Jan 29, 2011

A Catholic Grandmother ops out, Part Two

Since my previous posting - about a Catholic grandmother deciding she could no longer attend formal Eucharistic celebrations in the Catholic Church - generated some comment (including private emails to myself), here is my response - also included in the comment sections of the previous post.

It's my understanding that after a 'year of silence,' which Gini spent in prayer and discernment, she then felt called in the Spirit to make the very painful decision to remove herself from the formal Eucharistic liturgies of the Church. Whether that was an absolute decision I can't say, though I've sent a message to her via her daughter and perhaps she will reply. As Father J.H. remarks, this is indeed a tragedy, when looked at up close, but in the long term, I feel such decisions are very much in tune with the authentic Catholic spirit. We are in a state of profound crisis at the moment in the Church, and the Spirit (in my opinion) seems to be performing some radical surgery, calling quite a few prophetic individuals to make this very radical and dismaying decision as a form of shock therapy for the whole Catholic body. But I liken them to the priests and Catholics imprisoned during Communist times who were deprived of the Eucharist for tens of years in a row, a profound trial of the spirit, causing much anguish (much like the absence of the Beloved during the Dark Night), yet Jesus the martyred, persecuted prophet was closer to them in their suffering and deprivation than ever before. The analogy is not perfect, of course, since we are talking about free decisions on the part of adult Catholics to willfully remove themselves from participation in the formal liturgies of the Church. Quite a different thing from being forcably incarcerated against one's will with no means of celebrating or receiving the Eucharist. But in Gini's example and countless others, this is not entirely a "free, willful decision." it is welling up from the depths of their being, and feels very much like a loving impulsion from the Spirit which they cannot deny without also denying their love for the Crucified. They are being asked to make a painful sacrifice, and willingly, through the love that had been nourished in their souls through the Eucharist itself, they freely surrender themselves to this call.

  Knowing Gini as I do, I'm certain there is no implied criticism or judgmentalism on her part towards those who feel called to remain. I should also point out that Gini is theologically a highly educated woman, a Eucharistic minister of long years standing and a practicing family therapist who is in touch with women religious all over the state of California and beyond. Her views are highly informed and it is just not plausible that she is simply being swayed by false and misleading information from an ignorant and prejudiced press. Her decision, and that of so many other conscientious Catholics, deserves respect as a strong wake up call to an institutional Church in a profound state of dysfunction at this point in history. But as Gini points out, Mother Church is much larger than the present institutional framework controlled by Rome. And through these painful exits from the common body, the Spirit is no doubt pointing the way forwards to new forms of being authentically Catholic, authentically Church, in the Spirit of the Crucified Lord, who's Heart must bleed at this moment in time at the sins of betrayal by so many (males) in positions of power.

Jan 27, 2011


I just read these inspiring words, posted on the NCR website,  from one of my oldest and dearest Catholic friends, Gini Cashman, mother of 11 children, grandmother of untold minions and a truly extraordinary, charismatic, catholic woman of long years of service to the Church. Gini is responding to an article about the ongoing and quite scandalous investigation by the Vatican of American women religious, and her statement- that she can no longer in good conscience participate in the traditional Catholic ritual of the Mass - is a thunderous, shattering decision of conscience from this great, long serving Catholic grandmother.

I am a not-not catholic.

I am a not-not catholic. Catholicism is in my blood, I received it thru my Mothers breast milk. Today I can no longer participate in the traditional catholic ritual. The Holy spirit has called me out, kicking and screaming. I can no longer adhere to or repeat many things that are no longer true for me.

I love Mother Church, but not the established church. Society has corrupted the established church. It is hierarchical, it discriminates against women, it does not protect children, it compromised the Gospel for the Gross National product rather than the human person

I am "In Love With Jesus"------= translated as in "God's Love" with Jesus. For me Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. The institutional church for me no longer is the rock, it has sold out.

After a year of silence before this important move, being in my late eighty's with a family of 11 children who were educated in Catholic schools, and 42 years of committed marriage I do not say these words lightly.

As for the Sisters in America and I presume in other countries, tho I do not pretend to know, America would be barren indeed without the compassionate work of these courageous, compassionate women. I acknowledge they were not without their weaknesses coming from the dysfunctional families of the times. However they carried the essence of humanity, compassion for all life.

I wholeheartedly proclaim and support the Sisters as the voice in the wilderness for today's world, and am hoping the investigation will give them the power of the Spirit in their lived experience to speak out in truth and love.

Jan 25, 2011


I've just finished watching the astonishing Irish/Celtic animation feature, The Secret of Kells, which chronicles the adventurous journey of a young boy monk as he strives to follow his 'inner dream,' which calls him to use his gifts in the preservation of the sacred Irish 'Book of Kells.' While on the surface, this seems to be the usual boy journey into the dark underworld (with the female friend only playing a subsidiary enabling role), the story is unique for two reasons. First, as a lesson to all young people, it defines 'following your dream,' not as a surrender to one's more superficial impulses emerging from the ego (becoming a rock star). Instead it cautions that the quest for one's inner dream requires careful discernment to ensure that one is truly following the deepest impulses of one's  authentic Self. Secondly, it illustrates the sobering message that 'following one's authentic spiritual inner voice' will most likely bring the young person into conflict with external spiritual and religious authority. The boy monk is living under the protection of his uncle, the Abbot, an insecure man who little values the great treasure of the monastery, the ancient Book of Kells, housed in the scriptorium. Instead, the abbot is obsessed with protecting the physical security of the monastery by building very high walls in defense against the invading Vikings.  He forbids his young charge to have anything to do with the sacred Book of Kells, in violation of the boy's own inner promptings, and even goes so far as to lock him in the monastery dungeon. Like St. Peter in chains, however, mystical forces come to the aid of the boy and free him from captivity, so he can pursue his true vocation, discover his true mystic vision and protect and preserve the sacred book. What a remarkable lesson for young people everywhere, subversive perhaps, but such a refreshing change from the usual socialization given to the young to make them compliant, obedient servants of the established order. 

Alas, the Abbot learns only too late that the walls are no defense against the invaders, that all of his focus on preserving the external security of the institution has only led to tragedy for his people. But his young nephew, by defying his uncle and following his authentic inner voice, preserves the sacred Book of Kells for all posterity. In the end, the two of them, the aging, dying abbot and the young mystical dreamer, find each other again and are reconciled. While some reviewers have found the story line to be a bit 'thin,' there is unanimous praise for the magnificent static drawings that make up the animation. However, Roger Ebert has it right when he says that the film will appeal to viewers at opposite ends of the spectrum - with no middle. Very young children who still retain the capacity to be astonished by truly mystical beauty and the more insightful and mature viewers who will appreciate the subtle spiritual wisdom of the story. Those in-between - what he calls 'The Transformer generation; - will find it too  tedious and trite. A great message for young children and the most mystical animation I can ever recall seeing. 
Check out the YouTube trailer:

On a related note, news from Bridget Mary's wonderful blog, tells of another breakaway community, St, Peter's in downtown Cleveland (USA). Bridget Mary lauds  the courage of its pastor, Father Robert Marrone, who has defied his bishop, Richard Lennon, in deciding to remain with his parish rather than obey the bishop's injunction to close the church and scatter the congregation elsewhere. The community has simply opted to rent another space for their worship services and Father Marrone has felt compelled in conscience to remain with them on this new and uncertain journey. However, he has said, "This is indeed a sad day, there is no joy in this." The same lament could be spoken by any number of conscientious believing Catholics who feel compelled to follow a path of conscience that tears then away from the formal securities of the mother institution. A painful, tragic weaning of the spirit.

What is unique about this story is that the break occurred not because of differences over Church doctrine - whether it be gay and lesbian marriage or women priests - but simply over the fact the Bishop decided to close the parish and bring the community to an end. After careful, prayerful discernment, this was a command the community felt they were not called in the Spirit to obey. While the official church continues on it's perilous path of preaching an anti-life message, equating being pro-life with being anti-gay, more and more mature Catholics, for any number of reasons, are feeling called to defy unjust authority. It really is like the fall of communism, as the structures of authority continue to crumble. 
   While this might seem an odd connection to make, I was just today reading Colin Thubron's magnificent book, Among the Russians, and came to the chapter in which he describes his meeting with the surviving son of Boris Pasternak (author of Doctor Zhivago) He makes this comment which applies as well to the crumbling authority of the Roman Church:

Only since entering Russia had I understood the dead weight of patriotism in this persecuted land - truth is only a troubling spectre in the balance against it - and how a  single book or poem can threaten the fantasy of Party infallibility. That Doctor Zhivago could be castigated as it was, is both a measure of profound insecurity and of the strength of Pasternak's commitment to something else. 'The Russian poet,' wrote Maxim Gorky,' is an indescribably lonely, tragically lonely figure.'

That final phrase can certainly be applied to many a gay Catholic prophet in our day, certainly to the likes of Father John McNeill in his darkest days. Thankfully, however, we do have gay Christian support groups to offer succor and support, and increasing numbers of young gay Christians forging a new path for all of us.

Jan 10, 2011

Jan 4, 2011


A joyous and blessed new year for one and all. I'm very busy at the moment traveling back and forth between Prague and London (twice in two weeks) and getting ready for the next semester and our next drama production of Brian Friehl's Dancing at Lughnasa. Many thoughts to share when I get the time.