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Category » Writings « @ Jamie Manson

On Changing Mandatory Celibacy: We Must be Careful What We Wish For



For nearly the past week, the media covering the imminent retirement of Benedict XVI has been awash in tales of a gay scandal inside the Vatican. The stories, we were told, were revealed in a 300-page dossier bound in a red (of course!) cover.

Reports about the dossier cleverly mixed in older stories about gay priests skulking around chat rooms, dirty dancing at parties, and jumping out of their lovers’ beds just in time to preside at Mass.

These sordid tales were actually told years ago in an expose by Italian journalist Carmelo Abbate and had no direct relationship to the dossier. But mixing these older stories with the latest rumor made the contents of the dossier seem even more salacious.

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The Officer and the Homeless Man



They were the boots viewed round the world.

Early last week, a tourist took a photo of a New York City police officer helping a homeless man put on a pair of boots. The officer, it turns out, purchased the boots for the man after seeing him barefoot on the street. It was a cold night and the man’s feet were badly blistered.

As he knelt before the homeless man to help him put on the new socks and boots, the officer did not know he was being photographed. The tourist, who also worked in law enforcement in her home state of Arizona, sent the photo to the NYPD, who then posted it to their official Facebook page.

Within a day or two, the photo was viewed by millions, and the kind officer was identified as Larry DePrimo, a handsome, 26-year-old who lives on Long Island with his parents. The press couldn’t get enough of him, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly couldn’t get enough of the good press that this one photo bestowed upon the NYPD.

Having worked closely with members of New York City’s homeless population for several years, the public’s response to stories like this is, for me, a joy and a suffering.

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Leaving the Church is a Luxury the World Cannot Afford



It was no surprise when, last week, Bill Keller’s New York Times column declaring that progressive and liberal Catholics should leave the church, received a seemingly endless screed of online comments, as well as Facebook shares, tweets and recurring spins on blog rolls.

It was easy for those feeling demoralized by the hierarchy’s condemnation of nuns, its thinly veiled political campaign for religious freedom and its ongoing, unhealthy preoccupation with matters of the pelvic zone to resonate with Keller’s disappointment and despair.

The hostile takeover of the church by archconservative forces, best summed up in the rants of Bill Donohue, is a fait accompli, Keller concluded, and things are not going to change.

I share Keller’s assessment that church officials seem to want Catholics who dissent from some, if not all, of the church’s teachings related to sexuality — the ordination of women, support for same-sex marriage — to leave the church. How else can one explain the unpleasant, reactionary atmosphere the hierarchy is straining to cultivate within the church’s walls?

But what seems to elude Keller, as it does many of those who comment on this topic, is that the ability to leave the church is a luxury afforded only to Catholics in the West.

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LCWR: A Radical Obedience to the Voice of God in our Time



In his Holy Thursday sermon, Pope Benedict XVI made headlines for criticizing those who refuse to obey the church’s position on the ordination of celibate men. He traced his argument back to Christ’s obedience to the will of God.

“His concern was for true obedience,” Benedict said, “as opposed to human caprice.”

Of course, the pontiff fails to point out that Jesus was obeying God while also radically disobeying the religious leaders and laws of his time. Like so many archconservative Roman Catholics, he is confusing God with the institutional church and its doctrine.

I suppose the pope is using some of this same logic in his treatment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. He views the sisters’ unwillingness to condemn gays and lesbians or contraception or women who feel called ordained ministry as an act of “caprice.”

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Recognizing the Church that We Already Are



On the evening of Friday, Nov. 4, NCR columnist Jamie L. Manson offered the opening night keynote address at the annual Call to Action national conference. The theme of the conference was “Living the Gospel of Love.” Below is the text of her speech. Read more about the address here.

I want to begin by telling a story because stories, perhaps more than any other element of faith, are vital to sustaining religious communities. Stories pass on insights; they help to give shape to religious traditions; they recall paradigmatic moments or people; they define a community; they are vehicles for revelation; even though they may be ordinary, stories can tell us a lot about the sacred.

This story, I think, does all of those things. It is a true story that happened in a place as ordinary as St. Louis and as recently as 2008. The year that stretched from the summer of 2008 to the summer of 2009 was especially bizarre for the Catholic Church in the United States (and, I know there is a lot of competition for that title).

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Anthony Ruff: The Accidental Activist



The last time Father Anthony Ruff, OSB, came to New York, he was visiting with an editor from First Things, a theologically and politically conservative journal founded by the late Richard John Neuhaus, six years ago.

Ruff recently returned to Manhattan to offer the first presentation sponsored by the newly formed New York City chapter of Call to Action. Since CTA groups are rarely allowed to meet on Roman Catholic property, Ruff gave the lecture in the common room of an Episcopal Church in Greenwich Village.

This radical change of scene isn’t the only transformation that has marked Ruff’s life in the last six years.

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Archbishop Sheehan: How to Lose Catholics and Alienate People



One of my earliest memories of church is watching my mother being forced to abstain from the Eucharist during my First Holy Communion. The scene is still vivid for me.

I sat in the third pew, squirming in the frilly, miniature bridal gown and veil that we were required to wear. When I returned from my first taste of the host and sacramental wine, I turned around to watch my family receive communion.

I saw my mother kneeling alone in a pew, looking at turns sad and embarrassed. The pews around her had been vacated by Catholics worthy of receiving communion. My mother kneeled in that empty pew. She was the only parent of a new communicant who didn’t receive Eucharist that day.

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St. Joseph’s Hospital: A Phoenix in the Desert



Just days before Christians celebrated Christmas, Jesus got evicted.

In a strange twist of fate, he was removed from a hospital named after his adoptive father, St. Joseph. The whole saga took place in a desert. Only this time it was in Phoenix, Ariz., rather than Egypt.

Because a mother of four had her life saved under harrowing circumstances, the sacramental presence of Jesus was forced to evacuate a Catholic hospital in the Valley of the Sun. It’s a sad loss, really, since the body of Christ dwelt peacefully at St. Joseph’s for over 115 years.

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Shattered Expectations of Institutional Change Bring True Vision of God



As life-giving as it is for me to attend meetings with progressive Catholics who are committed to inviting this institutional church into greater integrity and inclusion, I always come away from these gatherings with a slight heaviness in my heart.

What weighs on me, I believe, is the palpable hurt in this group of faithful people whose expectations have been betrayed. In the late 1960s and through the 1970s it was not unreasonable for Catholics to believe that major reforms were beginning to unfold.

So often traditional Catholics make progressive Catholics feel like they are asking the impossible, or they are imposing their own secular needs on a church that is unchangeable.

In the face of these criticisms, it helps to remember that the movement to bring a spirit of change and open-mindedness to the Catholic Church was initiated by the hierarchy. It was church authorities that sought the reforms that would allow them to understand more fully the lives of the people they were serving.

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A Challenge to Elder Prophets: Help Empower the Next Generation



If you attended the Call to Action conference earlier this month, you no doubt came in contact with Shane Claiborne. He offered a Friday evening keynote address that was at turns affecting and entertaining.

If you didn’t attend the conference, you may have seen Tom Roberts’s recent profile of this urban monk.

Claiborne became the highly visible figurehead of the “new monasticism” movement after starting a community called The Simple Way with a group of friends from his Evangelical college. The Simple Way is one of many faith-based communities that live among those in need in the hope of creating positive change and transformation through service to the surrounding neighborhood.

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