Did the Supreme Court K-O the Seal of the Confessional?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Photo by Josh. https://www.flickr.com/photos/ncindc/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Photo by Josh. https://www.flickr.com/photos/ncindc/

Evidently, the Louisiana State Supreme Court woke up one morning and decided to K-O the legal protection for the seal of the confessional.

This legal privilege, which has long protected priests from prosecution for not revealing the things said to them in confession, has been under attack from zealous prosecutors. A few years ago, a prosecutor, who evidently never heard of building a case through the vast investigative powers of the government, decided to bug and record a confession between a prisoner in jail and his priest. When the prosecutor tried to enter this confession into evidence, the Catholic Church took him to court and won.

Now, the family of a young woman in the state of Louisiana has decided that they want a priest to testify as to what the young woman said to him in confession. The family has filed suit to force the priest to testify, so they can pursue a civil suit against the diocese. Since this confession was about the ugly topic of child abuse by an adult man, it raises all sorts of emotions and angers.

The Louisiana State Supreme Court basically ruled that if the person confessing reveals the confession, then the seal is broken and the priest can be forced to testify about the contents of the confession. There is precedent for this viewpoint in the attorney-client privilege. I have seen judges rule that the attorney-client privilege was broken because someone other than the attorney and client were in the room during the discussion, and then force the client to testify in court as to the contents of their conversation with their attorney.

However, the seal of the confessional is different from attorney-client privilege or doctor-patient privilege, or counselor-client privilege because it is a First Amendment right. The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States guarantees the right to the free exercise of religion without government interference. This guarantee has kept America out of the religious conflicts which have marred other societies for over 200 years.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. By Ed Uthman. https://www.flickr.com/photos/euthman/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. By Ed Uthman. https://www.flickr.com/photos/euthman/

The Louisiana State Supreme Court, by attempting to treat the seal of the confessional as any other privileged conversation, put its foot right through the First Amendment. Subsequent to this, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge petitioned the United States Supreme Court to overturn this Louisiana decision.

Now comes the murky part.

The United States Supreme Court sent this whole mess back to the level of the Fifth District Court in order for that court to hear arguments.

Ever since the Supreme Court did this, I’ve been reading that they allowed the Louisiana Court’s decision to “stand.” I’ve read whole news reports saying this as a fact. I honestly thought that was what had happened.

But this is not accurate. The Supreme Court did not say, go home, Louisiana’s Supreme Court was right. They basically said, get back in line.

They sent the case, which is still alive and kicking, back to a lower court to allow both sides to have their say and present their positions. That action does not let the Louisiana State Supreme Court’s decision “stand.” It just lets everybody, on both sides, have their day in court.

I expect this decision of the Louisiana State Supreme Court to be overturned.

However, if it is not, then we are going to have to come back against this violation of our religious liberties, and we’re going to have to come back hard. This is not a parlor game. It is a matter of sending our priests to jail because they will not violate the seal of the confessional. It is a question of whether or not Catholics will be free to access the sacraments of our faith without government intrusion.

Priests will have no choice in this matter. They will have to go to jail rather than break the seal of the confessional. If they don’t, the entire edifice on which the Church is built — the sacraments — will crumble. American Catholics have an absolute right to receive the sacraments without government intrusion. That right is guaranteed in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.

It is one of the essential building blocks of all our liberties as a free people.

Most of these attacks on the seal of the confessional come from over-zealous prosecutors. This particular claim comes from a family that probably feels guilty because their child was sexually abused and they did not know about it. I understand that and sympathize with it.

What I don’t understand and sympathize with is their attempt to make money off the deal with this civil suit. I also don’t understand why they are so eager to cash in that they are willing to attack one of the bedrock freedoms Americans enjoy and the sanctity of penitents’ encounters with Christ in the confessional.

They appear to be wiling to damage their country and their Church with this lawsuit. That will not heal their grief at having failed to protect their child.

The Fifth Circuit has the case now. We’ll have to wait and see what they do.

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January 22 and Bunnygate

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons, Public  by Elvert Barnes  Protest Photography https://www.flickr.com/photos/perspective/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons, Public by Elvert Barnes Protest Photography https://www.flickr.com/photos/perspective/

I’ve ignored the flap over Pope Francis’ latest airplane interview, mainly because it has no merit.

What I mean is that the carrying-on about the Holy Father’s use of certain phrases has no merit. It seems that Pope Francis affirmed the Catholic Church’s teaching on artificial birth control. In the process, he said that this teaching doesn’t mean that people need to have babies “like rabbits.”

Big deal.

All he meant was that people can use natural family planning. Big news.

The reaction was predictable.

On the one hand, Margery Egan, over at Crux, came out as a full member of The Pope is Catholic, Egad crowd. She reacted with hurt and outrage because Pope Francis stands by the Church’s teaching that artificial birth control is illicit. Here’s a bit of her reaction:

The news that Pope Francis has strongly defended the Church’s ban on artificial birth control left me, in a word, devastated.

I had hoped for so much more from this man.

Although he has not lived it himself, I had thought he understood something about good people living real lives in real marriages. I had thought he even understood something about the beauty of sex in marriage, the need for sex in marriage.

Then we have The Pope is Human, Egad crowd, going full tilt, as well. Most of this is showing up on Facebook and in chat rooms. A lot of people like their popes neat and straight-edged. What they want are popes who come out for display, recite Scripture and Church teaching as if they were programmed by a computer and then quietly go back inside to say their Rosaries.

In case you haven’t gotten the news, Pope Francis is not that kind of pope. He’s so completely relaxed in his papal skin that he just says whatever comes into his head. Fortunately for us, nothing that comes into his head is against the Church. Every single time he makes a comment that the press latches onto and tries to massage into a change in Church teaching, they are using an off-the-cuff comment that did no such thing. Misinterpret as they might, Pope Francis is not going to teach modern nihilism instead of the Gospels.

This good man, our Pope Francis, is Catholic. He’s also human. He’s a pastoral pope who loves to forgive sinners and who is using his papacy to say in every way he can that Jesus meant it when He said He came to save lost sinners.

Margery Egan asked if Pope Francis understands the real lives of real people, including the beauty and goodness of marital sex. The answer is yes, he does. That’s where the ‘you don’t have to reproduce like rabbits’ comment came from. All he meant was that Natural Family Planning works and Catholics should feel free to make use of it.

Now what does Bunnygate have to do with January 22? After all, Bunnygate is just Pope Francis, making good copy, and the media, proving once again just how significant the Church really is in today’s world.

If you doubt that, go stand on your front porch and should “reproduce like rabbits.” Do it several times. The only thing that might happen is that your neighbors will have something new to talk about. The New York Times, BBC, NBC, CBS, CNN and all their pals will give your behavior a big pass.

But when the pope uses such phrases, it’s front page news all around the world. Everything he says, every little gesture he makes, is observed, reported and interpreted according to the interpreter’s prejudice in every media outlet going.


Because what he says matters.

Because the Church is not irrelevant.

Because Jesus Christ, despite all the attacks and attempts to destroy faith in Him, is Lord, and billions of people bend their knee to Him.

That’s why Bunnygate is Bunnygate. It’s a big deal because the Church and Jesus are big deals.

How does that apply to January 22?

Just this.

The early Christians stopped the practice of exposing infants, primarily baby girls, by three methods. First they refused to do it themselves. Second, they went out and rescued these babies, brought them home and raised them as part of their families. Third, they said it was wrong, over and over and over, until the message finally got through.

January 22 is the anniversary of the day when we resurrected the old practice of discarding unwanted children. We went further after that with our rights talk and brought back the Baals in new form as we sacrificed our babies, our elderly, our sick and even our unhappy people to the little g gods of modern convenience.

In our world today, bunnygate matters because it is the Vicar of Christ, however awkwardly he might phrase it, affirming once again that He is Catholic and that this means that he stands for life. The Church did not waver one inch in that airplane interview. The pope just stuck his foot in his mouth a bit. That’s all.

But he said the right things. He just said them in an off-hand and humorous way.

That is the only part of the interview that matters, which is why I haven’t bothered talking about it until now. The pope reiterated Church teaching. He practiced number three of the three things the early Christians did to overturn the practices of human sacrifice and exposing unwanted babies.

We do our version of number three when we go out into the streets today and march for life. We are saying, once again, that the Supreme Court was wrong. We will continue saying it until the message finally gets through.

At the same time, pro life people must also refuse to engage in abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cells research, egg harvesting and the attendant anti-life activities that saturate our world. Our most important testimony for life is living pro life.

That means we take care of other people. We put people ahead of profit and ahead of convenience. If we believe that the right to life is the first and most essential human right, then we have to behave that way in our private lives and our public lives.

We are called to follow Jesus when we are in the shower and when we are on a stage; when we pay our bills and when we go to work. Most important of all, we are called to follow Jesus in our homes and with our families, in how we treat the people closest to us.

January 22 and Bunnygate go together because they are of a whole. The United States Supreme Court unwittingly called forth Christians to witness to the sanctity of human life. The Holy Father has affirmed that the Church does not back down from this call.

Today is a special day for each of us to re-affirm to ourselves and to others that we stand for life and that we will continue to stand for life in our homes, on our jobs and on the streets until the world finally gets the message.


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Newest Charlie Hebdo Makes Fun of the Pope

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Richard_Burton_-_The_Robe.jpg

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Richard_Burton_-_The_Robe.jpg

The newest issue of Charlie Hebdo makes fun of the Pope.

I doubt that the editorial staff is worried about a violent response to this. After all, they’ve already printed quite a number of issues mocking and otherwise attacking the Catholic Church.

I found this clip from the movie The Robe. It dramatizes the way that Christians respond to these things. The Robe is fiction, but the fact of Christian faithfulness, even to death, is how the message of the cross has spread around the world and is growing today.

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Home Movies from Papa’s Trip

Photo Source; Flickr Commons, jojo nicdao, https://www.flickr.com/photos/jonicdao/

Photo Source; Flickr Commons, jojo nicdao, https://www.flickr.com/photos/jonicdao/

Pope Francis’ Flying Zucchetto

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Hurricane Haiyan: When I saw from Rome that catastrophe, I decided I have to be hear. Jesus is Lord, and He never lets us down. Many of you have asked the Lord, Why Lord, and Christ responds from His heart, on the cross. Let us look to Christ. He is the Lord. He understands us, he understands us because he underwent all the trials that we — you — have experienced.

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Pope to Filipino Authorities: Protect the Inalienable Right to Life, Beginning with the Unborn and Extending to the Frail and Elderly

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The Church in the Philippines is called to acknowledge and combat the causes of the deeply rooted inequality and injustice which mar the face of Filipino society, plainly contradicting the teaching of Christ … see things in a new light and and thus respond with honestly and integrity to the challenge of proclaiming the radicalism of the Gospel in a society which has grown comfortable with social exclusion, polarization and scandalous inequality … Be present to young people who may be confused and despondent … be present to those who living in a society burdened by poverty and corruption are tempted to give up.

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As a family we have to be very clear, prepared and strong to these attempts to the ideological colonization that wants to destroy the family.

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Pope Francis breaks away from official itinerary to meet with street kids of Manila.

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Pope Francis in Sri Lanka

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Pope Francis’ Best Quotes in Sri Lanka

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Is the Liturgy Really That Bad?

Photo Source: Flickr Commons. Uploaded by Michael 1952.

Photo Source: Flickr Commons. Uploaded by Michael 1952.

We’ve recently had a dust-up here on Public Catholic because I had the temerity to (1) disagree rather strongly with Cardinal Burke, and (2) come out in support of altar girls.

You would think that I had  barbecued a kitten.

I deleted a ton of hate-women comments in the course of this discussion. I also deleted another ton of hate-Rebecca comments. According to a good number of commenters, I’ve got myself a ticket to a first-class seat in that proverbial hand bucket headed to hell, all because I think we should have altar girls.

I had to delete that claptrap. If I had let it through, any self-respecting woman would have walked away wondering why she, or any other female person, would want to be part of the Catholic Church. At the same time, someone who didn’t actually go to mass on a regular basis might think that we’re running a carny show, complete with clown suits and balloons, behind the altars of our churches.

Of course, both assumptions would be off the mark. I’m going to set aside the woman question for a moment. That will give time for all those folks who dislike the fair sex so very much to draw a breath and gather themselves for the next attack.

I am instead going to stick my head into the liturgy hay bailer.

My question is simply this: Is the liturgy really that bad?

I mean, I go to mass on a regular basis and Jesus Christ the Lord is there every single time. You can count on it. He is there.

I remember wandering back into the sanctuary after Holy Thursday service one Tridium;  after we’d stripped the altar, removed the Host and doused the flame. The difference was stark. That sanctuary, which had always held a warm Presence every time I entered it, had been transformed into an empty, echoey room. There was no Jesus in that place, and the lack thereof was palpable.

So now we have a Cardinal, a prince of the Church, telling us that the liturgy is all messed up and driving men away from the Church because it has been “feminized.” Evidently, there are a lot of people out there who agree with him.

Public Catholic was deluged with angry commenters, swooping in to announce that the liturgy at our masses — the same liturgy that soothes my soul and brings me in direct contact with my Lord — is straight from the infernal regions. It makes me wonder if they and I are members of the same Catholic Church.

As I’ve already said, and will be happy to say again at any time, I think the Cardinal is playing the blame game. I think that for a Catholic Cardinal to blame anything about the liturgy on women, is, well, almost comical. He is the cardinal. If there is a problem with the liturgy, it’s his responsibility, not that of the womenfolk who sit at the back of the hierarchical bus.

Now, I’m going to take on those poor sad Catholics who seem to live to criticize our Church and its liturgy. As I said, I go to mass on a regular basis. I’ve also gone to mass in a number of places. I’ve never attended mass on the East Coast of the United States, so maybe that’s where the priests in clown suits and tap-dancing altar servers show up to do their do. I don’t know.

All I know is that I’ve never seen it. I have gone to mass in (gasp!) San Francisco, and (another gasp!) Seattle. What I encountered there was the same mass — about half of whose attendees were male, btw — that I saw at various points around the globe, as well as here in God’s country, otherwise known as Oklahoma.

Every mass has had some sort of fumble or titter from the pews. Sometimes a cell phone rings and is then hastily silenced. Babies cry, babies crow, little old ladies belch, the priest gets the words slightly wrong, or the altar server stumbles. I’ve seen people drop the Host and people keel over in a faint and priests trip.

I’ve seen priests who couldn’t stand, sit throughout their homilies and then totter to the altar and, ever so shakily, consecrate the Host and barely lift it up.

I’ve heard applause, and seen people hold hands during the Our Father, and other people get all sniffy about holding hands during the Our Father and transsexuals looking downright odd in their wigs and lipstick and truck driver arms and tattoos. I’ve seen women in saris and men in golfing shorts, and knelt in pews beside folks who needed a bath. I’ve heard mass in Spanish, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean and English. I’ve attended quick daily masses that took about 20 minutes, and full-on masses that lasted for an hour and a half or more.

Every liturgy I ever attended was unworthy of Christ the Lord. I know that every liturgy I ever attend will be unworthy of Him, as well. What I have never seen, not once, was a liturgy that was unworthy of me.

I’ve attended mass in living rooms, hotel basements, and once, on a mountaintop with the ocean spread in a 360 degree arc at its base. Every place I’ve gone, every mass I attended, I encountered Christ the Lord.

I didn’t encounter a Django Jesus, standing beside the altar with a baseball bat, ready to smack down the unworthies who try to approach Him. The Jesus I meet in the Eucharist of every Catholic mass is the Good Shepherd, the Jesus of the Cross, Who lays down His life for His sheep.

I have never walked away from the Eucharist feeling condemned. In fact, that encounter with Christ washes away the self-condemnation I so often bring with me when I approach it. I reach out and touch the living Christ, hiding in a wafer, and I walk away feeling accepted and loved.

Considering what sinful people we all are, I don’t see how anyone can approach God with hearts seething with condemnation of the people around them. Do these folks really go to mass and sit there, pick, pick, picking away at the priest, the liturgy, the music?

That is a horrible thought to me. Do you folks of the liturgy cops really, truly enter the Presence of the Lord with hearts full of rage and condemnation?

Don’t you know that you can not enter into the Presence of the Lord that way?

That, and not whether or not people hold hands during the Our Father, or the mass is in Latin or English, or if the people around you are properly reverent, is what can separate you from God.

I feel sorry for these people who spend all their time gnashing their teeth and getting all lathered up over what they see as the terrible liturgy. They are not only missing their blessing, they are taking their blessing and throwing it back into Jesus’ face.

I thank God that we have priests who bring us Jesus at every mass, who consent to be conduits of grace. I have no desire to pick at them over how high they lift the chalice, if they allow applause and whether or not they pray the liturgy with the “proper” amount of gravitas.

I don’t go to mass to find fault. I go to find Jesus.

The truth of life is that no matter what the situation, the occasion, or the event, if you want to sit back and find fault with it, you always can. If you want to go to mass and sit there, ready to carp and complain and pick away at the seams of the thing, you can do it. But if you do that, Jesus Christ will pass right by you and you won’t see Him.

On the other hand, if you go to mass to find Jesus, you will find Him. Because He is there.

My question is this: If Christ the Lord deigns to come to these imperfect masses and give Himself away to the even more imperfect people who worship there, then who are we to criticize?

If the mass and the liturgy are good enough for Jesus to be there, if we, with all our imperfections, are good enough for Him to love us and share Himself with us, then what’s our complaint?

I go to mass to find Jesus, and — this is the miracle — I find Him.

Every mass is a miracle. It is not a miracle of silk, lace and candles. It is a miracle wrought in suffering and blood.

Before we get too worked up about the particulars of the mass, we need to remember that Our Lord uses the most common things to do His work. He began with spit and dirt.

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Pope Francis in the Philippines

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons. http://www.presidencia.gov.ar/

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons. http://www.presidencia.gov.ar/

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Pope Francis in Sri Lanka

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons. http://www.presidencia.gov.ar/

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons. http://www.presidencia.gov.ar/

Pope Francis’ tweet for yesterday asked for our prayers for his trip to Sri Lanka.

He looks tired and his voice is husky in the video below. May God give him keep him safe and healthy.

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God Give Us Holy Priests

If you don't like the liturgy, who's to blame: The guys who wrote it, or the womenfolk sitting in the pews? Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

If you don’t like the liturgy, who’s to blame: The guys who wrote it, or the womenfolk sitting in the pews? Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

I’m a member of a group that meets on a regular basis to pray for vocations to the priesthood.

Aside from the fact that this is a small indication that I want our Church to have more holy priests (which is what we pray for) what does this mean?

It means that I have this oddball idea that vocations of all sorts, including to the priesthood, come from God.

I say that this notion is oddball because that’s the impression I’ve gotten from a recent debate which has been happening both here on Public Catholic and on Facebook about the red-hot, all-consuming question: Is the priest shortage due to altar girls, and is bad liturgy due to the “feminization” of the Church?

Let’s consider, for a moment, why we have altar girls in the first place. The reason we have them is because the Church allows them.

Let me repeat that: The Catholic Church has altar girls because the Catholic Church allows altar girls.

The point I’m making by emphasizing that is simply that believing that what the Catholic Church allows is indeed allowable is consistent with being a faithful Catholic. In other, more direct words, If I say that I think altar girls do not harm vocations, I am not being a bad Catholic and I am not attacking the Church. I am saying that I agree with what the Church is already doing.

Now, to the larger question: Where do vocations come from? Do they come from a boys’ club mentality within the Church? Do they come from social/economic situations? Do they come from solemn liturgy? Where do they come from?

The fact that I join with other Catholics to pray for vocations should tip you off to what my answer to those questions is going to be. I think that vocations — of all sorts — come from God. I think that the reason we haven’t had as many vocations to the priesthood as we want these past decades is that God hasn’t been calling young men to the priesthood.

That’s what I believe.

Now, why would God do that?

I can’t and I won’t speak for God except to say that, based on my many dealings with the Almighty, I do not believe it is because the Church has failed to keep its womenfolk in their place.

There are a few other, extremely serious, lapses such the the clergy sex abuse scandal (remember what Jesus said about those who harm “these little ones?”) the in-your-face heterodoxy in parts of Catholic education (witness the walkouts from Catholic high schools over gay marriage, the kissing of Ceasar’s ring via the HHS Mandate by Notre Dame, the banning of the Knights of Columbus, which was later overturned, from Gonzaga’s campus, etc) and other serious problems that might be where the blame lies. If you want to look and play the blame game, that is.

In my opinion, all these examples and the many more I could name are not the problem. They are evidence of the problem. And that is something that seems to be opaque to most people who get into these discussion. It’s what I call mission drift.

A symptom of it is the propensity for Catholic parishes to sit down and write out “mission statements” for themselves. These things usually end up being a paragraph or two of blah-blah-blah committee-speak that nobody reads and no one, no matter how clever, would be able to figure out how to apply to an individual walk with Christ. More to the point, the fact that these parishes think they need a mission statement speaks to a deep ignorance of Scripture and who they are as Catholic Christians.

These mission statements are a clear indication that the parish has forgotten that it already has a mission statement and that this mission statement was given to it by The Boss.

Here’s the Christian mission statement, in Jesus’ own words:

Everything in heaven and on Earth is under my authority. Go and make disciples of all nations, preaching the Gospel, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And I will be with you until the end of the world. 

I believe that the reason we haven’t had as many vocations as we’d like — and I include vocations in front of the altar to family and childrearing as well as vocations to stand behind it — is that we haven’t been following the mission that Jesus Christ gave us, and our Church is wasting far too much of its energy dithering over itself instead of getting out there and bringing people to Christ.

The Catholic Church is a highway to heaven. It was not created for priests. Priests were created for it. And the purpose of both the Church and the priesthood is to be a certain, readily accessible conduit of healing grace and faithful teaching that will convert the world. The Church, along with all the rest of us, is the light of the world. But it is hiding its light under the bushel of concerns about such things as are the womenfolk getting out of hand and is the liturgy just so and if it’s not just so, how do we put the womenfolk in their place so it will be just so.

The Church spends entirely too much time worrying about the Church and not enough time worrying about how to bring Christ to the world. When princes of the Church can seriously try to say that what they think of as bad liturgy and the lack of vocations to the priesthood is due to “feminization” in a Church that is wholly and absolutely governed by men, and when they can then go on to try to pin this on a few little girls, things are waaayyyyyy out of kilter in the curia.

The Church needs to stop gazing at its own navel and look outward to a world that is dying for lack of the Gospel. From pole to pole, dateline to dateline, people are perishing for lack of a minister who will bring them the Word of life.

And what is our Church leadership doing about it? Haggling with one another over how to water down the Gospels concerning marriage so that they can be comfortable with a culture that has lapsed into apostasy while they watched, and debating whether or not altar girls and whatever it is that bugs them about the liturgy is due to an excessive input from people with double X chromosomes.

I have to be honest here. I am sooo disgusted with the lack of leadership concerning the conversion of the world. I am sooo tired of hearing men who absolutely should know better trying to act out their inner sexist by blaming the troubles of the Church on altar girls and “feminization” which, I guess, means letting women have any say at all in the work of the Kingdom.

These guys need to look at themselves. Their job — their vocation — is to preach Christ. If they would do that, the vocations would sprout up like a field of wheat, ready for the harvest.

Preach Christ and Him crucified. Bring Him to lost people in the slums, the snow, the jungles and the desert sands. Bring Him to the deeply lost and sneering souls at the intellectual gatherings and the universities and the oh-so-perfect social gatherings they are trying to redefine Church teachings to please.

My message to the men who run our Church is a simple one: Preach Christ and Him crucified.

If you want vocations, Preach Christ.

If you want to convert the world, Preach Christ.

If you want to do the job God has called you to do, Preach Christ.

And while you’re at it, stop blaming the womenfolk for your failings.

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Cardinal Burke’s Woman Problem

Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke 1

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons


I’ve written about this before. 

There was a reason why I entered my anti-God period. It had a lot to do with violence against women and the indifference of the church — meaning the whole of Christianity — to that violence. 

I spent 17 years, wandering in the spiritual wilderness over this. When Jesus basically reached out and scooped me back into His arms, I was confounded. The unconditional, ecstatic love that He showered on me was a complete contradiction of Who I had thought He was. 

Still, I was faced with a conundrum. If the men who claimed so stridently that they, and they alone, spoke for God, were telling the truth of things, then what place did I, a female person who actually felt that I was a full human being and not some smidge of what’s left of a human being after the preachers got done limiting me and my life down to what they thought was acceptable, what place did I have in any church that bore the name of Christ?

The Jesus I met seemed to me at that time to have very little to do with the mean-spirited, woman-despising message I had been given by His spokesmen. I loved this Jesus I encountered, and, right from the first, I trusted Him. But that other Jesus — the one who supported the double standard and thought women and girls should live their lives in the circumscribed margins of life that these men of God set out for us, who basically wanted us pushed aside, that Jesus I had been told about and bashed with, I mistrusted and feared to my core. 

I was so confused that I prayed and asked God directly if He hated women. This wasn’t a test. It wasn’t an argument. It wasn’t even much of a prayer. It was a plea and a question from the bottom of my shattered heart. 

I don’t always or even often get direct, immediate and discernible answers to my prayers, but God answered me then. I’ve been walking my walk with Christ on rock-solid certainty of that answer ever since. 

I realize that the Church does not recognize personal revelation except in very rare and well verified circumstances, and that even then these personal revelations are not binding as a matter of faith on the people of God. I think that’s a sound practice. 

I also think that this position on personal revelation makes Cardinal Burke and me just about even so far as this woman question is concerned. I had a personal revelation that God loves the female half of the human race and that He’s not so happy with His preachers who say otherwise. The good Cardinal evidently has had a personal revelation of some sort that the many and manifold problems of the Church are due to those of us who have two X chromosomes. 

In the Gospel according to him, the priest shortage is due to the existence of altar girls. His explanation for this is that boys don’t like to be around girls. Even aside from the fact that we are talking about adolescent boys, a good many of whom seem to rather like adolescent girls, that is absolute nonsense. 

There are a number of factors that have contributed to the priest shortage; the cultural upheavals — the sexual revolution, dissolution of the family, the priest sex abuse scandal, birth control — of the last 50 years chief among them. In addition to the huge changes in society, a major reason for the priest shortage is due to the 800 pound gorilla in the room that nobody will talk about.

As most Catholics over the age of 12 have probably observed, a good many of our priests are gay. Homosexuals are a much smaller pool of potential applicants than straight men. Also — get ready for this Cardinal Burke — straight adolescent boys don’t really want to spend their time with gay men. They just don’t. Call it homophobic. Call it adolescent sexual insecurity. Call it whatever you want, but there is one thing for sure about it: It’s not due to altar girls. 

In another report, I read that Cardinal Burke is decrying the “feminization” of the Church. In his view, men don’t go to church because there are too many women there. 

Uh huh. 

Men just hate being around women. I’ve noticed that all my life. They don’t like the way we smell. They don’t like our soft hands or higher voices. And they really can’t stand the way we look. 

I guess that Oklahoma parishes are just unduly macho — or maybe that’s sissified, I can’t figure it out exactly — but we’ve got a lot of men sitting in the pews every week. And quite a few of them are sitting beside their wives, daughters, mothers and, yes, even their girlfriends.  

I’m not sure how Cardinal Burke plans to run his Church if he and those who think like him manage to turn it into a Spanky and Our Gang Woman Haters Club House, but my personal opinion is that if they succeed in chasing off the women, they might think about closing up shop. 

Jesus did not found a boys club. He founded a universal Church that welcomes everyone. When Our Lord walked this earth, He went out of His way to treat women with honor and dignity that men of that place and time found scandalizing. 

God sent me to the Catholic Church and since the One Who owns the whole deal told me to be here, I’m staying. But I’m not going to listen to anybody, no matter what kind of hat they wear, who says things like altar girls are the cause of the priest shortage and that this Church with its all-male priesthood which makes all the decisions is too “feminized.”

Frankly, between this kind of thing coming from American cardinals, and the doh-si-doh about marriage coming from Germany and Belgium, I’m beginning to wish somebody would pull the plug on these guy’s mikes. 

I’ve struggled with this all my life and I can tell you that ramblings like those from Cardinal Burke were a big part of what kept me walled up in what I thought was self-protective armor against a God I believed hated me. 

You’ve gotta be careful, you men of God, telling half the human race that God thinks less of them than He does the other half. Aside from the enormous harm you do to the souls of the people you are supposed to be shepherding — and this little dance with misogyny is massively damaging to both men and women — you are defaming the Lord. 

Because God doesn’t hate women and He doesn’t want us at the back of the bus.

I know. 

I asked Him. 

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Pope Francis is Writing an Encyclical on the Environment, and Both Sides of the Political Spectrum are Sharpening their Knives

Pope francis

Copyright Thierry Ehrmann, Flickr Commons, used with permission.

So, Pope Francis is going to write an encyclical on the environment, and the right wing heretics, the left wing heretics, the corporatists and the nihilists are sharpening their knives.

It would be a hopeful sign, that so many of our culture warriors and mega money-men are seemingly besotted with the pope to the point of losing all common sense.

It would be.

Except …

They are not besotted with the Pope as the Vicar of Christ. They are interested in him and his every little word because he has power, and power is what they are all about.

Pope Francis does not have the power to push a button and melt down mountains. He cannot sign an agreement and send the industrial base of a great capitalist nation to a communist nation. He can’t raid a national treasury and put the coin in his own pocket. He can not write a statue or issue an order and with his terrible swift pen KO the family, human life at its beginning or the tenuous hold on respect held by our frail elderly and disabled.


Pope Francis can not do any of those things. What he can do is speak directly to the conscience of billions of Christians by telling them the plain facts of what Christ meant. He has the power to take the phrase “the least of these” and tell us who the least of these is and what we must do for them. He can remind us that Jesus said it more than once and He said it without equivocation that if we ignore “the least of these” we will not see heaven.

Pope Francis can define for us what, specifically, following Christ means in our world today. He can elucidate for us what the Scriptures mean when they tell us that we are our brothers’ keeper and that we have dominion over the earth.

We live in a time when corporatists are raping the American economy for their gain, while they also rape the planet on which we all live. At the same time, nihilists are selling us a cant of destruction of the family, the devaluation of human life and bloated social programs that not only do not heal the wounds our indifference to human beings have inflicted but are increasingly becoming a means to attack the rights and freedoms Americans enjoy.

Does anybody besides me see that these two things are not opposites? They are different verses of the same song, and that same song is the satan-inspired ballad of the pit, the cultural refutation of the value, dignity, worth and meaning of human life. The fact that one side does it for corporate interests and the other side does it for nihilistic interests makes no real difference. Dead is dead and we are killing ourselves in the service of these false gods of our politics.

Patheos writers from every quarter comment about this, each in their own way.

Frank Schaeffer recently published a passionate article in the Huffington Post in which he repented of and disavowed his religious right past. I think he got his politics a bit wrong when he said, … the American right is not about politics as most people understand politics but about religious absolutes. 

That may be the zeitgeist viewpoint, but from my vantage of having just completed 18 years in public office, it seems simplistic to the point of silliness. The right side of the political coin is not in any way about religious absolutes. Religious absolutes are what they use to sell their corporatism. Religious absolutes are their vote-getting machine.

Now, I know well that there are many sincere Christians who are part of the right side (let’s call them Republicans and stop the cuteness) of the political spectrum, precisely because they were chased out of the left side (Democrats) as punishment for their belief in God, in particular for their belief in His demand that we honor the sanctity of human life.

I’ve lived this nonsense, up close and personal, for quite some time. I can’t tell you how many times my fellow Democrats have uninvited me to be a member of their party because I am pro life.

I understand the flight of so many Christians to the Republican party. I also know that a good number of Republican office holders are devout and sincere Christians.

But, religious absolutes are not what the puppet masters who beam candidates into office on a beam of corporate money — in short the puppet masters who own and run the Republican Party for their own interests — are about. In fact, at least here in Oklahoma, a good many of the top tier Rs that I’ve known have been atheists, big donors to Planned Parenthood, etc.

Politics is not, ever, about religious certitude. It’s about getting power and keeping power and using power for corporatist purposes. It’s about raiding the treasury of public monies and public power which was built by the people and should be used for the people and putting it into the pockets of a few.

Buying a legislature or a Congress by putting them in office with a few million dollars is a cheap investment for controlling the American government and bending it to your own greedy and ruthless will.

On the other side, the side where Mr Schaeffer has found his new hallelujah, the vote-getting machine is aimed at the don’t-wanna-folllow-no-rules crowd. The Democratic Party, which was once the party of working people and the great builder of economic diversity and hope for this country, has become the purveyor of nihilism and the destruction of human life.

If it’s a bad moral idea, you can be pretty sure that the Ds will latch onto it and claim it as a human right before too long. Abortion, embryonic stem cell research, gay marriage, egg harvesting and the intellectual tyranny of political correctness are their vote getting machine.

Again, I know many people who still cling to the working-class roots of the Democratic Party. They truly are about a living wage and building an economy with American manufacturing, American labor and American know-how. I know a good number of elected Democratic officials, including, not so long ago, myself, who feel this way.

They/we are to the Democratic Party what the pro traditional marriage people have become to the Republican Party; someone to be tolerated and used, but also, when policy is made, ignored.

The American people are a bit like Mr Schaeffer in that they flip from one of these extremes to the other, in search of someone who will listen to them. Every few years they toss out whoever is in office and elect a new batch of wing nuts from the opposite political spectrum. Then, after the people they elect ignore the people who elected them and follow the the corporatist pipers who paid for their campaigns, we the people wearily, and with a deepening sense of hopelessness, toss them out and try again.

How does anyone keep putting their faith in princes in the face of this? More to the point, how does anyone keep chasing after what Elizabeth Scalia calls “Strange Gods”, in this case the false idol of political salvation, year after year, election after election?

What does all this have to do with Pope Francis and his as-yet unwritten encyclical on the environment? In truth, it doesn’t have much at all to do with the encyclical itself, and that is the primary cause of all the carrying on about it in the two wing-nut camps that seek to define Western society in their own image.

They are not dealing with the actual encyclical, and they never will. What they are doing now is rehearsing and readying. They are softening us up for the tsunami of propaganda that will be unleashed when the encyclical is published.

Right wing nuts are afraid that Pope Francis might write something that says that they (gasp, shock, rage) might be in need of conversion. Left wing nuts are hopeful that this is so. Both of them intend to ignore the actual encyclical and write their own version of it when it comes out.

What they both want out of the deal is political advantage in order to solidify their control of the American government to be used for their own destructive and America-destroying purposes.

Pope Francis has the power of speaking as the Vicar of Christ and these politicos and their mouthpieces want to harness that power to their own anti-Christ uses. That makes him the object of their hatred and delight, another person thingy to massage and lie about until they drain him of his relevance and can’t use him anymore.

Mark Shea wrote a post yesterday in which he noodled with what this might mean to Catholics like us who are living our walk with Christ in these times. He rightly notes that certain members of the clergy are infected with this disease of defining Jesus by their politics along with the rest of the populace. They veer to the left, or to the right, whittling Jesus down into a caricature of the R or the D, and teaching their hapless parishioners to do the same.

Mark is the writer Catholic righties love to hate. He’s fought the good fight of speaking against both both torture and abortion, of being against corporatism and socialism, of saying that the right to life goes seamlessly from conception to natural death and that hunger, poverty, corporate wars and nihilistic debauchery that kills are co-promotors of the culture of death.

That is a most Catholic position, and it is also the one position most likely to make everybody, everywhere in the political firmament mad at you.

Because the little g gods of political fealty require a serious jettisoning of Christian baggage as the price for that comfortable feeling of finding cheap grace and easy salvation in your voter registration card. It does not matter which party you chose. If you follow its teachings instead of Jesus, you are on the broad path that leads to destruction.

That is Frank Schaeffer’s mistake. It was his first mistake when he blindly took off after the Rs in the name of Jesus, and now it’s his second mistake when he blindly attacks them and takes off after the Ds. I do not know this man, but based on this article, it seems that he is making the same mistake, over and again.

What I call The Political Heresy, which is the practice of looking for God in your politics, is, in my opinion, the primary heresy of contemporary America.

I would put it above nonsensical claptrap such as claiming that killing people with abortion and euthanasia is a human right, or that harvesting women’s bodies for eggs is women’s rights. I would also put it above the other claptrap of claiming that Jesus was a corporatist, and that what He really meant all along was blessed are the rich.

I do that because The Political Heresy is a first cause of both these things. What makes it a first cause is that it shifts our loyalty and our followership away from Christ Jesus and places it on the propagandized musings of well-paid think tanks and media outlets who are designed and employed to confuse, delude, misinform and otherwise lead us away from Him.

Pope Francis is writing an encyclical on the environment, and both sides of the political spectrum are sharpening their knives. Because they don’t care about Jesus. And they don’t care about the future of this planet. And they don’t care about people.

They care about getting and keeping power.

And everything else they say is a lie.

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