samedi, juillet 28, 2007

My column from today's Intelligencer Journal

Rhoades: Clarity moves church relations forward
Published: Jul 28, 2007 12:01 AM EST
I have to admit that when I read press reports about the Vatican's decision to reiterate its traditional point of view on the differences between the Catholic Church and Protestant faith communities, I winced reflexively.
After all, I am a member of the Anglican Communion, a denomination that has had a long and complex relationship with the Roman Catholic Church since King Henry VIII decided to do a little ecclesiastical freelancing back in the 16th century.
A restatement of a 2000 document authored by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), the text on what elements make up a church was issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's orthodoxy watchdog.
It is seen as a "clarification" issued in response to ongoing (and perhaps irrepressible) debate over the precise meaning of the heritage of the Second Vatican Council, a three-year conference that ended more than 40 years ago — and has had a lasting effect on church practice.
There are no shocking revelations here.
Instead there is a restatement of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council that "The Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church."
Because the Orthodox Churches share a common ecclesiology and tradition, they also have the elements that constitute a church, according to traditional Catholic teaching. Protestants on the other hand are considered "Christian communities" rather than churches in the full sense of the word.
Some Protestant judicatories and individuals responded angrily to the idea that their faith communities might have "defects" rendering them ineligible to be seen as churches (or, rather, as the Church).
But was it possible that something healthy could come out of the current contretemps?
For an answer, I turned to the Roman Catholic bishop of the 250,000-member diocese of Harrisburg, the Most Rev. Kevin Rhoades.
The former head of Maryland's Mount Saint Mary's Seminary, Rhoades has been shepherd of the 15-county diocese for the past two and a half years.
Given the opportunity to get a message out to his Protestant brothers and sisters, let alone rank and file Roman Catholics, what would he like to say?
Both erudite and friendly, Rhoades said he was surprised by the negative reaction, particularly in the secular media.
Particularly distressing to him was the implication in some press reports that only Catholics could be saved.
Not so fast, said the bishop.
Although the Catholic Church believes it has the fullness of the means of salvation, Catholic teaching recognizes the saving action of the Holy Spirit in separated churches and communities and states that numerous elements of sanctification and truth do exist in other Christian communities.
Rhoades used the sacrament of baptism as an example.
Instead of being seen as a retreat in ecumenical relations, he argues, this restatement should be seen as an opportunity.
"In dialogues between Catholics and other Christian communities it is so important that we understand each other's teachings, and this is a clear affirmation of what we believe," Rhoades said.
A particularly thorny arena for dialogue between Roman Catholics and representatives of other Christian bodies is the issue of the meaning of the Eucharist and the validity of Protestant orders.
Although sometimes contentious, even painful, the discussions should neither be evaded nor avoided, Rhoades said.
"We cannot skirt these issues," Rhoades said. "We have come to the point of maturity in our ecumenical discussions where these difficult points need to be addressed."
More broadly, says Rhoades, there is a continuing need for the Church to address the troubling phenomenon that one can pick and choose various elements of faith according to personal preference.
"There is a lack of recognition for objective truth in the doctrinal and moral arena," he said.
On the other hand, Rhoades wants to remind area Catholics and Protestants alike that "We should be very aware of the many elements of the faith we hold in common and build on those."
Among these essentials, says the bishop, is an "irrevocable commitment" to the cause of Christian unity, to prayer, and to work on issues of social justice and charity common to all Christians.
Then he was off to tend to his growing flock, a veteran of ecumenical dialogues who believes that Christian faith communities must candidly acknowledge the issues that divide them so that they are free to seek the unity mandated by the One they all profess to follow.


vendredi, juillet 27, 2007

One man's "fun"

Hang out on an Internet dating site for any length of time, and you'll find out that words you thought you knew the meaning of since elementary school acquire a whole new meaning when it comes to male-female communication.

I've had a few conversations with swingers (men involved in the world of alternative sex)-a sexual category of which I was almost completely ignorant before I signed on to a dating website.

What I quickly realized is that even though the permutations and combinations are dautingly complicated to those of us not in the know, those who practice alternative sex (orgies, threesomes, don't ask if you don't want to know) have rituals and language as complex as any other social milieu.

Not to mention double jointed gifts for which swingers don't get enough credit-for Pete's sake, how many of you have really taken a look at some of those manuals?

Take the word "fun." I know now that "fun" doesn't denote getting together for a chocolate malt at the diner. "Fun" can take place in the backseats of cars, in secluded glades, a deux or in a quartet.

Thus I should have been more cautious when I got a wink from a guy whose name was "Extra Activity." But no, Elizabeth, who can be a little naive, just thought he was very athletic. It wasn't until I read the paragraph in bio where he said he was looking for "safe adult fun" that I realized he wasn't talking about a jog before lunch-so I let him take a hike.

Have you been "naughty?" If you are "naughty" in the swinging world, it means you are doing something you should not be doing-and the naughtier, the better. After a while, most of the taboos have become sooo trite-then the true swinger will try to find something even 'naughtier".

My "naughty" antenna have become rather sophisticated, because for various reasons I am a tempting target. Knowing I'm like catnip to a swinger is not flattering, because I know it's not my scintillating personality they want.

But my favorite alternative word is "vanilla." The monogamous majority (ok, a lot of them are the serial monogamous majority) are vanilla.

I wasn't sure I liked this-it implied a certain conventionality that just doesn't sit well with me. On the other hand, to become chocolate, sorbet, or even Neapolitan takes a passion for secrecy, not to mention an athleticism that is beyond me right now. So until, and if, I find my inner dominatrix-I'm vanilla, and proud.

Or perhaps vanilla twist?

mardi, juillet 24, 2007

The Madness of Prince George

George Bush has been called dumb, arrogant, uppercrust pretending to be lowdown, a man without a core masquerading as an evangelical conservative. Has anyone thought to call him insane?

As we head towards a constitutional showdown under the guise of a confrontation over a spending bill, Bush shows no signs of being able to face reality. A National Intelligence Estimate recently came out that said the war in Iraq had drained so many resources that it allowed Al Queda in other parts of the world, like the border of Pakistan/Afghanistan, to strengthen itself.

Thus the insurgents now pose a bigger threat than before the start of the "war on terror". Against the evidence, Bush insists that Al Queda poses a great threat in Iraq-and that we are winning the war!

Against the evidence-that could be the epitaph for this frighteningly delusional President.

Global warming has not been proven-against the evidence.

Evolution is an unproven theory, not a fact-against the evidence.

The Iraqis have a viable government-against the evidence.

All children who need health insurance have it-against the evidence.

Congress has no voice in declaring war or deciding to end it-against the Constitution.

Here is a man who apparently cannot hear voices of dissent, even when they come from the inner circle of his own party.

What does that tell us?

Actually, it doesn't really matter. What matters is whether Republicans Senators who have spoken out against the war, who have spoken up for funding health insurance for children have courage, or are all about striking agreeable political postures. It take a lot of guts for members of the President's party to actually vote, not just speak, against him.

If they do, it may mean the pendulum has finally started to swing-back from the insanity which not only grips Prince George, but the country he claims to serve.

lundi, juillet 23, 2007

Sex role hypocrisy in Glenmoore!

Soon after writing the last post, I had to confront the fact that there is sexual hypocrisy in my own household. After parading through the house with requests for lemon juice, the children adjourned to our Adirondack chairs on the front patio (a flat slab of concrete under an awning can't really be termed a porch). Not long after this, Colin came in. "They ( Sian and one of her little girlfriends) are saying that if I want to play with them, I have to be a slave," he told me. Apparently Sian (her friend might boss around her little brother, but wouldn't do that to Colin) demanded that Colin fulfill her wishes for a certain number of weeks...months...or years? When I went out to see what was going on, and to free the slave, Sian and her buddy were languidly sipping lemonade (thus the lemon joice) and acting more like abolitionists than slave holders. Sian, of course, denied ever asking Colin to be her slave. After sternly telling them to cut it out, I went inside and brought out cookies-in the hopes that Sian might give up the role of tyrant for that of lady of the mansion-at least for that afternoon.

dimanche, juillet 22, 2007

Sexual Healing

Could Larry Flynt be a Democrat? Or could he just enjoy outing the hypocritical? When "D.C." madam's Deborah Jeane Palfrey's client list became public, the porn publisher did a little Sherlock Holmesing of his own-and came up with a Louisiana Senator's name.

Now "family values" champ and Republican Senator David Vitter is like the proverbial frog squatting in a pot of hot water. As more allegations bring that pot to a boil, Vitter faces the possible loss of not only his credibililty, but his Senate seat. A high Administration official has already resigned because his name appeared on Palfrey's client list. A former Navy commander, one of the theorists behind this Administration's "shock and awe" campaign, has refused to answer questions about his possible link with the Washington madam.

Meanwhile, of course, we are asked to welcome back Newt Gingrich in his new role as wise elder-and forget that while he was mouthing pious platitudes he was also a serial cheater.

Sexual hijinks of the sleazy kind are not a Republican speciality-the Democrats would probably like to delete former NJ Governor Jim McGreevey and former California Congressman Gary Condit from the history books. The charismatic Bill Clinton gets a pass (but no more passes) only because his tawdry antics scarred his Presidency, but did not define it.

What is shockingly obvous now is not the fact that Republicans have sexual sleaze, but the uncovering of this Administration's sexual hypocrisy.

A campaign to make marriage a legal act only between a man and a woman? Abstinence education in the public schools? Making sure single mother's work or don't get financial help from the government?

Yes, these propositions are worth debating-but for heaven's sake, lay off (sorry, I'm on a roll) what the Victorians called "cant." Stop acting as though you were any more or less sinful than the rest of us-because we know that eventually Larry Flynt, or some other titan of sleaze with an agenda will find you with your pants down (why is it, by the way, that women politicians so rarely get caught in these compromising positions?) .

What's so sad about the downfall of the pious high and mighty is that sexual morality, and the changing state of the family, are topics that beg for reasoned conversation. But a public grown skeptical and tired by the outing of Congressmen and Senators may decide that the only place to have such chats is at home, safe from the sermons of those elected to uphold the common good-who tell us to do as they say and not as they do.