Many New Collections Available for Use

During the tenure of my Luce-funded project archivist position at the Burke Library, I will be processing, arranging and describing all of the collections in the Missionary Research Library Archives and the William Adams Brown Ecumenical Library Archives. MANY new collections are available for use and research. These original, unique, primary source materials can greatly add to a Union student’s research. And, as the saying goes, ‘those who fail to study the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them.’

Have you looked into any of these archives lately? You may be surprised how much they can add to what Union in Dialogue stands for: a discussion of social analysis, interreligious dialogue, embodiment, poverty, and a number of other pressing topics.

You can always look at the Burke Archives page, specifically at the Missionary Research Library Collection and William Adams Brown Archives links. We also make sure to post direct links through our Facebook and Twitter accounts.

One other option is through the Burke Archives Blog, which is specific to the Hidden Archival Collections of the Burke Library project. If you look at the tab called Completed Collections, you will see all of that which has been done since the project began in August 2011.

Any questions? Please don’t hesitate to contact me!


The Pope Just Doesn’t Get It!

He may be infallible. But he sure can screw up when it comes to public relations.

That was painfully clear in the latest Vatican publication of “Substantive Norms” on how it is going to get tough on priest pedophiles.

As reported in the New York Times and in the National Catholic Reporter,  the document, in one sense, doesn’t say that much. Basically, it is a collection of past directives on how to more expeditiously remove offending priests from office and eventually kick them out of the priesthood. (It’s called laicization, which among other things, dispenses the priestly sexual offenders from the obligation of celibacy. Hmmm….).

But what would have been new, and what would have helped the standing of the Vatican and the Catholic Church throughout the world, was glaringly missing: directives on how to call to task bishops who deliberately covered up the offenses or didn’t follow the law and report the offending Fathers to the local authorities.

Nor do these official “norms” say a word about obliging bishops to alert authorities when they have a sexual offender in their midst. Not a word about any of the responsibilities and culpabilities that so many bishops bear in this whole mess. Again, hmmm…. (One can only wonder about possible responsibility and culpability that the present Bishop of Rome might bear in the cover-ups and neglect when he was Bishop of Munich back in the 80s.)

But if this latest statement from the Pope and his staff can be faulted for what it doesn’t say, it can be absolutely deplored for what it does say. Alongside priestly sexual abuse of children and of people with mental disabilities, alongside child pornography, the Vatican statement lists as grievous “delicts” and offenses to the well-being of the church: the ordination of women!

The suggestion here is that God, like the Pope, is equally offended by a woman presenting herself to be a priest as by a priest raping a child!

This is simply beyond the comprehension of most people. And it arouses the consternation of most people: how in the world can the Vatican equate such claimed “dangers” to the church? Why, in a document aimed at dealing with the bewildering and scandalous problem of priests taking sexual advantage of children must the Holy Father and his advisers mention the “problem” of women wanting equal status in the Catholic church?

The New York Times opined that the Vatican inserted mention of women’s ordination in order to send a clear message that it wasn’t buying the suggestion that if there were “Mothers” besides the “Fathers” in the Catholic clergy, there would have been greater concern to protect and then stand up for the rights of children. The Vatican wanted to make perfectly clear that in addressing the problem of abusive priests in the church, it was not addressing the problem of abused women in the church.

If that was the internal motive, it is no justification for the public relations disaster. The fact that the Pope and his fellow-clerics had no inkling of how this juxtaposing of priestly pedophilia and women’s ordination would be perceived, how it would register on the minds and especially in the feelings of people “out in the world,” both inside and outside the Catholic Church, is itself an indication of how much these old, celibate, woman-less and childless men are out of touch with the people they say they are serving.

Can This Be the Will of God?

For the past week, I’ve not been able to shake from my imagination the image that Maureen Dowd described in her op-ed column in the New York Times on April 11. She contrasted “educated and sophisticated young professional women” in Saudi Arabia who put up with “an inbred and autocratic state more like an archaic men’s club than a modern state” with faithful, dedicated Catholic women and men who continue to celebrate and practice their faith in a church which, for all practical purposes, looks very much like “an inbred and wealthy men’s club cloistered behind walls and disdaining modernity … an autocratic society that repressed women and ignored their progress in the secular world.”

Ouch!  My discomfort became all the more painful when Dowd went on with a bit of theological-historical analysis: “To circumscribe women, Saudi Arabia took Islam’s moral codes and orthdoxy to extremes not outlined by Muhammad; the Catholic Church took its moral codes and orthodoxy to extremes not outlined by Jesus. In the New Testament, Jesus is surrounded by strong women and never advocates that any woman — whether she’s his mother or a prostitute — be treated as a second-class citizen.”

Dowd’s right.  There are no theological or historical supports in what we know of the mission of Jesus and the early years of the church to support obligatory celibacy for the priesthood or to exclude women from the priestly ministry.  None.  The present practice can be called an aberration.

Dowd’s  mirror-images of Saudi Arabia and the Catholic Church pushed me to stand back and take a sobering look at this church that I love:  It is one of the few surviving  (if not the only surviving) absolute monarchies to exist on this planet. It is run by a man and his entourage called the Curia who are all  male and who, in the name of celibacy, have denied themselves the experience of intimate love of another human being, which means they have denied themselves  “the earthy, primal messiness of families and children.” (Lisa Miller quoted by Dowd)

And they exercise their power over the church in almost complete secrecy, without any recognized checks and balances. The Pope’s authority, as defined by the First and Second Vatican Councils is “full, supreme, and universal” and the pope can “always exercise this authority as he chooses.” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, par. 22)

I invite my fellow Catholics to step back with me, take an honest look at the monarchical, exclusively-male, family-estranged authority structures of our church and ask ourselves the simple but sobering question:  Can this be the will of God? Can such a church really be what the God of Jesus — what Jesus — would approve of?

Or, must we say, as some Latin American theologian friends of mine put it:  This Catholic Church is the church of Jesus (along with other churches).  But this Catholic Church is not the church that Jesus wanted.

If we Catholics really feel that the present state of our church — with its absolute, monarchical, all-male structures –is not God’s will, what should be do?

Right now, I don’t want to take up that question.  I just want all of us Catholics to ask ourselves this question: can the present state of our church be the will of God?  And let the answer sink in.  Really sink in.  Take firm hold of our minds and hearts.

If the answer to this question does sink deeply into our Catholic identities, if it shakes us up, if it stirs our feelings, it will slowly but surely be translated into actions — actions that will bring us together to reform our church.

Hans Küng has recently called for such actions on the part of the bishops.   We have to talk more about what his call implies for the laity.

Steal a Priest

“Estimates are that one in six Catholic priests currently serving in the States comes from abroad, and roughly 300 new international priests arrive every year.” (John Allen,

I have a definitely biased reaction to that statement.  I’m a former priest, who had to leave the clerical club because I wanted to also find God in human love (which means I didn’t want to sleep alone).  If I could have stayed, there would have been one less reason to rent a priest from abroad.

That’s what the Catholic Church in the US is presently doing — it’s renting — really, stealing — priests from other countries who need priests even more than the US RC Church does, especially Africa and Asia.  In the US (and Europe), the ratio of priest to Catholic laity is 1 to 1,300. In  Sub-Saharan Africa, it’s  1-4,786; in Southeast Asia: 1-5,322.

Many of this foreign sacerdotal acquisitions are doing a fine job of shepherding a flock whose customs they often don’t understand and whose language they often speak with heavy, hard-to-follow accents.  Many of them aren’t.  Whether they are or aren’t, it’s a shame that they cannot stay at home and tend their own flocks.  It’s a shame that so many parish-flocks throughout America are without shepherds.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  There’s a simple solution, and it’s staring the Vatican and American bishops right in the face:  Ordain married men and women.  As any Catholic theologian who doesn’t work for the Vatican or the Bishops’ Conference will tell you, there’s no theological reason why that can’t happen.  The only obstacle right now is, literally, “a man-made law” — that is, men huddled around one of the the last surviving real monarchies in the world — a monarchy that wants to hang on to its patriarchal power.

I say all this not from outside the Catholic Church, but from inside.  I love this church.  And it’s killing me to see how man-made rules are killing it.