Jan 29, 2010

Wisdom and Tolerance versus Self Flaggelation!

Since I've been remiss in posting on this blog for several weeks, I wanted to reference two great articles at other sites. One is  by Redemptorist Bishop Kevin Dowling, the bishop of Rustenburg, South Africa - A very spiritual, wise response to the crisis of authoritarian control in the Church today, which you can read here

"Tensions and differences should be expected among thinking Catholics, therefore, but they should be managed by people who follow, not the route of power and control, but the way of discernment in the Spirit. Then all those concerned will consciously allow God to be God, and be open to recognizing the "fruits" and that "by their fruits you will know them". This calls for a respectful encounter between religious and hierarchy, with a conscious commitment to listening to what is deeper than the words, to what God may be saying through the other.

If only such leaders were in the ascendancy in Rome, but alas, such a wise, tolerant, open-hearted attitude does not thrive in the killer atmosphere of the Vatican today. 

The second article is a brilliant analysis by William Lindsey of the recent news of self-flagellation on the part of John Paul II, which you can read at the new progressive blog, Open Tabernacle.  I for one, would have to second William's justified suspicion that John Paul's penchant for severe mortifications is somehow psychologically connected to his deeply ingrained taste for authoritarian control. Just remember the Jansenists. We need to be reminded that the only flagellation the Master is known to have experienced resulted from his identification with the outcast and the marginalized and it was not self-imposed. 

 "There is, I suspect, in the psyches of some people who imagine that they have achieved a kind of self-mastery through extreme asceticism a link between the desire for self-mastery and the desire to master and control others. I have known at least one ascetic, a Benedictine monk who is now abbot of his community, whose spirituality revolves strongly around self-mastering practices of asceticism—and who is, in my view and that of many others who have been on the receiving end of this monk’s punitive behavior, more interested in dominating rather than loving others."

The first great painting below is by the Renaissance master, Tintoretto, and is remarkable for its respectful restraint. The second, however, is by a nineteenth century French painter, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, and demonstrates (in my opinion) a discomforting erotic fascination with the torturing of sweet, innocent flesh and the morbid fascination with suffering and pain of traditional Catholic piety.The third painting comes from a very traditionalist blog, Overheard in the Sacristy, Dedicated to the Restoration of a Catholic Identity, a very interesting site to peruse. The last image comes from the same traditional site and my wicked wit sees a direct connection between the piety of flagellation and the over-exaltation of the priestly state which makes such images so disturbing to us today. I want to caption the photo, "What's Wrong with This Picture?"