Sunday, May 31, 2009

Out and About - May 2009

Above and below: The 35th annual In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre MayDay Parade - Minneapolis, May 3, 2009.

For more images and explanation of the theme of this year’s parade, click here and here.

Above: Minnesotans for Personal Responsibility!

On May 5, 2009,
I videoed a number of my friends as they performed some lively street theater on the steps of the Minnesota State Capitol. They hosted a ceremony that “honored” Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty for his defense of corporate profits and his cutbacks of public services and education.

Above: The welcome return of spring to Minnesota!

For more images, click here.

Above: My friend Jean Greenwood with “author in spirituality” J. Philip Newell - Pilgrim Lutheran Church, May 20, 2009.

An internationally renowned scholar, teacher, and author (Listening for the Heartbeat of God and Christ of the Celts), Newell visited the Twin Cities in May 2009 for a number of events focused on exploring and celebrating Celtic spirituality.

According to the organizers of the event at Pilgrim Lutheran Church:

Celtic Christianity refers to a spirituality that characterized the young British church from as early as the fourth century A.D. Although it was pushed out to the Celtic fringes of Britain after Augustine of Canterbury’s Roman mission in 597, it has always managed to survive in one form or another, usually on the edges of formal religion.

. . . The Celtic style of prayer is known for engaging imagination through visual and spatial imagery, as well as emphasizing the life of God within creation. These prayers address more than the transcendent and ultimate questions that most religions define, but also the mysteries and challenges of everyday life.

Above: Sitting with my friends (from right) Robert, John, and Brian at the Guthrie Theater - Thursday, May 21, 2009.

We were at the Guthrie to see Tony Kushner’s latest play, The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Socialism and Capitalism with a Key to the Scriptures. Although the play had some good moments, overall it came across as still very much a “workshop” production. The fact that national critics have been asked not to review the play while it’s at the Guthrie kind of says it all. Still, we had a fun night out seeing Kushner’s well-acted and produced play. It was just a pity that - at this stage, at least - it’s a play that’s more polemic than art.

Above: The view of the Mississippi River and the historic Stone Arch Bridge from the balcony of the Guthrie Theater - May 21, 2009.

Above and below: A party for my friend LeMonte, who is relocating to California for an extended visit with his family.

From left: John, LeMonte, and Patsy.

Above: The “shady oasis” that is my front garden (albeit not looking particularly shady in this photo!).

For more images, click here.

Above and below: Pentecost Sunday at the Cathedral of St. Paul - May 31, 2009.

As is now the custom in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, a number of Catholics attended the noon Pentecost Sunday Mass wearing the
Rainbow Sash - a symbol that proclaims that its wearer is (or knows and affirms someone who is) a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender (GLBT) person who embraces and celebrates their sexual orientation and identity as a sacred gift. Since 2005, the Archdiocese has adopted the policy of denying Communion to wearers of the Rainbow Sash.

For reasons that I’ll explain in a future post, I and six others did not attend Mass inside the Cathedral this Pentecost Sunday. Instead, in an effort to “be the change in the Church we wish to see” (and which many of us are working to see realized), we held our own Eucharistic celebration on the sidewalk outside.

One of the readings we shared during our “sidewalk Eucharist” was from Catholic theologian Monika Hellwig.

Eucharist is first and foremost the celebration of the divine hospitality made present in the person of Jesus. . . . At its simplest level of sharing food, the Eucharist signals that in God’s world there is room for all.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Spirit and the Faithful

Tomorrow is Pentecost Sunday, and to mark the occasion I share today an excerpt from Richard R. Gaillardetz’s book By What Authority: A Primer on Scripture, the Magisterium, and the Sense of the Faithful.

This particular excerpt examines the teachings of Vatican II on the “sense of the faithful,” and is very pertinent given the recent statements by Archbishop Nienstedt on what he believes to be the impossibility of dialogue with the Catholic faithful who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) and who faithfully dissent from church teaching on sexuality.

As Gaillardetz notes: “The Spirit builds up the life of the Church in different ways.” Church history shows that one such way is that of faithful dissent – a “way” that indicates that a certain issue is yet to be settled, that the Spirit is at work within the Church, and that respectful recognition of alternative perspectives is being called for – along with, at the very least, an attempt at dialogue.


One of the most important new developments in the council’s theological presentation of the Church was the renewed attention it gave to pneumatology, the theology of the Holy Spirit. For much of the history of Western ecclesiology, the role of the Holy Spirit had been eclipsed by a tendency to think of the Church almost exclusively in its relation to Christ. The Holy Spirit received very little attention. At Vatican II, however, we find a renewed appreciation that if, in some sense, Christ laid the foundations for the Church, it was the Spirit who continues to animate the Church, guiding it along its pilgrim journey.

. . . By appealing to the Holy Spirit as the source of all gifts the council was able to reconcile what had often been opposed. For almost four centuries Catholicism had rallied around authority of church office (e.g., pope and bishops) while classical Protestantism stressed the indispensability of charisms given to all the faithful. In [the document Lumen gentium] the council contends . . . that both office and charism find their source in the work of the Holy Spirit. The authority of church office and the Spirited insight of the faithful cannot be put in opposition to one another because they share the same source. The Spirit builds up the life of the Church in different ways. Even the teaching ministry of the Church, while exercised in a uniquely authoritative way by the ecclesiastical magisterium, also requires the Spirit-assisted insight of all the faithful.

For more of Richard Gaillardetz at The Wild Reed, see:
Reading the Documents of Vatican II (Part 1)
Reading the Documents of Vatican II (Part 2)
Reading the Documents of Vatican II (Part 3)
The “Perfect Papal Visit” Will Require a “Listening Pope”
Catholic Theologian: “The President of Notre Dame is Following the Example Set By the Vatican”

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Truth About the “Spirit of Vatican II” Finally Revealed!
Celebrating Our Sanctifying Truth
Comprehending the “Fullness of Truth”
Celebrating and Embodying Divine Hospitality
Thoughts on Authority and Fidelity
Reflections on the Primacy of Conscience
The Question of an “Informed” Catholic Conscience
A Catholic Understanding of Faithful Dissent (Part 1)
A Catholic Understanding of Faithful Dissent (Part 2)
My Rainbow Sash Experience
“Take, All of You, And Eat” – Communion and the Rainbow Sash (Part 1)
“Take, All of You, And Eat” – Communion and the Rainbow Sash (Part 2)
“Take, All of You, and Eat” – Communion and the Rainbow Sash (Part 3)
“Receive What You Are, the Body of Christ”
No Place for Dialogue in Archdiocesan Newspaper

Recommended Off-site Links:
Archbishop Nienstedt Responds to Rainbow Sash Alliance - Progressive Catholic Voice (May 28, 2009).
Gays in Showdown with Archbishop About Pentecost Communion - Andy Birkey (Minnesota Independent, May 29, 2009).

For Fr. Alberto Cutié, "Love Triumphs"

I always appreciate and enjoy Colleen Kochivar-Baker’s take on the topical Catholic issues of the day. Her commentaries always convey wisdom and warmth, reasonableness and compassion. How appropriate that her blog is entitled Enlightened Catholicism.

Take, for instance, the following excerpt from Colleen’s recent post on the popular Fr. Father Alberto Cutié’s decision to leave the Roman Catholic Church so as to join the Episcopal Church and marry his girlfriend (the same woman with whom Cutié was clandestinely photographed with by the paparazzia on a beach in Miami a few weeks ago).

I sort of suspected this is exactly the way this story would end: Love triumphs over the lack there of. I’m sure there will be some Catholics who might phrase that a little differently: Priest breaks solemn vows for lust and betrays the one true Church. It depends on whether one sees relationships such as Fr. Cutié’s as a matter of love or sexual acts. If it was just a matter of sexual acts, Fr. Cutié would have done some penance and come crawling back to his Bishop. This must be love.

The thing about real love is it does change one’s world view. It’s supposed too. It’s supposed to be an experience which takes you beyond the confines of a one person world view and opens you to the intimate experience of another person. When the very real physical immediacy of love crashes into the remoter esoteric experience of priesthood, something has to give. In this case it was the Roman Catholic priesthood of Fr. Cutié.

To read Colleen’s commentary in its entirety, click here.

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
Weakland and Cutié: Making the Connections
Thoughts on Celibacy (Part I)
Thoughts on Celibacy (Part II)
Real Holiness

Friday, May 29, 2009

"Aching Wires, Midnight Fires; Things I Could Not Know . . ."

For this evening’s Wild Reed Friday “Music Night” treat I share (courtesy of YouTube and “stevekilby2”) the music video for the song “Columbus” by Australian rock band, The Church.

Wikipedia notes that The Church “formed in Canberra in 1980 [and though] initially associated with New Wave and the neo-psychedelic sound of the mid 1980s, their music later became more reminiscent of ‘progressive rock,’ featuring long instrumental jams and complex guitar interplay.”

I’ve always thought of and described the music of The Church as “jangly guitar pop” – especially when it comes to the band’s ‘80s output, which includes such memorable songs as “Too Fast For You,” “Already Yesterday,” “Electric Lash,” and their massive 1988 international hit, “Under the Milky Way.”

“Columbus” is from the band’s successful 1986 album, Heyday. Enjoy!

The king had something changed within him
I should have told him no
Oh Columbus, I never should have let you go
Now aching wires, midnight fires
Things I could not know
Oh Columbus, I never should have let you go

You don’t suppose there’d
Be room in here somewhere for me
I think I just need
Someone’s words to reassure me
I don’t blame any of you, and I don’t blame myself

Waiting for my small reward
It’s going to come somehow
Oh Columbus, I wish that you could see us now
We don’t posses a single empty tear
Or furrowed brow
Oh Columbus, I wish that you could see us now

You don’t suppose there’d
Be room in here somewhere for me
I think I just need
Someone’s words to reassure me
I can’t change any of you, I can’t change myself

The man had something strange about him
He should have let me know
Oh Columbus, I wish I’d never let you go

You don’t suppose there’d
Be room in here somewhere for me
I think I just need
Someone’s words to reassure me
I don’t blame any of you, and I don’t blame myself

For more of The Church at The Wild Reed, see:
Amsterdam, 2:47 a.m.

Recommended Off-site Link:
The Official Website of The Church

Previous artists featured for “Music Night at the Wild Reed” include:
Pet Shop Boys and Dusty Springfield, Wall of Voodoo, Stephen “Tin Tin” Duffy, Pink Floyd, Kate Ceberano, Judith Durham, Wendy Matthews, Buffy Sainte-Marie, 1927, Mavis Staples, Maxwell, Joan Baez, Tee Set, Darren Hayes, Wet, Wet, Wet, Engelbert Humperdinck, The Cruel Sea, Shirley Bassey, Loretta Lynn & Jack White, Foo Fighters, Jenny Morris, Kate Bush, Rufus Wainwright, and Dusty Springfield.

The American Movie Goodbye Solo Conveys Truth and Beauty in the Best Tradition of Iranian Film-Making

I’ve been meaning to highlight this film for quite some time now. I saw it with my friend Joan weeks ago, and it’s definitely a “must-see.”

Indeed, Goodbye Solo has a quality, a beauty, that I found incredibly moving. It’s a deeply spiritual film, one that explores such weighty subjects as community, family, alienation, and suicide; and, in so doing, generates what theologian John Dixon terms “the fatal questions”: How am I related to the other? How should I be related to the other?Goodbye Solo offers no easy answers - especially within the context of the story that it depicts. Yet it inspires nonetheless.

The film basically tells the story of an unlikely friendship that develops between two very different men in Winston-Salem, an economically depressed town in North Carolina. Solo (played by Souléymane Sy Savané) is a Senegalese-born taxi driver who is offered a large sum of money by the haggard and jaded William (Red West), if, in two weeks time, he drives William – one-way – to a remote look-out known as Blowing Rock. It’s immediately clear that William plans to kill himself. The film then proceeds to explore the growing friendship between the two men, and Solo’s efforts to immerse William into life so that he won’t go through with his suicide plan. To say any more would give too much away. Just trust me and see this film. You won’t be disappointed.

Following is the trailer for Goodbye Solo.

Stanley Kauffmann, in his insightful review of Goodbye Solo in the May 6 issue of The New Republic, asserts that the film, “along with other distinctions . . . is the first Iranian film made in North Carolina.”

He says this not just because the film’s director
Ramin Bahrani was “born in Winston-Salem in 1975 to Iranian parents, grew up there, and after taking a degree at Columbia University went to Iran for three years,” but because Goodbye Solo aspires to the realm of the great Iranian film director Abbas Kiarostami.

“In fact,” says Kauffmann, “Bahrani [pictured at right] invites us to compare him with [Kiarostami]. He is not, or not yet, at that level, but his reference is not presumptuous.”

Here’s what Kauffmann has to say about that special quality of a certain type of Iranian film and how this special quality is conveyed in Bahrani’s beautiful Goodbye Solo:

Iran makes many kinds of films, but in the United States and some other countries the Iranian films that have registered and that remain precious – chiefly those of Abbas Kiavostami – are concerned with large matters of spirit, values in life, even in death. People in those films are in a profoundly contradictory state. On the one hand, they see every day as another day to be dealt with in ways that lie at hand; but they also see every day as a means to weigh the worth of their lives they are living. Hovering over them all is commonality – a linkage with everyone they meet, a sense that they are all bound in a destiny that, no matter what, can be bourne in fellowship. Allow for some exceptions, and we can say that, whatever their station, they live both seriously and humbly.

Kiarostami is no tractarian: he is an artist who has fashioned a distinctive style, without arrant virtuosity. He uses heterodox simplification that asks mature simplicity from us. Time as a presence, quiet, heartbeats and pulses, are constant. We are convinced that these films deal with matters that would exist whether or not the camera was there but that the camera is there for our sake.

All these hallmarks have been adapted by Bahrani for [Goodbye Solo] . . . Overall in spirit and being, he connects with his Iranian legacy because, even at his relatively young age, his work seems to fit a comment that the critic Gilberto Perez wrote about Kiarostami: “Kiarostami believes in beauty as he believes in truth, not as a conclusion but as an understanding.” Modestly yet deeply, Goodbye Solo moves the understanding forward.

. . . [Souléymane Sy Savané] makes Solo ebullient without being aggressive. Life hums in him. He is not unshakably cheery: there are some raspy bits with a drug dealer he knows. But every cell in his body seems eager for William’s reversal. And there is a paradox: Solo seems to understand how a man could come to William’s decision, but not how he could act on it.

Bahrani is too gifted to let his film become a set of discussions. We move like fascinated companions through those two weeks full of incidents, trifles, small mysteries: dailiness. William – a notable these days – smokes a great deal. He goes to the movies a lot (and there is a hint that he is somehow connected with a youthful ticket-seller who doesn’t know him). The overall effect of Goodbye Solo is of living through a drama of huge subjects, articulated in the vernacular. Then, in a manner that is both expected and surprising, the end of the film confirms the need for the film.

Recommended Off-site Link:
In Goodbye Solo, Two Lives Converge at the Intersection of Life, Death
- Wesley Morris (Boston Globe, April 17, 2009).

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Perfect Day

If you are in the Twin Cities today you’d know that, weather-wise, it's a perfect day!

So how have I been spending it? Well, in between riding my bike to my friends’ Ken and Carol’s place so as to help Ken with the meals-on-wheels run we do every Thursday and working at home to update the Progressive Catholic Voice website, I found time to work in my front garden. It’s looking really good, if I do say so myself.

Indeed, a guy walking by with his two dogs remarked that I had a “shady oasis.” I can certainly live with that!

Anyway, here are a few photos of my “shady oasis” taken on this “perfect day.” Enjoy.

Above and below: The view from my front door.

Above and below: I think I have the biggest Bleeding Heart in the world!

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Spring Garden
A Morning in the Garden

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The"“Strange Decision" of the California Supreme Court

As most people probably already know, the California Supreme Court recently voted to uphold Proposition 8, a ballot measure that bans gay marriage. The measure, which defines marriage as solely between a man and a woman, was approved by 52 percent of California voters last November as an amendment to the State Constitution. Yesterday, the court voted 6-to-1 to uphold the measure and rejected lawsuits that argued Proposition 8 was not simply a constitutional amendment, but a constitutional revision, which requires the legislature’s approval.

Chief Justice Ronald George noted in his majority opinion that Proposition 8 still guarantees same-sex couples the right to civil unions and, “carves out a narrow and limited exception” by “reserving the official designation of the term ‘marriage’ for the union of opposite-sex couples.”

However, Justice Carlos Moreno’s sole dissenting opinion reads, “even a narrow and limited exception to the promise of full equality strikes at the core of, and thus fundamentally alters, the guarantee of equal treatment that has pervaded the California Constitution since 1849. Promising equal treatment to some is fundamentally different from promising equal treatment to all.”

Interestingly, the court’s decision does preserve the 18,000 same-sex marriages that took place last year during the few months that gay marriage was legal in California. Gay marriage was permitted by a 4-to-3 decision from the California Supreme Court last May and then barred after the passage of Prop 8 in November.

Bryan Wildenthal (pictured at left) is the first openly gay law professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law. He and his partner were married in California last July. Earlier today he spoke with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! about the California Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Proposition 8.


It’s a strange decision. It’s the latest episode in a long-running dispute here in California, started when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom threw open City Hall and authorized same-sex marriages. The California Supreme Court said that was jumping the gun, couldn’t do that. Then the California Supreme Court heard a challenge, through the regular court process, to the laws which prohibited marriage between gay couples, and in a historic decision, a courageous decision, last year, the California Supreme Court said that the statutory laws in California violated the California State Constitution by not granting equal marriage rights to gay couples. They struck down those laws under the California Constitution, as it then stood.

Then Proposition 8 got put on the ballot, approved by a narrow majority, a simple majority, just 52 percent of the voters. And so, then the California Supreme Court got the case back before them for another round, and that’s what they just decided yesterday. And the California Supreme Court decided that that was a valid amendment to the California Constitution.

Now, under our California Constitution, you have two different things: you have revisions and amendments. And it has always been thought that only through a revision of the Constitution could a really fundamental, far-reaching change be made. So the issue was, is that a fundamental far-reaching change to our Constitution, to strip away a fundamental right from a single group of citizens?

And in what can only be described as a disappointing failure of nerve, the California Supreme Court ruled 6-to-1 that, yes, by a simple majority vote through the amendment process, you could strip away those rights, it did not require revision. They could have thrown it out, by saying that you have to do a revision. A revision requires a two-thirds vote of the state legislature, and only then would it go to the voters. By saying they can do it through an amendment, they are saying that a proposition based on petitions, signed by a mere eight percent of the voters and then a mere fifty-percent-plus-one approval, can strip away a fundamental state constitutional right. So, it’s a mixed bag with the California Supreme Court.

Justice Carlos Moreno, the sole dissenter from this decision, says this decision doesn’t just affect gay couples; it threatens equal protection and equal rights for any minority group, which in California, under our law, they are now at risk, any minority group—Mormons, Latinos, African Americans. Anyone whom the majority might disagree with can now have their rights stripped away, and that’s valid, simply as an amendment. You don’t have to do a revision.

As to where the gay rights movement in California goes now, given the fact that in other parts of the country more and more states are moving to legalize gay marriage, Wildenthal says:

I think we have to go back to the voters, go back to the political process. The court, as I said, it’s a mixed bag. I think we’ve exhausted what can be achieved in the California courts. Very few people — and as a legal expert, as a constitutional law professor who studies the US Supreme Court, that’s not going to be an avenue that’s going to work under current membership of the court and under current doctrine.

So, I think we in the gay community and with our friends and supporters throughout the society have to go back to the voters and have a conversation and say, “Is it right? Should someone be denied a civil legal right, simply because some people may disagree with it or disapprove of it?” That’s not right. You know, we all—as a civilized society, need to live together, we have to respect the rights of our fellow citizens to have basic rights, regardless of whether we might agree with or disapprove of their marriages or their families.

To read the full transcript of Amy Goodman’s interview with Bryan Wildenthal, click here.

Recommended Off-site Links:
What the California Supreme Court Said - Gabriel Arana (Box Turtle Bulletin, May 27, 2009).
You’ll Never Guess Who’s Behind the Federal Court Challenge to Prop 8
- Jim Burroway (Box Turtle Bulletin, May 27, 2009).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Maine Becomes Fifth State to Allow Same-Sex Marriage
Frank Rich on the “Historic Turning Point in the Demise of America’s Anti-Gay Movement”
The Same Premise
Love and Justice in the Heartland
The Real Sodomites: Proponents of Proposition 8
Unrest in California Over Passing of Proposition 8
Reflections on the Passage of Proposition 8

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Abuse Survivor Says Scapegoating Homosexuality for Clergy Sex Abuse is "Ill-informed, Ignorant, Corrupt and Dishonest"

Well, I guess it had to happen eventually in relation to the Irish government’s report on clergy sexual abuse: Clerical Whispers is reporting that a Roman Catholic priest, Father John Owen, communications officer for the Archdiocese of Cardiff and chaplain at Cardiff University, has expressed the view that the “majority of pedophilia [in the Church’s clergy sex abuse scandal] was being perpetrated by gay men.”

I thought statements like these were successfully quarantined to the right-wing Catholic blogosphere. But, no, here we have a Catholic priest sprouting this nonsense in the mainstream media – BBC1’s The Big Questions program, to be precise.

Following is an excerpt from Clerical Whispers:

Asked by the show’s presenter, Nicky Campbell, whether the church cared more about its own reputation than the welfare of children, Owen replied: “These matters are so ghastly that people don’t want to look at them, they can’t believe these things are taking place within the orbit of a Christian church, perversion of Christianity.

“Let me tell you of course before you go too far, most of the offences are being committed by homosexuals.”

. . . He said the “vast majority” of abuse cases in the UK affected teenage boys. “Now what does that tell you?”

I appreciate Colleen Kochivar-Baker’s response to Fr. Owen seemingly rhetorical question:

It tells us the Church has problems with an all male clerical structure (kind of like prisons) and that most abusers found themselves frequently in the company of altar boys. Pedophiles in mixed school settings were equal opportunity predators.

Thankfully Fr. Owen’s comments didn’t go unchallenged when he initially made them. Notes Clerical Whispers:

Despite condemnation from the other panelists, two of whom were sexually abused, [Fr. Owen] insisted he was stating the facts and told them to “be silent.”

. . . Colm O’Gorman [pictured at left], author of “Beyond Belief”, a book about his own experience of clerical sexual abuse, and who was on the program, described Owen’s comments as “ill-informed, ignorant, corrupt and dishonest.”

He said: “The church has created a link between homosexual sex and priests who rape and sodomize children. It scapegoats someone else and creates a side issue.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: No organization of clergy sex abuse survivors places blame on homosexuality. They are capable of making the distinction between sexual orientation and sexual abuse; between homosexuality and pedophilia. It’s time the hierarchical Church made - and boldly announced - these distinctions as well.

And there are signs it is doing so. Clerical Whispers reports, for instance, the following bit of good news:

A statement from the archdiocese distanced itself from Owen, saying “his comments seeming to link abuse and homosexuality” did not reflect the “consistent views” of the Archdiocese of Cardiff.

Recommended Off-site Link:
An Abuse Too Far By the Catholic Church – Madeleine Bunting (The Guardian, May 21, 2009).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Fr. Thomas Doyle: “There is Something Radically Wrong With the Institutional Church”
Archbishop Weakland, the Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal, and Homophobia

Monday, May 25, 2009

In the Garden of Spirituality – Henri Nouwen


“We are not on earth to guard a museum,

but to cultivate a flowering garden of life.”

- Pope John XXIII

The following is excerpted from Bread for the Journey by Henri J. M. Nouwen.


The marvelous vision of the peaceable kingdom, in which all violence has been overcome and all men, women, and children live in loving unity with nature, calls for it realization in our day-to-day lives. Instead of being an escapist dream, it challenges us to anticipate what it promises. Every time we forgive our neighbor, every time we make a child smile, every time we show compassion to a suffering person, every time we arrange a bouquet of flowers, offer care to tame or wild animals, prevent pollution, create beauty in our homes and gardens, and work for peace and justice among peoples and nations we are making the vision come true.

Recommended Off-site Link: The Official Website of the Henri Nouwen Society

Others highlighted in The Wild Reed’s “In the Garden of Spirituality” series include: Zainab Salbi, Daniel Helminiak, Rod Cameron, Paul Collins, Joan Chittister, Toby Johnson, Joan Timmerman, Uta Ranke-Heinemanm, Caroline Jones, Ron Rolheiser, James C. Howell, Paul Coelho, Doris Lessing, Michael Morwood, Kenneth Stokes, Dody Donnelly, Adrian Smith.

Image: Michael J. Bayly.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Fr. Thomas Doyle: "There is Something Radically Wrong With the Institutional Catholic Church"

Along with people from all around the world, I’m still trying to fathom the horrendous findings contained in the Irish government’s Report of the Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse. As I’m sure you’re aware, this report is the result of a nine-year investigation into Catholic church-operated schools and reformatories in Ireland. It covers a 60-year-period from 1936 to the present, and documents how Roman Catholic institutions permitted and fostered climates of sustained abuse - sexual, physical, emotional, spiritual - by priests and nuns.

Following is an excerpt from U.S. Dominican Fr. Thomas Doyle’s powerful May 22 National Catholic Reporter commentary, “Irish Abuse Report Demands Decisive Action.” Doyle (pictured at right) is a canon lawyer and advocate for those abused by priests. He calls for nothing less than the fearless examination - and dismantling - of the current institutional component of the Roman Catholic Church.


. . . The vicious sexual, physical, emotional and spiritual devastation inflicted upon these children was not accidental. It was systemic. It was part of the everyday life and indeed deeply ingrained in the very culture of the childcare system in Catholic Ireland.

The intellects and emotions of decent people, of committed Christians and especially of devoted Catholics cannot truly process the unbelievable reality presented in this report. The sadistic world of these institutions is not that of some crazed secular dictatorship. It is not the world of an uncivilized tribal culture that ravaged the weak in ages long past. This report describes a world created and sustained by the Roman Catholic Church. The horrors inflicted on these helpless, trapped children – rapes, beatings, molestation, starvation, isolation – all were inflicted by men and women who had vowed themselves to the service of people in the name of Christ’s love.

The Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse is not unique though it may well be the most shocking example of the reality of such a culture of evil. In the past two decades over two dozen reports have described physical and sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults by Catholic clergy and religious. Among the more shocking have been a series of reports submitted to the Vatican between 1994 and 1998 revealing sexual exploitation of religious women in Africa by African priests. These reports remained largely unknown until they were brought to light by the National Catholic Reporter in 2001. Other reports have opened the doors to the secret world of clergy sexual abuse in the U.S. and elsewhere. The report of the Winter Commission about rampant sexual abuse at Mount Cashel, the Christian Brothers orphanage in Newfoundland and the report of the Philadelphia Grand Jury investigation stand out as examples not only of the depravity but of the institutionalized cover-up.

Revelations of various forms of abuse by Catholic religious and clerics all have common elements. Likewise, they evoke responses from the institutional leadership that are common to all examples of abuse and consistent in their nature. Most disturbing is the certain knowledge that the vicious abuse, in Ireland and elsewhere, is not accidental nor isolated and it is never unknown to Church authorities. The Church’s authorities, from the pope himself down to the local bishops and religious superiors have known about this unbelievable culture of abuse and have done nothing.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan referred to the Church as a “Loving Mother” when he spoke at his installation Mass in New York. In light of the facts disclosed in the Irish report as well as the information revealed about countless other cases of abuse, such a description of the Church is not only absurd, but insulting to the countless people whose belief and trust in the hierarchy and clergy has been betrayed.

The official reaction is predictable. Denial, minimization, blame shifting and finally limited acknowledgment followed by carefully nuanced “apologies” has been the standard fare. At no time has the leadership of any part of the institutional Church ever owned up to any systemic accountability. The standard responses are totally unacceptable because they are devious and irrelevant. Those who still hold to the institutional Church as their source of emotional security may well bray about anti-Catholicism, media sensationalism and exaggeration of what they claim to be an aberration. Such responses are mindless but far worse, they inflict even more pain on the thousands whose lives have been violated.

The Church cannot and will not fix itself. The very reality of the systemic abuse in the Irish institutions (and elsewhere as well) reveals a deep disdain for people by those charged with leading the Church. There has been an abandonment of the fundamental values that are supposed to vivify the Church if indeed these values were ever really internalized by many in positions of power. There is something radically wrong with the institutional Catholic Church. This is painfully obvious because it allows systemic abuse and radical dishonesty to coexist with its self-proclaimed identity as the Kingdom of God on earth.

The institutional Church is defensively changing its approach to the systematic abuse all too slowly and only because it is forced to do so by external forces it cannot control. The Irish government commission is one and the U.S. legal system is another. No amount of bureaucratic programs, pious apologies, rhetorical hand wringing and effusive promises of future change will make the difference. The problem is more than the widespread abuse itself. Punishing the perpetrators is completely missing the forest standing behind the trees. The clerical culture intertwined with the institution needs to be fearlessly examined and dismantled as we know it. It has wrought far too much destruction and murdered too many souls to be tolerated for another generation.

Catholics have a profound obligation in charity and justice to the countless victims of all forms of abuse. They have an obligation to believers of all kinds everywhere. They must ceaselessly do all that can be done to free the Christian/Catholic community from the toxic control of the clericalized institutional structure so that once more the Church will be identified not with an anachronistic and self-serving monarchy but with the Body of Christ.

To read Fr. Thomas Doyle’s commentary in its entirety, click here.

Recommended Off-site Links:
In Ireland, the Abuse of Children - and Power - Mary C. Curtic (Politics Daily, May 21, 2009).
Richard Sipe: Bill Donohue is a Bozo - National Catholic Reporter (May 23, 2009).
On Truth Commissions: Parallels Between Legacy of Torture and Catholic Sexual Abuse Crisis - William D. Lindsey (Bilgrimage, May 21, 2009).
Crisis in the Catholic Church - Timothy Lytton (National Sexuality Resource Center, August 1, 2008).
Absolute Power - Tony Hopfinger (Newsweek, January 14, 2008).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Archbishop Weakland, the Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal, and Homophobia
Rome Falling
It’s Time to Re-think the Basis and Repair the Damage
Hans Küng: “We Are Facing a Structural Problem”
Clearing Away the Debris
Staying on Board
Authentic Catholicism: The Antidote to Clericalism
Genuine Authority

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Sound of Two Decades Colliding

. . . and Nobody Getting Hurt!

That’s how the 1987 musical collaboration between sixties pop/soul legend Dusty Springfield and eighties techno-pop duo the Pet Shop Boys has been described.

The result of this collaboration was, of course, the international hit song “What Have I Done to Deserve This?”

Of Dusty’s appearance in the music video for this song, Gavin Edwards writes:

A hunky stagehand pulls away a red curtain and we cut to the legendary Dusty Springfield, 48 years old at the time of this video, and unfortunately, looking a bit too much like a charismatic drag queen.

Oh, well . . . it was a rather difficult time for Dusty – emerging as she was from “wilderness” years in California. But, hey, you’ve gotta love those hand movements!

Thankfully, “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” heralded a renaissance for Dusty – both personally and professionally.

And so without further ado I present this week’s Wild Reed “Friday Night Music Spot” - “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” by the Pet Shop Boys and featuring Dusty Springfield. Enjoy!

Here’s how Paul Howes describes the song and its recording in his book, The Complete Dusty Springfield:

In 1987, there came a watershed in Dusty’s life. She reemerged onto the pop scene with what seemed at the time to be the most unlikely collaboration – a duet with the Pet Shop Boys. “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” was written in the early part of 1985 with Allee Willis; Neil Tennent [of the Pet Shop Boys] says he wrote the words on the top of a Number 22 bus and Willis wrote the “Since you went away . . .” segment of the song. It was on the suggestion of someone who worked in their manager’s office that they approach Dusty to sing the female part, although their record company was not keen. Eventually, at their request, she came to London to record what was to be her second biggest hit [after 1966’s “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me”].

Dusty said in an interview several years later: “They didn’t direct or tell me what to do. They just used their brains. I think perhaps they didn’t know that it takes me to sing myself into something and then sing myself out of it. The first night I just sang it and proceeded to make it very complicated, which is a tendency of mine. And they were very quiet about it. In the end I had to go to them and say, ‘What is it you want?’ and they said, ‘We want the sound of your voice.’ It never occurred to me that that was enough. What they wanted was for me to sing the song. It was that simple, but because it was so simple I couldn’t get it at all. The second night I went back, I just sang the song.” According to Tennant, he and Chris Lowe missed the moment when Dusty “just sang the song,” thanks to a commitment in Newcastle, performing “Paninaro” on Channel 4’s The Tube.

“All three of us,” Dusty continued, “were working with a guy called Stephen Hague, who’s a marvelous producer, and he showed me at the end of the session roughly what he was going to do with it. It’s the first time in my life, well, the second time, I’ve ever been able to walk away from the studio and completely turn it over and not be worrying about what it was going to sound like because I was in good hands.”

Released in August 1987, “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” reached #2 in both the UK and US charts. Unfortunately, Dusty didn’t do any promotion for the single in the UK, although she did make a rather unflattering video with the Pet Shop Boys. When the Pet Shop Boys asked her to promote the single in the States, she turned them down owing to “scheduling commitments.” She did, however, appear at the BPI Awards to perform “What Have I Done to Deserve This?” with them in 1988. The record received a silver disc award in December 1987.

NOTE: The Pet Shop Boys would go on to produce Dusty’s 1988 recording of the theme song for the film Scandal (“Nothing Has Been Proved”) and co-produce her acclaimed 1990 album, Reputation.

For more of Dusty at The Wild Reed, see:
Remembering Dusty
Classic Dusty
Classic Dusty II
Classic Dusty III
Remembering a Great Soul Singer
Time and the River
Soul Deep

For other unusual musical collaborations highlighted at The Wild Reed, see:
Loretta Lynn and Jack White
Kate Bush and Larry Adler
Shirley Bassey and Yello