Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Spring Round-Up

As regular visitors would be aware, I periodically share descriptions of and links to articles and commentaries that I find particularly insightful, interesting, and/or inspiring. These articles and commentaries come from various online sources – often websites that I frequently visit (and thus highly recommend!).

So let’s get The Wild Reed’s spring 2010 round-up underway with a little bit of Old Catholicism!

My good friend Bob Caruso is a priest within the Old Catholic Church. (If you're not sure what Old Catholicism is all about, check out The Wild Reed’s three-part series, “
Understanding the Old Catholic Church”). Bob recently established a blogsite called The Way Home: An Old Catholic Perspective on Communion in North America. Here he’s been sharing his experiences and thoughts on his recent trip to Europe, where he visited numerous Old Catholic communities. It all makes for fascinating reading. Here’s just a sampling:

One of the very first thoughts that came to my mind was how rich and ancient the history here in Europe is. Most of the Lutheran church buildings in Sweden have a Roman Catholic gothic architechture – beautiful in its own right – and the liturgies here are more Anglo-Catholic than the Anglo-Catholics! In this particular church building I visited its underground crypt where bishops were buried before and after the sixteenth-century Reformation. To be able to touch a bishop's tomb from the twelfth-century was extraordinary, and reminded me of how short life truly is.

. . . I cannot help but recall the words of the Swiss Bishop and theologian Urs Küry (d. 1976) in defining Old Catholicism as being a manifestation of the Western Catholic Church through the ages whose mission it is to "return to the principles of the Early Church;" not in imitating it anachronistically, but affirming the essentials that has always been received and accepted by the universal church, i.e. the authority of scripture and tradition, sacraments, episcopal ministry, and conciliar/synodality governance. What unites us in communion is our common baptism into the life of our Triune God. Baptism is the eucharistic essence of the church – the gathering of the baptized in celebration of Christ's life, death, and resurrection – and is the primary identity of the Sophia-Spirit that energizes the assembly to gather as ecclesia in Christ's name at the Mass. My stay in Sweden was the beginning of many wonderful experiences awaiting me in Germany and in Prague, Czech Republic.

To read more of Bob’s experiences in Europe, click here and here.

Also, when Bob was in Prague, I helped arrange a meeting between him and fellow gay Catholic blogger (and Prague resident) Jayden Cameron, who maintains the insightful Gay Mystic blogsite. Jayden later wrote about his experience of the Easter Vigil at Prague’s Old Catholic Cathedral of St. Lawrence. This reflection can be found here.


A Roman Catholic friend of mine, Mary Beth Stein, has written a great piece for The Progressive Catholic Voice – which, as you may know, serves as “an independent and grassroots forum for reflection, dialogue, and the exchange of ideas within the Roman Catholic community of Minnesota and beyond.” I have the honor of serving as editor of the PCV.

Mary Beth’s article is entitled, “Let Our Voices Be Heard!,” and focuses on a “listening session” she organized and facilitated with a number of fellow Roman Catholics here in the Twin Cities.

Writes Mary Beth:

Beyond having the opportunity to voice our concerns, many of us expressed relief and excitement about two aspects of this listening session. First, we realized that we are thoughtful and faithful Catholics who are not alone in our discontent with the present Church structure. Secondly, by uniting our voices we create hope for bringing about meaningful Church reform.

Part of our conversation explored what reforms we would discuss with the bishop if we could talk to him. This immediately elicited the desire to have bishops visit parishes and deeply listen to the faithful in their diocese. They should join in creative conversation rather than rigidly pass judgment on orthodoxy or denounce those who dare to question.

To read more, including the main issues that this group of Catholics want to discuss with Archbishop John Nienstedt, click here.


Colleen Kochivar-Baker is one of a number of Catholic bloggers whose writing and overall perspective I greatly admire and respect. Recently, she posted a commentary in which she takes to task veteran National Catholic Reporter writer John Allen, Jr. (pictured at right) – for “sipping too long and hard at the Vatican trough.” I have to say that I find myself agreeing with her, as do others.

Colleen, for instance, shares the following which was left as a comment on the National Catholic Reporter website (in response to this article by Allen):

John, time to come back to the Christian faith and get out of the Vatican! You write “that [it is] important to keep the record straight, because the truth is that the real choice in Rome over the last ten years vis-à-vis the sex abuse crisis was never between Ratzinger and perfection – it was between Ratzinger and [Roman power broker, Cardinal] Castrillón.” [Note: Castrillón is responsible for a September 2001 letter to a French bishop in which he congratulated him for refusing to report an abuser priest to the police.] You’ve been there too long and it is affecting your thinking. Throughout this entire crisis, the choice has always been between Ratzinger and Christianity (not Castrillon – he’s lost). Admittedly, Ratzinger, as far as we know at this point, never wrote a congratulatory letter to someone who obstructed justice in a felony. WOW – that makes him a Master Reformer! I don’t think so! For decades Ratzinger has held positions of power in the Vatican and was very knowledgeable about what was going on in the back rooms. Did he ever hold a press conference and expose all the sexual rot that he knew about? Did he ever publish an article in a religious periodical demanding reform? Did he ever publicly reprimand and cause a demotion of an offender at the hierarchical level? Did he ever call for a Third Vatican Council to begin a restructuring process in the hierarchy of the church? Of course not! That's why he was made Pope; he was one of the good ole boys! And for this, you give him the status of Reformer Exemplar! Wake up, John, and smell the rot all around you!


Another Catholic commentator I greatly respect is Joseph S O’Leary. He has been offering a somewhat different perspective on the crisis currently engulfing the Roman Catholic Church than that shared by most other progressive Catholics. For instance, in his April 26 commentary “The Scapegoating of Benedict XVI,” O’Leary writes:

. . . [I]t should be noted that the Vatican does not admit any failures of the Pope before 2001 for the simple reason that Vatican critics have not proven any such failures. Those who spoke freely of “smoking guns” two weeks ago are now speaking of “indicators” — the characteristic step back when a rash accusation fails to stick. [Hans] Küng’s rash declaration has been dismantled by many critics, and has not been seriously defended.

The Restorationist project of John Paul II and Benedict XVI is now dying, and “when a god dies, it dies by many deaths.” But if we contribute to the scapegoating dynamics of an angry mob, we are not nurturing the possibility that the period of collapse will be followed by one of renovation. We may soon find that the rage we have encouraged is turned upon ourselves.

To be honest, I’m not sure if I agree with the general premise of Joseph’s commentary. Is Benedict being unfairly scapegoated? What about the his “failures” outlined in the comment quoted by Colleen Kochivar-Baker above? Many of these occurred before 2001.

There’s one particular part of Joseph's April 26 piece that I look forward to him expounding upon at some future time, and it’s the following:

The rage against pedophilia follows ritual prescriptions that have been deconstructed by artists such as Thomas Mann and Benjamin Britten (Peter Grimes), psychoanalysts, and literary critics such as James Kincaid, but to which well-meaning progressive Catholics have subscribed in an uncritical and destructive way. There is now a fusion between this largely irrational hatred of the pedophile, as constructed in a panic-stricken imagination, and the irrational urge to “get” an equally demonized papal father-figure.

What are these “ritual prescriptions” of the “rage against pedophilia”? And how have the artists and literary critics quoted by Joseph deconstructed them? It sounds very interesting and, as I said, I hope Joseph writes more about this issue soon.


Of course, not everyone views the “Restorationist project” of John Paul II and Benedict XVI as “dying.” Tom McMahon, for instance, over at the Australia-based Catholica.com, sees only “religious chaos” within Roman Catholicism, resulting in folks simply giving up and going elsewhere.

I found the following a succinct appraisal of this “chaos”:

The massive collapse of the Roman Catholic priesthood has been ignored by Rome and the local bishops; they now have on their hands a once proud forest ravaged by the fire storms of clerical abuse and secret cover up on the part of the hierarchy. In response to The Mercury [newspaper’s] demand that the Catholic people speak out, I plead that these people are innocent, confused, ill-informed, and incapable of a sincere and courageous response. The people need education and dialogue, a table at which Rome refuses to sit. The people are giving up and will go elsewhere.

Vatican II called for collegiality — aka the sharing of authority by bishops worldwide. Under Apostolic Delegate Jean Jadot, exemplary bishops were appointed in the United States that fostered the reforms of Vatican II. . . . Pope Paul VI, known as the Hamlet of the papacy, died and Pope John Paul I, reform-minded and a healthy mountain hiker, mysteriously passed away after a few months in office. [Then came] the Polish Pope John Paul II . . . with his big stick. This one man, an old school conservative, destroyed collegiality, appointing over a thousand bishops worldwide, most of whom never were parish priests. [They were] 'yes-men' opposing the mind of John XXIII and pastoral clergy like Yves Congar. The Church grew silent and people witnessed the exile of learned clerics while devastation paralyzed the people of God. The institutional empire was dysfunctional and in a state of collapse. Andrew Greeley said in 1968 that it would take until the early years of the 2000's for the vast organization to become alert to the crisis.

Hmm. How prophetic that turned out to be!

As difficult as it is to be a Roman Catholic at this time, I remain (for now) hopeful that real reform can and will take place. (And, no, I’m not talking about that “reform of the reform” crap that some so-called traditionalist harp on about.)

So why exactly do I remain a Roman Catholic? Well, I provide a response to this question in this previous Wild Reed post.

Also, in the article by Mary Beth Stein highlighted above, a number of reasons are provided. Writes Mary Beth:

Considering our discontent with so many disturbing and unjust practices of our Church, we had to ask why we remain Catholic. Why not switch to another church?

Overwhelmingly the response came back, “This is our Church too!” We treasure its tradition of sacraments, liturgy, and ritual. Moreover, Catholic Social Teaching sets the standard on justice issues that many of us hold dear. We also embrace our long Catholic intellectual tradition with values that pre-date the current, rigid climate of the Church. We value both faith and reason as a means toward truth. We value the sacramental worldview that sees goodness in all God’s creation – including the marginalized ones: LGBT, women, the poor and outcast. We value the Church’s teaching on subsidiarity whereby governance and control reside primarily at the local level. We value our history which includes a plurality of thought yet remains united in our belief in Jesus.


William D. Lindsey is yet another Catholic blogger (and theologian) whose writings never cease to impress and inspire me. One of his recent commentaries, “Pedophilia, Ephebophilia and Priests: My Points of Departure” is definitely worth checking out. Oh, and be sure to read the comments to this and other posts as they always comprise a thoughtful and informed discussion.

Other recent posts by William that I recommend include: “Scads and Scads of Scarlet Silk and the Magical, Mystical Resolution of the Catholic Crisis,” “Thank You, Bishop Moriarty: Resigning Irish Bishop Speaks Truth,” and “Catholic Church’s Present Crisis: The Shock Waves Continue Globally.

Finally, like Colleen Kochivar-Baker, William offers an informed critique of John Allen, Jr.’s Vatican coverage. To read this critique, click here.


You may recall that last month I was on CNN’s Rick’s List with none other than the Catholic League’s Bill O’Reilly. He’s quite a character, and says some pretty outrageous things. All the more reason then to appreciate Frank Cocozzelli’s informed critique of Bill’s “inexplicable obsessions,” posted over at The Open Tabernacle.


Terence Weldon’s always excellent (and incredibly comprehensive) Queering the Church blogsite is yet another stellar example of insightful and informed writing from a LGBT Catholic perspective. Recently, Terence has covered such interesting topics such as the real sin of Sodom, the example of LGBT inclusion we can observe in the ELCA, the lessons for the church from the life of Nelson Mandela, and Africa’s male wives as spiritual guides.

Be sure to also check out the excerpts Terence shares from an interview with Martin Penergast, who has played in instrumental role in establishing and maintaining the Soho Masses in London.


I’m sure readers of The Wild Reed are familiar with the idea of “gay pride.” But what about “straight pride”? Well, Todd A. Heywood reports in The Michigan Messenger on the recent stir created by rural high school students who staged a “Straight Pride Day.” Apparently, it was organized in response to the National Day of Silence, an annual event when students protest anti-gay bigotry by staying silent for the day.

In his article, Heywood quotes Treyton Gregg, a 17-year-old junior at Laingsburg High School “where the event was evidently centered.” According to Gregg, the event “did not go over well” with most students.

On the straight pride day the majority of the school chose to ignore the event. Most of the student body commented throughout the day that the people who were wearing black were being petty and rude. The people wearing black were a definite minority. Many students chose to wear rainbow and neon colors in support of the non-heterosexual students. I had expected maybe at least one or two physical confrontations but there wasn’t any of that kind of problem. I’d say the day was a victory for the LGBT community since so many people refused to hate.

According to the organizers attempted of the Straight Pride Day, the event was not about hating gay people in any way. Yet as Heywood notes in his article, “comments on the [organizing grouup’s Facebook page] include the use of words like ‘fag,’ ‘dykes’ and one post which read, ‘Hell yeah, that’s what I’m talking about!…I’m a queer beater and a chaser lol.’ Another supporter of the group noted his support by citing the Biblical verse of Leviticus 20:13, which calls male homosexuality an ‘abomination’ and calls for those who participate in it to be put to death.”

Heywood also quotes Alicia Skillman, executive director of the Detroit-based Triangle Foundation, a civil rights organization for the LGBT community that also monitors hate crimes against the gay community. Here’s what she had to say about “straight Pride Day”:

A ‘Straight Pride’ event smacks of heterocentrism. This society is built to support one man, one woman relationships. ‘Straight Pride’ is a coward’s way of showing off a straight privilege. A ‘Straight Pride’ celebration is a slap in the face to all other forms of relationship recognition. Being able to celebrate, publicly, your form of relationship building is a privilege, a privilege that heterosexuals have day in and day out with no hesitation. Most heterosexuals never think about that privilege. LGBT people in Michigan, more often than not, celebrate privately for fear of discrimination. The discrimination can occur in many forms: firing, eviction, and violence. Also, there is safety in numbers — which is why there are events like Motor City Pride, to celebrate being lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender by a huge mass of people so no one gets hurt. We long for the day when all people can come out of the closet about their orientation.

To read Heywood’s article, “Rural High School Students Create ‘Straight Pride’ Stir,” in its entirety, click here.


I appreciate Vincent Miller’s “revisiting” of James Cameron’s film Avatar (recently released on DVD). In an article over at AmericaMagazine.org entitled “Avatar, the Mystical Gaze, and the Fate of Flesh,” Miller writes:

[Richard] Leonard helpfully points to the level on which the film works. Endless reviews of its clichéd story line simply miss the point. It’s not a text. It’s a film. Cameron is a master of powerful scenes. Terminator II had Sarah Connor’s nightmare vision of the playground nuclear explosion. Her unheard scream of warning as children fall to ashes before her eyes likewise was cliché from start to finish. It was also one of the most powerful anti-nuke images of a generation. Avatar’s scene of the destruction of the tree village provides a similarly indelible scene of vulgar rapacious militarized capitalist destruction.

On this level Avatar succeeds. With a soundtrack that comes perilously close to the “Circle of life” in the background, it conveys in scene after scene the contrasts between a militarized corporate mining outpost and a planet where life is deeply intertwined; where species communicate between their own kind and among all others. It is a world where there is nothing the human interlopers can offer the Na’vi, who live among monumental trees, in literal, bodily communion with the other beings in their world. It conveys in blue skin tones just how radically different our lives might need to be to return our own world to balance. Here fantasy works its magic, just enough difference for us to think into another way of being.

Leonard’s account of the mystical gaze helps us see that its immersive 3D technology is not just a gimmick, but central to its workings. Those who have seen the film frequently recount the enchantment of the floating seeds from the Tree of Life. The 3D experience contributes to our ability to share what Leonard terms Sully’s “initiation” into an “eco-spiritual community.”

To read Miller’s article in its entirety, click here.


Which brings me finally to a piece that Crystal wrote over at her always insightful Perspective – a piece prompted by her viewing and reflecting on Avatar.

Writes Crystal:

What I found most compelling about the movie Avatar was the idea of Jake moving “himself” from his paralyzed body to a lab-grown avatar body – given my eye disease, I envied him his chance for a replacement body. But if Jake had been a Catholic, would he have done this?

It’s an intriguing question, and in exploring it, Crystal shares what John Dominic Crossan and Keith Ward have to say about the body and the soul.

Like Crystal, I like Ward’s take.

Oh, and Crystal’s follow-up article can be found here.


Mareczku said...

Thanks for this, Michael. I appreciate all the links and have checked out many of them. The Open Tabernacle is great for checking out a lot of different opinions. I appreciate others sharing their faith and opinions.

crystal said...

Thanks, Michael :) Sometimes it feels like no one is reading, so it's nice to know that's not always true. Great links (and great photos from the post before this one, too).

crystal said...

Sorry - I meant "photo" not "photos" .... are those your cat and dog?

Michael J. Bayly said...

Hi, Crystal! No, the cat and dog belong to some friends of mine who live not far from me. In fact, I often take the dog, Quinn, for walks through the neighborhood. We've developed quite a bond.