Friday, November 25, 2011

The Clerical Aristocracy: An Addictive Cultural Box

e have seen how and when bishops took for themselves the style and purple culture of the aristocracy, and how that culture is now totally integrated within the episcopacy. In the next few issues we want to describe relevant components of that culture as it exists today, and as it impacts on the matters mentioned in the first issue of this blog, matters important to the laity and to their sense of participation.

First of all, any culture has many addictive attributes. We float in our culture with only rare consciousness of it. It inhabits us and we act or don’t act out of it without awareness of our non-reflection on it. We assume, again non-reflectively, that the culture that supports us is the best culture in the world. An analogy of culture is easily seen in a common science lesson: If you throw a frog into boiling water, it will immediately jump out and save itself. If, however, you put that frog into water at room temperature and then bring the water to boil, the frog won’t realize what is happening and will perish. The latter example perfectly describes culture.

Experts tell us that addictions can be either substance addictions (drugs, alcohol, etc.) or process addictions (gambling, sex, work, religion, etc.). Addictions seize control over one’s life and the addicted person needs outside help to regain their life.

Cultural anthropologists and psychotherapists agree that organizations can be addictive and that the addiction extends to the particular culture of the organization. The episcopacy is easily compared to a corporate entity, and just like that of any corporate entity, the culture of the episcopacy is addictive.

Within the organization the message goes out that the organization (episcopal culture) comes first. The priority given the episcopal culture leads to an attempt to control everything and everyone in the organization. An insider of the culture does not question the culture and the policies that support it. The sense of interior perfection also prevents insiders from accepting wisdom from the outside. We will see the cultural consequences of denigrating and ignoring intelligence from the laity as we progress through each of the components of the bishops’ culture.

The bishops’ unique form of denial, the common defense mechanism used by addicts to protect their addiction, is best found in their use of Scripture. They project their culture as coming directly from Jesus, a fantasy drawn and expanded beyond any rational recognition, to “prove” that He founded a monarchical church: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.” (Matthew 16:18). But, as we have seen, the monarchical structure of the Roman Catholic Church had its beginning only four centuries after Jesus. The monarchical culture with its class separations came into existence and embedded itself thoroughly into the daily details of the church only from repeated unfounded affirmations, evasions and lies, the common tools of addicts.

Our bishops live in an addictive cultural box.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Aristocratic Trappings Alive and Well in the Church

n this issue we respond to the question:  Does the hierarchy today really retain the trappings of the aristocracy of old?  The answer of course is yes.  Still we should reassure ourselves that this is true.

Historians have determined that a papal court existed at least from the seventh century. It has possessed its full grandeur since the Renaissance in the fourteenth century. Pope Paul VI, in his Motu Proprio, Pontificalis Domus (1968) reorganized the court. No longer called the papal court, the same entity is now subsumed under the titles Papal Household and Papal Chapel.

Prior to the issuance of the Motu Proprio, pontiffs regularly granted titles such as duke, marquis, count, and duchess to select lay people. An American woman received the title, duchess, from Pope Pius XII through the mediation of Cardinal Spellman. Today those former titles are no longer bestowed, though some individuals retain those previously awarded. Other titles such as Stewards of St. Peter and Gentlemen of His Holiness are now in use. Basically it is more a matter of titles than of substance.

Cardinals today still rank just below crown princes in the aristocratic alignment. They are thus given the appellation Your Eminence. Bishops, Their Excellencies, remain princes of the Church. Monsignor translates as My Lord.

Besides Gentlemen of His Holiness, the highest honor given a layman, there are a slew of papal knights: The Supreme Order of Christ, The Order of the Golden Spur, The Order of Pope Pius IX, The Order of St. Gregory the Great, The Equestrian Order of Pope St. Sylvester, etc. Knight Orders have corresponding “Dame” awards for women. Precedence governs all these awards as is evidenced in the order found in ceremonial processions.

Aristocratic heraldry is alive and flourishing in the Church. Heraldry is described as “a celebration, based on ancient symbols, of the sense people have of themselves, personally and in groups.” One does not need to speculate on just who those persons and groups are.

Precedence, the pecking order, within the hierarchy is visibly displayed on their coats of arms. The color and number of tassels (fiocchi) on each coat of arms immediately tells the knowledgeable viewer what is the title and rank of the bearer.

In a prior issue of this blog, we touched on how the trappings of the aristocracy fill the liturgies of the Church.

Clearly, the purple culture is alive and thriving in the episcopacy.

Note: For any reader interested in observing the full extent of aristocratic trappings in the Church, we recommend leafing through The Church Visible – The Ceremonial Life andProtocol of the Roman Catholic Church by James-Charles Noonan Jr, 1996, Penguin Books.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Bishops Hold Fast to Their Views as Nearly 1/3 of Laity Depart the Church

he aristocratic purple culture of the bishops has become a prime moral and doctrinal principle in their consciousness. Anything that seems to threaten the ordering of society according to that culture is immediately assumed by them to be an attack on God and on the gospels. They truly believe that the privileged status and absolutist authority they assert for themselves are God’s will. It follows that any danger to that status (they will say, danger to the Church), is defended with righteous indignation, and with any weapons at their command ranging from slander to excommunication.

Astonishingly, they seem to have no problem in either ignoring the servant leadership commanded by Jesus, or in somehow identifying servant leadership with aristocratic domination.

However, people today are no longer uneducated. We question many things, even matters we assumed were accurate because we heard them from people to whom we were taught to accord authority. When flaws and inconsistencies appear in the life and dictates of those authorities, we question even more. And when our questioning leads us to see that our authorities are neither so knowledgeable or pure of heart as we had been raised to believe, our next step is to leave those authorities without authority. “Do it because I/We say so” no longer carries the force it once had, nor does it carry the feelings of guilt that were once such an integral Catholic trait. The Catholic populace is beginning to formulate a Catholic conscience that is their own in every way.

As we noted in the first issue of this blog, nearly one third (22.8 million) born and raised Catholics have left the Church. Over nine million of them are not affiliated with any Church. Over ten million have joined various protestant denominations. Over two million have joined other religions. The majority of those who left did so before reaching the age of twenty-four.

Our bishops like to explain these departures as the result of external cultural realities, the nebulous isms: indifferentism, materialism, individualism, relativism, etc. The current papal and Vatican buzz word for enemy is relativism, the mind-set of those who hold that judging doctrinal and moral matters is relative to the people, events, conditions etc. involved in a particular matter. A friend of mine recently quipped: “In their world, everything is relative – to them.” Neither the Vatican nor the bishops around the world seem capable of looking at the components of their own culture as a major disconnect with both the Catholic laity and the Jesus of Scripture.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Shoring Up the Purple Culture: The Church Turns Away From Equality

oday, we deal with the Bishops’ response to the question of equality within the Church. Have we returned as a Church to the egalitarian quality of the gospel and the first four centuries of church history? Obviously, no! Is the tinseled clerical aristocracy defunct as is the secular aristocracy? No again! Do the laity have a voice that is heard by the clerical aristocracy? Not at all, unless we reduce the level of conversation to what type of flowers should go on the altar for a particular feast, or to their listening to attorneys in the present sexual abuse crisis. Does the wisdom of the laity enter into declarations of appropriate moral behavior? No. It is not an exaggeration to say that our bishops today inhabit a purple culture that is as unheeding of the laity as the aristocratic culture of old was to its peasants.

As the monarchical world of secular aristocrats declined following the French and American Revolutions, the Vatican felt threatened. Along with its nostalgia for the monarchies that fell, it felt itself in jeopardy. The pope and bishops mounted steps to secure their status. Those steps went further than the condemnations decreed against the liberating forces. 

At the insistence of Pope Pius IX, in July, 1870, the First Vatican Council, with its Declaration of Papal Infallibility, established a new monarchy, one of moral and doctrinal dominance. The Pope now had two monarchies, both absolutist, the Papal States and the newly defined Spiritual Kingdom. The possession of two kingdoms lasted only three months as the foreseen absorption of the Papal States into a united Italy occurred in September, 1870. Still, the Pope and bishops retained their newly formed kingdom. And this new spiritual kingdom maintained all of the aristocratic trappings of the old order. The Pope remained a king. Bishops were still princes. In sum, the clerical aristocratic structure and purple culture remained the same as it had been, and has to this day.

To support the legitimacy of this new kingdom the Vatican began to load the practice of Catholicism with images that subtly carried the message. A feast of Christ the King was established by Pius XI in 1925. The feast of the Queenship of Mary followed in 1954, established by Pius XII. Both feasts work subliminally to validate the aristocratic (purple) culture of the Church. It is difficult to believe that they foster the images of Jesus and Mary that we glean from Scripture.

The Pope and bishops continue to dub knights of various papal orders with all the pomp and ceremony of old. The liturgy remains today a visible celebration of aristocratic manners and style. In liturgical ceremonies we see the throne, the royal garb, the etiquette of bows, genuflections and kneeling, precious metal chalices and ciboriums, all taken from the aristocratic life style. There is, in fact, an ongoing effort to restore all changes to the liturgy made by the Second Vatican Council, especially a return to the Latin language, exclusive to the clerical kingdom. 

Bishops of past centuries had wealth-producing constituencies and appointments. Today as well, bishops have virtually unlimited access to money. In recent times we have witnessed how easy it is for a bishop to reach into the till to cover personal peccadillos, to travel at will, and to live in luxurious abodes. And the laity have no way to give significant input into such expenditures. If bishops utilize lay boards, the members are handpicked by the bishops themselves.

In the past issues of this blog we have seen the history of how and when the episcopacy took on the status consciousness and cultural lifestyle of the aristocracy. We have also seen the shallowness, narcissism, and cultic characteristics native to that culture. In the coming issues we will look at just how this culture has affected moral and doctrinal issues.

We hope you will stay with us.