Monday, April 27, 2015

Pope Francis and the Sarah Palin Playbook? Really?

Really?  Pope Francis is no better
than Sarah Palin?  Really? 

What do Pope Francis and Sarah Palin have in common?  One would think very little.  Francis is intelligent, well-informed, articulate, has proved himself over the years of his various posts to be a man of compassion, insight, and leadership.  Sarah Palin, well, to give a pig the lipstick due her, Sarah can disembowel a moose and that probably isn’t in Francis’ skill-set though he does seem to be a quick learner.
I had my annual physical the other day and my physician, a devout Catholic who would by no means be a raving liberal but who, nonetheless, is intelligent and a critical thinker, told me of an article he had read comparing the Pope who overturned the gloomy papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI to the loose canon who torpedoed the John McCain candidacy. I couldn’t possibly figure out what the grounds for such a comparison could be, and the good Doctor couldn’t remember exactly where he had read it, so I googled “Pope Francis Sarah Palin” and found, among other things, an article in The Guardian by Kristina Keneally in which the author set up the requite strawman to produce her article, writing: “Think Sarah Palin, or Kevin Rudd: people who confuse popularity with leadership, or celebrity with substance.”  I am not familiar enough with Australian politics to get the Kevin Rudd analogy (and I am too lazy at this point to do some research), but is that all we can say about Francis’ papacy: that he confuses popularity for leadership or celebrity with substance?
Ms. Keneally writes on: “But has Francis really changed the church? If the pope moves on in two or three years, what will he have left behind? A church more welcoming of the talents of all its members, more accepting of all those who love God and live faithful lives, and a safer place for children, or a just a string of Instagram pictures, warm memories and the latent fizz of lost celebrity? I pray it is the former. I pray the Holy Spirit is moving.
I think Ms. Keneally has fallen into that journalistic pit of allowing her feelings to set the criterion for her judgment.  We are all fearful of what will come after Francis.  As I have written elsewhere in this blog, it is unlikely that the Cardinal-electors will choose a pope who is as “out in front” as is Francis.  I don’t think the Burke model will prevail, but it is almost inevitable that the next pontiff will represent some retreat from Francis’ progressive agenda.  And that is the problem with government by absolute monarchy rather than government by bureaucratic institution—be that institution a democratic republic or a politburo or whatever.  The papacy, as we know it, finds its direction in the character of the reigning pope and while a pope may need time to shift his curia to follow his philosophy, when the pope changes, the genius of the papacy changes. 
It has taken Francis time to steer the barque of Peter towards the rising sun of the gospel rather than the cold moon of self-protecting institutionalism that was guiding the Church through the long dark night of post-Conciliar reactionism.  And Francis is trying to do it in ways that will outlast his inevitably short time at the helm.  Francis could simply arbitrarily declare that the divorced and remarried are welcome at the Eucharist, that he is happy to have transgendered people taking part in Vatican ceremonies, and that he has no intention of judging gays or anyone else for that matter.  But when Francis moves into his retirement suite at Mater Ecclesiae or is gathered to his predecessors in the crypt of the Vatican Basilica, it can all change.  If, however, he takes the time and patience to steer his agenda through the sort of minimal-level representative machinery that has so far developed in the Catholic Church, it will be far harder to reverse.  It is a gamble.  There is no guarantee the Synod Bishops this fall will go with Francis’ agenda.  In fact, there is a lot of opposition to the Francis program from our own America bishops.  And the krazies are using their Gideon agenda, banging pots and blowing horns in an attempt to convince the Bishops that the vast majority of the faithful are solidly behind those who want no change in current Church discipline.  It is easy for us to become discouraged and think the Francis agenda will fail unless the Pope just steps in and decrees the changes unilaterally, but if this new tone of an evangelical Catholicism is to take root and grow, quickness needs to be sacrificed for thoroughness, product for process. 
So let’s take a look from another perspective.  Ms. Kineally does give the Holy Father due credit for what he has already accomplished.  She admits she has been a bit harsh and she admits that
Francis has taken a meat cleaver to the Vatican Bank, delivered a scathing assessment of the Curia, shut down a witch-hunt inquiry into the US Catholic nuns’ leadership group, and got the world to pay attention to issues like boat people and financial inequality. Later this year he will publish an encyclical on climate change. Because of these actions, the American conservative Catholics are not happy with him.
This is not a bad list of accomplishments for two years.  But a new pope can come along and reopen the witch-hunt on Joan Chittester, Elizabeth Johnson, and other women who disprove the old Neo-Scholastic theory that women have souls but not intellect; can turn our attention away from immigrants, climate change, and income inequality to focus on the glories of Gregorian chant; and re-instate Cardinal Burke as the omniscient justiciar of all matters pontifical, ecclesiastical, and canonical.  (That last one actually sounds like a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta character—I can just see His Eminence doing his little jig as he goes through his patter song.)  What will last from this pontificate is that which the Pope gets done “through the proper channels” to leave his mark.  John XXIII’s legacy is not in his charm, his wit, or even his cordiality to those of no and other faiths; his legacy is in his Council.  Francis has only a short time, but he has to do his agenda right.  As for Sarah—perhaps she and Burke could enjoy a nice lunch together one day reminiscing about their 15 minutes of fame. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Coming and Going

Archbishop Cordileone celebrating
Mass in the usus antiquior 

Recently over a hundred prominent San Francisco area Catholics published an open letter to Pope Francis petitioning “Holy Father, please provide us with a leader true to our values and your namesake.  Please replace Archbishop Cordileone.”  The letter was signed by leading lay Catholics from the worlds of philanthropy, business, law, civil service, and education. 
Signers complained that the Archbishop is very much out of touch with his flock and is not providing the sort of leadership requisite to his office as he does not know “who the bedrock of the San Francisco Catholic community is.”  The signers also charge that the Archbishop is responsible for “an atmosphere of division and intolerance.”  The loss of confidence in Cordileone’s leadership is not related to a single issue but has been building ever since he was named to the See.  Nevertheless, San Francisco being, well, San Francisco, his attempts to impose a “morality clause” on diocesan employees, including teachers in the Catholic schools that requires not only their adherence to Catholic doctrine but conforming their lives to Catholic sexual ethics has met with considerable resistance.  Later the Archbishop supported local pastor, the Reverend Joseph Illo, in banning girls from serving at the altar during liturgical services at the Star of the Sea parish where Illo is pastor.  Father Illo also distributed a pamphlet to young students listing potential sins including masturbation, sexual acts, abortion, and sterilization.  The pamphlet, designed to help individuals examine their consciences prior to confessing their sins, was deemed by many parents not to be age appropriate to their children.  Illo, a priest of the Stockton Diocese, transferred to San Francisco in hopes of beginning “an Oratory.”  The Oratorians are communities of secular priests who live together in a scholarly and gentlemanly way and generally sponsor churches where there is a revival of the pre-Vatican II liturgy done with great splendor. 
Jesuit Father James Martin, on the editorial staff of America magazine, said that such petitions to remove bishops have not been uncommon over the past few decades but neither have they been effective.  What is interesting in this particular situation, however, is that this past week Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City MO, has “resigned” under pressure from the Vatican.  Bishop Finn had been found guilty of sheltering from legal proceedings a priest whom the Bishop knew to have been guilty of child pornography.  Strangely enough, under Missouri law, that is only a misdemeanor, but a Vatican investigation determined that Finn could no longer function effectively as the spiritual leader of Catholics in the 27 counties of western and north-western Missouri. The question will be does Cordileone have the confidence of his flock to lead.  Conservative Catholics have started a push-back campaign to support Archbishop Cordileone.
Like Finn, Cordileone has a misdemeanor in his background—Cordileone’s for a 2012 driving under the influence (of alcohol) charge.  Perhaps more interesting, both Finn and Cordileone are protégés of Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke who remains a Cardinal in good standing but certainly a prelate in bad odor in Pope Francis’ Rome.  In other words, Cordileone, like Finn, lacks a mediatrix of needed grace at a time most needed. 
Meanwhile, priests and people in the Southern Chile Diocese Osorno continue to protest the installation of Monsignor Juan Barros Madrid as local bishop.  Pope Francis appointed Barros despite the claims of three men that Barros had been present when they had been sexually molested by Barros’ friend Fernando Karadima in the 1980’s and 90’s. Barros denies knowledge of Karadima’s sexual abuse of the men. Although criminal charges against Karadima were dropped due to the statute of limitations, after investigation the Vatican stripped Karadima of his priestly status.  Barros had served as a chaplain to the Chilean military before being named bishop. 
So where will it all end.  It is anyone’s guess, of course, but I will be very surprised if any action is take against Archbishop Cordileone.  It would be a bad precedent to act on a public petition, especially one signed by only one hundred people and a somewhat self-selected group at that. On the other hand, the effort launched by conservative Catholics to support the Archbishop might in turn trigger a more popular response.  There is no doubt that if push were to come to shove, Cordileone would lack the support of the majority of Catholics in his Archdiocese.  This is not only due to his princely ways and dogmatic leadership.  Frankly, many American bishops could not win the support of the majority of their flocks.  People may not mount petitions or get out and demonstrate, but despite the great popularity of Pope Francis, and the loyalty that most give to their local parishes, Americans rarely get much positive energy about their bishops.  At the end of the day, American Catholics are (culturally) Protestants and have never understood the Catholic structure.  While the Popes, even the less popular ones like Pope Benedict, remain a strong symbol of our being Catholic, we really tend to congregationalism and somewhat resent a prelate who usually does not know us well interfering with our parishes and, even more perhaps, taking a percentage of our parish funds for his causes.  Given the size of American dioceses, a parish might only see a bishop once or twice in a year and then in a highly ritualized context.  As long as they are dignitaries they can’t function effectively as pastors.  The fact that so many appointed over the last thirty-some years were chosen not for their pastoral style but for their canon-law ability has not helped their estimation in the eyes of the rank and file.  In Cordileone’s case—as in Finn’s—their penchant for “rings and things and buttons and bows” has certainly not helped them establish the sort of genuine rapport that a few of their predecessors in the episcopal dignity—people like Bernard Topel or Tom Gumbleton or Ken Untener—were able to accomplish.  Archbishop Cordileone is particularly ill-suited for the Church of San Francisco yet I doubt that he will be removed.  On the other hand, as long as Francis is Pope, I don’t expect he will be upwardly mobile either.  But then, Francis is old and Cordileone is still young so que sera, sera.  

Friday, April 24, 2015

Genocide And The People Responsible

The Church of Saint
Blase of the Armenians
in Rome

FBI Director, James B. Comey sparked a diplomatic crisis last week when, in a speech at the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, he said:
“In their minds, the murderers and accomplices of Germany, and Poland, and Hungary, and so many, many other places didn’t so something evil. They convinced themselves it was the right thing to do, the thing they had to do.”
Both the Polish President and the Prime Minister were quick to react with the assertion—and the broadly truthful assertion—that the Poles were victims of Nazi aggression and not perpetrators.  (I have to qualify “truthful” with “broadly” because while Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany, and while Poles themselves were treated as a captive nation and its people regarded as semi-slaves of the Nazi State, and while a million and a half Poles were sent to forced labor in Germany or in the Nazi Camps, and while hundreds of thousands of Poles were imprisoned in Nazi Concentration camps, and while almost 2 million Poles of non-Jewish blood were murdered by the Nazis in addition to the three million Polish Jews who perished, there were Poles who collaborated with the Nazi Regime.  While before the war only about 800,000 Poles claimed to be Germans, once the Reich had subjected Poland approximately 3 million Polish citizens who could prove German blood enrolled in the Volksdeutsche, identifying them with their German ancestry and exempting them from the discriminations imposed against their neighbors of Slavic blood.   Among Poles of Slavic lineage, only several thousand became active collaborators with the Nazis—perhaps he lowest rate among the various conquered nations.  On the other hand, a strong strain of anti-Semitism that had been woven into Polish culture over the centuries—and which had been enflamed in the 20th century by many Polish Catholic sources including some of the publications under the editorship of Saint Maximilian Kolbe—did not encourage Polish Catholics to resist the genocide that happened in their midst.   The Poles were not responsible for the genocide but the question must remain: were they innocent of the blood spilt in their midst?
That sounds harsh—and I will admit it—perhaps it is time to rethink responsibility.
What brings this subject to the fore is that this past week Pope Francis used the word “Genocide” to describe the murder of one and a half million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks during World War I.  The Turks have reacted even more strongly to the Pope than the Poles had to FBI Director Comey.  It is a dicey subject. Due to Diplomatic Pressure and NATO politics, President Obama has yet “to grow a pair” and call the Armenian massacre for what it was.  That is a huge disappointment—akin to the disappointment many of us felt in Pope Francis for his refusing to receive the Dalai Lama earlier this year out of fear of repercussions from the Beijing government.  Even the best of leaders occasionally need a shot of testosterone.  Ironically, Angela Merkel of Germany is not backing away from the term Genocide—something that given Germany’s glass house it takes a lot of chutzpah to do, but because Germany has taken responsibility for the atrocities of the Nazi era, they certainly can do. 
The Holocaust was not the only genocide for which the Third Reich must bear responsibility.  In addition to the attempted wholesale slaughter of European Jewry, Nazi policy aimed at whipping out the Romani (Gypsy) population of Europe, resulting in the death of between a quarter and a half million of the Roma.  Some scholars estimate that proportionately to their numbers, this was even more devastating than the murder of the six million Jews.  Under the cover of their Nazi overlords, the Croat State led by Prime Ministers Ante Pavelić and Nikola Mancić undertook the systematic slaughter not only of Jews and Roma people, but the Serbian population.   Under the same conditions, the Ukrainians, led by Dmytro Klyachkivsky, initiated the slaughter of the Polish adult male population of the Ukraine and Eastern Galicia.  In the same way, the Armenians were not the only victims of the Ottoman Turks as there were programs of mass slaughter directed against both the Assyrian and Greek populations of the Empire. 
The twentieth century was marred by many “ethnic cleansing” or genocidal programs. The 1994 Rwandan genocide and the 1992-95 ethnic cleansing of Bosnian Muslims by Serbs are two more examples.  The policies of the government of Indonesia against the indigenous population of East Timor, the policies of the Beijing regime against Tibet, the policies of Sri Lanka against the Tamil people—all are cited by some sources as “genocide,” and that tragically does not exhaust the list.  Indeed, there is a danger of trivializing the whole concept of genocide by showing just how common it has been.  All too often religion has played a role in genocide and no one’s hands—be they Catholic or Muslim or Buddhist or Hindu or Jewish—can claim to be clean of their brothers’ blood. 
This brings me to the point.  Instead of trying to fix the blame for genocide on one nationality or religion or other “grouping,” perhaps we all need to own our collective responsibility for the occurrence and reoccurrence of this heinous crime against God and against the human race.  Turkey’s refusal to acknowledge responsibility is pathetic but is not significantly different, in this world that has become a global village, from your and my denial of complicity.  I was not yet born during the Nazi atrocities and granted, I can’t take responsibility for what happened in those years. I have, however, lived through Rwanda and Kosovo and Bosnia and Cambodia and how many other mass slaughters over the last half-century.  Given the “global village” created by our mass media, how do I differ from the villager in Oswiecim who saw the trains roll by day and night, who saw the smoke by day and the sky lit by the eerie glow of the furnaces by night, who smelled the foul air of burning flesh and went on his daily life of Mass in the village Church, of going to work, of eating his supper, of making love to his wife?  The problem is not simply that some government people in Ankara won’t take responsibility or some officials in Warsaw are offended by a remark that hits too close to home.  The problem is that we all are cynical enough to say to God at the end of the day, “Am I My Brother’s Keeper?”

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Foundations of the Anglican Church CXV

We posted about Lancelot Andrewes, Nicholas Ferrar and the Little Gidding community, and George Herbert, and now will continue with more on the Caroline Divines—the Anglican clergy who typified a revival of piety in the Church of England in the seventeenth century. 
Another prominent Caroline Divine was John Cosin (1594-1672).  Having matriculated at Caius College, Cambridge before taking Holy Orders, once ordained his rise in the Church was rapid.  He began as secretary to the Bishop of Lichfield, went on to be chaplain to the Prince-Bishop of Durham, a canon of Durham, and then archdeacon of East Riding in Yorkshire.  Upon receiving his doctorate in divinity he was advanced to the Mastership of Peterhouse at Cambridge and then to vice-Chancellor of the University.  In 1627 he had composed, at the command of Charles I, a book of devotions for the Protestant Ladies in Waiting to Charles’ Catholic Queen, Henrietta Marie.  It was always troublesome to the High Church wing that the good Protestant ladies of the court often looked rather less devout than the Queen and her Catholic ladies.  Cosin was a staunch royalist and pawned the silver plate of Peterhouse for the royal cause in the Civil War with the Parliamentarians.  He was deprived by the Long Parliament of his benefices for his support of the King and fled to Paris where he served as the Protestant Chaplain to Charles II in his exile.  At the Restoration he returned to England and was made Prince-Bishop of Durham.  He was an ardent High-Churchman though he had no problem with non-episcopal ordination among the French Huguenots.  He also tried valiantly to win compromise with the Presbyterians at the Savoy Conference of 1661 but without success.  He was greatly responsible for the 1662 Prayer Book reviving both prayers and rituals more consistent with the ancient liturgies than the 1552 and 1559 books used previous to the Civil War.  Durham was a rich see and Cosin was most generous in applying his revenues to works of charity and education. 
Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667) is one of the better known Caroline Divines because of his extraordinary prose style.  He came from humble origins at Cambridge but because of his intelligence and ability to learn quickly was able to secure a place in the university.  He was only 20 when ordained to the priesthood.  He was a protégé of Archbishop Laud, the High-Church Archbishop of Canterbury whose antagonism to the Puritan faction provided the spark that would set off the Bishop’s War in Scotland which morphed into the English Civil War and brought down both monarchy and episcopacy with King Charles and Archbishop Laud both losing their lives to the axe.  Taylor, like Laud, was always suspect by the Puritans of being a crypto-Catholic and he was on friendly terms with many Catholics including the Franciscan friar chaplain to Queen Henrietta Marie.  Yet, for all his cordiality to Catholics, Taylor was a convinced Anglican.  He was a staunch defender of episcopacy against the Presbyterian polity of Cromwell’s Puritan Parliamentarians and this led to three imprisonments during the Commonwealth.  Friends secured him a position in Lisburn, county Antrim in Ireland in the final years of the Commonwealth and at the Restoration he was named Bishop of Down and Connor and Vice Chancellor of Trinity College, Dublin.  It was a tremendous disappointment to him not to be called back to England.  It was surprising that he was not given a better position as his wife (his second wife, his first having died in 1651) was an illegitimate daughter of no less than King Charles II himself. 
He was a competent bishop in difficult circumstances with most of his clergy being Presbyterian and not willing to give it up and most of the populace being Catholic and not willing to give that up either.  His literary contribution is perhaps greater than any of the other Carolines due to both the volume of his writing and quality of his prose.  In addition to numerous sermons he wrote several books of devotions and prayers that have remained popular through the centuries. He also wrote manuals for the devout life and for preparing for a devout death as well as a worthy reception of Holy Communion.  The Catholic Paulist Press did a volume of his work in the Classics of Western Spirituality Series. 
Thomas Ken, 1637-1711, was an Oxford grad who, after holding several relatively inconsequential rectories, went on to be a canon at Winchester and a chaplain to the bishop there.  He went on to be chaplain to the King’s neice, the Princess Mary (later Queen Mary of William and Mary fame) and afterwards a chaplain to King Charles himself.  He later angered the King, however, when he refused the King’s infamous mistress, Nell Gwynne, hospitality in his home.  He wrote many devotional prayers and hymns which are still used today, most notably “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow” and “All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night.”  A trip to Rome in 1672 left him unimpressed with Catholicism. 
In 1684 when the See of Bath and Wells (a very important diocese in the Church of England and the bishop of which plays a significant role in the coronation ritual) feel opened, King Charles remembered Ken’s scruples about hosting the royal mistress and in admiration for his pluck insisted that Ken be named bishop. The King allegedly declared: “where is that little priest who refused lodging to poor Nell?”  When Charles was dying the following year, Ken was summoned to minister to him at his deathbed and his manner of ministry edified all present save for the dour Scot, Gilbert Burnet. 
Ken was no friend to Catholicism and opposed a lifting of the penal laws proposed by the Catholic King James II who succeeded Charles II in 1685. James had him imprisoned and brought to trial for his résistance, but he was acquitted.  Nevertheless, when William and Mary (to whom he had once been chaplain) deposed James in the Glorious Revolution, Ken felt that his oath of allegiance to James prevented him from giving allegiance to the new Protestant co-monarchs.  (We will have postings on “The Glorious Revolution” to explain all this in the near future.)  William and Mary deprived Ken of his See and he retired to the manor of his old friend Thomas Thynne, Viscount Weymouth, at Longleat.  Somewhat penniless himself, Ken influenced Weymouth to be exceptionally generous to the poor of the surrounding countryside and even to establish a school for boys at Warminster. 
There are other voices of seventeenth-century Anglican piety/spirituality that we could consider but I think these and those in the previous posting give us the flavor of the flourishing of Anglican spirituality in the seventeenth century.  As the Church of England broke free of its Calvinist/Puritan heritage it was able to recover some of the vitality that it had known in the Middle Ages with spiritual writers such as Richard Rolle, Julian of Norwich, Walter Hilton and the author of The Cloud of Unknowing.  What we see with the Caroline Divines is a deep but not a saccharine piety rooted in scripture, sound theology, and an appreciation for the sacramental/liturgical life of the Church.  It would be important—given that these Divines were all of the High Church camp—to give a clarification of seventeenth-century High Churchmanship lest it be confused with the ritualism of the Oxford movement which was still a long way off in the distance.
Seventeenth century High Churchmanship was marked not so much by ritual—though there was a deep concern for a dignified Church order—as by an appreciation for the patristic heritage which had, for a great part, been lost in the Puritan years.  The seventeenth century saw a revival of interest in the ancient Church Fathers—both Greek and Latin—and a desire to align the life of the Church in its liturgy, its asceticism, and its canons with the theology and practice of the ancient church.  They were not so much concerned about vestments (though they did insist on the prescribed vestments of the Prayer Book, namely the surplice) and ornaments as they were about adherence to the liturgical texts and rubrics.  There was a great flourishing of hymnody as well as a restoration of organs—and some magnificent instruments—and music.  In their study of the Fathers, they narrowed the gap between their and Catholic theology although pretty much to a man the Caroline Divines were by no means “papistically inclined.”  There were some loose and unofficial ties established with the French Church (where there was also a spiritual renaissance at the time as well as an enthusiasm for Church music) which stood in a somewhat semi-autonomous relationship with the papacy.  Unfortunately this spiritual revival would come crashing down by the end of the seventeenth century with the rise of rational liberalism but that is for future postings.