Thursday, April 08, 2010

Celebrating the Risen Christ - Old Catholic Style

My friend Bob, who is a priest in the Old Catholic tradition, is currently in Europe visiting a number of Old Catholic communities.

When he was recently in Prague, I helped arrange a meeting between him and fellow gay Catholic blogger (and Prague resident) Jayden Cameron, of
Gay Mystic. Jayden, in turn, recently wrote about his experience of the Easter Vigil at Prague’s Old Catholic Cathedral of St. Lawrence.

Following, with his permission, is Jayden’s post about his experience of Old Catholicism.


He is Risen – Within the Old Catholic Church

By Jayden Cameron

Gay Mystic
April 4, 2010

I attended the Easter Vigil last night at the 'Old Catholic' Cathedral of St. Lawrence high atop Petrin Hill in Prague. Father Robert Caruso of the US is here in Prague for the week and invited me to the service.

The “Old” Catholic Church is so named because this community believes it represents the true Catholic tradition before Vatican I and the imposed dogma of Papal Infallibility. The community did not willingly split from the Roman branch, it was excommunicated when a number of Bishops in good conscience decided they could not accept the decision of Vatican I to declare the Pope infallible. In fact the majority of Bishops walked out of the Council in protest before the vote could be taken. The reigning pontiff, Pius IX, a deeply disturbed human being whom a number of psychiatric authorities have diagnosed as a classic sociopath, threatened excommunication and interdict to any bishop and diocese who did not agree with the decision. Most of the dissenting bishops gave in at great cost to their consciences. But a significant and prophetic remnant stood fast These bishops together with their dioceses then banded together to form the Old Catholic Church and they have been living their marginal, Spirit filled witness-in-exile, ever since.

Outside of the control of the Vatican, the worldwide community of the Old Catholic Church then evolved in a (not surprisingly) healthy manner and we now have a Church which images the Catholic Church as she should be - inclusive, tolerant, fair = with women priests and married priests, gay marriages and ethical decisions regarding contraception (among others) left to the individual consciences of the married couple. No scandals regarding child abuse have surfaced within the Old Catholic Church. Does that surprise anyone?

Father Robert Caruso is the tall priest in the center of the photo (taken with my cell phone). For those who are more interested in this community, you can read a review of Father Robert's book, The Old Catholic Church: Understanding the Origin, Essence, and Theology of a Church that is Unknown and Misunderstood by Many in North America, and a series of interviews with him at Michael Bayly's blogsite, The Wild Reed.

I was deeply moved by the service (despite the terminally long readings, following the Roman ritual exactly) and I have to say it ‘felt’ exactly like a Roman Catholic Liturgy – with one important distinction. At communion, all of the priests, the presiding Bishop and the ministers, received communion last – after all of the ‘laity’ had themselves partaken. Wow! What a stunning example of a ministry of service that does not privilege the ordained. As Father Robert remarked, “It isn’t just ‘like’ the Catholic Mass – ala the Anglican service – it is the Catholic Mass.” I have to agree. Seven new catechumens and one charmingly distraught baby girl received baptism this evening, and the adults went on to receive Confirmation and First Communion as well. It was a very deeply moving sight to see, and the entire evening was Spirit-filled in an atmosphere of peace and joy. It was a delightfully eclectic community and I was on the receiving end of some wonderful and warmly humorous comments about gays within the community. I have never felt so graciously accepted as a gay man at any other form of Catholic service. I will be celebrating with this community again.

This morning I watched Pope Benedict’s Urbi et Orbi homily on Eurotelevision and I felt that the role of the ‘Supreme Pontiff’ in all of his pomp and regalia was in no way more charismatic or significant than the very impressive, deeply spiritual Bishop Dusan Hejbal of the Old Catholic Church of Prague.

For more about Old Catholicism, see the previous Wild Reed posts:
Understanding the Old Catholic Church (Part 1)
Understanding the Old Catholic Church (Part 2)
Understanding the Old Catholic Church (Part 3)
Robert Caruso’s Scholarly Introduction to Old Catholicism
The Old Catholic Church: Catholicism Beyond Rome – An interview with Robert Caruso.
The Declaration of Utrecht

Images: Jayden Cameron.


Mareczku said...

Pope Pius IX was a deeply disturbed human being who has been diagnosed by some as a sociopath? Where did this come from? Isn't this Pope up for beatification? If he was an evil sociopath how could this be? It seems that there may be some editorializing going on here.

Richard Demma said...

Michael- you're so polite. I tend to steal posts right and left from other blogs (with proper acknowledgement). Glad to see this here. There is more I could say. I felt sad throughout the ceremony, sad for the community living out this marginal existence and deeply sad for the official Roman Catholic Church for compelling such communities to exist outside the tent. Then the ceremony was over and we all gathered for a rich feast of food, pastries and wine and I realized that nobody in that Church was sad at all. Quite the contrary, full of joy in their vocation and very happy to be just where they are! A real grace meeting these people and sharing in their Eucharist. They have such a joyful sense of vocation living on the margins. A real inspiration.

Richard Demma said...

Pope John Paul II beatified Pope Pius IX, an ultra-conservative 19th-century Pope, a move that displeased the Jewish community because he was the last pope to confine Jews to the ghetto. Also, he condoned the kidnapping of a six-year old Jewish boy, Edgardo Mortara. Mortara was baptized by an illiterate Catholic housemaid, thereby justifying his seizure by the Papal police under the law that does not allow non-Catholics to raise a baptized child. Pius IX also insulted Jews by calling the Jews of Rome "dogs."

taken from The Jewish Virtual Library, but this is just one minor source. The evidence for his psychological imbalance is extensive.
See: David L. Kertzer's The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara

And from American Magazine:

But there are misgivings in other quarters and on other scores. On July 8 The Tablet, the well regarded English Catholic weekly, carried an editorial, “A Beatification Too Far,” that was uncommonly sharp in its criticism of the Holy See. “It can only be seen as a political move, designed to provide a conservative and reactionary counterweight to the beatification of John XXIII.... The conclusion is surely inescapable that the beatification of Pius IX is the work of a small group of ultra-conservatives.”

Hans Kung in Infallible also discusses the state of the Pope's mental and emotional stability, citing numerous sources.

Richard Demma said...

Michael - sorry to clog up your comments section, but here is a source I forgot to mention, which gives a succinct summary of Kung and Bernard Hassler's work:

"Pius may have been insane. He suffered from seizures his entire life and later developed memory loss and an inability to think clearly for long periods of time (by his own admission). By 1869, disease and stress had taken a serious toll on his psychological state and people noticed that he had become unpredictable, irrational, emotional and dictatorial — sometimes acting like a megalomaniac. Historian Ferdinand Gregorovius reported that 1870:

The pope recently got the urge to try out his infallibility...While out on a walk he called to a paralytic: "Get up and walk." The poor devil gave it a try and collapsed, which put [the pope] very much out of sorts. The anecdote has already been mentioned in newspapers. I really believe he's insane.

Pius may have been dishonest. He never admitted to the things he had done in his efforts to have infallibility declared an official Church dogma. Cardinal Gustav von Hohenlohe told a friend: "In my entire life, I have never met a man who was less particular about the truth than Pius IX." Other bishops, like Bishop Henir Manret, openly called Pius IX a liar, so the charge was not at all unusual."

Michael J. Bayly said...

Thanks, Jayden, for the clarifying information about Pius IX.



Bob Caruso said...

Wonderful article! Thank you Michael and Jayden!!!

Jayden, I am glad to hear that you will be attending future liturgies with the Old Catholics in Prague. It was asked by a few of the parishioners whether you would come back, to which I responded I believe he will and hope so. You should experience Mass at St. Mary Magdalen Old Catholic Church in Prague. Their liturgy is amazingly spirit-filled in a historical building built in the 12th century.

Ciao, Bob