Mirror Mirror the Wall: Who’s the Best Catholic of All

How to become a GOOD CATHOLIC

Essential Changes in Catholic Behavior

 One of my more cantankerous Catholic friends sent me an angry email. One those emails that screeches across cyber space and slams into your laptop. You run to see if your modem is smoking. TELL ME he screamed JUST WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY CHURCH REFORM!

It is all rather easily described. Doing is the difficult part.

I want to see a dramatic change in Catholic lifestyle…..for everyone from brother Ben in Rome to Pete and Marylou down the street.

I want to see some major behavior changes. I want to see people shift toward a better way of life.


(1) From living in the past (the current Roman fad and fashion) to engaging with the present and thinking creatively about tomorrow.

(2) From practicing religion to living the Faith

(3) From rigid ritual to consciously-incarnational life

(4) From boxed-in religious ideology to open-ended theology

(5) From self-protective bureaucratic hierarchies to courageous apostolic networks

(6) From religious arrogance to cross-cultural, cross-religion collaboration

(7) From having the all the truth to continually searching  for the truth

(8) From being protective temple-builders to being traveling pilgrims pitching their tents along journey

(9) From schooling professionals to mentoring leaders

(10) From seeing the world as our enemy to appreciating the world as the real place where we live and encounter the Divine

(11) From parishes that are impersonal large congregations to parishes that are intimate small size communities

(12) From following church celebrities to encountering real saints






Curse and Affliction Upon the Church

Theologians can be a “curse and affliction upon the church,” according Capuchin Fr. Thomas Weinandy, Executive Director of the USCCB Secretariat for Doctrine.

Thomas Weinandy remember is director of the  bishops’ committee that recently condemned Sr. Elizabeth Johnson’s book on the Trinity, Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God. Weinandy’s committee said Elizabeth Johnson’s book “completely undermines the Gospel and the faith of those who believe in the Gospel.” Strange talk from a fellow who is supposed to know what theology is all about.

The Board of Directors for the Catholic Theological Society of America responded to the USCCB Committee’s critique by noting that Weinandy’s committee demonstrated a “deficient” reading of Professor Johnson’s work as well as a “narrow understanding” of the work of theologians.

In their statement the board of directors stressed, what any good theologian should know and understand:

Theologians throughout history have promulgated the riches of the Catholic tradition by venturing new ways to imagine and express the mystery of God and the economy of salvation revealed in Scripture and Tradition. This is a Catholic style of theological reflection that very many Catholic theologians continue to practice today. The teaching of the Second Vatican Council in its Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes) is especially eloquent on this responsibility:

“From the beginning of its history [the church] has learned to express Christ’s message in the concepts and languages of various peoples, and it has also tried to throw light on it through the wisdom of philosophers, aiming so far as was proper to suit the gospel to the grasp of everyone as well as to the expectations of the wise. This adaptation in preaching the revealed word should remain the law of all evangelisation.… It is for God’s people as a whole, with the help of the holy Spirit, and especially for pastors and theologians, to listen to the various voices of our day, discerning them and interpreting them, and to evaluate them in the light of the divine word, so that the revealed truth can be increasingly appropriated, better understood and more suitably expressed.” (#44)

USCCB theologian Weinandy, on the other hand, sees  theologians as propagandists for the institutional church. Their responsibility, says Weinandy is one of “promoting, advancing and defending” philosophical and theological truth as taught by the church.

In fact…..ever since Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109), Catholic theologians have clearly understood the theological task as one of “Faith seeking understanding.”

If Thomas Weinandy and his committee were my students I would send them all back to school: for remedial theological education.

Papal Mystique and World Youth Days in Spain


His bags are packed and he’s ready to go……

Pope Benedict XVI is eager to meet crowds of young people who are gathering in Madrid for World Youth Days, which begin on August 16th.

The Pope himself will arrive on the evening of Thursday, August 18th. He will then preside at a total of nine events with young people over the next four days, culminating in a Sunday morning Mass at the city’s Cuatro Vientos airport.

The upcoming papal days in Spain are a special time of grace for re-examining the contemporary mystique of the papacy.


Since he was five years old, and fell in love with the Archbishop of Munich’s fancy threads, Joseph Ratzinger has been fascinated by the pompous trappings  of the medieval Catholic Church. Today in fact, his papal entourage looks more  like a medieval royal court than the plainly dressed community of those who followed Jesus of Nazareth.

The contemporary papacy is sign and symbol of what has been happening in the Catholic Church since Pope John Paul II became the Bishop of Rome on October 16, 1978. Pope Benedict calls it the “reform of the reform.” The rest of us see it, however, for what it is:  “restorationism,” the carefully planned dismantling of the theology, ecclesiology, and pastoral vision of the Second Vatican Council (October 11, 1962 — December 8, 1965).

What the Polish Pope launched in the 1970s the Bavarian Pope has now shifted into high speed motion: a carefully orchestrated plan to restore an earlier and more controllable nineteenth century triumphalist model of the Church. A clerical empire.

Through an increasingly centralized Vatican power structure, everything in the life of the Church is now controlled through a network of Vatican congregations led by right-wing cardinals who ensure strict compliance with what they deem to be “orthodox.” Those who do not comply face censure and punishment. Without explanation.

When Pope Benedict last visited Spain in early November 2010, he condemned what he called the “aggressive secularism” that had also been rampant in Spain in the 1930s….leaving the strong impression that he supported the right-wing Catholic,  Generalisimo Don Francisco Franco (1892-1975) who, in 1936, became “Caudillo de España, por la gracia de Dios,” meaning “Leader of Spain, by the Grace of God.” (That happened of course because Franco had the backing of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.)

In any event, and from wherever he is, the Generalisimo must be smiling at Pope Benedict. The contemporary power mystique of the papacy is Benedict’s particular talent. Any hint of critique or any questioning of his policies, his way of thinking, his antiquated theology, his exercise of authority, etc. is equated with disloyalty. Because of this Ratzinger papal mystique, unquestioning obedience to the pope is now  required as a sign of the ethos and fidelity of a true Catholic.

And……thanks to Pope Benedict’s reform of the reform, the Pope’s authority has now been intentionally extended to the Vatican Curia.

Today we are told that unquestioning obedience to the very human opinions offered by Curial departments and cardinals  — about a whole range of human life and Church disciplinary issues — has become the mark of one’s fidelity as a Catholic. Anything less is interpreted as being disloyal to the Pope and therefore, we are led to believe, unfaithful to Christ.

It comes as no surprise that Pope Benedict is now greatly looking forward to his days in Spain with crowds of young Catholics. He needs their enthusiasm and cheerful support…….Older Catholics have now begun to realize what he is really up to…….

When People Worship Ideology

Anders Behring Breivik, the right-wing extremist who shot and killed at least 85 people at a youth camp in Norway, laughed, cheered, and shouted “you all must die” as he sprayed the young men and women  with bullets. He did it to protect and save civilization…as he sees it.

The United States is on the verge of an epic financial collapse …….. because the Tea Party is unwilling to compromise, even a little bit. They will not compromise because they fear cuts and losses in their comfortable lifestyles. They argue of course that they are only defending authentic American values.

Contemporary Roman Catholic leadership, from Rome to Philadelphia (with places like New York, Chicago and Detroit thrown in for good measure) has surrendered to an ideological god.

Bishops on both sides of the Atlantic are working feverishly to return the Catholic Church to a nineteenth century self-centered and self-serving clerical empire. They denigrate and condemn all who stand in their way. And they pontificate and decree, decked out in medieval costumes and jewelry, that they are defending authentic Christian faith and morality.

Around the world, the new ideologues have enthroned their false gods on civic and religious ideological altars. They are today’s new fundamentalists.

These contemporary fundamentalists place such a high priority on their ideological gods and their conformity and obedience to doctrinaire spokespersons that they sacrifice values that are basic to the world’s great democracies and the world’s great religious traditions. Those values of course are: love, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, and caring.

In their overwhelming seriousness about their ideological gods, today’s fundamentalists do not hesitate to intervene in political and social process to ensure that society is forced to conform to the values and behaviors of their fundamentalist world views.

Today’s fundamentalists are dangerous people.

Fundamentalists justify hatred of one group of people for another, because they believe God hates those who do not conform to their fundamentalist worldview.

Fundamentalism is a dangerous movement.

Fundamentalism excuses people from honest self-examination: it justifies their prejudices, zealotry, intolerance, and hatefulness.

So what do we do about fundamentalism?

I don’t think we go out and bomb them and shoot their kids.

•    The best way to confront the kind of ignorance that  nourishes fundamentalism is through real education that emphasizes open access to information and critical, analytical thinking skills.

•    Real education teaches the importance of gathering evidence and then proceeding to conclusions. Fundamentalists work in opposite fashion.

•    We need to establish channels for dialogue and institutions that promote multi-cultural knowledge, dialogue, and understanding.

•    We need to practice a genuine kind of humility that enables us to see — with open eyes and open minds — the lives and worlds of other peoples and their
traditions…..not just our own.

•    We need to translate our vision-gained-from-humility into concrete and achievable local, national, and international actions and strategies.

The Vatican is Upset — Perhaps We Should be Upset Because of the Vatican…..

Waltzing on thin ice……

Patsy McGarry writing in the Irish Times (July 28, 2011) offers some well-phrased reflections about the Vatican’s reactions to sexual abuse in Ireland and the Murphy and Cloyne reports.

Frankly the current Vatican administration, orchestrated by the Bavarian pontiff, shows very little interest in transparency. Fortunately the Vatican cannot control the media. The truth will indeed come out. The bishop of Rome wears fancy slippers but he is waltzing on thin ice…..

McGarry’s observations:

In 2008, Bishop John Magee of Cloyne and Msgr Denis O’Callaghan lied to the church’s child protection watchdog about abuse there.

This formidable desire to hide the truth on the part of senior clergy in Ireland by lies, damn lies and mental reservation was not rooted in any peculiar aversion on their part. It rested entirely on what they understood was required of them by Rome.

Yet in his March 2010 pastoral letter to Irish Catholics, Pope Benedict XVI told the bishops that “some of you and your predecessors failed, at times grievously”, when it came to child protection. Not a word about Rome’s role in any of this.

Not a word about Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos who was responsible for the 1997 letter to the Irish bishops dismissing their 1996 Framework Document as “merely a study document”. Which letter, the Cloyne report said, “gave comfort and support” to those who “dissented from the stated official Irish church policy” on child protection.

In 1999, when the Irish bishops were visiting Rome they were reminded by a Vatican official they were “bishops first, not policemen” when it came to reporting clerical child sex abuse. But apologists for Rome insist all changed in May 2001 when then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger sent two letters to every Catholic bishop in the world. In Latin. One insisted that both be kept secret. The other directed that all clerical child sex abuse allegations “with a semblance of truth” be sent to the congregation and it would decide whether they be dealt with at diocesan or Vatican level.

Yet, as current chancellor of Dublin’s archdiocese Msgr John Dolan told the Murphy commission, this policy “was subsequently modified as Rome was unable to deal with the vast numbers of referrals”. The Cloyne report continues: “The position now, he [Msgr Dolan] said, is that all cases brought to the attention of the archdiocese before April 2001 and which were outside prescription . . . were not going to be dealt with by the CDF. It was up to the bishop to apply disciplinary measures to the management of those priests.”

In effect, the Irish bishops were back where they were before 2001. As Murphy reported: “Victims have expressed disappointment that neither the Framework Document nor its successor, Our Children, Our Church (2005), received recognition from Rome, thus leaving both documents without legal status under canon law.”

This, Murphy found, “was in direct contrast to the approach adopted by the Holy See to the request of the American Conference of Bishops”. The truth is Rome tied the hands of those Irish bishops and religious superiors who wanted to address the abuse issue properly.

Yet, Rome did not even acknowledge correspondence from the Murphy commission in September 2006. Instead it complained the commission did not use proper channels. So, in February 2007, the Murphy commission wrote to then papal nuncio to Ireland Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto requesting he forward “all documents in his possession relevant to
the commission”. He did not reply.

So, in early 2009, it wrote to current nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, (in situ since April 2008), enclosing a draft of its report for comment. He did not reply.

The nunciature in Dublin has been the conduit for truthful clerical child abuse reports to Rome, while Archbishop Leanza was personally involved in talks which led to Bishop Magee standing aside at Cloyne in February 2009.

So, the Murphy commission asked him to “submit to it any information which you have about the matters under investigation”. He felt “unable to assist” it “in this matter”.