On Heavy Burdens

Thinking ahead to this Sunday, 31st in Ordinary Time ( Scripture readings are here ) the gospel is about the scribes and the pharisees laying heavy burdens on people and doing nothing to move them.

Gospel Matthew 12 -1-23

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying,
"The scribes and the Pharisees
have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,
but do not follow their example. 

For they preach but they do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry
and lay them on people's shoulders,
but they will not lift a finger to move them. 

All their works are performed to be seen. 

They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
They love places of honour at banquets, seats of honour in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation 'Rabbi.'

As for you, do not be called 'Rabbi.'
You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. 

Call no one on earth your father;
you have but one Father in heaven.

Do not be called 'Master';
you have but one master, the Christ. 

The greatest among you must be your servant.

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted."

A Few Thoughts.................

"Don't be afraid to suffer, give the heaviness back to the weight of the earth; mountains are heavy, seas are heavy." 

Rainer Marie Rilke writing to a friend grieving the death of a loved one.

 O you lovers that are so gentle, step occasionally
into the breath of the sufferers not meant for you,
let it be parted by your cheeks,

it will tremble, joined again, behind you.

You have been chosen, you are sound and whole,
you are like the very first beat of the heart,
you are the bow that shoots the arrows, and also their target
in tears your smile would glow forever.

Do not be afraid to suffer, give
the heaviness back to the weight of the earth;
mountains are heavy, seas are heavy.

Even those trees you planted as children
became too heavy long ago - you couldn't carry them now.
But you can carry the winds...and the open spaces...

Rainer Maria Rilke 

As I am getting older I realise that sometimes there are plenty of burdens impossible for me and others to carry on our own - there is no human leverage inside us that is capable of raising up the heavy weights that life and memory accumulates.

So like the poem says,  I pray that life may give me and others the right mix of burden and optimism that can release us into open spaces and it is there that we can trust in the lightness of God's hope to lift us up and also enable us to move the weights we are capable of.

The Place Where We Are Right

by Yehuda Amichai

From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.

The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.

But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood. 

From The Tablet 2009 rest of article here on Clericalism's Malign Influence.

involving a speech given by Fr. Timothy Radcliffe.

"Clericalism put priests on pedestals where they were untouchable
(and bishops even more so), from which great height they
proceeded to load the people with burdens they could not bear –
often to do with sexual morality.

“Unlike the Pharisees,” he said, “the yoke of Jesus is light.

When we think about our beloved Church in recent centuries, we do
seem to have been more like Pharisees, laying heavy burdens
on the shoulders of the people. 
Often this has been associated with sexual behaviour. We have told families with large numbers of children that no contraception is permitted, and young
people who cannot afford to get married that their sexual behaviour
must be strictly controlled, and gay people that nothing is permitted – and that they should be ashamed of their sexuality.

Regardless of the rights or wrongs of church teaching,
this has been experienced by our people as a heavy burden.”

He added: “You can imagine the anger of a woman who has
had child after child and can cope no more, or a young gay person,
when they hear what even a few priests have been up to.”

The message of his address, is that the crisis must be seen as a moment
of fundamental change.

The clerical culture that emerged from the reforms of the Council of Trent, he said, stressed rank and power. “This terrible crisis of sexual abuse is deeply linked to
the way that power can corrupt human relationships.” God will use the crisis by “demolishing our high towers and our clerical pretensions to glory and grandeur so that the Church may be a place in which we may encounter God and each other
more intimately”.

Fr Timothy Radcliffe’s incisive analysis, while undoubtedly spot on, leaves one disturbing issue unexplored.

This Church where power still “corrupts personal relationships” was supposed to have been reformed root and branch by the Second Vatican Council nearly 50 years ago. 

The challenge now is to ascertain what went wrong."

This is the full text of the address Crumbling Church, Rudderless Leadership 
a keynote address given by Fr Kevin Hegarty on 4 October 2011 in Dublin at the first Annual General meeting of Ireland's Association of Catholic Priests. I am in complete empathy with him and so many other innocent priests who must be so frustrated at the present situation.

 These are his closing remarks :

"As the theologian Edward Schillebeecx has written:
"I do not begrudge any believer the right to describe and live out his belief in accordance with the old models of experience, culture and ideas, but this attitude isolates the Church from any future and divests itself of any real missionary power."

Such a Church would open its doors to married priests and women priests. It would benefit from secular insights like, for example, on human intimacy and democracy. It would work at developing a healthy and an holistic theology of sexuality.

Unfortunately this is not happening. The glad, confident morning of the Second Vatican Council was a short one. In the aftermath hope was choked by the Vatican curia. For over 30 years the Church has recoiled from reform and returned to the incense-filled ghettos in defence of its traditional hierarchical structure. Its procedures are archaic and cumbersome and precious, utterly out of sync with the ways of the democratic world. It is suspicious of lay involvement. Only those who are seen to conform to its narrow views are admitted to the temple. 

So bishops are chosen on the basis of being in favour of compulsory celibacy, adherence to clerical dress, docility to papal teaching and above all against contraception and the ordination of women. Loyalty is defined in old narrow terms. And it is so fearful of the feminine. Misogyny is dressed up in theological abstractions.

So there you have it. I started with Matthew Arnold. I will finish with him. 

He once wrote of wandering between two worlds - one dead, the other powerless to be born. That is how it has been for me as a priest of the Catholic Church.

So I travel in hope, though I have not much hope. Given our fruitless pursuit of the Sam Maguire, maybe that is the peculiar fate of the Mayo man. Cardinal Gibbons was a Mayo man who rose to be a liberal Cardinal in the nineteenth and early twentieth century USA. 

Of him it was written that he kept the door open to the future.

Perhaps that should be the central imperative of the Association of Catholic Priests. Who knows where it might lead. 

As Leonard Cohen sings: "there is a crack in everything; that is how the light gets in."

reflecting on Irish Catholicism, 6 October 2011, from The Tablet.
And another article here

Then I read these comments linked to this article by Fr Dylan James in Faith magazine 
on sex and love in Catholic marriage which drew criticism from many of the laity.

Below are two comments on the article...

"I was astounded by the report, "Theologian questions link between sex and love" (The Tablet, 15 October). I have since looked up the full article by Fr Dylan James in Faith magazine and my astonishment turned to anger. How can such a perverted view of the loving human relationship between a husband and wife be propounded and that precious relationship be reduced to a matter of clinical coldness?

That this view is held by a serving parish priest is bad enough; that he lectures on moral theology in an English seminary borders on the irresponsible. If this is the level of discourse on sexuality being offered to seminarians, then we should be seriously concerned for the future ministry of these men.

If ever a case has been made for a married clergy, then this is it. Can these views really be a reflection of the love of Christ for his Church and our expression of love for each other? I sincerely hope not."

Chris McDonnell, Staffordshire 

This from a couple married for 52 years :
Maurice and Margaret Magee, Paignton, Devon

"We too take issue with Fr Dylan James on the nature of the sexual relationship in marriage. The sacrament of marriage is by its very nature a sexual relationship, and that continues throughout the whole of their married life. The decision to have children is not something to be taken lightly. The decision and the responsibility belongs to the couple. 

In our 52 years of marriage as husband and wife our sexual love-making has always been an attempt to be "gift" of one to the other.

It always carries the desire of two distinct individuals to make love through their intercourse and become "one flesh". It may or may not carry with it the desire of either or both of them at that time, to conceive. The family is not the sacramental relationship!

How good it would be if we could occasionally hear our priests at our Sunday Mass preaching on the vocation of marriage and permitting, in the spirit of collaboration of course, older married couples to speak, as only they can, to young couples about the value of making good and proper preparation for this truly vital of relationships."

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