Mar 5, 2014

Ruminations on Pope Francis and Abuse, Edmund White 's New book, Gay culture and spirit

I'm still alive and kicking here in Prague, writing a spiritual gay crime novel set in Prague - and planning a move to Barcelona sometime in the next year.

The following reflections are really three postings in one, I just ran all the ramblings into one long disjointed discourse. Eventually, I will break them up into three.

Alas, good Pope Francis, a decent and sincere man to be sure, has just spoken out in defense of his Catholic Church and it's handling of the sexual abuse crisis, saying, (via the BBC)

"The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have acted with transparency and responsibility.
"No-one else has done more. Yet the Church is the only one to have been attacked."
This comment will undoubtedly cause dismay among abuse survivors around the world, and the reaction has already been strong:
Francesco Zanardi of Rete L'Abuso, told the BBC: "The cases of child abuse by priests continue to happen, all around Italy, and of the cases that we've denounced we have seen no results."
"The Pope may make this statement, but then the Vatican doesn't reply to the UN or impose the obligation that bishops should denounce accused priests in the courts and not deal with the cases internally."
Mr Zanardi also attacked the coverage of the abuse scandals, saying the media in Italy "adored" Pope Francis.
"We who work on this issue can see how real things are. Reality is very different to what the media say," he said.
This comment will bring to an end the grace filled honeymoon of Francis' one year term as head of the Catholic Church. It is now abundantly clear, that no matter his good will or genuinely spiritual nature, he is too much a product of the system to initiate real and radical change from within the heart of this ancient, moribund and sclerotic system.
Far from feeling this is a cause for despair, I find it yet another sign of the Spirit leading us beyond - far beyond - these major institutions in our search for spiritual fulfillment. The young are leaving the Church in droves, and rightly so, and there is no bringing them back. This is simply because the Spirit that guides all of us from within is guiding them to resist any major male centered institutions that denigrate the place of women and attack the rights of an oppressed minority like the LGBT community. Spiritual options are abundantly available elsewhere, mainly on the margins and in the byways. 
Yet isn't this always the case? When I was living in Thailand, two of it's greatest and most radical Buddhist monks, Pra Prachak of the Northeast (who has since left the monkhood) and the profoundly saintly Buddhadasa Bhikkhu were both deeply suspect in the eyes of the centralized Buddhist Sangha in Bangkok, who vilified them and persecuted them for years. It is rumored that the Sangha were behind some of the death threats hurled against Pra Prachak, which eventually caused him to leave the monkhood. Only the intervention of the revered King of Thailand prevented a similar fate for Buddhadasa Bhikkhu. There is very little difference between the rigidity of the Bangkok Sangha and the Vatican hierarchy. Such is the propensity of human nature to become addicted to power, religious and political power both, and to suspect and persecute those on the margins who truly follow the most radical spirit of their founders, whether the Buddha or the wandering Hebrew prophet, Jeshu of Nazareth. The Spirit is found on the margins, not in the centers of power, and those who most faithfully respond to her call will most likely be suspect by those  at the center who have followed their addictions and turned the institution into a false idol. This is a generalization, of course, because there are good people within the Vatican bureaucracy and no doubt also the Sangha who are attempting to initiate reform from within. But these recent comments by good Pope Francis simply highlight the fact that truly radical reform must come from without, and the real breath of the Spirit is found on the margins, both within the formal boundaries of the institution as well as (most often) just outside the door.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu at his forest retreat, Suan Mokh

(Please see this wonderful article from Peace Magazine about the legendary Pra Prachak, who sadly has long since disappeared from public view in Thailand. I had the privilege of being led on a 15 day Vipassana retreat by Buddhadasa Bikkhu some twenty years ago, an experience so profound it still reverberates within my Christian/Catholic soul.)


colkoch said...

Totally right Jayden. Francis has ended the honeymoon, the spirit is now free to move elsewhere.

Part of my personal reason for not writing much was Francis' silence on the abuse issue. In this case I did not feel silence betokened agreement with victims or their supporters. In the end he has proven to have a very clerical mindset. On the issue of clericalism he doth protest to loud.

Jayden Cameron said...

Yes, Colleen, I actually breathed a sigh of relief - because finally all is clear and we can stop speculating. But I actually began that sigh some days ago while reading your insightful (and hilarious) post about the miraculous fetus of Pope Paul VI. It seemed only too clear then that the Spirit is telling us, Oh stop fussing so much about this moribund institution and get about your spiritual business elsewhere (except where the official Church continues to cause great harm, of course, and must be held to account.). I still love Holy Mother Church in her mystical reality, but there is such a disconnect at the moment between the offical institution and this living, breathing reality.