A Poll of the Parish: The ECC Rocky Mountain Region would be well served by its own Bishop

Monday, April 5, 2010

Thoughts on Arising at Easter

From one of the most
beautiful poems
in all of Sacred Scripture –
the Song of Songs:

“My lover speaks to me:
‘Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one,
and come!

"For see, the winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.

The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of pruning the vines has come,
and the song of the dove is heard in our land.

The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance.
Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one,
and come!’”

It is what Jesus says to us, today,
you know.

For he has risen,
but so too are we to arise.

From the slumber of
our deadened spirits,
he calls to us,

From the listlessness of
lives that are, maybe,
not as full of passion
as they might be,
as He hopes our lives will be,
He calls to us,

“Get up, now.
Look about you,
and greet the dawn
of your new life.”

New Life?

We can have new life?
We can start anew,
start fresh,
begin again,
blessed as any newborn,
blessed as we were at Baptism?

Yes! Oh, Yes!

How has your passion been, lately?

How is it this morning?

Imagine your passion renewed,
restored, enlivened,
Passion for being in Jesus’ presence,
at his side.


We emerge from out of our hibernation,
from the winter of our
quiet and subdued withdrawal . . .

our slipping away
from all the best that is meant to be ours,
all of this splendid Creation
He has made for us.

We emerge this morning
and hear Him as He calls to us,

“Come my beloved,
the winter is past.”

That’s you He’s calling to.

Hear him:

“I didn’t rise
to be alone.
I rose to be with you.”

Whyever would He
roll the stone back,
and begin showing Himself –
His Risen self –
to His friends,

except that to be
without us,
away from us,
is unthinkable
for Him.

“Arise, my beloved.”

Your new life
awaits you,
in here,
at the table of plenty,
and out there,
at the daily feast of life.

We have no idea -
it’s the truth -

no idea how grand how marvelous
how crazy incredible
is the life He calls us to.

To be filled with joy,
at being alive in Him,
no matter what happens.

No matter sadness or loss -
however grievous and piercing,
for loss no longer defines us
when we arise from it
and face a new dawn.

No matter lost jobs,
no matter bills to pay
and quarrels to settle
and frustration to endure.

It is the wonder of Easter
that no matter what
our lives encounter,
we can, in Him, encounter them
every day
as though it is Easter Day.

For we, too, are risen.
And if we but know it,
nothing will ever be the same,
and nothing will ever again steal our joy.

Arise, beloved.
Jesus did,
and so can you.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Blocking the Schoolhouse Door

Recent days have brought the sorry news of a Catholic elementary school's refusal to allow two young students to continue once the present year's studies are completed. The grounds? Their parents are two lesbian women. The Archdiocese of Denver has held that allowing the students to continue would be unfair to them, as their religious education classes would necessarily entail the Church's teachings on the sinfulness of homosexual relationships, and the sacredness of exclusively male/female marriage - which might embarrass and hurt the children. In other words, the Archdiocese claims to be protecting these children.

The parents, however, have stated they are confident their children would not be disturbed by the Church's teachings. After all, as good parents, they always have and will continue to provide loving, solid, Christian formation for the children, including their own cherished family values of tolerance and of openness to God's varied gifts of human sexuality. Believing that God created them as lesbians, they see no reason to deny their sexuality, nor to hide it from their children, who seem utterly comfortable with their two mommies.

Why the school took this unbelievably harsh and punitive action against the children and their parents - when in fact, the family's makeup had not been hidden, and was well known, has mystified some. But there should be no mystery. Archbishop Charles Chaput has quite understandably upheld Roman Catholic teaching. He clearly believes he is morally obligated to demand the school's action. And here is the challenge for those of us who are committed to an absolutely inclusive standard for our Church. We may find it incomprehensible that the Roman Catholic Church (from which most of us hail) can continue to take such a stand against gay women and men. But perhaps we are forgetting - though Christian love requires us to remember - that the Roman Catholic stand is intellectually, and theologically, rational and reasonable. It is justly defended by application of one interpretation of rigorous Natural Law reasoning. The Archbishop is being steadfast and honest. He is acting with utter integrity and acting in accord with his conscience - as all human beings must do. For anyone to expect him to look the other way in the face of what he must see as the public notoriety of gay parents seemingly flouting Church law is wholly unrealistic.

But of course there is another view, to which most of us in the Ecumenical Catholic Communion are every bit as committed as the Archbishop is to his own perspective. We prize the wonder and grandeur of human sexuality in all its manifest diversity. We are very bit as able as Archbishop Chaput to defend our welcoming and celebration of gay sisters and brothers alongside and among our "straight" sisters and brothers within the family of faith. We too enjoy the gift of reason, and much as Roman Catholic Tradition wishes to deny it, we can employ the Natural Law to uphold our celebration of the fullness and diversity of human sexuality.

The simplistic and reductionistic physicalism of the Roman interpretation of our Tradition (holding that the physical complementarity of male and female, and the very nature of human reproduction, requires that only heterosexuality can be in accord with God's design) is no longer viable given what the world has learned about human development, sexuality, psychology, and spirituality. An increasing number of Catholic theologians, priests, and (privately) even bishops have come to this conclusion. The happy reality is that very few among us are without gay friends whom we recognize as profoundly spiritual, well-adjusted, and altogether as suited for life at every level as any of us are - including married life. And this is one aspect of our profound contribution to the Tradition, which one day, we fervently believe, will have evolved to embrace all God's children in all God's ways and means of life lived fully. Human flourishing - the very heart of the Natural Law - insists upon this recognition and acceptance. We can do no less, and that is our own reasonable, rational justification.

What is particularly saddening about this imbroglio at Sacred Heart Parish in Boulder is the facile, unconvincing rationale provided by the Roman Catholic Church. The claim to be protecting the very children it is harshly excluding is transparently disingenuous. The children need no such protection, in the view of their parents, and who better to decide such a sensitive matter?

Indeed, the loving parents - these two committed lesbian mothers - have been interviewed by the National Catholic Reporter, and the story is available here.

So it is that I say the Roman Catholic Church has every right to take this action, and in the same breath I say, shame, shame on the Roman Catholic Church for the manner in which it has acted. And I say further: the day will come, when all the children of God will have learned to accept one another with unconditional love, and they will have stopped inflicting their prejudices on one another. Not to believe this is to confess our lack of hope and trust in God.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Third Sunday of Lent

While we were yet a long way off

By Fr. David Kenney

While I was busy
interrupting God’s plan
for all Creation,
including God’s plan for me myself,

me being busy with
unsurpassed self will
and inexhaustible self interest
and being a sort of
self-guided missile careening
through this life,
don’t you know,
even though I had a
nearly-constant glimpse of
God, sort of quietly hovering there,
in the shades of my mind,
always there,

well . . .
God saw me,
a long way off.
And smiled.

While you were busy –
too busy to care –
winging your way through this life,
with a sort of blind eye to
what you were leaving in your
everyday trail,

God winced at the pollution
of Creation that you
left in your wake,
and the lack of concern
in your head and heart,
but God still saw you,
when you were still a long way off,

and God knew that
there was an idea within you
to care for the world,
not to spoil it,
and God smiled.

While I plotted my revenge on
the latest offenders,
who had jolted me
or jilted me
or joked about me
or jammed me up
something terrible,
and while I devoted hours
of consciousness to
ruminating about
their ruin,
God noticed that my
conscience was tweaked,
and my heart was not
given over to this resentment,

and God smiled.

While you were busy deciding
that the whole idea of God
was a bit much to accept,
and after all,
it seemed God
wasn’t answering your prayers,
and anyway all your friends
were more or less unbelievers,

and the church didn’t serve you, really,
and you were confused by
everything from Gregorian Chant
to the meaning of Eucharist –

all the while,
God was busy answering
your prayers.
Smiling all the way.

How unlike me and you
God is.

How curious,
that God should be so eager
to welcome us home,
we the profligate,
self-fulfilled ones.

Yet God does.

How odd that God
should have arms outstretched for us
before even the notion has fully taken hold
within us,
that our way has led nowhere
and that we so badly needed
to come home.

We’ve been lost without always knowing it,
at least without admitting it,
and God doesn’t seem to mind,
so long as we come home.

What kind of God is this?
Amazing God.

Amazing grace.

We’ve been adrift in the fields of self-will so long,
we cannot imagine playing in the fields of the Lord,
yet there they are,
the fields of wonder and excitement,
of the thrill of knowing God loves us!

The Garden of Eden,
just maybe,
was made of the awareness
of the Father’s absolute,
truly unconditional love –
not just pretty words,
but the very thing itself.

Such a God,
such a Christ
such a Spirit.

We’re still far off,
and already they’ve
set a place at the table for us,
so we can share
a feast beyond our imagination.

Such a deal.

Such an amazing God.
Such amazing grace.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Scandals Continue

No doubt you've read (at least the headlines) of the unfolding scandals of sexual abuse by priests in Ireland and Germany, as well as new allegations in the United States. What lessons do we take from the seemingly unending revelations of the frail and flawed humanity which embodies the pastorate of the churches?

For many years, I and countless others more qualified than I - including bishops, priests, theologians and innumerable scholars - have held that the institution of priestly celibacy lies at the very heart of this sexually-dysfunctional clerical (clergy) infamy. Catholics everywhere marvel at the apparent blindness of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in the face of what seems irrefutable evidence of at least two striking phenomena: first, that there is a direct correlation between preexisting sexual maladjustment of varying types and the inclination to enter the clerical life. Second, that the overwhelming burden of loneliness and the desire for intimate companionship quite naturally - and quite often - subverts the moral integrity, sexual maturity, and emotional equilibrium of very many priests, who, but for the lack of such companionship, might well thrive in their vocation.

It requires little reflection to conceive that the first instance will be inevitable and will submit only to the most vigorous screening of candidates for seminary studies, much less for advancement to priesthood. But the second instance will remain a needlessly damaging disgrace, both for the individuals involved and for the Church. And the tragic imposition of mandatory celibacy will generate untold grief - and victims - so long as it remains in place.

We must recognize that in our contemporary setting the pejorative label, "scandal," unfortunately conjures pedophilia. But only a tiny minority of priests (or of clergy of any denomination) seem afflicted by pedophilia - perhaps less than 1% of all priests, a number consonant with the incidence among the general population. This statistic nonetheless blurs the pronounced incidence of other occasions of perceived scandal, as when manditorily celibate priests engage in sexual affairs, whether hetero- or homosexual, or become involved with pornography, or find themselves sexually, even deviantly, obsessed even while refraining from overtly acting on this compulsion. And even that distinction leaves unremarked that countless number who, having sought out a religious vocation, are yet terribly maladjusted and fraught with sexual immaturity, scrupulous self-doubt, or unrelenting temptations to act out. What percentage of clerical celebates are thus affected? No one knows. But there is the haunting suspicion that they are legion.

As a priest, I know all too many individuals who chose this life as a sort of safe harbor - perhaps unconsciously or unreflectively, but all the same the Church seemed a refuge for them with their unspoken troubles. In my seminary, speculation was common as to who might one day land in scandal. Remarkably, we were just as often surprised to learn that unsuspected individuals had come aground with admissions of the worst sexual transgressions. This story is shared by nearly every priest I know, from every seminary.

And mind you, I hope we would never again include among the "unspoken troubles" those who have discovered their gay sexual identity, except possibly in the sense that, given the Church's culture, they might feel compelled to go underground, to be furtive or to deny their sexuality, which after all is gift of God. No, the "scandal" must never be equated with homosexual activity per se, but rather with patently immoral activity, such as affairs with married persons, or infidelity, or, worst of all, with minors.

This blog is not the place to provide the sort of scholarly treatment the subject deserves, but perhaps I can set the table for your own reflection (and research!). I would ask: Is it not reasonable to sugggest that, given natural human sexual desire, gay or straight, coupled with the natural desire for companionship, that when denied any healthy outlet for fulfillment of these natural inclinations, many individuals will often end up on the shoals of sexual misadventure?

In the Ecumenical Catholic Communion, we naturally insist upon the freedom of our clergy to be married, or to engage in significant, intimate, monogamous and healthy relationships. Most of our priests are married. Some are gay and though sadly they are prohibited by most State laws from marriage, nonetheless they are deeply committed in lasting, loving relationships - or they remain open to these. For us, in the ECC, this is morally and intellectually self-evident - it is the intended flourishing previewed in Genesis, in the creation of human partners. "God looked at everything God had made, and found it very good."

Every church of every denomination should allow its clergy to follow parallel paths of priestly vocation and of intimate relationship. Christ accompanies the walk on both, toward faithful pastoring and faithful partnering. To deny either pathway to any person authentically called to it is unnatural, and calamitous, and it is the ultimate scandal.

Friday, January 15, 2010

One of the challenges of blogging is that one must blog. Sigh. As always, it was a parishioner (Laura Strom) who suggested that we had a really important topic to share with the parish, and I realized at once she was spot on.

What brings it to mind is the unbelievable tragedy in Haiti. Right away, we were moved to do what little we could - to send a donation to help the people. I contacted our Parish Council, with a suggestion that we utilize Catholic Relief Services (we have used them before to channel donations, and other organizations as well). But a couple of Council members thought this one through, better than I.

None of us doubt the magnificent work of Catholic Relief Services. The CRS record over six decades is a hallmark of compassion and efficiency - most of every dollar given actually reaches the people in need. And yet, we reflected, the Roman Catholic Church itself, through its hierarchical structures, continues paradoxically to be an instrument of pain and injustice for many even as its agencies like CRS and Catholic Charities do the work Christ surely intended. How do we reconcile the Church's exclusion of women from its full life and participation? How do we justify its medieval ordinances such as celibacy for the ordained, or its insistence on theological curiosities like the doctrine of papal infallibility, the existence of purgatory, the doubt regarding entrance into heaven by unbaptized infants, and so on? This is the Church that compels divorced people to undergo an incredibly harsh, intrusive annulment process before one can be married again in the church.

We all know the litany, and perhaps I needn't recite it here, but it seems important to give context to our Council's discernment of how best to donate assistance to earthquake victims. Here is the crux of the matter: Does our contribution, if channeled to CRS, amount to a sort of "cooperation" with the RC Church which we needn't, and perhaps shouldn't so readily make? It's a fair question. If there were no other very able relief agencies, we'd have no hesitation in using CRS. But again, the paradox of funneling money for justice' sake via an unjust Church seems incoherent to us.

In the end, we have chosen to utilize other agencies, which will include: Lutheran World Relief, Doctors Without Borders, The Salvation Army, the American Red Cross, Church World Service, World Vision and Rotary International. These are all organizations with strong, effective relief records.

We will be taking a special collection this Sunday, January 17th, which will be added to what we've already sent to the people of Haiti. And our prayers will continue in the months ahead.

Your thoughts on the Council's discernment and decision will be mightily appreciated, and you can post them right here. Please do!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Here is Fr. David's homily from Sunday, November 22nd, the Feast of Christ the King. Your comments, of course, are welcome.

To Have a King

What does it mean,
to have a king?

The very idea –
Isn’t it a bit of a reach too far,
into the mists of time, the long-ago ways
that saw people everywhere
ruled by solitary human beings,
exalted as though they were super human.
Good kings and queens, and bad ones?

Tyrants, and – rarely –
humble stewards of the good of the people.

Rich and regal,
proud and presumptuous,
all powerful in their dominions,
none dare challenge them.

Ordering nations into war,
approving plunder and pillage,
conquering wherever possible,

gathering new lands to expand their kingdoms,
to bring still more wealth, on which to fatten themselves.

What does it mean, to have a king?

Ah, the kings and queens of history . . .

When I say, “King,”
is the immediate association in your mind
a positive one, or negative, or neutral?

It seems, doesn’t it, that the images we retain of kings and queens,
whether from books and movies
or from an actual study of real history,
tend to be . . . negative.

Because we live in a democratic republic,
we Americans are wary of kings.
It’s in the very fibre of our being.
Our own revolution, in 1776,was a rebellion against
the tyrannical rule of King George of England.

Of course, we weren’t against all kings at the time,
as we eagerly accepted the aid of the King of France, for example.
And to this day, our nation’s leaders
routinely engage with and honor kings and queens,
some of whom are merely in ceremonial roles,
but some of whom are still absolute rulers -
the King of Saudi Arabia, the Sultan of Brunei,
the royal family of Bahrain, and many others.

President Obama got in a little hot water last week
for apparently bowing tothe emperor of Japan,
just as he had months ago to the Saudi king.

We have decidedly mixed feelings about kings and queens,
even in our democratic republic of America.

And then there is the church.

From medieval times onward,
Roman Catholic popes and other prelates of the church
were treated as royalty.

Sitting in thrones, wearing heavily jeweled robes and crowns,
ruling with absolute authority in their realms,
expecting, and receiving,
the humble, pious submission of their subjects.

Did you know that the installation of a pope is called
a papal coronation?
The pope is the Monarch of the Holy See,
and Sovereign of Vatican City.

The cardinals are called “Princes of the Church.”

What does it mean, to have a king?

In Jesus’ time,there were kings, of course,
and had been, for all of known history.

Jesus was targeted, as a newborn infant, by King Herod.
He was put to death by Pontius Pilate,
a regional governor appointed by the Emperor, Caesar.

Jesus knew about kings.
Listen to today’s Gospel. Pilate was absolutely fixated
on whether Jesus was claiming to be a king,
and if so, where was his kingdom, exactly?
Was it a rival kingdom,out to undermine,
perhaps to overthrow, the rule of Caesar?

Jesus said, “My kingdom does not belong to this world.”

Claiming his kingship,
but claiming it was a transcendent kingship that he held,
not of this world.

I’ll bet Pilate really understood that.

A transcendent kingship. A kingdom utterly . . . other.

If you try to think of Jesus Christ as a king,
do you have to squirm your way into the notion,

or does it spring freely, rightly, fittingly into your consciousness?

Are we so uncomfortable with the notions of regal rulers,
including rulers of the churches,
that it seems unnatural, even unholy maybe,
to include Jesus in their lot?

Well, but are we really including Jesus alongside Caesar,
and the Saudi kings, and the popes and their princes?

Or are we saying that this Jesus,
our Christ, our Messiah, our Savior,
truly is the king of all creation?

A king in a mold never fitted to any other.

Our music today sings to us the qualities of such a king:

Crown him with many crowns, the lamb upon his throne.
Awake my soul, and sing of him who died for thee,
Who triumph’d oer the grave,
Who on the third day did arise and hope to sinners gave.

This is not the sort of tribute music
that earthly kings and queens have commanded.

Who came eternal life to bring,
Who lives, no more to die.
Throughout the earth his praise resounds
for he is Lord of all.

No, these words speak to our spirits,
of the transcendent reality of Christ, our king.

There is no other,like him.
No place, like his kingdom.

The king of love my shepherd is,
whose goodness fails me never;
I nothing lack if I am his,
and he is mine forever.

Where streams of living water flow
with gentle care he leads me;
and where the verdant pastures grow,
with heavnly food he feeds me.

What does it mean,to have a king?

We have to think . . . so far beyond our world of reckoning,
beyond our messy human history,
beyond the failed reigns of human kings and queens,
beyond the royal trappings of their rule
and the sometimes cruel brunt of their rulings.

We have to imagine, beyond this life, beyond this earth.

And yet at the same time,
at the very same instant,
we can perceive Christ our King
everso real in this life, on this earth,
with us here, and now,
his kingdom already present to us,
in the life of the Spirit,
in the holy reality of the Eucharist,
in what we do together, here,
in our realization of his continuing mission,
in our lives as his disciples.

Oh, yes -

We have a king,

and it means . . . everything.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

On October 11th, Mother Teri Harroun presided at our Eucharist. It was a wonderful thing to have her with us, so soon after her ordination to priesthood (which was on September 18th). She showed a warm heart, a real love for children - she initiated a "children's blessing," something we may make a very regular part of our liturgy - and she seemed very much at home in the role of priest and presider.

It kind of makes one want to pause. In thousands of Roman Catholic churches throughout the world, Teri could never do this. Attempting to do so would be a regarded as a grievous sin. Yet for us, it was the most natural and normal and right thing to do. Isn't it a curious and, yes, a very sad thing, that the churches which profess to follow Jesus could be so astoundingly divided on the participation of women alongside men?

We don't spend a lot of time in the Ecumenical Catholic Communion patting ourselves on the back for having opened all the sacraments to all God's people. We want the world to know we are open, but we are not prideful. At St. A's last week, we were much more focused on what Mother Teri had to share with us in her fine homily, and in her presence as presider, than in the fact of her gender. It was a wonderful occasion, because we were welcoming another new priest to the ministry founded by Christ. Won't it be all the more wonderful when, one day, the priest's gender wouldn't even be relevant?

Your thoughts?