My very best wishes for Christmas 2011 and the New Year 2012………
It will be quite a significant new year! I want to thank you as well for your comments and interest in Another Voice. Occasionally this past year I seriously thought about pulling the plug on my blog….Then someone sent a note…and I continued.
I am also a very strong supporter of ARCC: the Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church…and hope in the coming year to be more supportive of their efforts.
There are now close to 500 people regularly checking Another Voice…..Modest. Still not bad. I have never been a numbers guy.
We all absolutely need our friends. They keep us going. This past year I said goodbye to some old friends who have passed on to the next life……I believe they are with me. Yet…I miss the twinkle in their eyes and the friendly chuckle and the occasional admonition.
Albert Schweitzer’s observations ring ever true: “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”
John Greenleaf is going on holiday for a few days and will return in early January.
And here is a bit of pious music for your own holidays:
I have worked in and for church institutions since 1969. I know how the spirit of control works in the church. Here are six obvious signs that the spirit of control is at work:
(1) Little or no accountability: In the community of faith, all are answerable to the community.
(2)Spiritual elitism: The Scriptures tell us there is neither male nor female, neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free….In the community of faith there are no hierarchies of value, dignity, or importance. If there is a spirit of authoritarian control in a church, “the people” are told that the clergy-control people are superior. Accountable to no one, they have special spiritual privileges from God. Our American bishops did this recently with the imposition of a new (somewhat) English liturgy.
(3) An oppressive atmosphere: Authoritarian leaders know how to control people through manipulation. In some cases, this control may simply take the form of subtle suggestions. In more abusive situations, it comes in the form of threats, and one-sided condemnations. The US bishops ‘condemnation of Sister Elizabeth Johnson’s book Quest for the Living God: is a good and recent example of such an oppressive atmosphere.
(4) Angry domination: Tyrants are the same everywhere….. Because they want to control their surroundings, they often blow up when people do not conform to their demands.Interestingly, some of our earliest Christian Scriptures teach that church leaders should be neither “violent” nor “quarrelsome” but “self-controlled” and “gentle” (see 1 Timothy 3:2-3). Later he instructed Timothy that the Lord’s servant “must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone” (2 Timothy 2:24). There are a lot of angry American bishops these days. One is very fond of angry yelling at the New York Times. You will always find lots of anger when there is a controlling spirit.
(5) Women and girls are inferior: Authoritarian churches usually discourage women from pursuing any genuine role in ministry, especially when linked with Eucharist or preaching. In our contemporary authoritarian Catholic environment, there is no surprise that bishops are clamping down against “altar girls.”
OK…so what do we do?
(1) We need to understand that dismantling power by noncooperation is the way to go!
(2) We need to start at the parish level and move out from there. An example: Many years ago I was director of religious education in a rather large suburban parish. We had five people on the parish religious education team and one pastor. Our first pastor was a kind and generally collaborative fellow. After three years with him, our bishop, who felt the parish was becoming far too progressive, appointed an arch conservative micro-manager as pastor. Once a week the pastor would call us in for a “staff” meeting. When we arrived he was already in the meeting room, sitting in the biggest chair, with other chairs arranged in front of him. After a short invocation of the Holy Spirit, he pulled a slip of paper from his shirt pocket and told us the agenda for the meeting. That happened once!
At our next “staff” meeting, religious ed. people arrived ahead of time. We moved the big chair out of the room and arranged six of the very same kind of chairs in a circle. The pastor arrived and was flustered about not seeing his chair. I said, “we thought we would make the room arrangement a bit more like a Christian community.” He muttered something unintelligible. After he said the prayer, I said “Father we each have a short prayer as well.” which each person then prayed.
The grand moment came when the pastor pulled his slip of paper from his pocket and the five of us also pulled papers from our pockets! We were on our way to a new kind of collaboration!
The three virtues of Christian Community Leadership are: Ownership, Learning, and Sharing
Ownership…….. Problems and issues need to become a responsibility of all with proper chances for people to share and participate.
Learning……. An emphasis on learning and development is necessary so that people can share, understand and contribute to what’s going on. No single person has all the answers and certainly not all the truth.
Sharing…….. Open, respectful and informed conversation is central. I know many laypeople who make ignorant theological or historical statements. And I know a lot of bishops who make great ignorant theological and historical statements as well. We all need to be better informed and continually better informed…..
The signs are all around us: Catholic fundamentalism is the theme for the new church year.
Some thoughts from GERALD ARBUCKLE
Fundamentalism is not confined to Islamic religions. In fact fundamentalist movements are to be found in all societies and religions, including Catholic Christianity.
Fundamentalism is a form of organized anger in reaction to the unsettling consequences of rapid social and religious change.
Fundamentalists find rapid change emotionally extremely disturbing and dangerous. Cultural, religious and personal certitudes are shaken. Consequently, fundamentalists simplistically yearn to return to a utopian past or golden age, purified of dangerous ideas and practices.
They aggressively band together in order to put things right again – according to what they decide are orthodox principles. Sometimes they turn to all kinds of bullying – emotional, political, even physical violence at times – to get things back to “normal”. History must be reversed.
Because fundamentalism is at depth an emotional reaction to the disorienting experience of change, fundamentalists are not open to rational discussion. Here in Australia, for example, there is a political fundamentalist movement to preserve the “pure, orthodox Australian culture” from the “endangering ways of foreigners”.
It matters little to adherents that such a culture has never existed. Anthropologically every culture is the result of constant contact and mixing with other cultures over years.
Fundamentalists have become especially powerful and vociferous within the Catholic communities in recent decades. Their fundamentalist reactions are the result of the impact of two massive cultural upheavals colliding.
First, there is the cultural revolution of the 1960s. The credibility of ever value and institution, including the churches, were questioned. This had profound social, economic and political consequences that continue to this day. Second, there is impact from the immense cultural changes generated by the much-needed reforms of Vatican II.
Catholic fundamentalism is an often aggressive reaction to the anxiety-creating turmoil of these two cultural and religious upheavals. It is an ill-defined but powerful movement in the Church to restore uncritically pre-Vatican II structures and attitudes.
Here are some signs of this fundamentalism among Catholics:
(1) Nostalgia for a pre-Vatican II Golden Age, when it is assumed that Church never changed, was then a powerful force in the world, undivided by misguided devotees of the Council’s values. The fact is that the Church and its teachings have often changed. Some statements have been shown to be wrong and were either repealed or allowed to lapse.
(2) A highly selective approach to what fundamentalists think pertains to the Church’s teaching: Statements on incidental issues are obsessively affirmed, but papal or episcopal pronouncements on social justice are ignored or considered matters for debate only.
(3) Concern for accidentals, not for the substance of issues, e.g., the Lefebvre group stresses Latin for the Mass, failing to see that this does not pertain to authentic tradition.
(4) The vehemence and intolerance with which they attack co-religionists who are striving to relate the Gospel to the world around them according to Vatican II.
(5) Attempts to infiltrate governmental structures of the Church in order to obtain legitimacy for their views and to impose them on the whole Church.
(6) An elitist assumption that fundamentalists have a kind of supernatural authority and right to pursue and condemn those who disagree with them, including bishops and theologians.
(7) A spirituality in which Jesus Christ is portrayed as an unforgiving and punishing God; the overwhelming compassion and mercy of Christ is overlooked.
In relating to fundamentalist Catholics we need to avoid hostile or heated arguments. Membership of fundamentalist groups is not a question of logic, but generally of a sincere, but misguided, search for meaning and belonging. Expressions of anger and vigorous disagreement will only affirm people in the rightness of their belief.
Our best witness to the truths of our Catholic beliefs will be our inner peace built on faith, charity and concern for justice, especially among the most marginalised.
Father Gerald Arbuckle SM is co-director of the Refounding and Pastoral Development Unit at Hunters Hill in Sydney, and author of eleven books including Culture, Inculturation, and Theologians: A Postmodern Critique.