Thursday, August 27, 2009

Facebook Conversation

The comments on our Choir's Facebook Page took an unexpected turn yesterday, when a jovial-faced cleric commented that his Church would welcome us to Phoenix. He signed it (as you can see in the image) +Archbishop Michael Hillis. One of the sisters (from Phoenix, as it happens) didn't recognize the name. A Google search revealed that he was a "Bishop Emeritus" of the "Reformed Catholic Church," about which I have written before. It is a new splinter-church with mostly valid Orders (except for the women they lay hands on...).
I quickly posted a comment, which I then deleted (an hour or two later), responding first that we are a Boston-based group (the bishop seemed to think we were from another country), and then adding, in parentheses: " 'Reformed Catholic Church'? How heartbreaking."
That got the archbishop's attention, and he posted the second comment, which you can see and read below (or by clicking on the image). That was last night. I've been praying for Michael Hillis ever since. Offered my Mass and Communion for him, too.
Today we got one of his community members. You can see where she is coming from.

What the "Reformed" Catholics want us to believe is that theirs is just another perfectly valid expression of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Oh, you're "Roman"? How fine. And she's "Anglican," but we're all just as Catholic as the next. "Catholic is Catholic," as Hillis claimed. But the Anglicans already know from their own painful history that it's not as easy as just adding an adjective to the word "Catholic." Without that actual communion with the Pope of Rome, where is the center of unity? Where is the guarantee that the next bishop, the next generation, will "keep faith" with them? That the next diocese over (the "Reformed" group already has several dioceses and recently expanded, God help us, to Ireland) will "keep faith" with whatever their self-definition is at the present moment? Without a universal, visible center of unity, who gets to decide on that self-definition, anyway (since, without a universal, divinely established teaching authority, it can only be a self-definition)? (Sr Helena commented that I get really worked up over these issues... I think it is because this is so patently illogical that it is unanswerable!)

I feel very uneasy at the way I responded from the first as administrator of the choir's page. Mainly, I wanted to alert the other 2,400 "fans" that not every man in a clerical collar on Facebook is a Catholic priest in communion with the Pope, and not every bishop on Facebook is a Catholic bishop in full communion with the Pope. (In fact, my experience is that only 2% of the bishops on Facebook are Catholic bishops.) The way social networks operate and evolve, does this tiny set of posts and comments matter? Was it a mistake for me to tip Hillis off that his claim ("Archbishop of Phoenix") was not exactly...licit?

13 comments:

harv681 said...

It needed to be said. I would have assumed the "Roman collar" meant Roman Catholic bishop. I have never even heard of the Reformed Catholic Church. Who said it needed reforming, anyway? Oh right, I forgot the women as sex objects line. I guess she hasn't heard of Theology of the Body.

JohnRDC said...

Sister, your technosavvy is way ahead of mine. I have no idea what goes on on the web. However, if you do not mention on your (facebook?) site that your order is in full communion with Rome, perhaps it should, if only to ward off the nutcases.

I don't think the "many houses" argument has any scriptural support, and I personally get tired of it. Tell that to Padre Pio.

Deacon Dale said...

Just to point out that it is not just RC priests who were 'collars' on Facebook, us RC Permanent Deacons often wear them too!

Anonymous said...

Sister, I thought you handled it well. I was especially happy to see that you referred to the Church of Christ, which is the correct formal name for what most see as the Roman Catholic Church. A problem many Americans have with both the Church, and eventually, the Kingdom of Heaven, is that Heaven is not a democracy. Positions are not elected, rules are not amended to suit our purposes. Our leader is a King and we are His subjects. That is a hard concept for some to swallow, but eventually they will find out one way or another. I myself am only just beginning to grasp this. Obedience is not always easy.

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

Sister, I think you were right to do so because it is easy to read without reading between the lines. As the page administrator, if you know what is between or beyond the lines, I think you have a right (and possibly a responsibility) to point that out to the rest of us.

Adoro said...

Oh, I read the comments...they ARE heartbreaking! I loved your response, though.

I'm also very saddened by that woman's very warped view of how the Church sees women. I have never felt like a "sex object" in the Church, and for someone to see it that way, well, they've obviously never had a chance to learn about the true feminism that is woven through both Judaism and Catholicism, where women are clearly held up to a great standard!

Annoyed said...

That man was right to point out that God does not live under one church roof.You could have accepted his olive branch and sang at his church.Jesus didn't avoid the Samaritan at the well, so why are you?"The center of unity" can and does exist without communion with a blasphemer in a silly hat.

I have never heard of a Reformed Catholic Church, but as an Irish person, I feel that you do not have the right to decide what churches are and aren't right for my country.Let's remember the damage inflicted on my country by your church: the Minister Noel Browne who lost his job because he offended your church by wanting to start free healthcare for mothers and children (our healthcare remains dreadful as a result).Your church thought it would introduce contraceptives and interfered in the government. Then there are the magdalene laundries, the hiding of the sex abuse and the Desmond O' Connell who had to be forced to apologize to victims and whom refused to hand over info about the abusers to the police. Under the iron grip of the RCC, women had little rights; until the early 1980's all married women had to leave the workplace, jobs for women were limited and all women until the late 1980's were considered to be property of their husbands- so keep your thoughts about what you feel is and isn't acceptable for my country to yourself.We Irish can decide that for ourselves and its not for an outsider to comment on for us, especially a catholic outsider.

Lucy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Annoyed said...

That man was right to point out that God does not live under one church roof.You could have accepted his olive branch and sang at his church.Jesus didn't avoid the Samaritan at the well, so why are you?"The center of unity" can and does exist without communion with a blasphemer in a silly hat.

I have never heard of a Reformed Catholic Church, but as an Irish person, I feel that you do not have the right to decide what churches are and aren't right for my country.Let's remember the damage inflicted on my country by your church: the Minister Noel Browne who lost his job because he offended your church by wanting to start free healthcare for mothers and children (our healthcare remains dreadful as a result).Your church thought it would introduce contraceptives and so interfered in the government, thus ruining all chances of a decent healthcare for, not just for rich dubliners. Then there are the magdalene laundries, the hiding of the sex abuse and the Desmond O' Connell who had to be forced to apologize to victims and whom refused to hand over info about the abusers to the police. Under the iron grip of the RCC, women had little rights; until the early 1980's all married women had to leave the workplace, jobs for women were limited and all women until the late 1980's were considered to be property of their husbands- so keep your thoughts about what you feel is and isn't acceptable for my country to yourself.The RCC has done enough damage.We Irish can decide that for ourselves and its not for an outsider to comment on for us, especially a catholic outsider.

Sr Anne said...

Let me begin as the Archbishop did: "Now, Now, Annoyed...'blasphemer in a silly hat' is not a very nice thing to say about the head of a Church you don't belong to. We Catholics can very well decide for ourselves what sort of hat is appropriate."

Not much of an olive branch, is it?

The litany of past failures on the part of some of the Irish hierarchy in times past is heartbreaking (and, as our "blasphemer in a silly hat" commented in the US last April, "shameful"). But when these failures are taken the whole picture of Irish Catholicism, truth is also sacrificed. What is really gained then?

At any rate, if you are free to criticize the visible head of my Church on such superficial grounds as ceremonial headgear, why am I not free to express an opinion in my blog about what I consider to be dubious missionary activity (no matter where it takes place)?

Sr Anne said...

Anonymous, after my flippant answer was posted, it crossed my mind (better late than never) that some of the bitterness your comment reveals may be from your own suffering. Perhaps you list the many issues related to women because you have experienced them personally.
If that is true, I am very, very sorry that you have been harmed or hurt in some profound way as a result of misguided policies, lack of sound judgment and human betrayals of the Gospel on the part of enough leaders and over a long enough period of time that some of these became institutionalized. Even if the situations have been acknowledged and steps have been taken to remedy them, that won't go far enough to heal the bitterness that remains in the hearts of those who suffered. Not even destroying the whole Catholic Church will be enough for that kind of healing.
I have no way of knowing what is in your heart, and I don't want to provoke more anger or frustration, but I do hope (and, yes, I do pray) that you will find healing and inner peace.

. said...

To your two replies I am not sure what to say.I am at odds how to explain the pain I feel.

A close relative was badly abused by a respected catholic & when the abuser was jailed the whole village turned on us.5 yrs later and people still snub us and walk away from us.The other victims who are catholic say that they do not get this. The local priest pretended the issue never happened.And then at the same time, the RCC scandals broke.

Its not a comfortable place to be a Christian sandwiched between the protestants and catholics with a history such as Ireland's, which is why your comment on reformed catholics in Ireland irked me.

I'm not interested in destroying the RCC or in converting catholics, but I am happy that the church run state is gone.Even my catholic friends wanted that.Who wants to come from a country that locked rape victims in laundries for life, while letting the rapists free?

I thank you heartily for your understanding, but you need not apologize.It wasn't you who caused the harm.I am searching for peace and I found it.Of course scars don't heal overnight.It was actually through a search on veils (1 Cor 11) that I had found your blog.You had a post about nuns and their veils that I came across, I enjoyed it and so read further until I was horrified to see your rebuffal of the reformed catholic priest.I got a lot of that kind of treatment and it stung.Maybe now you can see why I was so sharp with you?

Anonymous said...

dearest sister,

not even sure how I ended up here , but your comments made me visit the "reformed catholic church" website. How odd that no one has yet mentioned that they formed to invite everyone in that you all won't! Homosexuals, for instance. (And, they accept them as they are; none of that "love the sinner, hate the sin" nonsense). How refreshing. Peronally I am a lapsed Catholic (I trace my roots on that one to the Monsignor who told me I was a "heretic" in CCD when I was 11. I believe my sin was thinking for myself; lucky for me they stopped all that burning a few years prior) and I find the Reformed CC a natural progression. And my thought is: there is only one God, and so many ways to worhship. My dad, for instance, is a Benedictine monk (don't think too far into that one; it was all very legal), whereas I couldn't get out fast enough. (Women are "sex objects" so much as objects, period. Hard to forget whichever pope it was that "reminded" us that women can't be priests because they aren't created "in the image of Christ"; ie, they don't have penises. Silliest thing I have ever heard.) Anway, I clearly found very little to keep me tethered to such a narrow view of the world, and have found my own very real and meaningful ways to give thanks and praise. I recommend, in the spirit of Christ, that you open your heart and your world views. Your judgments seem to be in direct contradiction to anything about Christ I ever learned.