Sep 30, 2009

Words of Comfort and of Hope

Given the turmoil of the times and the harsh content of some of my recent posts, here are some comforting reflections taken from Peter Phan's book, Being Religious Interreligiously, which I thought were applicable to our present crisis within the Church.  While these reflections focus principally on the inter-religious contemplative experience, I can think of many examples of irreconcilable tensions many of us are presently experiencing in the Church to which these wise words of wisdom apply. I was reminded of these reflections while reading Michael Bayly's Wild Reed blog posts on the Old Catholic Church and some spirited discussions among the commentators about the tensions between the need for prophetic witness communities and the dangers of schism and fragmentation. Caught between these two seemingly irreconcilable positions, what is one to do? It may seem like a wild stretch of the imagination to jump from such a discussion to these reflections on the great Christian/Hindu hermit Abhishitkananda, but I found the leap both insightful and relevant.

Phan is speaking of the French Benedictine monk, Henri le Saux, who lived in India for many years, immersing himself in the spirituality of Hinduism and taking on the name of Abhishitkananda:

This advaita experience, which implies the supreme renunciation of oneself and an even more radical renunciation of the divine "Thou" encountered in prayer seems to run counter to the Christian doctrines of the triune God, creation and prayer, and would make the double belonging to Christianity and Hinduism problematic, if not impossible. As he noted in his journal, Abhishiktananda himself experienced acutely the antimony between the Hindu and the Christian conceptions of reality and the painful push and pull of his double identity as a Hindu-Christian monk. He lived this anguish for nearly twenty-five years, never fully able to reconcile the two apparently opposing conceptions on the theoretical levels. ...He counseled acceptance of the unresolvable tension without attempting to harmonize them: "The best thing is, I think, to hold, even in extreme tension, these two forms of a unique 'faith,' till dawn may arise."

And yet this inability to reconcile theologically the advaita experience with various Christian doctrines did not diminish Abhishiktananda's certitude of the reality and validity of his experience. He noted, not without enthusiasm: "The experience of the Upanishads is true - I know!" Hence, multiple religious belonging or double religious identity is by no means a facile compromise or a painless feat of intellectual balancing between two opposing world views and ways of life. Rather, it is a lived drama of tension, never fully resolved on the theoretical level but affirmed at the existential plane, a continuing quest for harmony amid dissonance, ever elusive, provisional and unfinished, to be heard fully only on "the other shore."

(The contemplative must manifest) a commitment to the poor, a sensitivity to the Unspoken Speaker, that is, to the Spirit, who is not tied down to any dogma, rite, or law, and to the Word, which is uttered beyond the confines of any religious organization and hierarchy.
. . . . .
Multiple religious belonging is not for the fainthearted or the dilettante. As the life of Abhishiktananda has shown, it is a demanding vocation, a special call to holiness, which up till now God has granted to only a few. It is not unlike martyrdom. Ultimately it is not something one looks for or demands at will. It is a gift to be received in fear and trembling and in gratitude and joy.

Abhishiktananda was the name taken by the French Benedictine monk Henri le Saux, whose religious experience in India led him to become a bridge between Hindu and Christian spirituality.

Born in Saint Briac, Brittany on August 30, 1910, he seemed destined for a religious life and entered 'minor seminary' at the age of 11, becoming a Benedictine novice in 1930.

He left France for India in the summer of 1948, never to return to France despite his affection for his homeland. He became immersed in the atmosphere of India, in particular the Hindu perspective of Advaita. He founded an ashram and religious community, Shantivanam, in 1950 and became Swami Abhishiktananda. In his latter years though, he found himself very drawn to religious experience within solitude, spending much time in the hermit caves at Arunachala. But at no point did he disavow his Christianity, and he celebrated Mass until virtually the end of his life.

He died on December 7, 1973 at Indore nursing home, weakened by a myocardial infarction that summer, after several years in which he had lived virtually as a hermit.

Sep 29, 2009

QUOTE OF THE DAY from Colleen Kochivar-Baker

Pope Benedict may very well be the Pope on whose watch the Church once again fractures because of the corruption within the hierarchy. No amount of papal perfume concerning positive evangelization can mask the stench coming from the Vatican curia. So be it.

Enlightened Catholicism 

Master Jan Hus (1371-1415)

Martin Luther

Benedict XVI confronts the ghost of Jan Hus

With gratitude to the National Catholic Reporter
(comments at end of article are particularly noteworthy)

by John L Allen Jr on Sep. 27, 2009

Though lengthy volumes have been written about Christian history in the Czech lands, the casual observer really only needs two words to understand the striking ambivalence that Catholicism often evokes here: Jan Hus.

In America, “Good King Wenceslas” is probably the single most famous figure from Czech history, owing largely to the popular Christmas carol. His memory lives on here too, but more commonly it’s the medieval preacher Jan Hus who is lionized as the real father of the Czech nation and the embodiment of its virtues. The fact that Hus was burned at the stake by the Catholic church in 1415 goes a long way toward explaining why, for some locals, being Czech and being hostile to Catholicism are practically the same thing.

Even the most avowedly atheistic Czechs celebrate Hus as a nationalist founder. Ted Turnau, who teaches the sociology of religion at Charles University, says that in Czech schools still today, Hus is often presented as the father of the nation, and of resistance to outside domination, with only scant mention of his religious views.

Born in 1372 in Bohemia, Hus is widely acknowledged as a forerunner of the Protestant Reformation, sort of a prototype for Martin Luther. He encouraged reading the Bible in Czech, condemned the medieval practice of indulgences, and insisted that “the church” is not merely the hierarchy but the entire fellowship of believers. Summoned to the Council of Constance to face charges of heresy, Hus refused to recant and was executed on July 6, 1415.

Several leading Christian denominations in the country trace their origins to Hus, including, naturally, the Hussite Church. Hus’ martyrdom has long been a sticking point, not only in ecumenical relations, but in broader tensions between Czech society and the church.

Prague’s Cardinal Miloslav Vlk has played a lead role in trying to heal that wound. Beginning in 1993, Vlk chaired a commission that studied Hus’ life and legacy, with an eye towards reevaluation. In 1995, Vlk became the first official representative of the Catholic church ever to attend a memorial of Hus’ death, held at the Bethlehem Chapel where Hus preached from 1402 to 1412. One year later, Vlk expressed regret in the name of all Czech Catholics for Hus’ death.

Those efforts culminated in a three-day symposium dedicated to Hus in Rome in 1999, when Pope John Paul II issued a historic apology for his “cruel death” and praised him for his “moral courage.”
That history formed the backdrop to Pope Benedict XVI’s meeting this afternoon in Prague with leaders of other Christian churches in the Czech Republic, held at the headquarters of the Archdiocese of Prague.

In welcoming the pope, Pavel Černý, a theologian with the Church of the Brethren and president of the Ecumenical Council of Churches in the Czech Republic, reminded Benedict that “for centuries, the figure of Jan Hus divided the churches and also the perception of history.” He thanked the Catholic church for the initiative of Pope John Paul II, which, Černý said, brought “his character and his struggle for the truth” to light, “which still has something to say for our struggles today.”

As expected, Benedict alluded to the need to “heal the wounds of the past,” and specifically referred to the 1999 Rome symposium on Hus.

“I pray that such ecumenical initiatives will bear fruit not only in order to persevere on the path to Christian unity, but for the good of the entire European society,” the pope said.

Benedict did not, however, offer any new apology for the death of Hus, or announce any new evaluation of Hus as a reformer.

In general, Benedict’s remarks to the ecumenical leaders were focused more on the present than the past. In the teeth of social currents that the pope said are trying to “marginalize the influence of Christianity in public life,” he called on all Christians to join forces.

Christianity must present itself, Benedict said, as offering “the spiritual and moral support that allows a meaningful dialogue with persons of other cultures and religions.”

European Christians, the pope suggested, have a particular contribution to make in that regard.
“When Europe sits down to listen to the story of Christianity, it hears its own story,” Benedict said. “Its notion of justice, liberty and social responsibility, together with the cultural and legal institutions created to defend these ideas and to transmit them to future generations, have been shaped by its Christian legacy.

“In truth, its memory of the past animates its aspirations for the future,” Benedict said.

In effect, the pope’s calculation seemed to be that the best way for Catholics and the spiritual sons and daughters of Jan Hus to overcome their troubled past is to concentrate on common efforts in the here-and-now.

And these 2 comments  on the NCR website are also worth quoting:

"Summoned to the Council of Constance to face charges of heresy, Hus refused to recant and was executed on July 6, 1415."

The reality was worse than John describes. Hus had been promised safe passage to the Council of Constance. Of course he was burned anyway. Hussites would be persecuted and burned at the stake for years to come.

With Jan Hus the RCC got a wake up call for the coming Protestant Reformation a century early. The church leaders hit the snooze button. The RCC has paid the price ever since.

I am a lifelong Catholic, who for the past 12 years have been privileged and honored to served as the founding CEO of the Moravian Ministries Foundation in America, a ministry of the Northern and Southern Provinces of the Moravian Church in America.

Moravians trace their roots directly to Jon Hus and consider him their spiritual founder. Since coming to the US over 350 years ago, Moravians have had a profound, but quiet impact on our country and Christianity. They were among the original settlers of Bethlehem, PA. They founded the 6th oldest college in America - Moravian College. They also settled what is now Winston-Salem, NC and founded the oldest women's college in America - Salem College. Moravians also played a critical role in John Wesley's faith journey on his voyage to Savannah, GA. More importantly, they brought their faith, without persecution, to Native Americans and were the first missionaries to the Islands of the Caribbean. In fact, Moravian missionaries accompanied and ministered to the Cherokees during what is called the "Trail of tears." And there is more....

From my experience, despite OUR treatment of Hus, they harbor no anti-Catholic feelings. In fact, their motto "In essential unity, non-essential liberties, but in all things, love" is something I see and experience everyday. While I am sure they would enjoy a warmer and deeper relationship with the Catholic Church and would welcome a clearer statement on Hus's murder by the Church (Let us keep in mind, the Pope promised Hus safe passage, but proceeded to have him killed) - as a Cathlolic I am offended by the Pope's lack of appropriate response.

In particular the statement, "the pope’s calculation seemed to be that the best way for Catholics and the spiritual sons and daughters of Jan Hus to overcome their troubled past is to concentrate on common efforts in the here-and-now" is very troubling theologically. As Catholics, Penance is a sacrament. We are told by the Church to repent for our sins. Therefore, the Pope, as the leader of the Church, should ask for forgiveness from the followers of Hus for our murdering him - and not treat this as a political matter.

Once again, my Church has fallen short and makes us all look small and un-Christian-like..

I say AMEN to that - Jayden.

Prayer of Protection and Salvation

This 'diatribe' against Pope Benedict was too good to pass up. It comes from Clerical Whispers blogspot.  It is all depressingly familiar, but it is good to be reminded of these facts in summary form. I've included Clerical Whispers' famous disclaimer at the end, substituting the name of this blog instead.
My own experience this past weekend at Stara Boleslav was very much of a 'mystical' sense of communion with the whole church (so powerful that I've yet to find the energy to report it), a mystery of grace transcending the limitations of its leaders, Pope Benedict especially. However, given the radiance and holiness of this mystery which binds us all together in the Risen Lord, it is imperative that persons of conscience witness to the grievous errors of leaders that serve to sully and obscure this profound mystery that is called church.

Save us, O Lord, save us all. Save us from the Pope. Joseph Ratzinger is coming to Britain.

Gordon Brown is "delighted".

David Cameron is "delighted".

I am "repelled".

Let him come; I applaud freedom of speech. But no red carpets, please. No biscuits. No Queen.
In his actions on child abuse and Aids, Joseph Ratzinger has colluded in the protection of paedophiles and the deaths of millions of Africans.

As Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (Pope John Paul II's chief enforcer), it was Ratzinger's job to investigate the child abuse scandal that plagued the Catholic church for decades. And how did he do it?

In May 2001 he wrote a confidential letter to Catholic bishops, ordering them not to notify the police – or anyone else – about the allegations, on pain of excommunication. He referred to a previous (confidential) Vatican document that ordered that investigations should be handled "in the most secretive way . . . restrained by a perpetual silence".

Excommunication is a joke to me, perhaps to you, but to a Catholic it means exclusion and perhaps hellfire – for trying to protect a child. Well, God is love.

He also waved aside calls to discipline Marcial Maciel Degollado, the Mexican founder of the global Legion of Christ movement. Allegations of child abuse have stalked Maciel since the 1970s.
His victims petitioned Ratzinger, only for his secretary to inform them the matter was closed.
"One can't put on trial such a close friend of the Pope as Marcial Maciel," Ratzinger said. Two abuse victims sued him personally for obstruction of justice, but he claimed diplomatic immunity.
Eventually, when the allegations could no longer be denied, Ratzinger apologised, and sent Maciel off "to a life of prayer and penitence". Why not prison? He didn't say. "It is a great suffering for the church . . . and for me personally," was Ratzinger's comment about the wider child abuse scandal. Great suffering? I thought to be raped as a child was great suffering. To be exposed as complicit in a cover-up is surely merely . . . embarrassing?

Ratzinger added that he believed the Catholic church had been the victim of a "planned" media campaign. By whom? By gays? By Jews? By Jedi? He instructed that prayers be said in perpetuity for the victims – thanks, I feel better now! – along with a push to ensure that men "with deep-seated homosexual tendencies" do not enter the priesthood, thereby turning all responsibility for the scandal into – the laps of the evil gays!

Ratzinger is also active in the suppression of Liberation Theology, a Latin American movement that insists that social justice is the central purpose of Christianity; that good Catholics should also be political activists who fight for the rights of the slum-living poor. Ratzinger was repelled, and dismissed it as "a fundamental threat to the faith of the Church".

And so to the church's own holocaust – in Africa. Condoms can protect Africans from Aids. But who can protect them from Ratzinger? The Catholic church has long pursued a no-condoms policy.
In El Salvador the church got a law passed, ensuring that condoms were only sold with a warning stating they did not protect the user from Aids. In Kenya, Cardinal Maurice Otunga staged public burnings of condoms.

The former Archbishop of Nairobi, Raphael Ndingi Mwana a'Nzeki told his flock that condoms, far from protecting them, contribute to the spread of the disease. Well, God is love.
Some local priests in Africa counsel contraception, because they care about their parishioners. But the Vatican, on its Roman cloud, disagrees. Aids, Ratzinger says, "cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems".

That is a lie. Not a fantasy, like the virgin birth and all the other magical, mystical nonsense, but a dangerous lie.

There are, Your Holiness, more than 12 million Aids orphans in Africa. Twenty-two million Africans have Aids and the UN fears that eventually 90 million could die.

Ratzinger presides over a church that calls homosexuality "a deviation, an irregularity, a wound".
Catholic reformers have tried to liberalise this view but Ratzinger slapped them down. In a 1986 letter, he complained that, "Even within the Church, [people] are bringing enormous pressure to bear . . . to accept the homosexual condition as though it were not disordered." He added that homosexuality is "an intrinsic moral evil".

Care to know the suicide statistics for teenage gays, Your Holiness? They are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual fellows. In 1998, a 39-year-old gay man called Alfredo Ormando set fire to himself in St Peter's Square, in protest at your policies. He died.
Ratzinger is no better on women; he opposes women priests, of course, and demands the criminilisation of abortion even for women who have been raped or are very sick; gin and wire coathangers, anyone? His friend, the theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg, has said that Ratzinger sees the push for female priests as driven by "spokeswomen for radical feminists, especially lesbians".
So this is the man who is coming to lecture us about morality.

Welcome, Benedict XVI, Episcopus Romae, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God. Don't tread on the corpses.

No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to us or to the blogspot ‘GAY MYSTIC’ for any or all of the articles placed here.

The placing of an article hereupon does not necessarily imply that we agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

Sep 28, 2009


by Fr. Tissa Balasuriya
(Taken from
(Photos from Stara Boleslav are two posts below) 
For those of you unfamiliar with this remarkable Sri Lankan Catholic priest and theologian, he was excommunicated by the Vatican, largely through the intervention of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger,  in 1997 on the basis of his book, Mary and Human Liberation. The excommuncation was eventually lifted. Here Fr. Tissa offers an exteremly valuable commentary on the Pope's encyclical from a third world, pluralist perspective that covers 1500 years of Church history since Chalcedon. Well worth the time to read it's 32 pages.

Pope Benedict XVI's much anticipated first Encyclical has been welcomed as evidence of a more congenial personality, of a less severe figure than his tenure as supervising Cardinal of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had suggested. The Encyclical consists of two parts:

I) "the unity of love in creation and in salvation history" (nos 2-18)
II) "Caritas the Practice of Love by the Church as a "Community of Love" (nos 19-42).

It is articulate, well reasoned, reflective, erudite. Its language, personal in style, conveys a sensibility firmly rooted in the Western intellectual tradition: philosophy, Biblical studies, and the classics are amply and dexterously referenced. And its message is highly appealing: "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him."

The reception to the Encyclical has been largely positive (especially considering that the Pope refrains from pontificating here on the divisive issues of sexual morality). He displays a personal understanding of the value and meaning of love in all its multifarious, interconnected complexity, as eros, philia and agape: of love as physical and sexual expression, of love as friendship, and as other-centered in care and service of the other. He links all these to God's love for individuals and humanity, revealed and expressed in Christ. In a spirit of compromise and understanding, he has apparently endeavored to reconcile mutually opposed positions.

Part I has been applauded by those concerned with issues of inter-personal morality. Here the Pope stresses that the excesses of modern life have to be purified and ennobled by Christian and rational values. Part II is very much centered on love as social charity.

While acknowledging a variety of viewpoints, the Encyclical remains firmly grounded in a traditional Western context. Adherents among the many strains of contemporary Christian theology may thus find much to take issue with here. Feminist theologians will object to its occasionally sexist language, along with its arguments with respect to reproductive rights. Liberation theology in the Latin American grain receives no acknowledgment of its unique contribution to the development of Christian teaching over the past several decades (e.g, love as it relates to compassionate activism and efforts at constructive social change). Proponents of liberation theology in its Asian and African incarnations will have much to say about their experience of the "Christian love" imposed on them through Western colonialism. Those seeking inter-religious dialogue may wish to remind the Pope that the traditional Christian interpretation of "God is love" seems not to have applied to them throughout much of Catholicism's history. And those concerned with inter-racial justice, global ethics, and ecology may also find fault with Christian theology and spirituality as they experienced it.


(see update at end of post)
While Pope Benedict celebrates religious freedom in the Czech Republic, Buddhism is crushed in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. As Thich Nhat Hahn has such close ties with Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day and the Berrigan Brothers from the Vietnam war days (as well as Martin Luther King), these monastics at Bat Nha Monastery are  brothers and sisters to us in the Roman Catholic Church in an especially close way. 

Dear Friends,
Please pray for the monastic brothers and sisters at Bat Nha Monastery in Vietnam right now Sept.27,2009. They are being physically forced to vacate the monastery. Please intervene in anyway that you can!
WWW.PHUSAONLINE is giving updated information on the situation at BatNha.
9:45 a.m. (VN time, September 27, 09):
*We are on the telephone with Bat Nha Monastery. The situation at the monastery is quite urgent and life threatening to the monastics.
*At the start of this current crisis, attackers gathered at 9:30am then began to destroy properties to this moment.
*Police in civilian clothes have been present the whole time, but they do nothing to intervene. It seems that they are there to direct the attack, and the attackers have been hired to do so?
*The monks are doing sitting meditation on the 3rd floor of their building, sending energy to the people who are blinded by ignorance, praying to the Bodhisatva of Deep Listening to cool the fire of ignorance in their hearts with the nectar of her compassion.
*We are hearing very loud banging sounds over the phone line.
*They are throwing meditation cushions outside the building.
*There are about 150 people attacking and destroying properties up to the second floor of the monks’ residence.

10:30 a.m. (VN time, September 27, 09):
Our communication is having difficulties, but we know that right now:
*The attacking mob has told the Monastic community that they have to leave the monastery within 2 days.
*The monks have been forced to go outside of their dormitories; they stand outside, chanting in the corridor.
*Two monks are in their ceremonial robes doing sitting meditation in front of their room.
*All community and personal belongings of the monks have been thrown outside.

10:50 a.m. (VN time, September 27, 09):
*The police have dragged Brothers Phap Hoi and Phap Tu outside (2 elder monks of the monastic community); they are dragging the monks by force like they would to animals.
*One Buddhist lay woman is being chased by the police; she is running and crying, calling out “We are in danger, dear teacher!”

11:06 a.m. ((VN time, September 27, 09):
*It’s raining in Bat Nha. The monks have to sit under the cold rain.
*The police is calling for large trucks to come and transport the monks away.
*All roads to the monastery are monitored. Lay friends try to come to help, but they are turned around from afar.
*The number of policemen present has increased. They have occupied all the monastic rooms; gathered all the monks to the field outside.
*The police has forced the monks to carry their backpacks outside and wait for trucks to come transport them away. Don’t know where they will be going.
*It’s still calm in the nuns’ hamlets.

11:23 a.m. ((VN time, September 27, 09):
*A large construction truck is heading towards the monks’ building named, “the Beginner’s Mind.”
*The monks are sitting together in circles under the cold rain.
*The attacking mob continues to curse and yell without stopping.
*Bells, Sutra books, clothings, personal belongings… are in disordered piles under the rain.

12:02 pm (VN time, september 27, 09):
*The monks are still being forced to sit outside in the rain, nothing to cover them. It’s still raining and very cold.
*Traffic police (in uniform) are controlling all the roads leading to Bat Nha Monastery. Police in civilian clothes are also on the scene to observe.

12:20 p.m. (VN time, September 27, 09):
*they are breaking all the doors and trying to get all the sisters to outside of the building. It continues to rain here.
*Sisters lock themselves inside.
*The mob, led by the police, are moving towards the sisters’ hamlet “May Dau Nui” (Clouds on the Mountain).
*4 taxi are going towards the main gate; can’t tell who’s inside.

James: Please forward this information to any and all practitioners of Thay, fellow Buddhists, non-Buddhists and anyone who might be in a position to help. We need immediate assistance from the international community, international media, the United Nations, Amnesty International and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASA. I emailed ASEAN/ASA via the email for the Political and Security Directorate at: If you are apart of any of these groups or a non-governmental organization (NGO) please help in anyway that you can think of. I'm worried that a Burma-like purge of the monasteries associated with Thay in Vietnam is coming and the best way to prevent that is to shine the media light upon this emergency.

So as soon as I finish this I am going to fire off emails to as many organizations as possible. We also need to mail the media--CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and FOX news or whatever news agencies you know about in your country. The focused attention of the world is powerful and even if we can't stop these crimes from happening we need to be as loud of a witness as possible. Some of these monks and nuns are mere teen-agers but all of the monastics are innocent, peace-loving people who are devoted to bettering the lives of everyone. Yet they are being treated like criminals and animals for doing nothing more than practicing their non-confrontational religion.

The Communist government has been trying to remove the monks for two months now claiming tension between the abbot and the monastics. However, the monastics say there is no such tension. They say the Communist government is trying to evict them because they are associated with the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh who recently called for religious controls to end and the religious police be disbanned in that country. This at a time when the U.S. has decided to remove Vietnam from the list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) regarding religious freedom!! We need everyone to urge the U.S. to change that status and put more pressure on the repressive government. You can email the U.S. President at If you'd like to sign a petition on this emergency please click here.

My guess is that the government is concerned with their growing popularity inside Vietnam and thus see them as a threat to their strangle-hold on the people just like the sangha in Burma and Tibet. Please, spread the word so that we can bolster our brave monastics and take up their cause as they are further and further restricted from doing so themselves. As we meditate please take a moment to concentrate upon the freedom that allows you to practice the Dharma. This incident in Vietnam is a timely reminder that our freedoms, joys, sorrows and overall lives in this moment are but a candleflame in the wind that will snuff out just as easily as it ignited.

~Peace to all beings~


From Help Bat Nha Monastery: All the brothers and sisters have been shipped to a temple Chùa Phước Huệ (address: Đường Trần Phú, Bảo Lộc, Lâm Đồng, Việt Nam). Our Brothers Thay Phap Hoi, Phap Sy, and Phap Tu have been taken away to other areas unknown. For their safety, if anyone who is in Vietnam now or knows of anyone there, please gather at Phuoc Hue Temple to give them support and to show that we are united and have no fear. This invitation goes out to especially international practitioners who are there.

We can not be divided. When we are together, nothing can harm us. The temple Phuoc Hue is in Bao Loc on the National Road from HoChiMinh City leading to Dalat City (map). There is large statue of the Bodhisattva of Compassion on the side of the road. (photos of temple) Please be present there. Please help us get the word out through FaceBook, MySpace, or any other means at your disposal.

James: It is clear that the Vietnamese government is crushing the religious experiment in the Communist country instituted by long exiled Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. It is a dramatic turn-around of events since Nhat Hanh was allowed to return to his native Vietnam after nearly 4o years in exile. During his visit and another recent one in 2007 Nhat Hanh was welcomed by even the Communist authorities and lauded in the Communist state run media of all places. It was a sign by many that Vietnam was easing restrictions on religion.

"The Vietnamese government has won," said Sister Dang Nghiem, speaking by telephone Monday from a monastery in San Diego, California, where Nhat Hanh is visiting. "Their 'victory' is that Bat Nha is completely destroyed. Everything is smashed."

James: My heart aches deeply for not just the monastics and the loss of a foothold in Thich Nhat Hanh's home country for his tradition of Zen but I also grieve for the average people in Vietnam. It is always a great loss when the Dharma is crushed in this manner. That said, it is never fully lost as long as it lives in the hearts of those touched by it during the short time Nhat Hanh's tradition blessed the many seekers in that noble, proud country. I have confidence that the Dharma will return to Vietnam one day to flower into giving Vietnamese Buddhists a full, restoration of the Buddha's teachings. I say full restoration because while Buddhist monasteries are allowed to exist in Vietnam I have been told that they are severely limited in how purely they can practice the Dharma.


(see post above from Vietnam which puts all of this below into perspective-Benedict's visit is meant to be part of the celebrations for the 20th anniversary of the fall of Communism)

Just back from the festivities and an all night vigil. Knackered.
Highlights -
Vigil before the Blessed Sacrament at Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin (more later)

the bare breasted women painted onto the sides of the carnival rides (censored)

Huge party the night before in Stara Boleslav with many young backpackers, rock concerts, folk music, break dancers, priests in skirts, nuns in habits, beer (pivo-lots and lots of it), sausages, Czech candies and snacks, trinkets, Hippie jewelry, cotton candy and a wild carnival with nudie pics and rides that flip you upside down 100 times a minute and that only an insane person would dare go on (me).

Getting Ready



Altar Girl (look carefully)


Princes of the Church

THE Slavic Look

Papa Arrives

Papa on the Pedestal

Altar Girl (only one?)

Contingent from Gdansk

Sep 27, 2009


Well, I'm off in a few hours to Stara Boleslav, where Pope Benedict will celebrate Mass tomorrow morning for an estimated 50,000 pilgrims. The small town is a center of religious pilgrimage both because of its association with St. Wenceslaus who was martyred here in 935, killed by his own brother, but also because of a rare icon of the 'Virgin and Child,' which has been proclaimed the "Palladium" or Protector of the Bohemian lands.

St. Wenceslaus is certainly the "patron saint' of the Czech Lands and Wenceslaus Square in the center of Prague (actually a very long boulevard)  was the center of many protests during the Communist era, including the self-immolation of Jan Palach, the student who set himself alight on Wenceslas Square in 1969 as a protest against public apathy following the Soviet invasion. The Velvet Revolution in 1989 also used the 'Square' as it's rallying point.

Nonetheless, Jan Hus remains the pre-eminent symbol of the power of religious prophecy in the Czech lands and his famous statue in Old Town Square was a frequent meeting point for young dissidents during the Communist era. Simply sitting at the feet of the statue became a symbolic method of protest against totalitarian rule. St. Wenceslaus, for many Czechs, is a poetic figure of fantasy. Jan Hus remains very much a living presence.

Lest we forget: Hus believed that the Mass should be celebrated in the vernacular, rather than in Latin, and that the Eucharist should be distributed to the faithful under both elements of bread and wine. Hus believed that limiting access to the Eucharistic wine to priests only created a false dichotomy of superiority between clergy and faithful. For these and other ideas, Hus was condemned by the Council of Constance and burned at the stake in 1415. We need to pause and reflect on this fact for a moment. Burned at the stake for proposing reforms which we consider commonplace today, and yet nothing has been done to restore his name, let alone recognize his genuine sanctity. Disappointingly, though not surprisingly, Pope Benedict has scrupulously avoided mentioning his name (correction: mentioned was made Sunday afternoon to a group of inter religious leaders, see article from John Allen NCR above), which is a bit like visiting South Africa and not mentioning Nelson Mandala (with all due respect to Vaclav Havel). We can't help but wonder what Benedict's reaction would have been to Jan Hus had he been Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (The Inquisition) in the 15th century.

But in the end, does it really matter what is mentioned during these three days of the Papal visitation. I suppose it does and we are right to point out such inconsistencies. However, my own reaction yesterday (from 10 in the morning until 8pm at night) is that the Pope and the dashing hierarchs in their purple brocade represent something so much more profound and mysterious than their own limitations, and these very limitations serve as a test of faith and as a sign of contradiction.  We must not get too caught up in them. The Mystery is so much greater than these vessels of clay and therein lies the paradox. We must not let their limitations act as a commentary on the worth of the Mystery that lies beneath, but on the other hand we must struggle constantly to remove any impediments that cloud this Mystery and obscure it's light. Benedict (and Gorgeous George) for whatever inscrutable reasons of Providence has been chosen at this moment in history to be both a sign of the sacred in the Roman Catholic tradition and to serve as a sign of contradiction. Let us respect the sign and continue to struggle with the contradictions, telling truth to power.

Services begin tonight at 8pm in Stara Boleslav in the Mariánské náměstí , the central town square dedicated to the Virgin Mary and I will be there holding my candle in witness for gay people everywhere. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament will begin at 10:30 in the Church of the Ascsumption of the Virgin Mary and will continue through the night. I will stay for two hours, then head back to my car to sleep (which has a very wide, comfy back seat), then rise at 5am to enter the grassy compound for the Pope's Mass, which begins at 9:35.

Jayden Cameron reporting from Prague for GAYMYSTIC NEWS :)

Sep 26, 2009

Exhausting Day in Prague

The events of the day were rather exhausting for this aging gay Catholic and I'm recovering at the moment with a triple shot of Glenlivet. I hope to share my reflections tomorrow. Let me just say that the sight of Papa Razzi and his secretary, Monsignor George, (whom he has no doubt chosen for his bodyguard, on a conscious level at least, because he makes for a spectacular image of the male priesthood) was a powerful visceral experience that was positive in almost every way. Papa Razzi really does come across as a gentle, shy, unassuming (closeted) gay man of acute intelligence, who is clearly conscious that it is "not about him," while his secretary comes across as a very caring, competent, masculine young grandson. The combination is certainly worthy of many jokes, but there is something very touching about it as well. George is huge, a real hunk, and what kind of image do you want next to the Pope as a bodyguard, a gorilla like Paul Marcinkus or a fashion model like George Gaenswein? Will all gay men (and lesbian women) please stand up and vote. I  suppose we must keep Hans Kung's initial comments about Pope Benedict  in mind (when he was first elected): 'He is utterly charming and very dangerous.' And yet the mystery is greater than he is and he seems to be aware of this. 


I've just spend six hours with the Pope discussing affairs of state and we both need our nappies before the festivities of this evening. More later, including commentary on his Airport speech and address at Our Lady of Victories, in which much praise was afforded to all of the heroic witnesses to the Catholic faith in Bohemia and Moravia from the 9th century to the present - with the exception of the martyred prophets like Saint Jan Hus, who gave their lives in the cause of reform within the Church.  

(sorry, these photos-if you click on them-are designed for a wide screen)
taken with a Nikon D80 + 135mm lens

(Msgr. George Gaenswein)

(click on photo to see just how gorgeous he really is. OMG!)



(on the right, only the honor guards with flags are visible)








(Yes, these really are right next door to the Apostolic Nunciature)

BISHOPS' CONFERENCE (or are those Monsignori?)





Catholic Martyr to reform and the father of the Czech nation, Jan Hus, being burnt at the stake,
July 16, 1415

Before setting out this morning for the Church of Our Lady of Victories to welcome dear Pope Benedict, I will first walk over to Old Town Square, to lay a blood red rose at the statue of Jan Hus, the saintly reformer who died for many of the same issues of reform we are struggling for today some 600 years later. My apologies if this seems wearily familiar and even a little depressing, but somehow the memory of Hus fills me with peace and joy. After all, in the eyes of eternity, 600 years is less than an eye blink. I feel that Saint Jan is with us today as we welcome another representative of Petrus at the head of a church still struggling with the same issues which brought Hus to the stake in 1415. At the moment of his death, he was denied a confessor because it was deemed improper for a heretic to receive the sacraments (sound familiar?). Benedict, as a German,  will no doubt be well aware of the fact that the Hussite movement of reform was one of the defining elements in the rising sense of nationalism among the Czech people, many of whom resented the German domination of greater Bohemia.

The doctors of the university required from Hus and his adherents an approval of their conception of the Church, according to which the Pope is the head, the Cardinals are the body of the Church, and all regulations of the Church must be obeyed.

Hus protested vigorously against this conception since it made the Pope and cardinals solely the Church. Nevertheless, the Hussite party seems to have made a great effort toward reconciliation. To the article that the Roman Church must be obeyed, they added only "so far as every pious Christian is bound."

In explaining the plight of the average Christian in Bohemia, Hus wrote, “One pays for confession, for mass, for the sacrament, for indulgences, for churching a woman, for a blessing, for burials, for funeral services and prayers. The very last penny which an old woman has hidden in her bundle for fear of thieves or robbery will not be saved. The villainous priest will grab it.”

At the place of execution he knelt down, spread out his hands, and prayed aloud. Some of the people asked that a confessor should be given him, but one priest exclaimed that a heretic should neither be heard nor given a confessor. The executioners undressed Hus and tied his hands behind his back with ropes, and his neck with a chain to a stake around which wood and straw had been piled up so that it covered him to the neck.

At the last moment, the imperial marshal, Von Pappenheim, in the presence of the Count Palatine, asked him to recant and thus save his own life, but Hus declined with the words "God is my witness that I have never taught that of which I have by false witnesses been accused. In the truth of the Gospel which I have written, taught, and preached, I will die today with gladness." He was then burnt at the stake.

Dying prophecy
Hus' last words as he was being tied to the stake were that, "in a hundred years, God will raise up a man whose calls for reform can not be suppressed." Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses of Contention to a church door in Wittenberg 102 years later.[3

The Czechs, who in his lifetime had loved Hus as their prophet and apostle, now adore him as their saint and martyr, a national hero.
(taken from Wikipedia)

Two hundred hears later, at the battle of White Mountain, the independent 'Protestant' Czech nation was decisively crushed by the forces of the Holy Roman Emperor and the Catholic League, and Roman Catholic culture was re-imposed by force on the Czech lands. The Jesuits entered the city of Prague en mass and engaged in a massive building campaign which made Prague one of the most 'churched' cities in  Europe, surpassed only by Rome for the number of churches per square mile.

As one looks over the skyline of the Old City, the evidence of this imposition is clear to see, giving the false impression of a very pious, religious city. But to the Czechs these steeples are simply a reminder of the profound humiliation of the Battle of Bila Hora when the Czech lands came under the domination of an imperial power that imposed it's religious ideology through force.

If you think this is just a bit of dry history, think again. The impact of this profound humiliation for the Czech peoples is written in blood in the stones of this melancholic city and accounts in large measure for the supposed 'atheism' of the Czech peoples. In fact, the Czechs find their spiritual sustenance in nature and  their salvation in music, and keep themselves far removed from religious ideologies.

When Pope Benedict steps inside the Church of Our Lady of Victories this morning, he will be entering a church first built by the Lutherns in 1613 and dedicated to the Most Holy Trinity. After the Battle of White Mountain, when most Lutherans were driven out of the city, the church was handed over to the Carmelites who re-dedicated it (ironically) to  Our Lady of Victory.

Pope John Paul II, in a moment of genuine magnanimity in 1999, apologized for the cruel treatment meted out to Jan Hus and asked that an inquiry be opened into the possibility of removing the charge of heresy. I would go further and say the cause for his future canonization must begin.

Welcome to Prague, Pope Benedict, and may the spirit of Jan Hus inspire you.