Friday, April 30, 2010

Out and About - April 2010

Above: Trees - stark and forlorn - along the St. Paul side of the Mississippi River - April 1, 2010.

Above: My friend Phil - April 1, 2010.

For more images of our "Mississippi Adventure," click here.

Left: With Phil and Quinn. Isn't he cute? Oh, yeah, and Phil's not too bad looking either.

Above: The fourth joint meeting of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform's Work/Study Groups - Wednesday, April 14, 2010.

These groups are playing an instrumental role in forming the content of CCCR's September 18, 2010 "Synod of the Baptized: Claiming Our Place at the Table."

Right: With my friend Phyllis Evans, who is a member of the work/study group I'm facilitating on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Above: Auditioning for American Idol! No, not really - but if I was, I'd no doubt be singing an Engelbert Humperdinck classic!

Actually, I'm sharing some thoughts at . . .

Above and left: The rousing and very Catholic show of support for marriage equality that took place at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul on Saturday, April 17, 2010.

For more images and commentary, click here.

Above and right: OutFront Minnesota's annual "justFair" Lobby Day at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul - April 21, 2010. (The same day as my Dad's birthday!)

For more images and commentary, click here.

Above: Spring's early return to Minnesota.

For more images, click here.

Re-Visioning Callas

I have great admiration for Maria Callas (1923-1977) and recently discovered a fascinating website about her life and art called Re-Visioning Callas.

Its creator is
Marion Lignana Rosenberg, and Re-Visioning Callas is not only the title of her website but also of an award-winning article and book-in-progress. Rosenberg’s article was first published in (the now-defunct) USItalia. It won a Front Page Award from the Newswomen’s Club of New York, and, says Rosenberg, “represents the germ of my project.” Following is the judges’ citation:

Maria Callas died in 1977 at age 53, but her tempestuous legend lives on. This essay is written with the same extraordinary passion and fire that characterized the opera diva’s career. Offered up on the occasion of Callas’ 80th birthday, this article acknowledges but righteously dismisses the ‘petty, salacious lore’ of the woman’s private life and celebrates the performer’s extreme dedication to her art [and] her lasting gifts to music. Whether you agree or disagree, it’s a compelling, absorbing read from start to finish. Bravo!

It is indeed. Here’s just a snippet of Rosenberg's article (with added links).

How, then, can we fittingly remember Callas? We can recall the musician who re-shaped the operatic canon, revealing the musical and dramatic integrity of works (by Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, and others) once dismissed as mindless showpieces for canary-like singers. We can think of the artist who, in upholding the ideals of dramma per musica, drew to the opera house directors from the so-called “legitimate” theatre, crossly informing one such colleague who demurred, “I don't want opera directors. I want directors.” Granted, there remain pockets of provincialism (New York, for example) where opera is seen as a concert in costume, an ingratiating timbre and loud high notes are mistaken for music making, and probing, high-minded productions are reserved for “respectable” (i.e. non-Italian) opera. Most everywhere else, though, Callas’s example continues to shape what audiences see and hear. This is true at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, where world-class scholarship, theatrical values, and musical prowess go hand in hand; in the best work of such singers as Juan Diego Flórez and Cecilia Bartoli; and at La Scala, where generations of artists (including Giorgio Strehler, Claudio Abbado, and Riccardo Muti) have tended the Italian operatic tradition with seriousness, love, and a spirit of discovery. Finally, we can remember the awkward little girl with a wayward voice who, through unsparing hard work, became an artist whose musicianship, glamour, and quest for dramatic truth transfix music lovers even now, some forty years after her last appearances in opera.

Rosenberg’s Re-Visioning Callas website is very comprehensive. Its accompanying blog, for instance, contains numerous insightful and scholarly articles. Also, I was happy and honored to see in the site’s links section, my website documenting and celebrating Maria Callas in Pier Pablo Pasolini’s Medea listed by Rosenberg as an “especially useful and compelling” site.

I thank Marion for her generous commendation of my site and wish her all the best in the writing and publishing of Re-Visioning Callas, the book.

If you’re a Callas fan, Re-Visiting Callas and its companion blog are essential resources. For those who are unfamiliar with the great Callas, I share this evening the following clip of her singing "Ah, non credea mirarti" from La sonnambula (Bellini). It's one of my favorite arias - and was recorded in Paris in 1965, the year of my birth. It’s taken from the 2003 DVD The Callas Conversations. I'm sure it will give you a sense of the artistry, passion, and beauty of Maria Callas.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Callas Remembered
Callas Went Away

Recommended Off-site Links:
Maria Callas: The Greatest - Tim Ashley (The Guardian, September 14, 2007).
Callas Discusses Her Art with Lord Harewood (1968)
A 1967 Interview with Maria Callas

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Archbishop Nienstedt Calls (Again) for a Marriage Amendment to Minnesota's Constitution

NOTE: The image of Archbishop John C. Nienstedt that originally accompanied this post has been removed at the Archbishop's request through Dennis McGrath, Communications Director of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

Mr. McGrath did not pass on any comments of the Archbishop on the content of this article.

Archbishop John Nienstedt had an op-ed in yesterday’s Star Tribune. Given the current global crisis that the Roman Catholic clerical leadership is facing around the clergy sex abuse scandal, one may well have hoped that the archbishop would have used his op-ed to demonstrate the repentance and truth-telling that Catholics are longing to hear from pretty much anyone in a position of clerical leadership.

Here’s what theologian
Rosemary Radford Ruether, in her book Catholic Does Not Equal the Vatican, says needs to be said and heard.

Bishops need to stand in front of their people and say, “we have failed to deal adequately with this matter of sexual abuse by priests. We have covered it up. We have refused to listen to the cries of the victims. We have protected abusers. We have sent priests to other church communities without informing them of the history of such priests. We are sorry; we have a ‘firm purpose of amendment.’ We are putting these specific policies in place to rectify these situations. We have consulted with lay people, including victims, about these policies, and we want your feed back on them.” Such repentance and truth-telling might approximate what it means to be the church.

Alas, no such “repentance and truth-telling” was modeled by Archbishop Nienstedt. Instead, readers of the Star Tribune were presented with a decidedly illogical rationale for an amendment to the Minnesota State Constitution that would define marriage as a union of one man and one woman.

Why illogical? Well, the bulk of the archbishop's op-ed focuses on how devastating divorce has been for marriage. Okay . . . so wouldn’t a proposed amendment outlawing divorce be the logical solution? Yes, but imagine the outcry that would cause. Better to focus on an issue that still has certain elements of society either feeling uneasy about or firmly opposed to. Yep, you guessed it: gay marriage.

Following are some of my initial thoughts on Archbishop Nienstedt’s op-ed.

Nienstedt clearly wants Minnesotans to agree with him that the basis of marriage is all about procreating. Yet before he convinces the wider population of Minnesota, he needs first to convince members of his own church. The vast majority of Catholics simply don’t buy it – and for good reason: it's a limited and thus impoverished way of understanding sexuality. (For more on this, see the previous Wild Reed post, Stop in the Name of Discriminatory Ideology.)

As a gay Catholic man reading Archbishop Nienstedt’s op-ed, I found it very disappointing and disturbing that gay people and their needs and concerns were never once acknowledged or discussed. Collectively, we’re seemingly just an abstraction. This really shouldn’t be surprising as so much of the sexual theology advanced by the Roman Catholic clerical leadership deals only in abstracts. Real people and the diversity and complexity of sexuality simply do not inform the way this leadership thinks and talks about sex, marriage, and what it means to be fully human.

I know Catholics who attended various sessions of the recent archdiocesan series, “Reclaiming the Culture of Marriage and Life” (see for instance Brian McNeill's Progressive Catholic Voice article, Defense! Defense!) Throughout this series, three threats to marriage were identified and railed against: divorce, gay marriage, and . . . contraception. This last “threat” was notably absent from Nienstedt’s op-ed in the Star Tribune. Hmm . . . I wonder why. Again, the archbishop’s priorities seem to be misplaced. I mean, given the number of married Catholic couples practicing birth control (96 percent according to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops), wouldn’t it make more sense to push for a marriage amendment that defines the purpose of sexual intercourse as making babies? That would be the logical thing. But, remember, this latest effort to ban same-sex civil marriage isn't concerned with logic - or the facts. It’s about appealing to a certain element within both the church and society that will – knowingly or unknowingly – help prop up the collapsing feudal system that is the Roman Catholic clerical caste and its dubious claims of moral authority on matters pertaining to sexuality. And it attempts to do this by scapegoating gay people. R. F. Hoffman has observed that this scapegoating of a vulnerable population is not only “pathetic, dishonest, and selfish,” but “unworthy of anyone who would make claims to honesty, charity or moral authority.”

A number of folks I’ve spoken to aren’t really that worried about Nienstedt’s latest efforts to push for a marriage amendment. They see such efforts as a lost cause. From their perspective the game’s over in Minnesota. Marriage equality will be achieved. It's just a matter of time. Four years ago, Nienstedt, as Bishop of New Ulm, was on the offense. He was, after all, a key player in pushing for an amendment to the State Constitution that would have banned same-sex marriage and all legal equivalents. It was quite the ambitious effort. And it failed. Fast forward to today and the reality that there are six marriage equality bills currently before the Minnesota Senate and the Minnesota House of Representative (see here and here). The authors and supporters of these bills are smart enough to know that they need to wait until after the November elections (and hopefully the election of a Democratic governor) before calling for a vote on any of these bills. (Even if they were to be voted on and passed today, the current Republican governor would veto them.) The point is that Nienstedt is now on the defense. Events have largely overtaken him. His op-ed and (from what I’ve heard) the poorly attended “Reclaiming the Culture of Marriage and Life” series are ultimately futile efforts to stave off the inevitable.

Anyway, I could go on. But let’s hear what some of the readers of the Star Tribune are saying about Archbishop Nienstedt’s call for a marriage amendment.

Shadowman72 writes: Notice how this article lacks one good reason against gay marriage. . . . First off, having children is not a requirement of marriage. There are many straight couples that can’t or don’t have children that still are allowed to get married. . . . Next, [Nienstedt] bring[s] a lot of irrelevant variables into the equation. [He] speak[s] of all the problems with heterosexual marriages, like divorce. Good, now we know the real problem that’s harming the institution of marriage. This has nothing to do with gay marriage. . . . Allowing same-sex couples to marry would not affect . . . heterosexual marriage in any way. In fact, [Nienstedt] article proves that the key problems with marriage do not come from gay-marriage, but from within . . . heterosexual marriages.

Orpheus90 writes: The Rev. Nienstedt’s opinion piece suffers from the usual circular logic (or non-logic) and rhetorical vapidity that plagues so many anti-gay marriage political diatribes. Nothing new in that respect. Frankly, it’s pure schlock. The good Reverend’s intellectual and moral failure here, of course, is not hard to discern: that he is not only unable to address the fundamental animus towards gay people that motivates opinions such as his, but that he would also prefer to exploit such animus rather than address it. (And on that particular score the church has a long standing order of numerous – and undelivered – mea culpas on the historical question of its grotesque mistreatment of minorities). Let’s face it, Rev: on fact and logic, the conservatives have lost the debate on gay marriage. Currently all they have is hysteria and the characteristically petrified rhetoric that you deliver here in dull, desultory fashion. Spare us. Next time, answer this question: where, pray tell, is the voice of moral courage to addresses the needs and rights of gay people from within the shrieking nonsense that calls itself conservatism?

pjacbsma writes: If Rev. Nienstedt is really concerned with loving parents raising children he would support gay marriage. There are tens of thousands of children waiting to be adopted in this world, and allowing gay people to marry would help them in adopting. Nienstedt tries to claim that allowing gay marriage would somehow harm hetero marriage. I have yet to hear anyone explain how exactly that would happen. No, the real motive for Neinstedt is simply to oppose gay marriage because homosexuality frightens him. Fear and hatred should never be embraced by someone who calls himself a Christian. God’s greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. There is no “unless your neighbor is gay” clause attached to that commandment.

Conniek29 writes: Don’t Catholics have more important issues to deal with? Like a complete lack of moral relevance? Like being the world’s largest, most profitable, international child-sex criminal enterprise? If the Catholic Church cannot be trusted with our most vulnerable, why should anyone listen to what a “made man,” an archbishop, has to say about any moral topic? How many young lives would have been protected from rape if the Catholic Church had never existed?

tjkelner writes: For the Church and in particular the Catholic church, it is about money. Embracing marriage and admonishing birth control is the best way they can keep the faithful providing new revenue sources for the church. As a business model they need to continue to foster beliefs that are beneficial to their end result . . . MORE MONEY for the CHURCH. So, they continue to blast anything that is out of focus with their focus.

WhyShouldI writes: If marriage is about raising children then there should be a place on the marriage license to indicate you plan to have children. Also, if it is about raising children, why are senior citizens not banned from marriage. Are they going to start raising a family? Give gay couples the same rights that you give heterosexual senior citizen couples.

Pdxtran writes: No opponent of gay marriage has ever satisfactorily explained how allowing same-sex couples to marry harms the marriages of committed heterosexual couples. They just say it, and we’re supposed to accept it as if it makes sense. I belong to a church that is accepting and welcoming of gays and lesbians, and I know some same-sex couples whose religious faith and devotion to each other would put the average heterosexual couple to shame.

Paige7 writes: If the Archbishop insists on referring to same-sex marriage as “marriage” (because folks seem to think putting it in quotes indicates it’s fake) then I must start insisting that I refer to Catholics as “Christian.”

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
At UST, a Rousing and Very Catholic Show of Support for Marriage Equality
A Catholic Voice for Marriage Equality at the State Capitol
Minnesotans Rally for Equality and Love at the State Capitol
Sen. John Marty on Marriage Equality in MN: "We Can Make It Happen"
300+ People Vigil at the Cathedral in Solidarity with LGBT Catholics
Same-Sex Marriage: Still Very Much on the Archbishop's Mind
A Christian Case for Same-Sex Marriage
John Corvino on the “Always and Everywhere” Argument Against Marriage Equality
Patrick Ryan on the “Defense of Traditional Marriage” Argument Against Marriage Equality
Nathanial Frank on the “Natural Law” Argument Against Marriage Equality
Romell Weekly on the “Threat to the Family” Argument Against Marriage Equality
America's New Civil Rights Battle
Two Attorneys Discuss Same-Sex Marriage
Dr. Erik Steele and the "Naked Truth on Same-Sex Marriage"
Stephanie Coontz on the Changing Face of "Traditional Marriage"
The Affirmation Declaration
An Ironic Truth
Competent Parenting Doesn't Require "Traditional Marriage"

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Rio Can Wait

I was mentioning to my friend Phil the other night how pissed off I’d be if I was holidaying in Rio de Janeiro at the moment. Why? Because as the Associated Press recently reported, the city’s “iconic Christ the Redeemer statue will be closed indefinitely because of damage to access roads from heavy rains.”

The article goes on to note that:

Workers are laboring to remove dirt, trees, rocks and other debris obstructing roads after flooding and mudslides last week in Tijuca National Park, where the statue stands on a mountaintop.

The city said the work could take as long as six months, though access could be restored much sooner.

“We believe visitors will be able to return within one or two months,” Bernardo Issa, director of the Tijuca National Park, said in a statement. “We do not have a timeline yet though, this has not been defined.”

A trolley line that carries tourists to the statue was shut down because of the threat of more mudslides.

The Christ the Redeemer statue is a top tourist draw and was named one of the world’s seven new wonders in 2007.

I actually remember voting online for Christ the Redeemer to be chosen as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. (I also voted for the Sydney Opera House, but it didn’t end up on the list!) I've always appreciated the welcoming and inclusive embrace of Christ that this particular statue symbolizes. Indeed, when I saw 2012, I was more perturbed by the film’s depiction of the crumbling Christ the Redeemer, than by the toppling of the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica. Hmm, what does that say about me, I wonder.

Anyway, reading this news story got me thinking about the great statue of Christ perched high above Rio. Here’s a little of what Wikipedia has to say about it.

Christ the Redeemer is a statue of Jesus Christ in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; considered the largest Art Deco statue in the world. The statue is 39.6 metres (130 ft) tall, including its 9.5 meter (31 feet) pedestal, and 30 metres (98 ft) wide. It weighs 635 tons, and is located at the peak of the 700 metres (2,300 ft) Corcovado Mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park overlooking the city. It is one of the tallest of its kind in the world. . . . A symbol of Christianity, the statue has become an icon of Rio and Brazil. It is made of reinforced concrete and soapstone.

The idea for erecting a large statue atop Corcovado was first suggested in the mid-1850s, when Catholic priest Pedro Maria Boss requested financing from Princess Isabel to build a large religious monument. Princess Isabel did not think much of the idea and it was completely dismissed in 1889, when Brazil became a republic with laws mandating the separation of church and state. The second proposal for a landmark statue on the mountain was made in 1921 by the Catholic Circle of Rio. The group organized an event called Semana do Monumento (“Monument Week”) to attract donations and collect signatures to support the building of the statue. The donations came mostly from Brazilian Catholics. The designs considered for the “Statue of the Christ” included a representation of the Christian cross, a statue of Jesus with a globe in his hands, and a pedestal symbolizing the world. The statue of Christ the Redeemer with open arms was chosen.

Local engineer Heitor da Silva Costa designed the statue; it was sculpted by French sculptor Paul Landowski. A group of engineers and technicians studied Landowski’s submissions and the decision was made to build the structure out of reinforced concrete (designed by Albert Caquot) instead of steel, more suitable for the cross-shaped statue. The outer layers are soapstone, chosen for its enduring qualities and ease of use.

Construction took nine years, from 1922 to 1931. The monument was opened on October 12, 1931. The cost of the monument was $250,000. The statue was meant to be lit by a battery of floodlights triggered remotely by shortwave radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi, stationed 5,700 miles (9,200 km) away in Rome[6], but poor weather affected the signal and it had to be lit by workers in Rio.

In October 2006, on the statue’s 75th anniversary, Archbishop of Rio Cardinal Eusebio Oscar Scheid consecrated a chapel (named for the patron saint of Brazil — Nossa Senhora Aparecida, or “Our Lady of the Apparition”), under the statue. This allows Catholics to hold baptisms and weddings there.

The statue was struck by lightning during a violent electrical storm on Sunday, February 10, 2008 and suffered some damage on the fingers, head and eyebrows. A restoration effort was put in place by the Rio de Janeiro state government and archdiocese, to replace some of the outer soapstone layers and repair the lightning rods installed on the statue.

On April 15, 2010 graffiti was sprayed on the statue’s head and right arm. Mayor Eduardo Paes called the act “a crime against the nation” and vowed to jail the vandals, even offering a reward of R$ 5,000 on any information that may lead to an arrest.

Recommended Off-site Link:
Christ the Redeemer: History and Pictures
Brazilians Offended Over Destruction of Christ the Redeemer - Olsen Ebright (NBC Los Angeles, October 20, 2009).

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
Anayole France’s The Ocean Christ

Quote of the Day

The failure of the Roman Catholic hierarchy to contemplate that maybe there is something about the church and the priesthood itself that breeds the sickness of pedophilia is exasperating in the extreme. The easy answer they prefer, that it is cultural permissiveness about sexuality that fosters the sexual abuse of children, is so lacking in insight and rich in smug self-regard that it makes me nearly apopleptic. The idea that mastery of a sexual life might be what guards against the trends that end in sexual abuse of children is so far from their comprehension that I hold little hope of their arriving at a position of moral wisdom on this subject, at least in my lifetime. They are as bought-in as a group of people can be to their doctrine that sexuality is sinful unless it is subordinate to procreation. And it is precisely this equation of all other aspects of sexuality, however they might be viewed by the rest of “the secular world” as opposites, as optimal and healthy on one end of the scale and deranged and perverse at the other, that disables their moral reasoning on the subject of sex.

I think it also attracts the pedophilic character structure to the priesthood. If you know, deep in your heart, that your sexual and interpersonal reality is one that successful, actualized adults view as twisted and insufferable, then the twin enticements of the priesthood are these: the elusive ideal of chastity is seen as superior to a sexually expressive relationship between adults, and the intention to fulfill or attain it, even if doomed to occasional or frequent or, as we have seen, compulsive lapses, provides a balm of superiority to the battered self-esteem of the emotionally-hobbled pedophile. And the doctrine that all non-procreative acts are equally or at least similarly in violation of natural law, the view that enables Father Gabriele Amorth to think of child seduction or rape as “giving into temptation” instead of acts of an entirely other order, likewise appeals to the fractured vanity of the pedophile, who can feel he’s no worse than all the fornicating, contraception-using, masturbating masses, and maybe even a step above them, as he has worn the cloak of priestly virtues in at least some traditional respects, comforting the bereaved, preaching charity, forgoing personal wealth, stifling the impulse to petty gossip, and the like.

– R. S. Hoffman
Listening to Prozac, Listening to Pedophilia
View from My Window
April 26, 2010

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, 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 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.

Photo of the Day

Image: Michael Bayly.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Archie's New Friend

The introduction of Kevin [Keller] is just about keeping the world of Archie Comics current and inclusive. Archie’s hometown of Riverdale has always been a safe world for everyone. It just makes sense to have an openly gay character in Archie comic books.

Jon Goldwater, Archie Comics Co-CEO.
Riverdale’s First Openly Gay Student Arrives
Yahoo! Buzz
April 24, 2010

Recommended Off-site Link:
Gay Archie Character, Kevin Keller, Due to Hit Newstands - Jake (Zimbio, April 22, 2010).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
What the Vatican Can Learn from the X-Men
The New Superman: Not Necessarily Gay, But Definitely Queer

Prayer of the Week

For this week’s installment of The Wild Reed’s “Prayer of the Week” series, I share Terry Oakley’s beautiful “Prayer for Others,” taken from Just One Year: A Global Treasury of Prayer and Worship (edited by Timothy Radcliffe, OP). I invite you to join me in praying this prayer throughout this week.


A Prayer for Others

Move us to action, loving God,
so that we do not avoid the pain of the world by escapism,
but engage in work of justice and peace.

Move us to action, compassionate God,
so that we do not care only for ourselves or our own,
but care for all those in need, friends and strangers alike.

Move us to action, healing God,
so that we do not aim simply for our own health,
but share our resources with all who are dis-eased.

Move us to action, friendly God,
so that we do not exclude those different from us,
but welcome with generous hospitality those in need.

Move us to action, wonderful God,
so that we do not lie lukewarm in apathy,
but give of ourselves in courage and daring for your cause.

In the power and grace of the Spirit of Christ,
we offer ourselves and our prayer,
for you to make us your wonder.


See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Prayer of the Week (April 19, 2010)
Prayer of the Week (April 12, 2010)
Karl Rahner on the Need for Prayer
A Springtime Prayer
Letting Them Sit By Me
For the Traveler
It Happens All the Time in Heaven

Image: Michael Bayly.