Thursday, May 31, 2007

Living in the Catholic Gitmo: 1

Living as far north as I do at this time of year it is still daylight well after ten in the evening and the temperature is in the high eighties!
However these days of ever lingering light and heat will begin, in a mere twenty-one days, to shorten, until most likely, as last year, the snows will come the first week of October and linger, with the ice-winds, until early May!
Weather and seasons, heat and cold, light and darkness, the passage of time, especially within the ebb and flow, the grace and mystery, the purpose of being which is constantly before us in the Person of Christ revealed to us, ever ancient, ever new, in the daily Scripture of the Liturgical Year – well, for me at least, such things are important.
More than important, they are part of the lived material/spiritual reality of Catholic life, Church life, as Father Jonathan Robinson of the Oratory reminds us in his book: THE MASS AND MODERNITY – “...God uses ordinary material things such as water, oil, bread, and wine as a means of communicating himself to is a giving, in love, by one person of himself, that is, God, to other persons, that is, to his people.” [see p. 93]
Father Robinson, at least in the above passage, left out one ‘material thing’, as it were, God also uses: the human person, specifically through the Sacrament of Ordination when a, albeit immortal soul being, created and redeemed by Him, a being in many ways more fragile and vulnerable to ‘deterioration’ than other sacramental matter, becomes priest, becomes in persona Christi capitis, of the very One who is love-giving.
As I look out the window of my urban-hermitage the broiling sun has slipped beneath the rooftops of this poor neighbourhood, a line of golden light marking the difference between the darkened streets and alleys, [ where late day dumpster-divers are seeking whatever might be sold at the re-cycling plant ], and the as yet devoid of moon and stars vastness of the heavens.
Some years ago, on a late spring night not unlike this one, weighed down by whispers, isolated by terrorized abandonment by confreres, heartbroken because his Ordinary shunned him, a young priest known to me took his own life.
As the now common saying among priests goes, he had been “chartered”!
A few days ago I got an email from another priest who also has been chartered and who spends his days humbly serving fellow addicts as best he can and who was the sole caregiver of his aged mother.
When she died he had to plea for permission to at least concelebrate at her funeral. After some negotiations permission was granted but his Ordinary said he himself would not be there in case he be too indentified with the disgraced priest and people might protest.
Today I got a phone call from another priest telling me about a young priest who was whispered about, nothing ever proven, no investigation ever done, but a fellow cleric, who now has a lot of power, saw to his being so isolated he got permission to ‘serve abroad’.
He died in that other country very alone, living in a hovel.
His distraught family hoped the new Ordinary would at least bury their son.
He did not.
His brother priests did.
I checked the diocesan web site.
It is as if that young priest never existed.
The world press, clergy of various faiths, Catholic hierarchy included, make all the right noises about CIA renditions, the secret catching and putting into prisons of alleged terror suspects and even more noise is made about Guantanamo Bay and third country torturing.
No rational human being can deny the horror and impact of 9/11.
No rational human being can deny the horror and impact of clerical abuse of innocents.
Neither can any rational human being fail to be concerned about the repercussions of some of the methods used to prevent another 9/11, especially when it comes to such basic realities as human rights.
I believe the time has come to challenge Bishops, Priests, Laity, to look at the repercussions of the Dallas Charter and the abusive way in which priests are denied due process, the poisoned atmosphere where allegation becomes fact, where indeed, though not as visible as the one in Cuba, we have within the Church our own Gitmo.
Throughout the world those priests condemned to life in this Catholic Gitmo numbers in the thousands.
Over the next little while I will express opinion, concern, challenge, and, recommendations for a more in the light, the light of Christ as well as the light of day, approach as an alternative to being chartered.
It is a fundamental, but seemingly forgotten reality, that when the ‘material’ of a baptized man is used by God to communicate Himself in the Priesthood, it is the local ‘high priest’, the Bishop, who calls down the Holy Spirit, and within that sacred moment there is also the act of the promise of filial obedience.
It is part of the yearly Chrism Mass, the renewal of this promise.
What seems forgotten is this is an implicit two-way promise.
The Bishop is promising, de facto, to be Shepherd, Father, indeed friend to his priest.
The weakening, if not near dissolution, of the presumed Episcopal fidelity, even if the son is an outright prodigal, which I would argue should urge Bishops all the more to be true shepherd and father, through the aftermath of Dallas is the emerging great tragedy and scandal within the Church today.
One dark and cold night in 1988 in Canada a Native leader was shot by police. A cover-up ensued.
Eventually there was a Judicial Inquiry.
In 2003 a movie was made called: COWBOYS AND INDIANS.
It is worth viewing.
It has much to teach Bishops, Priests, Laity about many things.
One particular scene has stayed with me.
The mourning half-brother of J.J. Harper, the Native Leader who was murdered, is accosted by another Native on a dark winter street.
The man is very drunk, dirty, belligerent.
He claims to be “your brother”, and is angrily shoved onto the sidewalk.
After walking some yards away a remorseful man, seeing in his heart the face of the crumpled body of his half-brother J.J. laying dead on the ground, filled with compunction, turns, walks back, picks the guy up, somewhat sheepishly assuming the man is really looking for money, offers him the change from his pocket.
The money is refused with a look of profound disappointment and these words: “ I just asked you to recognize me.”