Aug 6, 2010

Talking Treason in Church

Many thanks again to Contemplative Catholic for a great link to an exciting new book. It feels like a stick of dynamite, explosive in it's proposals and perhaps a bit too iconoclastic and simplistic for some people's tastes, but I  connected immediately with his quite simple, but radical solution. Not enough priests to celebrate Mass? You think there is a priest shortage? There is no priest shortage. Simply do what the early Christians did and celebrate the Eucharist in your homes - women, men, it doesn't matter. Problem solved. I'm already oversimplifying a radically simple argument, that made me laugh on occasions at its breathtaking audacity. But here are his five basic points:

It’s time to take the Catholic Church back from the hierarchy and return it to the laity. Here are some key ways to do this:
  1. Understand that Jesus gave the Mass to lay Christians before the clergy existed: Celebrate it at home.
  2. Form a base community in your parish and say Mass with them once a month.
  3. Support your parish, but eliminate what goes to the hierarchy.
  4. Tell your bishop he is invalid because not elected in the Holy Spirit by us, the Church. All bishops should be recalled and re-certified by consensus-decision making elections in their own dioceses.
  5. Tithe for Lay Catholic Renewal—into your own account—minus what goes to the parish.   

Here is's blurb on the author:

About the Author

Joe Marren is a Chicago Catholic and a late bloomer as an author. He has an A.B. from Loyola University Chicago (1957; major in Latin, minor in history) and an M.A. from the University of Kentucky (1958; major in ancient languages-Latin and Ancient Greek-minor in linguistics). He has a nodding acquaintance with several European languages and has been a student of Church history for more that 50 years. His working life has been divided among editing, public relations, and sales and administrative support. For his first job out of college, he edited a four-volume Catholic missal, one of whose contributors was the then-unknown Father Andrew Greeley, who wrote introductions to the four volumes. Greeley needed a lot of editing, Joe recalls. Otherwise, his life has been unexceptional. He did spend a year in Panama as a boy on the eve of WWII. His father worked in the Canal Zone and Joe was sent to what turned out to be an all Spanish-speaking Catholic school for first grade; he knew no Spanish, and his father, a widower, was unaware of the language situation. Joe finally learned to read English in Panamanian summer school. Shortly after Pearl Harbor he and his younger brother flew back to the U.S. on a DC-3, a life-long memory. Joe is married to Mary Hereley Marren, whom he met when she was the first woman editor-in-chief of the Loyola University News and he a reporter. They raised nine children, all now college graduates and married. Besides their children, they dote on their 17 grandchildren. Joe wrote the first chapter of this book in 1998 to explain to his family why he remained a Catholic. The rest of the book, calling for a revival of lay leadership of the Catholic church and an unseating of the current clerical leaders, was written in reaction to the predator-priest scandal that made news in Boston in 2002. Since writing Talking Treason, Joe believes that all bishops should be recalled and re-certified by consensus-decision-making elections in their own dioceses and that they should run against opposing candidates from the laity, both women and men.

Click on the photo above and read the full preface and first chapter at Amazon. com and go to the author's website for more commentary:

Here are a few selections from the Preface:

       This is a lay person’s handbook for renewing the Catholic church. Your renewal of the church can begin immediately. It needs no ones’ approval. It depends totally on you and your fellow Catholics. It is certainly not beyond your abilities. All it takes is courage – courage to stand up to the hierarchy, the current leadership of our church, courage not to be satisfied with their lies, their underhanded practices, and their centuries-long arrogance. This reform will be effective beyond your wildest hopes, because it copies a great model, the one depicted in the New Testament, the one begun by Jesus.

       There is one difference between Talking Treason in Church and anything else written by Catholics on the current state of the church. Catholics today have written brilliant analyses of what’s wrong with the church, but when they come to the end of their book or their article – where you would expect to see proposed solutions – what you read is all wishful thinking: the church should listen more to the lay people, the hierarchy has to be more open to structural change.
       Or their book or article demands intensive lobbying of the hierarchy by the laity, thousands and thousands of hours spent by lay people forming groups, getting up petitions, trying by every possible means of persuasion and political pressure to move the hierarchy from their position of intransigence and inattention.

       It’s all pie in the sky! Why should the laity make super-human efforts while nothing can be required of the hierarchy?

       We’re dealing with the same narrow, self-interested, ignorant, arrogant, hard-nosed hierarch that flouted, persecuted, and killed every reformer it could lay its hands on five centuries ago. Some hierarchs at least would do the same today if the judgment of the entire world were not against them. They are creatures of power in a structure of power that deserves to be uprooted. And thanks basically to the progress of learning, that project is now doable.....

       Talking Treason in Church was prompted by several insights.

        First , Jesus Christ was a lay person, not a priest, and the movement of reform that he began in Judaism was a lay movement. The chief priests, the hierarchy of his time considered him a threat and had him put to death by the Romans.

        Second, neither the Catholic priesthood nor the Catholic hierarchy existed during the first century of our era. There is no scriptural nor historical basis for either one at that time. In fact, the Mass, the center of Catholic sacramental life was, during the first century, celebrated by lay people and, notably in the earliest days of the church, by women in their own homes.

        Third, the hierarchical priesthood, when it began to emerge during the second through the fourth centuries, was strongly influenced by the model of the Roman imperial administration. It also drew on examples of priesthoods throughout the ancient world including that of Israel. It was a movement toward the kind of religious specialization that was familiar in the ancient world. But it owed nothing to the teaching of Jesus Christ. 

        Fourth, the foundation myth of the Roman Catholic church as propounded by the hierarchy makes St. Peter the first bishop of Rome. That myth is made up of so many historical fallacies that any member of the hierarchy with even a smattering of historical education should be embarrassed to cite it. But by some of the hierarchy this myth is used knowingly as a political construct to support their will to power. These members of the hierarchy are conscious liars and deserve no place in the Catholic church.

        Fifth, the Catholic hierarchy, the pope and the bishops, down through the centuries have been sometimes more and sometimes considerably less successful at asserting their exclusive right to rule the church. In Fact, there are enough instances in the early church of the popular election of bishops to provide a controlling precedent for our time.

        Sixth, today, the Catholic laity are totally excluded by the hierarchy from choosing their religious leaders or having any discourse whatsoever with the leadership of the church. The effect has been to erect a wall of separation between the hierarchy and the laity. This is a serious sin on the part of the bishops, a sin against the Holy Spirit who dwells in lay people at least as much as in the hierarchy. It is called schism. It has created a paralysis in the church which gives the hierarchy-and the rest of us by extension- the appearance of being braid-dead.

       The hierarchy have poured concrete over the fertile fields of the church, but after centuries the concrete is old and broken, and flowers of faith are springing up everywhere. Our job is to clear the fields, cart away the concrete, and return to the land to productive life. The Lord has supplied us with the tools. Now it’s up to us.

        The reform proposed here is a lay person’s reform like the reform that Jesus started. It supplies the answers to some of the most long-felt and troubling questions asked by the laity over the last several decades.

        The priest shortage decried by the laity and clergy alike has us focusing on the wrong goal. There is no priest shortage. In fact, we have too many priests. What we don’t have enough of is people to celebrate Mass. But then, actually, we do have enough people. They simply don’t know that it is part of their birthright as Catholics to have the Mass when and where they want it.

        Women’s ordination asks the question, Why can’t we have women priests? It’s the wrong question. Why not ask why women can’t be leaders in the church? The answer to both questions is, Clearly women can be leaders in the church, and women can say Mass. Priesthood has nothing to do with it.

        For years we have prayed for vocations. Well, our prayers have all been answered long since. We simply have to be alive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Just as he promised, Jesus has not left us orphans.


TheraP said...

Seems to me what's needed to implement this is a Facebook Page for this movement. I'm not on Facebook myself. Don't intend to be. So can't help. (Besides I've joined the Orthodox.)

But for those who might want to connect and also to indicate their support for this movement, I honestly can't think of a better addition to what this author proposes. That gives a public face to such a movement. And it also indicates the Power of the Movement!

I look forward to reading about this in the MSM if it catches fire! (Fire of the Spirit and all that!)

Jayden Cameron said...

That's quite a wonderful idea, Thera, I'll pass it along to the author. Of course, the whole set of proposals are rather utopian. I don't see large numbers of Catholics 'completely' denying tithes to the hierarchy. But it's wickedly delicious to contemplate the possibility. What branch of the Orthodox did you join. I just came back from Bosnia where I was deeply moved by the Orthodox presence in that country.