Friday, December 09, 2005

The Church and the supernatural

This excellent article was written by Mr. Michael Brown and is featured at his website:

By Michael H. Brown
Striking it was, the other day, to hear from a priest who mentioned that it is now "politically incorrect" -- among priests -- to take spiritual phenomena such a weeping statues seriously.
It was striking because while it has been apparent for some time that many priests and bishops are no longer open to the supernatural, hearing it put in such terms crystallized it.
Politically incorrect.
Indeed, in the current climate, it is doubtful that apparition sites such as Lourdes in France and Fatima in Portugal would have passed muster ecclesiastically. What about Jesus Himself? Certainly, many theologians and other thinkers in the modern Church would have found it hard to believe that someone was actually going about healing the sick, casting out demons, speaking to God, experiencing apparitions, materializing wine, walking on water, calming storms, prophesying future events, raising the deceased, and Himself resurrecting.
There would have been much snickering about that -- for sure -- and so we have to ask ourselves if we as a Church are dangerously close to resembling Sadducees and Pharisees more than early-century Christians.
A hyper-skepticism and intellectualization of the Church -- the lack of a sense of the mystical -- has led to a lack of the sacred, and from this, like a dark fountain, have sprung many of the current problems in the Church, from empty pews, vacant monasteries, and bored congregants to unholy priests caught in scandal.
Sex abuse is the result of a priest who is out of touch with holiness.
Fantastic it is to say that too often the Spirit is no longer welcome in the Church. This is the root of many scandals.
In some ways, Pope Benedict XVI seems to be responding. Whether or not he will prove to be as open to the mystical as his predecessor, in the first seven months of his pontificate he has moved in a direction that seems to aim for the sacred -- promoting reading of the Bible, encouraging the use of Latin, and indicating deep concern for the wayward course of liturgical music (all the while preaching on ecumenism and love of everyone, whatever the denomination).
These are positive signs. The Pope has also tackled the issue of homosexuality in the Church. Such is relevant because when there is sin there is also a dearth of the Spirit.
Let's visit this issue for a moment: How will the new Vatican document on gays in the priesthood play out?
Whatever anyone tries to say, it sent a message that the Catholic Church is not a closet for ungodliness, and that includes homosexuality.
The Church deals with that sin with love but does not accept it and does not want sinners -- who are in need of ministry -- to lead it. Is this so unreasonable?
Yet in the U.S., as well as Australia and Canada, there already has been an attempt to "spin" the instruction. There are many who are trying to say that it allows homosexuals if they have been celibate for three years -- when what the document actually states is that anyone with deep-rooted homosexual tendencies is not right for the priesthood.
According to the document, "transitory" homosexual feelings, like those some may experience during the turmoil of youth, do not disqualify a man from the seminary -- as long as those transitory feelings have been eliminated.
The document does not repudiate men with homosexual inclinations who already are priests -- unless they are unchaste.
Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a statement that the answer to the question of whether a homosexual man can be a good priest "lies in the lives of those men who, with God's grace, have truly been dedicated priests."
But as for future priests, that's a different matter; the Vatican is trying to clean up a mess that began when seminaries, like society itself, devoid of a transcendental sense, began to allow for anything.
"I believe that this statement means that it is not sufficient for the seminarian to be chaste for three years," says Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, a psychiatrist, author and contributor to the Catholic Medical Association's document Homosexuality and Hope. "He must also first know himself; that is, understand his emotional conflicts which cause same-sex attractions and have worked to resolve those conflicts. Spiritual directors can help seminarians and priests by understanding that same-sex attractions are treatable and are not genetically determined. They can encourage seminarians and priests to face their emotional pain with the Lord's help, particularly their loneliness."
This means the purging too -- the self-cleansing -- of latent homosexuality (which was specifically mentioned in an earlier Vatican document).
Very dangerous it is at this time how even some bishops have said they will still accept gays in the wake of the document, and now it seems that the Vatican must move rapidly to halt such a misinterpretation of an important document -- one that can have the effect of a renewal if and only if it is strictly enforced.
In fact, the enforcement will prove more important than the document.
Those priests who are homosexuals and already ordained are allowed to remain as long as they are celibate, but the Vatican has said they should not be in a teaching capacity at seminaries. It may be wise for Rome to take this to the next step and review bishops or cardinals who are reported to be homosexual. There are rumors in the U.S., and in South Africa was a bishop who was openly and actively homosexual, displaying himself on the internet.
How could anything more quickly quash the Spirit?
We get allegations of such and while we will not post them unless there is official action -- and while we remind all that obedience to a bishop, no matter what one suspects, is important, along with authentic love for everyone, no matter what they struggle with -- the faithful should no longer be subject to the negative effects of such leadership.
A gay person cannot minister, but rather is in need of deliverance. That should be done with both strength and love. We all have our flaws. We all need purity. We may not excuse uncleanness.
Yet one major liberal Catholic newspaper did exactly that this week, apologizing for and showing disdain for the new Vatican document and calling the Vatican's terminology "repugnant." "To all those in positions of leadership in the Roman Catholic church who also happen to be homosexual," it said, "we offer our commiseration and sorrow that once again you have been forced to hear your sexuality, an element intrinsic to your humanity, described as an objective disorder."
This same publication never reports on anything mystical.
And so the question: Is sinfulness in the Church why some tend to be antagonistic to claims of apparitions, statues weeping, and similar phenomena? Is the reason because the tears of a statue indicate that something in very wrong in our society? Is at least some of it because most major apparitions strongly affirm strict, conservative, and orthodox Christianity?
Whatever the answer, the lack of a spiritual sense has threatened to turn Catholicism into nothing more than an institution. Without purity, authentic mysticism, and the sacred, without direct contact with holiness, the Church loses its membership.
"This is one of the reasons why in some parts of the world many Catholics abandon the Catholic Church for other Christian realities; they are attracted by a simple and effective proclamation that puts them in direct contact with Christ and allows them to experience the power of his Spirit," Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the pontifical household, told Pope Benedict XVI last week.
Hyper-intellectualization, liberalism, and far too much emphasis on theology has dulled the Church, bored congregants, and opened the way for the rationalization of sin. With all due respect, when those in authority speak constantly with words like "catechesis" or in long polysyllables, we are not resembling the way the original Church spoke.
Are we not more than a doctrinal edifice?
We are. We are the Church of Christ. And that means we are the Church of miracles.
[see also: Psychology of homosexuality, part 2: gay tendencies can be healed and Are active homosexuals accepted by God?]

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