Catholic Women as Priests

Yesterday, the New York Times posted a slideshow from Judith Levitt of Catholic women who are priests.

This might come as a surprise to some of you, but there is a growing resistance movement among Catholics who have been able to find loopholes in their own bi-laws and begin ordaining women:

In the last 10 years the Vatican has had to contend with a particularly indomitable group of women who seem to be unaffected by excommunication or other punishment offered by the church. The movement started when seven women were ordained by three Roman Catholic bishops aboard a ship on the Danube River in 2002. The women claimed their ordinations were valid because they conformed to the doctrine of “apostolic succession.” The group that grew out of that occasion calls itself Roman Catholic Womenpriests. There are now more than 100 ordained women priests and 11 bishops.

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Denominations and Traditions: Thoughts on Differences

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“To stand within a tradition does not limit the freedom of knowledge, but makes it possible.”

Hans Georg Gadamer

Today I spent a few hours working on my Mid-Program defense for my PhD program, I will be presenting it to my committee on May 14th. This entails laying out the key questions and motivations behind my research. It also includes what I’ve studied so far, where I am headed and how I will finish up (God help me!). It’s a good exercise but it’s rather grueling and kind of works against the way I am wired. When I was editing today I came across the word “denominations” which I had written awhile back and I instantly replaced it with the phrase “faith traditions.” Shocked by my initial response, I realized that I still have an allergy to the word.

I grew up Catholic, went to mass regularly, was baptized Catholic (as far as I know) and was confirmed as an adolescent. I did my time, literally, in parochial schools up through 8th grade and was devastated when my parents decided to stop going to mass and start taking us to some small store-front Charismatic church. I was by then pretty committed to my Catholic faith. Then I was indoctrinated in the non-denominational framework, where all denominations are evil! Boo!! And will steal your soul, because everyone in them is mindless and not really passionate about their faith, they just go because that’s where their parents went, or whatever.

I stopped believing this anti-denominational doctrine once I realized the importance of being a part of something bigger than one local congregation, and the amount of support, accountability, and richness of history involved with, well, denominations. But still, I don’t like the word. I prefer instead to talk about (faith) traditions for a couple reasons.

For one, the word denomination just has a bad rap for a lot of Americans. It sounds overly paternalistic, top-down and dated. Whereas tradition, at least to me, rings of something more alive, something that is potentially more organic and flat. Anyone can participate in a tradition. For instance, think of all those interested in aspects of the monastic tradition, who adopt this or that practice, but are not themselves wholly monastic.

A friend made a great point to me on twitter saying that denominations help to name something that would otherwise remain unnamed and unnamed things are ultimately untenable as movements. I think he was right to suggest the importance of naming something, this is a process we see happening again and again in the Bible. But still, the problem lies not in the fact of naming something, but rather that often everything can be lost but the name. Consequently, the denominational name simply becomes a placeholder for something that has become largely obsolete. Rather, tradition in the way I understand it stresses the (dis)continuity between our stories, the practices we engage in as Christians, our beliefs, and points to what texts, biblical and otherwise, are important in the formation of our communities.

Finally, denomination still signals, at least to me, a preference to structure and hierarchical authority. Here “denomination” is the opposite of “movement” or “organic.” A denomination was once a movement that has become top-heavy, bogged down by its irreplaceable and non-translatable history and text. Instead, a tradition is more like a way of perceiving our contemporary world and relating to our shared history, a way of interaction with and communication about God. It can remain fluid and translatable even when people within that tradition get caught up in denominational-isms.

This is what I like so much about the Quaker Everett Cattell who worked within the denominational structures of the Friends church, he was both a college president and a superintendent, but suggested that the heart of the tradition was not found in those structures but in the community’s organic relationship to God’s mission and fellowship with one another in the Spirit, both of which he felt would actually undercut our structures and challenge them to be re-thought according to our contemporary needs. My reading of Cattell is that he believed the only way to truly be a Quaker was to betray the structures in favor of obedience to God’s call to be for the world, and in doing so, we might in fact be truly Friends.

Following Cattell, I have very little interest in Quakerism, in as much as it is an ism. These things that are the “way we’ve always done them” can actually becomes obstacles to our believing in the power of God’s Spirit. The denominational nitty gritty, when it is left to its own devices and not rooted within the life of the tradition, only sustains structures often reinforcing the church’s role as a placeholder for our belief rather than a bottom-up community of people following God’s mission in the world. I want to be a part of a community that not only tells but also lives into the stories of those we call Quaker.

Thanks, Rose Bowl Parade, For The Trash!

More Trash

As most of you know yesterday was a big day here in Pasadena because of the annual Rose Bowl Parade. People started camping out on Colorado Blvd. 12pm the day before the parade. And while I won’t fault anyone for wanting to see an army of Storm Troopers and some incredible floats there is another reason to be bothered by the impact the parade has on the city. The amount of trash sprawled throughout the city streets not only looked like the aftermath of a riot but showed a lack of decency from our fellow American neighbors.

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First Glance at Radiohead's In Rainbow

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I was in the middle of reading some websites when I got the email notification at 10:50pm tonight that Radiohead‘s new album “In Rainbows” was ready for download. I almost jumped out of my skin trying to switch over to mail and hit the special “UNIQUE DOWNLOAD ACTIVATION CODE” link embedded in the mass email. It instantly starting downloading the new album to my desktop as promised. The file is 48.4 mb ten tracks and all are DRM free MP3’s.

It is rare that I get this excited about something, and this is the second time this week for me!I am now on track 3 “15 step” and while it will be awhile before I can give any kind of calmed down reflection of the album, this album is no joke [see edited note below, I listened in the wrong order]. It’s a change of pace from Hail to the Thief, a little less electronic, has some beautiful orchestration, piano and acoustic guitars, yet it contains the same old driving OK Computer-esque rock I love in a Radiohead song (and was almost absent in Amnesiac). So far the first song “Faust Arp” and “Jigsaw Falling in Place” are the ones I like the most. The production sounds incredible, just as good or better than most stuff we hear from coming out of major record labels. It seems like this move on Radiohead’s part (not having a label or distribution) may give rise to some serious questioning from a music industry point of view, especially if they can put something like this out on such a large scale successfully.I think It was well worth the £6 I paid for the pre-order last week for it (thanks to Cate’s early headsup). Check it out here.

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London, the Olympics and Getting Rid of the Poor

I read this article today in the Guardian and thought it was worth pointing out. The article, “London is getting into the Olympic spirit – by kicking out the Gypsies” by George Monbiot argues that the Olympics, often thought of being a way to boost the economy for the poor, is in fact very hard on the poor in the city, many times leaving them without any housing at all. Continue reading London, the Olympics and Getting Rid of the Poor

Some Problems with Online Christian Communities | And Why You Should Stay Away

Screenshot Online communities continue to grow Myspace, Virb, Facebook, delicious, flickr, twitter, digg, 30boxes, box.net, etc, etc, all offer a way for people to share and stay in touch. I personally like the attention web 2.0 companies have paid to making the web more interactive in this way. I use many of the services above, and have found that they add to my life in various ways simply helping me to easily connect with other people. Continue reading Some Problems with Online Christian Communities | And Why You Should Stay Away

Elvis Perkins @ the Echo: Already Looks Like A Classic

This past Friday night I went to see Elvis Perkins with Emily, Cate and Bob. Recently, I found out about Perkins through Paste Magazine. Their review concluded with a statement that grabbed my attention. They said though this guy hasn’t been around long, and it may be too early to tell, the album feels like a classic. Hisdebut album “Ash Wednesday” has only been out a couple weeks and he’s making quite a stir with it.

I purchased the album directly after reading the review from Paste and I think they may have even understated just how good this guy really is. I’ve been hitting play and repeat on my ipod for the couple weeks as if I were trying to overdose on his music. And it just keeps getting better.

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