the competence of clerics since the laity were no more than spectators at the Liturgy;

The implied criticism of the spectator liturgy: a very post-conciliar comment.

• the marked distinction of roles in Christian society – clerics, monks, and laity – gave rise to different styles and forms of prayer;

It’s not only a matter of a carefully imposed caste system. Religious life was quite often a way to escape the worst aspects of secular society. The monastic cloister was the location where liturgy was a daily part of the communal life. Lay people in the world largely did not have the opportunity for daily liturgy.

• in Liturgy and iconography, the distinct and particular consideration given to the various aspects of the one mystery of Christ, while expressing a devotion for the life and work of our Lord, failed to facilitate an explicit realization of the centrality of the Paschal mystery and encouraged a multiplicity of particular times and forms of celebration of a distinctively popular tenor;

On the other hand, Good Friday continued to hold a great fascination, if not devotion, for European Christians.

• lack of a sufficient knowledge of the Scriptures on the part, not only of the laity, but of many clerics and religious, made access to an understanding of the structure and symbolic language of the Liturgy difficult;

Still true today. But it is getting better.

• the diffusion of apocryphal literature containing many stories of miracles and episodic anecdotes, on the other hand, had a significant influence on iconography which, touching the imagination of the faithful, naturally attracted their attention;

Absolutely true today. The Fatima secrets, films about Jesus, Christian fiction: all these fill in the gaps and tell us what we would like to know about people and events that fascinate us.

• the practical absence of any form of homiletic preaching, the disappearance of mystagogical preaching, and poor catechetical formation, rendered the celebration of the Liturgy closed to the understanding and active participation of the faithful who turned to alternative cultic times and forms;

The DPPL dates to 2001, and it’s good to know that active participation was still a key value even then.

• a tendency to allegory, excessively encroaching on the meaning of the liturgical texts and rites, often deviated the faithful from an understanding of the true nature of the Liturgy;

When formation is lacking in anything, people will fill in the blanks.

• the discovery of expressive, popular forms and structures unconsciously redrafted the Liturgy which, from many perspectives, had become increasingly incomprehensible and distant from the people.

Any other comments on any of these?

The full document, the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, is online at the Vatican site.

Posted in Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, post-conciliar liturgy documents | 1 Comment