The Bishops’ Dispirited Agenda

THIS CATHOLIC’S VIEW By Thomas J. Reese, S.J. Meeting in San Antonio June 17-19, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops … Continued

THIS CATHOLIC’S VIEW

By Thomas J. Reese, S.J.

Meeting in San Antonio June 17-19, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has an agenda that will keep it busy but it will not deal with the real issues facing the church: how to interact with Obama and how to respond to the exodus of one third of Catholics from the church.

Once again the bishops will discuss and vote on new English translations of liturgical prayers. Over the last few years, the bishops have gradually adopted new translations that are worse than the ones in current use because of the Vatican fetish for word-for-word translations of Latin texts. When this project is finally finished, it will be imposed on American parishes.

The inability of the U.S. bishops to fight off this stupid idea is tragic.

Not only are the translations bad, the poor parish priests are going to have to use these prayers and explain them to their people. Most priests are simply going to say, “The bishop says we have to do this, so don’t blame me.”

How will the people react? By accident, the new translation was tested out in South Africa and the response was overwhelmingly negative. The people complained. They did not think it was an improvement. They saw no reason for the change.

Does the Vatican or the U.S. bishops see this as forecasting a disaster when the new translation is implemented worldwide? No. Market testing, beta sites, learning from experience and listening to the people are not part of the hierarchy’s lexicon. “We know what’s best. Full speed ahead!”

The bishops will also get a progress report on the pastoral plan for marriage. This might better be called a “dogmatic plan,” since the Committee on Doctrine appears to have had more to say about the text than the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. The result may well be an abstract rehash of church doctrine, which will not touch any hearts or respond to the pastoral needs of real people.

Finally, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona, vice president of the USCCB, will report on the USCCB’s five priorities: Cultural Diversity in the Church, Faith Formation and Sacramental Practice, Life and Dignity of the Human Person, Strengthening Marriage and Promotion of Vocations to the Priesthood and Consecrated Life.

One has to give the bishops credit for attempting to set priorities; and who can say object to any of them? But I have watched this ineffective exercise for too many years to expect anything of value to come from it. The priorities are so general and inclusive that they give little direction to the church. And notice the missing words: justice, peace, the poor.

Absent from the agenda is a discussion of how the bishops should interact with the Obama administration. Will the vocal bishops continue to set a negative tone or will the conference seek common ground with the administration on issues of poverty, health care, nuclear disarmament, immigration reform, global warming, the economy, peace, etc., while politely disagreeing on abortion and stem cell research?

Since there is no episcopal leadership pushing for civil engagement, the Obama administration should not hold its breath. The only thing that may turn the bishops around is a roaringly successful visit of Obama with the pope in July. Word is that the pope is looking forward to the visit. How many bishops would meet with Obama if he visited their diocese?

Nor do the bishops give any indication that they know they are on a sinking ship. One third of Catholics have left the church. Any other organization would try to find out why and develop a plan to get back their members or customers. Have the bishops commissioned a study of these former Catholics? No. Data doesn’t count.

The bishops, like the leaders of GM, Chrysler and the Republican Party, think that old strategies (emphasize orthodoxy and play to your base) will work. They blame the exodus on secularism, consumerism, individualism and sin.

The fundamental problem is that the bishops have lost what John O’Malley, S.J., refers to as the spirit of Vatican II. This spirit involved a new way of looking and talking about issues.

The council spoke in a new style, a style different from all previous councils. It eschewed words implying punishment, surveillance, hostility, distrust and coerced behavior-modification that characterized previous councils. It employed words that espoused a new model for Christian behavior–not new, of course, to the Christian tradition as such, but new to council vocabulary. I am referring to words like brothers and sisters, cooperation, partnership, human family, conscience, collegiality and especially dialogue.

In the May 25 issue of America, O’Malley argues that in his speeches at Grant Park and at Notre Dame, Obama “spoke in accord with the spirit of Vatican II. In those two addresses, as well as in his other speeches, he called for civility, for the end of name-calling, and for a willingness to work together to deal with our common problems, including abortion, rather than a stand-off determination to impose one’s principles without reckoning what the cost to the common good might be.”

“Is it not ironic,” concludes Father O’Malley, “that not a bishop but the president of the United States should today be the most effective spokesperson for that spirit?” The bishops need to return to the spirit of the council, otherwise they will be leaders of a church that continues to lose members.

By Thomas J. Reese | 
June 16, 2009; 1:19 PM ET

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  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    Correction to previous posting: Stephen Tyrone Johns

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    The translation problem will be solved long before crazed Catholic antisemites gun down the Johanna Justin-Jinich’s of this world.The translation problem will be solved long before crazed Christian antisemites decide that it is time “to kill the Jews” and go hunting them with a rifle.May the memory of Stephen Tyrone James be a blessing to those who knew him.

  • hmccard

    Oh, give it a rest Father. I didn’t notice notice any “beta testing” when you and your cronies hijacked the liturgy “in the spirit of Vatican II” and gave us the flaccid pablum we get now for most of our litugical use. Whatever happened to words being translated according to what they, you know, actually MEAN, rather than what you and the rest of your Society friends want them to?And, to characterize the President as speaking with more moral authority than your bishop indicates to me that you need to reevaluate your vocational decision.

  • Paganplace

    *chuckle.* Interesting choice of words, HMCcard. :)

  • walter-in-fallschurch

    ccnl1, those atrocities listed in the O.T. would be really bad – if they were real. modern archaeology has revealed that “joshua’s cities” didn’t exist when he supposedly destroyed them. there’s no evidence that anything in the O.T. prior to omri and ahab (including david and solomon) really happened. those “great” stories of israel’s military exploits are just wishful thinking/revisionism by first-millenium b.c. judean priests.

  • walter-in-fallschurch

    ccnl1,

  • InterfaithNation

    From “Brad HIRSCHFEILD” Post today [a prejadice 'Jewish?" Man & CO. {i.e. Adin Steinsaltz & CO.]:”Att: C C N L (1?):Your Jealousy is showing Through & Through! “Your a Day Late & a Dollar Short!”Please; No “MED’s”, No Psych Ward”! Your Very “SuperStupidStitious” indeed! YE TRUE (opposite MYTH) colors is been revealed herein-at!Note: Ye Jealously (Pre-Apocalyptically) & CO., attempted to Eliminate (unjustly) a “Great [iNTELLECTUAL] Blogger” known as “F A R N A Z 1 M A N S O U R i 1 (& by other names).You proved you “Limited I.Q.” [Hence Ye are HUMAN & not a HU{e}MATE! Sooo Sooo “PRE-APOCALYPTIC” indeed!

  • Leba8

    “Over the last few years, the bishops have gradually adopted new translations that are worse than the ones in current use because of the Vatican fetish for word-for-word translations of Latin texts.”If words don’t mean anything, then they aren’t important, in which case why would one translation be “worse” than another? If words do mean something, then they are important, and the Vatican’s “fetish” is nothing more sinister than dedication to getting things right. So where’s the problem?

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    The translation problem will be solved long before crazed Catholic antisemites gun down the Johanna Justin-Jinich’s of this world.The translation problem will be solved long before crazed Christian antisemites decide that it is time “to kill the Jews” and go hunting them with a rifle.May the memory of Stephen Tyrone Johns be a blessing to those who knew him.

  • lome

    These prophecies came from Jesus, Mary, and the saints to Veronica Lueken at Bayside, NY, from 1968 to 1995.STARTED WITH GOOD INTENTIONSSATAN WAS PRESENT

  • ccnl1

    Walter,You noted:”ccnl1, those atrocities listed in the O.T. would be really bad – if they were real. modern archaeology has revealed that “joshua’s cities” didn’t exist when he supposedly destroyed them. there’s no evidence that anything in the O.T. prior to omri and ahab (including david and solomon) really happened. those “great” stories of israel’s military exploits are just wishful thinking/revisionism by first-millenium b.c. judean priests.”I agree completely but orthodox Jews unlike their Conservative brothers and sisters are not going to deny these atrocities since they then would have to agree with Conservative Jews that most if not all the OT is myth.And since orthodox Judaism continues to believe that the OT god sanctioned/observed all of their actions, the atrocities committed by Joshua et al especially against the Jewish “mythical” enemies was approved by said god. Then there are all those Jewish “prophets” aka fortune tellers who Christians relied on to predict the coming of their messiah. Being fortune tellers is bad enough but being mythical fortune tellers adds another huge blow to the foundations of Christianity!!!!

  • ccnl1

    correction:Walter,You noted:”ccnl1, those atrocities listed in the O.T. would be really bad – if they were real. modern archaeology has revealed that “joshua’s cities” didn’t exist when he supposedly destroyed them. there’s no evidence that anything in the O.T. prior to omri and ahab (including david and solomon) really happened. those “great” stories of israel’s military exploits are just wishful thinking/revisionism by first-millenium b.c. judean priests.”I agree completely but orthodox Jews unlike their Conservative brothers and sisters are not going to deny these atrocities since they then would have to agree with Conservative Jews that most if not all the OT is also myth.And since orthodox Judaism continues to believe that the OT god sanctioned/observed all of their actions, the atrocities committed by Joshua et al especially against the Jewish “mythical” enemies were approved by said god. Then there are all those Jewish “prophets” aka fortune tellers who Christians relied on to predict the coming of their messiah. Being fortune tellers is bad enough but being mythical fortune tellers adds another huge blow to the foundations of Christianity!!!!

  • AmBruce

    It seems like the idiots are out in force today, from the Jesuit priests who no longer even try to imitate St. Ignatius’ fidelity to the Pope and Church teaching, to the Bayside traditionalists spouting nonsense falsely attributed to Our Lord and His Mother, to the blog hijackers with their agendas, pro and con things other than the subject of this article.As for Fr. Reese, what would be the point of the Catholic Church imitating the liberal orders and churches whose lack of standards have them going headlong to self-oblivion?

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    The translation problem will be solved long before crazed Catholic antisemites gun down the Johanna Justin-Jinich’s of this world.May her memory be a blessing to those who knew her.The translation problem will be solved long before crazed Christian antisemites decide that it is time “to kill the Jews” and go hunting them with a rifle.May the memory of Stephen Tyrone Johns be a blessing to those who knew him.

  • coloradodog

    The royal Papacy loves the idea of its “ambassadors” speaking in a dead language none of its sheep understands. It fortifies the mystery of the clergy and the need of its followers to go through them for salvation. It’s a perfect power play to further subjugate and control Catholics

  • coloradodog

    When are the bishops going to talk about pedophiles who are not in prison less alone not removed from the priesthood and excommunicated for their atrocities?

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    ContinuedFor the Gnostics, Christianity was about dying — the idea of giving up your mortal body and awakening to your immortal essence as the Christ within ­- the One Consciousness of the Universe. This mystical enlightenment was not something that happened after death, but could happen here and now.The historical figure of Jesus has been so central to Western culture that it is hard to question his existence. As soon as we hear his name we can see him in our mind’s eye, in his flowing white robes, with long hair and a beard. Yet this picture of Jesus was not created until the 8th century. Early portrayals of Jesus show him clean-shaven with short hair and wearing a Roman tunic. St Paul says that long hair disgraces a man, so presumably his image of Jesus was not the same as ours.The fact is that everything we think we know about Jesus, like this romantic picture of the bearded saviour, is a creation of the human imagination. Actually there is barely a shred of evidence for the existence of an historical Jesus and this dissolves on closer inspection. Paul, the earliest Christian source, shows no knowledge of an historical man, only a mystical Christ. The gospels have been thoroughly discredited as eyewitness reports. Other bits of traditional evidence, such as references to Jesus by the Jewish historian Josephus, have been shown to be later forgeries. If solid evidence had existed, there would have been no need to have created such fabrications.A little over a century ago most people believed the story of Adam and Eve to be history. To most thinking people today its is obviously a myth. We predict that within a generation a similar revolution will have taken place in our understanding of the gospels. People will look back at the beginning of the 21st century and be amazed that a culture with the technology to travel to the moon could see the fabulous story of Jesus as anything other than a myth. However, we do not want to dismiss the Jesus story as nonsense. For us it is truly the greatest story ever told, because it has been thousands of years in the making. It is a perennial tale that has fascinated the human soul since the dawn of time.Whilst our ideas clearly rewrite history, we do not see ourselves as undermining Christianity. On the contrary we are suggesting that Christianity is in fact richer than we previously imagined. According to the original Gnostic Christians, the Jesus story is a perennial myth with the power to impart the mystical experience of Gnosis, which can transform each one of us into a Christ, not merely a history of events that happened to someone else two thousand years ago.”

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    ContinuedAt the time, both Pagans and Christians were well aware that the Jesus story was a myth. The early Christians, known as Gnostics, understood the Jesus story as allegory, not history, and even called Jesus by the names of the Pagan Godman. The Gnostics were brutally eradicated by the Roman Church in the 4th and 5th centuries, and since then we have believed the official propaganda that these Christians were dangerous heretics who had gone Pagan.Actually the evidence suggests the opposite is closer to the truth. The Gnostics were the original Christians, just as they themselves claimed. They had synthesized Jewish and Pagan mythology to produce the Jesus story and many other extraordinary Christian myths largely unknown today. The Roman Church was a later deviation, which misunderstood the Jesus story as history. It was, as the Gnostics said at the time, an imitation Church teaching a superficial Christianity designed for the masses.Roman Christianity, and all its subsequent offshoots, is based on the idea that if you believe in the existence of an historical Jesus you will go to heaven when you die. For the Gnostics, however, Jesus is an everyman figure in an initiation allegory. They taught that if you yourself go through the process of initiation symbolized by the Jesus myth, you would die to your old self and resurrect in a new way. The Greek word we translate as resurrect also means awaken.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    BTW, “Jesus” Demythologizers:Freke and Gandy take leaps, make errors, that others have disputed and corrected, e.g, that there was a “common language” throughout the Mediterranean. In fact, the majority of Jews in Philistia spoke Aramaic, continued to write in both Aramaic and Hebrew. See Judah HaNasi, Talmud, etc.Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit. …

  • marymack77

    When Father Reese says “Over the last few year the Vatican fetish for word-for-word translations of Latin texts” I suspect this really means that the Vatican translations are more accurate than some of the “creative” translations which were ideologically driven.Also his claim “When this project is finally finished, it will be imposed on American parishes.”seems like sour grapes he did not complain when the translations he liked were handed down and imposed.

  • patricksarsfield

    Father Reese–in a surly way for a Jesuit who should be particularly loyal to the Pope’s Church–tries to bolster his liturgy and church governance arguments by making the “factual” claim that: “The bishops need to return to the spirit of the council, otherwise they will be leaders of a church that continues to lose members. “The problem with this argument is that all significant Christian churches (plus Judaism) are losing some members each year in absolute terms. Although Catholicism loses many people every year it also gains many adherents every year, so that net-net Catholicism fortunately is one of very few large churches that increases in size just about every year. Net-net, the Baptists have been losing members and the Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Lutherans, UCC and Methodists are practically hemorrhaging members. Judaism, as a religion, is losing adherents so badly that pollster Barry Kosmin carefully asterisks his figures on Judaism with the caution that Judaism as an ethnicity has many more adherents. Net-net, most other major American religions are in decline or at best in stasis and none of them is growing by the same percentage that the Catholic Church has been growing except for the much smaller Mormons.Fr. Reese needs to stop taking cheap shots and start addressing substance without demeaning rhetoric (“Vatican fetish” “stupid idea”). As to the substance of liturgical reform, I see no reason for us not to try some revised language in the Mass. While I am used to the language we have had for the past forty years, it is hardly sanctioned by “immemorial practice.” Many of us recall when we all did say “I believe” at the start of the Credo. Going back to that “I” language will engage each of us individually in an Act of Faith that may have become simply a corporate act for many. I do believe in God the Father, Jesus Christ His Son, the Holy Spirit and His One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. That Church is the Church in communion with the Holy See of Rome and to the extent Tom Reese wants to stay in communion with the Holy See, I suppose it accidentally is in communion with him as well.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    The translation problem will be solved long before crazed Catholic antisemites gun down the Johanna Justin-Jinich’s of this world.May her memory be a blessing to those who knew her.The translation problem will be solved long before crazed Christian antisemites decide that it is time “to kill the Jews” and go hunting them with a rifle.May the memory of Stephen Tyrone Johns be a blessing to those who knew him.

  • marymack77

    Obama “spoke in accord with the spirit of Vatican II.

  • ccnl1

    Another giant step for humankind will be taken when the Jewish atheist, Farnaz, admits she is really a member of orthodox Judaism.

  • Nosmanic

    In the Catholic church the laity has no say in what happens. I don’t think all those that posted are thinking about the fact that the Catholic church doesn’t allow women to be clergy nuns aren’t clergy. The Catholic church is the definition of backwards. I was surprised that the Catholic church reaction to the sex scandal.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    The translation problem will be solved long before crazed Catholic antisemites gun down the Johanna Justin-Jinich’s of this world.May her memory be a blessing to those who knew her.The translation problem will be solved long before crazed Christian antisemites decide that it is time “to kill the Jews” and go hunting them with a rifle.May the memory of Stephen Tyrone Johns be a blessing to those who knew him.

  • patricksarsfield

    Because I was surprised at how inappropriate Fr. Reese’s comments were, I decided to listen to his video interview by Jacques Berlinerblau that is available in a box to the right of this column. From the interview, Reese seems to be little more than a political operative for the Left who disregards the moral issues of Stem Cell Research and Abortion because they are inconvenient truths that he’d rather not confront (i.e., if Catholic voters’ views are the same as the public at large, then the bishops’ statements don’t need to be addressed). His nervous tic of inappropriate laughter when he discusses those issues suggests he may be aware of his disconnection from the Catholic Cuurch’s long-standing moral teachings on those questions. All in all, this supposed Jesuit shows he is not even a serious Catholic moral commentator but just an academic studying “the Catholic electorate” from a biased point of view.

  • Paganplace

    *watching video*”His nervous tic of inappropriate laughter when he discusses those issues suggests he may be aware of his disconnection from the Catholic Cuurch’s long-standing moral teachings on those questions.”Err, no. That’s not a *nervous tic,* that’s reacting to laughable assertions made by some which were spoken by Mr. Berlinerblau.

  • Paganplace

    Oh, btw, it’s also not a “nervous tic” if a few instances of such a restrained laugh appears a few times *because the same footage repeats two or three times in the edit.*

  • Paganplace

    See, I even laughed under my breath *saying* that about you neot seeing that. Oops. Did it again. Must be nervous.

  • patricksarsfield

    Paganplace writes:People will have to judge my observation for themselves. This exchange though provides material for a new observation about Fr. Reese. He is the type of Jesuit that a person named Paganplace would feel very comfortable defending. That is interesting indeed.

  • Paganplace

    “People will have to judge my observation for themselves. This exchange though provides material for a new observation about Fr. Reese. He is the type of Jesuit that a person named Paganplace would feel very comfortable defending. That is interesting indeed.”Isn’t it, though. Being a Pagan, a ‘blow’ struck unfairly is a ‘blow’ struck unfairly, whatever you think of Jesuits. Or whatever ‘guilt by association’ you’d like to direct at them for me pointing that out. You obviously haven’t seen me lay into ‘Father’ Reese here on this very board on some of his *own* presumptions. I don’t accept their authority, but being an idiot about video editing doesn’t help anything. Whoever does it.

  • Paganplace

    Yeah, Patrick. I’m calling you a coward. Kind of appropriate, actually. Ask Oisin. :)

  • ccnl1

    Patrick,Be very, very careful, Wiccans not only have the Horned God on their side but also the Triple Goddess shows up when things get rough!!!Hmmm, maybe a new TV reality show is in the making?? Abraham’s God and Jesus vs. Wiccan’s Horned God and the Triple Goddess. Hmmm, would also make a great tag team match!!! Bring it on!!!

  • Paganplace

    See, here’s me laughing, politely, again.

  • patricksarsfield

    Pagan,

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