Thursday, January 17, 2013

From the Blogs: Women in the Church, Internet and Spiritual Connectivity, and Roots of Spiritual Mediocrity in Catholic Church Today

At a Seat at the Table, Claire Bangasser offers a poignant and very valuable reflection on one Catholic woman's experience of being called to study theology, and then being informed by a parish priest that she perhaps had a vocation to sweep the parish church or cook for the parish priests. Claire writes:

What can the hierarchy do with us? I know a few priests who are not afraid by or bothered at the idea of women priests, but they are rarely in a position of power. I do believe women have another way of doing theology, especially once we are shown a few ropes. The incongruities, the injustice, the unlevel playing field, the obstacle course are suddenly staring us in the face. Once one sees it all, it is impossible to go back to the old status quo.

And as I read Claire's moving reflections, I remember the time Steve's parents arranged for us to meet their bishop in Minnesota, Victor Balke, who informed us after just having met us (!) that we absolutely did not have vocations if we didn't find ourselves called to the priesthood, since what the church needs is priests, and the calling for young men is priesthood, ipso facto and q.e.d. Vocations to be theologians? What balderdash! And no, the church will never accept Hans Küng's notion of priesthood, he informed me with icy disdain when I dared to bring up Küng's ecclesiology in the "conversation."

At Blue Eyed Ennis, Phil Ewing reflects on the sharp sense of loss she felt when computer problems disconnected her from online communication after she's been blogging four years. Phil finds the internet providing amazing new possibilities for spiritual connection across the miles:

In trying to gain some perspective I was comforted by my belief that consciousness exists as something separate from the brain, analogous to dark energy. The blogosphere acts as a type of collective unconscious behaving according to the cosmic rules of quantum mechanics.It is possible that consciousness has a similar property to the non-locality of quantum particles and that once connected with another consciousness, we will always stay connected and influence one another, no matter how far we are apart.

And that's my experience, too.

At Enlightened Catholicism, Colleen Baker comments on a Salon interview Tracy Clark-Flory did recently with David Jacobson about his forthcoming book Of Virgins and Martyrs: Women and Sexuality in Global Conflict. Colleen points out that, as one tries to unravel the mysterious logic of the current Catholic hierarchical attack on marriage equality, abortion, and birth control, it's possible to lose sight of the forest for the trees. The forest, in Colleen's view:

The forest is truly all about whether women will be allowed to determine their own reproductive life, or if it really is in the best interests of families, cultures, and nations to force women's reproductive compliance for the 'greater good' of the community. And of course, if women's reproduction is going to be subservient to the needs of the community that means the traditional method of forcing that subservience--male domination--must continue unquestioned.

And I think Colleen is absolutely right about this--as is Dan Savage when he notes recently at his Slog site that "homophobia is misogyny's little brother."

At Iglesia Descalza, Rebel Girl offers a translation of commentary by José Antonio Pagola on the Lucan account of Jesus's baptism by John. Pagola reflects on the sources of "spiritual mediocrity" within the Catholic church today, and finds its roots within the reactionary mentality now prevailing at the top levels of church leadership, where "priority is given to certainties and beliefs to strengthen the faith and achieve greater ecclesial cohesion in the face of modern society."

This reactionary stance, which defines Catholic identity over against the surrounding culture, uses doctrine (often formulated in premodern terms) to sift "true" Catholics from false ones. And here's the end result of the restorationist impulse in the church, Pagoda judges:

The renovating breath of the Council having been abandoned, joy has been dying out among significant sectors of the Christian people to make way for resignation. Quietly but palpably, disaffection and separation have been growing between the institutional church and many believers.

And if Pagola is correct about this--and I think he is--then one has to conclude that something is fundamentally awry with the notion of pastoral leadership held by the top leaders in the church today. Since siphoning joy and spiritual energy from the people of God is the antithesis of real pastoral leadership . . . .

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