Our modern Pope is stuck in ancient ways


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Footnoted references in Pope Francis’s Laudato si range from Francis of Assisi’s Early Documents to Basil the Great — 172 in all, just two of them not a church source, one of these a noted 20th-century philosopher, the other a Muslim spiritual writer.

He offers no reference to any scientific authority or commentator, nothing but airy meditation material, bad poetry aimed primarily at the feelings, one a priori argument after another.

It’s a model of church talk, apodictic as can be. Why is he so apodictic? And formal? And so dependent on authority rather than argument made by his sources?

He concedes nothing. Nowhere is there a “coal does a lot of good, heating homes of many poor people, but . . . ” for instance. Nope, it’s “you have to shut up and listen,” it’s your holy father talking.

From the mountain top, or on one of the seven hills of his see city, he speaks. We are down below, being told what to do. He’s supreme, we are devotees.

But he’s actually from Argentina, and seems to think he knows how to help poor people because there are so many of them in his country. That’s no recommendation, for my Peter’s pence.

Maybe he should consider a country where there are not so many poor people, the United States, for instance, where tho on the rise it’s where every poor person in the world would give his eye teeth to live and where Mexican and other people are dying to get in.

Why not look to the one country where everyone wants to live and see how things are done there, one of the world’s most free-market capitalist countries?

Instead, he rails against free markets and pulls an Obama, making nice with dictators and other autocrats, he himself effectively dictating, under cover of biblical-style prophecy, how we should to run our countries and our lives. A little second-guessing of yourself, Holiness, a little humility!

Do not laugh at end-of-world predictions, says Pope Francis


This from Pope Francis on global destruction gives us a flavor of his worldview:

161. Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to
coming generations debris, desolation and filth.

The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world.

The effects of the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now. We need to reflect on our accountability before those who will have to endure the dire consequences.

He truly wants to save the world, lives in fear of the Apocalypse. Walking through the valley of the shadow of death, he fears evil in the worst way. Which coming from a Pope is scary, and I fear it.

Second-guessing sermons: Giving mystery its due


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I do believe such second-guessing is a worthy pursuit, especially for former preachers who can be seen sometimes squirming in the pew. (He made his bed and lies in it, procrustean though it be.)

That said, I wonder if this 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle B, should be a time for considering ours as something of a mystery religion. I’d start with the reference in First Kings, 19 to the “broom tree” under which Elijah sat, pooped, after a day in the desert.

What kind of broom tree? Whisk? Push? Floor? Venetian blind?

I jest, of course. But the Sunday reading is often hard enough to grasp without having to deal with so odd, if helpful to Elijah, a protuberance.

As a preacher, I would pounce on this broom-tree business as one of many mysteries we are presented with in this thousands-of-years-old literature. I would make something of that, voicing my puzzlement and I think striking a chord with pew-sitters.

I would make that  a quick entry into discussion of the much bigger mysteries we are faced with. In this day’s readings alone, we find these:

  • The angel who set the table for Elijah — a hearth cake and a jug of water. Oh?
  • Paul’s message in Ephesians 4 that Christ (not Jesus, as we say, lest we offend Jews, who do not accept him as the Christ) loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God
  • Jesus in John 6 calling himself the bread that came down from heaven (middle-eastern metaphor?)
  • Jesus saying no one can come to him unless the Father who sent him draw him,
    “and I will raise him on the last day.”
  • Jesus calling himself “the bread of life.”
  • Jesus: “Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert [Elijah ate a hearth cake], but they died.”
  • Consider the lowly hearth cake, by the way, “how people managed . . . without an oven. . . . They made hearth cakes which are a cross between a cake and a biscuit. . . . also known as Singing Hinnies because they used to sing when they were placed on the hot hearth stone. The hearth stone is a large flat stone in front of the fire. Alternatively, they can be made in a frying pan instead if you don’t have a hearth stone [which most of us don’t].
  • Jesus: “This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

It’s all mystery. Some of us are used to it, but to many it’s still a head-scratcher of the first order. No wonder the Jews murmured.

I’d say it should be treated as mysterious — the only way to do justice to its meaning. We should treat it, I think, as something so much out of the ordinary that it is hard to believe.

Simple repetition is not the mother of devotion.

“I believe, Lord. Help thou my unbelief” is the appropriate stance. Was good enough once, should be so now.

Social ethic has its place, but what does it do for business expansion?


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Here’s the close to an editorial, “Can Portland capitalize on its popularity with millennials” in The Oregonian, a paper I read the other day while in that fair city.

It’s a cautious but convincing word for less government regulation and less tree-hugging if there is to be a business renaissance.

Where does all of this leave Portland? The city’s social ethic fits well with the millennial generation, which is one reason so many 20-somethings move here. The city is fertile ground for social entrepreneurs, who prioritize a cause over profits.

But Portland also needs to be welcoming to young entrepreneurs interested in starting traditional businesses. That means helping would-be business owners navigate the regulatory system and taking steps to keep office rents and other start-up costs, including taxes, from spiraling out of control.

Otherwise, the gaps between the aspirations of Portland’s millennials and their ability to achieve their goals will only grow.

In a letter to the editorial page, I noted their “Balancing idealism with gritty realities,” with accompanying example and conclusion, “Sometimes there are legitimate reasons that businesses don’t put a higher priority on societal problems.”

I added that “to float such heresy in your (or Chicago’s) climate is admirable.”

He say, I say, the question is the question



Sat. 8/8/15, 7:30 a.m., Clark and Bryn Mawr, NE corner. 

Man on bicycle sees me, I nod hello, he stops on sidewalk. He is bald of dark brown (bullet) head, soft of tone. Says something.

 I say, “What?”

 He say, in soft, unaccented tone, “Can I ask you a question?”

 I say “No.”

He pulls away on sidewalk, heading east on Bryn Mawr, N side of street.

Sat. 8/8/15, 7:30, Clark and Bryn M., NE corner.

Commentary on this event:

 1. He had already made bold to ask me a question, so asking, “Can I ask?” was superfluous and on its face suspicious.

 2. I try not to answer questions, period, at Clark and Bryn Mawr at 7:30 in the morning, if I can help it.

 3. I did not feel like giving him some money for carfare.

 4. I did not recognize him as a long lost friend.

 5. I do not know where to get a nice hairpiece at this hour.

 6. He talked too softly for my taste. I like to hear it when people ask me questions, with or without my permission.

 7. It was too nice a morning for questions.

 8. I had enough unanswered questions of my own, without adding any.

 9. I had a book to read, which is why this is my final word on the subject.

The book is Wyndham Lewis, A Soldier of Humor and Selected Writings, edited with introduction by Raymond Rosenthal (Signet Classic, 1966), which I got cheap from ABEbooks.com and which I recommend.

W. Lewis, Soldie of Humor cover

School days, school days . . .


My friend Jack Spatafora talks up the end of summer in an e-blast:

Remember when schools opened the day after Labor Day…? No longer. Another tradition iced. Instead, these once-languid days of August are now witnessing a clutter of school and college openings. And with them, the unofficial start of a new year.
You can feel it in the air as parents and children change their rhythms…faculties gear up….local retailers stock up
…and the city’s mood segues from relaxing to striving. If you look really close, Chicagoland is becoming a giant mural you can actually study in live-action.
Starting with the pre-school kids out there eyeing their siblings bus off to the grand mystery known as the classroom…then the sibs themselves, conflicted between reluctance and anticipation…along with those traffic guards grand-parenting their wards along the way….and don’t forget the faculties waiting in a local school or somewhere in a distant campus.
This is a living mural of a living population gearing up for a whoosh of events hurtling us toward that distant trio of Fall/Winter holidays now almost in sight. It’s something like waking up in a time warp, for before you and those youngsters quite realized, it has made its imperative entrance.
True, there is an entire aura of politics, terrorists, and globalists hovering over everything else. However for now, for August, for Chicago, this is the world that counts most. Kids — yours and mine — filling the mural with yet another new year’s burst of dreams and dreads.
Watching them, we have to hope [and help] those dreams beat out those dreads….
. . . Happy golden-rule days . . .

This whole married-deacon thing could pave the way . . .



. . . towards ordaining married men to the priesthood, as commenter Margeret McCarthy points out in the preceding post.

A change, allowing married men to become priests or to allow priests the right to marry might allow the deaconate ordinands a swift assent to the priesthood, quickly lessening the problem of the shortage of priests.

In other words, we have in place a training program, upgradeable to priest-training. I recall telling the wife of our parish’s newly ordained deacon — one of us, he was — that I marveled at her new role, as wife of an ordained man. It was at a parish picnic.

She seemed to appreciate it. It was as if she hadn’t thought of it that way, so seamlessly had the married diaconate come upon us.

This was years ago, early in the Chicago experience of it. As a laicized priest by then married and with kids, speaking from another era — before the revolution — I saw it as a thing to marvel at.

More to come about this general issue, I hope with references to what others say about it who have given it more thought than I.

Added thought about married priest: Marriage would indeed complicate a priest’s life, which could be a good thing.

Same-sex-attracted Roman Catholic priests, what about them?


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I speak of percentages here. What per cent of RC priests are same-sex-attracted (SSA) compared to priests and other ministers of religion who have the marriage option?

Would RC ordination of married men or legitimization of a priest’s taking a wife — just one, until death they were parted — reduce said percentage?

Would such a change in RC customs reduce the influence of SSA priests and bishops in the councils and consultations of clergy members, as in undercutting support for SSA-friendly moral teaching and practice?

Loaded question that last, brimming with certain assumptions.

Such changes, of course are in no way guaranteed, assuming they are in order, the church being an imperfect institution, the Body of Christ on earth after all, not (yet) in heaven.

May I pursue these questions in later posts? I may just do that.

Dirge for deaths of Latin, God, and mystery


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Before I do one more thing in this late-starting Tuesday morning, a word from Mr. Hickey of Leo Catholic HS:

In my lifetime, I witnessed the euthanizing of Latin and the Death of God by academics and churchmen.  Latin was deemed irrelevant, the vernacular ascended to Parnassus and the Vatican dome.  That is too bad.  The mystery of learning has gone the way of sacred liturgy -no mystery and no beauty.  Education means punching one’s ticket for entry to something else.

Such a mournful mouthfull. Congratulations, Hickey.


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