Wednesday, August 29, 2018

TIME TO GET ANGRY

   The latest horrific revelation of abuse of children by priests and the cover-up by bishops is a good opportunity for Catholics to get truly angry at the Church leaders, including Pope Francis.

   First, as a former Philadelphia priest, I want to say clearly and gratefully that I have the privilege to know Philly priests whom it has been a blessing and honor to call my brothers.  The are the exceptions to what I must say below. 

   For far too long Church leaders have directed their attention to the behavior of the priest-predators, especially homosexual priests, and finally to the bishops who covered up the predators' sins and crimes.  But they have refused to see that the problem is not a sexual one but a centuries old structural one.  It is time to wake up!

   The Catholic Church made a spiritually lethal structural error when it ceased being the People of Christ living their way in the life and truth of Christ, and took on the autocratic structure of the Roman Empire.  The role of the Emperor was taken over by the Pope; the Roman Senators became the Cardinals; the Governors became the Bishops, and the Roman peasants became the laity.  Later, the Church leaders added the trappings of Medieval Lords, which they still enjoy.  

   Throughout this time, the leaders isolated themselves from the laity and the world at large in a special class of privilege called the clergy.  For obvious good reasons, Jesus explicitly forbade his followers to take on such titles and honors.  (Lk. 22:26:  Let the greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leader as the servant.)

   What the leaders fail to see is that the anti-Christian clerical structure of isolation and privilege  has produced an ugly, foul atmosphere in which a most terribly debased humanity could flourish.  The problem is not homosexuality.  Both gays and straights abused both male and female children.  It is the dank atmosphere of isolation and privilege that attracts and has permitted deviates, both gay and straight, to operate without detection--or if detected, without accountability.

   The  Barque of Peter is a deteriorating wooden boat propelled by torn sails in a world where ships of steel and exotic metals are run by nuclear generators.  A half century ago, the Second Vatican Council opened the way for the Church to catch up to today's world.  A Council is the highest level of Church teaching.  Pope Francis knows this.  The way to Church renewal is open.  Yes, his opposition is strong and he will suffer greatly.  But the abused are crying out to God!  The world is waiting.  Francis is the Pope.  He has the knowledge and power to change the Church and make it a light of hope and love in today's world.  What is he waiting for?









      

Thursday, July 12, 2018

FAITH IS POLITICAL

   I just learned that some of separated asylum seekers' children who are now being returned do not recognize their parents.  They cry to go back to the people who were taking care of them.  In deep shock, they are asking their parents why their parents "went away," a sign that they may be scarred for life.

   And then Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, blindly and inhumanly said that what the Trump administration has done for the separated children is "one of the great acts of American generosity and charity."  

   The most charitable thing we can say is that the Trump administration has gone morally insane.  We are witnessing the results of brutal torture that was explicitly ordered by President Donald Trump.  Remember, the people who crossed the border are not immigrants who have no rights.  They are asylum seekers who have Constitutional rights.  Their "crime" was that they crossed the border at the wrong points.  Their punishment is the torture of separation.

  This happened in a country that has a Christian majority, many of whom voted for this torturer.

   To my Catholic brothers and sisters who voted for Trump, I ask, "Why didn't your Catholic consciousness tell you that something like this horror could very well happen?  As Catholics, did you fail to see and realize that Trump is a man who cares for no one and nothing but himself, in short, that he is the very opposite of Jesus?  Did you put this horrific truth aside and vote for him because you want the Supreme Court to outlaw abortion?  That may now very well happen.  So where do we go from here?"

   Our Catholic faith enables us and makes us responsible to build the Kingdom of God on earth.  God's Kingdom is right here, right now, within our towns and cities, in our nation, waiting to become ever more clear and effective.  We are responsible to turn our towns and cities, our entire nation, into a place where peace, justice and love, even sacrifice for others, are ever increasingly present.  It doesn't take a prophet to know that right now this is not happening. In fact, just the opposite is happening.

   It is impossible to read the New Testament and not see that practically on ever page Jesus or a Biblical writer is telling us to beware of wealth, and above all, to care for the sick, the poor and the vulnerable of our society.  Jesus reserves the harshest warnings for those of us who don't care for others.  He goes so far as to identify with the "least" of us and say that what we do for the "least" of our brothers and sisters, we do for him. (Mt. 25:40)

   Let's get to the bare facts, as Jesus did in his time.  Our Catholic faith does not tell us to base our votes on our narrow mindedness, or on our craving for wealth and social privilege, or on our prejudices or our anger, and on hatred for others.  Yet this is happening today on a scale so dangerously high that is threatens our democracy itself.  Many of us Catholics today are working for the destruction of the United States of America.  Many don't even know that we are collaborating in our country's destruction.  Look at the crowds who attend the campaign rallies that Trump insists on holding almost weekly.  So many of us are so deluded that we actually believe we are saving our county and "making it great again."

   As Catholics we live in Christ, who is our Way, our Truth and our Life.  In truth, we should see that we are daily being lied to  (over 3000 times in his first year!) by our President.  We should see that he is an anti-Christian, destructive force in our country and in the world.

   So how does our faith apply to today's politics?  We should all begin by examining our own conscience so we could clearly see the deep shallowness and corruption of our politics in the light of our Catholic faith--and also in the light of our biases and prejudices.  Then, because our politics are so corrupted, we should demand that every one of our leaders tell the truth.  We should expect and demand that no matter what party they belong to, our leaders must clearly see why they are in office and that they must provide first and foremost for all the needs of the poor, sick and vulnerable that they cannot provide for themselves.  If they don't do this, then we should tell them loudly and clearly that we will vote them out of office.  That is the least we can do.

   The Catholic Church does not exist one hour a week on Sundays.  The life and work of being a Catholic in today's world takes up 24 hours of every day.  We are all called, enabled and responsible to work to elevate our society and where necessary, humbly correct it in the saving grace of Christ, so that our society becomes more just, peaceful and charitable.  We are here on earth to show our fellow Americans and all the peoples of the world that our faith is real and it is energizing us to be effective in our everyday world--because that's where Jesus lived in his day.













      













Friday, June 15, 2018

MISREADING THE BIBLE

   One of the most dangerous and harmful traditions among some Christians is their picking one Biblical passage out of context and interpreting it according to their own view, especially their own political view.  This is what  happened when Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended the government's horrendous act of pulling children out of their mother's arms by referring to Chapter 13 of St. Paul's letter to the Romans, in which Paul tells us to accept government authority because it has been established by God.   

   In doing this, Mr. Sessions disregards the entire New Testament which is alive with the infinite, self-giving, sacrificial love of Christ for all people, especially for the poor, sick and outcast.  

   What he said showed that his consciousness of the Bible and of Christ is as small as his politics.  It does not extend to the parents and children he is persecuting and most certainly does not extend to Christ.  Equally horrific, he is using the Bible to defend President Trump's decision to change the law to include the parents and children who are now being persecuted.  To put it bluntly, Mr. Sessions' statement came directly out of hell.

   At least we should be happy that he did not read from 1 Samuel 15:3, "Samuel, saying that he was speaking for the Lord, said to Saul, 'Go now, attack Amalek...  kill men and women, children and infants..."  This is a case of a leader of the people of God mistaking the people's own blood culture for the will of God.  Thankfully, Saul disobeyed Samuel and spared the people of Amalek.  Our politicians should not make similar mistakes against the people as Samuel made.    

   So knowing how to read the Bible is of maximum importance.  The Bible is God's unfolding revelation of love to God's chosen people, and through them to the whole world.  It is the story of the people's slowly unfolding understanding of God and God's love, and of their learning how to return God's love by living a life of gratitude, good will and love.

     For Christians of course, the Bible story reaches its glorious fulfillment in the birth, life, teaching, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, and in his sending his Spirit to all peoples throughout the world, so that all people of good will and love can return themselves to God in love.

   It is God's all permeating love that we should see when we read the Bible.  First, of course, we see the printed words.  If we stop at this level of comprehension, we could say that the bible is a work of literature.  That is a literal reading of the Bible that is open to misinterpretation in accord with our own biases and prejudices.  To read the Bible correctly, we must look into the words and see God present and active in them with all of God's beautiful creative, healing and saving love.

     For example, a literal reading of the Bible makes the following story impossible to understand.  Jesus once asked Peter, "Who do you say that I am?"  Peter looked at Jesus and saw his human body and human soul, i.e., his "literal words."  So he could have said, "You are Jesus, our Teacher."  But Peter had a more sensitive consciousness.  He looked deeper and saw who Jesus truly was.  And he said, "You are the the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Mt. 16:16)  That's how we should read the Bible.

   The same is true when we look at people.  At first we see their physical shape and form, i.e., their "literal" meaning.  At this superficial level, we could see them as people whom we could use for our own benefit, or people whom we must compete with for financial dominance, or even people whom we could coldly disregard or even hate.      

   To Christians, the light of Christ is present, however dimly, even in the prejudiced, criminals and even terrorists.  In them, Christ is being crucified anew.  But in the poor, the displaced, the sick, vulnerable and outcast, the light of Christ shines very, very brightly.  It is this light of Christ being crucified, the light to which Mr. Sessions and President Trump are so glibly blind.  Finally, they loudly claim that such persecution is legal.  I would like to remind both of them that the Holocaust was legal. 
         
   Sometimes it's hard to say, "God bless America!"    
        













         

Friday, May 4, 2018

FAITH AND POLITICS

   On January 30, 2017 I wrote a Post about Jesus' statement to render to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's.  I pointed out that this was not Jesus telling his followers to stay out of politics.  It was a statement of how much he despised the Romans' cruel and heartless occupation of Israel.  He knew that the Romans would slaughter the Jews if they failed to pay their taxes.

   For Jesus to stay out of politics would be for him to stay out of his own humanity.  He came into the world as a fellow human to show us how to live, and this includes how to get involved in politics as Christians.

   House Speaker Paul Ryan's firing of Jesuit Chaplain, Fr. Pat Conroy,  was a perfect example of how a Christian--in fact, a Catholic--should not  express his politics.  And it is a disheartening example of the ignorance of our Faith that afflicts so many American Catholics and other Christians today.  Ryan's action was a sad capitulation to the low-level political wishes of some members of the House, including members who are Christians.  In their dangerously limited consciousness they could not see past their own political interests, which they limit to the preservation of their own jobs, with no care for the Great Reality within which they live and work.

   Speaker Ryan says he is a Catholic.  In fact, one writer called him a devout Catholic.  He should then see the Greater Reality of Truth that energizes his commitment to serve the people's general interest.  The Chaplain's prayer that the Republicans' Tax Bill be fair  to all people, especially to those in the lower income levels, meant nothing to Ryan and most of the Republicans.  It meant everything to Jesus. 

    The religious leaders in Jesus' time were also the political leaders and the wealthy of the land.  Jesus never hesitated to tell them what a bad job they were doing, most especially how they were oppressing the poor.  He went so far as to call them shining mausoleums filled with dead men's bones.  How's that for a political editorial today!

   Jesus' humanity placed him fully within this world.  He was not a mythical figure floating above the ground and never touching it.  He got so deeply involved in caring for the ordinary people, especially the poor, that the leaders couldn't tolerate him and finally had him crucified by the Romans.  How far is that from Ryan's telling the Chaplain not to get too close to politics?

   The question is not that we should be involved in politics but how we should be involved.  First of all, we should understand that the American separation of Church and State means that the Church organization and the State organization have the right to exist and carry out their own business without interfering with each other.  It guarantees our freedom of religion and the the freedom of our government to carry out its business.  It does not mean that Christians cannot be involved in politics.  If that were so, then we should not even vote.

    A great problem is that there are many American Christians who are not just involved in our political life but are trying to take control of it.  Some would turn America into a Theocracy with themselves in charge.  This is neither Christian nor American.  As Catholics we should humbly and strongly tell these Christian brothers and sisters of ours that they are a real danger to our country.

   So, how should American Christians get fully and effectively involved in our politics?  In general, our involvement as Christians should include that we fully expect our government to work for the fullness of our humanity in all things, e.g., our right to freedom and justice, especially in our economic activity, which includes the government's obligation to tax the people fairly and justly.  The shortages of money for such things as Medicare and Social Security are totally the result of the failure of government officials to do their job.  

   Also, our government should provide excellent education for our children, keep our infrastructure in good repair, and choose diplomacy and peace in our inter-connected, inter-related and inter-dependent world.  Our government should be merciful and give special preference for the poor, sick, vulnerable and outcast.  It should be truthful and intelligently and maturely face all challenges, successes and setbacks.

   The prayer that Fr. Conroy said about the Tax Bill is a good example of how Christians  should be involved in our political life.  He spoke the truth.  Speaker Ryan, however, does not seem to realize that politics is meant to protect, serve and elevate our humanity in and through truthful legislation. He does not seem to understand, as every Catholic should, that everything we do in this world, including our politics, should be aimed at building up the Kingdom of God on earth, i.e., the Reign of Overflowing Love, that Jesus prayed for, "Thy Kingdom come...on earth."  He, and all Christians, need to note what St. Irenaeus said in the 2nd century, "The glory of God is people fully alive."  American politics can and should be dedicated to helping our citizens and all peoples to be fully alive in good will and love, whether they are people of faith or of no faith.

   Certainly, it is all right for Christians to be Liberals or Conservatives, as long as we are all dedicated to the building up of our nation in justice, peace and love.  But the angry, contentious tone of today's politics is a disgrace to Christianity and makes a mockery of any Christian's claim to be acting in Jesus' name.

   Before we make the next contentious remark in Jesus' name, let us get on our knees, ask his forgiveness for misrepresenting Him, and start working ever more vigorously to raise our consciousness closer to that of Jesus.  And then as Catholics,  i.e., as people with a universal view, let us proclaim and implement the Good News of the overflowing love of Jesus for all our American brothers and sisters, as well as all the peoples of the world. 


         
   
    

     












       

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

TODAY'S YOUTH: A NEW EASTER PROMISE

   This past Saturday hundreds of thousands of today's younger generation rallied throughout the nation to demand a change in our gun-crazed culture.  

   They did not ask for this change, they demanded it.  And they fully deserve to demand it.  Many of them have personally experienced the slaughter of their classmates, and also the murders of their friends on the streets of our cities.  So they fully deserve to demand change.  They justly deserve an Easter Sunday after far too many Good Fridays.

   I am old enough to have experienced other times when our youth demanded change in our society.  But never like today's youth.  In the 1960's for example, the young tried to change our society, not by building a new one but by naively dropping out of the established one.  The Hippie movement was fun for a while, and even had a serious side in protesting the war in Viet Nam.  But it inevitably died.  Without any real effort of their own, the young expected a Phoenix to rise from the ashes of the culture of that time.  But all they got was ashes.

   In the 1970's, the Watergate scandal heaped more ashes on our declining government.  And today, our federal government has fallen even farther to a frightening and dangerous low.  But this time, even against the heavy odds, I believe that maybe, just maybe, today's youth may have started to bring a true moral change to our government and our society.  The promise of a new Easter may be dawning.

   One sign that they may succeed this time is the  newly awakening opposition to the National Rifle Association, which has devolved into a mindless lobby for the gun manufacturers.  Also, there is some opposition arising against the heavy weight of so many Americans who openly carrying rifles, even military AR-15 assault weapons.    

   So I see some hope.  In Catholic terms, we may be on the verge of what Vatican II called, "A New Pentecost."  In and through today's enlightened and dedicated youth, America has a new opportunity to rise up to new life from the disunited, passive culture that we older citizens have created, and that has brought us too many paranoid gun owners and too many political leaders who can't work for anything other than their own re-election to their corrupt power.  

   On Sunday, we will celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, and his gift of a new life in his Spirit.  Wouldn't it be great if this Easter we elders could contribute our participation in Jesus' ever-new life to the vigorously alive youth in whom new life and hope may very well be rising.  Wouldn't that make for a wonderful HAPPY EASTER.













    

Sunday, February 25, 2018

GUNS AND CHRISTIANITY

   Imagine someone handing Jesus an AR-15 automatic rifle.

   I see him looking at it very sadly and then even more sadly handing it to a soldier.  Yes, in this world of ours it is will be necessary at times for soldiers to fight just wars of defense.  Of course, we must do everything we possibly can to make any kind of war a thing of the past.  But we are not naive.  Obscenely, even now we are faced with threats of war, even a nuclear war.

   The Second Amendment gives us the legal right to have certain guns in case we need to form a militia.  Today's militia takes the form of the National Guard units of the various states.  The "militias" that are paranoically formed for defense against the federal government are corruptions of the militia mentioned in the Second Amendment.  

   We can legally have guns, for example, for target shooting, hunting and personal self-defense.  That is reasonable.  But as a Christian and spiritual theologian, I deeply believe that no one, no one, outside the military should have an assault gun, which is a weapon of war.  To permit civilians to have such weapons is not necessary, not reasonable, not human, not Christian.

   Philosophy and science describe us as rational animals.  To be human is to be able to act rationally, reasonably.  How rational or reasonable is it for civilians to own and use weapons of war whose only purpose is to mutilate and destroy an enemy?  

   We are images and likenesses of God and the people of Jesus the Christ, who is the greatest expression of God's peace and love.  Christians who present God as a war-like, avenging judge who, for example, sends hurricanes to punish us because of homosexuals, seriously misrepresent God.  They never move forward in the Old Testament to see God's great love for us all and for all creation. (Ps. 23; Jer: 31:3; Joel 2:17-14.)  And when they arrive at the New Testament they can't worship and preach a God who is Infinite, Overflowing, Self-giving Love, as revealed in the person of Jesus, who taught us how to live in love.

   In the name of Jesus, the Christ, and of human reason, how necessary is it for anyone other than a soldier to have an assault weapon like the AR-15?  The children in the Florida high school who were murdered were not just pierced with the killer's bullets.  The AR-15 mutilated and destroyed their young limbs and organs.  Were these precious children so horrifically destroyed so that we American civilians could have the right to own and use a weapon of war?

   The NRA and the politicians who depend on the NRA for money and reelection have actually said that the mentally ill should not be prevented from owning a gun--any gun.  Now they are reconsidering their irrational stance.  But what do we mean by "mentally ill?"  Do we mean clinically diagnosed paranoid schizophrenics?  How about people who are  depressed, or upset, or politicized against our government, or angry at their parents?  And in today's overly individualized and broken culture, how much do I have to stretch the point to say that if I believe I just have to have an AR-15, am I in some way mentally ill?

   Thank God for the students of the Florida high school who, having seen hell first hand, are bravely speaking up.  With rightful anger they are crying out to all adults to wake up to the truth about assault rifles and to the special sacredness of human life.  Isn't war horrific enough without bringing it upon our own children!?  May their voices grow in volume, redound to heaven and bring reason and sanity especially to our legislators and President!

   As an American and Christian, I cry out to all my fellow Americans.  For the sake of reason, of humanity, and of our very souls, "Enjoy ordinary guns if you want to, but leave military weapons to the military!"   






    

   

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

REDISCOVERING OUR ONENESS

   Our faith tells us that we are one family under God.  But our churches remain divided as the ecumenical spirit wanes.  And sadly, the heavily politicized Evangelical churches blatantly defy the oneness given to us by God.

   Our American founders dreamed of one nation under God.  But the Declaration of Independence excluded the slaves from enjoying their inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  And racism continues to poison our nation.  Our Constitution begins, "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union..."  But under President Trump we are a very sorely divided nation.  Our national motto, "E Pluribus Unum," is losing its meaning.

   Our economic system divides us into the very rich and the many poor, sick, vulnerable and outcast.

   The great philosophies of both East and West have been abandoned by most schools

    Yet, there is hope.  It is coming from today's science.  An increasing number of physicists are offering a radically new view of the oneness that is the universe, the world and all of us on earth.

   Here I will repeat a little story that I told in a previous post.  Two young fish were swimming along a stream when an old fish came swimming toward them.  As the old fish was passing them, he said, "The water's fine today, isn't it?"   The young fish did not respond.  When the old fish had swum past them, one of them turned to the other and asked, "What's water?"  They didn't know the world they were living in.

   The physicists I am referring to are saying that the universe/world we live in is not made of material but is all non-material energy.  The universe, they explain, is made of atoms.  Until recently we thought that the atoms were made of material nuclei and electrons that scientists saw as little balls of matter.  Now they say that the nuclei and the electrons are actually little non-material waves in non-material energy fields.  The atom has no physical dimensions!  So the universe is made of non-material energy that has no physical dimensions.  

   (Our brain turns the non-material universe into a three dimensional, "physical" world but that's another story.) 

   Also, these physicists say that the non-material energy that the universe and we are  made of is living, intelligent consciousness.  To go back to our little story of the fish, the "water" we are swimming in is an ocean of universal, living, intelligent consciousness.

   Every galaxy, every star, planet, rock, plant, animals and person arises as an individual expression of one, living, intelligent, universal consciousness.

   So at one point in our history we were all one, same reality.  If we trace ourselves  back to our original reality, each of us is an individual expression of the one, basic living, intelligent consciousness that is the universe.

    Today, to many of us, especially the young, science is more respected than religion.  And more respected than philosophy, which also tells us of our basic oneness in terms of essence, i.e., we are all human.  So I wonder if today's science can do what our politics, education and mainstream religions are not doing.

   God can now be described as Eternal/Infinite Living, Intelligent, Divine Consciousness, who is Love.  The universe can be described as the space/time, finite, created image of Eternal/Infinite Living, Intelligent, Divine Consciousness/Love.    

   Genesis tells us that God created the universe and then entered into it, filling it with divine presence.  (Gen. 1:1-3)    The God-filled universe  is the living, evolving Christ Reality.  As Teilhard de Chardin said, "Cosmogenesis is Christogenesis."  

   Jesus was a 1st century Jewish male who at his conception became the universal, God-filled Christ Reality.  He was both human and Divine.  He is God's living, intelligent, conscious Reality/Love overflowing into the world. 

   In and through Jesus, we work to build the Kingdom of God on earth that Jesus prayed for, "Thy Kingdom come...one earth..."  In Jesus' power and love, we evolve, slow step by slow step, toward the full meaning of our lives, which is global wholeness in love.    

   Thanks to the new insights of today's science we have a contemporary and very persuasive way to renew our understanding and our faith in God and in Jesus the Christ, so we can renew and reinvigorate our lives and the world in the Oneness and Wholeness  of Love that God created us to be.