Thursday, December 24, 2015


   While we celebrate Christmas on December 25th, Christmas is forever.  Christmas was born in eternity and extends through all space/time.

   In space/time Christmas begins 13.8 billion years ago,when Eternal, Infinite, Living LOVE creatively overflowed and birthed forth the universe.  (cf.Jn. 1:1)  Nothing can exist outside of LOVE, so LOVE filled the universe from its first moment of existence. 

   Now since only Eternity/Infinity is perfect and limitless, the space/time universe was naturally imperfect and limited.  And it immediately showed its imperfection and limitations by being chaotic. (Gen. 1:2)  Happily, LOVE was not only CREATIVE LOVE, but also HEALING LOVE.  So from within the universe, LOVE began to soothe the chaos with healing peace.  Chaotic energy particles calmed down and joined together to form atoms.  Atoms released their photons and light appeared in the universe. (Gen. 1:3)

   To complete the picture, LOVE was also WORLD BUILDING LOVE.  And so the universe, energized by LOVE's vital presence, continued to evolve until it shone forth with galaxies and planets.

   The presence of LOVE within the newly created universe made the universe a loving union of Divinity and nature.  The (masculine dominant) Hebrews described this union as LOVE's anointing the universe with His presence, using "his" to say that LOVE was living, conscious LOVE.  The universe became the "anointed one." In Hebrew, the word for "anointed one" is Messiah.  In Greek, it is Christos; in Latin, Christus; in English, Christ.  The divinely anointed and filled universe is the Christ-ed universe; it is the Cosmic Christ Reality.  In the fullness of time, the Cosmic Christ Reality would fill Jesus and give him his unique identity.

   About five billion years ago, the evolving universe gave birth to a planet that came to be called Earth.  LOVE, of course, was present within Earth from the beginning, making Earth LOVE's image and Earth's own particular expression of the Cosmic Christ Reality.  With LOVE within her, Earth evolved until she brought forth living creatures and finally, the human community.  And LOVE endowed the human community with creative, healing and world building and evolving power--and responsibility--to move the world forward toward ever greater wholeness in love.  As Earth and the human community evolved, the earthly part of the Cosmic Christ Reality evolved.  And the ever developing Christmas Story evolved.

   The human community, alive with LOVE's presence, continued what they had learned from their pre-human ancestors and hunted, built fires, gathered into groups and families, respected the dead, etc.  As they evolved, they became aware of their own human love within and among themselves.  And then, with LOVE's Self-revealing help, they awoke to Eternal/Infinite LOVE's reality and presence within the earth and themselves. And they sang praises to LOVE and worshiped LOVE.

   But being naturally imperfect, humans also fought among themselves, stole from one another and killed one another, distorting themselves as the image and likeness of LOVE.  And they began to appeal to LOVE for help.

   LOVE chose the Hebrew people to be LOVE's special messengers to the world.  With LOVE's help, their understanding of LOVE very quickly reached the highest point of human spiritual insight.  In Moses' experience at the burning bush (cf. Exod. 3) the Hebrews came to realize that LOVE is not this or that deity, but YAHWEH, the ONE WHO IS IS, REALITY HIM/HERSELF.  LOVE and REALITY are the same divine Being, the same, living, conscious One.  As images of REALITY/LOVE we learn that to be real is to love; to love is to be real.  To not love is to step out of reality into falsity, ugliness and utter absurdity.  The Christmas Story took on clearer meaning.

   Being concrete, poetic minded people, the Hebrews presented LOVE to the world in terms of stories and poems.  With their masculine bent, they told of a man, a weak woman and a snake in a garden; and of an angry LOVE flooding the world but then paternally deciding not to destroy His creation; and, in very every-day fashion, of a man bargaining with LOVE so He won't destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.  They also saw LOVE in terms of their political kingdom, and as the General of the Armies (Lord of Hosts).  And they mistakenly got lost so deeply in their violent culture as to believe that LOVE wanted them to utterly destroy the people, animals and crops of their defeated enemies.  (Today's Televangelists, who don't understand Christmas, speak often of this avenging God, damaging their fearful listeners' spirituality.)

   Little by little, with LOVE's help, the Hebrews' relationship with LOVE grew and matured, and so did their understanding of LOVE.  They wrote psalms to praise LOVE, e.g., as a Good Shepherd. And they began to look forward to LOVE being personally with them, Emmanuel, in the form of a political savior who would create for them a peaceable kingdom in which the lion would lie down with the lamb.  In time, their savior took on the form of a military man who would save them from their enemies, including, 2000 years ago, the brutal, occupying Romans.  

   At this time, a man was born, named Jesus, who became an itinerant preacher and teacher--one of many in their land.  But this man and his message were different.  While others preached repentance and fear of judgment, he preached love, universal, global love, not only of neighbors but also of enemies.  He healed sick people, forgave sins, and called everyone to be as lovingly innocent as children.  He openly called the political/religious leaders hypocrites for lording it over the people instead of showing care and love for them. He showed special love for the poor, whom the leaders were oppressing.  He blessed the poor, the sick, the peace-makers, the pure of heart, and those who suffer for righteousness' sake, promising them entry into the Kingdom of God, which he constantly preached.  He spoke of mercy and forgiveness.  And he constantly reminded his followers to love one another.  At times, he even referred to himself in a way that made himself equal to LOVE.

  He became unbearable to the spiritually confused and fearful leaders.  So they arranged for the Romans to kill him.  For three agonizing hours he hung, nailed to a cross, between two thieves, until he died.

   Almost immediately after Jesus died, his terrified followers experienced an astounding awakening.  They saw Jesus, not only as a man who preached love and peace to them, but beyond all natural understanding, they recognized that he was actually and truly LOVE in human form.  They saw their crucified brother, friend and teacher, risen up as the Center of the entire, LOVE filled, Christ-ed universe.  They saw him, though born and raised in humble circumstances, to be the personal fulfillment of the entire creation story.  He personally was the Cosmic Christ Reality. In himself he gathered up the entire Cosmic Christ Reality that came into being at the moment of the universe's creation and that will extend all the way to the end of Earth and the end of the universe itself.  

   Christmas celebrates Jesus' coming into the world as the Divine-Human, personal fulfillment of the entire universe.  Jesus is truly the meaning of all creation.  He is LOVE, who holds all creation together.  (Cf. 1 Col. 1:17)  This is the wondrous Child who was born on Christmas day.  This is the birth that moved the angels to sing of Glory to God and peace and good will on earth.

P.S.  What to us is the most magnificent story ever told, is to our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters a stumbling block.  And to our agnostic and atheist brothers and sisters, it is foolish.  Yet in a very important way, our differences don't have to separate us.  In true reality and love, we can all live together in peace, good will and love, and work together to bring more peace, good will and love into our world, and move the world forward toward wholeness in love.  This too is part of the Christmas Story.





Thursday, December 10, 2015


   I believe it is self-delusional to say that America today is a great country.  Yes, millions of Americans are living good, decent lives.  I write of today's power-brokers, those who have the power to shape American society for all our people. And sadly, I write of those Americans who have fallen prey to the power brokers.

   America was founded on a great idea, or better, ideal, that needed to be developed throughout time.  Our founders proposed that regardless of race or religion, all men are created equal and endowed with the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  We were to be governed by no king or queen, by no official religion.  As President Lincoln later clarified, we were to be a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

   The American ideal aimed at fostering an ever evolving "more perfect" union, a basic, underlying oneness that was to animate and unite all our social, educational, political, religious, economic, etc., endeavors, while guaranteeing freedom and opportunity for all.  The basic, underlying culture upon which our ever more perfect union was to stand and operate was to be especially marked by strong families, strong churches, and a strong commitment to public service.  In sum, our ideal of national unity was to give rise to a luminously human common bond, a union within which our American diversity and individuality could develop and be celebrated.

   In our Catholic point of view, the American ideal of freedom-in-unity could clearly help foster the ever developing Kingdom of God on Earth, the reign of justice, peace, respect, joy of life, gratitude and love that Jesus prayer for.

   I recently read that in every community, whether it be political, religious, corporate, educational, etc., culture accounts for 75% of the community's life, while strategy, i.e., policies and actions, account for the other 25%.  The everyday policies and actions (and reactions) that we create and carry out in our society must therefore take into serious account the underlying culture within which they occur.      

   For example, America started out within a culture of freedom and unity that yet accepted the deeply serious flaw of sexism and the inhuman flaw of slavery.  It took the actions of abolitionists and a horrific civil war to overcome the dehumanizing policies and actions of slavery.  Yet, even today, the rot of racism keeps coming out from the back woods of the American psyche, and a good amount of sexism still prevails. We can also add to our culture the dank feature of military-industrial aggressiveness.

   So if we want to judge if America is a great country, we must first take a look at the culture within which we carry on our daily public and private lives today.  Sadly, I believe it is easy to see that today, America's culture is corrupt.  In fact, we have no underlying culture of oneness or unity--and therefore no operative culture for true greatness.  

   We know the flaws all too well.  Dangerously self-serving, small-minded political leaders have blinded themselves to the common good they are supposed to serve.  Far too many of them see the common good in terms of their corporate sponsored reelection, which is all but guaranteed thanks to gerrymandering and fear-mongering.  Too many corporate executives, obsessed with maximizing profits, have blinded themselves to their essential human/spiritual responsibility to provide fair wages that permit workers to live a decent American life on a non-polluted earth.  Too many of our schools and universities have blinded themselves to a fully human and humanizing education, as they present a mechanistic curriculum that fractures education (and students) into isolated specialties that don't relate to one another.  While our religious institutions become more meaningless to more Americans, some reach out to strengthen themselves by trying to gain political power, while others, e.g., our Catholic bishops, simply repeat worn-out condemnations with disregard to Pope Francis' plea to show the world the true God who is merciful.

   ISIS is not our greatest enemy today.  Our greatest enemy is our own plundering of our American greatness.  Lacking a culture of unity, panicked citizens flay about, trying to find meaning in ever more lethal guns and in the false security of fearful anger and hatred spewed by TV and talk show demagogues.  Could our ever more bitter isolation from one another be part of the reason why our young people are killing one another?

   A wise man once said, "If you don't stop and turn around, you're going to get to where you're going."  We have gotten to a place from which we need to turn around and redirect our lives.  The spiritual word for "turn around and redirect our lives" is "conversion."

   We must turn around and convert to the point where, for example we learn to see even the members of ISIS as our brothers and sisters.  Yes, their movement must be stopped and yes, things have gone so far that we may have to kill all of them.  But if we don't see them as our brothers and sisters under God, our common Father, if we see ourselves as totally separate from them, then killing them will solve nothing.  The destructive idea of separation that infects ISIS will still remain in us.  

   America will not be great again until we find the policies and actions that will build a new, underlying culture of caring oneness and unity--among ourselves and all people of earth, and with the earth herself.  One way to do this is as simple as it is difficult.  First, all Americans, of whatever social or economic status, must STOP! what we're now doing and take a good look at who we really are.  We are Americans who are also citizens of our one world, a world of all races, religions, and people of no religion.  We share our world respectfully with all our brothers and sisters, especially the poor, sick, vulnerable and outcast, all of whom are fully worthy of total human respect.  

   Then, Americans in every area of our society must work seriously, alone and in groups, to discern how to re-humanize the field they are involved in and therefore know well. (This includes looking anew at their own family and community.) Then, all Americans must take what they have clearly discerned along with trusted others, and use it to act prophetically to elevate their field, and where necessary, peacefully and lovingly correct it by making it more luminously human.  

   A newspaper recently printed the headline, "God is Not Going to Fix This."  The headline was partially correct.  The creative, healing and world transforming grace of Christ, that empowers us and makes us responsible to bring back our true American greatness and serve the whole world as we should, is already with and within us.  God has already done his/her part to fix this. 

   Christ is our Way, Truth and Life.  Let us be "on our way", on Christ's way to the truth and life of our beloved country.  How far we get is up to God; the point is that we walk in the right direction.




Monday, November 23, 2015


   In the last century, philosopher Martin Heidegger is reported to have said that if God exists, he is known by his absence.  At the same time here in America, the "God is Dead" notion was very popular, especially among young people.

    Today, however, when I read the "Comments" sections of popular Internet websites, it seems that rather than being absent or dead, God is woefully misunderstood and mocked.  For example, literal Fundamentalists believe that God created the universe in six day; God told Abraham to kill his son, Isaac, God told Noah to build an ark, etc.  Some Christians see God as a strict and fearful judge.  Some see God as a heavily politicized figure (who is on their side).  And some see God as a Happy Someone who wants us to be rich and comfortable, or as a Fearful Someone who is about to end the world in fire and brimstone--on a date the continually miss.  Admittedly, there is much to mock in these distortions of who God is.  (In fact, part of the "God is Dead" notion was an outcry that the word, "God" had become so distorted that is had been rendered meaningless in everyday society.)

   Also, many envision God as Someone Up There or Out There whom they expect to "come down" and fix our problems.  (We Americans claim to be one nation under God.)  This God is like a daddy who is absent most of the day but then comes home from work and fixes the problems the family faced while he was away.  Such people lament, "If God is all powerful, why doesn't he prevent sickness and wars?"  "Why does he let children suffer?"  This distortion of who God is sadly leads to much pain among many people.

   Distortions like these arise from  a poor understanding of the true God of faith as presented by our religions and denominations.  Faith is different from religion.  Our Catholic faith may be described as our loving acceptance of God and God's teachings, particularly as presented to us in the person and teachings of Jesus Christ.  Our religion is our faith as it is organized and presented to the world.  Religions can and sometimes do distort the understanding of the true God.  

   I don't remember the exact words but a Catholic writer once said, "If you want to mock God, don't mock the distorted God we so often give you.  Mock the true God.  The story of the true God is so crazy and unbelievable that you will have plenty to mock."

   Who is the true God?  Since, in today's culture we prefer to understand through personal experience, I will give a description of the true God as we experience God.  We experience the true God as the presence of Eternal, Infinite, Overflowing Love is in the universe and the world:  in ourselves and in all people and things.  Without this experience of God, we have only an abstract theological notion of God or a Catechism description of God, neither of which would have much effect on our lives.

   More fully, the true God is Living, Conscious, Eternal, Infinite Overflowing Love.  For brevity's sake I'll use the designation, "Living Love" for now on.  I will not use the word, "God," because the distortion of the name has become an obstacle to our experience of the true God.     

   Living Love is Creative of the universe and of the world and us in and through the universe's evolution, which Living Love set in motion and watches lovingly as a parent, from within the evolving world.  Our own experience of our creativity is an image of Living Love's creativity and presence within us.  

   Living Love is Healing and Salvational.  In and through Jesus Christ, the world is saved from sin.  Living Love, alive within us and all the societies of the world, gives us the graced discernment, responsibility, creative ingenuity, and power to work to heal others' physical, mental and spiritual anxieties and illnesses.  Our experience of wanting to reach out and help others and bring justice and peace to others and the world is our experience of Living Love within us and the world.

   Living Love is World Transforming and Evolving.  Living Love within us and the world is calling us from the future.  From within us, our families and nations, corporations, governments, schools and universities, science and technology labs, professional offices, our trades and service industries, etc., Living Love is attracting and "pulling" us into the future, to build an ever new world of luminously humanizing justice, peace and progress, as we move the world's inter-connected and inter-related evolution forward toward it's one blessed goal of Wholeness in love/Love.  Our inner sense of attraction and call into our future growth and fulfillment is our experience of the presence of Living Love within us and the world.

  Living Love is also alive within criminals, war makers and terrorists, calling and empowering them to come out of their darkness into the light of a true, loving, luminously human life.  Their response to the call to peace, humanity and compassion is the sign of the truth of their God. 

   Rather than "coming down" to fix our problems, Living Love is showing us great respect, giving us the discernment, energy, talents, freedom and responsibility to build our lives, society and world in ever growing peace and justice.  It is up to us, Living Love's graced and empowered image and likeness.  As spiritual adults, would we really want to be spoon fed like helpless children?  It is in recognizing our call, opportunities, talents and responsibilities toward ourselves, others and the world, and in carrying out our call in strength, justice, humility, peace and love, that we experience Living Love within ourselves and today's world--and tomorrow's.                      

   The extent to which we distort and/or reject our experience of Living Love's call and empowerment to live lives of life-giving, energizing, healing, peaceful and just, world-transforming  love, that we distort who Living Love us, and then possibly even blame Living Love or deny Living Love's very existence.  In the process, we dehumanize ourselves.  (Our religions and denominations should take note not to distort our true faith and dehumanize us in any way.)

    So if anyone wants to mock God, we should invite him or her to learn of Living Love.  And in the process, we should also invite him or her to join with us as we work to make the world a more luminously human image of Living Love.     

Monday, September 21, 2015


   When Pope Francis comes to America this week, he will speak two languages:  Spanish and English.  But more importantly, he will speak the language of Spirituality.  Certainly whatever he says will include dogmatic and moral meaning, but his words, demeanor, humility, and openness to the people, will be expressed in the language of the Spirit.  Just the way Jesus spoke.  For the most part, he will focus on our everyday experience of God, and on God's call to each of us and to the institutions of our society, to be humble, open and caring for the poor, sick, and oppressed--and for the spiritually distressed.

   And he will speak concretely.  Jesus was not some otherworldly figure hovering above the earth; he was a real person of flesh and blood, deeply involved in his society that was oppressed by the pagan Romans and, in the case of the poor, by its own leaders.  So he will speak spiritually by using concrete examples that pertain directly to the values and institutions of our society, especially to the government and to the corporations.  Our religion is an incarnate i.e., "enfleshed" religion, a religion that embraces all the "flesh and blood" of our daily lives and institutions and of the earth itself.  So Francis will speak with an immediacy that will make many Americans and even bishops uncomfortable, and even angry.  

   Archbishop Chaput, Francis' Philadelphia host, has said that many Catholics are "confused" by the way Francis speaks and leads the church.  I believe Chaput was referring to the fact that Francis does not speak directly of the church's authoritative teachings on sexuality, by which we save our souls, as so many Catholics are accustomed to hearing.  Francis' emphasis is on the everyday, "messy" things of this world, like economic justice and care of the earth. One Congressman has said he will not attend the Pope's appearance before Congress because Francis will say things unfavorable to his party.  This man appears to have no idea of spirituality.  He has reduced himself to living in a political bubble that does not know the eternity that gives politics its life and ultimate meaning.  So he understands everything only in political terms.  

   Sadly, Francis will be addressing many Americans who have lost the ability to see the presence of eternity--of the Creative, Healing and World-Transforming Love--that is present within all our country and ourselves, and that gives us the ultimate meaning that animates and nourishes all our worldly meaning.  Francis is a citizen of the "Kingdom of God on Earth," that Jesus prayed to come. Francis' "kingdom" has no borders.  His call for justice and peace, especially for the poor and vulnerable, applies to the entire world.  So his speeches and appeals will be to all Americans, of every color and creed, of every political bent, of every economic level, etc., to be discerning and active  prophets working for justice and peace, not only for our own country, but for all the peoples in the world, and for the earth itself. 

   Let us pray that we not only hear Francis, but that we listen to him, and then work with all people of good will, to fulfill our faith by helping to make our country and the world more luminously alive with justice, peace and love.       

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


  We have traditionally understood our country's motto to mean that America is One country made up of people of Many ancestries, races and religions.  The "glue" that is intended to unify us is our inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  However, if we look at our history honestly,we must admit that the road to fulfilling our ideal of oneness has been filled with many obstacles.  And it is especially obstructed today.

   Despite the fact that many Americans of all colors and creeds are trying hard to live the American dream, our country has fragmented into a Many that is marked by fear, anger, greed and even violence.  Our ability to govern ourselves has particularly suffered.  Existing social programs like health care, social security, help for the poor and unemployed, protection of the vulnerable and outcast, etc., are met with loud and strong resistance from a significant portion of our citizens.  Proposed programs such as creating meaningful jobs, rebuilding our infrastructure, settling our immigration policy fairly and humanely, respecting teachers and workers, etc., are stymied.

   In truth, America won't recover from--can't recover--from our present brokenness if we continue to operate within our present mindset of fearful, self-seeking, angry fragmentation.  We need a mindset of oneness that will make our ideal and the policies and programs that follow from it plausible and workable.  In the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we need a new dream.  In the Spirit of Christ, we need a new influx of discernment of God's creative, loving intentions for America.  

   To help us form the necessary mindset, I suggest we expand our motto to read:

                                          EX UNO, PLURES;  E PLURIBUS UNUM
                            From our Oneness, Many;  From our United Many, One

   In our present distress, we cannot gather our Many into One.  Oneness of Mind and Heart must come first.  For us to be truly one American nation, our various citizens of our various races, religions and sub-cultures can live, grow and flourish only within a fundamental unity--more precisely, within our fundamental oneness.

   Fundamental oneness is not uniformity.  It is not restrictive.  It is creative.  It is built into creation itself, which is the image of the One Creative God.  The fantastic multiplicity and individuality of the universe arose and is evolving from a single, created energy dot that formed itself into one cosmic web of unity.  The earth arose from within the cosmic web of unity.  The natural, divinely created, fundamental web of unity gives all reality it fundamental meaning.

   For example, quarks are different from electrons, which are different from photons.  And yet all are made of the one, same universal energy source, and all are intended to work together within the cosmic web of unity to build one universe, one world and one humanity.  If a quark, electron or photon leaves the web of unity within which it lives and has its meaning, it loses its meaning and begins to die.

   What is true on the sub-atomic scale is true on every level of the universe and on earth.  For example, before we are Black or White or Red or Yellow; before we are American, European, African or Asian; before we are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, etc.; before we are male or female, straight or gay, liberal or conservative, we are human, joined together by flesh and blood in one human family. In this light we can see that today's fear driven, greedy and even violent fragmentation is literally dehumanizing us and plunging us into a hell of meaninglessness and absurdity.

   The philosophy of atheist Jean Paul Sartre helps us understand the depth and meaning of our fragmentation.  He said that we have no oneness or given meaning.  We are all lone individuals with no community and no role to play with others.  (No web of unity.)  Without any given meaning we are free to give ourselves whatever meaning we care to give.  It doesn't matter.  All is absurd.  We must avoid others, especially those we might love or who might love us, because they could give us meaning and thereby steal our freedom to give ourselves meaning.  "Hell is other people."  God can't exist because he would give us total meaning and thereby destroy us totally.  Sartre's philosophy was one of deep pessimism and depression.

   I believe that our society today is marked by what the Existentialists call, "Shipwreck."  Our society is broken into pieces and is laying all scattered about on a stormy seashore.  In a panic, some very frightened shipwrecked Americans see unified meaning as the imposition of Socialism or Communism, or even Sharia Law, by a dictatorial Federal government.  For some, the imperial, panicked answer is to impose their form of Christianity on our country.  

   In the words of T. S. Eliot, we have lost our ability to find "the still point of the turning world," where the "dancing" (of life) is.  And with W. B. Yeats, in his poem, "The Second Coming," some of us look out and hope, "Surely some revelation is at hand."

   Finding the "still point," and the "revelation at hand" depends on our rediscovering the natural and Divine Source of our oneness and the web of unity that our oneness creates.  To begin with, we need new, 21st century prophets, i.e., new, spiritually mature, discerning proclaimers of truth, who will publicly point out the destructiveness of our politicians' self-interests and our corporations' greed.  They will insist that our leaders change their self-serving actions to actions that unify our people in justice, peace, caring service to one another, and healing, life-giving love. When Pope Francis comes to America at the end of this month, he will no doubt speak of the natural and divinely given unity of our human society and with the environment, within our unity with God.  We need "everyday people" to pick up on his message and, in good American "lingo," push it.  

    Again to quote T. S. Eliot, "We shall not cease from exploring and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."  And once again, we will begin to find that from our re-newly discovered Oneness, the way to a new and blessed American "Many."




Tuesday, July 7, 2015


   In his new encyclical, Laudato Si', Pope Francis is inviting and challenging us to consider two kinds of climate change.  He is telling us that in order to care for, protect and nurture our natural environment, we must first change our spiritual environment.  We have to live in a world, i.e., a society and culture, that is different from the world-society-culture we presently live in.  Francis sees our present world-society-culture as one that is degrading the natural environment because it is degrading our humanity itself.

   He sees that today's world is lacking any meaningful, overall structure of unity, community, caring and common purpose.  It is a humanly degraded, fractured world marked by pathological individualism, greed and killing, self-serving competition.  It is a world in which the social, human climate is toxic.  This is the human climate he wants us to change so we can successfully change our natural environment.

   For example, the political resisters to his encyclical show that they live in their own humanly degraded world of pandering to the powers that support them financially; the corporate resisters show that they live in a humanly degraded world of maximizing profits without caring for the harm done to workers or the environment; the scientific resisters show that they live in a humanly degraded world that is totally material and therefore without meaning or purpose.  And the world of education seems to have lost its way.

   Francis' world is one in which all people, animals, plants, etc., are deeply interconnected and united in the fullness of their individual dignity.  While of course acknowledging and respecting all natural differences, in Francis' world no person, no race, no religion, no part of nature, is "other."  We are all first and last, one: brothers and sisters, with all other people and all of nature, e.g., with brother sun and sister moon. 

   In Francis' wold, any natural, acceptable inequality, e.g., of income, status, etc., occurs within a climate in which everyone has the opportunity to make a decent living in a safe world.  So our first priority is to care for the sick, poor, vulnerable and outcast.  If any one part of our world, one race, one religion, one political or economic force, etc., pulls away from the whole and considers itself superior and/or ceases to care about all the others and nature, it becomes a point of ignorance in a world of light, reason, understanding and love. And so, the self-isolated person, race, corporation, political party, etc., becomes dangerous.

   Francis' world is based on his faith.  God created our one world, which, like the Trinity,is an interconnected, interrelated, interdependent, creative web of dynamically evolving wholeness in love.  Interestingly, Francis' worldview is practically the same as that of today's science, which sees the universe and world as one, interconnected, interrelated, interdependent, dynamically evolving web of wholeness.

   Francis therefore is inviting us into the world of 21st century spirituality, a contemplative world in which we live in the lively awareness of the presence and activity of God.  It is a world in which we are all called, empowered and responsible to build our world and move it forward toward ever evolving wholeness in love.  It is the world that Jesus called, the Kingdom of God on earth.  Even though this world will never be completely fulfilled here in space/time, it is the only world worth living in.  Francis is inviting all who live in the narrow, fractured world of politics, corporations, science, art, education, etc., to enter into this world of wholeness in love with him and with the People of God.

   We who are the People of God are called and responsible to strengthen our citizenship in our world of faith.  Given the condition of our fractured society-culture, it is time for us to stand in the face of every humanly and environmentally degrading system or action and say, "No!"  Then we are to invite the degraders and challenge them to work together with us, first to stop the degradation and then to elevate our humanity and environment to the levels that God intends.  The more we elevate our humanity, the more we will heal our environment.

   All this requires a new, 21st century expression of our Catholicism.  Are we up to the challenge?  If not, this amazing encyclical will simply pass quietly into history.  Pope Francis is waiting.  Saint Francis is waiting.  Christ is waiting.  The sick, poor, vulnerable and outcast are waiting.  The environment is waiting.   

Monday, June 15, 2015


   We are all born as natural poets and artists, with a deep sense of awe and wonder.  From the beginning of our lives, the whole world is new and exciting.  Every day, as a newborn child, we looked around and saw new things to be surprised about and wonder about:  the persons who turned out to be our mother, father and siblings, the colorful playthings in our crib, satisfying milk and food, the dangling mobile above our head, the family cat or dog, etc. In sum, we are all born with the joy of life.

   The God given gift of the joy of life is the awe and wonder of simply being alive.  It is always within us.  It is different from happiness, which I take to mean the satisfaction that follows from getting the things we want.  As Americans, we are not guaranteed happiness, but the right to pursue it.  The pursuit of happiness has its risks.  If we constantly, or primarily concern ourselves with getting the things we want, we run the risk of never being happy.  That's because we can place happiness over the horizon, e.g., always beyond the next thing we want.  Aristotle saw the problem and said that we can enjoy happiness every day by living a good and virtuous life.

   Even though the joy of life, like God, is always within us,it can be overshadowed and even crushed.  For example, our educational system carries that danger within it.  Part of the joy of life is the fact that we are all born with a desire to know, understand, and love--and most highly, to know, love and experience God, the Ultimate Source of our knowledge, understanding and love.  

   The desire to know, understand and love motivates children to study in school.  From the beginning, good teachers will give their children the information and knowledge they seek, while at the same time, ensuring that the information and knowledge is couched, not only in reason but also in the joy of awe and wonder.  Little experiences can keep the children's sense of awe and wonder alive.  Solving math examples can be joyful and wondrous; reading lessons can include imaginative stories and myths that carry a moral, life building message, e.g., the prudence of the pig who built his house of bricks.  Class can be stopped so the children can appreciate the fragrance of a spring shower or the white hush of the first snowfall.  As the children carry the joy of life within them, they will stay open to awe and wonder in all their life, and also to experiencing in their own way, the contemplative joy of God's presence within them and their society.

   As education progresses through the grades, it tends to become more factual, prosaic and scientific.  This of course is good and necessary.  But it can also become boring and life-deadening unless the subjects, and especially today's science, can be presented as the awesome and wondrous enterprises they are.

   To be fully joyful, education should be animated by the intellectual and moral disciplines that make us more human and beautiful, and that make the world more human and beautiful, e.g., justice, peace, respect, empathy and sympathy, trust, silence and solitude, study, respect for work and for nature, and most of all, all-encompassing love for self, others and the entire world.  Without becoming religious, education, like all else, should keep us open to experiencing God within us and our society, calling us from the future to grow and evolve toward ever deeper human maturity and wholeness in love.

  Sadly, much of our adult society and culture need to experience more fully the wondrous importance of the joy of life.  Today's families, workers, professionals, scientists, educators, et al., need to take the time and make the effort to ensure that their lives and work are animated by the joy of life.  "I hate my job," or, "Education is boring," or, I see only matter in my science and can't understand consciousness and life," or, "The best way to protect America is to fight more wars," etc., are alarming signs of the loss of the joy of life.  There is awe and wonder, art and beauty, in everything we do, and we must learn to see and appreciate these gifts that enhance the joy of life. 

   The loss of the joy of life also shows itself today in the need expressed especially by young people, "I want to be spiritual but not religious."  They see religion as failing to open to them the joy of life, and therefore, the joy of faith.  In our civil society, our pursuit of happiness is marked by greed, killing competition, self-serving politics, destruction of the climate, etc.  The people responsible for these human abasement have lost the joy of life and their experience of God, and with these losses, they all experience the loss of a basic part of their humanity.  Also, our society is made worse by those people who are reacting in fear and anger to the demographic changes now taking place, and by the unscrupulous politicians and radio and TV commentators who keep inciting these people to anger and fear, while they prey upon them for their own profit.

   Jesus especially blessed the "poor in spirit."  He meant the materially poor, but especially the poor who were so oppressed by the rich that they were depressed to the point of being in danger of losing their joy of life, and of their faith, thus losing a precious aspect of their humanity.  Today's humanly spiritless educators (especially at the university level), greedy, self-serving corporate leaders, and unscrupulous politicians and commentators are guilty of inflicting dehumanizing poverty of spirit on their students, customers, constituents, and on themselves.  All of them need Jesus' special blessing.  

   The afflicted need a deeper understanding of who they truly are and of the harm that is being done to them.  They need a new infusion of the joy of life and faith, of the strength that the joy gives them to overcome their afflictions.  The afflicters need a deep human conversion; they need to turn themselves and their work inside out to find the awe, wonder and humanity they are so crassly attacking, and turn to truly helping their followers.

   For those of us who see and understand the plight we're in today, there is much prophetic work to be done.  And that work itself is an important part of our own joy of life and faith.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Dear Brother Francis,

   We are happy that you are coming to America in September, and we expect you to speak clearly and forcefully on the importance of family life, and on the sinfulness of our income inequality.  But you owe us much more.  You have already asked the faithful of the world for our best discernment on marriage and family life.  With all due respect, as you prepare for your visit, and when you come, you owe us the opportunity to help you more fully understand our North American sense of our faith, and with it, our sense of morality.

   Rome does not really understand or trust us North Americans.  The recent scandalous attack on our nuns' leadership is one example.  For another, back in the 1980's, when Pope John Paul II suppressed our bishops' documents on Peace, and on the Economy, he let it be known that our North American sense of the faith was not to be respected or trusted, but needed to be "Roman."   Pope Benedict XVI did not change Rome's attitude toward us.

   Admittedly, our shallow, greedy and sexually charged culture shows us to be heavily "secularized."  But looking more deeply, Rome does not see or appreciate our having any valid spiritual insights concerning our everyday experience of marriage and family--experience gained under very difficult social and cultural conditions.  Rome doesn't understand--or doesn't want to understand--why so many of our young people, and many others, are walking away from the church in large numbers.  Our disaffected brothers and sisters see our church, already disgraced by the sex abuse tragedy, as stultified and unprepared to help Catholics in their everyday struggle for authentic spiritual meaning in terms that fit our society and culture.

   Brother Francis, if you look deeply into our hearts and souls, you will see that very many of us are very sensitively attuned to the "signs of the times," i.e., to God's presence and intentions for us in our everyday society here in the United States.  We are very aware that we live in a culture that is running out of control.  Yes, some of us are caught up in the torrent, including some of our Catholic legislators and TV personalities, who actually foster our soul-dead inequalities for their own benefit.  But most of us are struggling very hard to live faithful lives, with little meaningful understanding, respect or guidance from our clergy, bishops and the Vatican.

   If we North American Catholics are to be an effective force in helping change the immoral social-economic structures of our society, we first need to be an effectively organized force as a fully participating and fully respected part of our own church.

   Brother Francis, you need to openly proclaim our full spiritual dignity and our shared ownership of our church as faithful, discerning laity.  You know that the church believes 
infallibly only when the whole church--all of us together--believe what God is teaching us.  And you know that there is no such accord today--and that we laity are being unjustly blamed for it.  You need to listen to us respectfully when we tell you the everyday experiences of our faith.  We know that our moral judgments are the result of our faith, especially of God's infinite love for us, and also of our best understanding of our own human nature, especially in matters of sexuality and love.  You owe us an open, respectful, contemporary discussion. Here are some suggestions:

1.  Let's start by discussing what for us is already a foregone conclusion.  Faithful Catholic married couples deeply experience the awesome beauty and responsibility of married love. We experience the pressures of today's unjust society and we have maturely discerned and decided that the responsible use of contraceptives is natural, reasonable and conducive to a good and loving marriage.  So let's discuss that Pope Paul VI was wrong when he rejected the valid findings of the birth control commission in 1968, and that faithful Catholic married couples have correctly discerned the truth of this matter.

 2.  Very, very many Catholic couples are working hard to live deeply committed married lives in our shallow culture.  And we know from experience that even the best intentioned marriages can and do die.  Certainly, in divorces one or both parties can be guilty, but also one party can be innocent, and in some cases, even both parties can be innocent.  Do you really believe that Jesus held all married people to perfection, here on earth, here in space/time?  Only God is perfect.

3.  Everyday we experience that our homosexual children and friends are normal, loving persons who have every right to engage in serious, responsible sexual love, as heterosexuals do.  Let's open the way to discuss sexual orientation openly and honestly, using the best understanding of today's science and God's overwhelming love for all of us. Once and for all, let's put aside what expert Biblical scholars know are outworn, incorrect, so-called Biblical "proofs."  Let's accept the updated, contemporary understanding of human nature, and let's open our homosexual children and friends to the opportunity for the fullness of love, as Christ already offers them.

4.  And while we're at it, just declare priestly celibacy to be optional, and then reopen the discussion on ordaining women.  Priests are not the image of the first century, male, Jewish Jesus, but of the eternal, infinite, universal Christ, in whom there is neither male nor female.

   By opening these important moral matters to the fullness of discussion and the light of truth, you will uplift and strengthen all American Catholics in our faith and moral judgments. And you will have enlisted an enthusiastic army, young and old, of ever spiritually maturing
"everyday prophets," who can speak and act, as Vatican II teaches, to elevate our society and culture, and where necessary, humbly and effective correct it, to make it more luminously human in the healing and saving grace of Christ.

   Brother Francis, God told Saint Francis to rebuild his church.  Today, we need nothing less than a deep restructuring of the church, so that all the baptized can claim their rightful ownership of it in accord with our own vocation and graces.  In September, you can more effectively open the way to that restructuring.  If you speak openly and clearly, our timid, reluctant bishops will hear you and hopefully learn how to open the way to this needed restructuring.

   Brother Francis, we are waiting.  Saint Francis is waiting.  Christ is waiting.



Friday, April 17, 2015


   During my years in Rome and at Vatican II, I had the pleasure of meeting Hans Kung, the Swiss born theologian who, together with Joseph Ratzinger (later Benedict XVI) were then young, progressive assistants to the German Council Fathers.

   A few years later, Kung came to Philadelphia to speak at the University of Pennsylvania. He graciously invited me to come to hear him speak and to join others at dinner with him. During his talk, with a smile and twinkling eyes, he recited a little ditty in Latin.  He explained that it originally applied to the ancient Roman Senate, but he now applied it to the Roman Curia.

                                                      Senatus numquam errat.
Etsi errat,
Errata numquam corrigit,
Nisi videator erravisse.

The Senate never errs.
And even if it does err,
It never corrects its errors,
Lest it be seen to have erred.

   I just read that the Vatican has unexpectedly closed its long running dispute with the Leadership Committee of Women Religious.  A few years ago, clearly with Pope Benedict XVI's approval, Cardinal William Levada, and later his successor, Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, accused the group of such things as promoting radical feminism, inviting unorthodox speakers, honoring Sr. Elizabeth Johnson, (whose outstanding book, Quest for the Living God, brings the understanding of God into today's everyday life), and most especially, paying too much attention to their work for social justice for the poor, sick and oppressed, while not stressing church doctrine regarding, e.g., same-sex marriage and abortion.  

   The nuns defended their sacred work in several ways, including riding around the country in a bus, to the great acclaim of the laity.  In their official defense, they defended themselves intelligently and vigorously, showing theological and spiritual maturity.  Cardinal Mueller, however, chastised them for showing regrettable attitude and behavior during the process, and being in open provocation to the Holy See.  No solution seemed in sight.

    And now, all of a sudden, everything is all right.  Clearly, Pope Francis intervened in this dispute.  The official report will be published next month.  According to the press, the Vatican will say that the nuns created a grave doctrinal crisis, and it will admonish them to ensure that their publications have a sound doctrinal foundation and that they take steps to safeguard the theological integrity of their programs. 
                                                                                                                                                                                       I sincerely hope that I'm wrong, but I would bet that the Vatican will not admit that it was wrong.  Not in any way.  Pope Francis may have intervened to end this sad nonsense, but I will bet he won't go far enough to have Cardinal Mueller, or even some lesser Vatican spokesperson, admit that the Vatican committed any error.  That will be a real shame.  If Francis misses this opportunity, he will further entrench the Roman Curia in their disastrous addiction to be right in every case.  And the church will lose more of what few shreds of credibility it still may have left.

   A major part of Francis' challenge is to reform the Curia's centuries old infrastructure of always being free from error--an error in itself that was disastrously reinforced by Vatican I's declaration of the pope's infallibility.  In the almost century and a half since Vatican I, the Curia has extended the aura of papal infallibility to cover itself.  As a result, the authority structure in the church has flip-flopped.  For example, the Curia should serve the bishops of the world.  Instead, the bishops serve the Curia.

   Completing Vatican I, Vatican II extended the infallibility of belief to all the members of the church taken together--laity, religious, clergy, hierarchy and pope--in its teaching on the "sense of the faithful."  But John Paul II and Benedict XVI never explained or implemented this important teaching.  So infallibility still resides in Rome alone.  In such a rigidly frozen power structure, the nuns and laity in general can never be right in their experienced belief, especially when their experienced belief arises from their Christ-like work in today's society.  
   Francis has a great opportunity to tell the truth about the humanity of the church and about its human errors.  He should have somebody at the Vatican show the nuns the basic human and spiritual respect they deserve, and humbly and truthfully, publicly apologize to them. But I fear the Curia will fight hard against admitting the obvious truth of their fallibility, a truth that has been buried under centuries of the leadership's distortion of power.


Monday, March 30, 2015


   We should be ashamed of Easter.  Even while we celebrate Jesus' resurrection, we should keep in mind that we caused his crucifixion and his need to rise from such a horrific death.

   Jesus did not come into this world to be crucified and rise again.  He came to be one of us and to bring us the fullness of God's infinitely overflowing love for us.  As one of us, he freely and lovingly shared the fullness of our human life:  our human peace, joy, sadness, humor, love, and even our natural little faults--I like to think that at least once when he was young he hit his thumb with a hammer.  

   He also sinlessly took to himself our willfully created destructiveness, a destructiveness so deep that we created, e.g., ecological destruction, slavery, poverty; racial, sexual and economic injustice; hatred, persecutions and war.  So in order to save us from our own destructiveness, he accepted it in all its depth, even to dying the horrific death of crucifixion, the specially horrible form of destruction that we had created in his time.

   Jesus could have lived and died peacefully among us.  We made Good Friday and Easter Sunday necessary, and that's what we must be ashamed of.  As Christmas is the innocent joy of God's infinite peace and love overflowing onto the earth, Easter is joy caused by our shameful history.

   I suggest that the best way to enjoy Easter is to help begin a new history, to begin anew to live a newly elevated life of wondrous possibilities for ourselves and for the world, in the loving, saving grace of Christ.  We can begin now to work harder to help build the kingdom of God here on earth until Jesus returns.

   Thus we can turn the shame of Easter into an Easter of humility and gratitude, and humbly and thankfully celebrate God's loving glory as we wish ourselves a Happy Easter.

Thursday, February 5, 2015


   Disagreement has been part of the church since its beginning, and has often helped unify it and move it forward.  Today's disagreements, however, have broken the church apart. For example, when Pope Francis proclaims Jesus' care for the poor,sick and outcast, some bishops and others proclaim that they are "confused."  When he says, "Who am I to judge," about gays, and that Catholics don't have to reproduce like rabbits, even while he reaffirms the ban on contraception, some Catholics cry out for more stern repetitions of traditional "church" teachings.  And when Francis denounces economic inequality, some turn on him.  In these and many other ways, today's church is broken.

   The very word, "church" has lost its meaning.  In the above paragraph, I placed the word, "church" in quotes because, as it is used there, it means the Magisterium, the "teaching church," which is made up of the pope, curia, bishops and their clergy.  It leaves out the laity, who in this meaning, are the learning, obeying church, with no input into what the church teaches.  This is not the Catholic church.  I hope Catholic publications would stop using the word "church" in this broken meaning.

   Let's recall that Vatican II taught that all the baptized make up the church.  And all enjoy the sensus fidei, a "sense of the faith," an instinct for discerning matters of faith and morals. And God intends that the laity's discernment is to be used to help form what the church,i.e,., the whole church, teaches.  Without the laity's graced and essential contribution of their discernment of moral truth, which they get from their everyday experiences of marriage, family, social and economic justice, etc., the church lacks its integrity and identity. 

   I believe that in the midst of this brokenness, a true, 21st century Catholic church is now dawning.  Let's see if we can recognize it.

   Soon after Vatican II wrote about the whole church, Cardinal Avery Dulles wrote a book in which he outlined various models of the whole church.  He said the church is:
      1.  An Organization, with structures of authority and operation
      2.  A Mystical, Spiritual Communion of believers
      3.  A Sacrament, a sign of Christ's presence and grace in today's world
      4.  A Herald that proclaims the Good News of Christ to and in the world
      5.  A Humble Servant that teaches and practices social and economic justice, especially for the poor and sick
      6.  A Community of Disciples who spread the love of Christ throughout the world.

   Dulles said that the Organization model, while obviously important, should not come first in our consideration of what the church is.  (Later, he softened his view a bit, while substantially holding to its essence.)  I submit that the other models, taken as 
a whole, clearly and beautifully describe the dawning church of good willed people, including both those who are hopeful and those who are disheartened.  

   Whether we are liberals, conservatives, members of reform groups, those in the pews, those who have walked away, those (especially the young) who are "spiritual but not religious," we already belong to this newly dawning church.  This is a community of the faithful who are deeply sensitive to the presence and intentions of the Holy Spirit, a community that therefore is spiritually alive and present in today's world.  This is a widespread community that joyfully collaborates with all good-willed people of others faiths and of no faith.

   It is a community of hope, that in one way or another, recognizes God as calling and empowering us from the future, inviting us to transcend our present selves and our present society and culture, and evolve into a new level and intensity of wholeness in love.

   Pope Francis is trying to create a new, spiritually alive church organization from the broken pieces that he inherited.  His work will take much time and effort, and is not guaranteed to succeed.  So, while respecting the need for a spiritually alive organization that fulfills and serves all the models of the church, we cannot wait.  People are suffering now.  Waiting is not an option. United in good will and working with our best, honest moral discernment and commitment to our Catholic faith, we can work to build the world that God is calling us to build, so that in Christ's creative, healing and world-transforming, loving grace, we can help fulfill Jesus' prayer, "Thy Kingdom come on earth, as it is in heaven." 

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Note: Religious women and men are considered to be part of the laity.  Only Religious priests are clergy.