Friday, April 20, 2012

Shut up, shut up, shut up!!!!!

I don't like to comment on the public positions of the Roman Catholic Church in part because such positions by any religious institution lose any valuable nuance just in the proclamation. That said, it's more of a reason for religious institutions not to make such proclamations. That isn't going to happen soon, however. Institutions are run by human beings, and human beings love to tell other human being what they should do. The US Catholic Bishops, however, have gone 'round the bend, starting here:
The Church will survive the entrenched corruption and sheer incompetence of our Illinois state government, and even the calculated disdain of the President of the United States, his appointed bureaucrats in HHS, and of the current majority of the federal Senate. . . .

Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services, and health care.

In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, Barack Obama – with his radical, pro abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a similar path.
Bishop Daniel Jenky.

I want to respect the Catholic Church. I really do. But this is flat nuts. Worse, it's obscene. As ThinkProgress points out:

For the record, Hitler tried to systematically exterminate the members of faiths that he did not approve of. Obama, by contrast, wants all working women to have access to contraception, regardless of whether they work for a religious employer. The very suggestion that Obama or his actions even vaguely resemble those of the Third Reich is deeply offensive and calls into question whether Bishop Jenky possesses the most basic understanding of the history of Nazi Germany.
Bishop Jenky is not Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He's not even Karl Barth.

And let me just add that all education, social services, and health care are subject to government regulation in almost any country on the planet. Catholic hospitals are not, for example, required to perform abortions nor even to permit in-vitro fertilization, but they are required to apply the laws of the land equally to all who come to them for services. Does Bishop Jenky really think government regulation of employers is equivalent to eliminating competition?

But, of course, it doesn't stop there:

The Vatican orthodoxy watchdog announced Wednesday a full-scale overhaul of the largest umbrella group for nuns in the United States, accusing the group of taking positions that undermine Roman Catholic teaching on the priesthood and homosexuality while promoting "certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith."

An American archbishop was appointed to oversee reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which will include rewriting the group's statutes, reviewing all its plans and programs -- including approving speakers -- and ensuring the organization properly follows Catholic prayer and ritual.
I'm walking a fine line here, because I want to respect the internal controls of any religious hierarchy (especially since my own, the UCC, doesn't have any to speak of, and suffers for the lack of them; but that's another story). And you have to recognize this is a news story; things get misunderstood in the communication from source to publication. So I accept the reasoning here:

The report from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said the organization faced a "grave" doctrinal crisis, in which issues of "crucial importance" to the church, such as abortion and euthanasia, have been ignored. Vatican officials also castigated the group for making some public statements that "disagree with or challenge positions taken by the bishops," who are the church's authentic teachers of faith and morals."
But the nun's real offense is that they supporting the wrong political brand:
Church officials did not cite a specific example of those public statements, but said the reform would include a review of ties between the Leadership Conference and NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby. NETWORK played a key role in supporting the Obama administration's health care overhaul despite the bishops' objections that the bill would provide government funding for abortion. The Leadership Conference disagreed with the bishops' analysis of the law and also supported President Barack Obama's plan.
Then again, sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

The sisters’ leaders said they reaffirmed their opposition to abortion but also claimed the right to speak out on a “moral imperative” like health care, just as the bishops had.
The Bishop involved in this decision is determined to inject his entire church into matter strictly political, in ways that, in my humble opinion, violate IRS regulations* regarding what pastors and priests can say from the pulpit, or do in church:

The two bishops of the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle, in a letter to the faithful, say they will deploy parishes to collect signatures for Referendum 74, a measure for the November ballot designed to roll back same-sex marriage in Washington.

While asking that signatures not be collected on Easter Sunday, the bishops described the issue as “critically important” and said information on the signature drive is being sent to pastors throughout the Western Washington diocese.

The letter is signed by Archbishop J. Peter Sartain and Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo. Sartain testified against marriage equality at a Washington State Senate hearing earlier this year.
But the reaction of two priests under Bishop Sartain actually brings me to my point:

Reverend Michael Ryan of Seattle's St. James Cathedral noted on the church website that "after discussing the matter with the members of the cathedral's pastoral ministry team, I have decided that we will not participate in the collecting of signatures in our parish," he wrote. "Doing so would, I believe, prove hurtful and seriously divisive in our community. In saying this, I do realize that there are some who will be disappointed with this decision."

Ryan went on to express gratitude to Archbishop Sartain "for giving pastors discretion in this matter. He knows that we are in the best position to make this judgment."
There is a vast difference between the world as you imagine it to be in seminary, and as it actually is in parish ministry. People no longer in parish ministry, or who will never be in parish ministry, lose sight of that rapidly. Dorothy Day spoke of being among the poor, but never of being poor. She reminded all those who worked with her that their presence there was voluntary, that poverty was not a choice the poor they tried to help, had made. She insisted her helpers were visitors in the country of the poor, and that the poor therefor were to be respected. We too easily forget to do that with people not situated just as we are.

I know within my own UCC of "officials" (we don't have bishops, or anything remotely like them) coming to local churches to pronounce the position of the UCC on some public issue, virtually demanding the local pastors fall in line with Cleveland (UCC headquarters) in spite of the local concerns about that grand issue. Everything looks easier and neater and less complex from a distance; everything is tangled and snarled and intricately interlocked on the ground. I am as anti-death penalty as a person can be, and yet in my church there was a family who was waiting for the killer of their son to get off Death Row and into the execution chamber. When they found out the UCC agreed with me, they left the church. They didn't leave me, and they made that clear to others in the church, because they didn't know I agreed with the UCC. It wasn't, for me, a matter of my ministry. My ministry was to them first, to my ideals second. You may find this hypocritical, but if you do, I would bid you get out of your adolescence and join the adult world. I maintained a vital connection with them in their grief, rather than spurned them over the, to me, abstract ideal of abolishing the death penalty. They had a concern in that arena I did not share, and would only belittle by my insistence on placing the policy issue above the personal trauma.

To put it another way: the Roman Catholic church famously opposes abortion and contraception. Yet the control of the latter leads inevitably to the necessity of the former. Many abortions are performed on women with children, not on promiscuous teenagers. They are women who cannot afford contraception, because they don't have health insurance either, or the insurance won't cover it (yes, I'm glaring at the US Bishops when I note that). So they get pregnant, probably even within marriage (not that it really matters). Then what? A child they cannot afford, a pregnancy they cannot pay for, an adoption they don't want to go through? If they are poor enough, pregnancy means lost work and lost wages, too. All for the want of a prescription some in the middle class find no more costly than monthly trips to Starbucks. And so they have abortions, because they have no other family planning options. What manner of moral madness is this?

Morality is inevitably judged as much on outcomes as it is on abstract ideals. The first thing you learn as a pastor or priest is that abstract ideals always lose in the face of reality. When you walk into an ER after a phone call from a church member only to have the doctor walk in 5 minutes later and explain the only reasonable choice is to remove life support, that there is no hope of recovery or survival, and the spouse turns to you and asks: "What do I do?"....

Grand moral ideals are completely useless at that point. You have to answer, and a disquisition worthy of Aquinas is not what is called for. Nor is a dogmatic statement the answer either. At that point, as they say where I grew up, you fish or cut bait. Principles underlie your response, but you have to address the person right in front of you, not your idea of what the situation is supposed to be.

The Bishops, clearly, have forgotten that.

*It at least strikes me as a matter as worthy of investigation as the investigation into All Saint's Church. I'm not holding my breath, however.

Update:  Speaking the IRS and investigations, not exactly from my keyboard to God's ear, but I don't have a problem with this:

 A prominent advocate for the separation of church and state filed a formal complaint with the Internal Revenue Service Thursday, accusing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Peoria of violating federal law by intervening in a political campaign.

The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, alleges that a fiery homily by Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky last Sunday effectively urged Catholics to vote against Obama in the 2012 presidential election.
Mostly because this is what the Bishop said:
“This fall, every practicing Catholic must vote, and must vote their Catholic consciences, or by the following fall our Catholic schools, our Catholic hospitals, our Catholic Newman Centers, all our public ministries -- only excepting our church buildings – could easily be shut down,” Jenky said.
If that doesn't cross the line, I don't know what does.


  1. I don't like to comment on the public positions of the Roman Catholic Church in part because such positions by any religious institution lose any valuable nuance just in the proclamation.

    Nuance? Nuance? The only nuance that may lie behind Bp Jensky's sermon is that he could be running for archbishop. And yes, there is a real question as to whether he crossed the line with regard to the tax-exem[pt status of the diocese.

    The Vatican and a majority of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops seem to be losing their collective minds. And that's the nicest thing I can say about them.

  2. Windhorse3:05 PM

    More and more the Bishops have been making bizarre public statements about how they expect to be "jailed" and "martyred" by the government in the coming years because of "radical secularism." In a country where Catholics are presidents and captains of industry. where they routinely hold office high and low including a majority on the Supreme Court, where the Church has its own television and radio stations and hospitals and churches on every corner in which they have absolutely unfettered freedom to worship - it's difficult to describe just how untethered from reality statements such as these are. And it's even more difficult to diagnose the underlying condition that's prompting them. 

    I suspect that residual guilt and anxiety over the child abuse scandal and ensuing coverup are engendering some of this self-pity. The bishops ceded a lot of credibility and moral authority over that (and still are, as now and then one will announce that, "you know, we don't really HAVE to obey the laws over this, we're just doing it to be accommodating" all the while hiring high-powered attorneys to fight the cases and intimidate new victims coming forward)p. When (unlike the collegial nature of Protestant bishoprics) you've sold your iron-clad claim to authority as ultimately stemming from Apostolic Succession, Papal Infallibility, and an essentially infallible Magisterium, it's difficult to recover from such an epic "cooperation with intrinsic evil," to use the bishops own terminology. 

    So while in my mind immoral and unChristian, from a Macchiavellian point of view it makes sense that in order to regain some of that lost authority you being playing political hardball. You use wedge issues to isolate and pressure those church-goers with whom who've you've lost credibility and strengthen the ones still on your side. You extend an iron hand over every organization - orders of nuns, hospitals, colleges - and reassert doctrinal and organization control. And then you play the victim to some higher power, in this case the government, to engender sympathy. 

    I say this really hoping that the American Catholic Bishops are just being this cynical...because the alternative is that they're losing their minds to some sort of End Times fantasy scenario. And as leaders with a tremendous amount of influence, that bodes well for no one. 

    - Windhorse

  3. Windhorse--

    I think you're on to something.

  4. More and more the Bishops have been making bizarre public statements about how they expect to be "jailed" and "martyred" by the government in the coming years because of "radical secularism."
    I suspect that residual guilt and anxiety over the child abuse scandal and ensuing coverup are engendering some of this self-pity.

    So when they're arrested for covering up sexual abuse, they'll claim to be martyrs, and the law violates their First Amendment rights? Sounds 'bout right...

  5. Anonymous9:04 PM

    You do understand that masturbation is murder, right?

    These bishops are likely suffering from a guilt complex due to the mass murder they commit each night, now that they can only fantasize about sex with children.

    I created this website that further expresses my outrage with Bishop Jenky and his ilk.

    Like Bishop Jenky, I refuse to apologize for any offense my website creates:

    Bishop Daniel "Bear" Jenky