Sunday, August 31, 2014

Another Sidebar: You Don't Have To Be Katholic To Be A Krazy

Have you read the segment on the baseball game in the first chapter of Chaim Potok’s The Chosen?  It has nothing whatsoever to do with Catholicism but it captures the profound hate that for pious zealots of any creed provides the foundation of their religion.  Thus we have ISIS brutally murdering Yazidis and Christians in Iraq; we have Christians and Muslims killing one another in Nigeria; we have Russian Orthodox and Greek Catholics locked in battle in the Ukraine, we endured decades of Catholics and Presbyterians in the most savage murders in Northern Ireland; we have Israeli Jews and Palestinians Christians and Muslims in a war with no end; we have Hindu terrorists killing Christians in India; and we have Buddhists killing Hindus in Burma. Amazingly all these people have become so deluded by their “religion” that they think that God has blessed their cause.  There is no way that any such cult can authentically claim to be worshipping God.  True religion—regardless of what doctrines one professes is only as true as are pure the hearts of its adherents.  Hearts shriveled and putrefying with hatred cannot possibly be filled with the love of a deity, any deity, but are in the grasp of Satan. 
One crucial example of religion-gone-rogue that is too often overlooked in today’s American media is the rabid conviction of the ultra-Orthodox in Israel that God has given the land of Eretz Yisrael exclusively to the Jewish People and that consequently the Israelis have a right—actually a duty—to drive all others out of this land which is uniquely Sacred to the Lord God.  And so farmers whose ancestors lived in this land and on this land long before Joshua led the Children of Israel across the Jordan find their olive groves bulldozed, their houses leveled, their orchards and gardens seized and the land given to the “settlements” which are nothing less than a patchwork of thievery.   And this robbery—and sometimes murder—is done in the Name of Yahweh Sabaoth, the God of Israel.  What sacrilege against the Holy Name!  The Rabbis and the pious should shudder in a morbid fear at their blasphemy of the Holy Name. 
Now, to be fair, the majority of Israelis, much less the majority of Jews around the world, do not subscribe to this violence.  Far from it.  This exclusionary Eretz Yisrael in which only Jews should be able to put their foot to the consecrated land is the doctrine of only a small group, undoubtedly less than 10%, of Israeli Jews.  But given the peculiarities of parliamentary government, the party in power needs the support of the political parties of these extremists to maintain their voting majority in the Knesset (Parliament) and so hatred—hatred in the name of religion—is empowered to work its evil. 
Christians should not be quick to join in the chorus condemning the sins perpetuated in God’s Name in Israel against the native population of that land.  In many regards this precise blasphemy should be well known to Christians.  When the Jews of Europe were driven from their homes and businesses in England (1290) and then from France (1306) and finally from Spain and Portugal (1492), was it any less offensive to Almighty God?  For that matter, was the expulsion of the Muslims from Spain in 1492 any less evil in the Divine Sight?  And what about the pogroms and riots in which, over the centuries, hundreds of thousands of Jewish lives were lost—was this true and authentic religion?  Is God ever honored by hatred?  Is he honored by hatred now in the death of a Muslim? 
When I look at the Katholic Krazy sites, as much as they view the world beyond Catholicism with the contempt of a Hasid toward the goyim,  they save a particularly bitter hate for those Catholics who disagree with them much as Danny Saunders viewed the apikorsim of the practicing but less orthodox Jews on Reuven Malther’s team.  Somehow we cannot bear that Truth or, for us Christians, Grace, could be found beyond the limits of our own narrow religiosity and that God’s favor could shine as brightly, or even more brightly, on those who are different from us.  A sign of religion-gone-bad is when our religion—be it Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, or pre-Conciliar Catholicism—makes us believe that we stand alone in God’s love.   Such religion is rooted in the hatred of others and renders us with hearts far too impure to ever offer God the Sacrifice which is due him.  Our Mass becomes a Black Mass, a Satanic perversion of the Eucharist and our Sacrifice becomes the sacrifice of Cain as our souls are stamped with the sign of his evil hatred of his brother. 
One of my favorite spiritual writers, the Dalai Lama, says:

“the aim and purpose of religion is to cure the pains and unhappiness of the human mind. …. I would like to point out that the purpose of religion is not to build beautiful churches or temples; it is to cultivate positive human qualities such as tolerance, generosity, and love.  Fundamental to Buddhism and Christianity, indeed to every major world religion, is the belief that we must reduce our selfishness and save others.” 

Curing the pain and unhappiness of the human soul doesn’t mean, of course, that we can’t have beautiful churches or magnificent rituals inside them.  No one appreciates Mozart’s Coronation Mass or the Fauré Requiem more than I, though a capella plain song is more beautiful still.   When I am buying vestments as a gift for the parish or for a particular priest, I go to Barbaconi; Gamarelli’s vestments are far too effeminate and foppish.  Gilles Beaugrand were long the best for sacred vessels, but I have heard that they are closing and would not know where to go for a chalice or monstrance now.   I can’t stand sloppy liturgy and believe that worship calls for a gravity and a seemliness that keeps us mindful of God in whose presence we stand.  All that being said, the true worship of God does not consist in the externals of rite much less of pomp, but of a conversion of the heart by which our hearts are conformed to the heart of Christ so that we can be the worthy sacrifice offered to God and transformed by his Holy Spirit into Christ for the sake of the world’s salvation.  The Dalai Lama is spot on and totally in conformity with Catholic doctrine when he says true religion will reduce our selfishness and implant in us compassion for the salvation of the world.  The person whose love is for doctrine and whose devotion is to ritual worships a false god. 
Ultimately the hatred of Danny Saunders for the apikoros, Reuven Malther, becomes a solid and transformative friendship in which their worlds merge in mutual understanding. It is the triumph of grace over the evils of hatred.   At one point the narrow view of Danny and of his father, Reb Saunders, threatens that evil will overcome good and that separation will frustrate and win out over the friendship, indeed the love, they share.  Hatred always seeks to destroy love.  Fortunately grace prevails and the friendship liberates Danny from the life of fear and its consequent hatred that would have otherwise devoured his soul.  We should pray for the soldiers of Isis, for the Israeli settlers, for the Buddhist monks who are killing Burmese Hindus, and not only for those katholic krazies who are driven by a hatred for Pope Francis or for the Church as it has emerged from Vatican II, but also for ourselves lest evil swallow up good, and hatred devour compassion.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Sidebar on the Krazies

Saint Teresa of Avila
I just finished reading a paper by a graduate student from Boston College describing how Saint Teresa of Avila was able to escape the limitations normally placed on women in sixteenth century Spain and write her phenomenal corpus of the Spiritual Life.  Teresa had everything stacked against her.  She was a woman in one of the most misogynist cultures of the Christian west.  She was not only a woman, but had a Jewish bloodline that made her doubly suspect to the Inquisition.  She was writing at the time where the Spanish Church, keenly sensitive to the threat Protestantism posed in Northern Europe, had a social paranoia Iover the Alumbrados, a movement heavily dominated by women, who were practicing and teaching mystic practices  without proper Church oversight.  Indeed, the Church had grown exceptionally fearful of mysticism even among the clergy.  (And this is ironic because 16th century Spain was a hotbed of Spirituality with not only Teresa and John of the Cross, but Ignatius Loyola, Peter of Alcantra, Francis Borgia, Juan de Avila, and others.) 
Teresa beat the system by using its own rules and without directly confronting it.  Don’t get me wrong, Teresa had confrontative skills to beat the band, but it was not her usual method.  Her life of profound contemplative prayer endowed her with sufficient confidence to go about her mission by remaining anchored in the security of her knowing herself exceptionally well and trusting in God’s providence.  Her skills at patient understanding and prayer did not simply extend to her overcoming the limitations the Church would normally have placed on her—and did try at times to place on her—but also governed her human relationships.  As a young nun, and visiting with her sister for reasons of health, Teresa encountered a priest who she describes as being “enchanted” (literally, as in the use of a magic talisman) by a local woman who then had become his mistress.  Teresa did not admonish him, scold him, declaim him to the bishop, or shame him in front of his parishioners.  She befriended him, even allowing him to fall in love with her, until he got to the point where he could break the spell.  Indeed, while severe with herself, Teresa was a woman of immense patience with others, a patience that was the fruit of contemplative prayer.  In contemplative prayer we learn to see the world and all whom it holds (including ourselves) with the eyes of God.  It greatly colors our perception. 
The author of this paper speaks how in her contemplative life Teresa overcame the sort of binary relationships that dominate our culture: rich, poor; people of color, whites; liberals, conservatives; women, men.  Her method was to move away from the tension created by the binary relationship and introduce Christ as the third party in the relationship.   How did Christ the other? And then, by means of contemplative prayer, to let aside her own vision to see with the eyes of Christ.   The eyes of God are filled with compassionate love for every one of his creatures.  Why do we have to come into conflict when Christ offers us the potential of reconciliation?
When I returned to my writing , I thought back to Pius V and his Bull, Regnans in Excelcis, excommunicating and deposing Elizabeth.  Elizabeth was giving Catholicism in England a discrete modus vivendi.   Her Catholic subjects could be loyal to her and still good Catholics.  But no, Pius had to speak up for “The Truth.” The only problem is if it were God’s Truth it would have been a reconciling Truth and not a dividing one.  Some people are like that.  Teresa and Pius are both saints; Teresa is a Doctor of the Church, an honor not given to Pius.  Both lived holy lives; only one has been found to be an exemplary teacher of the Church’s Truth—and it isn’t the one who was Pope;  it was the Jewish Lady from Avila.
I think this is what gets me going about the Katholic Krazies.  We have a few on the posting horizon, namely one with the blog “Pope Francis the Destroyer” and the other being the infamous “Mundabor”   whom any number of you keep writing me about, who just cannot think beyond what they perceive to be truth.  (Notice the lack of the capital there.)  All who agree with them—and there don’t seem to be many—are “right”  and all with whom they disagree (most notably Pope Francis) are on the short rode to hell. 
I have read that the etymology of the word “devil” comes via the French diable from the Latin diabolus and the Greek diabolos.  Diabolos in turn comes from two Greek words, dia and bollein: dia means “apart;” bollein means to “hurl” or to “force.”   The devil is the one who divides, who undermines God’s plan of bringing all creation into One in Christ.   (Some dictionaries list dia as “across,” but across not in the static sense of distance but in the more dynamic sense of separation and division.  I am not a fan of literal translation because it doesn’t show one how people of another language actually used the language in every day speech, but to satisfy the devotees of Liturgiam authenticam, a very literal translation of dia bolein would be “to throw across” in terms of a person who hurls insults or slanders “across” at someone else.)  
The acrimonious tones of some of these katholic krazies, and here I don’t mean just the krazier-than-thous like Mundabor and his ilk but a lot of the run of the mill krazies as well) reminds me of the tragedy when twenty years ago or so Cardinal Bernadin established the “Common Ground Initiative” to open dialogue among Catholics of different ideas and perceptions in an effort to establish what we could agree on instead of focusing on that about which we disagree with each other.  He was stabbed in the back by two of his fellow Cardinals, that paragon of Sheparding, Cardinal Law and the grandmotherly old Cardinal Hickey, then of Washington.  It was a lost opportunity for harmony and reconciliation.  And the American Church has paid over and over for this cardinalatial evil.
In the same way a distinguishing mark of the Katholic Krazies today is their opposition to Interreligious and Ecumenical Dialogue.  Lines of division must be drawn in the sand, they insist, to defend and affirm “the truth” against the “heresies” of all with whom they disagree: Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama, President Obama, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Sister Joan Chittester—the list just goes on and on.  But what if the truth they want to affirm isn’t the real truth?  If it is a message of division it is the devil’s truth, not God’s. 
Teresa of Avila, in her day, knew nothing of Ecumenism.  She fretted about all the “Lutherans in hell” by which she meant Calvinists, but didn’t know the difference.  Prejudice, even among the saints, is like that—an expression of ignorance.  But even there it wasn’t judgment she was passing but a compassionate concern for souls she feared were or would be lost.  The lack of “Truth” in others caused her pain, not self-affirming pride. 
I have studied (and taught) Christian mysticism for thirty years.  One thing that I have learned is that there is no deep authentic relationship with God that does not produce compassion as its chief fruit.  Indeed, as I tell my students, the only infallible sign of God’s Grace in the soul is the increase of charity.  Individually and collectively we must pursue the path of compassion—it is God’s path to bring all Creation into One in Christ.    

Monday, August 25, 2014

Foundations of the Anglican Church LXXXVI

William Byrd, Elizabeth’s 
Catholic Kappellmeister  
I know I said I would get back to the Katholic Krazies after a few blogs on the Church of England but let me ask your indulgence.  The Katholic Krazies entries are extremely popular and the number of hits goes up every time I put one up there, but I have needed this break and ask for about another week or so before I return and jab some fun at some of the kraziest-yet-to-comes.  So back to Elizabeth.
Well into Elizabeth’s reign, let’s say as late as the Armada in 1588, the majority of her subjects remained discretely, if not secretly, Catholics.  This was not true for the capital however—the mercantile cities and especially London, had been quick to embrace the Reformation and were strongly committed to Protestantism.  Max Weber, the 20th century German sociologist, well noted the link between Protestant—and especially Reformed (or Calvinist)—thought and capitalism.  The merchants wanted their money to invest in business, not to squander on supporting monasteries or purchasing vestments or commissioning religious art.  This is not to say that the Protestant merchants were stingy when it comes to God.  Far from it.  But with God, as with business, they wanted to put their money where it would reap a reward.  They endowed schools and scholarships to the universities.  They opened schools for poor children and orphans.  They built hospitals for the indigent sick.  They provided dowries for respectable young ladies from families that had fallen on hard times.  They just didn’t want to sink their money into buildings and the accessories of ritual. 
This led to a significant cultural change.  Art and architecture had, to this point, been primarily at the service of religion, but with the Protestant preference for the stark in matters religious, the arts shift to the secular.  We get far more portraits of solid prosperous English men and women and much fewer saints.  We get still-lifes and some landscapes.  Secular building projects take off as well.  No more abbeys, but we start getting the great manor houses built from the ruins of those monasteries.  Theatres and public buildings go up in London and other large cities.   Society itself secularizes. 
Secularization was not among the goals of the Protestant leadership, of course.  They wanted a “godly realm of England.”  But this is the trouble when you have a break in religious tradition, even a good break.  Once the hold of religion over the culture, or indeed individuals, is broken and the ancient “givens” are called into question, the whole religious establishment collapses like a house of cards.  When you see everything you once held sacred being discarded, nothing remains sacred in your eyes.  But again, this is where Protestantism failed its own ideals—it devolved into religion with an emphasis on doctrine and discipline.  Had Protestantism been able to reach its Evangelical goals and emphasized the conversion of life to which the Gospel shows us the way, secularism would never have gained the foothold in the culture that it did.  But the forest of the Christian life was lost sight of as the Church got tangled in the innumerable trees of cold and abstract doctrine.  Without the ways that medieval Christianity had been able to reach into the daily lives of the ordinary person with the stories of the saints and the feast days and the processions,  there was nothing  but secularism to fill the gap in people’s lives. 
One area of art which remained at the service of the Church was music and the two great composers of the time, William Byrd and Thomas Tallis, ironically were Roman Catholics.   Tallis was Catholic from the old days before the split with Rome and even though he was a musician in the Chapel Royal of King Henry and later King Edward, he never gave up the old faith.  Byrd was a convert to Catholicism during the reign of Elizabeth.  Being Catholic did not stop them from writing music for the Anglican liturgy, though both wrote for the Catholic liturgy as well.  Byrd was the music director Elizabeth’s chapel, an indication of how Elizabeth did not go looking for religious conflict as well as an indication of her preference of a more formal approach to liturgy. 
The fact that the Church of England developed a fine musical tradition should not confuse us into thinking that the average English subject attending Sunday worship in his or her parish church was being exposed to good music.  What happened in the chapel royal or in the occasional cathedral was one thing, but in the average parish the service was pretty drab, mostly read and not sung, and what little singing there might be was only the psalms, the Puritans considering hymns and anthems “too Catholic.”  Indeed church wasn’t a lot of fun due to the strong puritan influence that was suspect of anything ritualistic.  More about that in the next posting.
Back to where I started.  London was Protestant.  So was Norwich and the other larger towns of the south east, but there were Catholics aplenty in the countryside, and especially in the North where many of the great landowning families were still Catholic and with sufficient political clout, at least on the local level, to get away with it.  But priests are funny people and the seminary priests returning from their education and ordination abroad were supposed to pass through London and head into the Catholic regions to support the remaining Catholic population.  They didn’t.  They stayed in London, or at least the majority of them did.   They loved the big city and didn’t want to spend their years toiling away in the rural north.  Historians think that had the clergy dispersed into the Catholic areas, not only would far fewer of them had to pay for their faith with their lives, but that the Catholic faith would have continued to hold on in the North and West of England.  But you know, priests have always been known for liking a good restaurant and let’s face it, even in the sixteenth century you can’t beat London for the night life.   How can you keep them down on the farm…?