Saturday, March 27, 2010

Defenders of Vatican Claim Conspiracy: The Obligation to Remember Where This Papal Regime Went Wrong

As spin about what Benedict knew when gets underway (it’s an international atheist- and Freemason-driven media conspiracy; it all points back to Rembert Weakland and the gays—it’s boys being abused, doncha know), I’m thinking of something a priest-theologian friend of mine, Fr. Bill, first told me in the mid-1980s.  I’m thinking of Bill’s insights as I read today the announcement of Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, prefect emeritus of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, that the spate of recent revelations stems from a “conspiracy” against Pope Benedict, a “well-organized plan, with a clear aim.”  (See Marina Hyde’s wonderful commentary on Cardinal Martins’ conspiracy theory in the Guardian today.)

The cardinal’s comments bring to mind Fr. Bill’s insight even in the 1980s about one of the possible futures the restorationist regime was building for itself: “The men running the church right now would be wise to consider what will happen if their regime ever cracks.  Hurt a lot of folks for a long time, and you can’t expect sympathy and support when your day dawns.”

Fr. Bill turns out to have been right.  It’s beyond absurd to imagine that the real problem the Catholic church faces now is combating a huge international conspiracy fabricating lies about the pope.  Just as it’s nonsensical to think that the fundamental problem facing the church is a cabal of disaffected Catholics brewing up embarrassments for Rome.

The problems the church is confronting now quite clearly stem from the behavior of the men at the center; they stem from the current regime itself—not from the media reporting on the troubles this regime has brought down on its head after years of autocratic and often cruel behavior to one church member after another.  Step on enough people often enough, and you will set in motion an energy that will eventually draw you into its arc. 

This, I learned so early in my life I can’t even remember who taught the lesson, is simply how things work: practice to deceive, and you’ll weave a tangled web that will eventually ensnare not others but yourself.  First your honor and then your integrity will disappear into the web.  And then yourself

The problem with lying, abusing others, or covering for those who abuse, I learned so early that I can’t remember when and how I learned this, is that such behavior will always find a way of drawing you in, so that the very cycle of destruction you have sought to loose in the lives of others will pull you into its vortex. 

This is how things work.  This is how the karmic energy of the world plays out, over and over again, throughout history in one life after another.

And the only proper—the only wise or sane—response when this karmic process gets underway and exposes our entanglement in a web of malicious deeds, is humility.  Not aggressive shouts about how we’re the real victim.  Not more swerves and dodges from the truth.

Humility.  The recognition that we have brought onto our own heads the dark energy troubling our lives.  Because that energy will transform itself into wisdom and redemption only when we acknowledge our role in setting it into motion in the world around us in order to bring harm to others.

As I’ve been mulling over these insights, a reader, TheraP, posted two brilliant comments here several days ago, which seem to me to get to the heart of the matter.  TheraP writes,

The wonderful thing about minds is that working together we get further than alone. And minds freely working work the best together! Unlike group think enforced by threats.

What fascinates me, in a sense, Bill, is that we have a multipronged thing going on. Like arrows pointing to the Vatican from all directions. Arrows pointing. No need any longer for bows and arrows. There is a peaceful revolution in process.

Consider a black hole. The Vatican digging deeper and deeper into it. And the black hole itself sucking all the attention to it. New abuse allegations to it. Bad publicity to it. All being sucked in.

But theoretically, a black hole actually comes out on another side – like into a new reality - as a kind of resurrection, I guess we'd call it.

Dying.... and rising: Brought to you by the Congregation of the Destruction of the Faith!

The pope is not the victim of a conspiracy right now.  But there definitely is “a multipronged thing going on,” “minds working together” freely.  And the grand irony of what’s happening with this release of energy—a black hole drawing the Vatican into itself—is that it has the potential to be redemptive

Redemptive for the very people who have set the negative process into motion, the process now troubling their lives—if they could only begin to see the salvific potential offered to them and their church by the very people they have sought to destroy.

The people they now fear, as if those fellow Catholics have fabricated a vast international conspiracy of reprisal against them.

This is a time in which the path of wisdom (and redemption) for Pope Benedict lies through the lives of many Catholics who have suffered tremendously in recent years—due to the decisions and actions of the current papal regime and its predecessor, in which Benedict was already calling the shots.  It is a time for remembrance, remembrance of the deep roots of the abuse crisis—which is a crisis caused by the abuse of power and of lives dismembered by the ruthless abuse of power.

This is a time to remember the following:

▪The decision of Benedict and his predecessor John Paul II to squelch all discussion of women’s ordination and of the gospel’s demand that no member of the people of God be excluded from governance roles due to gender;

▪Following that decision, the further decisions to punish ruthlessly women and those allied with women, who continued to respond to the Spirit’s urging for truth and justice regarding the role of women in the church;

▪The heartless silencing of one theologian after another—the completely unwise decimation of the church’s intellectual class, of those most qualified (and called by the Spirit) to maintain constructive dialogue between the church and culture at a time of rapid global cultural shift;

▪The staging of Vatican hearings of theologians, in which theologians have been required to answer charges against them sent secretly to Rome, of which they have no knowledge prior to the hearing;

▪Benedict’s strange obsession with liberation theology, and his intent to destroy this movement, even as it has struggled to defend the poor of developing nations against severe oppression;

▪The tacit (and often overt) alliance of the church with repressive regimes and with powerful neoconservative interest groups in the latter decades of the 20th century—regimes and groups implicated in the murder of bishops, priests, nuns, and laypersons working to better the social conditions of the poor in developing nations;

▪The 1986 “pastoral” letter on the care of the church’s gay members, which laid the foundation for a cruel and unChristian attack on gay and lesbian Catholics which continues to this day, with the recent exclusion of the children of a lesbian couple from a Catholic school, with the withdrawal of funding from a homeless ministry because it supported the right of same-sex marriage in Maine, with nationwide Catholic funding of attacks on civil marriage for same-sex couples in one state after another, etc.;

▪The reclericalization of the church and its liturgy, and the consequent exclusion of the lay members of the church from theological dialogues or dialogues about decisions on which the future of the church hinges;
▪The creeping infallibilism that has sought, with total dishonesty and a lack of fidelity to Catholic tradition, to make even the opinions of the “ordinary” magisterium untouchable, quasi-infallible, so that punishment is attached to any questioning of those opinions;

▪The appointment of a generation of career ecclesiastics to church office, men conspicuous not for intellectual acumen or pastoral skill but for unthinking fidelity to every word the ordinary and extraordinary magisterium utters;

▪The destruction of the church effected by the empowerment of a generation of bishops singularly unqualified to hold pastoral office;

▪The removal from the people of God of important resources of theological education, and the simultaneous substitution for those resources of a catechism that has been used as a weapon against anyone calling for continued discussion of the unresolved theological and ecclesial issues opened by Vatican II;

▪The consequent dumbing down of the church’s discourse in the public square, as Catholics ill-formed in their faith use the catechism as a weapon against those who disagree with them and claim to represent the church in its entirety in political discussions;

▪The deliberate attempt from the center to drive out dissenters and those raising uncomfortable but necessary critical questions, and the encouragement of a mentality of attack and siege among Catholics intent on driving many of their brothers and sisters out of communion.

And, of course, it goes without question, the shielding of priests abusing children, right up to the present day, the disgusting legal attacks mounted against survivors of such abuse who seek a pastoral response from the church, and the continued stonewalling of those trying to ascertain how church officials have hidden the abuse and transferred known abusers to new positions in which they could abuse again.

There is certainly no conspiracy to embarrass the pope on the part of the many Catholics who have suffered from these actions and unpastoral decisions in the past several decades.  The problems Benedict now faces derive from his own actions and decisions, not from the reaction of these brothers and sisters in the faith.

At the same time, those who are wise learn something of value from the negative energy they set set into motion in the world when they trample repeatedly on the rights of others and cause harm to one person after another.  Most of all, they learn that the path to their own redemption, when that negative energy has ensnared them, lies through those they have sought to harm.  It lies through recognition of the humanity of those whose humanity has been denied.

Whether Benedict and the bishops now ruling the church will learn that lesson now remains to be seen.  I remain skeptical, even as I hope: entrenched regimes seldom admit that their own unjust and cruel behavior is the root of their problem, when the regime begins to crack apart due to the massive weight of its injustice and cruelty.