My Emancipation From American Christianity

By John Pavlovitz



I used to think that it was just me, that it was my problem, my deficiency, my moral defect.

It had to be.

All those times when I felt like an outsider in this American Jesus thing; the ever-more frequent moments when my throat constricted and my heart raced and my stomach turned.

Maybe it came in the middle of a crowded worship service or during a small group conversation. Maybe while watching the news or when scanning a blog post, or while resting in a silent, solitary moment of prayer. Maybe it was all of these times and more, when something rose up from the deepest places within me and shouted, “I can’t do this anymore! I can’t be part of this!”

These moments once overwhelmed me with panic and filled me with guilt, but lately I am stepping mercifully clear of such things.

What I’ve come to realize is that it certainly is me, but not in the way I used to believe.

I am not losing my mind.
I’m not losing my faith.
I’m not failing or falling or backsliding.
I have simply outgrown American Christianity.

I’ve outgrown the furrowed-browed warnings of a sky that is perpetually falling.
I’ve outgrown the snarling brimstone preaching that brokers in damnation.
I’ve outgrown the vile war rhetoric that continually demands an encroaching enemy.
I’ve outgrown the expectation that my faith is the sole property of a political party.
I’ve outgrown violent bigotry and xenophobia disguised as Biblical obedience.
I’ve outgrown God wrapped in a flag and soaked in rabid nationalism.
I’ve outgrown the incessant attacks on the Gay, Muslim, and Atheist communities.
I’ve outgrown theology as a hammer always looking for a nail.
I’ve outgrown the cramped, creaky, rusting box that God never belonged in anyway.

Most of all though, I’ve outgrown something that simply no longer feels like love, something I no longer see much of Jesus in.

If religion it is to be worth holding on to, it should be the place were the marginalized feel the most visible, where the hurting receive the most tender care, where the outsiders find the safest refuge.

It should be the place where diversity is fiercely pursued and equality loudly championed; where all of humanity finds a permanent home and where justice runs the show.

That is not what this thing is. This is FoxNews and red cup protests and persecution complexes. It’s opulent, big box megachurches and coddled, untouchable celebrity pastors. It’s pop culture boycotts and manufactured outrage. It’s just wars and justified shootings. It’s all manner of bullying and intolerance in the name of Jesus.

Feeling estrangement from these things is a good thing.

For the past two decades I’ve lived within the tension of trying to be in the thing and not be altered by the thing, but that tension has become too great. Ultimately it’s a spiritual compatibility issue.

It’s getting harder and harder to love all people and still fit into what has become American Christianity, so rather than becoming less loving and staying—I’m leaving.

I’m breaking free from religion for the sake of my soul.

I’m not sure practically what that looks like, but I can feel myself consciously and forcefully pulling away; creating distance between me and a system that can no longer accommodate the scale of my God and the scope of my aspirations.

Jesus said that the Spirit moves where it pleases, and with it go those in its glorious grip. In my heart and in the hearts of so many like me, that Spirit is boldly declaring its emancipation from the small, heavily guarded space that wants to contain it, and taking us out into the wide, breathtaking expanses of unfettered faith.

Every day people tell me that this great releasing is happening within them too; that they are finding freedom beyond the building and the box, and rediscovering a God right sized.

I am a Christian and an American, but I refuse to settle for this American Christianity any longer or be defined by it.

I know that there is something much greater beyond it worth heading toward; something that looks more like God and feels more like love.

Maybe you see it in the distance too. Maybe we can go there together.

Fear is in the rear view, freedom in the windshield.

Complete Article HERE!

Where were the voting women at the Synod?

By James Martin, SJ

A mother holds her child at the Synod on the family on Oct. 24.

To my mind, the Synod on the Family, no matter what the outcome of the Synod’s final report, or the Pope’s final statement, has been a resounding success.  The assembled participants have had the chance to discuss some of the most important issues facing the church, and the discussions have been open, transparent and free. Thus, it has been a great success, and betokens still more openness in the future.  Pope Francis has given the church a gift with this Synod.

But this morning something very disturbing was revealed, thanks to a perceptive question by Thomas J. Reese, SJ, former editor in chief of America and currently a columnist for the National Catholic Reporter.  Brother Herve Janson, a member of the Little Brothers of Jesus, an order noted for its poverty and simplicity, was one of the participants at the daily press briefing.  It was noted that he was also a voting member.

Father Reese asked, rightly, “What is the rationale for you being admitted to the Synod and religious women not being admitted to the Synod?  (The exchange can be seen on the video below, starting at 42:00)

What does that mean?  Basically, Brother Janson is not ordained.  Some may not be aware of this tradition, but you can be a member of a men’s religious order and not be ordained: thus the term “Brother.”  Brother Janson is neither a bishop, nor a priest, nor a deacon.  Technically, his canonical “status” in the church is that of a layman.  That is, he has the same “status” as that of a woman religious, or in common parlance, a Catholic sister.  And the same status as a laywoman as well.

In response to Father Reese’s question, which produced some uncomfortable laughter from the other panelists (who immediately grasped the challenging nature of the question): Brother Janson said (my translation from the French): “That is a big question….I felt very uncomfortable (malaise)….Before, the distinction was between cleric and lay.  And now, it became between man and woman, exactly as you said very well….I asked myself the same question.”  Strikingly, Brother Janson said he thought of refusing (renoncer) the invitation to be a voting member, out of solidarity with women religious.  (This exchange can be viewed at 42:00 in the video below.)

This is a serious failure for the Synod.  Previously, at least as far as I had known, it seemed that ordination was a prerequisite for voting.  That is, there were priests who were appointed, in addition to the bishops, as voting members.  There were strong theological arguments that could be advanced for that: it was a synod of bishops, and, in Catholic theology, priests participate in the ministry of the bishop through the sacrament of holy orders.

Now, it seems that the prerequisite for being a voting member was not ordination, but being a man.

It would have been extremely easy for the Synod to have invited—as it did with Brother Janson—a Catholic sister to participate in the Synod, with voting rights.  Perhaps the head of a women’s religious order could have been invited, or a woman religious who worked in the Vatican, or a woman religious who had experience in the theology of family life.  It would also have been easy (since Brother Janson is a layman) to invite another layman or a laywoman to vote.

For me this is the worst kind of sexism.  It goes against the Pope’s explicit desire to have more women in “leadership roles” in the church, as he said in Evangelii Gaudium: “We need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church.” (10).

It is also, to use some theological language, a sign. The church teaches, as Jesus did, by both word and deed.  The “sign value” of having a voting member who was a woman—even one—would have been immense.  It was a huge missed opportunity.

Finally, while some may dismiss my comments as off topic, the decision to not to include women has to do with the family.  Sexism is something that many, if not most, of our mothers, daughters and sisters have to deal with.  The last thing the Synod should have been doing is creating more problems for the members of our family.

Complete Article HERE!

NJ archbishop sets rules for barring Catholics from Communion

File under: Grandstanding Idiot


Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark, N.J., addresses Pope Francis at the conclusion of Mass at the Pontifical North American College in Rome on May 2, 2015. Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic News Service
Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark, N.J., addresses Pope Francis at the conclusion of Mass at the Pontifical North American College in Rome on May 2, 2015. Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic News Service

Even as Pope Francis and Catholic leaders from around the world debate ways to make the Catholic Church more inclusive, Newark Archbishop John Myers has given his priests strict guidelines on refusing Communion to Catholics who, for example, support gay marriage or whose own marriage is not valid in the eyes of the church.

In the two-page memo, Myers also orders parishes and Catholic institutions not to host people or organizations that disagree with church teachings.

He says Catholics, “especially ministers and others who represent the Church, should not participate in or be present at religious events or events intended to endorse or support those who reject or ignore Church teaching and Canon Law.”

The new rules could raise eyebrows given that Francis is currently leading a high-level Vatican summit, called a synod, where he and some 270 bishops are debating whether to let divorced and remarried Catholics receive Communion, and how to be more welcoming to cohabiting and gay couples whose lives don’t conform to Catholic teaching.

The guidelines could also up the ante for the coming election season, when Catholic candidates who support abortion rights or gay rights are sometimes challenged by conservatives over whether they should receive Communion.

A spokesman for Myers said in an email on Tuesday (Oct. 13) that the archbishop saw this as an opportune moment to set out the guidelines for priests in the northern New Jersey archdiocese.

“With so much being generated in the media with regard to issues like same-sex unions and such, this memo about ensuring that Catholic teaching is adhered to in all situations — especially with regard to the use of diocesan properties and facilities — seemed appropriate,” James Goodness, a spokesman for Myers, said in an email.

LetterArchdiocese of Newark Memorandum

Archdiocese of Newark Memorandum

The memo is titled “Principles to Aid in Preserving and Protecting the Catholic Faith in the Midst of an Increasingly Secular Culture.” It is dated Sept. 22 and was sent to priests this week, according to a source who provided a copy to Religion News Service.

In the memo, Myers writes: “The Church will continue to cherish and welcome her members and invite them to participate in her life to the degree that their personal situation permits them honestly to do so.

“Catholics,” he continues, “must be in a marriage recognized as valid by the Church to receive Holy Communion or the other sacraments. Non-Catholics and any Catholic who publicly rejects Church teaching or discipline, either by public statements or by joining or supporting organizations which do so, are not to receive the Sacraments.”

Myers issued these guidelines even though he is scheduled to retire next July when he turns 75, turning over the reins to Archbishop Bernard Hebda.

In 2013, Francis named Hebda a “coadjutor archbishop” — meaning he would automatically take over when Myers left office — after a series of controversies that angered many priests and parishioners in the 1.4 million-member archdiocese.

In one instance, Myers was criticized for allowing a priest — who was under court order to stay away from children — to work with youths, and in another he was criticized for using church funds to pay for pricey renovations to a retirement home.

Complete Article HERE!

The mystery surrounding the letter allegedly sent by cardinals criticising Synod procedure

By andrea tornielli

According to a list of names published by Vatican commentator, Sandro Magister, the letter was signed by thirteen cardinals. But four of the men mentioned – Scola, Vingt-Trois Piacenza and Erdö – denied signing the document. The incident underlines the importance of Francis’ call for this “hermeneutics of conspiracy” to stop

synod heads

Thirteen cardinals – Synod Fathers – are said to have sent a letter to Pope Francis, expressing their doubts about the procedures followed in the current Synod on the family and raising fears of piloting with the aim of obtaining “predetermined results”. The cardinals were apparently especially keen to know about the composition of the commission tasked with drafting the concluding text. They asked that the rapporteurs of the language-based discussion groups be elected, not nominated (the possibility of having non-elected was nominees was wafted about by some media circles on the eve of the Synod but it was never considered seriously).

The letter was published in full by Vatican commentator Sandro Magister, along with a complete list of the letter’s signatories: Carlo Carlo Caffarra, Archbishop of Bologna, Thomas Cardinal Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, Wim Cardinal Eijk, Archbishop of Utrecht, Péter Cardinal Erdö, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and Relator General of the Synod, Gerhard Cardinal Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Wilfrid Cardinal Napier, Archbishop of Durban and one of the presidents delegate of the Synod, George Cardinal Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, Mauro Cardinal Piacenza, Major Penitentiary, Robert Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Angelo Cardinal Scola, Archbishop of Milan, Jorge Cardinal Urosa Savino, Archbishop of Caracas, André Cardinal Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris and one of the presidents delegate of the Synod.

But four of these figures denied their names were on the letter sent to the Pope. The Archbishop of Milan, Angelo Scola’s spokesman issued a statement on his behalf, confirming that he had signed no such letter. Later, the Archbishop of Paris, André Vingt-Trois, also denied having signed the letter, in a statement to French Catholic newspaper La Croix’s Vatican commentator. Then, in the late morning, the Major Penitentiary Cardinal Mauro Piacenza also denied signing the text. In a statement to Vatican Insider, he said he had not signed the letter, nor was he invited to do so. In the early afternoon, the General Rapporteur of the Synod, Cardinal Péter Erdö, also said his signature was not on that letter. Following each of these statements, Sandro Magister removed the signatories’ names from the list in his article.

In their letter, the cardinals – who gave their assurance that their concerns were shared by other Synod Fathers too – criticise the Instrumentum laboris, the Synod working document, stating: “it also has sections that would benefit from substantial reflection and reworking”. They criticise “the new procedures guiding the synod seem to guarantee it excessive influence on the synod’s deliberations and on the final synodal document”.

“The new synodal procedures,” the letter reads, “will be seen in some quarters as lacking openness and genuine collegiality”. Although the cardinals do not mention specifically which “quarters” they are referring to, it is clear that these doubts are their own.  “In the past, the process of offering propositions and voting on them served the valuable purpose of taking the measure of the synod fathers’ minds. The absence of propositions and their related discussions and voting seems to discourage open debate and to confine discussion to small groups; thus it seems urgent to us that the crafting of propositions to be voted on by the entire synod should be restored. Voting on a final document comes too late in the process for a full review and serious adjustment of the text.”

In another paragraph of the letter, cardinals write: “the lack of input by the synod fathers in the composition of the drafting committee has created considerable unease. Its members have been appointed, not elected, without consultation. Likewise, anyone drafting anything at the level of the small circles should be elected, not appointed.”

In turn, these things have created a concern that the new procedures are not true to the traditional spirit and purpose of a Synod. It is unclear why these procedural changes are necessary. A number of fathers feel the new process seems designed to facilitate predetermined results on important disputed questions.”

Finally, cardinals express their “concern that a synod designed to address a vital pastoral matter – reinforcing the dignity of marriage and family – may become dominated by the theological/doctrinal issue of Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried. If so, this will inevitably raise even more fundamental issues about how the Church, going forward, should interpret and apply the Word of God, her doctrines and her disciplines to changes in culture.”

The Secretary General of the Synod, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri and the Pope himself responded to this letter in the Synod Hall the following day. Baldisseri explained that the signatories were off the mark in the comments about procedural changes to do with the commission in charge of drafting the final document and about the appointment of rapporteurs in the circuli minores.

Regarding the first objection, Baldisseri explained that until the Extraordinary Synod of 2014, three or four people from the General Secretariat had been in charge of writing the final document. It was Francis who wanted to expand this task, assigning one Synod Father from each continent. The commission was never elected by the Synod Fathers. In addition, the prediction some media circles close to the signatories made about the failure to elect rapporteurs and moderators from the language-based discussion groups (circuli minores), proved to be mistaken. As in 2014, the rapporteurs and moderators of the circuli minores, were elected by the Synod Fathers and not appointed. And the reports issued by these circles were published in full like last year.

Readers will recall Francis’ reference to a “hermeneutics of conspiracy”, defining it as “sociologically weak and spiritually unhelpful”. In other words, it is exactly the opposite of what the Synod Fathers are called to do and all these suspicions about conspiracies and plotting needs to stop. His words were welcomed with applause.

The Pope pointed out that “Catholic doctrine on marriage has not been touched, no one called it into question in this assembly or in the Extraordinary assembly. It has been preserved in its integrity”. He also urged Synod Fathers not to let themselves “be conditioned or limit” themselves, “seeing the question of communion for remarried divorcees as the only problem”.

Complete Article HERE!

Pope Francis’s meeting with Kim Davis should come as no surprise


The pope’s enormous influence has undermined LGBT people all over the world, as evidenced by his thinly veiled anti-equality statements in the US

Francis in DC


Pope Francis’s no-longer-secret meeting in Washington DC with anti-gay activist Kim Davis, the controversial Kentucky county clerk who was briefly jailed over her refusal to issue same-sex marriage licenses in compliance with state law, leaves LGBT people with no illusions about the Pope’s stance on equal rights for us, despite his call for inclusiveness. It should now be clear to all that he and the Catholic Church remain steadfastly on the wrong side of history, mired in a discriminatory past.

While in the US, Pope Francis spoke about treating others as we would like to be treated. Yet his enormous power and influence have undermined LGBT people all over the world, as evidenced by his thinly-veiled anti-equality statements both in Congress and during his post-visit press conference – all broadcast before a global audience.

He even repeated the tired old nonsense that we are a threat. In his speech to Congress, he lamented that “fundamental” family relationships were threatened by modern alternatives and, in a press conference conducted in-flight en route to Rome at the end of his visit to the United States, he stated that it is a human right to refuse same-sex marriage licenses and referred to it as conscientious objection.

Yet, Davis, with whom he met and apparently offered moral support to, was quite free to conscientiously object to same-sex marriage. She even had the opportunity to resign or allow her deputies to issue the licenses without her, but she refused to do either – and went so far as to reportedly altering the license forms in a manner that may invalidate people’s marriages. She apparently thought she could “conscientiously object” and keep the perks of the job she conscientiously objects to performing at the same time.

The pope’s support of Davis and others objecting to same-sex marriage and actively trying to keep people from marrying will result in more bigotry and discrimination against us, and is at variance with his overall message of inclusiveness.

Francis is championing “fundamental” family relationships at the expense of hard-won rights by gays and their families – and already many are using the pope’s comments to further their anti-equality agenda, including Davis and her lawyers with the anti-equality Liberty Counsel. But none of this should have
come as a surprise.

Statements made by Pope Francis just a few months ago in the Philippines underscore his opposition to marriage equality. “The family is threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life”, Francis said at a Mass in Manila. “These realities are increasingly under attack from powerful forces, which threaten to disfigure God’s plan for creation”.

These views were even more obvious and succinct than the thinly-veiled swipes against marriage equality that he made in America last week. His anti-marriage equality stance stands in stark contrast to some of his other statements. For instance, Pope Francis rightly lectured Congress and the world about the refugee crisis and quoted the bible’s message “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” – but to ‘do unto others’ means affording equal rights to all, not select groups. Affording unrestricted access to marriage rights strengthens the institution of marriage in a democracy and it is very troubling for the pope to suggest that same-sex marriages threaten traditional marriage.

That oft-demolished illogical and unreasonable argument is ludicrous and the US supreme court ruled accordingly – as did the citizens of Ireland (a predominantly Catholic country) and in other countries where gay marriage has been legalized. The pope may not have given much emphasis to his bigotry or prejudice when he was in the United States, but it was there all along – if we paid attention attention. His meeting with Kim Davis in Washington DC is more definitive proof of which side he is on when it comes to human rights for LGBT people.

Next time, perhaps we’ll be less surprised when he shows his true colors.

Complete Article HERE!