Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What a mess! (11.20.09)

The Catholic Church has gotten itself into such a jam!

I was initially going to call this post:  Wolves in Shepherd's Clothing.  As I intended to lay out a psychodynamic analysis of enforced celibacy within the Catholic Church.  But as I read and pondered and analyzed, I came to see a multitude of ethical, moral and yes, even spiritual dilemmas.  All because of enforced celibacy and the mixed-up muddle it's created around it.

Let me begin with a couple of metaphors which came to me:
Kafka's Metamorphosis - the story of a man who wakes up one morning as a cockroach.

The Emperor's New Clothes - the story of a deluded man who paraded naked, with only a child to speak up and question the received wisdom:  But he isn't wearing anything!
I hate to be the one to say it.  But I believe these two images are apt descriptions of some things happening - right now - in the Catholic Church.

So why am I wasting your time on a church that so many good folks right here at the Cafe have left?  Because this entity, the Catholic Church, which claims a moral right to dictate doctrine and behavior, is an actual member of the UN, claiming status as a State (Vatican City), and is meddling more and more in the internal affairs and politics of other nations.  Also, as a moral beacon (that to which it aspires), it has been sadly lacking in an ability to analyze the ethics (dare I say, morality?) of its own prelates and clergy - all the while intruding on the bedrooms of people everywhere.

Before I get back to my images, let me draw your attention to something I came across in a wonderful little pamphlet on The Way of Humility:
The risk clearly grows when one theorizes about humility without having any authentic experience of it.  As Pseudo-Macarius noted:  Christianity runs the risk of getting carried away bit by bit beyond its limits so that it will end up having the same significance as atheism.
                           [Andre Louf quoting a 4th century spiritual guide]
Sometimes people can get into such a pickle, when they make one wrong turn and, instead of turning back, spend centuries justifying it, denying it's not working, and trying to impose analogous wrong turns on everybody else.  That's what we have here, folks!

Instead of acknowledging a mistake - enforced clerical celibacy - we have a Metamorphosis - something akin to a gigantic beetle sitting atop a decaying caste system, where supposedly celibate men - without any authentic experience (see Andre Louf above) - are theorizing about sexual relationships.  And mind you, those prelates who secretly have sex are doing so in an abusive, exploitative manner, betraying the very ideals they subscribe to, as well as the people they pretend to "love".   So, a Metamorphosis.  A cancerous deformation.  And on top of that - cloaked in fancy clothes!  Indeed, the opposite of the Emperor in the story.  For the clothes are real.  But underneath the miter, the gold brocade, the fancy slippers?  Well, you tell me!

I feel badly writing all this.  Honestly!  But it must be said.  Honestly.

I see a bunch of problems here.  So many problems it's hard to disentangle them.  All traced back to enforced celibacy.  The first thing is to create a kind of caste system.  Clergy are somehow elevated - "pure" souls who have "overcome" sexual desire.  Well.... good luck with that one!  (As Mr. TheraP says succinctly:  "They're going against nature!")  If someone is called to celibacy, fine.  But that is within the monastic tradition, where humility is practiced.  And you'll never see an authentic monk whose demeanor suggests a a different caste from you.

The biggest problem with the caste system is that "holy celibates" - in particular the ones with the fanciest clothes - have deemed themselves the guardians of all "teaching" - whether they have authentic experience (see Andre Louf above) or not.  Not only that, like the Old Testament Book of Leviticus, you have a purity system going.  Where those who are supposedly most pure - the men in the lavish dresses - are denying to the non-clergy even freedom of conscience - with regard to behavior which the lavishly dressed profess not to do.

Instead of analyzing the ethics of all love relationships, including their own, we have a bunch of well-heeled prelates dictating a kind of celibacy even to the married.  Expecting them not to use birth control and so on.  (Except for those women the priests have sex with, of course.)  And dictating celibacy to gay people!  (Except for those gay people the priests have sex with, of course.)  See what I mean?  One wrong turn!  And so many problems!

Two more ideas came to me:
Stanley Milgram's Obedience to Authority - a study of how someone dressed in a lab coat can induce ordinary people to subject others to what they believe is excruciating abuse.

Phillip Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment - where ordinary students, dubbed the guards, quickly began to abuse other students, dubbed the prisoners, as a byproduct of enforcing discipline in an "experimental prison" study.
Do you notice the caste system at work in both these images?  Someone wearing different clothing can get ordinary people to follow their commands.  And placing someone in the "role of authority" can induce ordinary people bit by bit (see Pseudo-Macarius above) to abuse others, deemed to be a lower caste.

Compare these images to the Roman Catholic Church's ostracism of gay people and to their commands about sexual behavior in people's bedrooms.  (Unless of course it pertains to the clergy.  Where the caste system allows those in "different clothing" a different "ethic" - so long as it's kept secret, of course!)

See what I mean?

You have the priestly caste and the leper caste.  And there's one more thing I want to bring into this.  Something spiritual.  But something which plays a very important role in this dysfunctional system, all derived from enforced celibacy and the resulting caste system.  One of the biggest problems that results was clarified for me in that little pamphlet I mentioned above:  The Way of Humility.   The demand that someone meet a standard of perfection, complete celibacy, in the context of following a spiritual path leads to two traps:  the vice of "pride" or "vanity" if one succeeds (a caste above!), on the one hand; or a "fall" from grace, on the other hand.  In order to arrive at humility, according to the ascetics like Pseudo-Macarius, one needs to fall, over and over again.  And to admit that.  And repent. And change one's behavior.  Thus, losing any pretense to be "better than" or  a caste above.

But when priests fall, they hurt others. 
Unless they leave the priesthood.  They expect the one they profess to "love" to keep the relationship secret.  They expect the "beloved" to play second fiddle to their marriage to the church.  They deny their love relationship.  They deny their love partner.  They deny their own children.  All the while playing the "pure" shepherd - and pretending to lead the sheep.  Whether it's a gay relationship or a straight relationship, it's hypocrisy.  It's living a lie.

It's not the sex that's wrong.  It's the treatment of the other that is wrong.  Catholic priests who engage in sexual relationships, all the while staying in the priesthood, are exploiting and abusing the honest, caring feelings of other people.  Their flocks.  And the ones they secretly love.  This latter betrayal is not usually clear to those whom they love - often not for many years.  The beloved may feel "special," raised up to a high caste, but eventually it takes a terrible toll.  For the one who wants to "love a Catholic priest" must do all the sacrificing.  The priest's role comes first.  There is never any "union" of two lives.  The kind of self-sacrifice and equality that should be part of any "marriage" (whether actual marriage or simply a partnership of long years) will never come about.  One party has dictated the terms of the relationship. And that is what abuse means.  That is abuse of authority.   That is exploitation.

Anyone in such a relationship is in denial if they fail to see they're being exploited.  I have compassion for their plight.  I have tremendous compassion for those laboring under enforced celibacy.  But if you fall in love with someone and want to have an honest sexual relationship, which is not exploitative, by all means, leave your marriage first, leave your priesthood first.  And if you refuse to do so, I cannot condone the behavior.



I have just come to an awful conclusion.  The very same neocon principles, derived from Leo Strauss, which I summarized here would appear to be very similar to what we see flowing from within the Vatican, and dispersed to the "elite" upper caste prelates and clergy.  I've reposted the list of these principles below:

Straussian/Neocon "Principles" 101 - (TheraP's cliff notes version):
  1. Noble Lies (lies/secrecy as "virtue" - > 4,10,13)
  2. Perpetual War (war as "virtue" -> 5, 6, 8, 13)
  3. Fear of the masses and democracy (-> 4, 9)
  4. Government by an elite (covert rule of "the wise" -> 1,10)
  5. Instilling a sense of superiority in a nation (-> 8, 13)
  6. Stability/Unity via FEAR of an external threat (->13)
  7. Exploiting moral issues/religion's hold on the people (->1,13)
  8. National survival - supersedes the well-being of others (->2,5)
  9. Contempt for dissenters (->10,13)
  10. Those in power make the rules and call it justice (->1,13)
  11. Combination of religion and nationalism (->7,13)
  12. Fear - greatest ally of tyranny (->1,6,13)
  13. Manipulate the images (media, based on idea of Plato's cave)
[Synopsis above taken from the following sources:  Shadia Drury, Brad deLong, Karen Kwiatkowski, Don Swift, Jeffrey Steinberg, and  Danny Postel, who includes an extensive bibliography and interview with Shadia Drury, the Strauss expert.]  (see original post for more info on these experts)
So we have the "marriage" of the right-wing and the Catholic Church.  No surprise that.  But the coincidences with C-Street, The Family, Machiavellian plotting and even the Germanic origin of the pope and Leo Strauss give me great pause here.  (Again, see the original post for more.)



This is why, what I once was, I am no longer.
And where is the concern the Catholic Church once showed for social justice? Where did that go?
Amen. Social Justice and so much more! Yes.... down a rabbit hole, I guess.
Very sad. So many of the best folks here at TPM are former Catholics. They hung on to the Social Justice and let the hypocrisy go.
South America - where the priests seem constantly under sancture by Rome. It died in the US some time ago except for enclaves which are not embraced by the Church - like the Catholic Worker's houses across the country.
South America is rapidly being converted to various evangelical and fundamentalist churches. The priest shortage having left a serious gap, those who care for the people are moving in.
The Law of Karma.
It's a neat little circle here, RW, wherein Bishop Morlino is now the very proud spiritual advisor to the School of the Americas, which is the place that trained the very people who assassinated Archbishop Romero in El Salvador.
The contradiction could hardly be any more striking.
As a former member of the Catholic Clan, I cannot help but wonder about this whole notion of the infallibility of the Church. I mean, which Church is it that actually speaks for God? The Church of Vatican II which inspired me and so many others to care deeply about social justice? Or the present Church of sexually frustrated old men in fancy dresses wearing funny hats who project their neuroses in dictates that express nothing but contempt for Liberty and Justice?
As TheraP points out, the fact that the Church's "legislative attention" is drawn exclusively to issues concerning the sexual activity (even tangentially) of its flock says a whole lot more about the perverted frustrations of the supposedly celibate authorities than it offers anything like a conduit to enlightenment or to the blessings of a loving god.
Stupak would respond by saying he acts as one who is only concerned with aligning himself with "What would Jesus do?" in the performance of his legislative duties.
I would reply that "What would the Taliban do?" is equally defensible as a guide for proper decision making in the legislature.
Get these men in funny hats wearing pretty dresses out of Washington. There is a separation of Church and State that is established as a fundamental principle of governance for a reason. It's time we enforce it or otherwise suffer as "unwilling converts" to this Church I no longer recognize as legitimate.
Bravo! Tour de force! You've outdone yourself here, SJ! :-)
There is a reason for all of this. There is an etiology. I mean VD was rampant with few people being treated at all.
I can see where it came to be.
But this is all silliness today. I have no empathy for these idiots any longer.
They wish to bring in Anglican Priests right now, priests who are married. hahahahaha
This is a joke.
That does not mean that there are not good practicing Catholics and good priests.
It is just that if people are actually dumb enough to think that a former member of the Nazi Youth Movement is the hand picked representative of God they deserve what they get.
You made me laugh, dd! It's all so true. But remember, the poor lepers in the pews got no say in this whatsoever! And even the ones who elected him are now feeling the pinch as the puppet master pulls the strings tight and demands loyalty.
Interestingly, Rowan Williams has thrown down the gauntlet - right there in Rome. Telling the pope that women priests are there for good!
I'm betting few Anglicans will take up his offer. Unless they're blind as bats!
Celibacy is certainly a large part of the problem but I think the problem predates celibacy and that's hierarchy.
My mother had a priest friend who always told her that he believed the decline in the number of priests has more to do with the decline in status than with celibacy. How do you support the wealth and status of all the layers of priests, monsignors, bishops, archbishops, and the Vatican if they all have families that have to be supported as well?
Yes, the hierarchy is part of it, no doubt. That's what I mean by the caste system. It may be that the caste system is the nexus - and so much else surrounds it. Here's an excellent article on how the caste system did not exist in the early church. It's a long but fascinating read.
Thanks for your visit and comment, bluebell.
My personal opinion is that you are over-complicating the issue. Celebacy and authoritarianism and hierarchy and even Roman Catholicism itself are just symptoms of the underlying problem: Religion.
Simple people -- which is most people -- have needs. They have a need for simple answers to complex questions. They have a need for simple consolations to address deep miseries. They have a need for simple assurances that they can avoid the certainty of suffering and permanent death.
Since time immemorial, there have been less simple people with the tools and personality to exploit those needs to satisfy their own needs. Some have been sincere and many have been insincere, but sincere or not they have all been societal parasites. They have been the cause of inequality, of slavery, of famine and war. They have, as Hitchens says, poisoned everything.
Religion is not the problem. PEOPLE are the problem. A simplistic analysis, using an abstraction like religion, is unlikely to lead to change as you imagine it will. And it is sad to see you denigrate those who sincerely seek to follow a faith. Which does not mean they are simplistic thinkers.
There is great depth in many authentically spiritual persons. From all sorts of traditions. People whose very presence affects others around them.
Peace be with you.
Well, Thera -- we are stuck with having that pesky problem: PEOPLE -- for a while! Yes, people are imperfect, but to say that religion would be just fine if it weren't for that bunch of PEOPLE just really is beyond the pale!
If religion is corrupt, why blame it on PEOPLE? There are any flavors you could want of religions -- some say it is fine to kill everyone who doesn't believe the way one religion says to believe; others say not to kill them but realize that all the others will burn in hell for all eternity. And you say the problem is PEOPLE?
Sorry. I disagree. PEOPLE are its victims; their misery is from its unattainable goals that encourage guilt and hatred of others. Solace? Not from religion, unless you ignore half of its message and choose the parts you like. If you have done that; fine with me.
Please don't respond with a trite "peace be with you." It is getting old
I'm not here to defend religion. Of offer it. I'm just analyzing what I see. You are free to reject or accept as you choose. And yes, I bless you with peace!
Second sentence should read: Or offer it.
I must have misunderstood this:
Religion is not the problem. PEOPLE are the problem.
I thought you were defending religion and blaming PEOPLE.
I'm not defending religion. Not at all. But the statement "religion is the problem" suggests that an abstraction is a problem. Therefore I clarified, it's people, not an abstraction. Quibble if you want.
I wasn't quibbling. I was
Can't you see how silly it is to claim that the problem is the people and not the institution? That's like saying the disease is alright, it's those damn germs that make all the trouble.
Sorry, TheraP, but people ARE religion. People who are human and therefore corruptible. When corruptible people are given (or seize as they often do) power, of course they become corrupt.
In any case, they earn their living by selling falsehood and are thereby parasites.
BTW, use of the word spirituality is just a cop-out expression for religion. If someone is a good person, religion makes him or her no better.
At least when you say "institution" you're getting more specific. And indeed a dictatorial institution is not a good thing. A pope who appoints the people who - alone - are allowed to vote on a pope, and who must follow the pope or they will be relieved of duty, is a very dictatorial betrayal of the ideals from which it sprang. Many religions have no institutional aspect. Consider Hinduism. Native American spirituality.
No one is forcing religion on you. Least of all me. But for some reason it has more of a grip on you than it has on me. Go figure!
Of course religion is a bete noire for me. So is cancer. So is neoconservatism. I have a thing about all sources of human misery. Religion is perhaps the one that has ruined the most lives over the ages.
Well, this entity - a foreign state, a dictatorship, is interfering in your govt. In spite of many good people, within the actual institution, who are outraged and horrified. It's very unfortunate and sad and disgraceful. And I gather you concur.
If by "this entity" you mean religion, it's been doing that since the beginning of the human race. But I suppose you mean the Catholic Church, so it has only been befouling the Western world for about 1800 years. Beginners.
No, I mean the Vatican! Vatican City is a State. The pope is the dictator! To make this about "religion" misses the point!
As Tank said, this has been the state of affairs for nearly 1700 years.
I wonder why the Vatican is so much more of a corrupt influence now than the Dark Ages or the Crusades or the Inquisition or any number of dark times in human history that can be traced to a specific religion.
Any institution - be it religious or political or civic or corporate - can become corrupted by a feeling of unaccountable power.
I must be missing something here, TheraP. Surely you know that the Vatican and the Catholic Church are the same thing? Same people, same leadership, same pernicious global influence. The Pope is the king of the Vatican and of the Church. Money put into the collection basket in church on Sunday is sent to the Vatican. So what's the distinction and why are you making it?
To make this about "religion" misses the point!
I strongly disagree. How can you write post about a celibacy rule that makes no sense outside of a religious context, then say that this is not about religion? Of course it's about religion! Celibacy is about religion. The Catholic Church -- aka the Vatican -- is about religion. The abortion debate is mostly about religion. Religion has fundamental influence on political behavior almost everywhere in the world almost every day.
In other words, and at risk of being annoyingly repetitive, religion poisons everything.
If you're out driving your car, run a red light and hit another car, is the car at fault or the driver? Religion is nothing more than a vehicle used by people.

Agree, but there is a secondary problem with this: religion is now a money-making industry and therefore has even more skin in the game. Back when the Catholic church was the only game in town and they burned people at the stake as heretics so they could confiscate their property, they gained riches beyond imagination, which they still have, since they don't spend it on the needy in proportion to their riches.
They get tax-free status as well, when many of them are just over-paid "Life-Coaches" for those looking for a way not to have to think for themselves.
Celibacy is a cancer on the Catholic Church, but selfishness and a love of money is a malignancy that they all seem to share.
Your specific criticisms are all apt. Well said!
Thank you for writing on these issues TheraP. I agree that it's not people vs religion but more the hegemonic propensity of certain people in Rome meddling with our politics. Injustice commends the ingredients of their poisoned chalice on the lips of the fearful masses.
Of course it’s not just Catholics. Simony by theologians still pays the political bills for controlling these social issues.
Like Joyce said: “…badness is badness in the weirdest of all pensible ways.”
A broken chalice held by the dead hands of the (celibate?) priest…

Wow! As usual, you nailed it! Especially the "poison chalice" - that is an image that totally fits!
This post is actually meant for a wider audience than just TPM. It will be read and linked to by many progressive/liberal RC bloggers who are at their wits end with all the injustices, especially of late. But it's becoming a political issue for all of us!
Thank you so much for your cogent words!
It's that marriage between church and state that gives The Vatican all it's power. Back in the bad old days, The Vatican was an obscure outpost on the western flank of the Roman empire which was located in Constantinople - this was the seat of governing and all of Christianity, not Rome. But once the Islamic hordes threaten the city, a plead was sent out for assistance to Rome. The Pope raised a huge armada of people and sent them to defend Christianity. Once the crusades were over, the power of Christianity was brought to The Vatican and it's been there ever since. The Vatican realized it could use religion as a weapon to subdue the political forces of any nation that didn't tread water when told to do so. And since then, other religious factions have and still do try to mimic he Vatican with local success, but not the grandeur of global success The Vatican holds.
I read recently that it was after the Vatican lost most of its land that the papacy turned to strengthening its dictatorship within the Catholic Church. But I sometimes wonder if it's going to end up like the monkey that puts its hand into a cage in order to get at some fruit. But once it's got the fruit in its hand, it can't get its hand out of the trap. So long as it refuses to let go of the fruit. And that is its undoing. So will the Vatican, especially the pope, ultimately be the cause of its own demise - simply by overreaching? One can hope!
The hysterical Vatican’s religious/political dream geometry expands with their money. They are wedded tops alright, but notops never fall.
I'm really enjoying the term "hysterical Vatican" because it gets at the feminine, almost prissy appearance, of these old men in fancy dress - having fits trying to control people who simply can't be controlled any longer. Yes, there's money there. Now. But how long will it last if they kill the goose that lays the golden eggs? It's really quite comical in some ways. If it weren't so damaging in others.
Lenny Bruce used to do a routine on this very subject. I think the routine was called, "Givin' it up for the Lord ..." I'll see if I can find it.
Yes, humor soothes all souls! Please do!
My first thought on your post is that Kafka's 'Metamorphosis' entailed much more self consciousness than the 'Church' seems to possess. My other question is whether "caste" is the appropriate word to describe the relationship of the Catholic clergy to its' adherents. A more functional definition might be that of "power". The Church is powerful, and we are not. It's confusing, because I mostly think that the only power we lack is that which we have all ready surrendered. Then there is a codified power, of the police, the clergy, the be-knighted of society, that over-rides the simple truth all too often. Those 'special' costumes still go a long way in confusing those not used to costume balls.
Oh, dear amigo pigalito, what a great comment! Yes, if only the transformation into "vermin" (as I once saw it translated) were not only to become conscious but to be agonized over. We'd be much further along here.
Caste is not a great word. But it has shock value and it makes clear the gap that need not be there. Also it fits with the "purity aspect" of this, which fits with Leviticus and the very purity laws which Jesus broke by mingling with common folk - like us. Something the "Brahmins" of the Vatican especially don't follow.
Power is a funny thing. It used to work for them. The current agenda seems to try and make it work again. Except it would seem that many are fleeing - along with the funds that formerly flowed into their coffers. Yes, some are willing to drink the koolaid (er... the poisoned chalice as strato said), but how long will that last?
I suspect the "surrendered power" is graspable again. Which is why I'm bothering to post things like this and keep an eye on these folks. Because with enough bad publicity and boycotting of the franchises, it's possible change will come or the whole thing will simply implode from the inside.
In any case I so appreciate your careful reading of all of this. And your thoughtful comments. If only it were just a costume ball....
Meanwhile as a friend wrote me this afternoon:
Keep the faith; lose the church.
Love your friend's quote! I was lucky, ( I guess), to have not been raised in a strong church. I remember in my teen years when my Mom would drop my sister and I off for 'catechism' at the front stoop of the Methodist church. After about 9 Saturdays of the junior deacon not being able to answer my questions about the holy trinity, my sister and I realized that he was never taking attendance. The next week, Mom dropped us off out front, and we just walked out the back door of the church. I went to shoot pool at Smitty's Pool Hall a few blocks away, and my sister perused the records at Stan's Record Bar, and that was pretty much the last I had to do with "organized religion", (a few sanghas, and vipashana groups excepted). The adages of the communists which Americans feared the most regarding "getting the attention of the children at an impressionable age is apt for the church's modus operandi through the years. I've often thought that truth has been wholly experienced often, but, once you try to describe that truth, more than once, you've lost it. *start over*
"once you try to describe that truth"...
"He who speaks does not know. He who knows does not speak."
Yez, nowadays they won't baptize ones baby unless one signs up for tithing.
Pretty sick, and not terribly christian.
OMG! Oh, that is awful! That amounts to something like simony (where they sold indulgences). So they're SELLING Baptism!
I feel like I'm going to be sick here... ugh...
Thank you for organizing your thoughts nicely in one aspect of a sensitive topic for many.
I myself lost any value in catholicism with mounting frustration at the gross righteous hypocrisy that is only exposed more by every succeeding scandals. I mean this as the whole of the organization. I am sure there are sincere individuals doing "good" works.
Your title is spot on.
The latest scandal being the horrific abuse and torture of little children, orphans, in the care of Catholic orders of brothers, priests, and nuns in Australia. Australia has apologized. Britain has apologized. The church? Crickets!
Yes, there are many doing good works. I myself have gained immensely from monasteries where an authentic life of the spirit can still be found:
But, as SleepinJeezus says above, its overall "legitimacy" is now seriously in question:
What a mess, indeed.
And not just in the Catholic Church.
Can not all the same substandards be applied to the Rublican Conservatives? As well as many specific standards themselves.
Do as I say, not as I do. How many children have heard that? How many have believed it to be true - and still do?
Brilliant, as usual, barefooted! So sadly true...
Oops. Aka ... never mind, they're not worth correcting.
Comic relief:
This episode of South Park tries to deal with these issues in a light -- though some would say distasteful -- way.
TheraP, you've mentioned before the phenomena of Christianity turned inside-out. In this episode, that phenomena is metaphorically represented by the townspeople reversing the digestive system. It's potty humor at its worst (or best depending on what you find funny).
The more serious metaphor, and what made me connect the two, is the head of the church. What you see as a gigantic beetle sitting atop a decaying caste system, this episode depicts as the great spider.
It never ceases to amaze me that truly spiritual and creative people tend to tap into common pool of wisdom -- what you might call the open source.
This episode deals with all but the experience -- rather than the theory -- of humility. That distinction is crucial and painful (especially when it's discovered through experience). It's amazing how artificial and self-defeating a religious hierarchy is. And I think you show the reason why: to be motivated to the top of a caste system is to be driven by the opposite of humility.
Amusing that if you shove food up your arse... you crap out your mouth.
Hmmmm. Wonder if that works for celery.....
HAHAHAHAHAH! Well played.
Don’t start with the celery again. I still have an apartment full of the stuff from my mistaken reading of your last discussion of the vile plant in September. Do you know what it is like to live in an apartment full of two month old celery? It’s like Canada only worse. If I were in Canada at least everyone would understand me. Here in the U.S. where people spend all their money on teeny tiny cell phones that they can use to watch internet porn while riding to work on the bus, no one understands why I would have spent so much money on celery. My apartment neighbors have taken to duct taping the outside of my windows and doors to reduce the aroma. I spend more time inside than Dickday.
oh my goddess, you still have that celery? I thought we had a plan to get rid of it.
OK, new plan. How about we ship it all to the Vatican and let them figure out (a) why somebody shipped them 2 month old celery and (b) how to get rid of it?
Brilliant, as usual.
the great spider (Makes me think of that scene in Lord of the Rings.)
Yes, that works too. You are always so much better than I at analyzing the abstractions. I get the images. You can manipulate the abstractions. (And you have correctly identified the one at the top of the dung heap.)
"driven by the opposite of humility" - which seems to be a desire to humiliate everyone else! Perversion of humility.
I like your image of the open source. And I must say that I sincerely struggled with whether to post on this topic at all. But you have gotten the essence of it. As have some others.
I have another thought. One answer to "What is zen?" is: "Zen is dried dung.
I have often pondered that. And I think it fits with your "digestive system" image. I think in any wisdom tradition what you get is the "droppings" - the "leavings" - after a digestive process. So many people find the dung and discard it as worthless. Others consider that if you take the "dung" and trace it back to its source, you get a glimpse of the original fruit from which the dung sprang. Indeed dung is often used as a source of fuel as well.
(I suppose some just take the dung - as is - and cloth it... try and disguise it with gold trappings and so on. Big mistake!)
I can also say that as I prepared for this post, I literally became physically sick. For about the last week. GI type "sick" - so your digestive system image also fits that.
So we're talking about a inner struggle here. If one takes all of this seriously. Trying to find the diamonds in the dung. Or however you want to view it. Not as easy as it sounds. Too easy to just discard everything.
I sincerely thank you, MBH. You have been so helpful on numerous occasions. You have an ability to enter into something, to allow it to percolate, to distill its essence, and then to offer further food for thought.
Deep reverent bow. Namaste.
I hope not too deep of a bow: the Right might consider you weak. ;) Seriously though, thank you.
To humiliate everyone else. Such an awkward motivation. You're right though.
"Do unto others as has been done unto you." I think that's the unconscious mind-set behind the perverse motivation. It all goes back to the archetypical wrong turn -- the unnatural law. Then, passing on the consequence from generation to generation -- rather than processing the error.

Ah.... you have ferreted it out.... my "weakness" - indeed that is exactly what that little pamphlet on humility says - that in the west, especially in the US, humility (reverence, in this case) is viewed as weakness.
You are most welcome.
I just blogged this. I look forward to your feedback.
Wonderful blog and comments there!
I guess my biggest surprise is the seeming surprise this blog has at the enormous power certain religious institutions wield, the Catholics simply being among the oldest of the "old timey" religions that surived to today.
Hell, Isreal is a religious state more than a secular one and has as much, if not more, influence over things as the Vatican.
I am not fan of Catholics or Jews or Protestants or Buddhists or Muslims or even Whoseits, but the fact that the Catholic church continues to be stain on humanity is not a big shock to me.
Calling the church or churches a mess doesn't even begin to describe it fully. As social institutions, churches in general have crossed over a boundary which undermines their moral underpinnings. That moral authority is all they have to define themselves. With so many instances where citizens of the world have been harmed, at least nominally, if not seriously, in the name of a religion, the damage to their authority is huge.
Right now people very much associate a lot of the violence around the world with religion(s). And they're not wrong in making that association.
"crossed over a boundary" "That moral authority is all they have to define themselves..."
So wise. Very helpful. Very sad.
Churches can a be a source of strength for people and sometimes they even side with the people.
The Catholic Church did its best work in the US when the Irish, Italians, eastern Europeans were the immigrants seeking rights and striving for a better life. Just as now, the Church often takes the side of Hispanic immigrants.
The irony here is that when Catholics became middle-class and moved to the suburbs so did the Church. Much of their assistance to the urba poor stopped. They no longer needed nuns to run cheap schools. They built prep schools in suburbia. They no longer preach against the rich. There is no easier sermon to give to a congregation of wealthy middle-aged
... (sorry something happened there) ...
than a sermon against abortion.
All of it! So well said. So sad.
Just recently the local Alaskan diocese announced it wouldn't be able to pay out very much in settlements to victims of sex abuse because of...
the recession.
See bwakfat above - where she explains that now to baptize a baby one needs to sign up to tithe!
Before the recent imposition of celibacy on the ordinary clerical orders of the Roman Catholic Church, it was one of the great scandals and discontents among the laity that the local congregations had to spend so much of their collected monies for the maintenance of the local priest’s wives, other consorts and children. It was in fact one of the major discontents that motivated the Reformation. Imagine if the modern arch-Bishop, who in current fashion lives in a fine house and most likely is driven about in a limousine and who dines with the very well heeled laity, should have a wife. It is likely that she will shop at Target or Nordstrom’s? Is it likely his children will go to community college or Stanford? Will they vacation in the local state park or some Chateauneuf-du-Pape? And where is it written that a married man is more morally reliable than an unmarried one?
The Roman Catholic Church made a foolish but understandable choice on the matter of celibacy. They had no real solution for the abuses when priests were free to live as the laity do – with wives and lovers and various offspring. So they established clerical celibacy kind of like we pursue the Strategic Defense Initiative – just another improbable solution to the natural inclination of humans to debauchery and war.
The recent scandal of abuse by Roman Catholic clergy is just more of the same. Cardinal Law moves to Rome, Senator Vitter stays in the Senate, Governor Sanford stays in the state house, and the law blinks at the transgressions of the powerful. It may be fun to pummel this anachronistically besotted old form Christianity. Fellini certainly thought so. But it is of a piece with the rest of human affairs.

You are so right, Larry! Wonderful comment! Thank you. :-)
I love this phrase:
just another improbable solution to the natural inclination of humans to debauchery and war.
Though these days the Vatican seems to confine itself to the hiding of clerical debauchery and the stamping out of it among the laity.
And as to war, one wonders if they have joined the straussians:
OMG! We've connected another dot! Use the link above and scroll down to the list of straussian principles. Are they not all being used by the Vatican?
So, yes, Larry. But some folks. The Elite, it would seem. Some elites.
More words of wisdom, please....
I've updated the post to take into account the insight above related to the straussian principles. (They are now reposted above.)
It used to be in Spain (in the 1920s, according to Gerald Brennan) that the community wanted the priests to have a concubine, otherwise husbands wouldn't let their wifes confess to them and obviously this reduced the possibilities of ephebophilia somewhat also. These lady's were presented as housekeepers, usually "nieces" of the priest. If this custom were still in place, much grief would have been saved, both to the church and to the faithful.
Yes, Mr. TheraP grew up in exactly that climate!
It was still happening in the 70s, (I personally knew one case), but I've lost touch, right now the church is almost like a sect in Spain... I actually know quite a few people whose kids haven't even been baptized, something unheard of a generation ago.
And gay marriage! ;)
And here I thought TheraP was just a seducer of the weak and dispenser of lovey-dovey, New Age therapeutic pablum. Little did I know that all that "bless you child" nonsense was just a cover for old-time, redneck, anti-papist conspiracy theories, and some really profound hate and anger.
She probably also knows the meaning of the "projection."
Wrong Dan, you're showing your weakness in understanding of U.S. cultural issues, not being able to tell the difference between anti-papist redneck tradition and the quite strong tradition of mistrust of the Vatican by many U.S. Catholics. A glance at her personal blog might have given you a clue about that, but you'd rather make a quick and prejudiced judgment? That says something to me about trusting your analytic abilities on other topics where your own personal emotions are involved.
I can give you an example, Dan. My Polish peasant Catholic grandfather got on the boat for the U.S. in 1909, and never looked back, but remained such a devout believer that he had a prie-dieu next to his bed to say the rosary every night until the day he died, but was also very fond of saying "no damn priest is going to tell me how to vote!" and even though some of his extended family ended up stuck behind the iron curtain would also tell you "at least the communists believe in educating everyone," his unsaid comparison being the days when the Catholic church helped keep his kind dumb and barefoot back in the Austro-Hungarian empire.
It wasn't a quick judgment, AA. I read her two long posts, which are filled with totally conventional anti-Catholic conspiracy theories about Papist takeovers, evil Vatican mind controllers and the insidious creepiness of compulsory celibacy.
I know all about the mistrust of the Vatican by American Catholics. I was born into an Irish Catholic family, and an attempt was made to raise me as one, but I left at a very young age because I don't accept Catholic doctrine. And you know what? No diabolical Vatican KGB agents tracked me down and tried to force me to be a Catholic. They don't bother me and I don't bother them. You can just walk away. It's easy.
I would take issue with the term "enforced celibacy". The men who become priests chose to join the priesthood. They weren't kidnapped off the streets and packed off to secret Catholic torture seminaries. If they don't like the celibacy rules, then they shouldn't have joined the priesthood. And if they thought it was a good idea originally, but now think it was a mistake, they can quit. And contrary to all extravagant fears of the Romaphobes out there, they won't be persecuted and hunted down by the Dark Lords and Jesuitical secret agents of the Vatican. They won't be disappeared by Opus Dei. Yes, it's always hard to quit a job and a vocation. But people do it all the time.
I can't stand people whining about how they are enslaved and oppressed by others, and having things "forced" upon them, when the only real means of coercion are the ones these people have placed upon themselves. Hearing someone complain that the Church "forces" guys to be celibate is like hearing a husband complain that his wife "forces" him to do the dishes and be nice to his sister-in-law. The man chose his own relationships. If he finds their rules too burdensome then he is free to end his current relationships and find new ones.
I also don't have a lot of sympathy for the complaint that the Catholic Church "meddles" in politics in some inappropriate and particularly troublesome way. Yes, the Catholic Church is an organization with a moral and metaphysical world-view, and they push their world view very aggressively, just like many other organizations. They assertively tell their members to support the same views, and to make the Church's moral vision a reality through political activism. Big deal. That's what politics is all about. Every organization in America is free to do the same.
The Church basically says, "We strongly support X, Y and Z. And if you do not advocate X, Y and Z; support candidates who advocate X, Y and Z; and oppose candidates who oppose X, Y and Z, then we will not regard you as a member in good standing, and we will believe all sorts of nasty things about you."
OK, so? If someone doesn't want to support and politically back the Church's positions, then why the hell are they still a Catholic? Just quit, tell the Church to fuck off, and then quit bitching. It's like someone who joins the Communist Party but doesn't want to support worker's rights, the ascendancy of the proletariat and worker ownership of the means of production. Would they then complain about "enforced love of workers"? Catholic Church teachings have been fairly consistent for many years. There is no big sneaky secret about what they are. Why are people members of organizations whose positions they don't endorse?
If people don't like the Catholic Church then they should just freaking quit it, and find a new church ... or no church. But they shouldn't chain themselves to a rowing station in the Roman boat, and then complain about the evil conspiracy to turn everyone into a Roman galley slave.
Ahem. Paraphrased to show the irony:
If people don't like the USA then they should just freaking quit it, and find a new country ... or no country. But they shouldn't chain themselves to a rowing station in the Corporate boat, and then complain about the evil conspiracy to turn everyone into a Corporate galley slave.
Control Freak, much?
Ya know what? I can say that THIS church is NOT the church I spent 6 years studying with the Marianists, and that they are on the wrong road and that I want them to get on the right road. If I choose to do that from within or without by pointing out their hypocrisy, is my choice. Mine. THAT is MY right and privilege as a Catholic. Got it?
Your totalitarian bullshit absolutism is getting fucking annoying.
Shove it up you know where with the rest of the celery. Fascist!
Oh, and peace be with you, you psuedo-christian dweeb. I've done run out of cheeks with you, including the rear ones.

I can say that THIS church is NOT the church I spent 6 years studying with the Marianists
Then you're a boob who knows nothing about the history of the church you allegedly studied. For example, the celibacy requirement is several hundreds of years old.
And your analogy with quitting the country is moronic. To quit the US, one would have to physically leave the country, at a minimum. As long as you're here, the agents of the US government will still require you to pay your taxes, and obey other US laws on pain of imprisonment. Now that's enforcement.
To quit the Catholic Church, all one has to do is stop going to church. That's it; you're done. They won't draft you into an army; they won't send agents to collect your taxes; they won't throw you in jail.
Now, please explain how I am controlling you in fascist and absolutist fashion from my remote position across the internet. Perhaps you just don't like to confront positions with which you disagree, and childishly think any attempt to express such a position is an attempt to "control" you.
And what the hell are you talking about with the label "pseudo-Christian"? Did I ever purport to be a Christian? I am not a member of any church or adherent to any religion. My point was that people should simply liberate themselves from self-induced pain, and separate themselves from any religious organizations with which they profoundly disagree, instead of groaning under their own self-imposed psychic bondage to these organizations, and grasping onto the bizarrely conflicted and perverse loyalties, and stupid guilt-complexes, that keep them attached to the cults of their youth.
Don't nail yourself to the fucking cross and then whine about how much your hands hurt.
Your totalitarian bullshit absolutism is getting fucking annoying.
Shove it up you know where with the rest of the celery. Fascist!

I really don't get why you take it so personal. If you chose to publish thoughts and discussions in public and don't limit the response to a private group, you agree to be challenged, that's the deal. Protective "circle the wagons" reactions to criticism are what causes people to think "clique." If it's so infuriating, better to forgo public blogging or label posts "for Catholics only" or "for friends of TheraP only." Most people who are serious about writing, though, welcome the chance to see how their writing is received by all, not just by a small club of fans, in order to learn how to do what they want to do better.
Really, I'm serious. The benefits of public discourse include civil criticism. For example, don't you think it's good for Catholics or New Agers to know that some people think their concerns are silly? If the critics remain silent to be kind, what good does that do you, why are you publishing it to a wider audience? Either you're holding a private chat among a group or you're not.
Absolutely. This was published for a very wide audience. Even beyond TPM. Nevertheless, as you say, it should be civil criticism. Though I can understand the frustration that results when the ad hominum takes over. (Generally, when that happens, I try to refrain from commenting.)
Peace to all.
When do you think that some really profound hate and anger is appropriate?
Myself, I tend to reserve it for serious moral wrongs such as serial child molesters and those who aid and abet them.
Or excuse them.
Here is something which speaks to the "heart" of the matter and to your own hearts:
Should have read: to OUR own hearts.
Just leaving another link that may pertain here, more evidence of worldwide connections, between churches and the rightwing and homophobia:
The thread as well is worth reading as it pertains to this blog:

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