Churches, Popes, Women, and the “V” Word (Sunday Homily)

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Readings for 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Is. 6:1-2a, 3-8; Ps. 138: 1-5, 7-8; I Cor. 15: 1-11; Lk. 5: 1-11. http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/021013.cfm

Have you ever seen Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues?” A few years ago that series of dramatic readings was presented at Berea College where I taught for 37 years. The readings were as provocative as the play’s title. All of them reflect the unique experience of being woman that most of us Christian males find so difficult to understand, especially after so many years of brain-washing at the hands of predominantly male clergies.

Significantly, Ensler refers to that particular churchly indoctrination in the prologue to her text. There she quotes Gloria Steinem who recalls:

“In the sixties, while I was doing research in the Library of Congress, I found a little known treatise about the history of religious architecture which blithely stated a thesis, as it were known by everybody, to the effect that the traditional shape of most patriarchal buildings of worship imitates the female body. Thus, there is an external entrance and another internal one, the labia majora and the labia minora; there is a vaginal central nave, which leads to the altar; there are two curved ovarian structures on either side; and finally, in the sacred center is the altar or uterus, where the great miracle takes place: men give birth.

“Though this comparison was new for me, it opened my eyes with a shock. Of course, I thought. The central ceremony of the patriarchal religions is nothing else but the ceremony in which men take control of the “yoni” power of creation by giving birth symbolically. It is no wonder that male religious leaders state so often that we human beings are born in sin … because we are born from female tummies. Only by obeying the rules of the patriarchy can we be “reborn” through men. It is no wonder that priests and pastors decked out in long vestments sprinkle our heads with a fluid that mimics the waters of birth. It is no wonder that they give us new names and promise us we will be reborn in eternal life. It is no wonder that the male priesthood attempts to keep women far removed from the altar, just as we are kept far removed from control of our own powers of reproduction. Whether symbolic or real, everything is aimed at controlling the power that resides in the female body.”

Talk about provocative! Here Ms. Steinem is claiming that creative power is focused chiefly in the female body, though men obviously have an ancillary role in the begetting of life. Because their role is so obviously secondary, a primary male purpose in organized religion, Ms. Steinem says, is for men to alienate or steal the vastly superior womanly power of life and to control it – against women themselves.

Patriarchal religion accomplishes its task by dressing men up like women. It has them sprinkling their congregations with the waters of birth introducing them to “eternal life.” This form of life is held to be more important than physical life, and male pastors claim to control it to the exclusion of women. The prerequisite for women’s access to life eternal is that they adopt the rules of the exclusively male priesthood especially those connected with female powers of reproduction centered in the woman’s body whose architecture the male priestly domain of church actually mimics.

I bring all of that up because today’s liturgy of the word is so obviously male-centered in a very misleading way. Together with Ms. Steinem’s reflections, the readings of the day suggest why someone like our present Pope Benedict XVI along with Christian pastors of many denominations participate so enthusiastically in what has been called a 21st century “War on Women” and why the pope is so afraid of women priests.

Female priests might inspire women to recognize their inherent superiority over men in terms of centrality to the life processes (both physical and spiritual) that the patriarchy struggles so mightily to control. If women were allowed the leadership that their biology suggests, what would become of the male-centered church – of the male-centered world?

Today’s liturgy of the word tries to keep us from asking such questions. It begins with a description of God in highly masculine terms centered in the macho realm of palace and court. God is depicted as “king.” He (sic!) is “Lord.” He inspires fear and awe. He dwells in a smoke-filled room surrounded by all the trappings of power and might. Like the prophet Isaiah, those who appear before him feel small and ashamed of the very words that come from their lips.

This, of course, is the image of God we’ve been offered from the cradle. (Can you imagine how different we’d feel personally, ecclesiastically, nationally and internationally if the familiar image of God were a mother nursing her child? Would you feel any different towards such a Mother God? – Remember, it’s all just symbolism. And the image of God that’s come to dominate arises from one of the most patriarchal traditions in the history of the world.)

The male-centeredness of today’s readings continues in the selection from Paul’s first letter to Christians living in Corinth. It’s a key passage because Paul is trying to establish his identity as an “apostle,” even though he never met Jesus personally. Paul bases his claim on the fact that Jesus appeared to him just as he did to the other apostles. So he says “Remember what I preached to you:” Christ died for our sins. He was buried and raised on the third day. He appeared to the 12, then to 500 “brothers” at once, then to all of the apostles, and finally to Paul himself.

There is so much interesting in this summary of Paul’s preaching. What, for instance, happened to Jesus’ words and deeds? Paul’s gospel begins with Jesus’ death! What about Jesus’ life which revealed the character of God as compassionate and “womb like?” (See Marcus Borg, Meeting Jesus again for the First Time, chapter 3.)

However, even more to the point is Paul’s omission of the fact that according to ALL of the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection appearances in the canonical gospels, Jesus’ first appearances were to women, not to men!! (Remember Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene in John 20:1-18?) Using Paul’s logic, doesn’t that establish the primacy of women in the church – and in the priesthood? The misogynistic Paul doesn’t want to go near that question. And neither does the equally misogynistic Pope Benedict XVI.

And then we have today’s gospel selection from Luke. It’s the call of the first apostles. According to Luke, Peter, James, and John are the first to follow Jesus. That leaves us with the usual impression that Jesus called only men.

Omitted from our vision is the fact that according to Luke himself (8:3) there were “many women” taking an active part in the Jesus Movement. Besides Jesus’ mother Mary, we know the names of some of them: Mary Magdalene, several other Marys, Suzanne, Salome, Martha and Mary of Bethany, Joanna. . And the roles of these women weren’t confined to preparing food and washing clothes.

In the first Christian communities, men and women met and worshiped together. Both men and women preached the message of Jesus with the same authority, and both men and women presided at the celebration in remembrance of their crucified Master. Like the men, the women had representation and decision-making power in the communities as priests and bishops.

That was even true of the communities of Paul. Paul himself taught that “In Christ there is no male or female” (Galatians 3,28). With this claim he legitimized the active participation of women in the first Christian communities. Also, he makes emphatic mention of many women in his letters and lavishly praises their work. For example, he mentions by name the deaconess Phoebe (Romans 16,1), Junia (Romans 16,7), Prisca, Julia, Evodia and Sintece, all of whom he called his “collaborators” (Philippians 4,2). He also mentions Claudia, Trifena, Trifosa, Prisca, Lyida, Tiatira and Nympha of Laodicea. Of the 28 persons to whom Paul accords special praise in his letters to the early churches, 10 are women!

All of that changed in the 4th century, when Christianity lost its soul and became the official religion of the Roman Empire. Then Christianity adopted for good the courtly vision today’s first reading affirmed: macho-kings, courts, palaces, smoke-filled rooms, men dressed like women, denigration of women’s bodies, men trying desperately to affirm their superiority against all the evidence of biology, life’s processes, Jesus’ own example, and women’s traditional roles as nourishers, healers and spiritual counselors.

Let’s talk about how women might take back those roles both in church and in politics. How do we “get to” someone as closed as Benedict XVI? How do we get to our bishops and priests? How do we get to our own acquiescence to the misogyny of our church and culture?
(Discussion follows)

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Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

Emeritus professor of Peace & Social Justice Studies. Liberation theologian. Activist. Former R.C. priest. Married for 40 years. Three grown children. Four grandchildren.

20 thoughts on “Churches, Popes, Women, and the “V” Word (Sunday Homily)”

  1. I like it. When I try to envision God as a woman, it changes my whole attitude. I am going to continue to practice this shift of inner perspective. It makes me aware of how conditioned I have been by male based imagery. The change feels fresh and liberating…

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  2. Thanks, Mike. This is a great summary and example of misogyny in the Christian church. Although I understand why you say that women are superior biologically in terms of our ability to give birth, we don’t do it alone. I think that by giving women a superior role, we are falling prey to the same hierarchical patterns that machismo does. We need to offer a third way of partnership and equality.

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    1. Thanks, Laura. You’re right, of course about equality and partnership. I suppose I was trying to balance the scales in the face of the outrageous insistence on the part of pastors and popes that men are superior in the sense that they are the God-appointed “head of the house,” and that (at least in the Catholic commuity) only men can be priests of liturgical presiders. That latter claim was “infallibly” made by John Paul II. My point was that such claim in contrary to the testimony of Scripture. I think that we (especially men) need to be more assertive in countering such nonsense.

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  3. It is difficult to match the content of your homily with the historical reality that the Catholic Church has been the greatest force behind the rise in the status of women over the last 2000 years. The Church’s record in behalf of women and women’s rights through more primitive times than ours has been magnificent. The historian Regine Peroud has richly documented ( for example, “Women in the Age of Cathedrals”) the Catholic Church’s steady overthrow, from 5th century forward, of the Roman patriarchy in which the father of the domus had life and death rights over his wife and children. Actually only the husband had civil rights. Women now gained them as a direct result of the Catholic Church. Also due to the Church’s influence slavery was ended in Catholic Europe in this period.

    The unprecedented invention of the nun who could chose Christ as her bridegroom was the wedge that eventually ended arranged marriages, though in non-Christian areas of the world they are still a common practice. Women now had a respected right to chose. It was the secular values of the Renaissance that reintroduced Roman Law in all its misogynistic squalor to developed nations. Slavery came back too.

    Despite its continuing duty of correcting the persistent invasions of human corruption, from Judas through the miscreants of today, the Church has been the unparalleled champion of women.

    The truly provocative Catholic veneration of Mary has, for millennia, provided the essential balancing of the feminine principle with the masculine that much of the outside world lacks. Protestants strange subtraction of Mary from their theology provides a more accurate target for your misplaced accusations of misogyny. Misogyny has nothing to do with the lack of a priestesses in Catholicism. The explanation lies elsewhere.

    Eve Ensler’s observation about the female body as a model for the great Catholic cathedrals is presented as a discovery; as if the Catholic Church did not know what they were doing and later, being anti-women, forgot about it. This is misinformed. The Catholic Church purposely and proudly modeled these “sermons in stone” on the female body of the Queen of Heaven. The Church is robustly sensual. She is also referred to by the Church as “The Mother of God”, (no small title that), and she is accorded an accentuated form of veneration called hyperdulia; rather than the lesser veneration, cultus dulia, accorded to angels and the other saints.

    The early Catholic Church had deaconesses not priestesses. Also It is puzzling that you use one women-unfriendly statement of Paul against more numerous women-friendly statements of Paul and other early Catholics as a basis for attributing misogyny to the whole Church. Aren’t you arguing against your thesis?

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    1. DEAR BARTOLOMEO: THANKS FOR YOUR THOUGHTFUL COMMENT. I SO APPRECIATE YOUR TAKING THE TIME TO REPLY WITH SUCH INSIGHT AND ELOQUENCE. MY RESPONSES TO YOUR POINTS ARE INCLUDED BELOW IN CAPS TO DISTINGUISH THOSE RESPONSES FROM YOUR OWN POINTS. (BY THE WAY, WOULD YOU OBJECT IF I PUBLISHED YOUR REPLY ON THIS BLOG SITE AS PART OF A DEBATE THAT WOULD INCLUDE MY REPLY? IF NOT, PLEASE SEND ME AN E-PHOTO.) THANKS AGAIN. YOU WROTE:
      It is difficult to match the content of your homily with the historical reality that the Catholic Church has been the greatest force behind the rise in the status of women over the last 2000 years. The Church’s record in behalf of women and women’s rights through more primitive times than ours has been magnificent. ARE YOU INCLUDING THE “WOMEN’S HOLOCAUST” HERE? The historian Regine Peroud has richly documented ( for example, “Women in the Age of Cathedrals”) the Catholic Church’s steady overthrow, from 5th century forward, of the Roman patriarchy in which the father of the domus had life and death rights over his wife and children. Actually only the husband had civil rights. Women now gained them as a direct result of the Catholic Church. THE AGE OF CATHEDRALS REACHED ITS HIGH POINT IN THE 14TH AND 15TH CENTURIES. JUST AFTER THIS, THE WOMEN’S HOLOCAUST BEGAN AND ENDED WITH THE BURNINGS OF THOUSANDS (SOME SAY AS MANY AS 9 MILLLION) “WITCHES.”
      Also due to the Church’s influence slavery was ended in Catholic Europe in this period. IN THE 16TH CENTURY, THE CHURCH SUPPORTED ATTEMPTS AT ENSLAVING NATIVE AMERICANS IN THE “NEW WORLD.” IN FACT, EVEN WORSE, THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH SUPPORTED THE GREAT HOLOCAUST OF “INDIANS” AS 90% WERE ELIMINATED IN NORTH AMERICA ALONE.

      The unprecedented invention of the nun who could chose Christ as her bridegroom was the wedge that eventually ended arranged marriages, though in non-Christian areas of the world they are still a common practice. Women now had a respected right to chose. It was the secular values of the Renaissance that reintroduced Roman Law in all its misogynistic squalor to developed nations. Slavery came back too. YES THE SISTERHOOD PROVIDED ESCAPE NOT ONLY FROM THE EXCESSES OF PATRIARCHY EXEMPLIFIED IN ARRANGED MARRIAGES, IT ALSO PROVIDED ESCAPE FROM THE PATRIARCHAL CHURCH. THE SISTERHOOD WAS NOT THE INVENTION OF THE MALE HIERARCHY, BUT OF WOMEN WHO SAW IN THE WORDS OF CHRIST AN EMPOWERING MESSAGE DESPITE THE CHURCH HIERARCHY’S ATTEMPTS AT DENIAL, SUPPRESSION, AND CONTROL OF THEIR MOVEMENT.

      Despite its continuing duty of correcting the persistent invasions of human corruption, from Judas through the miscreants of today, the Church has been the unparalleled champion of women. ARE YOU REFERRING HERE TO THE RECENT CONDEMNATIONS OF U.S. SISTERS FOR GIVING TOO MUCH ATTENTION TO THE POOR AND ISSUES OF SOCIAL JUSTICE? ARE YOU REFERENCING THE HIERARCHY’S PROHIBITION OF CONTRACEPTION TO RELIEVE WOMEN OF THE THREAT OF UNWANTED PREGNANCIES?

      The truly provocative Catholic veneration of Mary has, for millennia, provided the essential balancing of the feminine principle with the masculine that much of the outside world lacks. BARTOLOMEO, I THINK YOU’RE CONFUSING THE HIERARCHY WITH “THE CHURCH,” AS PEOPLE OF GOD. VENERATION OF THE VIRGIN WAS AN ATTEMPT BY THE FAITHFUL (ESPECIALLY WOMEN) TO BALANCE THE EXCLUSIVELY MALE UNDERSTANDING OF GOD IMAGED IN “FATHER, SON, AND HOLY GHOST (WITH THE LATTER UNDERSTOOD AS THE SPIRIT OF THE MALE JESUS). “VENERATION” OF THE VIRGIN WAS SEEN BY THE HIERARCHY AS SOMETHING THAT NEEDED TO BE CONTROLLED, BECAUSE DURING THE MIDDLE AGES, THE BLENDING OF GERMANIC, EARTH-CENTERED RELIGIONS WITH CHRISTIANITY THREATENED TO REINTEGRATE GODDESS WORSHIP INTO CHRISTIANITY. THAT GODDESS WORSHIP HAD BEEN DOMINANT FOR 30,000 YEARS BEFORE THE MUCH, MUCH LATER INTRODUCTION OF THE NOVELTY OF PATRIARCHAL RELIGION A MERE 4000 YEARS AGO. “VENERATION” OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN BECAME FOR THE PATRIARCHY AN EXPEDIENT SUBSTITUTE FOR POPULAR INSISTENCE ON RECOGNITION OF THE FEMININE DIVINE PRINCIPLE. Protestants strange subtraction of Mary from their theology provides a more accurate target for your misplaced accusations of misogyny. PROTESTANTS, OF COURSE, ARE INHERITORS OF THE SAME WESTERN MISOGYNY AS CATHOLICS. Misogyny has nothing to do with the lack of a priestesses in Catholicism. “NOTHING??” The explanation lies elsewhere.

      Eve Ensler’s observation about the female body as a model for the great Catholic cathedrals is presented as a discovery; as if the Catholic Church did not know what they were doing and later, being anti-women, forgot about it. This is misinformed. The Catholic Church purposely and proudly modeled these “sermons in stone” on the female body of the Queen of Heaven. The Church is robustly sensual. She is also referred to by the Church as “The Mother of God”, (no small title that), THIS IS THE SORT OF THING THAT ENSLER WAS ARGUING – THAT AN EXCLUSIVELY MALE HIERARCHY HAS CONSISTENTLY ATTEMPTED TO APPROPRIATE THE FEMININE, LIFE-GIVING POWER TO ITSELF. IMAGINE AN EXCLUSIVE CLUB OF MALES CALLING ITSELF “THE MOTHER OF GOD!?” THIS IS JUST WHAT GLORIA STEINEM WAS REFERRING TO. and she is accorded an accentuated form of veneration called hyperdulia; rather than the lesser veneration, cultus dulia, accorded to angels and the other saints. THE POPULAR INSISTENCE ON REINTRODUCING THE DIVINE FEMININE THROUGH THE BACK DOOR SO TO SPEAK HAD TO BE STRICTLY MODERATED BY A THREATENED MALE HIERARCHY. SO IT ACCEPTED THE WORSHIP OF MARY AS INEVITABLE, WHILE INSISTING THAT MARY’S VENERATION BE “HYPERDULIA” AND NOT THE “LATRIA” RESEDRVED FOR THEIR EXCLUSIVELY MALE CONCEPTION OF GOD. TO PREVENT THEM FROM JOINING MARY IN A CHRISTIAN PANTHEON INCLUSIVE OF THE DIVINE FEMINE RECOGNIZED IN MOST OTHER RELIGIONS, FEMALE SAINTS WERE TO BE VENERATED WITH THE “DULIA” YOU REFER TO.

      The early Catholic Church had deaconesses not priestesses. I’M NOT SURE WHAT YOU’RE BASING THIS OBSERVATION ON. I DON’T THINK IT’S AS CLEAR AS YOUR ASSERTING HERE. SEE HANS KUNG ON THIS. Also It is puzzling that you use one women-unfriendly statement of Paul against more numerous women-friendly statements of Paul and other early Catholics as a basis for attributing misogyny to the whole Church. Aren’t you arguing against your thesis? YOU’RE RIGHT: PAUL IS NOT AS MISOGYNISTIC AS HE’S MADE OUT TO BE. HIS “NEITHER MALE NOR FEMALE” IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. BUT HE TOO WAS A PRODUCT OF HIS TIME AND OFTEN LOST COURAGE TO STICK BY THAT INSIGHT OF THE JESUS WHOM HE SO STRONGLY REJECTED BEFORE PAUL’S OWN AWAKENING. EVEN MORE IMPORTANTLY, IT HAS BEEN MISOGYNISTIC INTERPRETATIONS OF PAUL BY THE EXCLUSIVELY MALE HIERARCHY THAT HAVE OBSCURED HIS IDENTITY AS A FRIEND OF WOMEN AND HAVE CONVERTED HIM INTO THEIR SWORN ENEMY.

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  4. Bartolomeo — I guess the torture and murder of untold thhosands of women as witches was the Church’s way of showing equal concern for women.

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  5. Thanks for your detailed reply to Bartolomeo, Mike. I could sense that he was wrong on many if not all of his points, but I lack the detailed knowledge of Church history that you have displayed. A good exchange. I like that Bartolomeo is given a chance to fully expound his views here. It is helpful for all of us to think mor deeply about these issues.

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  6. I appreciate your graciousness and openness, Professor. Of course you may use my comments to publish on a blog. It is not my purpose the white-wash the behavior of the Catholic Church. Unfortunately we hire humans not seraphim. i would like to offer some sense of perspective and to correct the false impression that the Church’s flawed record is not still the best of any major entity.

    The “Woman’s Holocaust” is a common anti-Catholic myth. It has been frequently and, to my mind, thoroughly debunked. The Protestant Reformation should have stuck with their original valid objections to the sins of a Catholics clergy (the quality of the replacement personnel had gravely declined due to the decimation of a heroic clergy that died attending the victims of the Back Death) rather than creating a massive literature of slander to further justify what turned out to be a “Protestant Deformation” that has proved to be unfortunate for everyone.

    The KGB emphasized these clever lies, and added slanderous attacks from the secular side in the last century. The destruction of the Catholic Church being one of their (and Hitler’s) most important objectives. Slanders, of course are purposely damaging lies. In expert hands they cause massive damage.

    In the next few days I will have time to offer a more detailed discussion of the “witch” burnings. They did exist but were much fewer in number than often asserted. They are also wrongly attributed to very Catholic Medieval period. As you noted, they primarily occurred much later, when Catholic influence had waned,

    In that period burning at the stake was the frequent sentence for all people who committed serious crimes. It was performed almost exclusively by secular authorities, and was applied to men and women without prejudice. Herbalists who were often women, sometimes practiced abortion. Abortion was considered a very serious crime. We would not call herbalists witches today although I know one who refers to herself that way.

    Your picture of the Catholic Church supporting slavery and genocide in the New World is basically incorrect although this is a convoluted issue requiring too much typing. Catholic influence ended slavery in Europe for a thousand years and greedy secular capitalists reintroduced it with the discovery of the New World.

    In general it was the Protestant British that exterminated aborigines. The French Catholic record with the Indians was generally humane and often heroic. The Spanish performed far better than the British directly as a result of their Catholicism. .

    Queen Isabella banned enslaving the aborigines in central and South America only a few years into the European presence. She was disobeyed frequently of course. Her influence was the Catholic Church, especially the Jesuit Bishop, Bartolomeo De Las Casas , whose name I honor with my pen name. His arguments in favor of American aborigines having souls before Europeans courts were wonderfully expressed and proved persuasive.

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  7. Batolomeo — You seem more than satisfied with the Catholic Church as it is, and as it has been. Is there anything you would like the Church to do better? Anything at all wrong with its performance today? Scott Peck in his book People of the Lie pointed out that those who believe they are always in the right are also the one’s who are able o commit the most heinous atrocities due to their lack of any self-critical ability.

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  8. Mike Kavanaugh,

    I must confess that, years ago, Scott Peck’s book disappointed me with its superficial take on profound phenomena. I am “sure I am in the right” about quadratic equations but I have never felt compelled to beat someone over the head with a math book who doesn’t understand them. But that interesting subject is too much typing for today.

    Yes I can offer a worthwhile and solid set of criticisms of today’s Catholic Church, much better than the rather silly criticisms of Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and the utter fantasies of Dan Brown about monk assassins and burning witches. The Church suffers from being too nice and thus is getting successfully slandered by failing to defend itself. Most of the Church is afflicted with an addiction to excessive self-destructive humility. They should be more direct in opposing the artful and delicious disinformation about catholicism that is a contagion in our society. You may not be aware, but I am guessing, that the survival of the things you hold most dear depend on the Catholic Church being more openly Catholic.

    What a silly age you and I inhabit. I yearn for substantial opponents like Nietzsche and Voltaire.

    I once left the Church for 40 years of exploration of world culture, which is the fashionable excuse for an enjoyable lack of self-discipline and hedonistic selfishness. I came back and find Catholicism difficult and painful if done as directed. Please talk me out of it. Unfortunately for my sybaritic comfort it is the Church Christ founded, as is exhaustively documented, and it is a convincing proponent of self-denial, charity, love, and other uncomfortable practices.

    The most common criticisms offered against Catholicism usually object to the activities of Catholics who are failing to practice Catholicism. Such criticisms negate themselves since they are judgements constructed upon a platform of an unconscious and unacknowledged inheritance of Catholic morality. The critics are thinking with a more vibrant Catholicism than their targets. They might as well join the Church and practice Catholicism from within the organization where they could do great good influencing the miscreants.

    I wish the Church would fund more media content (movies, music TV, etc.). We have been subverted by rude beasts slouching toward Bethlehem.

    I wish the Church would speak more publicly about the physical intimacy of the Eucharist, about consuming the Body and Blood of Christ, about Christ inhabiting the tissues of your body-soul, about Christ’s incarnated lips whispering in your brain as you kiss your beloved ones. Nothing on earth touches the experience of the Eucharist.

    I wish theChurch would do more Gregorian chant and more sublime stuff by Arvo Part.

    There’s more to criticize. Later.

    I don’t know many people who have “lost” their faith. the word “lost” sounds as if their faith merely slipped away, like car key behind the sofa.

    However I know a lot of people whose faith was assassinated!

    Anyway, I intend to talk straight…for your sake.

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  9. Ah Bartolomeo! Love is so wonderful and enchanting, it is impossible to be critical of one who is in the throes of love, And you appear to be deeply in love with your chosen spiritual path. Bravo, this delicious surrender to one’s beloved is a profound aspect of spiritual paths. Outside observers are unable to enter the inner bower of such a one’s devotional bliss.

    But at the same time an outside observer may have a clearer view of the sold out lover’s beloved than that intoxicated one is capable of. Such an observer may be able to discern flaws in the beloved Church that are invisible to the devotee, who is in a state of consciousness that only wishes to adulate his beloved. Hopefully such an objective observer will be able to appreciate the excellences of the Church, but also be aware of its deficiencies. In spiritual matters this is called discernment or discrimination. Love is wonderful but it does not trump the Truth.

    So bless you Bartolomeo for having found a spiritual haven to bring forth your love and surrender, but clearer heads should be listened to for a more objective evaluation of the churches spiritual mission.

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      1. Mike, I get so much from your blog. Thanks for creating this forum. We need a place to rethink and refresh our Christian roots.

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  10. I understand.

    I am dismissed as besotted. My corrections to your fashionable disinformation are discarded now. And will be.

    The approach is akin to saying, “Don’t listen to him, he is a bigot!”

    Keep moving, nothing to learn here. We all know that the Catholic Church is despicable.

    Mike, our opinions differ but, more alarmingly, so do our facts.

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    1. Yes, I’m afraid you’re right, Bartolomeo: not only our opinions differ, but so do our facts. Over long years of thinking about such differences, I’ve come to the conclusion that one has to decide whether to accept the “facts” of the dominant class (as you apparently have done) or those of the marginalized and voiceless, for the facts of these two groups indeed differ.
      The rich and powerful, of course, occupy the podium and microphone. The sheer volume of their discourse drowns out those who speak without amplification other than what their overwhelming numbers provide. Meanwhile the 1% in church and state would have us believe that the experience of the poor is non-existent, invalid, forgettable, and/or the product of prejudice. Thus the facts of the disrespected (women, indigenous, slaves, foot soldiers, illiterate, poor and oppressed) are routinely dismissed by the patriarchy, colonizers, planters, generals, literate, rich and dominant.
      The women’s holocaust never happened, they say. The “black legend” is spurious. Hitler didn’t really sponsor death camps and ovens. The U.S. hasn’t really killed more than a million in Iraq. Water boarding is not torture, but merely “enhanced interrogation.” The Arians were truly masterful. The United States is exceptional. The Catholic Church is a “perfect society” and its leaders are “infallible.”
      And yet, Jesus and his immediate followers belonged to the classes whose facts (hunger, sickness, holocausts and oppressions) the privileged routinely deny. Because of my faith and the observations I have made in my travels, studies, and attempts to honor the experience of the poor and marginalized (as I understand Jesus and his God to have done), I have decided to prortize the facts of those with whom Jesus so evidently sided.
      This is a political decision, I admit. But as I said, it is also based on my experience in the third world and on a reading of history from the underside as reflected in the work of Howard Zinn, Walter Rodney, Eduardo Galeano, theologians and exegetes of liberation, and (most recently) of Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick.
      But you have your sources too, I know – and your commitments. In the end, we probably must agree to disagree.

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  11. You posted that we should agree to disagree. I take that as a polite signal that the conversation has been exhausted. Allow me to stop on the way out your door and express a few thoughts.

    Please, do not compare this Catholic to a Holocaust denier. Statistics of the Nazi holocaust reveal that there were more Christians, mostly Catholic, that were exterminated in the death camps than Jews; for example,100% of the Austrian priests.

    I am not blind. There is a difference between the blindness that accompanies erotic love and the knowledge that attends caritas. Even when I had no belief in the Church I did harbor a caritas for its works that enabled me to finally see it with clarity. Aquinas famously said that you have to believe to know. I think that sometimes you have to love to believe to know, and there is no blindness in it or it would quickly evaporate.

    I haven’t had time in this debate to construct an adequate presentation of the actual witch burnings. I will if we continue. You have thrown too many balls in the air for me to juggle.  Please do not join Mike Kavanaugh in assuming that I entertain a mad circus of unsubstantiated opinions. I do assert that were indeed some witch burnings, but far fewer than the popular myth assumes, far fewer than justify the term “Holocaust” without demeaning the sensitive resonances that chase that term. I do say that there was no “Woman’s-Holocaust” perpetrated by the Catholic Church no matter how unpopular this documented reality has come to be. I have facts with which to dispute your facts, not just my unpopular opinions. 

    Unpopular opinions? Yes, for it is my Catholics, not you, Professor Ravage-Seul, that possess the cachet of being the rebels of 2013. At this time your side is winning the cultural war, despite harboring many positions that have little factual substance. My side is being drowned out; being dismissed through accusations of committing every unstylish sin. Liberation Theology may not reign supreme in the Church but an analogous compassion and charity does. This compassion and charity is enacted with much more effective methodologies of (caritas) charity than the stratagems of Marxism, and is practiced by the Church to a degree unequaled by any other entity. 

    You post: “The rich and powerful, of course, occupy the podium and microphone.”

    From where I stand, within the counter-culture of today which is most certainly includes the  Catholic Church, I could, with insignificant changes have written almost the same post that you wrote. However it is your side that occupies and tightly grasps the microphone and the podium. I call attention to your honored position in an honored institution compared to my intrusive insignificance. I would also plead the case of the voiceless oppressed, for example the Cuban people I know so well, and 60 million children we have rudely ripped from the womb.

    From your pics I see a very mature and much beloved man, about my age, who has experienced a great portion of life. I acknowledge that you are the dominant power while I have recently joined a band of rebels. Perhaps, like Whittaker Chamber wrote. ”I have joined the losing side.” It is your view that is now dominant and drowning out the message that I support.

    I would also write, as you did, that the powerful “would have us believe that the experience of the poor is non-existent, invalid, forgettable, and/or the product of prejudice. Thus the facts of the disrespected (women, indigenous, slaves, foot soldiers, illiterate, poor and oppressed) are routinely dismissed by the patriarchy, colonizers, planters, generals, literate, rich and dominant.” Yes, and most prominent among the protectors and rescuers of of these oppressed stands the Catholic Church. I note that most historians agree that the Catholic Church has been the greatest force for aiding and protecting the poor in history.

    Goodnight Professor.

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    1. Bartolomeo: I was not trying to signal the end of our conversation. In fact I’d like it to continue in the form of a couple of “debate” blogs. To that end, would you mind stitching together those wonderfully expressed dissenting thoughts you’ve shared here? Then I’ll post it as a “guest blog” as early as Wednesday. Subsequently, I would reply in blog form. But there’s no rush. I would like those who do not read the comments to see your argument in full. And don’t foget that e-photo I mentioned. (See the cool photo of Jim Cashman in today’s guest blog.) You’ve already written out your thoughts. As I said, how about just stitching them together? I’d be grateful.

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  12. I have now relocated the article (on catholic.org) on witch-burnings) I wanted to offer for your evaluation. it Is even-handed and somewhat thorough for so short an article.
    Rather than rely on memory for statistics I wanted to send the link:

    http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?id=4005&repos=1&subrepos=0&searchid=642287

    While there is plenty here for long dead Catholics to atone for, the article does explain that the story of 9 million witches (women) burned in a misogynistic holocaust was fanciful myth. For perspective the huge scope of the the Catholic Church’s positive activities for almost 2000 years must be held in one’s other hand. Remember, it is not the vessel but the contents.

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