Friday, September 26, 2003

Liberal Prophets of Gloom

While various bloggers at St. Blog's have been addressing the issue of Prophets of Gloom, primarily those who consider themselves to be orthodox, who scream about bishops and the Vatican, I must say that being a prophet of gloom isn't limited to that one particular side of the church. Last night, I challenged myself to go and give an ear to Fr. Michael Crosby, OFM Cap. I know, I know - what was I thinking? Well, I confess I did walk in with certain expectations, but I sincerely wanted to hear his words with my own ears so that I could draw some of my own conclusions about this man. My simple conclusion today is that I would Michael Crosby is a prophet of gloom just as those who would consider themselves orthodox.

A Kairos Moment?

The theme of the talk was A Kairos Moment for the Catholic Church. Crosby started by saying that we need to reclaim the Church for Jesus Christ. He began his arguments by equating the religious environment within the Roman Catholic Church today with the Jewish environment at the time in which Jesus lived and died. In the same way that Christ challenged the oppressive, religious power structures of Judaism in his day by giving them a kairos moment, or a moment of choice, Crosby argued that Christ does the same today to the Roman Catholic Church in the aftermath of this sexual abuse crisis. While he made many points, most of which I took issue with, I only want to expound on a couple that I found to be particularly egregious.

Abusive, violent oppressor?

The point he kept pounding home was that the institutional church, by demanding that there be no discussion about women priests or, at this point, clerical celibacy, is an abusive oppressor, a purveyor of violence against women and society. Further, he claimed the arguments used by the Vatican against the ordination of women are not scripturally sound nor in communion with a trinitarian theology. For him, the teaching of the Church, that she does not have the power or authority to ordain women, is gravely sinful and not worthy of belief. Very often, Crosby would talk of fear and intimidation in speaking one's mind. Truly, he said, he speaks today with the same fear and intimidation from the Church hierarchy.

The Gnostic Christ?

He then went into his scriptural argument for women priests by attacking the scriptural argument often used against them. He stated that the common scriptural argument given - that Christ only chose male apostles - was not sound because the culture discounted women. He argued that it was illogical to regard Jesus' choice within the culture at that time as His intention for the future successors to the apostles because the argument was applying the Christ of history to the Christ of faith. Furthermore, he concluded, in persona Christi has to refer to the Christ of faith, because Christ rose from His maleness.

Hmm. I am not a scripture scholar, but relying on what I have read and know about this teaching, what he is saying reveals some flaws. While the culture did not regard women well, Crosby's whole premise is that Christ came to challenge the established, religious environment. Would not Christ's challenge have been consistent with regard to those whom He chose as apostles if He had intended for women to have this particular role within the Church? Furthermore, I dispute his delineation between the historical Jesus and the Jesus of faith. To assert that the real Jesus is some sort of sexless being that is no longer human is troubling. Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, is male. To extract a vague concept or principle that is called Jesus who was not the same Jesus who was born, lived, established His Church, appointed Apostles, died, and then rose from the dead is a Gnostic idea. It's to extract the divine Jesus from the human Jesus. You simply cannot do that.

Crosby confirmed this also when he reassured everyone that he believes that the Roman Catholic Church is the true faith in its mystical expression but not in its institutional expression. Same problem as above. He's extracting the divine Church from the human Church, which is the same thing as asserting that the divine Jesus, or the Jesus of faith, is not the same as the human Jesus. In reality, Jesus is both divine and human, and the Church is both divine and human. The Church is made up of human beings who are also sinners.

No role for women?

Crosby finally said that when we hold clericalism above Jesus Christ, we have idolatry. This is true, but I dispute his assertion that clericalism is the substance of ecclesiology today. His conclusion was that the institutional church is nothing but a sinful, patriarchal, oppressively political machine, and it has always been so ever since the early church merged with the imperial culture. It was then from the imperial cultural that it got its notions of power, sexual roles, and religious control of behavior. He warned that the Church will once again begin teaching that women are unclean and shouldn't be near the altar, and he used the recent draft from the Vatican concerning the use of altar girls as evidence.

Widespread Fundamentalism in the Curia?

He spoke quite a bit about how the institutional Church was fundamentalist with regard to its understanding of papal infallibility, even though he said he believed in papal infallibility - points which I will not address here due to length. You may email me if you wish to hear or discuss this further. But I have to say that much of what he used as evidence from the Scriptures and even from Tradition, when he did refer to Tradition, was taken out of context and sounded much like the fundamentalism he was attacking.

Breath of Fresh Air?

Toward the end, an older woman leaned over to me and ask, Wow. Isn't this a breath of fresh air? I honestly didn't know how to respond to that. If you walked out of that meeting believing everything that Crosby said, you had to have felt extreme despair, distrust, and lonliness. In other words, gloom. Furthermore, I counted maybe three young adults, including myself, which contradicted some of the assumptions many people make about the youth wanting to embrace people like Crosby. Some of you might believe that I would've found problems in whatever he said anyway. Perhaps, but I have to say that in reflecting on what he actually said further, I cannot understand how anyone could walk out of there, having believed every word he said, and not have been willing to listen and study for themselves what the Church actually taught with regard to many of these difficult issues. I am personally thankful that I have had some good teachers in my life who have helped me study Scripture and Tradition and have helped me better understand difficult issues such as this as they relate to both sources.

Concerning the reservation of priestly ordination to men, here are some educational references:

Ordinatio Sacerdotalis - Apostolic Letter of Pope John Paul II
Ten Questions About the Reservation of Priestly Ordination to Men - the USCCB Committee on Doctrine

These are longer, but well worth the time:

Inter Insigniores: Declaration on the Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood - Pope Paul VI and CDF
Mulieris Dignitatem: Apostolic Letter on the the Dignity and Vocation of Women - by Pope John Paul II

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Dump the bishops?

Well, Michael Inman was kind enough to respond to my post concerning bloggers who do nothing but complain about and blame bishops. A bit of an embittered response, which seems angry at the fact that I would even suggest that our bishops are an important constinuent of the church, human though they be:
Of course, Alan, we all need to be exhorted to "turn our eyes to the Savior who has redeemed us from whom we receive the Catholic faith", but it's hard to see when your priest is waving a rainbow banner in your face.
So am I to interpret this as you saying that your myopia is so strong that you are not completely capable of turning your eyes toward Christ, and therefore simply berating the hierarchy and acting like you don't need them is the only option left? Isn't that the same thing as not seeing the forest for the trees? Is not grace at work? This is precisely what I am exhorting you not to do. This doesn't help the Church at all. It destroys faith and disintegrates hope. It is a massive sign of despair. It certainly doesn't mean you should pretend problems don't exist, but it does mean you should be loyal to Christ and His Church and trust that He knows what is best for the Church. It doesn't mean you can't raise honest and sincere criticism, but there is a wide difference between doing that in all humility and merely bitching and moaning about how horrible things are and leaving it at that. If your parish is filled with abuse, find a parish where you can be edified. And then pray for the Church. Also ask yourself how God is helping you embrace holiness through all of these trying experiences.

Michael then goes on to say:
And don't place the bishops on the same level as the pope. To imply that the bishops enjoy the charism of infallibity on matters of faith and morals displays either a staggering naivety or just another average Catholic who doesn't know jack about what his Church teaches.
I will look passed the insult for now. What I see here is a small distortion of my statement, coupled with a possibly flawed understanding of ecclesiology. Actually, I never did put bishops at the same level of the pope as though the pope were absolutely no different than they. Nor did I even ever suggest that a bishop enjoys the charism of infallibility apart from the pope.

Rather, I was merely pointing out that, properly understood, the pope is not a super-bishop who expects the other bishops to report to him as branch managers of a company headquartered in Rome. In fact, the pope is a bishop who happens to enjoy a universal primacy and jurisdiction over the universal Church and possesses the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. Also in fact, the bishops do possess an infallibility by virtue of their unity with the Holy See, which they are to exercise for the local church entrusted to them. This makes them vicars of Christ for their local church. Let's see how the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains it, emphasis mine:
894 "The bishops, as vicars and legates of Christ, govern the particular Churches assigned to them by their counsels, exhortations, and example, but over and above that also by the authority and sacred power" which indeed they ought to exercise so as to edify, in the spirit of service which is that of their Master.

895 "The power which they exercise personally in the name of Christ, is proper, ordinary, and immediate, although its exercise is ultimately controlled by the supreme authority of the Church." But the bishops should not be thought of as vicars of the Pope. His ordinary and immediate authority over the whole Church does not annul, but on the contrary confirms and defends that of the bishops. Their authority must be exercised in communion with the whole Church under the guidance of the Pope.
Christ leads the Church, and Christ has given us our bishops. That doesn't mean we get saints, but we do get human beings. We need our bishops, and that, of course, includes the Holy Father. So weigh your doubts about your bishop against the certainty of Christ and pray for your bishop daily. Offer your prayers, good works, and sacrifices for him. Make him a part of your daily reception of communion.

On a personal level, is everything rosy here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles? :) Of course not, nor it is 100% rosy anywere as long as there are humans in charge. But I refuse to despair the way some have. Like it or not, this is my Church, and this is my local church. And this bishop is my ordinary. Has history ever shown there to be times without some element of turmoil? Not as long as humans have roamed the earth. The world is a muddy place, but that is why we have Christ. I have made an effort to know and work with both my regional bishop and my archbishop. And say what you wish, but I will not let the noxious weeds drag me down from living the Catholic faith in unity with my bishop, the Holy Father and the whole church universal.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Fr. Stan Fortuna

So last weekend was the big weekend at my parish with Fr. Stan Fortuna of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. Overall, my impressions were good. The theme of his conferences was True Freedom taken from a statement made by the Holy Father, True freedom is borne of holiness. He spoke to kids and adults of all ages about the importance of striving to live holy lives in the face of a culture of death - that this is the only way we can be truly free and affect change in our culture and in our society. He stressed frequent confession and communion as ways in which this could be embraced, and he exhorted us to be courageous and sincere when confronting moral evils that distract us from living a holy life, things such as pornography and material wealth for its own good.

His particular style of preaching is definitely more appealing to the youth, as he used a lot of rap terminology to communicate his message. You can hear him in mpeg format at his website. The Sunday evening mass that he celebrated drew a packed house, standing room only, that lasted close to 1 hour and 45 minutes! I could tell that Fr. Stan had a profound respect for Our Lord in the Eucharist.

However, I should say that there were things that I found difficult to follow. The conference I attended on Saturday evening began with Fr. Stan addressing the theme and some various anecdotes related to the importance of integrating the struggle for holiness into one's complete, daily life. This means being consistent and not choosing to do things that may pressure you to compromise your faith and respect for others in other areas of your life. He then jumped into the issue of abortion by composing and singing a song about an aborted child telling his mother from Heaven, "I forgive you." A good song, though perhaps a little heavy for some of the younger kids there, but there wasn't really any transition that explained to me how helping a mother embrace forgiveness after an abortion related to me embracing the struggle for holiness in my everyday life - but I think I got the gist of what he was saying, concerning how living out the call to holiness affects our culture positively and about how embracing the forgiveness Jesus offers us and grace He gives us in the sacraments is the first step to realizing the call to holiness.

He seemed like a great guy as well as an extremely talented musician, and he further reinforced my high opinion of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in the South Bronx. Having heard him as well as Fr. Benedict Groeschel speak, I can truly see how dynamic this religious order is. Always in service of the poor, they each manifest different talents which they use to effectively communicate the Gospel message to the world around them.

Fr. Stan at age 14

Fr. Stan today

More fun pictures, as well as music samples and schedules at Fr. Stan's production company website, Francesco Productions.


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