Friday, June 29, 2012

More On Democracy in the Church

   Recently a friend asked me, "If you started your own church, what would you call it?"  I replied, "I would call it, 'The Catholic Church that Follows the Teachings of the Catholic Church.'"

   Following Msgr. Lynn's conviction for obeying the church's spiritually corrupt, authority/power system, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia issued a dishonest statement that included a call for honesty.  The statement was dishonest because it focused on abuse without even mentioning the church's criminal authority/power system within which Lynn committed his crime.  So it falls upon the laity to apply the pressure to get the bishops to wake up and obey the true and honest teachings of the church.  And here is a sad point: we don't have to be dissidents to change the church; we have to stop the bishops from being dissidents.    

   In my June 26th post, I gave some "ammunition" for the spiritual revolution that we must fight.  Included was the important point of our equal baptismal dignity.  This is basic because accepting our equal dignity ensures that we accept our own spiritual adulthood and responsibilities.  

   Here is some more "ammunition."  The equal baptismal dignity of all members of the church requires mutual, adult respect.  So, let's stop calling bishops, "Your Excellency," and Cardinals, "Your Eminence."  The address, "Bishop," or "Cardinal," is appropriate and duly respectful.  Maybe some day we'll even call them, "Peter," or "Paul."  And there's no need to kiss any rings.  When I met Pope John XXIII in his private study, he approached me holding out his arms in a gesture of warm embrace, and then he shook my hand.  Actually, I half suspect that at least some bishops would enjoy being thus humanized.

   Here are some canons that will help us.  Read them with our vocation and mission of "apostolic action" to reform the church in mind:

   Canon 215:  Christ's faithful may freely establish and direct associations which serve charitable or pious purposes or which foster the Christian vocation in the world, and they may hold meetings to pursue these purposes by common effort.

   Canon 216:  Since they share the Church's mission, all Christ's faithful have the right to promote and support apostolic action, by their own initiative, undertaken according to their state and condition.  No initiative, however, can lay claim to the title, "Catholic," without the consent of the competent ecclesiastical authority. 

   What is more Catholic than demanding that the bishops obey the teachings and laws of the church? 

   Canon 221, Par. 1:  Christ's faithful may lawfully vindicate and defend the rights they enjoy in the Church, before the competent ecclesiastical forum in accordance with the law.

   Canon 223, Par. 1:  In exercising their rights, Christ's faithful, both individually and in associations, must take account of the common good of the Church, as well as the rights of others and their own duties to others.

   The common good of the church lies in obeying its teachings and respecting the rights of all people, especially the right of children to complete safety.  Out duties to others are very clear.

  Today, the "state and condition" of the laity includes justified outrage and the right to demand correction from the bishops.  But demanding is only the start.  Now we have to create concrete ways to ensure that the bishops truly and honestly make the changes that are so urgently needed.   

   Catholics are now organizing to create these ways.  I will suggest some on this blog.  I invite your suggestions.           



Thursday, June 28, 2012

Spiritual Priorities

   I'm going to take a cue from Sister Joan Chittister and not say, "Catholic social justice," but rather say, "Catholic life."  In fact, if Sister will permit me, I'll translate her phrase into, "Life-in-Christ."  When it comes to Health Care, life in Christ, calls for providing health care coverage for every person.  In fact, life-in-Christ considers health care a human right.  

   Today our Supreme Court ruled that the Affordable Health Care Act is constitutional.  Opponents immediately declared that they disagree with the court's decision and will fight to have the Act repealed.  So, as 21st century Catholics, we have an extremely important spiritual situation on our hands.  We must fight to keep some form of health care for all.  Whatever form that may eventually take is up to our government.  Our concern is that it happen, and that it be just and affordable.   

   We don't have to be lawyers or politicians to participate in this fight.  We are already baptized Catholics and that gives us a legitimate place in the fight.  But we do have to be discerning Catholics.  We have to look into the discussion to see what there is of God in it and what there is of rank, self-serving politics.  And we should be vocal in proclaiming what is of God and exposing what is self-serving politics.  We owe it to God, to ourselves individually, and to the common good.

   Citizens of other countries can find similar spiritual challenges.  

   Here is an excellent opportunity to express our participation in Christ's prophetic and kingly office (cf. the TRANSFORMING SOCIETY page).  Changing our church's criminal authority structure will take a great deal of time.  This is something we can do right now.

   People are suffering.  Waiting is not an option.       

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Democracy in the Church

   Msgr. Lynn's crime starkly points out what happens in a church that is deeply caught up in a spiritually corrupt authority/power system.  The present system is clearly not of God and was explicitly forbidden by Jesus himself.  (Lk. 22:25-27).  It needs to be abandoned.  But, as I posted below in, "Guilty!" church leaders are in denial or trapped in their own structure, and are not disposed to wake up to the truth and change the now criminal system.  

   Clearly, a revolution is necessary.  Not a military one but a spiritual one, a cleansing one, that results in practical actions and real change.  In an important way, the revolution has already started, e.g., with people refusing to give money to the archdiocese, and working to have the statute of limitations extended.  But for the long run, it needs clear and effective knowledge and understanding, and a coherent vision.  Very importantly, the laity need to change their inbred church culture and start working to make the church truly the People of God--all the people.  We all need to accept our equal baptismal dignity and require that our dignity be fully respected and accepted.  

   And church leaders have to change, or be changed.  Ironically, one thing this means is that they need to start following the teachings and laws of the church.  For example, if they had implemented Vatican II, this present calamity may never have happened.  So right now, their system is not only criminal, it is schismatic, i.e., it is operating outside the teachings and laws of the church.  

   In this and future posts, I will outline some of the "ammunition" we can use in the coming battle.  We can start by declaring our equal baptismal dignity and our independence from the monarchical rule that was condemned by Jesus.  Canon 208 says, "Flowing from their rebirth in Christ, there is a genuine equality of dignity and action among all of Christ's faithful.  Because of this equality they all contribute, each according to his or her own condition and office, to the building up of the body of Christ."  No more pray, pay and obey!  We are all equal!

   We must battle to overcome the criminal monarchical rule by making the church more democratic.  Church officials like to say that the church is not a democracy.  The correct  response is, "Neither is it a monarchy."  Jesus appointed the apostles as servant-leaders, not as kings.  We understand that without leaders there is no community, but our leaders must lead as Christ did, and he washed the feet of his apostles.  

  In the church community, there is a lot of room for democracy, if we use the word in its correct context.  In the political context, "Democracy" refers to an institution in which power is given by the people to the leaders.  In this context, the church is not a democracy.  While spiritual power is given to all members of the church by Christ, servant-authority is given to the church leaders by Christ.

   One way that democracy can be correctly established in the church is by fully activating the right of Catholics to participate in the governance of the church.  Canon law provides for the laity's presence at particular councils, diocesan synods, pastoral councils; the exercise of solidum (solidarity) of the pastoral care of the church, collaboration in finance committees, and participation in ecclesiastical tribunals.  (Canon 443 and others).  But their participation has to be respected, and when shown to be right, implemented. 

  "Democracy" also applies to the way the church makes moral decisions.  In any institution the best decisions are well-informed ones reached through the widest possible collaboration.  In the church the best, well-informed moral decisions are those that arise from the gathered up, spiritual discernment of all the members of the church.  Spiritual discernment arises from:
     a. the perennial, living, evolving faith 
     b. present theological investigation into our living, evolving faith
     c. the best and most updated scientific and philosophical understanding of the universe and of our own human nature, e.g., the nature of love and marriage, of social justice in our time, of contemporary ways to discern what is right and true, etc.,           
     d. the everyday experience of the laity who are daily discerning the Spirit according to their own ways of life.   

   All these sources are means of discerning the church's sense of the faith and morals, the sensus fidelium. It is in the church's corporate sense of faith and morals that the Spirit is most clearly and effectively seen and experienced.  (See EXPERIENCING GOD TODAY).

   The job of the church's servant-leaders is to respectfully gather up the church's corporate sense of the faith and morals, organize and clarify it, and then teach it with authority.  The authority of their teaching, therefore, will arise from the fact that the whole church has already discerned and received what is being taught.  

   Again we can use Canon Law.  Canon 212 starts out in the pre-Vatican II, monarchical mindset, and then, almost reluctantly moves into complying with Vatican II's democratizing mindset:
   Par. 1.  Christ's faithful, conscious of their own responsibility, are bound to show Christian obedience to what the sacred pastors, who represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith and prescribe as rulers of the church.
   Par. 2.  Christ's faithful are at liberty to make known their needs, especially their spiritual needs, and their wishes to the pastors of the church.
   Par. 3.  They have the right, indeed at times the duty, in keeping with their knowledge, competence and position, to manifest to the sacred pastors their views on matters which concern the good of the church.  They have the right to make their views known to others of Christ's faithful, but in doing so they must always respect the integrity of faith and morals, show due reverence to the pastors, and take into account both the common good and the dignity of individuals.

  The way will be hard and long.  The resistance will be strong.  But if church teaching and canon law says that we have equal dignity and democratic rights, it follows logically that church leaders must acknowledge and respect our dignity and rights.  We have much to fight for.   


Saturday, June 23, 2012


   Yesterday, a church official was convicted of the crime of endangering children.  Msgr. William Lynn, of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, can serve from 3-l/2 to 7 years in prison.

   The archdiocese released a statement apologizing to the victims and then saying that from now on they will work to make the church safe for all people.  I don't believe them.  

   Everything happens in a context.  The only reason that the church officials want to make the church "safe" is that they got caught.  They got caught covering up priests' sins and crimes against children.  So, what they really mean is that they will do everything possible not to get caught again.  The pressure on the church is coming from the outside, from the world that bishops and the pope consider a place of secularism and sin, "the culture of death"--a world that ordinarily they ignore or condemn.   

   Inside the church, the context is different.  Lynn was convicted of obeying his archbishop, Cardinal Bevilacqua.  Obedience is built into the church structure.  At ordination a priest promises obedience to his bishop, and a bishop promises obedience to the pope.  When a Cardinal receives his red hat from the pope, he promises never to publicly express anything that will make the church look bad.   

   I know many Philadelphia priests.  I count them among the finest men I have had the privilege to know.  And I know they are personally grieving for the children.  They are also grieving for their perpetrator brothers and for the church.  I don't know Archbishop Chaput, so I don't know how he feels personally.  In any case, it doesn't matter. It doesn't officially matter.  The priests and Chaput are divided men, separated from their personal feelings by the official structure that runs their lives.  It is reported that some priests attended Lynn's trial and applauded him while ignoring the victims who were there to testify.  As I note on the, THE SPIRITUALLY MATURE PERSON page, a spiritually mature person is a whole person.  As spiritual as these men may personally be, they are officially not whole persons.  

  So when the archdiocese issues an apology and a "promise" to do better, they may personally mean it but they don't officially mean it.  And, "officially" is what counts.  What counts is the church organization, and its authority/power structure that is at the heart of this calamity.  If the official church really cared, it would change its power structure.  But it is not about to do that.  As I posted earlier, in Ireland Pope Benedict XVI publicly stated that the whole sexual abuse situation is a mystery to him.  No bishop said, "Hey, Joe, it's no mystery at all.  We're working in a spiritually corrupt structure."  

   But they kept quiet.  And Benedict is keeping quiet.  Surely, he has expressed his personal sorrow to the victims.  But when it comes to changing the structures that helped create those victims, he is silent, deadly silent.  And so the bishops are obediently silent, despite Vatican II's teaching that they run the church with the pope.  So nothing will change except that the archdiocese will try harder not to get caught again by the civil authorities.  A dawning bright note is that through cases like the Lynn case, the Spirit of truth is cleansing the church of what is not of God.  In the meantime, we cannot trust anything the authorities officially say.    

  And also in the meantime, we have a society to uplift and transform, as well as we personally can, individually and with others, in the Spirit of Christ.  People are suffering.  Waiting is not an option.     



Friday, June 22, 2012

The Spiritual Mistake of Avoiding the World

   How many of us still say things like, "We're here to save our souls?"  And what does that mean?  Sometimes I think that more Catholics live a spiritual life inspired by Plato rather than by Jesus.

   Plato said that we are souls, and only souls, who existed in another world before we were born.  While we existed in that other world, we knew everything and were perfectly happy.  When our parents created our body, we left that other world and came down to this one and entered our body.  But the shock of entering into our body was so great that we forgot all that we knew before we were born.

   Our job here on earth, then, is two-fold.  One, we have to remember what we knew.  We do that by being educated.  The word, "educate," comes from the Latin, e, out of; and ducare, to lead, or pull.  Our parents and teachers pull out of us all that we knew before we were born.  

   To Platonic thinking, nature really isn't real at all.  It's a shadow of reality.  In fact, nature gets us into trouble, especially through our emotions and passions.  To be perfect, then, we have to get away from our emotions and passions, and live in the world of the mind.   And finally, we have to get out of our body and out of this world, and get back to the world we came from.

   Many of us have followed this view in living our spiritual life.  To be good Christians, we have to control our body, our emotions, and especially our passions.  The world that we live in is not the world of the Spirit.  So we should stay away from the everyday world and look beyond it as much as possible.  

   Jesus of course was fully immersed in his everyday world.  He lived with his family, had a job, had friends, male and female, got an education, went to weddings, etc.  He was involved in his society well enough to know and get angry at the way the Pharisees were being hypocrites, and how the rich were oppressing the poor.  He got so deeply involved in this world that its evil energy crucified him.

   In his preaching, he used the language and images of his everyday world, e.g., sheep, vineyards, weeds and wheat, mustard seeds, etc.  Later, when his apostles went out to preach the Gospel in the Greek and Roman worlds, they used the terms of those worlds. Paul, for example, knew that the Greeks had no knowledge or interest in the Kingdom that Jesus preached.  Jesus used "kingdom" to remind the Jews of David's kingdom so they could imagine the greater glory of God's kingdom.  So Paul preached instead on the body of Christ.  In the fifth century, the Christians began using the language of Plato because the philosophy of the time was Platonic.

   In the 12th Century, St. Thomas Aquinas put the Gospel into the terms of Aristotle's philosophy, which is based in this world.  But our spirituality has tended to remain "out of this world."   Vatican II worked to change our view, especially in its document on the church in the modern world.  Here we can note that Pope Benedict XVI is reported to be unhappy with Vatican II's approach of dialog with today's world, and even learning from it.  To him, Vatican II (and Pope John XXIII) was too optimistic.  He prefers to see the world first as a place of sin.    

  Today's challenge is to be spiritual in the terms of today's world.  Let's take a look at some well known Catholics to see how they're doing this, or not doing this.  Newt Gingrich is a Catholic.  John Boehner is a Catholic.  Nancy Pelosi is a Catholic.  Six of the Supreme Court judges are Catholic.  Washington Post and Commonweal commentator, E. J. Dionne, a Catholic, has said that except for abortion, President Obama speaks fluent Catholic.  

  How Catholic are the "job creators" who are not creating American jobs?  How Catholic are those who are obstructing the "job creators?"  How Catholic is the growing disparity of income?  The dumbing down of education?  How Catholic are the sermons and homilies that don't really begin to touch the reality we live in every day?  How Catholic are the Prayers of the Faithful that keep asking God to do what we should be doing with the grace that God has already given us?             

   Many of us say we want to help uplift and transform today's world but don't know how.  The world that we are spiritually empowered and responsible to uplift and transform consists of the people and situations we meet every day.  It consists in the world that is on the other end of our telephone line and in our vote.  Here, and all the other places and opportunities we meet everyday are where Christ, in us, is meeting the world that he wants to save in and through us.         

  We are here, not to save our souls alone, but our entire self, all others, and all of nature. People are suffering.  Waiting is not an option.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Condemnation or Collaboration?

   While I was still in the clergy, I spoke on Vatican II in a synagogue one evening.  A young man got up and said, "I just graduated from college.  For the past two years, I had the same Catholic room mate.  Every day he said to me that if I don't become a Catholic I'm going to go to hell.  What do you say about that?"

   I smiled and said, "Well, here you are in a synagogue, so it looks like you're still a Jew."  He smiled back and said, "Yes, I am."  I said, "Do you mean to say that, after all that your room mate said, you still believe God wants you to be a Jew?"  "Yes," he replied.  I smilingly insisted, "You mean that in your heart of hearts, you believe God wants you to be a Jew?"  "Yes," he repeated.  I concluded, "Young man, if you become a Catholic, you're going to go to hell."  Everybody gasped.  I explained, "If you become a Catholic, you'd be a hypocrite, and God doesn't want anyone to be a hypocrite."

   Years later, I was speaking in a Protestant seminary.  A young man arose and asked, "Who belongs to the church of Christ?"  I said, "Everybody whose life is marked by consistent love and good will."  He said, "Sir, you're confused!"

   One of the complaints today from people who oppose Vatican II is that Catholics no longer work to convert non-Catholics.  Even worse, we now see that non-Catholics could be saved, even while remaining true to their own faiths.  Our explanation is not pleasing to everyone, including both Catholics and non-Catholics, but in simple terms, here it is.

   God offers himself to everyone, and people receive God in very many ways: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Native religions, etc., etc.  The one test of whether or not a person is living in and with God's grace is love and good will.  Not an occasional act of love.  Even Hitler was capable of that.  We mean a life marked by a consistency of love and good will.  This applies also to agnostics and atheists.  Given our natural incompleteness, which makes us prone to sin, we cannot live in a consistent commitment to loving ourselves, others and nature and living in good will to all without accepting God's grace. 

   Therefore, to us, since all the grace of God comes through Christ, who is all of humanity and all of creation united to God, we say that all of humanity and the whole world are saved through Christ.  

   Theologically, we say that there is one global church of Christ, and that it extends beyond the visible boundaries of the Catholic church.  We say that the Catholic church enjoys the fullness of the global church of Christ, and others partake in that fullness.  We ask non-Catholics to respect the way we see, just as we require ourselves to respect the way they see.  Certainly, we should want everyone on earth to enjoy the fullness of faith that we enjoy.  We can discuss our differences in an ecumenical spirit, but any temptation to argue or accuse should be overcome by our commitment to work together in love, for the common good, with a preferential option for the poor,sick, vulnerable and outcast.     

   To Catholics who are still on the lookout for heretics and dissidents, the only approach to people not like themselves is conversion or condemnation.     

Reference:  Vatican II, The Constitution on the Church, Nos. 13-17


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Tragically Wrong Mystery

   Recently, Pope Benedict XVI said that it was a "Mystery," why priests and church officials sexually abused and raped children.  So, to this day, he does not understand why the abuse happened and no doubt, why it was covered up by bishops.  His absence of understanding is confounding.  And if we contrast his choice of the word, "Mystery," which in this case, means, "ignorance," to the spiritual meaning of the word, which he uses, e.g., when he says, "the Mystery of faith," we are even more deeply confounded.    

   The Spiritual meaning of "Mystery" is the Inexhaustible, Absolute Fullness of Reality that is God.  It is the Living Fullness that we encounter and that lovingly embraces us when we believe in God.  To help us understand the contrast of meanings:  the more we know about anything of space/time, the less ignorance there is.  The more we know about God, the more there is to know about him and ourselves.    

   As we progress in spiritual maturity, we become more aware of God's presence and intentions, more aware of the wondrous Mystery living within us.  We carry our awareness of God with us at all times and in everything we do.  (Cf. Contemplation, and Contemplation in Action on the PRAYER page.)  Here's where Benedict's ignorance becomes confounding.  Given that he is a prayerful man living in the light of God's presence within him, how could he be unaware of the reasons why priests and bishops did what they did?

  Here's a clue.  Recently, the National Catholic Reporter reported Benedict's directions to some visiting American bishops.  Concerning sexual abuse, he said, "It is my hope that the church's conscientious efforts to confront this reality will help the broader community to recognize the causes, true extent and devastating consequences of sexual abuse, and to respond effectively to this scourge which affects every level of society."  How do you make a conscientious effort to confront something that you don't understand?  And how do you therefore hold yourself out as a positive example to others?  The terrible truth is that the only reason the church authorities are now handling the tragedy to the extent that they are, is that they got caught.   

   Everybody except the pope (and how many bishops?) knows that there is something horribly wrong with the church's clerical authority system.  As a retired psychotherapist, I am familiar with the defense mechanism called Denial.  Simply put, it is the inability or refusal to recognize something because we cannot cope with it.  This defense requires a great deal of energy to keep it in place.  Is the pope suffering from a psychological refusal to see the truth?  Is this condition so powerful that it is blocking out his spiritual sensitivity to the presence and intentions of God within himself and within the whole church?  Is the energy he is using to keep himself in denial helping to enervate him?

    Whatever the answers to the above questions, my conclusion is that at this moment of history, we are spiritually without credible leadership from the hierarchy and pope.  We simply cannot trust anything they say, unless they first include the laity and theologians in whatever the subject may be.  And I include here, the nuns.  Lacking such a collaborative system of discerning the truth in today's signs of the times, we are own our own.  This is one important reason why I am writing this blog.  Spiritually we never stand still; we either move forward or backward.  We have to use our energy every day to strengthen our sense of the faith so we can discern and experience God ever more seriously and effectively, (see EXPERIENCING GOD TODAY). We are on our own but not alone.  We have one another.  Let's walk together to discern the truth within the spiritual meaning of Mystery, so we can prayerfully work to avoid the tragic meaning of mystery that the pope recently gave the word.   




Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Challenge for Today and Tomorrow

   Last week I asked a new graduate if her Catholic university had prepared her to be an effective Catholic in today's society.  She answered that she was happy with her major, and then added that she had also been taught the principles of social justice.  I asked her if her university had correlated her major with the principles of society justice and with her Catholic life.  She said, "No."  

  Also last week, Sister Joan Chittister said she doesn't use the term, "social justice."  "It's life!" she exclaimed. St. Paul said that life is Christ, and to live is Christ. (Phil. 1:21; Col. 3:4).  So, as Sr. Joan might put it, the student's university did not give her an education and formation in life and in Christ.    

   I believe that Catholic education should be a comprehensive academic formation of students in the mind and heart of Christ, who is the entire universe united to divinity.  Every subject, every major, is an expression of what it means to be human, and more deeply, an expression of Christ, whose Spirit is present in the the entire world, in every person, and in every subject and every major.  And all should be correlated into one, living, effective whole.  I realize that no Catholic college or university would say anything like that, even if they believed it, for fear of losing students, and possibly non-Catholic faculty and government grants.  So, am I expecting too much?     

   In speaking of education, Vatican II goes beyond having a Catholic university teach the "secular" subjects and then also theology.  Giving full respect to the validity of the human mind operating according to natural reason, the council says:
      ...the subjects should be pursued according to their own principles, methods and
    liberty of scientific inquiry, in such a way that an ever deeper understanding in these
    fields may be obtained and that, as questions that are new and current are raised
    and investigations carefully made according to the example of the doctors of the
   Church and especially of St. Thomas Aquinas, there may be a deeper realization
    of the harmony of faith and science.  (Emphasis mine).  Thus there is accomplished
    a public, enduring and pervasive influence of the Christian mind in the furtherance
    of culture, and the students of these institutions are molded into men and women
    truly outstanding in their training, ready to undertake weighty responsibilities in
    society and witness to the faith in the world.  (Emphasis mine)  
                                                                                      Declaration on Christian Education, No. 10 

       When the council speaks of attaining a deeper understanding of the various academic fields according to the example of the doctors of the church, and especially of St. Thomas Aquinas, I recall that my professor, Bernard Lonergan, at the Gregorian University in Rome,
once noted that if Thomas were alive today he would not be talking about substances and accidents but rather about quantum physics, black holes and event horizons.  To which I add that if Jesus were alive today, he would dress like us and no doubt own a tee shirt that said,
E = mc2.

   Finally, it would be ideal if today's graduates would move into parishes where their education continued to be correlated with their developing spiritual maturity so they could begin to affect today's society and culture in a spiritually positive way.  But this is not realistic.  So the job falls upon those of us who are older.  I invite the readers of this blog to engage the new graduates in the challenge of using their education to become discerning and prophetic Christians.  You can use the various pages of the blog as Reference material to help guide the conversation.  In today's society and church, it is really up to us, not only to be the 21st century expressions of Christ that we are empowered and responsible to be, but also to help those who will build tomorrow's society and culture.

   I'd like to hear from you on this.



Sunday, June 10, 2012

Change the Church!

  Every day I receive complaints and even expressions of anger and disgust from fellow Catholics about the terrible condition of our church.  Most are pessimistic, saying we can't do anything to change the hierarchy and their closed-in clerical system that's not responsible or responsive to us.  Sadly, that is mostly true.  Happily, the Holy Spirit in many ways, including using the civil authorities as in Philadelphia, is slowly causing the clerical system to crumble.  In the meantime, we can do much on our own.    

  The church is not just the hierarchy alone.  And it is not the closed-in clerical system.  The church is all of us.  And the work of the church is not restricted to what goes on in the church building.  Certainly, we receive the sacraments in the church building, especially the Eucharist at Mass.  But the principle work of the church happens outside the church building.  All the parish missions and activities are meant to prepare us to live as Christians in the everyday world.  The reason the church exists is to serve the everyday world in the saving grace of Christ.  

   That's where we come in.  Within our one, living, evolving Catholic faith, we can operate as 21st century expressions of Christ, spiritually empowered and responsible to uplift and where necessary, correct today's society and culture.  That's how Christ, through us, is saving the world.  We can and must act, as effectively as we can, according to our own vocations and on our own initiative.  We are children of God but adult Christians.

  Today, on the EXPERIENCING GOD TODAY page, I start the discussion of living and applying our sense of faith in our society and culture.  We could use guides along our way.  If we have personal counselors, all the better.  In this blog, at least, we have the PRINCIPLES OF SOCIAL JUSTICE page, the SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES page, and THE SPIRITUALLY MATURE PERSON page, TRANSFORMING SOCIETY and PRAYER pages to guide us.  Together we are the church in today's society and culture and we can and must be a powerful force for good.        

  People are suffering.  Waiting is not an option.      

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Sense of the Faith

I am continuing my explanation of Vatican II's teaching on the sense of the faith on the EXPERIENCING GOD TODAY page, while my Vatican II diary continues on its own page.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

After One Month

   As I complete the first month of writing this blog, I am happy and grateful to see it pass 5000 hits.  

  It is especially exciting to see that there are readers, not only in the U. S. but also in Canada, Russia, the United Kingdom, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Guatemala, and South Africa.  

   Note:  When I included the word, "American" in the title, I did so because I have long ago learned to restrict my writing to what I know at least a little something about.  I of course intend that readers of other nationalities will apply what I am saying to themselves and their own societies and cultures.  Part of the genius of Christianity is that it can be the leaven within any culture in the world at any time.  So I invite all my readers to keep working to make our beautiful faith a more effective leaven in their society and culture, without in any way imposing our faith on anyone.

   Thank you all!


Friday, June 1, 2012

Waiting For a Verdict

   The Philadelphia trial of Msgr. William Lynn, who is accused of conspiring to keep predator priests in parishes, is now in the hands and hearts of the jury.  As a former professor at Philadelphia's St. Charles Seminary (dispensed from the clergy in 1970) I have literally cried as I read the names of my former students and priest friends who have abused and raped children.

   Over the past decade, my wife and I have met several victim/survivors.  We especially grieve for Jim Kelly, who committed suicide.  

   No matter what the verdict in Lynn's trial, we must continue to focus on changing the spiritually corrupt system that required Lynn to mindlessly obey orders and lie, thereby endangering children.  The church's system of obedience is clearly not of God.  It pertains to the curse of Christ, who said that those who permit children to be harmed should tie a millstone around their necks and be drowned.  The stark clarity of this curse points out the darkness of the system that has continued to disregard it to this day.

   As this blog will continue to focus on how we can all become clearer and more effective expressions of Christ in today's society and culture, it will also focus on how we can more quickly bring about the change in the church's authority structure that is so urgently needed.