Sunday, 27 April 2008

For whom the Pell tolls...

One of the small consolations of being a Sydney Anglican is that your Roman Catholic friends here understand exactly what it’s like to have a leader who seems to think the Pharisees are the Gospels’ good guys. That’s because while us Anglican’s have got Archbishop Peter Jensen, they’ve got Cardinal George Pell.

Even though the two each believe that the other’s church preaches a false gospel condemning believers to an eternity of fire and brimstone, and that God cares far more about people’s sexuality that about injustice, oppression and discrimination, they actually enjoy quite a cordial relationship. Proof perhaps that hatred of your fellow humans can run deeper than your love of a God constrained and limited by a doctrinal straitjacket.

GAFCON pretensions notwithstanding, only the most blinkered Matthian believes +Jensen will ever rise any higher in the global Anglican hierarchy. Let’s face it, the sect that's Sydney is not exactly an exportable commodity. On the other hand rumours of Cardinal Pell’s elevator having considerably more floors to pass before hitting the rooftop have been buzzing around for some time.

Thanks to a tip from FranIAm (hey: it’s her anniversary so click the link and wish the happy couple all the best!) I've discovered the Irish Catholic Priest Sotto Voce and his blog Clerical Whispers. In a very well reasoned post he explains just why Sydney Catholics can feel justified in hoping ‘Benny’s Bunny’ might soon be hop, hop, hopping away. Which is great news for Sydney Christians, but bad news for Catholics everywhere else. Sorry guys, but we could do with a break...

To help you all prepare for what’s ahead, here’s a snap of our Cardinal taken during the last World Youth Day in Germany, showing what a fun and down-to-earth guy he really is. Wearing a jaunty but casual little number selected by one of his coterie, the famous Pelle’s Belles, he’d just stepped outside for a short stroll. Perhaps he was looking for a bus called Priscilla.


Brian R said...

Love it, love it, chuckling away here in Munich.

Lapinbizarre said...

PLEASE tell me it's photoshopped! Thought the capa magna went onto the garbage heap of history with Vatican II.

FranIAm said...

Oh dear... I sent the link but I must admit to finding the link to Sotto Voce via a link at the Mad One's blog.

I however saw Pell's name on the sidebar and went sniffing around. You know me... intrepid Roman Catholic girl reporter who does not find the Pharisees heroic.

Anyway, I saw Pell and thought of you and that is not as all bad and incriminating as it sounds.

Thanks for the anniversary wishes from you and Mrs. Caliban as well.

Peace to you my friends.

PS - Lapin is soooo right about the clothes. Ugh.

Lapinbizarre said...

It IS real tho' isn't it? But seemingly constructed of such flimsy, shoddily cheap synthetic fabric that it looks g-dawful. (There again, consider the ironing you save between trips when you can just sling the whole thing into the spin-dryer and freshen it up.)

At least it's not one of those winter numbers with five yards of slaughtered bunnies making like they're ermine.

Alcibiades said...

I swear - there's no photoshopping in it that I'm aware of. And can you imagine the static it must generate - he could light an entire town on the charge.

It also makes me think that some of the people close to him must dislike him even more than the rest of us do. And as you say, at least no animals were harmed in its creation - although the petro-chemical byproducts must be frightening.

Pagan Sphinx said...

I think even the fashion slaves aboard Priscilla would have thought this was over-the-top. I loved that movie!

Alipius said...


While your "Confession" at least showed a man who is able to self reflect and draw the consequences (whether they might be right or wrong) this is nothing but self-righteous dribble and ad-hom name calling based on syllogisms that don't fire topped off with the ignoratio elenchi that a bishop who wears a cappa magna automatically must be a monster.

When it comes to hate, you seem to own Jensen and Pell hands down.

Alcibiades said...

Guess I've been taught by experts then Alipius... except unlike them I'm picking on the rich, powerful and abusive. Unlike those you seem to be so eager to defend - or are you going to try and claim that Jesus also hated minorities, outcasts and the hurting, and so what Pell and Jensen get up to is just a perfectly acceptable expression of their faith in him.

BTW - I can't follow how you reach the conclusion that I equate wearing a magna cappa with monsterhood. If Pell was a saint of, for example, St. Francis' greatness, he could wear a lycra girl-guide uniform for all I care, and he'd still be worthy of respect and veneration.

But Pell isn't a saint; he's someone who proclaims Christ as an emissary of hatred to a great many people in this city. He might be a Cardinal and big shot in your corner of planet, but down here in mine he’s just another angry pseudo-priest pissing on the poor, lonely and lost.

And he looks ridiculous flouncing along in this get-up. Which is why we’re laughing at him.

Alipius said...

"... except unlike them I'm picking on the rich, powerful and abusive."

For the second time: ..this is nothing but self-righteous dribble and ad-hom name calling....

"...or are you going to try and claim that Jesus also hated minorities, outcasts and the hurting, ..."

For the second time: ...based on syllogisms that don't fire.

"...he’s just another angry pseudo-priest pissing on the poor, lonely and lost."

For the second time: When it comes to hate, you seem to own Jensen and Pell hands down.

You think we can make it to 100 before I get something from you that remotely resembles an argument?

Alcibiades said...

Clearly you know as little about Pell & Jensen's local context as you do about Kookaburras(the now rarely heard common name was "Laughing Jackass" - not "Laughing Jack" as you claim, and I've never heard them referred to as "Kooky" - "Kookas" is the vernacular dimmunutive) - but I digress, albeit after pointing out I happen to speak enough German to see something of a trend in your writing - an inability to listen and understand the perspectives of those in cultures very different to your own. Not to mention the fact that your own blog doesn't permit comments - concerned people might interract with you in the manner you do with them, perhaps?

But back to the point - Pell, like most other fundamentalists, has never been slow to exclude those beyond his conservative margins, and before you accuse me of attacking ad himinem might I suggest you spend some time listening to some of the people who've been on the receiving end of his "ministry" - what about starting here (and please bear in mind this parish is about 10 minutes walk from my old home, so I'm well acquainted with the events, the people involved, and the community which Pell's heavy-handed tactics succesfully alientated. Or perhaps you might read this as an example of why I say Pell has marginalised those who God so loves that the whole messy business of incarnation, crucifixion and ressurection was endured. Or perhaps this makes the point more effectively? Do I need to show you more?

And BTW - since you're the one taking the moral high-ground in this conversation, can I ask if it's ever occurred to you that the pious sarcasm doesn't exactly serve as a great testimony to your own gentle Christ-like compassion? Let's face it: you got angry because I said someone you evidently admire looked ridiculous, and several other people here agreed. It's a comment I'll quite happily stand by: in this picture Pell does look ridiculous. Which is nowhere as bad as his theology, which is just nasty.

Alipius said...

Okay, sorry. I'll put down that weapon and try to approach the whole thing reasonably. Forgive my initial outbursts and the unconstructive slander.

The first point I want to make (and I don't know how to put this any more politely than I am going to): I don't like arguments or discussions that lack logic. Point in case: My Kookaburra-ignorance. Neither have I stated in my post about this bird that I am an expert, nor did I claim to have come up with any common names for Kookaburras that were established after careful studies of the official ornithological literature. I simply took both the photos and the names from the Internet. And I found the terms "Kooky" and "Laughing Jack" on more than just one page, so I figured they are legit. To draw the conclusion that an individual's qualification for commenting on Cardinal Pell stands in any relation to his/her expertise in the field of birds is illogical and to make this point part of an argument ultimately will make the one who does so look insecure (It's always safer to not argue than to argue badly or invalidly just for the sake of arguing). This was the point I was trying to make earlier, when I said that drawing people's attention to Pell's cappa magna is not only a cheap shot (the cappa magna - however ridiculous it might seem to some - is still part of the official pontifical gear on high feast days and other fitting occasions, such as pontifical vespers organized by a pro-tridentine-mass group) but also insubstantial. If this argument is valid, it must be valid from both sides. And then Pell and - let's say - Burke are completely exculpated because the people who take delight in solemn shindigs with robes to match and who also think that these two men are great and pious shepherds only need to underline their point by saying "After all: They wear the cappa!" If both sides build their case on arguments like that, you end up with a tie. Clearly, this is not a course anybody wants to take in an educated discussion. This is why I don't point out that the correct spelling is "ad hominem" and not "ad himinem" to make you look stupid or invalidate your arguments but simply to inform you (believing that you probably knew that and just made a typo).

My blog does allow comments. It just got spammed with pamphlets from a whacked out sedisvacantist group a while ago, so I activated the comment moderation. Apart from said pamphlets I have NEVER not published a comment that was sent to me, no matter how rude or meaningless or boring it might have been.

My biggest problem probably is that I am SO able to listen and understand, that it sometimes hurts my brain when I do so. If I wasn't able, we wouldn't exchange these emails.

On to more serious matters: I wasn't able to go through the first link you sent me because my time is limited and I just didn't find the "Why Pell sucks" (or whatever it might be called) entry on that page. I did however read the two other articles. First thing that startled me was the reference to the "whole messy business of incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection" that was endured. While this, of course, is nothing but the truth, one should not forget that Christ also established a Church and told Peter (I only have a German Bible with me right now, so I have to translate, which means that I probably wont hit your scripture version on the spot. Please bear with me): "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah. For not flesh and blood have revealed this to you but my heavenly father. And so I say to you, you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church… I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will also be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will also be loosed in heaven."

My point? If a former nun who has been living with her female lover for 19 years writes an open letter to Cardinal Pell, challenging him to make a statement about the Vatican's stance on homosexuality, she clearly shows that the whole "Messy business" nowadays for many people just serves as a vehicle to replace reason with emotions, make everything about "ME", publicly wallow in being 'insulted' and 'marginalized' (or whatever 'victim'-lingo du jour is popular with the media) and put themselves outside the Church's teaching. It is a slight but powerful misinterpretation to say that the Vatican 'has declared us to be seriously depraved persons'. Everybody who has read the document "Considerations regarding proposals to give legal recognition to unions between homosexual persons" has also read the sentence: 'Sacred Scripture condemns homosexual acts as a serious depravity'. It is simply wrong to create the illusion that a couple of cardinals woke up one morning and decided to declare homosexuals as seriously depraved. The Bible already took care of that centuries ago and the Church is merely affirming what these texts say. However comme il faut the behaviour of the nun might be for some people, for me it is unacceptable. I am not even talking about writing an open letter to the Cardinal. If she needs that kind of publicity and attention, fine. But she was a NUN, for crying out loud. And now she pretends that she has never heard about the Church's teaching on homosexuality and acts all violated, marginalized and hurt when faced with a quote that was only indirectly taking from a Vatican document but directly from scripture (which she either seemed to be quite unaware of or dishonest about).

I really hate the whole "What would Jesus say" industry, but just to underline my point: Is it so utterly unthinkable that Christ might say something like: "Yes, I love you so much that I shed my blood for you, but you clearly showed that you did not want a part in this. You put yourself outside the community of the lambs, not only because you didn't listen to what the successors of the Apostles, which I appointed, told you but also because you did not do as the texts, on which your faith is based, told you to. Yes, you have stated your case loud and clear during your time on earth. But was this any help in terms of reconciliation or resistance against a temptation? Yes, you have loved your neighbour. But did you do it out of love for God or because you wanted to make up for neglecting to express your love for God when you didn't listen to his word?" I am just speculating here, so don't come knocking with any "future priests sends gays to hell"-aria, alright?

I found it a bit disturbing that the second article also dealt with homosexuals. But here we go: When I read that article, I didn't see anything but a Catholic bishop who affirms Catholic teaching. Sure, this teaching doesn't fly with lots of people anymore. But this is by no means an indication that the teaching is wrong. This again would be an illogical conclusion. It is neither numbers nor personal preference that define the level of validity of Catholic moral teaching. It is the word of scripture as it has been handed down throughout the ages, faithfully preserved by the Church.

I am not saying that gay people are condemned per se. I am not saying that gay people have no place in the Church. I am not saying that gay people who want to be faithful Catholics have an easy time. But I am saying that gay people who want to be faithful Catholics (and here I exclude all those who just like to protest against the Church without actually being part of it) do have more than one way to succeed. It might sound like a "sacrilege" to the modern ear, but it is true (I have experienced it myself): The longer you resist a temptation, the weaker the temptation grows. The more you pray and open yourself to the grace of God, the more you receive. True, the first steps are hard and not always without pain. But isn't one of the reasons why this "messy business" happened, that we should not be afraid to carry our crosses?

The gay ex-nun looks at the message of Scripture and the Church, applies it to her life, sees where it doesn't fit and wants the message to change. But shouldn't it be the other way round? Aren't we as individuals, as believers and as sinners called to change and believe in the Gospel?

You might think that I am a heartless pseudo-cleric who's living on planet Dogma and doesn't have a clue about real life. But I simply cannot go to people and say "Hey, you want to sin? That's cool. Go ahead. After all, it's much nicer if you can do whatever you feel like and we don't have to argue, regardless of what Scripture and Church teaching say". I CANT, understand? It doesn't have anything to do with preference or dislike. I do have a responsibility and if you ask me if I will neglect that responsibility by being nice and shutting up and don't inform people about the dangers that are included in their actions, my answer is "Hell, no!"

As for the last point: I am taking the logical high-ground, not the moral high-ground. My compassion is expressed by love for the sinner and hate for the sin. I wouldn't have directed and never will direct the same kind of sarcasm against any person that comes to me with questions or confessions or problems. But let's not forget that it was the tone of the post I answered to that initially set the standard for the music. I don't admire Cardinal Pell. But I cannot deal with illogic, especially not when it serves to foster or deepen dissent in the Church. As I said before: The fact that in Düsseldorf Pell dressed up way to spectacular for some people's taste stands in no relation to the question wether he is a good or a bad person.

I completely get it that you and your readers are not in favour of Cardinal Pell. But I also kindly ask you to understand why people like me do feel a certain sympathy for a bishop who doesn't simply play according to the rules of "My political correctness outshines the sun." Not because we like to see a shepherd cracking down on everybody and their mother. But because we know that there is a lot at stake and, well, we're simply looking at the picture from a different angle, which to me has not yet revealed itself as the wrong one.

Oops! This turned out to be a rather long answer. I didn't write all this to ignite an endless discussion about the merits of gay marriage or Catholic priests that sell out to the mainstream. I was just trying to make a point. I am not saying that I don't expect (or don't want) an answer. But I'd like you to prove that you are what you would like me to be: Able to listen and to understand. Meaning: This is not primarily an order to fly over this comment once and immediately come up with a rebuttal streamlined according to "Liberal Catholicism 101" but an invitation to think about what I said and realize that I am not acting out of ignorance and hate.


Alcibiades said...

... and thank you Alipius. You've clearly put a lot of thought into your last post and I really do appreciate it. I really don't want to insult you by throwing back some quick wisecrack answer, and since it's late on Friday night here, and on Saturday morning's where I'm teaching her to swim, which means I get dragged out of bed far to early to up late trying to think and respond (hopefully) intelligently, so I'll have to ask you for a day or so to think about my answers.

However there are two things I'd like to float in advance: firstly that my point in referring to your post on Kookaburras (which really does have some wonderful photos) was to suggest (in my admittedly oblique way) that all too often internet discussions presume a shared understanding of culture and context that in reality does not exist. Thus what are to a European beautiful birds can also be noisy pains in the neck for the Australian who must endure being woken t 4:30 in the morning by one calling on the window ledge next to our bed (don't laugh - it happens at least three times a week ;-) Similarly much of what can from a distance appear orthodoxy might when viewed closer prove to be driven more by a lingering early 20th century sectarian belligerence.

Secondly, please don’t read too much into my laughing at the Cardinal’s colorful outfit, and I’m sorry if I gave the impression that I saw some kind of reflection of his moral/ethical quality in the garb. Of course the cappa magna is still a valid vestment (although I’ve seen much less lurid ones than that), and he’s every right to wear one if he feels it appropriate. Yet I’d argue that I (and anyone else) has an equal right to find his resulting appearance as amusing within the context of my own culture. It mightn’t be the height of wit, or a pinnacle of maturity, but hey – it’s who we are for now. That the Lord shall lead us on from this point I see as beyond dispute: there are things my baby son finds hilarious that my toddler thinks are boring: to grow in Christ is to continually cast off that which was for that which we are becoming.

And ok, I know I said 2, but there’s probably a third point worth mentioning this early on: in order to engage in any meaningful dialogue you’re going to have to accept that some things you might see as axiomatic (such as your exegesis of Christ’s words to Peter, for example) are understood very differently in my own tradition of Broad-church Anglicanism (never mind within curious hybrid-Calvinism currently dominating my own diocese). So occasionally some of your “givens” might for me be less certain. And vice-versa.

More soon – but first some sleep! Thanks again for making the effort to engage.

Alipius said...

Fair enough.

Hey, if you feel like this is growing out of proportion for a simple comments section, feel free to write me a personal email (you can find my email-address when you go to my blogger-profile). If on the other hand you think the whole discussion might be valuable for other readers, let's continue it here.

Alipius said...

While you are still working on an answer, I would just like to confirm you regarding the "cappa" thing. I really don't mind if people laugh about the cappa. I am not ashamed to admit that I do like the seemingly endless silk train. But I can also clearly see how this particular piece of ecclesiastical finery might seem ridiculous or effeminate or medieval to people. I just don't feel comfortable when I see the cappa being called into the witness box to give evidence against the prelate who is wearing it. As for "lurid": I know, this is a gruesome shot. Trust me, there's photos of this event where Pell's cappa looks pretty awesome!

The Kookaburra-point is taken, but I have to narrow down it's validity a tiny bit. Of course I am not walking in the shoes of a person that is being woken at 4:30 by Kookaburras and is living in the country where Cardinal Pell is loved by some and hated by others. But I am living in a city where I am being woken by a myriad of hysterical seagulls at any given time between midnight and 7:00 a.m. and being shat upon by two myriads of pigeons and starlings 24/7. And I was always living in countries (Germany and Austria) where we have more than one controversial bishop who seems like the bees knees to some and like Beelzebub to others, no matter if he is liberal or conservative. So both principles - the beautiful bird that can be a pain in the butt and the bishop who is both orthodox and disliked or liberal and disliked - were well known to me before we even started our conversation.

Regarding the "givens": Goes without saying. This point for me could prove to be the most satisfying: If despite our differing religious traditions we could come to a consensus that lies beyond the question of dress and/or the popularity of a bishop, that would really make my day.