Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sensus Fidelium

  Today, on the Vatican II page, we begin our discussion of the sensus fidelium, the sense of the faith that we all participate in.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Spirit Denied; The Church On Trial

   In the next few days, I will present my view of Vatican II's teaching on the sensus fidelium, the whole church's ongoing, discerning response to God's self-communication, presence and intentions--a teaching that if implemented, would permit the Spirit to fly freely throughout the church.  This post is an introduction to my upcoming Vatican II entries.

   In the Philadelphia trial of Msgr. William Lynn, who is charged with permitting priests to continue to abuse and rape children, the prosecutor has repeatedly accused Lynn of lying.  Lynn has answered that he did not lie, at least not purposely.  So he did lie, but he did not lie.  To me this shows that he is a divided person.  There is Lynn, the priest and pastor, who discerned and welcomed the Spirit and did the Christ-like work of caring for his parishioners.  This Lynn would not lie to protect priest abusers and rapists.  And there is Lynn, the church functionary, who obeyed his superiors.  This Lynn did lie.  This Lynn denied the Spirit and compromised his human integrity, thus becoming less a man and less a priest.  Yet he was considered a good man and a good priest by the church officials who told him to lie.  Even today, he is considered a good man and priest by church officials.  That's because in the church system, stifling or denying the Spirit and dehumanizing yourself by obeying an immoral order is more important than lying.  And Lynn obeyed the system.

   St. Iraneus famously said that the glory of God is people fully alive.  To be fully alive, 21st century Catholics, we must clearly understand that we are dealing with self-divided church leaders who are operating in a spiritually corrupt authority system.  Bishops and Cardinals may try their best to operate in the Spirit and with full human integrity; they may want to truly listen to priests, religious and theologians, and truly respect the faith of the laity.  Priests may want to be closer to the people they serve.  Seminaries may want to teach the best theology.  But when the chips are down, they all, like Msgr. Lynn, will shut themselves down, deny the Spirit and obey the system.

   Certainly we need priests, bishops and a pope.  But we do not need the present authority system,with its clerical culture of privileged, isolated officials.  This system cannot be fixed; it must be replaced.  Many Vatican officials and their followers around the world are resisting implementing Vatican II's teaching on the sensus fidelium because it will change the system.  It will help us find ways to create a 21st century church and faith that lets the Spirit fly free with God's creative, healing and world-transforming love.  In my upcoming Vatican II diary entries I will point to ways we can implement the sensus fidelium.


Monday, May 14, 2012

The Importance of Everyday Experience

Today's entry on my Vatican II page discusses how important our everyday experiences are in helping us understand our faith and form our moral judgments. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Our Everyday Spiritual Life

   Many of us still separate our lives into our secular life and our spiritual life.  One reason is that they believe "secular" means, "worldly," "not holy," or "not spiritual,"  and "Spiritual" means praying and going to church, e.g., giving "one hour a week to God."  Let's take a closer look.. 

   "Secular" means whatever pertains to space/time, i.e., to our everyday life here and now in this world, e. g., our education, our marriage and family life, work, politics, science, art, recreation, etc.  All these things are spiritual, all are sacred and holy.  All 168 hours of the week are sacred and holy.  

   We do not grow in holiness by separating ourselves from this world.  Even contemplative monks live in lively and loving relationship with the everyday world.  They love all people and all nature, and many work hard at farming, or some other occupation.  We grow in holiness by making our everyday, space/time lives more orderly, just, peaceful, joyful, etc. (See the Spiritual Disciplines).  And especially, by doing all things in love and even charity.  

   Our everyday life is the "raw material" of the life we will live in eternity.  Just as we will not be destroyed after death, earth will not be destroyed.  Our eternal life will be lived with others on earth--with everyone and everything changed beyond our imagination.  The more fully and lovingly we live our lives here and now, the more fully and lovingly we will live our lives in eternity, and the more intense will be the love and glory we will give to God.  We should not "waste" any of our heaven to come.     

   Vatican II is clear on the importance of making our everyday lives our spiritual lives.  The language is a bit clumsy the the idea comes through:

          They are mistaken who, knowing that we have here no abiding city but seek 
     one which is to come (cf. Heb. 13:14) think that they may therefore shirk their
     earthly responsibilities.  For they are forgetting that by the faith itself they are
     more obliged than ever to measure up to these duties, each according to his
     proper vocation (cf. 2 Thess. 3:6-13; Eph. 4:28).  Nor, on the contrary, are they
     less wide of the mark who think that religion consists in acts of worship alone
     and in the discharge of certain moral obligations, and who imagine they can  plunge
     themselves into earthly affairs in such a way as to imply that these are altogether
     divorced the religious life.  This split between the faith which many profess and
     their daily lives deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age.            
                                                                                                The Church in the Modern World. No. 43


Friday, May 11, 2012

How Do We Make Our Moral Judgments?

   If I understand Paul Ryan's budget plans, he is saying that the poor will have a better opportunity to be independent Americans  (a wonderful vision) if we take away their food stamps and government medical care--not after the poor have the opportunity to move forward in their lives, but before they do.  Our fellow Catholic believes that his view is morally justified.  Let's see.

   We make our moral judgments by combining three things:  1) our faith, 2) our best, ever-evolving understanding of science, human nature, and philosophy, especially ethics, and 3) everyday experience. 

  1.    Our faith tells us to love one another to the point of sacrificing something of ourselves to others (which is Charity).  Thus, Catholic Social Justice moves us to work for the common good, with a preferential option for the poor, sick, vulnerable and outcast.  

  2.  Our best understanding is that our government (along with private enterprise) should create  policies that give everyone a realistic opportunity to take care of themselves in matters of shelter, food, education, work, health care, and safety.  Ryan proposes that his political policy is the best way to help the poor.  

   3.  Our experience shows us that many people, through no fault of their own, cannot provide adequately for themselves.  For example, they are born into poor circumstances and miss the opportunity to move upward, or they attend schools that are academically inadequate, or they are trained for jobs that no longer exist.  

  It seems that by putting all three of these considerations together, we Americans should directly address the reasons why people are poor through no fault of their own, and work to alleviate those conditions.  In the meantime, we are obliged by our faith, by our principles of social justice, and by just plain common sense, to extend help to them--even at some cost to ourselves, namely, even by paying taxes to provide that help.

   In today's extreme political climate, some people shout that government aid is Socialism.  It reminds me of Bishop Dom Helder Camara, of Recife, Brazil, who famously said, "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint.  But when I ask why the poor are poor, they call me a Communist."  They should have called him a Catholic.

  Ryan's plan is short-sighted if it means simply taking away what help the poor now have, before
we can provide the opportunities they need.  And yes, it is up to us, who have the power to provide the opportunities, to provide them.  The poor obviously cannot provide them for themselves. 

   In Christ, we are all spiritually empowered and obliged to put as much pressure on our government officials and private enterprises to create and provide the training and job opportunities that are now missing from our society.  To start, we can tell Mr. Ryan to work with people of all views and come up with a plan that all can agree upon.  In the meantime, the poor are suffering.  In them, Christ is bleeding.      



Monday, May 7, 2012

Humpty-Dumpty Schools?

   St. Paul said that we are all part of the one body of Christ.  The individual parts of the body all have their particular meaning and function, and all work together in unity.  If one part suffers, all the parts suffer. (1 Cor. 12:12-27)  We should apply this beautiful image to today's society and culture. 

  Not long ago I spoke with a lawyer who represented a school district.  Very quickly I realized that to him, the school district was the school board and the administrators.  I asked, "What about the teachers?"  "Oh, no," he replied, "They're employees of the district. And they have their union."  To complete the picture I asked where the students fit in.  He had no answer.  We didn't get to the students' parents, or the community.

   Let's keep going.  I then asked the school board, "Who decides what is taught in our schools."  They answered, "The state."  I called the state and asked the same question.  They answered, "The school boards."

   How many teachers relate to what others are teaching?  How many attend faculty meetings that deal with unifying the curriculum?  More deeply, how are the teachers educated?  I once asked the President of a large university, "What unifies your university?"  He answered, "Nothing.  Every school operates separately."  I said, "This university is a 'versity,' without a 'uni.'  He nodded and said, "If you want to go around and talk to all the deans about correlating the curriculum, be my guest.  I can't do anything about our disunity."   

   School board.  Administrators.  Teachers. Teachers' union.  Students.  Parents.  Community.  Dis-unified universities.  The picture I get of education today is that of a system that is broken into many, separate, unrelated--and at times warring--pieces.  There are some cases of team-teaching and cooperative learning, but in general any sense of over-all unity is missing.  But much more needs to be done.  In Catholic terms, instead of looking like the one, unified, beautiful body of Christ, our education system looks more like Humpty-Dumpty after he fell off the wall.

     If our children are getting a fragmented view of education, then aren't they also getting a fragmented view of the world?  And possibly of themselves?

     In the Transforming Society section of this blog, I mention that we are spiritually empowered and responsible to uplift and where necessary correct our society and culture--without imposing our religion on anyone.  The world that we are called to uplift and correct consists of the people we meet every day.  Our schools are right in our own neighborhoods and community.  Our children deserve nothing less than our best efforts--and many teachers, administrators and school board members are more than willing to receive our well informed help, offered in loving good will.  

   Vatican II said we can help make the world more human.  Spiritually in this context, that means working for a better education for all our children--an education that academically enlightens and forms the whole student, the whole school, the whole community, the whole world.  That kind of wholeness is academically and humanly valid, and can be achieved without any reference to anyone's religion.  

   As Catholics, of course, we see everything with the eyes of Christ.  Take a look at your schools.  Christ is there, waiting for you.      



Saturday, May 5, 2012

People of Spiritual Power

  I'm hearing from people who are sad or angry (or both) about the church, and from those who have walked away.  I believe you are people who possess great spiritual power that you can use in and for today's society and culture, and I welcome you to participate in my blog. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Protect Our Children

 I highly recommend the blog, www.catholics4change for information concerning the Philadelphia sex abuse trial and for mobilizing concerned people to protect our children from sex abuse.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Teacher Applies Spiritual Disciplines

   A public school teacher decided to apply the Spiritual Disciplines in her first grade class, without imposing her religion on anyone.  Here's how the Disciplines worked out:

  Love, Compassion, and the Joy of Life: Every morning she greeted her class with, "Good morning, children.  Today is a new and wonderful day filled with wonderful possibilities.  The world has waited many years for this day, just as the world waited many years for you to be born.  And the world is happy that you are here to enjoy all its wonders.  Now let's all say together..."
   The children joined hands and said together with her, "We stretch our bodies to wake up to this wonderful day, we open our eyes to see, we open our minds to learn, and we open our hearts to love.  We will not say bad things to one another or hurt one another.  We will help one another and love one another."  Then, raising their clasped hands, they concluded, "And what would the world be like if everyone loved one another!"

Order:  Her classroom was neat and orderly.  She gently but firmly guided her children in 
   their journey from chaos to cosmos.
Justice and Respect:  She treated all her children equally, fairly and with respect.  She 
   respected the dignity, integrity and life-purpose of every child, and required that the 
   children respect one another's dignity and integrity, e.g., by having them say something 
   good about one another every day.  
Peace:  She taught her children to reach out to help one another, in studies, in recess, 
   etc. She encouraged Service to Others.
Silence and Solitude:  She always spoke softly and at times had her children be silent 
   for a few moments just to catch up to themselves and refresh their minds and spirits.
Faith:  She taught her children to believe in themselves as being good and able to learn,   
   and to believe in her as their trusted teacher  
Trust:  She created a clear sense of safety and belongingness in her classroom.
Hope:  She built true confidence in her children by building on their successes.
Freedom:  She permitted her children to express themselves and take responsibility for 
   their words and actions.
Creativity and Respect for Labor:  She encouraged her children to express new 
   thoughts and ideas, to ask questions and  permitted them to make creative mistakes that 
   did not harm them.  Then she gently corrected them and redirected them to a positive 
   expression of what they had mistakenly expressed.  She taught them to respect their 
   work and the work of others.
Humility:  She demonstrated by her teaching and actions that life in a gift and there is no 
   need to be a braggart or a bully.
Obedience:  She taught her children the importance of obedience to the truth.
Study:  She fostered good study habits in her children.
Wisdom:  She fostered their use of common sense, e.g., in handling problems
Simplicity:  She encouraged truthfulness, honesty, healthy spontaneity, kindness, 
   modesty, and mildness.
Meekness:  She helped her children develop a sense of calmness and good feelings toward their studies and their life in general.
Mourning:  She helped her children through downfalls, failures, hurts, in some cases the 
   loss of a pet, or even a parent. 
Perseverance: She taught her children patience, and fortitude. 
Confession and Forgiveness; Guidance and Counseling:  She encouraged her 
   children to tell her  their problems, and taught them to forgive one another for their 
   trespasses in class, at recess, etc. She offered appropriate counsel to them when they 
   brought personal problems to her, referring them to professionals and parents as 
   needed.  She listened compassionately to their study problems and offered solutions 
   they could handle.
Gratitude:  She fostered a lively sense of thanksgiving in her children for their family, 
   their education, their friends, their country, etc.

   Her class flourished socially and academically to the point where the Superintendent video taped her class and sent the tape to a teaching university as an example of a successful classroom.