Friday, January 18, 2013

A Note of Profound Thanks for Your Emails

As the work week ends, a note of profound thanks to those of you who sent many very welcome emails to me in response to my posting Tuesday. I'm in Houston visiting my uncle and have fallen a bit behind with email. And I don't want those who sent me messages to think I'm ungrateful or ignoring you. I will be catching up with email very soon.

I won't deny that it tickles me to hear from people who live in places where I never imagined my theological meanderings would wander when I trained to be an academic theologian, and who tell me that what I write here means something to you. Steve can now laugh about an incident that reduced him to tears at the time it happened--his encounter with the abbot of Belmont Abbey in North Carolina after Belmont Abbey College gave me a terminal contract in 1993 that the college refused to explain, effectively ending my career as a Catholic theologian.

Because the monastery that owned the college played a predominant and controlling role in that story, Steve asked to see the monastery's abbot Oscar Burnett to discuss the moral implications of what the monastery had done to me. When Oscar met with Steve, he opened the meeting by asking if Steve had come to ask for money, which boggled Steve's mind: I ask to talk to you about morality and you offer to pay me off?! We're clearly on two entirely different planes.

Then, Steve told me after he came home in tears, Oscar launched into a truly frightening rant, in which he leaned into Steve's face, shook his finger at him, and promised him reprisals if he or I ever made public any more details of what Belmont Abbey had done to me. He ended the rant by flailing his hands about his head and screaming that I had caused his blood pressure to skyrocket, since I had written letters telling the story of what the college and monastery had done to me, and (the flailing hands), "Those letters go everywhere!"

As I say, Steve can now laugh about all of this, though at the time it was profoundly shocking, because he has a family full of Benedictine nuns and monks, and as he told me when he came home from the bullying-shouting session, he had never in his life encountered a religious who could behave the way Oscar had behaved to him. And so now, when Steve sees me sitting with my computer in my lap writing yet another posting for this blog, he throws his hands wildly about his head and shouts, "Will this one go everywhere?"

And we laugh.

Because, it appears, they do now go everywhere, my postings. That's what the worldwide web is all about, what it permits us thwarted and disempowered voices. Some pastoral leaders of the Catholic church (the bishop of Charlotte was involved in what was done to me by Belmont Abbey, too) decided for reasons never disclosed to me that my theological vocation had to be shut down, and my voice silenced.

And by the miracle of the internet (and, perhaps, through the amazing grace of the Holy Spirit), I can now send my theological ideas everywhere--precisely because the attempt of some Catholic pastoral leaders to shut down my vocation forced me to seek out other ways to say what I feel is inside me to say.

And just as Oscar feared, what I write now goes everywhere, or so the readers who have sent me emails this week from various corners of the globe tell me.

And that does tickle me, since this constitutes a grand reversal of what those who pulled the plug on my theological vocation in the early 1990s imagined they were doing. And I will be answering each email that came to me this week, as my time with my uncle permits me to be online.

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