Friday, January 20, 2012

Archbishop Nienstedt to Priests: Your First Amendment rights are suspended...or your priestly faculties will be...

Remember Minneapolis-St. Paul Archbishop John Nienstedt? He's the one who, with the Knights of Columbus, blew $1 million on sending anti-gay marriage DVDs out to Catholic households throughout his archdiocese back in 2010. He's also the dude who denied communion to some gay students just 'cause they were wearing rainbow pins. Here's the latest outrage from Nienstedt who, unfortunately, is about a decade too young to retire...

Lest his clergy, God forbid, actually think that there's room for discussion on this issue anywhere in the the state of Minnesota, Nienstedt has issued a public warning in a letter to the priests under him that there should "be no 'open dissension' of the church's strong backing of a proposed amendment to the state Constitution that would define marriage as a union only between a man and woman." The Archbishop will be sending teams of priests and married couples into Catholic high schools to talk about marriage and he has also directed parishes to form committees to work for passage of the amendment. Even wanting to be apolitical doesn't seem to be an option this prelate is willing to entertain. Writing to his priests, the Archbishop said: "It is my expectation that all the priests and deacons in this Archdiocese will support this venture and cooperate with us in the important efforts that lie ahead. The gravity of this struggle and the radical consequences of inaction propels me to place a solemn charge upon you all -- on your ordination day you made a promise to promote and defend all the Church teaches. I call upon that promise in this effort to defend marriage. There ought not to be open dissenssion. If any have personal reservations, I do not wish that they be shared publically..."

Nienstedt also sent a separate letter to one priest, Rev. Mike Tegeder, who has spoken against the amendment, warning him that if he did not end his public opposition, his "faculties to exercise ministry" would be suspended and he would be removed from his "ministerial assignments."

Tegeder thinks the Church has become too political on this issue. "That's not the way to support marriage," the pastor at both St. Frances Cabrini and Gichitwaa Kateri churches, opined. "If we want to support marriage, there are wonderful things we can do as Catholic churches and ministers. We should not be focused on beating up a small number of people who have this desire to have committed relationships."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Different World Is Possible

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Eclesalia Informativo

Mark 1:14-20

We don't know for certain how the disciples of John the Baptist reacted when Herod Antipas jailed him in the fortress of Machaerus. We know Jesus' reaction. He didn't hide in the desert. Nor did He take refuge among His relatives in Nazareth. He began to travel to the villages of Galilee preaching an original and surprising message.

The evangelist Mark sums it up by saying He "went forth to Galilee proclaiming the Good News of God." Jesus doesn't repeat the preaching of John the Baptist, nor does He talk about His baptism in the Jordan. He proclaims God as something new and good. That is His message.

"This is the time of fulfillment." Israel's waiting period is over. The time of John the Baptist has also come to an end. With Jesus, a new era begins. God doesn't want to leave us alone with our problems, suffering, and challenges. He wants to build a more humane world with us.

"The Kingdom of God is near." With unknown boldness, Jesus surprises everyone by proclaiming something that no prophet had dared to declare: "God is now here, with His creative force for justice, trying to reign among us." Jesus experiences God as a good and friendly Presence who is seeking to open the way among us to make our lives more human.

Therefore, Jesus' whole life is a call to hope. There's an alternative. It isn't true that history must ramble along the ways of injustice that the powerful of the earth have traced for it. A more just and fraternal world is possible. We can modify the course of history.

"Convert." It's no longer possible to live as if nothing were happening. God asks collaboration from His sons and daughters. So Jesus cries out: "Change your way of thinking and acting." We ourselves must change first. God doesn't impose on anyone by force, but he is always drawing our consciences towards a more humane life.

"Believe in this Good News." Take it seriously. Wake up from indifference. Mobilize your energies. Believe that it is possible to make the world more humane. Believe in the liberating strength of the Gospel. Believe that change is possible. Introduce trust into the world.

What have we done with Jesus' captivating message? How could we have forgotten it? What have we substituted for it? What are we trifling with, if the first thing is to "seek the Kingdom of God and His justice"? How can we live in tranquility, seeing that God's creative plan for an earth filled with peace and justice is being annihilated by man?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

"Only a god can save us"

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia and in Portuguese on his blog. Some of his older columns are available in English at

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

This phrase doesn't come from any pope. It's from Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), one of the deepest German philosophers of the twentieth century, in an interview granted to the weekly Der Spiegel on September 23, 1966, but only published on May 31, 1976, a week after his death. Heidegger has always been a close observer of the threatening destinies of our technological civilization. For him, technology as an intervention in the natural dynamics of the world for human benefit has so permeated our way of being that it has become a second nature.

Today we can not imagine ourselves without the vast scientific and technical apparatus on which our civilization is established, but it is dominated by an opportunistic compulsion that translates to the formula: if we can do it, we're also allowed to do it without any other ethical consideration. Weapons of mass destruction emerged from this attitude. If they exist, why not use them?

For the philosopher, such a technique, without consciousness, is the clearest expression of our paradigm and our mentality, born at the dawn of modernity in the 16th century, but whose roots are already found in classical Greek metaphysics. This mentality is driven by exploitation, calculation, mechanization and efficiency applied in all areas, but mainly with regard to nature. This understanding has so penetrated us that we consider technology to be the panacea for all our problems. Unconsciously we define ourselves against nature which is to be dominated and exploited. We make ourselves the object of science, by manipulating our organs and even our genes.

A divorce has been established between man and nature that is revealed by the increasing environmental and social degradation. The maintenance and acceleration of this technological process, according to the philosopher, could lead us to eventual destruction. The death machine was build decades ago.

To get out of this situation ethical and religious appeals are not enough, much less simple good will. It's a metaphysical problem, that is, a way of seeing and thinking about reality. We are on a train that is running fast on two rails. It's going to meet an abyss that lies further ahead and we don't know how to stop it. What to do? That is the question.

If we wanted, we could find a different mentality in our cultural tradition, in the Presocratics such as Heraclitus among others, who still saw the organic connection between man and nature, between the divine and the earthly, and nourished a sense of belonging to a greater whole. Knowledge wasn't at the service of power but of life and the contemplation of the mystery of being. Or in any contemporary reflection on the new eco-cosmological paradigm, which sees the unity and complexity of the one great process of evolution, from which all beings emerge and are interdependent. But this path is forbidden to us by the excess of technoscience, calculative rationality and the huge economic interests of big consortiums that live on this status quo.

Where are we going? It was in this context of inquiry that Heidegger famously uttered this prophetic statement: "Philosophy will be unable to effect any immediate change in the current state of the world. This is true not only of philosophy but of all purely human reflection and endeavor. Only a god can save us. (Nur noch ein Gott Retten kann uns). The only possibility available to us is that by thinking and poetizing we prepare a readiness for the appearance of a god, or for the absence of a god in [our] decline (Untergrund), insofar as we, in view of the absent god, are going to disappear."

What Heidegger stated is also being shouted by notable thinkers, scientists and ecologists. Either we change course or our civilization puts its future at risk. Our attitude is one of openness to a coming of God, that powerful and loving Energy that sustains each being and the whole universe. He can save us. This attitude is well represented by the free nature of poetry and free thought. And as God, according to Scripture, is "the supreme lover of life" (Wisdom 11:24), we hope that He will not allow a tragic end for human beings. The latter exist to shine, to live together, and be happy.