Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Silence vs Silencing

Dfish left this comment which I have not posted until now because I don't understand what address he/she is referring to (in the first paragraph), or the sentence, "Silence being loosely used . . . your address [what address?] appear [sic] to be damaging. . . ." I asked Dfish to expand but so far no reply. However, the comment is worth some analysis.

"In the face of the "problem" of priests' shortage, this article from the magazine America, struggling to balance its views on the idea of priesthood, defines silence as the absence of a "perfect, legitimate discussion" on the issue. Silence being loosely used, and after reading your address before a group of Carmelite nuns, appear to be damaging of its profound,transformative uses:

"Silence and fervent prayer for vocations are no longer adequate responses to the priest shortage in the United States."

"Will the priest shortage impose a eucharistic famine on the Catholic people?"

"We hope that the upcoming Year of the Priest will lead to a broader discussion of the priesthood in the contemporary world and, in particular, will open examination of the various ways the shortage of priests can be addressed honestly and with imagination." - A Modest Proposal"

First of all, there is a profound difference between the sort of interior silence ("the work of silence") I write about and the Vatican's attempts at silencing the discussion about priesthood, the role of women and a good many other subjects. Everything has a shadow side, and silencing, which attempts to put the lid on thought or discussion (but always has the opposite effect) has no place in anything I have written.

Having said that, the subject of priesthood, especially in the RC church, is huge. Readers may be interested in my book Pillars of Flame: Power, Priesthood and Spiritual Maturity, which addresses many of the issues raised (or not raised) in the supposedly suppressed discussion in the RC church. See also my article in Weavings, "Liturgy in Truth" and the catechetical rite for contemplative eucharist in January 2006 in this blog.

There are many, many issues here, and I can only point to a few. First, there is the aura of magic by which the RC church surrounds the Eucharist and ordination. It is the ultimate in presumption, if not simply blasphemous. I have elsewhere called this "magic cookie theology", because it trivializes, reduces and domesticates the sacrament and the divine it supposedly represents (read "controls").

Secondly, no one who knows anything about church history still believes that ecclesial systems are sacro-sanct in any of the denominational expressions. Jesus never founded a church; the institution is man (emphasis on the male gender) made and man-maintained (sterile males attempting to self-perpetuate themselves but successful only in reductionism), although women have sometimes, somehow managed to exert subversive pressure. There is no reason that the churches can't be dismantled and reorganized and they should be. Within the present system I'm all for women's ordination even though I hate what ordination does to women who have to be part of this system. It's the system that's the problem and if we want to be Christians it has to go.

One of the reasons there is a shortage of vocations in the RC church is that people don't want to be part of a pernicious system that infantilizes its constituency and glorifies clericalism, whose advocates are interested only in their own self-advancement and regard everyone else as idiots. Not to mention all the dressing up, the sycophancy, and the need always to watch your back. The RC church today (and don't kid yourself that the church regards anyone as the "real" church except the clergy), as it has been for centuries, is all about power and control, especially mind control. Has anyone actually read the oath that teachers and active nuns have to take? It says, more or less, "I promise not even to think anything not approved by the Magesterium," much less say or teach it.

As to the Eucharist in RC parishes (or any parish, especially remote ones), the real solution is to have lay presidency of the Eucharist with appropriately trained laypeople who are selected because they will not succumb to becoming para-clerics like so many RC deacons who are even more oppressive and controlling than their superiors, often out of fear (covering their asses seems their first priority). At the time of confirmation everyone should be taught to celebrate the Eucharist and when it might be appropriate to do so. The sacrament needs to be returned to the people.

Volumes could be written on this subject alone but I will close by saying only that I have spent considerable time in RC communities in various roles and it is often like the schizophrenic living associated with Soviet Russia: a limited range of language and behaviors are allowed; they become knee-jerk and ritualized, resembling the dysfunctional behavior of caged animals in an old-fashioned zoo; any creative theology and spiritual maturity that manage to escape being stifled by the system can operate only in secret, often in fear, anxiety and guilt, to be brought out for discussion/affirmation on very rare occasions, and then only in the company of a few tried and trusted friends who will not rat to the authorities. This is outrageous in a church that claims to have a corner on the "truth." When is the Curia going to wake up to the fact that it (and the present pope in particular) is making itself an increasingly absurd irrelevancy, and that there is absolutely no justification whatsoever for the way it conducts the church's business?

Satan is known as "the accuser" and he seems to be the chief minister in far too many religious institutions. Has anyone read "The Grand Inquisitor" lately?


Anonymous dFish said...

Hi Maggie:
The first paragraph was my own take over the America article - disbursing its own theological stand on the distinction between general priesthood and ordained one that the Vatican Council II had espoused on. I use the word "struggling" in the sense that all the time, RC theology on priesthood always seems entangled in equating the value of inherent priesthood we receive from baptism and ordination. From an institutional point of view, this to me now is more of a political accommodation of the bargaining power of the hierarchy, rather than rooting priesthood, like what you are espousing, within a more radical theology such as self-oblation; all Christians being capable of some priestly act as "homo eucharisticus".

As regards to the "address" I mentioned, it was your post entitled "Stammering in the Dark" I was referring to. From this address, you talked about numbers game among religious communities and how the negligence of interior silence is leading religious communities into their moribund state now. I quote:

"At this time when many communities are staring the possibility of dispersal in the face, it may seem odd to suggest that the communities in biggest trouble are not those with few aspirants. Small but healthy communities have a tendency to worry, to get caught up in the numbers game."

The article on America certainly addresses the issue of numbers, that is, of shortage of ordained priests. Yet, by its introduction alone, that silence no longer works to address the issue but rather through honest discussion, i sense a disparaging of the value of silence. Again, i quote your post:

"From where I sit the communities that simply get on with their lives and listen in the silence and the dark of the present are the ones that are flourishing. They may not feel like they are flourishing, but they are inhabiting what they have professed. These communities and the individuals who make them up, by this simple inhabiting, proclaim their own authenticity. They don't think in terms of 'success' or 'failure', because they realize that these terms are irrelevant. How can humans judge what is of God?"

So that the more radical question from this framework is: does the RC Church really and radically faces the issue head-on?

Between your "stammering in the dark" and the article from America, i sense a different usage of the word silence: sitting in the dark and getting away from the numbers game versus playing the numbers game through open discussion.

1:56 am, October 15, 2009  

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