How was the Synod on the Family like the United States Congress? Here are four ways.
1. We switched from hoping that they would accomplish something good to praying that they didn’t do any harm. By the time the Relatio came out, most faithful Catholics were just hoping and praying that the Synod managed to get through the next week and adjourn without trashing the sacraments and deep-sixing 2,000 years of Catholic teaching. We were no longer looking to the Synod for leadership, and we were certainly not expecting anything that would actually help Catholic families in they struggle to live our faith in a post-Christian world. We were just hoping that they didn’t start re-writing the Scriptures to suit the ACLU and the scriptwriters in Hollywood.
2. The Synod didn’t seem to be concerned with us, or with the Church. It gave the appearance of being all about the bishops’ private agendas and their fights with one another. At least a few of the bishops seem to be in rock-star envy of Pope Frances. The sound of one’s own voice is addicting, and several of our bishops appear to be in serious need of a sound-bite 12-step program. None of this would have mattered if they had not used their time on air to attack one another, (one of them even took off after the Pope) and to prattle on about their great desire to re-make the Church in their own image. It was a sad, sorry display of ego-driven sniping, carping tom-foolery by men who claim they speak for the humble Carpenter of Nazareth.
3. The Synod exposed a number of the bishops as men who are too insulated, too flattered, too pampered and too proud of themselves to properly do their jobs. Does anybody tell these guys they’re full of it when they’re full of it? Does anyone in the circle of people around them remind them that they are but dust? I’ve seen, up close and personal, how easily constant flattery and being treated as if you were special can destroy a person’s equilibrium. I’ve seen it enough that I recognize its effects on a person when that person is in front of me, or, as in this case, on a news video. A number of our bishops need a year or so of sacking groceries in a t shirt and blue jeans to get their minds right.
4. The Synod talked about Religion with a capital R, but it didn’t seem to care about faith and following Christ all that much. Was I the only observer who noticed how often these men talked about themselves and one another and how seldom they referenced Our Lord? Jesus was mostly absent from their comments, as was faith. They did not give me the impression that they were trying to follow Christ and Him crucified. I mean that. They were singularly lacking in humility, gentleness, common kindness and common sense.
All in all, I was relieved when these boys in red and black wrote up their final results and went home. I am not looking forward to the next go-round at all.
I don’t want pious play acting from my bishops. I certainly don’t expect perfection. In fact, I know that they are as incapable of perfection as any other person who walks this planet. I know and acknowledge what so many Catholics, priests and bishops collude in trying to ignore: These men are just people. I don’t want perfection. I would know it was a lie if they tried to pretend it. I certainly don’t want the stuffy royal distancing that would help them maintain a false facade of holy perfection.
The day is past when the Church can grow and witness to the Gospels on a diet of religious cornflakes and Queen Elizabeth waves from distant clergy.
We don’t need CEOs in miters, playing to each other. We need men who are alive with the call to convert the world. The Church has lost its missionary fervor. It must regain it.
All I ask of my clergy is authenticity. I don’t mean a fantasy, never-sinned perfection. I don’t care if my priests and bishops fall down and skin their knees. I don’t hold that against them any more than they’ve held my sins against me. We are all down here in the pits together in this life and we need to forgive and love one another without grinding our failures in each other’s faces.
My concern about the bishops who made all the noise at the Synod isn’t that some of them are rather obvious snobs and that some of them are in love with being in front of a camera. Being a show boat is probably one of the job requirements for being a bishop. If you’re the sort of person who detests being the center of attention, you probably would never want to be a priest in the first place.
My concern — and it is a concern, not a condemnation — is that at least a few of them are getting dangerously close to abandoning the call of every Christian on this planet, which is to follow Christ the Lord. We are — all of us, from back-row pew sitter to prince of the Church, required to yield ourselves over to Him and His leadership.
I didn’t see that in this Synod. What I saw was a lot of in-fighting and politics, a tiny bit of faith-talk when it fit the scenario and an overwhelming me-me-me. In that it was remarkably like that other all-too-human deliberative body, the United States Congress.
Synod Fathers discuss the Synod on the Family, 2014.
Cardinal Willem Jacobus, Netherlands
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, USA
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, USA
Cardinal Caffarra, Italy
Final Report Projections
Pope Adds African Cardinal to Synod Drafting Committee. Cardinal Pell Says ‘We’re Not Collapsing in a Heap’
Public Catholic reader Ken alerted me to the fact that Pope Frances has added another member to the drafting committee for the final report from the First Synod on the Family.
This report will not directly affect Church teaching. It will be used for further discussion during the next year.
The new member is rather interesting, considering Cardinal Kasper’s foot in mouth comment about African bishops a couple of days ago. He is Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, of South Africa.
The Holy Father also added Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne to the committee.
In the meantime, Cardinal Pell has given an interview to Catholic News Service in which he says,
We’re not giving in to the secular agenda; we’re not collapsing in a heap. We’ve got no intention of following those radical elements in all the Christian churches, according to the Catholic Churches in one or two countries, and going out of business.
The midterm report was ‘tendentious, skewed; it didn’t represent accurately the feelings of the Synod fathers. In the immediate reaction to it, when there wa an hour, an hour and half of discussion, three-quarters of those who spoke had some problems with it.
It promises to be way past interesting, reading the final report and seeing what the “Synod fathers” have done. I imagine that this “final” report will be drug around, cut apart, analyzed, applauded and attacked until we get to the “real” synod and the whole things starts over again.
I don’t have the money to take a cruise right now, anyway.
I’ve got to hire a plumber to fix some drippy leaks and figure out why water backs up into the vents on my house when the yard is soaked. That, and not airline tickets and cruise ships, is where my money is going.
But even if I was full up on cash and aching to roll, I think I’d settle for a car trip and a family picnic. Since 9/11, travel has been punishing at best. Now it’s looking more and more like a nightmare waiting to happen.
ISIS and their desire to blow us up/behead us/take us prisoner/rape us and sell us into slavery is like the ubiquitous elevator music of our travel. We know, as we are wanded, patted down, searched and yelled at by airport personnel that this little bit of medicine is for our own good. We take it in hopes that it will ward off having us end up like the Passengers of Flight 93, careening into the earth to save the nation’s capital from attack, or like James Foley, kneeling in the sand to recite some bit of ISIS dogma before we are murdered by a satanic braggadocio.
We’ve got a handle on all that.
We’ve learned to tune the noise down low and go about our business, semi-secure in the law of averages and what has so far been well-placed faith in our government to ferret out these murdering dirt bags before they get to us.
Then, along comes Ebola, which will not show itself to the wands and metal detectors and which can not be bothered to telegraph its intentions with email and cell phone calls. Ebola travels from human to human in the silent stealth warfare of life against life.
Disease knows no faith, nationality or cant. It does not announce itself by shouting slogans and waving weapons. In the famous words from Terminator 1, “… it can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear.”
Ebola is the latest in an endless line of attacks humanity has faced from other life forms. The virus, with its magnificent simplicity, and its half-life/half-not-life status, is particularly difficult to manage. Unlike bacteria, a virus can’t even breed itself. It cannot, as the scientists say, “multiply” on its own.
It needs a “host” and when that “host” is us, and the virus in question is a killer, you’d better, as Okies say, get back Loretta. Because things are going to get crazy. Each virus has its limits, and we, being the smarter of the two in this battle, can size up those limits and figure out how to take the thing on by getting it on our turf instead of its turf.
The turf of the Ebola virus is literally hand to hand. As in, it passes from hand to hand. So far (and hopefully from now on) it doesn’t pass by breath. An Ebola victim can’t exhale on you and infect you. It also can’t pass from one person to the next until it has reached the stage where it shows itself. When it demonstrates its presence with a fever or a headache or nausea, then it is powerful enough to reach across the divide between persons and jump, on a touch or a shared bit of bodily fluid, from one person to the next.
It’s far more infectious than HIV, but it’s not contagious like, say, the flu. However, it is deadly, and I don’t mean deadly in years the way HIV is, but deadly in days. And the death it gives is agonizing.
We don’t understand Ebola. And we haven’t been so good at doing what we don’t admit we do with these deadly diseases, which is to “contain” it among what we appear to regard as the riffraff of the world. From the nightly news to daily conversations, the horror of Ebola is not that it is laying waste whole countries in Africa. It is the all-too-human fear that it’s going to leap the fence of national borders, rivers and oceans and get to us.
The best single disease vector on our planet today is the commercial airline, which is also the vector for the social disease of terrorism. A jet plane can do in a matter of hours what once took months or even years, and in the case of isolated areas of the world, what, in centuries past, didn’t happen at all.
Plague of any type can now spread at the speed of a jet engine. And it goes everywhere on this planet. Thus we have a man from Liberia, dying of Ebola in Dallas, and a health care worker from Dallas ending up in quarantine in Belize.
That’s the latest story, you know. A poor health care worker from the same Dallas hospital where the Liberian man died and a nurse contracted the disease, went on a cruise and ended up in quarantine because she got sick. Does she have Ebola? Given the length of time since she handled the specimens (she’s a lab worker) it’s unlikely, but possible.
Her exposure, if there was one, occurred long enough ago that Ebola has almost run out its string with her. All living things, including somewhat living things like the Ebola virus have an amount of time it takes them to reproduce. In the case of disease, it takes a lot of these reproductions, these multiplications, before symptoms develop. We can measure it and predict it within parameters that allow for individual variations. If this health care worker has Ebola, her body is keeping it down well enough that it’s taken a long time to manifest.
All this raises questions. Government questions. Health care questions. And what are you and I gonna do questions.
The what are you and I gonna do questions are actually the easiest because they’re the ones we have complete control over. Holiday season is coming, and a lot of people will want to hop a jet and go to Grandma’s house. I like to take trips in October because the weather is pleasant and the tourists are thinned out. The answer for me about what I’m gonna do is largely academic. I don’t have the coin to go gallivanting. I’ve got plumbing to fix. I
may load up the car and take a couple of day trips around Oklahoma. But that’s about it for me. However, given the various complexities that are being heaped on travel, a staycation is looking more and more like the smart move, and not just for me.
I mean, who wants to go on a cruise and end up quarantined? Who wants to go on a flight and end up alerted that they have to watch themselves for symptoms for the next three weeks? Who wants to be patted down, wanded and yelled at? And I’m not even talking about squeezing yourself into those tiny seats and hauling luggage through airports.
I love to travel. But, fortunately for me, I also love to be at home. I’ve got plumbing to fix and things are in a roil on the travel front. I see a staycation in my future.
Four men have been accused of plotting a terrorist attack on police officers and soldiers in the streets of London.
According to the Daily Mail, the men had sworn oaths of allegiance to ISIS and were scouting a London police station and an army barracks. They had photos of four officers. I assume these were photos of their intended victims.
They had managed to arm themselves and had “jihadist materials, including videos of beheadings.”
From the Mail Online:
Four men have appeared in court accused of plotting a terror attack on police officers or soldiers on the streets of London.
Tarik Hassane, 21, Suhaib Majeed, 20, Nyall Hamlett, 24, and Momen Motasim, 21, appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court charged with intending to commit acts of terrorism.
The men allegedly swore allegiance to extremist group Islamic State (ISIS) and scouted out Shepherd’s Bush police station and White City Territorial Army Barracks.
They allegedly kept Instagram images of two Scotland Yard police officers and two Metropolitan Police community support officers, as well as a trove of jihadist material including videos of beheadings.
In addition, they are accused of having a Baikal handgun, silencer and six rounds of ammunition.
It is alleged the men discussed getting hold of and stashing a moped as part of the terror plot and are said to have used codewords over secret communication channels.
A fifth man, Nathan Cuffy, 25, also appeared in court charged with firearms offences.
Nigeria’s chief of defense, Alex Badeh, has announced a truce between the Nigerian government and Boko Harma and the possible release of the 200 school girls that Boko Haram abducted six months ago.
From BBC Africa:
Nigeria’s military says it has agreed a truce with Islamist militants Boko Haram – and that the schoolgirls the group has abducted will be released.
Nigeria’s chief of defence staff, Alex Badeh, announced the truce. Boko Haram has not made a public statement.
The military has struggled to defeat Boko Haram, which has been fighting an insurgency since 2009.
Boko Haram sparked global outrage six months ago by abducting more than 200 schoolgirls.
The girls were seized in the north-eastern town of Chibok in Borno state, and their continued captivity has led to criticism of the Nigerian government’s efforts to secure their release.
The hostages are thought to have been taken to the vast Sambisa forest, along Nigeria’s border with Cameroon.
Members of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign said in a tweet on Friday: “We are monitoring the news with huge expectations.”
Cardinal Kasper says he didn’t say it.
The reporter says he’s got it on tape.
“It” is the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad interview that Cardinal Kasper gave yesterday. I can understand why Cardinal Kasper is doing his best to unsay what he said. He truly did open his clerical mouth and insert both his priestly feet.
His terrible, horrible, no good, very bad interview began with a few off-the-cuff remarks about how the bishops from Africa were opposing what Cardinal Kasper wants the Synod on the Family to do. If the quotes are correct, the Cardinal came across like a grand dame sniffing her titled nose at the effrontery of serving salads on warm salad plates. He might as well have said, It is, you see, just not done, but then, you know these colonials; all feathers and drums with no class.
He ended that little riff with a snippy comment to the effect that, while African bishops had to deal with their reality, that didn’t mean that their opinions should be taken seriously by the bishops from the more enlightened parts of the world.
If you want to listen to the interview, go here. If you can read German (I can’t) I’m told you will find the Cardinal’s denial of the whole thing here. If you’d like to read intelligent commentary — as opposed to the big nnnnhhhh I’ve giving you here — check out Deacon Greg Kandra and The Anchoress.
I punted on “the interview” and didn’t write about it yesterday because I’d already decided that Cardinal Kasper was a few cards short of a full theological deck.
I know. Who am I to say that? The answer, of course, is that I’m nobody. I am a pew-sitting convert from Oklahoma, of all backward places.
But I can’t help thinking with my backward little Okie brain (which I’m sure would rank considerably below an African brain.) What I’ve been thinking for a while now is that Cardinal Kasper’s recent spate of press conferences sound like an interview for the position of Catholicism’s answer to Episcopalian Bishop Shelby Spong.
Cardinal Kasper seems to like being interviewed, at least most of the time. He’s been running to the press on a regular basis to engage in an unseemly spite fight with his brother bishops. The quotes from his foot-in-mouth interview were a bit of a face-palm moment for some people, but I was, by the time I read them, all done with paying attention to Cardinal Kasper and his press peccadilloes.
Cardinal Kasper’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad interview doesn’t, in my opinion, reveal him to be a racist so much as it pinpoints him as a self-important snob. That’s pretty much the message I got from Cardinal Kasper’s comment.
Those “Africans” and their backward countries just can’t be expected to exercise the enlightened Christianity of the Church of What’s Happening Now. Poor things. They can’t help it. We need to be nice to them, but certainly not let their third-world hang-ups get in the way of our first-world compassion and tolerance.
The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Interview has boiled itself down to a he-said-it-and-I’ve-got-him-on-tape-saying-it/I-didn’t-say-it-and-I’m-not-that-kind-of-guy deal between Cardinal Kasper and Edward Pentin, the reporter who told on him. I can’t see any way that is going to end well for the Cardinal. My advice to him is just belly up to the bar and tell the truth, which is most likely “I didn’t mean it the way it came out.” He can follow that by saying “I denied it because I was embarrassed to admit it.”
That would be humiliating, especially for someone as much in love with himself as the Cardinal appears to be. But it might also end up being spiritually edifying to him.
As for me, I have no desire whatsoever to flog the poor Cardinal for his foot in mouth disease. It really does happen to all of us from time to time. The truth is:
Things often look all different in print than they sounded in your own ears when you were saying them. That’s just a fact.
Anybody who talks to the press a lot is going to, as we Okies say, come a cropper at some point. That’s another fact.
I don’t want to keel-haul Cardinal Kasper for his Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Interview.
I don’t even want to scold him for it.
My beef with the Cardinal is more fundamental. It’s about that Jesus guy.
You know. The One Who said What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
Note: The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Interview is a play on the title of a book by Judith Viorst.
I had high hopes for the Synod on the Family.
I had hope that it would find ways for the Church to support and strengthen traditional marriage, that it would address the real problems of children of divorce who grow up with half their souls amputated by the constant roiling.
I had hope that it would take a look at ways to help people who are trying their best to follow Catholic teaching in a hostile world where one McJob won’t support a family, so both parents end up with with two or three jobs, leaving the children to raise themselves.
I had hope that the Synod would address the clanging juxtaposition of overprivileged kids in too-expensive Catholic schools staging walk-outs from their fine educations while inner city kids are forced to share textbooks and don’t even feel physically safe.
I had hope that the Synod would find ways to strengthen the family, not abandon and destroy it.
In truth, I not only had hopes for the Synod, I had trust in it. I believed in it and in the men who were participating in it. Now, I’m afraid of what they may do.
Here are 6 things I wish the Synod on the Family would consider that it doesn’t seem to be considering now.
1. Poverty and its deleterious effect on families. As I mentioned above, even here in America, poverty grinds families to bits. American children aren’t forced to scavenge in garbage dumps for food. But they spend most of their lives being raised by everything and everybody except their parents.
There is such a divide between the elites and the rest of this country that I honestly don’t think they know or believe what their policies are doing to ordinary people. Low wages and a stagnant economy caused by exporting our industrial base has led to the need for mothers and dads to work two or three jobs apiece, just to put a roof over their kids’ heads.
There’s no nanny or au pair for these kids. They end up raising themselves, and being raised by other kids and the second-rate schools they must attend. As soon as the law allows, they get McJobs of their own, often working long hours to help support the family. The resulting exhaustion often ends their education.
Too many of them opt out altogether. Their real family, their real parents, are the gangs and the other kids. They have no moorings to make decisions, so they fall into early and promiscuous sex, babies without dads, drugs and gangs.
That’s in America.
I’m sure it’s much worse — by powers of ten — in developing countries. After all, the reason our corporations shipped our industrial base overseas was to be in places where it could treat people any way it wanted.
Divorce among the working class and lower classes in America is a plague; as is shacking up and having kids out of wedlock.
It destroys families. And the destruction of families destroys lives.
Perhaps the Synod should look at what it can do to help Catholics who want to have families and raise them well but are crippled by poverty that makes living out their vocation a desperate and losing fight. How can the Church support families in the face of poverty and corporatism? I wish they’d look at that.
2. How the Church can actually teach its teachings to the people in the pews. Re-writing the Gospels to fit the times is not the correct pastoral answer. The correct pastoral answer is to take a look at why the Bishops have been such abysmal failures at teaching Church teaching.The arguments these men are having now are a direct result of their failure to teach in the past.
The Church leadership has gotten soft and disengaged. It has lost its missionary fervor. Its operating ethos is build-a-church-building-then-wait-for-the-parishioners-to-come. Follow that by preaching fine homilies that are nonetheless removed from the fact that ordinary pew-sitting Catholics are out there without ammunition or support on the front lines of a cultural war.
I don’t think that Catholic clergy really “get” what the Catholic laity is facing every single day. I don’t believe they understand the many social martyrdoms that many devout Catholics endure.
My hope is that the Synod could address this failure as it applies to the family and actually talk about how to help Catholic laity be the Light of the World that Jesus calls them to be.
3. Stop speaking in indirections and obscure language. I would love to see our religious leaders take the marbles out of their mouths and actually communicate in a straightforward manner. The flap over the relatio is a case in point.
I’ve heard comments that people are “stupid” for not understanding that the document is just basically minutes of the previous meetings and nothing official. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my dealings with the public, it’s that if you say it, and they don’t get it, it’s on you to fix that. Leadership is mostly a matter of being understood.
This inability to speak in simple declarative sentences may be a large part of why the bishops have failed so disastrously these past decades in their job as teachers of the faith. If I could make one reform of Catholic clergy it would be to teach them to talk to people about the faith from the heart.
4. Bring Catholic education back in line with Catholic belief, and provide it to the poor. Catholic education is losing its Catholic savor. It is also more and more the inaccessible privilege of the privileged. It smacks of hypocrisy to preach about “the poor” while shutting the doors to a good Catholic education in the “the poor’s” faces.
Catholic families of every social strata need the Church’s help in raising their children to be Catholic. If Catholic schools fail in this mission — and many of them are demonstrably failing horribly — then what are parents to do? By the same token, if access to a Catholic education is denied to parishioners who are trapped in the McJob syndrome, that will only quicken and deepen the destruction of their children.
5. Address the plague of drug addiction that destroys our families. Drug addiction destroys the personalities of the people who suffer from it, and it also destroys the homes and happiness of everyone they love. It is a plague that is filling up prisons, destroying families, leaving children damaged and too bereft to become functioning adults, and hollowing out whole societies.
It leads to corruption and massive violence on a governmental scale. If the Synod wants to help families, it needs to discuss ways the Church can aid them in their anguished fight against drug addiction.
6. Talk about Jesus, not one another. The priesthood is not supposed to be all about the priests. From the sex abuse scandal to some of the things I’m hearing from this Synod, the trouble stems, not from a lack of leadership, but a lack of followership.
Many of our religious leaders seem to think that their world is the whole world and that they have no need for the humble reliance on Christ that is the mark of true Christians the world over. My hope for this Synod is that its participants will follow Christ, and not each other. My number one wish is that our religious leadership would preach Christ. If they would do that, everything else would follow.