Tag Archives: Catholic Church

Papa Karol Wojtyla merita di essere santo? Non a Toowoomba forse.

Non penso che molti cattolici italiani sapranno dov’è Toowoomba.  Basta solo dire che Toowoomba è una cittadina australiana di circa 130,000 abitanti nello stato del Queensland.  Settimana scorsa il suo vescovo, William Morris è stato tolto dal suo incarico dal Vaticano.  La sua colpa? Di avere suggerito (abbastanza timidamente) che a seguito del calo drammatico di nuovi preti,  forse  donne o uomini sposati potrebbero essere inclusi in amministrare l’Eucarestia e altri aspetti clericali.

Oggi è apparso un articolo del corrispondente religioso Barney Zwartz su due dei giornali più autorevoli australiani (The Age di Melbourne ed il Sydney Morning Herald).  Zwartz è un difensore della Chiesa Cattolica, ma in questo articolo la critica aspramente.  Si chiede come la Chiesa possa non avere ancora dimesso 300 preti in Australia che hanno commesso gravi crimini sessuali, mentre un vescovo che esprime un’opinione viene tolto dal suo incarico quasi subito.  La Chiesa, dice Zwartz, è diventata autoritaria e rigida, e il responsabile di questo è Papa Wojtyla.

Giovanni Paolo II prese una posizione rigida e autoritaria, concentrando il controllo nel Vaticano e incoraggiando una pratica molto sgradevole dove reazionari locali (che Morrs descrive come ‘la polizia del tempio’) denunciano al Vaticano sacerdoti che sospettanodi non seguire la dottrina conservatrice della Chiesa.

Un’esperto sulla Chiesa Cattolica australiana, Paul Collins, (anche lui ex prete, che fu indagato proprio da Joseph Ratzinger come capo della Congregazione per la dottrina della fede) sa che tutto questo è fatto per esercitare un controllo totale.  Nella Chiesa post-Giovanni Paolo II, i vescovi non vengono visti come capi della loro parrocchia, ma come managers di una sezione direttamente controllata dal centro.  Collins dice che questa situazione è un’eresia e contro la tradizione della Chiesa Cattolica.

Zwartz inoltre commenta come questa situazione è relativamente recente.  L’architetto di controllo totale dal Vaticano fu proprio Wojtyla che vedeva se stesso come il vescovo del mondo.  Certamente un uomo con qualitá eroiche, ma anche con lacune di uguale misura.  La più notevole fu quella di rifiutarsi di prendere sul serio gli abusi sessuali del clero e invece dare colpa a una ‘campagna’ anti cattolica nella media, e di concentrarsi invece di proteggere l’immagine e le finanze della Chiesa.  Un’esempio fu la promozione e approvazione  del fondatore dei Legionari di Cristo Marcial Maciel, che ha compiuto abusi sessuali ripetuti e continuati su seminaristi della sua congregazione.
 Giovanni Paolo II, come tutti gli uomini ha fatto errori.  Ma a  me sembra sentendo la RAI, qui nella lontana Australia che l’aspetto negativo di Wojtyla e quasi ignorato.  Ma proprio qui in Australia si è visto come un vescovo amato dalla sua congregazione sia stato allontanato per avere espresso un’idea nella chiesa rigida che Giovanni Paolo II ha creato, mentre altre persone che veramente dovrebbero essere state buttate fuori e processati come criminali sono potuti rimanere nelle loro posizioni.  Forse un santo per il Vaticano, ma chissà se molti cattolici australiani lo vedono nello stesso modo.

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Top Saints (no I am not talking about football)

Sainthood is in the news lately. Mary McKillop is now officially St. Mary of the Cross. The Sunday Age even had a poster of her like they do with football players. Despite being born and spent my childhood where Catholicism was ‘the norm’ in Italy I have lapsed quite a long time ago. Catholicism has moulded the culture of Italy but this doesn’t mean that it is a devout country, quite the opposite I think. While I dislike intensely the interference of the Church in Italian affairs I don’t have that intense hatred for the Church that someone like Catherine Deveney seems to have. Maybe is because my parents, while exposing me to the Church (I have been baptised and confirmed) never forced me to go to church, and unlike many ex-Catholics in Australia I didn’t go to a Catholic school (despite some attempts by the Church in Italy education is a mainly state run enterprise) so I didn’t get that pent up of resentment that seems to fuel anti-Catholicism which borders on hate. Look at this example in today’s Age letters to the editor:

The behaviour of the Australian media and our politicians in this has been shameful; the coverage given to this tedious non-event would seem to belie the previously assumed notion of Australia as a secular, pluralistic society. What century are we living in when those who claim to speak for all Australia are falling over each other to prostrate themselves before the Vatican, all critical faculties suspended for mindless, joyous rapture? Remember just a few months ago when the horrific scale of the Catholic Church’s child abuse became known? Have we all forgotten that institution’s myriad sins just because of a shiny prize being dangled in front our faces?

As I said, I am no fan of the Catholic Church, but surely why this hate towards an event that really lasted only a couple of day?

A great article which explains very much about I feel about this (but expressed much better than I could have) was written in the Drum by Scott Bridges (although I define myself as a Possibilian rather than an Atheist).

Is it rational to ignore and diminish the positive aspects of religion just because there are negative aspects? Sure, the Catholic Church, as an organisation and a collection of individuals, has been responsible for many terrible crimes through the years (as have most, if not all, organised religions), but churches and their non-Christian counterparts also do an awful lot of good for people and communities around the world. For every paedophile there are thousands of hard-working clergy whose only mission is to improve others’ lives. Is it rational to hate this?

So when I saw images of happy Australian Catholics in Rome I thought good on them. I hope they went to some of the Caffè there because the coffee is absolutely fantastic….but I digress. Whether St Mary of the Cross did intervene and cured people of terminal disease it doesn’t really matter. If people want to believe it that’s fine. After all it can’t be rationally believed that a human being representing God in human form was born by immaculate conception, died in excruciating circumstances on a cross but returned to life three days later and ascended to heaven. But that is faith, and if people want to believe that that’s their choice. I still think that Jesus Christ is still an important person even if he was mortal like us. His re-enforcement of the ethic of reciprocity (which was not new when he said it) of ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ is important. And important that he extended this not only to people we liked, but also to those we disliked is powerful concept, and something that it rarely practiced, even amongst avowed Christians and religious dogma that prefer a punitive approach to religion rather than a loving and understanding one.

Personally I am thankful that the Church has commissioned and inspired great works of art, especially music. For instance the Ambrosian Chants (who were performed in my hometime in Milan around the 8th century AD) are incredibly powerful (watch this youtube video as an example). And another religious music composer that is one of my favourite is Tomás Luis de Victoria (here is another youtube video of his music). But this blog is about saints. At my desk at work I got pictures of my top saints. That’s because even if I may not believe in miracles, I like the iconography and they are relevant to me. So here they are:

Saint Jerome and Saint Lawrence – Patron saints of Librarians.

 

Saint Jerome
Saint Jerome
St. Lawrence

St. Lawrence

As a librarians I got two saints!  Saint Jerome gets the gig as the second most voluminous writer (after St. Augustine) in ancient Christianity (according to Wikipedia).  While St. Lawrence was ordained a deacon and was placed in charge of the administration of Church goods and care for the poor. For this duty, he is regarded as one of the first archivists and treasurers of the Church and was made the patron of librarians.  As an early Christian in Rome he was killed in the usual truculent way ancient Romans tended to invent to create most pain and suffering.  They built a iron grid, lit a fire underneath and literally grilled him to death.   Apparently while he was on the grate he said something like stating something along the lines of, “turn me over … I’m done on this side”. That is why he is also the patron saint of cooks.  True.  Who says that Catholics have no sense of humor?  And that is why when he is portrayed in art there is a grill next to him, as you can see from the picture above.

Saint Clare of Assisi

 

St. Clare of Assisi

St. Clare of Assisi

Italy has two patron saints, and both come from the same town.  St Francis of Assisi, which many will know, but also Saint Clare of Assisi.  She followed a Franciscan way of life which was very simple and miles away from the pomp and riches of the Vatican.  Also  Pope Pius XII designated her as the patron saint of television in 1958, on the basis that when she was too ill to attend Mass, she had reportedly been able to see and hear it on the wall of her room.  So she has to be one of my favourite saints.  Patron saint of the nation where I was born but also of one of my favourite activities.

St. Isidore of Seville

 

St. Isodore of Seville

St. Isidore of Seville

St. Isidore should technically not be on the top saints list because he is not an ‘official’ patron, but amongst the cyberspace he is the titular patron of the internet, and as such he is here.

He was the creator of the first primitive database, Etymologiae, (Etymologies) a 20-volume encyclopedia on subjects ranging from art and animals to history and mathematics.  Religious and virtual Web communities in Spain have taken him as their patron and why not?  However despite his undoubtedly importance as an intellectual and the fact that he may be the patron of something I use and like I don’t know whether I would like him that much and maybe we can pick someone else.  He called for the forced removal of Jewish children from the parents and their education by Christians and forbidding Jews and Christians of Jewish origin from holding public office.  If he has to represent a phenomenon which represent freedom and exchange of ideas maybe Isidore doesn’t really fit the bill.

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The Catholic Church is not the axis of evil.

I am not a big fan of the Catholic Church.  Having spent my childhood in a fairly Catholic city (Pope John XXIII was born in ‘Sotto il Monte‘ a small village in the province of the town where I lived, Bergamo) I have never liked the pernicious influence of the Church in Italian affairs (despite the fact that Italy had the largest Communist party of any western country and hardly anyone goes regularly to church).  Even here I bristle when I see George Pell on TV.

However I am somewhat perplexed by how vehemently some commentators vent their anger towards it.

Perhaps is because it is the oldest and biggest Christian institution and therefore it is the primary target.  And because it has been around for 2000 years or so it has plenty of incidents that are less than salubrious.  From inquisitions, forcing Galileo to deny his correct observations, corruption, wars, being acquiescent about Nazism (which was what Richard Dawkins was referring to when he said Pope Nazi, and not about the current Pope) etc.

The latest stain on the Catholic Church has been episodes of sexual assaults towards children and how the Church’s hierarchy.  This is I think a direct result of forcing celibacy on the priesthood which is unnatural and is a recipe for creating unbalanced minds.  Considering that many priests (especially those who are older) would have not have had much choice in their careers as parents would have chosen priesthood for them, it is obvious that the denial of sexuality in an individual would create serious psychological disturbances.

Of course this does not excuse any acts.  In fact the Church should be condemned to face this issue head on rather than place it under the carpet.

The question is whether this means that the whole Catholic Church should be portrayed and an evil empire full of pedophiles and sexual deviants.

As all big organisations (and the Catholic Church is big) there are plenty of bad things and plenty of good things as well.

Andrew Brown puts it succinctly.

There is not very much that Pope Benedict XVI can do to rescue the church from the crisis over sexual abuse. The reforms which would make a practical difference have already been put in place, and he deserves some credit for that – he will not get it. The scandals emerging are all from the 1970s or 1980s but in the popular imagination they might as well be happening now. Many of the most eloquent attacks on the church, such as that from Christopher Hitchens in a recent article in Slate magazine, come from enemies who would never give it the benefit of doubt, and for the moment public opinion is with them.

The Catholic church has been framed as an institution for paedophiles, and truth is no defence to that perception……

…..

Less than half of 1% of the Catholic clergy in the UK over the last three decades or so have been accused of child abuse. That’s too many, of course. Nor do such comparative statistics suggest that two wrongs make a right. But they do show that two wrongs don’t make one wrong even if there is only one wrong in the news.

There are good aspects of Catholicism.  Work in East Timor, or the work of Gustavo Gutiérrez.  Even our own Father Bob Maguire is not too bad.  I also wonder whether lots of this anti-Catholic feelings is more strident in the Anglosphere.  Could it be an echo of old fashioned anti-popism?  I don’t see people who are against religion mentioning the Uniting Church for that matter.

So while I haven’t been a regular church goer since I was eight, I live with a woman and have a son and never been married (nor I intend to) and as I said before I can’t stand the Catholic Church interfering with the state, I also believe that creating an evil monster out of the Catholic Church is wrong.  Let’s criticise the Catholic Church by all means, but let’s also have some balance in the debate.

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