|Bert Thelen, (ex) S.J.|
Bert Thelen, S.J., an eighty year old Jesuit who had spent the last 14 years at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska has petitioned to become laicized. Thelen announced his intention to abandon his vows in an open letter to friends and colleagues that was also published in The National Catholic Reporter. In his apologia, Thelen professed to renounce his ordination as well as leaving the Society of Jesus is to protest what he describes as a patriarchal church which refuses to allow for priestesses and permitting homosexual so called marriage.
Although it is lamentable that it took Thelen 45 years of service to the Church to discern his objections to the Magisterium about the vocation of Holy Orders and Marriage, but the manner which he chose to “self-defrock” was troubling. Rather than showing some semblance of personal integrity by conducting his change in spiritual status in private, Thelen chose to publically score some partisan political points. Hence it is only fair to scrutinize Thelen’s conduct and consequences of the spiritual change of status which he seeks.
Although ordaining women and gay marriage were the polemic flash points for Thelen’s new calling, he also had condemnation of his order of the last 45 years which he connected to his aspiration of religion without pedestals.
So after bad mouthing his brothers, octogenarian Bert Thelen will set off on his new calling. While I know of an 80 year old Jesuit who recently celebrated his 50th year of being a Jesuit and is active being a spiritual director and Christian Life Community facilitator, these wonderful ministries would not pay the bills. It is dubious that the prophetic protestor will earn his keep so he will live off of the largess of the Society of Jesus as provisions need to be made for a laicized priest. That’s rich in irony.
Catholics have the appreciation that our spiritual vocations, namely Marriage and Holy Orders, not only reflect states of living but that sacramentally mark us. This is why Catholics seek to ensure that one is sacramentally understand their vows (and annulments take so long to adjudicate). Similarly, the Church believes that once a priest, always a priest like the order of Melchizedek. But because of political pique, Thelen wants to walk away from his vows and be a useful idiot for those who rail against the Church’s teachings.
Reading the rhetoric in Thelen’s open letter, one wonders if there is much of a loss. With phrases like: “Biocide is even more devastating than genocide” and the “survival and well being of ALL earthlings” Thelen’s views may be more welcomed amongst secular humanists and activist atheists rather than in an ecclesiastical environment. But I am scandalized by Thelen’s assertion that through his new calling, he as lived and died as a Jesuit but now is free from being shackled by a judicial, institutional, clerical, hierarchical system. Thelen’s fickle commitment and sui generis understanding of death to me shows the shallowness of his sacred professions. Moreover, the emphasis of Earthlings (sic) preventing biocide, egalitarianism which obliterates authority and championing secular humanist trends intimates what Thelen holds in deep esteem.
Rather than respecting his polemic philippic, I find this apologia to be a tardy Jesuitical discernment. It is a pity that years of serving the People of God is marred by a cheap political stunt.
|Benedict XVI upon his election April 19, 2005 [AP photo: Domenico Stinellis]|
It was a shock to the world the Pope Benedict XVI (ne Josef Ratzinger) offered a letter of resignation today from the Papacy during a consistory which was just slated to canonize three saints. Benedict XVI was elected pope April 19, 2005 and at age 78 was the oldest Pope elected to the Chair of St. Peter. Cardinal Ratizinger had developed a reputation as a doctrinaire Rottweiler as he headed the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the office of Holy Inquisition) during most of Pope Blessed John Paul II’s 26 ½ year reign . Benedict XVI surprised critics as being a gentle German Shepherd during his nearly eight year tenure leading the Catholic Church.
Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation will take effect as of February 28, 2013 8 pm Rome time. There will be a two week period when it will sede vacante and then the College of Cardinals will meet to vote on who will become the next Pope.
|Pope Benedict XVI Crest|
Pope Benedict XVI had hinted at the possibility of resigning during an interview with a German journalist in 2010 if he did not feel that he was physically or mentally capable of fulfilling the mission of the papacy. Some had speculated that Benedict XVI might resign at the conclusion of the Year of Faith, which is slated to end November 24th. Yet Benedict XVI heeded his prayerful examination of conscience and chose the end of February. This could be symbolic as this announcement was made on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes which is also the Church’s World Day of the Sick. However the date also coincides with the signing of the Lateran Pacts (1929), when the Republic of Italy recognized the sovereignty and independence of the Vatican City state.
In his letter of resignation, Pope Benedict XVI noted:
After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.
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Today is the first celebration of the feast of Pope Blessed John Paul II, who was beatified on May 1st by his successor to the Petrine throne, Pope Benedict XVI.
The Liturgy of the Hours this day opens with this prayer:
O God, who are rich in mercy and who willed that the blessed John Paul the Second should preside as Pope over your universal Church, grant, we pray, that instructed by his teaching, we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ, the sole Redeemer of mankind. Who lives and reigns.
The year 1978 was a year of three popes, due to the deaths of Pope Pius VI and Pope John Paul I in barely a month from each other. The Church was trying to find relevance in an increasingly secular Western culture while having faith choked off in Eastern Europe. At the outset of his papacy, Karol Józef Wojtyła began his papacy on September 28, 1978, he issued this invitation for the faithful:
As pope, John Paul II took his message “Be Not Afraid” to his homeland of Poland, which suffered under the spiritual shackles of a godless communism. But JP II challenged all of us to follow his motto of “Toto Tuus”, not being afraid to offer all that we have to the Lord.
At the John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, DC, there is a walkway of faith which chronicles the insights of people throughout the world on their spiritual. At the end of the line, visitors are greeted by this extended hand
May we count on this blessing each and every day of our lives.
As Catholic institutions have been more mainstreamed in America, there are examples of glossing over religious precepts which contradict the Magestarium and are effectively Catholic In Name Only (CINO).
As jurisdictions have liberalized laws to legalize homosexual marriage and adoption, it has impacted religious dissentors. When New York passed the Marriage Equality Act in June 2011, there was a carve out which preserves the right for religious groups to not perform nuptial services for homosexual couples. When the DC Council voted for same sex marriage in 2010, Catholic Charities needed to withdraw from the foster care system so as not to be forced to place wards with same-sex couples. These changes of law certainly curtails some social services in which conscientious Catholic groups can engage, but did not force them to act or essentially to disappear.
Next year businesses can continue to offer their employees health care under Obamacare, but their plans need to have certain basic coverages. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebilius mandated that this must include contraception coverage. The only religious exemption is for those who conscientiously object to insurance, like the Amish and Muslims.
So schools like Notre Dame are effectively faced with the Sword of Damacles–either violate the Catholic Magestarium and offer abortion inducing drugs, stop offering healthcare to its employees, face a $1 million a day fine or cease to exist.
On November 27th English speaking Roman Catholics around the world will all convert to using the 3rd translation of the Roman Missal. Some may be tempted to blame “the German Shepherd” Pope Benedict XVI for instituting this change back to the future. But in all actuality it was Pope Blessed John Paul II who issued this encyclical which required that the liturgy must faithfully render the translation into the vernacular to closely reflect the original Latin texts.
The English translation of the Roman Missal is key. When following the precepts of Vatican II in the late 1960s and early 1970s, many Catholic conferences in Africa and Asia relied upon the English translation of the Roman Missal to further translate into their regional venacular. The dynamic translation methodology which was used in the 1973 edition is thought to have lost something in translation and that had a cascade effect on the faithful in countries where Catholicism is a minority faith.
There are going to be many changes of wording, mostly on the part of the celebrant priest, but Church officials insist that it is not a new Mass but a deeper experience that nurtures the faithful to celebrate.
These are going to be major changes to the way most Catholics worship, but I have not seen concerted education efforts from the different parishes that I have recently visited. All of the sung music during the liturgy (e.g. the gloria, the sanctus, the fraction rite) will have to change since there are too many notes for the current scoring. The Creed will use unfamiliar words which may have more meaning but do not roll off the faithfuls’ tongues. Some priests have privately admitted that they are slow to bring up these changes because they anticipate that their parishioners will bristle at the change but that they will just have to live with it because that is what the Vatican acting through the USCCB demands.
I believe that observant Catholics could learn a lot from learning and appreciating the new translation of the Roman Missal, even with the initially awkward phraseology, if we get enough instruction which educates (draws forth) instead of inculcation (pounding in) by ostrich- like ordained.