Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Thomas Doyle traces the disintegration of clerical/hierarchical culture Tom Roberts, Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church

Thomas Doyle is seen in an August 2018 photo. (AP Photo/PA Wire/Niall Carson)

I have thought recently that one way to understand the revived interest in the priest sexual abuse scandal, post-Theodore McCarrick and the Pennsylvania grand jury report of little more than a year ago, is in the context of the Kübler-Ross stages of grief. You know: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.
I think certain of us in the Catholic community have gone through several of those cycles, depending on when we were introduced to the crisis, how deeply we were involved in it, and whether it involved anyone we knew either as victim or perpetrator. No doubt the cycles will go on.
But in one peculiar and important sense, regarding the hierarchical culture at the heart of the scandal, perhaps we can now say with some certainty that significant portions of the community have arrived at acceptance of the death of the clerical/hierarchical culture.
That may appear a grand statement, but I think it safe to say that the culture is finished as we've known it. It no longer enjoys automatic deference as it once did from the wider culture; it has lost most of its credibility and influence in that wider culture; it has lost much of its credibility among Catholics; and, in Francis, it encounters a pope whose blistering criticism of the culture leaves no doubt that the old form is on its way out.
Watching the disintegration of a culture, however, is not understanding what caused it to crumble, how to rebuild it, or what will replace it. I'd like to end the year considering two important voices from inside the culture who have distinct insights into what went wrong and what will be necessary in the future.
The first up is Thomas Doyle, a canon lawyer, inactive priest and former member of the Dominican order. Regular readers of NCR are familiar with him; he was that extremely rare cleric who, from the very beginning, took a different approach from most in the clerical culture. Once deep inside the culture, in recent decades he has been largely on the outside, an unflagging advocate for victims of abuse and an itinerant expert for lawyers throughout the United States and in many other corners of the globe bringing cases against the church.
He recently gave a talk at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. It was a significant event, for despite the wealth of insight he brings to the subject, he is rarely invited to Catholic campuses to share his views.
The title of the talk, "The Phenomenon of Systemic Sexual Violation by Catholic Clerics and Religious: The Reality of a Church Transformed" engages the history, ancient and recent, and the deep institutional contradictions that formed the seedbed for the current crisis. The entire talk is available here.
Such abuse is not new in the church, writes Doyle. "The oldest prohibition against sex between adult men and young boys is found in the Didache which dates from the end of the first century." Between then and Pope Francis' 2019 document Vos Estis Lux Mundi, which deals with accused bishops, "are several hundred official documents on the matter issued by popes or gatherings of bishops."
The current manifestation "is evidence of a profound contradiction that reaches to the foundational core of the institutional church," he said.
Doyle's bona fides stem from his personal experience of the crisis, which dates to the early 1980s when he began to see t
he first reports of the scandal, particularly the Gilbert Gauthe case in Louisiana, while working in the nuncio's office in Washington, D.C.
After decades of reading through endless details in depositions, chancery correspondence and other documents, and speaking with victims and their families, he has come to some big-picture conclusions. And the first is that fundamental contradiction:
The Church, described as the Mystical Body of Christ, the People of God, the source of our earthly happiness and our hope for eternal life, has given its people one of history's most stringent and restrictive codes of sexual conduct and taught them that even slight violations can result in eternal damnation.
At the same time, those who have taught and enforced this path to God's favor have committed and systemically enabled the commission of acts against the most vulnerable in our midst that are deemed by most, if not all, societies as the most horrific and disgusting that can be perpetrated on another human being. ... It is a profound spiritual damage that can only be described as the murder of the soul.
There's no longer any denying, given exhaustive studies and investigations during the past three decades, that "the common element of causality" in the abuse crisis, he writes, "has been the role of the bishops and the inadequacy of the response."
In that regard, he begins at the top to "not only include but highlight" Pope John Paul II's failed efforts "to deny, minimize, and shift the blame."
Doyle lists five points illustrating "a harsh reality" revealed by the scandal and attempted cover-up:
Sexual violation and other forms of corruption are entrenched in clerical culture, which protects the clerics rather than the victims.
The hierarchy's obsession "with protecting its image, stature and power at the expense of the victims has had the opposite effect and has in fact, produced an erosion of respect and trust."
"This reality has revealed a much different 'church' than that of Lumen Gentium, the Catechism, or the Code of CanonLaw."
The history of abuse, denial and cover-up has been "embedded in the clerical culture that not only protected but enabled it, and this culture is no longer capable of hiding, controlling, minimizing or eradicating it. Nor is it capable of continuing to sustain the myth of clerical superiority based on magical thinking about the nature of sacred orders."
"This complex phenomenon is far more than the physical violation of minors by clerics and the fumbling response of church leadership."
Doyle's talk rings with an authenticity earned through his own painful experience in dealing with the church and with countless victims over the decades. There is probably a reason he's not a regular on the college circuit or asked to advise the hierarchy. His conclusions - which actually lead to a glimmer of hope in the future - are unvarnished.
The horrific history of sexual violation and the systemic, destructive response, now out in the open, has acknowledged what the hierarchy does not want to face: The People of God and the Hierarchical Governmental structure are not one and the same and the hierarchical structure we have lived with can hardly be blamed on Christ as its author.
I recommend sitting with this talk. Few on the planet bring Doyle's level of experience, understanding and bare truth to the matter. His words carry both the diagnosis and prognosis that can lead to the acceptance necessary for moving on.

Tom Roberts is NCR executive editor. Tom was NCR editor from 2000-2008. He is the author of The Emerging Catholic Church: A Community's Search for Itself (2011) and Joan Chittister: Her Journey from Certainty to Faith (2015), both published by Orbis Books.

The Divine Feminine-: Coming Into Balance Panel with Mitsi Ito, Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP, Lara Fine, Ondie Vinson at Fogartyville Community Media and Arts Center, Sarasota, Florida Dec. 2, 2019

 First Tuesday of each month, November- March from 6:30pm-8:00 PM

     The Roman Catholic Church teaches that God is pure spirit, neither male nor female but uses mainly male images such as father, lord. King, master, warrior to describe “him.” Rarely, will you hear a feminine image of God mentioned in a liturgy or in the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.

     Since God is beyond all images and human language fails to describe the fullness of divine mystery, it is important to use expansive imagery to refer to the Divine.

     My focus in this presentation is introducing some of the beautiful feminine imagery for the Holy One in the Hebrew and Christian scripture and in the mystics.

     I wrote 3 books on feminine images for God to explore divine mystery in deeper ways to help women and men reach greater wholeness by seeing themselves as equal images of God and to challenge patriarchal domination. (Exploring the Feminine Face of God, Delighting in the Feminine Divine and Heart Talks with Mother God- co-authored with Regina Madonna Oliver.)

  This led me on the path to live my call as priest/bishop in the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. We are claiming our spiritual authority to lead the Church to healing, transformation and empowerment of women in a community of equals. (https://arcwp.org)

Feminine Imagery in Hebrew Scripture

Gn.1:26 Creating human life in her image
“Then God said, let us make humankind in our image. , according to our likeness.”

Dt. 32:18  God describes herself in the motherly approach;
“You were unmindful of the rock that bore you(Yladeka) and you forgot the God who writhed in labor pains with you. (meholeleka).”

Second Is. 42:14 God describes herself screaming out in labor pains
“I have said nothing holding myself in; But now I cry out as a woman in labor gasping and panting.”

Is 49:15 God describes herself as a mother with an infant at the breast
“Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even if she forget, I will never forget you.”

Ps. 22:9-10 God describes herself as a midwife
“Yet, you drew me out of the womb, you entrusted me to my mother’s breast, placed me on your lap from my birth, from my mother’s womb you have been my God. “

In the Hebrew, Greek and Latin languages, Wisdom is of feminine grammatical gender, hokmah in Hebrew, sapientia in Latin and Sophia in Greek.
Wisdom is the feminine aspect of the one God and is personified as a woman in the Bible.
The Bible describes wisdom as female portraying her as mother, sister, female lover, hostess and preacher and in a variety of other roles.

Proverbs 8:17, 20-21 Sophia is a woman of justice
“I love those who love me…I walk in the way of virtue,  in the paths of justice, enriching those who love me, filling their treasures.”
Proverbs 8:18
“With me are riches and honor, lasting wealth and justice.”

Proverbs 8:4-11 Sophia is an angry preacher

She delivers her message at the city gates: ‘You ignorant people, how much longer will you cling to your ignorance? How much longer will mockers revel in their mocking and fools hold knowledge contemptible? Pay attention to my warning: now I will pour out my heart to you and tell you what I have to say.”

Feminine Imagery in Christian Scripture:

In John’s Gospel Jesus identifies himself with Sophia, Holy Wisdom.
Jesus, like Sophia, desires that all people come and eat and drink from him.

Jn. 6:35“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
Sophia, the welcoming hostess invites all to her banquet.

Proverbs 9:5 “Come eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed.”

Matthew 23:37 Jesus refers to himself as “mother hen.” 
 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem…how many times have I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling.”

God is described in maternal and feminine imagery in the mystics and saints in the Christian tradition

Fathers of the Church: Clement of Alexandria and John Chrysostom picture Christ as a mother nursing her child at her breast in the Eucharist.
“I am your nurse giving Myself for bread. (Clement)
“Let us as infants at the breast draw out the grace of the spirit. Let it be our sorrow not to partake of this food.” (John Chrysostom)

Twelfth Century Doctor of the Church: St. Hildegard of Bingen describes God birthing creation and holding all creation in perfect balance and harmony. She uses feminine imagery to refer to the Spirit, the work of the Trinity and to describe wisdom.

In Hildegard’s first vision of the feminine divine she describes a radiant woman adored by angels. “For she is with all and in all, and of beauty so great in her mystery that none could comprehend how sweetly she bears with us, and how she spares us with inscrutable mercy.”
“But why does the whole creation call this maiden ‘Lady?’ Because it was made from her that all creation proceeded, since love was the first. She made everything. Love created humankind. ..”(Scivias, Know the Ways)

Mechtild of Magdeburg (1210-1280) God’s Maternal Breast

“God is not only fatherly, God is also mother
Who lifts her blessed child from the ground to her knee.
The Trinity is like a mother’s cloak
Wherein the child finds a home
And lays its head on the maternal breast. “ (The Flowing Light of the Godhead, translated by Lucy Menzies)

Fourteenth century English mystic Julian of Norwich, in her Revelations of Divine Love, develops a rich innovative theology of the motherhood of God.  For Julian there is no human relationship capable of portraying the love of God better than motherly love.

“As truly is God our Father, so truly  is God our mother.”
I am… the power and goodness of fatherhood. I am…the wisdom and lovingness of motherhood.” (Showings, 293-299)

Contemporary Author: 
Bridget Mary Meehan, Exploring the Feminine Face of God, p. 79.

Who Are You, God?

I am the womb of mystery
I am the birther of new life
I am the breast of unending delight
I am the passionate embrace of woman
I am the emanation of feminine beauty
I am the mother of creation
I am the cosmic dance of Sophia Wisdom

I am the feminine face of God you have longed to kiss.

"Persecution of late Fr Seán Fagan showed breathtaking disrespect" by Angela Hanley, Irish Times, A Debt of Thanks to a Courageous Priest


Fr. Sean Fagan, Irish theologian and beloved priest who died in 2016.

"His transgression? In a letter to the editor of this paper, he tangentially touched upon the matter of women’s ordination as one of several solutions to the shortage of priests....It speaks to the greater issue of systemic institutional abuse. In the necessary focus on clerical sexual abuse of children and minors, the broader issue of how the church has enfolded abusive attitudes and behaviour into its whole being and modus operandi is ignored."

This excellent article by Angela Hanley names the rot at the heart of a patriarchal system of abuse that has gone on for centuries.  

 The excommunication of women priests is an example of the harsh punishment meant to intimidate  women priests and our  inclusive faith communities. The Vatican, under Popes John Paul and Benedict, did everything possible to punish our supporters. It did not work. We continue to flourish. 

Pope Francis, who advocates human rights around the world, should support human rights and the primacy of conscience in the Church. He could lift all excommunications against women priests. Likewise, he should rescind all penalties incurred by theologians and priests who have dissented on this man-made law that discriminates against women.  

As equals in the community of the baptized, we are called to live Jesus' mandate of love and  mutual respect. Catholics have a right to dissent from official Church teaching when it violates their  consciences. We need more theologians like Fr. Sean Fagan,  not only to teach primacy of conscience, but also to live it -no matter what the cost.  Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP, https://arcwp.org

Monday, December 2, 2019

Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community At Sun City Center, Florida “Come to the Stable in Your Heart” Dec 5 2019

All: In the name of God creator of joy and happiness, and of Jesus our beloved Brother born in a stable, and of Sofia Holy Spirit re-newer of all life. Amen. 

Opening Prayer. 
All: You came among us, Jesus, to heal the broken hearted and to show us the way to God, our Mother and Father.  Help us to extend your compassion to our world. May you bless us with your generative love, for you are God-with-us, now and forever. Amen. 

See Sheet for Readings
First reading: 
Psalm response:
Second reading 
Gospel reading 
Shared Homily: Where have I found Jesus during 2019? “Who am I as I visit the stable this year? “What gift do I bring to Jesus? 

Profession of Faith. All: We believe in God who is creator and nurturer of all. We believe in Jesus Christ our brother and Beloved Son of God who is our faith, hope, love, and our light. Born in a stable, Jesus now resides in our souls.  We believe in the Holy Spirit, the breath of Wisdom Sophia who energizes and guides us to rebuild caring communities and to challenge injustices.  We believe in the partnership and equality of women and men in our church and world. We believe that all are ONE in the Community of creation. We believe that God calls us to live fully, love tenderly, and serve generously. Amen.

Presider: Always mindful of God’s love and care for us, we bring the needs of God’s people to our loving Creator and Sustainer.
Response: Jesus, God with us, hear our prayer.   
Presider: That the 2020 Federal and State budgets will provide for the Common Good of all Americans and a healthy environment for all, we pray. Response.
Presider: That we will dedicate ourselves to working for a sustainable planet and economy for all, we pray.Response
Presider: For what else should we pray…
Presider: We know you hear our prayers; those we speak and those we keep in our hearts. Fill our community with your Love as we come to the stable during this Christmas season. All: Amen

Presider:  Blessed are you, O God, Lover of all.  This bread is your MMOJ community coming to your birth place in our hearts bringing our faith, hope and love as a gift for you.  Through your divine providence, we have this bread to offer, it will become for us the Bread of life.   ALL:  Praise to God, Emmanuel forever.
Presider:  Blessed are you, O God, Creator of all.  This wine is our desire to live following your Way of reconciliation, healing and peace.  Through your divine providence, we have this wine to offer, it will become our spiritual drink.  ALL:  Praise to God, Emmanuel forever.
All: Blessed are you, God of all life, through your goodness we have this bread and wine and our own lives to offer as our gifts to you at the stable. Through this sacred meal and the gifts of faith, hope and love may we become your Presence for all. Amen. 

Eucharistic Prayer. 
All Sing: We are holy holy holy (x3) We are whole; You are holy holy holy (x3) You are whole; I am holy (x3) I am whole; We are holy holy holy (x3) We are whole.

All: Come Holy Spirit and settle on this bread and wine. Fill them with the holiness and wholeness of our living Brother our Cosmic Christ born in a stable and living in the center of our souls today.

Remembering Jesus.   (hand extended in blessing): 
All: On the night before he died, while at supper with his friends, Jesus took bread, broke it, and shared it with those present, saying, “Take this, all of you, and eat. This is my body which will be broken for you.”(Pause)

Then Jesus took a cup of wine and shared it with those present, saying, “Take this all of you and drink. This is the cup of my life-blood. Do this in memory of me.”

All (2nd Invocation of Spirit, with hand on each other’s shoulder): Come Holy Spirit to rest on us. Refreshed from our worship together and joined with Jesus’ parents Joseph and Mary, angels, shepherds, and the wise ones; may we extend your Love and peace to all we meet. Amen 

Prayer of Jesus “Our Father and Mother”
Song of Peace Love is flowing like a river, flowing out of you and me, flowing out into the desert, setting all the people free. Hope is flowing…Alleluia

Litany for Breaking of Bread. 
Loving God, you call us to know Jesus dwelling within us.  We will do so! 
Loving God, you call us to live the Gospel of equality, peace and justice for others and earth. We will do so! 
Loving God, you call us to be your Presence in the world. We will do so!
Presider: This is Jesus born in a humble stable who liberates, heals and transforms us and our world. All are invited to partake of this banquet of love and to live as the Heart and Hands of Christ in our time. All: We are the Body of Christ.

Prayer of Thanksgiving (Didache, 100CE)
Men 1: For the thanksgiving, give thanks this way: First, for the cup: We thank you, Abba God, for the sacred vine of David your son, whose meaning you made clear to us through our brother Jesus, yours ever be the splendor. 

Women 2: And for the bread fragment: We thank you, Amma God, for the life and wisdom whose meaning you made clear to us through Jesus Christ, yours ever be the splendor. 

All 3: As this fragment was scattered high on hills, but by gathering was united into one, so let your people from earth’s ends be united into your single reign, for yours are splendor and might through Jesus Christ down the ages.

Prayers of Gratitude from community.

Final Blessing. 
All (hand extended over community):
            May Gods Light encircle you
            May Gods Love enfold you
            May Gods Peace encourage you
            May God’s Hope fill your heart                                 and soul.
            May Gods Presence enrich you
            As we celebrate the birth of Jesus in the stable and in our hearts each day. Amen 

Presider: Let us go in the peace, joy, and hope of our newly born Prince of Peace, let our service for others continue through all of 2020!  All: Thanks be to God.

MMOJ January liturgy will be on the second Thursday January 9.

Thanks to and adapted from a liturgy by Michael and Imogene Rigdon of MMOJ-Sarasota
Readings for Dec 5, 2019  
“Come to the Stable of Your Heart”
The First Reading from “The Reed of God” by Caryll Houselander
Working, eating, sleeping, Mary was forming Jesus’ body from hers.  From her humanity she gave Jesus his humanity…Washing, weaving, kneading, sweeping, her hands prepared his hands for the nails.  Every beat of her heart gave Jesus his heart to love with, his heart to be broken by Love.  All her experience of the world about her was gathered to Christ growing in her. 
Looking upon the flowers, Mary gave Jesus human sight.  Talking with her neighbors, she gave Jesus a human voice—the voice we still hear in the silence of souls saying; “Consider the lilies of the field.” Sleeping in her still room, Mary gave Jesus the sleep of the child in the cradle, the sleep of the young man rocked in the storm-tossed boat.  Breaking and eating the bread, drinking the wine of the country, she gave Jesus his flesh and blood; she prepared the host for the Mass. 
This time of Advent is absolutely essential to our contemplation, too.  If we have truly given our humanity to be changed into Christ, it is essential to us that we do not disturb this time of growth.  Advent is a time of darkness, of faith.  We shall not see Christ’s radiance in our lives yet; it is still hidden in our darkness. 
This is the inspired word of Caryll for our Advent.  All: Thanks be to God.

Psalm Response: From the Great O Antiphons by Sr. Chris Schenk, OSJ. 
(Women recite a line; men recite a line.)
Women: Come o Wisdom, Sophia’s Child and Mary’s too Bring us back to you. 
Men: Come O Adonai, Child of Ancient Israel Set us free of fear, despair, and misogyny. 
Women: Come O of Flower of Jesse’s tree, uproot our hatreds. Wash us clean in just-reign waters Plant us deep in thee.
Men: Come O Key of David, Open heaven’s gate. Unlock, unblock, this captive Church too long enthralled with power. 
Women: Come O Radiant Dawn, dispel death’s dark shadow. Light the way of all who long. To preach, to teach, to consecrate Heavenly Hosts of God’s indwelling. 
All: Come O Emmanuel, God’s gladsome “with us” news, Strengthen weary arms, steady trembling knees. Bring surcease of sorrow. 

Second Reading from Pope Francis “Speaks to Our Hearts Words of Challenge and Hope”
“We are His Dwelling Place” pg. 26

Jesus lived the daily reality of the most ordinary people; he was moved as he faced the crowd that seemed like a flock without a shepherd; Jesus wept before the sorrow that Martha and Mary felt at the death of their brother, Lazarus; Jesus called a publican to be his disciple; he also suffered betrayal by a friend.  

In Jesus God has given us the certitude the God is with us; God is among us. “Foxes,” Jesus said, “have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has no where to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20).  Jesus has no house, because his house is the people; it is we who are his dwelling place; his mission is to open God’s doors to all, to be the Presence of God’s love.   (KZ emphasis) 
The inspired words of Pope Francis All: Thanks be to God.

The Gospel according to Matthew 2: 9-11
After their audience with Herod, the astrologers set out.  The star which they had observed at its rising went ahead of them until it came to a standstill over the place where the child lay. They were overjoyed at seeing the star and, upon entering the house, found the child with Mary his mother.  They prostrated themselves and paid homage.  Then the astrologers opened their coffers and presented the child with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  The Good News of Jesus our Brother. All: Thanks be to God. 

 Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2020 
to you, 
your families and friends!