Reading The Synod

Reading The Synod


I will not tweet. I will not tweet. I will not tweet…

Yesterday was a long day. I did everything to stay off of Twitter and out of the debates that flared up as soon as the text of the Pope’s closing remarks to the Synod on the Family were released. Okay so I did maybe fire off a single tweet that the “great Catholic leaders” described as “shaping Church teachings” by one conservative Catholic Twitter user actually translated to “men, ordained or not” and pointing out that, ‘Faithful women religious were not given a vote.”

And then I went off and baked a batch of cookies. And then I did the dishes and cleaned the kitchen. And then I made a big corned beef dinner which would’ve fed half the neighbors. And then I did the dishes and cleaned the kitchen again. And then I updated my laptop to Windows 10 so I couldn’t use it until the update finished hours later.

But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading. I read the Pope’s closing statement. He spoke of those who would indoctrinate dead stones to be hurled at others and of those who would hide behind Church teaching in order to judge with superiority. Even as far removed as I am from the Church, I love Pope Francis. I love that he calls out the superiority, superficiality, pomposity, and arrogance of the same men who elected him.

FullSizeRenderI’m still waiting for the English translation of the full 94 paragraphs of the final document from the Synod. But I have read the paragraphs that have been made available thus far. The language on divorce, remarriage and the internal forum will garner most of the attention from the press, followed closely by the language on LGBT persons and their families. None of the above are really a big change. Although the internal forum has long been a close-kept Church secret, it really shouldn’t be quite so hush-hush. I think it’s about time to publicly answer the question of whether the Church trusts her priests to form consciences and guide individual discernment or if it does not. And if it does not, why not?

The paragraph that broke my heart was Paragraph 27, the paragraph that dealt with women. Once again the men at the top have reiterated that, above all, the value of woman lies in her role as a mother. The language which could have focused on the violence against women as a violation of their inherent dignity as beloved daughters of God was instead focused on threats to motherhood particularly through forced sterilization or forced abortions. The Church fathers irresponsibly squandered a tremendous public opportunity to speak out against the physical, emotional, and verbal abuse millions of women face every single day. Many women suffer at the hands of the very men who have sworn to love, honor and cherish them. Until death do us part for many is a not a promise of a long and fruitful marriage but rather a sincere hope that the death will come quickly and thereby end their suffering. But there are also many woman and girls who will suffer violence and abuse outside of marriage. These millions of women deserved more than a single line buried in a paragraph focused mainly on violence as a threat to the role of motherhood.

I supposed it could be said that I can’t blame the Church fathers for their lack of insight. They are, after all, men surrounded only by men, taking advice almost exclusively from men. But I can, and soundly do, blame them for choosing to remain ignorant. Non-ordained religious brothers had voting rights at the Synod. Their status within the Church is that of layman. Or a laywoman. Or a religious sister. But no woman was allowed to cast a vote. Not one. The refusal to allow women to fully participate in these discussions and the drafting of these documents is also a refusal to admit to the pastoral realities that exist in the lives of women in the Church.

The Church refuses to ordain women. While I may vehemently disagree with their scriptural interpretations, they have their traditions and doctrines that reinforce their reasons for this refusal. But what, exactly, are the reasons why the Church refuses to hear from women at all? How does one legitimately claim the title of Father but ignore the cries of their daughters?

Atheists, Bourbon, Christianity, and Deadlines

Atheists, Bourbon, Christianity, and Deadlines

After a very crazy two weeks, I finally had a weekend that was relatively quiet.  Well quiet except for the two papers I had to write. One had to be an evaluation of a colloquium with Dr. Tina Beattie centered around the book Catholic Women Speak and the Synod on the Family being held in Rome and tying together the topic of the colloquium with the early civilization class I’m taking, which is a bit of stretch. The other is an exegesis on priestly garments in the book of Exodus. Both of these topics are precisely the kind of thing I love to sink my teeth into so I wasn’t too worried about getting them done.

bourbonDid I mention I had a quiet weekend coming up?  So of course that meant I had time to meet up with friends and have a bourbon Friday night. Of course, one bourbon turned into two. And of course, I decided to be a bit adventurous and instead of sticking with my usual neat bourbon, I had a delicious twist on an Old Fashioned that involved a fair amount of sugar. Come Saturday morning that made for a wicked hangover headache.  Okay. No big deal. Nothing a big breakfast and some time in the sunshine can’t fix. Except I made the mistake of going on Twitter. I retweeted a post from about faith and trust. Just an FYI, tweeting anything with #faith paints a laser target on your account for bored atheists. And as my longtime readers know, I never can just walk away from a good Twitter discussion.  Instead of nursing my hangover by closing my eyes and soaking up sunshine in my car at the beach, I was on Twitter defining faith.

Naturally by the time I got home on Saturday afternoon, it was nearly two o’clock and since I had two papers to write, I had stopped at the store to pick all the makings of a lasagna. Cooking and writing are inexplicably tied together in my brain. I worked out the outlines to the first paper in my head as I prepped and layered what turned out to be a fantastic lasagna. All the while I kept up with the discussion of truth, falsity, faith and judgments.

image1Why? Because I clearly need a life or a hobby or a Twitter intervention or perhaps all of the above. I also need a couple of Advil because I tend to bite my lip when I think and after a while it makes my jaw hurt which only added to my bourbon headache. But all that nonsense aside, I work stuff out as I write. Crazy as it sounds to get dragged into a discussion of faith with someone who doesn’t believe in God, knowing neither of us has any real hope of dissuading the other, it’s really not a complete waste of time. It is a lot more work to stop and consider how to answer that question in light of the questioner’s nonacceptance of religion as a whole.

It’s so easy to pretend that ours is the only belief in the world when we only spend time with people who think and believe the same things we do. We get lazy. So when someone throws down the question, “You say you don’t make a judgment of truth for other religions compared to yours. But certainly you had reasons not to choose. How did you decide the truthfulness of [other religions] was less than that of Christianity?” the easiest thing in the world would be to put the phone down and add some more cheese to the lasagna and forget to answer the question.

The time spent answering hard questions on why I believe what I do is always time well-spent. It may or may not make a difference to the one asking the questions, but it always expands my own understanding to formulate the answers.  What did I answer? To paraphrase: there is some piece of a greater truth to be found in every religion I have studied. Ultimate truth is beyond any human codification system. I found my truth in Christianity as it most closely matched my experiences of God.  And that is where it becomes faith rather than logic.

Meanwhile, I still have a headache and I still have two papers to write.

The People-Watching of a Catholic Cynic


The past few weeks have been heaven for those of us who are shameless people-watchers. I’m not sure what was more interesting: watching Catholics watching the Pope, watching non-Catholics watching the Pope, or watching Catholics watching non-Catholics watching the Pope. A personal favorite was the Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We watched half of it in the local diner. Everyone there was exceptionally quiet, watching and listening to the Mass. We got home in time to watch the end of it. After the Mass was over, as the Pope making his way through the crowd, the commentator stated, “We heard the Pope at the end of Mass say ‘Go in peace.’ Very much keeping with his message throughout this visit…”

My younger son laughed. “Obviously he’s not a Catholic. They say that at every Mass. That’s Jesus’ message not the Pope’s.”

And as if all that wasn’t enough fun to watch, now that Pope Francis is back in Rome, we have the Extraordinary Synod on the Family. I’m curious to see what will come out of it all. So much talk about divorce, remarriage and annulments certainly pricks up my ears. My longtime Twitter nemesis, Fr. Paul is in Rome observing the Synod from the outside. I asked him if he knew if the topic of domestic abuse was on the agenda for discussion. He hadn’t seen anything at that point and at his suggestion, I read through the Instrumentum Laboris (working document of the synod) and found not a single mention.

***sigh***  Why am I not surprised that a room full of celibate men wouldn’t even think to include an issue that effects 1 in 4 women, 1 in 7 men, and certainly impacts the entire family. I have searched periodically for the last eight years and I have yet to find any official Vatican document of any sort that deals with violence in the home. Plenty to say about what is or is not acceptable in the bedroom but abuse of a spouse is never mentioned.

Yes, I know, I’m a cynic. And yes, I know, the Church in no way condones violence. But if you’re going to gather to discuss the pastoral issues facing families, particularly divorce and remarriage, don’t you think it might be common sense to discuss WHY people get divorced in the first place? Domestic abuse is certainly high on the list of reasons.

Then the bombshell hit. Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher of Gatineau, Quebec proposed discussion of ordaining women the diaconate. I almost dropped my tea when a friend texted me that newsflash. Finally! Someone with a little authority making the same argument I’ve been making for the last few years. Now the people-watching gets really interesting. The traditionalists immediately started howling that women can “just go be nuns” and “they don’t need to priests to serve”, even though the discussion was clearly about the diaconate not the presbyeriate. The moderates hemmed and hawed and clucked their tongues while making the usual patronizing, non-committal statements about the need for the “feminine genius” and “expanded roles for women”, neither of which are ever defined. Then there are the liberals, who went wild with hope that there was finally a real discussion of women having a role in liturgical ministry and some sort of real voice in the Church.

From the cynical outsider perspective, I see a whole lot of posturing. And it makes me wonder which message these men are keeping to: their own or that of Jesus. Because Jesus was certainly talking to the women about their situations rather than telling them that this is how it was going to be. Jesus addressed the pastoral realities of the people he met, not just the theological ideal. It seems like the Vatican forgot that centuries ago and is too entrenched in its own traditions to admit that it may need a course correction. The Catholic Church is missing half the of the voices and half of the reality. The theologically ideal Catholic woman is a either nun or married (once, forever) with children. That is not the pastoral reality. And let’s not forget that a woman’s perspective on the Gospel is not heard from the pulpit on any Sunday, ever.

Finally, I ventured into the online debate on women’s ordination and the anger, hostility, insecurity and general nastiness of some of the Catholics I encountered was really sad to see. The Vatican has firmly established in the laity, and a majority of the clergy, an accept-everything-or-get-out mentality.  I suppose that seemed wise in light of the Reformation, but with the 500th anniversary of the Reformation approaching, I have to wonder if that mentality isn’t going to eventually suffocate the Catholic Church.