Thursday, February 21, 2013


   Pope John XXIII taught us to "read the signs of the times."  By that, he meant we are spiritually called and empowered to see and express our perennial faith in terms that fit the world and culture we live in.  

   With a new pope soon to be elected, the church has the opportunity to revisit Vatican II and put an end to its Imperial structure and the outmoded expression of our faith that is based in pomp, power, secrecy, and the absence of dialogue among the People of God.  Unhappily, I do not expect such an outcome.  But that need not hold us back.  

   We can move forward on our own.  I strongly believe that a Vatican II inspired,  contemporary expression of our faith is now attainable.  It must take account of  evolution, which is the basis for all our scientific and much of our philosophical understanding today.  And evolution would be extremely helpful as the natural basis for our political, economic and social understanding.  Our faith can and should be the leaven that gives evolution its fullness of life, meaning and purpose. 

  In turn, evolution can and should give our faith new life and vigor.  Its terms can show us new, contemporary ways to express Christ's work in building his Kingdom on Earth in preparation for the eternal kingdom.  In sum, evolutionary thinking is the natural basis for expressing our spiritual ideas and making them more understandable, meaningful,  acceptable and effective in today's society and culture.  Anything short of an evolutionary expression of our faith freezes our faith in the past, keeps it away from much of our youth, and can easily imprison us in literal fundamentalism.  Nothing could be more harmful to any "New Evangelization" that we can hope to attain. 

   I have therefore expanded and updated the page, "An Evolution Story."  I invite you to read and contemplate it. 

   Finally, you may have noticed that this blog is receiving its share of spam comments, which I delete a few times a day.  I welcome your serious comments on this and any other topic.    

Friday, February 15, 2013


   A writer recently noted that regarding Vatican II, Pope Benedict XVI was more a Lumen Gentium (Constitution on the Church) pope, than a Gaudium et Spes (Constitution on the Church in the Modern World) pope.  I agree.  Even considering Benedict's excellent writings on today's economic challenges, he kept the church centralized in Rome and focused on such "in house" matters as avoiding a full consideration of the festering sexual abuse tragedy, hindering pastorally sensitive theologians and refusing to consider contemporary insights on teachings that need open discussion and possible updating, blaming secularism while disregarding the spiritual anemia that infects the church, clumsily attacking a majority of truly contemporary American nuns, and trying to reconcile with the recalcitrant Pius X Society while ignoring the faithful reform groups.

   His fearful and confusing interpretation of Vatican II as representing discontinuity in continuity helped prevent him (and his obedient bishops) from looking into the council's fresh teachings and organizing the laity to effectively use their particular spiritual discernment (sensus fidelium) and prophetic action to bring a vibrant faith into today's world and thereby more effectively help save today's societies and cultures in the grace of Christ.

   In the same vein, another writer notes that Benedict focused more on the Creed, which expresses the great transcendent truths of our faith, and less on the Lord's Prayer, which expresses Jesus' everyday, "daily bread," practical desire:  "Thy kingdom come...on earth."  Vatican II's document on the church was meant to lead directly to the document on the church in the modern world.  The council officially and powerfully taught, in pastoral language, that the work of the church is to take place chiefly in the everyday world, which God loved so much that he sent his only begotten son to save.  

   When Benedict called for a new evangelization, he missed the mark by calling Catholics, especially the disaffected, back to a better understanding of the faith and back to the liturgy and sacraments--which of course is good in itself.  But this call can easily be seen as a call back to the "church building," i.e., back to the world of clerical power and to all the unresolved problems I mentioned in the first paragraph.  Such a call pulls the laity away from the "daily bread" of their everyday lives and actually detracts from the meaning, beauty and effectiveness of the liturgy and sacraments by distancing them from the everyday lives of the laity.  The refusal to face the festering problems and the distancing are precisely why so many Catholics are disaffected.

   It will be a miracle if the new pope truly recognizes and respects the spiritual discernment, (sensus fidelium), empowerment and prophetic vocation of the laity, and if he fosters a church that is spiritually alive and truly effective in today's world.  In the meantime, we will be where we were with Pope Benedict XVI, still very much on our own, faced with the daunting challenge of organizing ourselves as effective, discerning and prophetically active, spiritually adult, 21st century Catholics.  Are we up to the challenge?  I pray that the posts and pages of this blog are a helpful part of the answer.


Monday, February 4, 2013


   In my "Guilty" post of June 23rd of last year, I wrote of the conviction of Msgr. William Lynn, of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  Today's post will deal with another form of guilt, a stubborn, pernicious form of guilt that still festers within the church.

   By now we know that Los Angeles archbishop, Jose Gomez, has removed Cardinal Roger Mahony from all public duties, for protecting priests who sexually abused children.  From a legal viewpoint, Mahony committed serious crimes, but they are now beyond the statute of limitations, so he can't be convicted or go to prison for them.  Actually, his "punishment" means that the retired Mahony will no longer administer the sacrament of Confirmation.  He still remains a priest in good standing.
   Archbishop Gomez's small gesture is notable mostly because it had to be approved by the pope.  Benedict, however, has not removed Mahony from his three Vatican posts.  The Cardinal still remains in good standing at the top level of the church, and he could still vote for a pope.  

   The guilt that I'm referring to shows itself in the way Mahony failed to respond to clear reports that priests under his jurisdiction and control were abusing and raping children.  On January 21st, Mahony issued a statement apologizing for his failure to protect the abused children.  He also said that he did not fully understand the pain of the victims until he met some of them.

   What kind of person cannot understand the pain and suffering of a child who is abused or raped by anyone, let alone a priest?  Was Mahony born with such brutal insensitivity to this most horrible kind of shock and suffering?  Or was such sensitivity trained out of him in the seminary and in his later years as a bishop and Cardinal, living in a clerical culture isolated from basic human feelings and compassion?  The experience of the past few years shows us, of course, that the latter is true.

   Mahony went on to say that his understanding has evolved.  Let's hope so.  But the fact that he still remains a priest in good standing and still holds honored posts at the Vatican shows that the isolated-from-everyday-human-experience-and-suffering, clerical culture has not evolved.  Priestly training and the church authority structure still continue with business as usual within the church's impenetrable bubble.

   Despite the expiration of the statute of limitations, Mahony is morally and spiritually guilty  of horrific crimes.  And unless Benedict XVI wakes up and hands out punishments to bishops and Cardinals that are equal to their crimes, and also, unless he changes the church's clerical culture and operating structures, he and the church's culture will also be guilty before the world and before God.