Thursday, April 07, 2005

Pontificatus Maximus... ( And I break my silence about the Church )

Views on Catholicism and the Holy Father

I’ve been alive for now going on 38 years, I’ve known I was Gay since I was 15 years old, I’ve lived outside my closet for 17 years, and I’ve had my issues with God and the church as an institution. Some of you walked through some dark times in the last year of my Christian journey.

I was introduced to the Pope, by my grandmothers who instilled faith in my life early on. God was never black and white for me. He was always shades of grey. As I grew up God took on the colors of the rainbow, “no pun intended!” When I came out, I was still going to church and I was never turned away from the church by (well only 2 catholic priests in my life have ever damned me to hell). And they are dead.

I’ve battled with the church as a gay man for years now. Coming into sobriety was a faith move and totally an act of divine inspiration. Moving to Canada was a faith decision, meeting my husband was another divinely inspired happening. Getting married in the University Chapel last fall (to make a solid statement to the church) was the icing on my cake of religious experiences.

I found in my life that God never turned his back on me, but I walked away from Him, and several times in my life, I left the path for one addiction or reason or another. Once I started University I started to rebuild my religious education. I was asked to look at the world with new eyes, to find God in a “new light.” And I embraced that.

The Catholic Church is in a terrible way, in some serious trouble. The Holy Father may have left this world as a great communicator and having touched the hearts of millions and billions of people that does not, for one moment give him absolution for the hatred and intolerance he has heaped on the marginalized peoples of the world. I am only going to talk about the LGBT peoples and women. That should be enough for you to read.

The sexual abuse cases in the United States have painted a picture at just how SAD the state of the U.S. Catholic Church is. The church KNEW about these sick and tainted men of the cloth and they moved them around and kept secrets. Now the church is faced with SCANDAL. That scandal did not die with John Paul II.

When I was in seminary I was forced to keep a secret about scandalous seminarians. I wonder how many young men were sodomized by seminarians of St. John Vianney College Seminary.

The church kept homosexuals in their back pocket. Priests were kept in set locations, and kept on short leashes and in parishes where they could be monitored, but you had to know people to get places in certain diocese. I knew some really great GAY priests, who loved God and knew the job well, and then there were the assholes.

The Holy Father was very harsh on the Gay agenda. He was not kind to the LGBT community. He was vehemently against Gays and the church. He went on his tirades gong on about the sins of homosexual marriages. He turned his back on the men and women who (some) were fallen away Catholics. I have countless numbers of emails from the Catholic Bishops committee speaking out about us “evil sexual deviants!” Did the Holy Father not think that when he died that He would have to make his confession to God the almighty father?

Being a student at Concordia University has afforded me a religious education that included meeting some men whom I dearly love, gay men who have taught me the fine art of subversion, to find the “pinker side of God and his saints.”

Here is a chronology of the Holy Father:

Chronology of a papacy

Saturday April 2, 2005
The Guardian

October 16 1978 Karol Wojtyla elected, the first non-Italian pope since Adrian VI, a Dutchman, became pope in 1523. Takes the name of his ill-fated predecessor, John Paul, who died after a month in the job. His choice symbolises his desire to consolidate the innovation of Pope John XXIII, who presided over the reforming Second Vatican Council, and the caution of Pope Paul VI.

1979 The Pope sets his globe-trotting style by visiting Mexico, Poland, the US and Ireland in his first year. In Poland, he receives an ecstatic welcome from huge crowds, giving a boost to the trade union, Solidarity.

1981 Assassination attempt by Mehmet Ali Agca, a radical Turkish nationalist. Strong claims are later made, but never proved, of a connection between Agca and the secret services of the then communist bloc - certainly the assassin was able to move surprisingly easily through Bulgaria, a country whose regime assassinated political opponents, and Romania. The Pope is badly wounded after the bullet narrowly misses vital organs. It is set in a crown of jewels and presented to Our Lady of Fatima by the Pope. He sees it as a sign of divine providence that he was spared for the good of the church.

1982 Pope visits Britain amid preparations for war with Argentina in a trip that attracts big crowds and sees him praying with Robert Runcie at Canterbury Cathedral, but which leaves the Catholic church in England with crippling debts.

The body of Roberto Calvi, president of the Milan-based Banco Ambrosiano, is found hanging under Blackfriars bridge in London. His death brings to light murky dealings involving the Vatican Bank. There are suspicions that money was siphoned off from the bank to help fund Solidarity in Poland, instrumental in the downfall of the country's communist regime seven years later.

1985 The Vatican declares that homosexuality is an "intrinsic moral evil" and must be seen as an "objective disorder".

1988 In his pastoral letter on the role of women, Mulieris Dignitatem, the Pope rules out women becoming priests.

1989 The Cologne Declaration criticising the Vatican for interference and authoritarianism is signed by 163 German-speaking theologians, and subsequently by 130 of their French colleagues. Italian theologians produce their own version a few months later. Rome imposes an oath of obedience on all priests and all those in any position of authority in the church, to the teachings laid down by the Pope and the college of bishops.

Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Pope holds a historic meeting with the Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, in the Vatican.

1992 The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, has a tense meeting with the Pope and acknowledges that there have been differences over women priests and contraception.

1993 Veritatis Splendor encyclical claims there is a "culture of death" in which abortion, in-vitro fertilisation and embryology have become widely accepted. Condemns birth control as an "intrinsic evil".

1994 A general election in Italy marks the end of an era dominated by the Vatican-backed Christian Democrat party. The Christian Democrats' final years see evidence emerge that the party is awash with corruption. Giulio Andreotti, one of the Christian Democrats closest to the Vatican, is subsequently tried but acquitted of murder and mafia involvement.

The Vatican is blamed for hijacking the UN conference on population and development in Cairo in alliance with Iran over the abortion issue.

1996 The Pope at last fulfils an ambition to visit Sarajevo. Explosives are planted near his route.

1998 He makes a historic and hugely successful visit to communist Cuba. Fidel Castro later agrees to let the island's Catholics celebrate Christmas.

In his most purely philosophical encyclical, the Pope argues that the fundamental problem facing the world is that faith and reason are seen as mutually exclusive.

2000 He summons 30 million pilgrims to Rome for jubilee celebrations, including a mass with 2 million young people.

On a visit to Portugal, he reveals the third secret of Fatima: a prediction of Ali Agca's assassination attempt - further proof for the pontiff of his divinely ordained mission.

A Vatican document sparks outcry by branding other religions flawed and inferior, eroding some of the goodwill generated by the Pope's visit to Jerusalem and by a sweeping apology for the sins of the church.

2001 The Pope creates 44 cardinals, dipping the number of Europeans eligible to elect a pope below 50% and enhancing the influence of the church in the developing world.

He becomes the first pope to enter a mosque and reaches out to Orthodox Christians on trips to Greece and Armenia.

2002 Trip to Azerbaijan and Bulgaria exposes failing health: he is unable to leave his plane unassisted and cannot read most of his speeches.

He summons US cardinals to Rome for summit on the sex scandals convulsing the American church.

The Pope is accused of creating too many saints too quickly after canonising the mystic monk Padre Pio, who died in 1968. He also canonises 16th-century Mexican Indian Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, who many believe did not exist. He tells a meeting of a million people in Toronto, Canada, that the harm done by paedophile priests in the US "fills us with sadness and shame".

2003 A cardinal confirms the Pope has Parkinson's disease. He makes his 100th foreign trip but cancels engagements because of an intestinal ailment. He beatifies Mother Teresa before a crowd of 300,000.

2004 He condemns gay marriage as an attack on fabric of society. He breathes heavily and gasps during mass at Lourdes.

2005 He falls ill with flu, is readmitted after a relapse then undergoes a tracheotomy to help him breathe; further complications require a nasal feeding tube to be inserted.

There is enough damaging information one can write about. I did not follow the church teaching, nor did I bow to the letter of the law, and I never will. AS he lies there in state at the Vatican, may God be merciful on his soul. I will continue my writing against the church and I will worship God in my community where diversity is a part of community. It is in what is different that makes us unique community. Life would be so very boring if we were all the same cardboard cutout Catholics.

The church has spent the last 2000 subverting the lives and voices of the women of the faith. In studying the women of Christianity, one finds that there is an entirely new vision of the church that comes to us from the women.
Here is my pontification on feminine Christianity.

In Women in Christianity Volume three Mary T. Malone writes that:

“The spirituality of femaleness is rooted in a recovery of the sense of the goodness of the body, that therefore necessarily of nature, since women had been associated with nature in opposition to the identification of men with culture. Perhaps this is the greatest task facing women today – the reclamation of the goodness of the female body after centuries of degradation and manipulation, coupled with sexual fear and fascination…” [i]

My observations of feminine thought, during my study of the female “god experience” has given me a vision of how theology as a whole can be expanded, in the expanding spiral form. I note that throughout history, at certain points of the patriarchal timeline, the undercurrent of female teaching steps out of the shadows and places themselves in the direct linear timeline. Where the patriarchal church moves forwards “linearly” the women blossom outwards, “exponentially.” I found this particular to the female experience of God and spirituality. In the reading, it is written that “Rosemary Radford Ruether produced one of the very first volumes of feminist systematic theology. Here she points out that the ‘uniqueness of feminist theology’ lies in its use of the criterion of women’s experience as an explosive critical force, ‘exposing classical theology, including its codified traditions, as based on male experience rather than on universal human experience’. With this essential insight, Ruether reconstructs theology in a feminine mode…” [ii]

The patriarchal system based in an “androcentric” parameter does not give women any room to grow, participate or own their voices in regards to God and the church

Mary Malone writes “It is obvious that the church is organised along patriarchal line, and that because of this, not only are women excluded for any leadership or decision-making roles, but also and inevitably the whole doctrinal structures of the tradition – as well as the interpretation and preaching of the scriptures and the public representation of the divine in the context of worship – in completely male-dominated.”[iii]

“Femininity, though named as such in the nineteenth century, had a long ancestry in the Christian tradition…The virgins, however, were interpreted by the ‘fathers’ as living lives of reparation for the status as daughters of Eve. As we have learned, this was not always how the women saw themselves, but the imposition of the spirituality of repentance and atonement for their very existence laid the foundation for the spirituality of femininity.”[iv]

In my studies I note that feminist Christians have expanded on their views of God. The church has always held to the “male oriented” system of church, thereby alienating women, which in turn, negates their experience and further silences their voice in the church and for the church.

In as many years of my life, I have always seen God as approachable, by anyone and everyone. I was raised to believe that God was love and that everyone was important to Him. The church, as I have seen, did not work that way. I maintain that women throughout history tried to make their presence known in the Christian experience, as the church kept them from ever making a solid mark on the minds and hearts of worshipping Christians.

“Despite a tradition of unbroken resistance to their aspirations, women, from one generation to the next, overcame extraordinary obstacles to their perceived call to full ecclesiastical participation, and managed to repeat in their lives the profession of faith of the third century martyr Perpetua: I live by the authority of my name, that is, the name of Christian.”[v]

I find that my Christian journey has a very feminine thread, as I look back in hindsight. If I may take a stance it would be this, “I am a gay – feminist” Catholic, which gives me a unique view into MY church experience. I am the antithesis of the proper Christian male.

So writes Mary Malone about the women in Christianity “Often the more committed they are, the more they are perceived as a problem. Their ability to worship is forever altered by the overwhelming maleness of the language and symbolism, and they seem to find themselves in a continued state of anger and rejection.”[vi]

In reading the text about feminine theology and feminine spirituality, finding ones voice and place is very important to starting the journey into personal religious truth. The fact that women over the ages have spent their lives expanding the Christian religious timeline outwards from any given point on the linear timeline are a testament to the power they believed was theirs to have and to use. Some women have found their place amongst the men and the church and some of them have set out on a journey alone “outside the box” of the church.

“During the Middle Ages, as we have seen in Volume Two of this series, many spiritual claims by women were feared as demonic. For women, there was a prescriptive spirituality that included the obliteration of all that was female and sexual in order to remove what was seen as the essential obstacle to the coming of the spirit.”[vii]

If I look at the emergence of feminine thought and spirituality and I apply a “coming out” line of thought, they are very similar. I have known rejection by the church, and I found ways to get around that rejection. At some point on my Christian journey I had to find myself in person and in name. The question “who am I?” has arisen as of late, and I found that providential to this stage in my journey. For the woman, “one of the longest journeys is the journey to the unity of the body and spirit.”[viii]

As a gay man, like the spiritual, feminine and mystical women of ages past, I have had to cultivate my understanding of God. To find other means of identifying the divine, to create and maintain that relationship even though the church has always held fast to their patriarchal and exclusionary truths.

“Perhaps the most challenging of all the ingredients of feminine spirituality of the naming of God, a naming that points to the mystery of divinity beyond any name.”[ix]

The church has an answer for every question that exists for God, as long as one remains within the confines of the church. Like the feminist spiritual women, and in the spirit of the mystical women of Christianity’s past, I have found within myself a new vision of God, one that is not androcentric and misogynistic.

I have had issues with the church for one reason or another for most of my life. Now I understand why I have those issues today. Like the feminist writers I seek a God to whom I can relate. The Christian journey is a forward motion, yet, at any given point on the journey, the expansion of thought and spiritual experience is possible. I see a God who will participate in my journey whenever I need a glimpse of his grace. That “interaction” with God on a daily basis in not something that patriarchal church wants people to understand or seek on their own. God is meant to be mediated and beseeched by a religious authority.

If people, like women, are led to believe that religious authority is unnecessary, then the church in principle would become obsolete.

Feminist and mystical teaching centers on that point. “The glorious diversity of mystical language, especially the language of the medieval women mystics, provides many new approaches to God, usually intimate, affirmative and claiming the experience of direct access.”[x]

The women see God as part of their living experience, that God is part of our lives in all areas and situations. To bring humanity to God, defies the divine location that the church has given him. Giving God human qualities would open the door to a new spiritual experience. Bringing a dualistic nature to God would defy everything that the church has taught us about God the father. We ask this question, “what If God was a woman? And the church balks at the mere mention of a female divine deity. God forbid!

The church wants to keep a fair distance between the Christian and the Godhead. They believe that a mediator is necessary to communicate our wishes to God. That only an “unmarried and Catholic” man can become a priest, and even pope. That “specific” qualification was given out in the recent death of Pope John Paul II. I found it a specific slight to the community, so as to perpetuate the “male oriented/patriarchal” church. They HAD to make that statement clearly.

As women write about their experience with and of God, thought expands exponentially from any one point on our linear timeline. The necessity of reworking the Christian experience is something that I have found to be of interest to me, and crucial to my experience. I may follow the church in a faith way of life, yet I do not necessarily prescribe to her teachings dogmatically. There is the crux of the feminist methodology. Who am I and where do I place myself within God’s kingdom, and how do I make a difference within the community that I reside. Women have been very critical of the men of the church. Over the centuries we have seen the emergence of feminine teachings on God, which I find to be a breath of fresh air in a very stale church experience.

Feminine spirituality brings God down to a human level thereby making him accessible to all, and not just some. I think that this ideal is something the church would rather not seen happen.

For centuries we have seen the church openly silence the voices of women. They have gone to great expense to invalidate their experiences. Women, for centuries have been punished and blamed to suffer for the sins of Eve. Women in many cultures still live in an oppressed world of men. The equality of women has yet to take hold in many places in the world. Yet, we hear the rumblings of those voices, just waiting for the right moment for them to “come out” of their imposed silences. The oppression of women is something that crosses social and

Racial lines, from generation to generation. The church is at the forefront of oppression and exclusion. We see it in first world nations, and the trickle down theory persists down into countries that live at the third world poverty level. I will offer this thought though, I believe that third world Christians are not caught up in the trappings of the rest of us. That faith and tradition is what keeps them alive to propagate families and progeny. Without the saddle of “things” one can focus on things of above. That is where I believe that innate sense of feminine spirituality finds it ways into places that we would not necessarily find it, unless we went looking for it.

I have observed in my lifetime, how Christianity has impacted third world nations, and have seen how oppression and patriarchy has impacted generations of people. Women have been the bearers of children, the keepers of home, the wives to their husbands and mothers to their children. Women are important in the keeping of tradition and genealogy. They are the story tellers, the mystics and the healers. The example of first world feminism trickles down to the other feminine circles in the world. I believe at some innate level, feminine thought and spiritual practice has been kept alive, due to the generational passing of these “ideas” of the women to their progeny. Even though many women are subjugated and kept in their places by men, that doesn’t mean they haven’t realized a way to pass on these specific teachings to those they must, namely the children of the subsequent generations.

As we see, in some third world countries, women still have no voice, and are abused by patriarchal systems. But within those dynamics we have seen great women rise from the mire to become saints for their good works. People like Mother Theresa, may have lived a life of poverty, but she brought the wealth of God to a people, who might not have otherwise ever seen God. Yet she did not share the feminist vision.

“Third world feminist theology likewise shares the negative and positive dimensions of earlier feminist theology. The negative dimension is a critique of and struggle against all forms of oppression, including patriarchy, racism, and sexism, both in the secular contexts of the politico-economic structures of society and in the ecclesiastical context of the Christian churches. The positive dimension aims at reform, reconstruction, and re-interpretation of the Christian tradition, especially the scriptures, the central doctrinal structure, and the core symbols, in the light of women’s experience and in new social and cultural contexts.”[xi]

For thousands of years, the church has attempted to keep the feminine voices and the dualistic thought of God quiet. Women have been punished by the church for far too long. Simply put, feminism in my eyes, in my limited knowledge, has tried to bring forth the wisdom and wealth of the feminine voice. It gives us as a “people” something new to read and opens up the religious experience to everyone, everywhere. Yet the church does not officially recognize these new ways of thinking and experiencing God.

Feminist theology has found its way into the human story.

In my lifetime, as a Christian man, I have walked a specific spiritual journey. That journey has been greatly influenced by not just the men of faith, but the women who have instilled faith within me. It is one thing to follow the churches teachings dogmatically, it is totally another thing to cultivate Christianity for oneself based on the life teachings of women who directly impacted my journey. Women have always been a guiding force in my spiritual development. I think that has aided in my feminine development. I have in fact; found the desire to find my name within God. I have cultivated a new understanding of “church.”

If men can directly experience God, then so can the women.

I have written that men pray to God, and women talk to God. There is a difference.

I think we will see feminine expansion exponentially along this linear timeline. Women are alive and well and are active in the church. They have shown themselves to be proper Christian women. They have ascended the old ideas of the church. They have made a direct impact on Christianity, indirectly. They have begun to stake their claims in the timeline of Christianity. While the linear patriarchal timeline has moved forward, the feminine spiritual and mystical “female” timeline has been gaining strength and support from others, not necessarily within the “church.” It is time to stop punishing and degrading them. It is time to find other ways to identify and share in Gods experience here on earth. I think the time has come for us to adopt feminine mysticism into the male “patriarchal” church; this I believe would change the face of Christianity forever. If men and women are created in the image of God, then why aren’t we listening and respecting women in every corner of the world, from every social and racial background?

I think that there is much room for discussion and that change is inevitable. The fact that some women have found God outside the confines of the church institution, tells me that they are tired of fighting the system, so if you cannot find it within, then go build a church on your own. And some have.

I believe that there is a wealth of female knowledge to be had, from all over the world. Whilst the church hides behind its golden curtain, disenfranchised men and women have begun to make their own ways to find God. I would think that the “openness” of feminine theology and spirituality has added much needed faith and strength to the spiritual journey for many people. Within the confines of the church, dogma is dogma. We will never see women within the hierarchy of the church, and still to this day we would never see a woman preaching the world of God to a congregation, because of age old constructs. I see that other religious faiths and traditions have opened to door to the spiritual woman, who have realized “who she is and what she brings” to a community of faithful. I have met strong feminine ministers who are fine examples of just how important feminine theology and spirituality is to today’s Christian experience.

Conclusion

“It is true that Christian women of today live in entirely different contexts, but it is also true that the Christian content of the lives of today’s women is still moulded by and rooted in the male dominated tradition that was familiar to women Christians of all proceeding centuries...There is a tradition of Woman Christianity that runs on a parallel track to the official, institutional Christian story. It is a different tradition that has kept alive many elements of the Christian vision that are otherwise forgotten. It is the story of Christianity as lived from the outside, from the margins, from the perspective of those members who were, for the most part, not considered to be full members with all privileges enjoyed by men.”[xii]

Had I not come to the realization early on in my life that God WAS inclusive and loving of everyone, everywhere, I would have died, many years ago. So the seeds of feminist thought had been planted in my soul many years before I knew what they were. I read the bible and hear the homilies, yet I apply those teachings as I see fit, within my Christian experience. That is the gift of feminine thought, I have realized. The church is too set in its ways. It does not see the need to expand its teachings or spiritual practices. As this new teaching makes its way into the world we call life. As we move forward we can see on the timeline where fruits of feminine Christian teaching emerge, and we can plot their growth. Teaching is an outward and expanding action. It is time that tradition and teaching changes. And it will take years to see this happen. Now is a very important time on our lives. The church is in the position of choosing a new leader. What direction Christianity will now move, is entirely up to the man who will lead us into the 21st century. What is in store for a “new church?”


0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home