Friday, 27 August 2021

For Catholics, are the laity really boss of the environment?


Pope Francis has written an amazing encyclical on The Care of Our Common Home - Laudato 'Si. In it he points out that care for the environment, and care for the people most vulnerable to the ravages of climate change, are two sides of the same coin. Although it is the Pope who has taken the lead in melding the best of theology and science to produce this social encyclical, the laity have the principal role in putting that care into practice - this according to the Vatican II Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, paragraph 36...

"36... The faithful, therefore, must learn the deepest meaning and the value of all creation, as well as its role in the harmonious praise of God. They must assist each other to live holier lives even in their daily occupations. In this way the world may be permeated by the spirit of Christ and it may more effectively fulfill its purpose in justice, charity and peace. THE LAITY HAVE THE PRINCIPAL ROLE IN THE OVERALL FULFILLMENT OF THIS DUTY. Therefore, by their competence in secular training and by their activity, elevated from within by the grace of Christ, let them vigorously contribute their effort, so that created goods may be perfected by human labor, technical skill and civic culture for the benefit of all men according to the design of the Creator and the light of His Word. MAY THE GOODS OF THIS WORLD BE MORE EQUITABLY DISTRIBUTED AMONG ALL MEN, and may they in their own way be conducive to universal progress in human and Christian freedom. In this manner, through the members of the Church, will Christ progressively illumine the whole of human society with His saving light."

So, that all sounds wonderful, but it begs a few questions: How do we do this caring - for the environment and the environmentally vulnerable, especially environmental refugees? How important is this in the grand scheme of our daily lives and other responsibilities? How do we generate enthusiasm for the cause? In short, how do we make a difference? AND... How does accountability work?

Saturday, 31 July 2021

What is clericalism? This is clericalism.



Winnipeg Catholic priest accuses residential school survivors of lying about abuse for money

Why did I not read anywhere about the congregation walking out during this 'sermon'. Silence will be construed as assent. When are lay Catholics going to take a stand against clericalism? I hear many Catholics today objecting to being tarred with the brush of what happened 'historically', but silence in the face of 'sermons' like this makes us complicit.

So, what makes this clericalism?

I see this as a classic case:
1) a member of the clerical hierarchy is defending the clerical institution;
2) doing so from a position of institutional authority, namely the pulpit, during the Sunday liturgy over which he presides;
3) he exonerates the priests and nuns;
4) he blames the lay workers;
5) he trivializes any abuse as to be expected in "any institution";
6) he shows not one drop of empathy for victims;
7) he accuses victims of lying to get more money;
8) he angrily accuses "the media" of propagating "fake news";
9) according to the CBC article, the only other outrage he expresses is toward vandals who paint graffiti on a church building.

Any single one of these constitutes clericalism. To get so many in one event is quite an achievement.

In disavowing and apologizing for the priest's statements, the Archdiocesan spokesperson said, "We very much regret the pain they may have caused to many people..." MAY have caused? How polite! Why not, "they obviously MUST have caused...?"

The first and immediate response from the archdiocese was damage control: a polite apology, and preventing this priest from making any further public statements. And that is how it will be perceived and what will be remembered: damage control for the sake of the institutional church.

What about the victims? A subsequent statement from the Archbishop did acknowledge the victims, but by then the damage had been done and the clericalism exposed.

How many steps forward and how many steps backward?

Saturday, 24 July 2021

The scandalous minutiae of clericalism


The other day, the first reading for mass of the day was the giving of the "Ten" Commandments from Exodus. I was reminded of a day-dreaming moment in class in grade 9 (who knows what subject?) when I wondered why God decided upon THOSE ten commandments. Testosterone driven, I considered how much more fun and how much less guilt I would have if certain commandments simply weren't there. In my understanding, the Ten Commandments were arbitrarily decided upon by an all powerful God. And then there was the Church: the priest and catechism teachers who put an even stricter interpretation on an already restrictive set of "Thou shalt not's".

It was not until adult years that I came to appreciate the beauty and desirability of the Ten Commandments in terms of love, happiness and the Two Great Commandments phrased by Jesus. But the more I have grown in that appreciation, the more I have been confounded and frustrated by certain people in the Catholic Church (clerics and laity) who appear preoccupied with the minutiae of "churchy" stuff that sometimes appears to run counter to Christ's Law of Love. I think of issues such as the "correct" way of celebrating the sacraments, Latin or vernacular language, the role of women in the Church, the place of LGBTQ+ Christians, Pro-Life versus pro-life issues. Then there are the scandals that have been met with defensiveness instead of humble acknowledgement and repentance: the scandal of child sexual abuse over a century or more by priests and other Church representatives and, more recently, the freshly resurrected scandal of the Catholic Church's role with Indian Residential Schools.

From boyhood through to adulthood I was taught to defer to the priests in everything concerning doctrine, faith and spiritual practice because the priests knew best , having spent 7 years or more studying theology. Prior to Vatican II lay people were discouraged from reading the Bible because "only the priest knew" the correct way to interpret the Sacred Scriptures. These are the hallmarks of clericalism - defined as "an expectation, leading to abuses of power, that ordained ministers are better than and should be over everyone else among the People of God." 

In the past, bishops saw avoiding scandal as taking priority over protecting victims of abuse by priests. This was blatant clericalism and ultimately resulted in even greater scandal. Clericalism still happens today, in my opinion, when Catholics, lay or clergy, become defensive over the role of the Church in the Residential School scandal, when we hasten to point out that other denominations also ran residential schools, that it was a government program, that not all the graves are those of children, that most of the children likely died of disease such as tuberculosis, that "the pope has already apologised." Clericalism is defensive and ultimately arrogant and self-serving. Its defeat has to include humble acknowledgement, repentance and restitution.

Fortunately the Holy Spirit is God's self-giving gift to the whole Church - not just the clergy. Fortunately, also, we have a pope who is calling everyone, clergy and laity, to take a stand against clericalism.

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Laudato Si’. Introductory Hors D'oeuvres

Picture credit:

The following was posted yesterday on the blog of the Newmarket Society of St Vincent de Paul.

Five years ago, on 25 May 2015, Pope Francis promulgated his famous encyclical letter, Laudato Si' - On Care for Our Common Home. Papal encyclicals are always named from the opening words in Latin, but this one is in Italian - from the opening words of the famous Canticle of the Sun and Moon by St. Francis of Assisi: "Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures, especially Brother Sun, Who is the day through whom You give us light." Indeed, the encyclical devotes an entire section to this great saint of the poor who had such love both for the poor and for the goodness and beauty of the natural world around him.
(You can download the encyclical in PDF format here.)

The encyclical can appear quite daunting if for nothing other than its length - one hundred and eighty pages. The language, however, is not as heavily stilted or technically theological as the encyclicals of most of Pope Francis' predecessors. In great part, this is because the Pope is addressing this encyclical not just to Catholics, not even just to Christians, but to "the whole human family".

Question: How do you enjoy a huge dinner?
Answer: Savour one mouthful at a time.
The same principle applies to papal encyclicals.

For seven days starting Monday, 11 May, I will post a Laudato Si’ introductory Hors D'oeuvres for Vincentians, and others concerned with the plight of the poor and vulnerable, that just looks at a tiny part of the encyclical - Chapter 1, Section V - Global inequality. It is broken down into digestible extracts, one per day. For each day you are invited, firstly, to read what the pope wrote. Then read it again, finding and reflecting on a word, phrase or sentence that stands out the most to you. Thirdly, prayerfully and with a listening heart, tell the Lord how you feel about what you read and why: Frustration? Encouragement? Helplessness? Resolve? Whatever. Allow time for silence and the Holy Spirit. Then finish with one of the two prayers that the Pope gives us right at the end of his letter to the whole world. (I recommend the one for Christians if you are a Christian.) Actually, we will start right there, with the prayers, on Day 1 and Day 2.

You will be able to find the posts on our FaceBook page
and on our Vincentian Blog
If you register your email address at the bottom of the blog page then you can receive new blog posts in your email the following morning. If you have difficulty registering your email, contact Terry directly and I will try to assist you.

Don't forget, Monday, 11 May.

Friday, 1 May 2020

Quiet Tectonic Shift by Catholic Church on May Day

St. Joseph the Worker

Pope Francis today said in his homily on the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker: “Today we join the many men and women, believers and non-believers, who commemorate the Day of the Worker, Labor Day, for those that fight to have justice in work, for those business people who treat those in their employ with justice.” (1)
This amounts, in my view, to a tectonic shift in official Catholic attitudes and thinking. Why do I say this?

Karl Marx published the Communist Manifesto in 1848 in militant defence of the rights of workers against the exploitation of those who owned the means of production - 'Capitalists'. A full forty-three years after that, in 1891, Pope Leo XIII published 'Rerum Novarum', the Church's take on the same subject matter, the rights of workers against exploitation, and declaring the dignity of human labour.

Ten years after the Second World War, with Communism, usually atheistic, gaining traction in Europe, and May Day celebrations getting bigger each year, Pope Pius XII, in 1955, established the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker to be celebrated on May 1 as a counter-celebration to the Communists’ May Day. Now today, with Pope Francis, no longer in a counter-celebration but in a con-celebration, we join the many men and women, believers and non-believers, who commemorate the Day of the Worker, Labor Day, for those that fight to have justice in work, for those business people who treat those in their employ with justice.

See also: