DIY Catholicism: Twin Cities “Synod of the Baptized”.

The “whole church” self-evidently includes many more people than simply the self-appointed oligarchy of bishops and their clergy, but the Vatican has never made any serious effort to involve the rest of us in the affairs of the Church – beyond serving as fund-raisers and cheap labour for the simpler tasks. Questions of serious planning and decision-taking it keeps very carefully to its own. However, as I have noted frequently, there are abundant and increasing signs that ordinary Catholics, lay people, religious women, married priests now outside of institutional control, and some more progressive regular priests are recognizing the importance of making a full contribution to the life of the Church. Where they are not being properly involved by the institutional oligarchy, they are simply doing it for themselves.

One of the more impressive examples of this comes from the diocese of Minneapolis / St Paul, which has just brought to fruition their very successful “Synod of the Baptized”. This has been the fruit of long months of hard work and preparation, so I was delighted to read how well the event seems to have gone off – and that the team are already engaged in planning for the next stage.

Taken from the Progressive Catholic Voice, these are some extracts from a report by Paula Ruddy:

Read the rest of this entry »

Reality Based Theology, or the 5% Solution? *

This post has moved to my new domain at

The Homoerotic Catholic Church

That’s right:  not homophobic, but homoerotic.  Sure, there is homophobia, especially in the official teaching, but if you peer beneath the surface, scratch the veneer, lift the skirts of the priestly vestments at what lies beneath and within, you find a very different picture. It is a common observation that the most virulent homophobia often masks a closeted gay interior. This may well be the case with the institutional Catholic church: there is much in the Church’s history, institutional character, liturgical style, church decoration, and mystical tradition that is way more than just gay-friendly:  much of it is at least camp, or even frankly homoerotic.

Let us begin with the fun stuff.

In his wonderfully funny but also pointed and touching bit of memoir, “Since My Last Confession“, Scott Pomfret adopts a delightfully camp tone to describe the personnel, priestly vestments and equipment of the Mass. (In an extended metaphor, the Mass becomes a white linen restaurant, the priest is the chef, Eucharistic ministers are waiters, the chalice is the wine glass.) Read the rest of this entry »

Scranton’s Bishop Martino stepping down

Breaking news from the National Catholic Reporter is that Bishop Martino is stepping down.  Thankfully, on this side of the Atlantic I have not had to worry too much about him, but even so I was immediately able to recognise his name in the headline, and to respond, “Good  News!”.  A few quotes from the NCR clearly show why:

“Bishop Joseph F. Martino will resign as head of the Diocese of Scranton, Pa., as early as next week, according to sources within the diocese, it was reported today by several outlets in the Scranton area.



The 63-year-old Martino’s six-year-tenure has been distinctive for an almost non-stop round of battles with Catholic academics, Catholic teachers’ union, Catholic politicians and a range of other groups, including his own peers among the Catholic hierarchy.

Martino, highly regarded by the Catholic right for his rigid anti-abortion stance and repeated condemnations of President Obama and other pro-choice politicians, once famously arrived unannounced at a discussion in a parish of a document on political responsibility that had been passed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and declared: “No USCCB document is relevant in this diocese. The USCCB doesn’t speak for me.” He told the assembled crowd that “The only relevant document … is my letter,” referring to a letter on politics he had mandated be read at all masses on a given Sunday. “There is one teacher in this diocese, and these points are not debatable.”

This is very far from the ideas of Vatican II collegiality, or of a listening church. Rather, these attitudes epitomise the fundamental problem in the church today, a certainty in some quarters of their own infallibility, an insistence on top-down decision making and rigid control:

He has battled with officials at Misericordia University, a Catholic college in the diocese, for hosting author Keith Boykin, a gay rights advocate, and sought to close down the institution’s program on diversity.

In February, Martino sent a letter to the leaders of three Irish-American organizations threatening to close the cathedral during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations if he groups “honor pro-abortion officials” by inviting them to speak or otherwise be honored during events in which the church might be involved.
Ultimately the mass was held, but not before he again threatened to shut down the mass if members of the local Catholic teachers’ union were invited to march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Martino has refused to recognize the union.

The intriguing question which immediately came to my mind was helpfully articulated in a readers’ comment:

The Bishop is 63 and otherwise in good health. What are the reasons behing his sudden resignation? Might it be his obstinacy and authoritarianism which are a scandal to the Church? Why are diocesan officials silent about this?

Why, indeed?  But then, the immediate cause scarcely matters.  The removal from direct power of one who has so abused it, cannot but be of immedite benefit to progressive Catholicism