Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Some More Poetry I Wrote

Tell Me Something About Myself

If you dare to look, then, take a peek.
I know its dark and clouded.
What can you say without mistake?

When you say the things you speak,
Make them clear, not shrouded.
Don't hold back for my sake.

Tell me something... something bleak.
I know the space is crowded.
Pile me up like leaves to a rake.

Tell me something all too weak.
Something altogether confounded.
Just be sure its fake.


Words come cheap,
And speeches come cheaper.
But, when they make you weep,
They mean something deeper.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Psychoanalytic Critique of Cults in the Catholic Church: Part IV

Mexico. I never understood this move as a "community" initiative, it was more of a family decision. In fact, the entire web of relations we had there seemed somewhat different and removed from Bread of Life. Ohio and the community over there was only referred to distantly and, for me, it had always been distant to a certain degree. But I wished it wasn't. As far as daily life went, nothing changed significantly from the previous ways of living according to the norms of the "Cultural Approach." In fact, things got a bit more rigorous. Living in daily proximity to the others set a frequent list of engagements and meetings. The most frequent one was 6:30 am daily Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan. After Mass, everyone would go through their routine prayers which involved certain postures of standing sitting and kneeling. I never knew them exactly, but I tried to mimic them as best I could. In Mexico we were meeting with the local charismatic community, Palabra de Dios, and seemed to be poised to integrate our movement with their social network. Their big meetings were different. The people were very secular looking. The men wore jeans and cowboy boots and the women wore make-up. I couldn't help but notice that these women were astoundingly attractive. Especially the one that played the tambourine and smelled like roses. One of the men there had an "Ovation" guitar and I was sure that it must be the nicest guitar I'd ever seen. These people provided us with a house in a quaint Mexican neighborhood. They helped us get settled and came over frequently for meetings and gatherings. There were some men working on the house next door and they seemed very amused by my still-developing Spanish. My sister and I went to the school where one of the women from the Mexican community taught, and we sat-in to listen to classes. I loved learning Spanish and meeting all these new people. Sometimes I worried about my sister. Mr. Herman had a house in Pharr, Texas where we would have important meetings, none more important than a visit from the Bishop of the Mexican Diocese of Matamoros. It went well, I was told. My dad was very important in all of this--crucially important. His fluency in the language and culture made me soon realize that he was being underappreciated by Mr. Herman. When the Hermans moved to a house in Mexico where we would have morning meetings with pan dulce and hard boiled eggs, I started to sense a beginning tension between my Dad and Mr. Herman. With those first intuitions I left my idolatry of Mr. Herman behind and began to see him a stifling disciplinarian. But there were really fun people too. Keith was one of the single guys who always got into trouble for things and he became my new idol. But, with time, we became very distant from the "community" way of doing thing. At the same time, we still lived according to most of the basic norms of community life. Many of them were being integrated with the new movement for family renewal that was starting at all these meetings. When Grandpa Rocha got sick, I remember hearing that Mr. Herman recommended that my Dad send him to a home or something. When we moved in with them I left the community behind. I no longer had any desire to be in it, not even remotely. My Grandpa was the most fascinating person I had ever met. He had taught me math when I was doing my make-up lessons during second grade and now he helped me with my times tables. He could tell me stories of growing up on the rancho all day long. My dream went from being a community coordinator to being a vaquero like my Grandpa. Grandpa never quite understood the life-style we adopted from the community and, when he started feeling better after his knee surgery, he started speaking up about it. Especially about the food. I agreed with him. I began to resent the community and the movement, especially Mr. Herman and his peons like Ms. Murphy. When Mr. Herman's son would get into trouble and I'd hear about it, I would smile. I was still devoted to my Dad's work though. We would go to Weslaco on Thursdays and help Fr. O'Malley give the Life in the Spirit Seminar there. I was the photographer. Eventually I became the music minister. The best part was going to Wendy's afterward. When we went back to Mexico, I took some joy in the movement but for my own reasons. When I was told that I would not be allowed to play music because I was called for the drama team, I was convinced that these people were nuts. I started to outright hate them. My memory began to transform my one-time allegiance to them in Ohio into painful memories of spankings, rules, and a cold relationship to my family--especially my parents. We had a "formula" for everything given to us by order of Mr. Herman and the inner circle, Servants of the Cross. I began to find it all so formalized and stale. When we visited our relatives in Colorado, we were told that they lived shallow lives aimed at pleasure and entertainment, which were empty. What I found to be amazing was how they treated each other, it was so warm and so natural and fun! I wanted that. I wanted the world. Even if it was bad; I wanted it anyway. I didn't care if it was "for the Lord" or not. And that made me feel sneeky, guilty and free all at once.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Lenten Reflection on Love & Fasting

For those of you who, like me, have been surprised by the proximity of Ash Wednesday, here are some thoughts of mine on the season. For those of you wo0ndering when I will finish my series on Cults, this is an afterword of sorts to the still-incomplete series.

In my recent meditations of the meaning of Love, I am offered a fresh and better way to focus on fasting than I am used to. I would like to share some of those thoughts with you.

Sure, I have read and heard a lot about love, but the idea that love cannot be reduced to its components (the classic divide between agape and eros) and is, perhaps, most properly understood as both things at once makes sense to me in a very synthetic, universal and new way. What I mean to say is that the enlightening relationship of agape and eros is something I must ponder and contemplate more and more to begin to comprehend—with heart and mind—the meaning of Love.

Too many times I suffer from reductionism, thinking that goodness, truth, or even God can be reduced into a concentrate that is exclusive, homogenous, and comfortable. I am reminded of the need to be who I am: an image of Love—imagus Dei. I am further reminded that as much as I may look to my self-constructed images of who God is and who I am, I must only to look to Love in order to simultaneously see who He truly is and who I truly am.

One way the Judeo-Christian tradition gives us to accomplish this mysterious end is through fasting. Yet, too many times I reduce fasting much like I can tend to reduce God and love. To not eat seems to serve the purpose of denying myself to become more soulful and less bodily. Francis of Assisi admitted a similar reductionism; before he died he offered his “Brother Body” a heartfelt apology for having ignored and mistreated him.

Like the mutual enlightenment of eros and agape is crucial to understand what love is, so too my body and soul must enlighten each other to gain understanding of who I am. In other words, when I fast it cannot not be a deprivation of my body for the sake of my soul or the simple converse, instead, it should lead to an enlightenment of both realities of human existence in the Light of Christ that “enlightens all men.”

The Light of Christ certainly does not enlighten the spiritual souls or physical bodies of humanity exclusively, it does not pick or choose one or the other; this Light enlightens the person as person holistically—body and soul. So, I ask myself, how can I fast in a way that enlightens my body and my soul? How can real hunger and pain—real sacrifice and suffering—bring Light to my body when my stomach hurts? Moreover, how could the beating, tearing, and puncturing of the Flesh of Christ pierced on the Cross bring glory to His Body?

I am challenged to reframe the purpose of fasting. I had become accustomed to think that I should want to neglect my bodily hunger and desire (eros) for food so that I could eventually push my erotic sense of physical vitality aside and become more spiritually alive—more soulfully vital. It seemed like: less food for my body, more holiness for my soul. But, too often it can become less food for my body and more fuel for my ego to perceive my own will-driven holiness.

If Love is more than its parts and if we are more than a duality of body and soul, flesh and spirit, then, the vitality and love I seek for my spirit should not be at the expense of my body’s desire (eros). This redefines fasting! To not eat is not to push my body aside; it is an embrace of a higher and deeper—holier—sense of spiritual and physical vitality.

No wonder Christ says in Mathew: “When you fast, anoint your head and wash your face.” Surely Jesus wasn’t asking me to be unauthentic or dishonest; this teaching tells me to be look happy in suffering and pain because I am happy and nonetheless hungry or suffering. To put it another way, we are called to “rejoice in the Lord always.” And this joy is real. When we unite ourselves to the cross we find ourselves more alive and more vital, not the other way around.

This discipline frees us to rejoice and to love without restraint and without regard for ones’ self. This is fitting since the New Commandment was to “love one another, even as I have loved you...” And in this love we are known to be disciples. This is the sign of the true disciple: Love. And this love is not of our own making or design; it is grace, the primordial gift of perfect Love.

This love is the parental affection of the Father and the mad eros of the Son who died, rose, and gave us the ever-present gift of the Holy Spirit. So too, like love and the Trinitarian God, fasting cannot be purely soulful at the expense of the body—I must resist reductionisms and oversimplifications. In looking at “Him who they have pierced” I am called anew to fast and suffer to experience a deeper vitality—a holier vita (life). This helps reframe my approach to fasting, but most of all it helps me love. I hope that it brings Love to your mind, heart, intellect, will, body and soul in some way too.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Buying a Degree

I never read spam but this was just too creepy not to read:
To buy a degree is quite easy these days. Nevertheless most students just sit around in their usually boring local University classes, wasting money. Why would you do that? These days buying a degree is a matter of personal motivation. But why should you buy a degree? The main reason is the fact that buying a degree on1ine is going to save you time, a lot of time. Usually you have to verify your life experience and you instantly qualify. Even though that is not the main cause why people are buying life experience degree.

The actual reason why people buy a life experience degree is because they can not go to a institution in their surrounding area that offers the diploma program they are heading for: For example, if you live near a College which only offers renowned marketing degree, then this doesn't help you a bit if you're looking for a marketing degree. To attend classes you might have to travel long distances. Then it might be that the degree that you want is only offered by a institution which costs a fortune. So you have to leave your place, look for accommodation in the University's place and do all the other stuff involved costing you tons of cheeze.

If you buy a degree by verifying your life experience or work experience, you can find the right degree for you without ever having to leave your workplace and instead get all the documents like the diploma certificate with the University's legal verification and official seal certifying the degree chosen, the transcript, a cover letter, copies of the College's or University's official certificate of accreditation, the institutions postal prospectus approval and a few important things more.

Having a University degree is very important these days, and as always in life you should only stick with something you want.

Beware choosing to be something just because it was the only good degree your local institution offered. After all, you are only going to be good at your job if you like to do it. Thus, you have to get a degree that means something to
you. This used to be a task that could take you years.

Buying a degree is nothing harmful. It's a win-win situation for the Colleges involved as well as for you, getting the degree you dreamed of.Give us a call if you are interested to buy a degree from an University!
This speaks volumes about the state of (mis)education in our world today. Sad.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Story of Occor the Monster

Once upon a time, in a land far away, there lived a monster named Occor. Occor was the nicest and prettiest thing to be found in the entire forest. Everyday he would weave through the trees greeting whatever animals he met. Often, creatures of all kinds would come out to say hello as they heard him approaching. You see, as he would make his way through the forest, songbirds would strike a pleasant tune and Occor would hum a simple melody. This soft, harmonious greeting would often end disagreements and bickering and is even said to have opened hearts to true love. For this reason, Occor never had to work to find food or drink; he just wandered and found everything he needed as he went. As the seasons changed, Occor met different friends who were always happy to share what they had with him. As they saw it, it was worth the joy he brought with him. After all, Occor was the nicest and prettiest thing to be found in the entire forest.

One day a frog told Occor that beneath the water of ponds and lakes, and sometime even streams, there were other kinds of things that he might want to meet too. These fish-things could be quite nice to watch and to play with. Occor decided that he must meet these fish so, naturally, he waded into the first pond he came to. When he put his monster eyes into the water and looked for fish all he could see were water-grasses and rocks. No fish. He tried again and again until he was very tired. So, he walked back to the shore and began to walk into the woods when he noticed something strange. Silence. There were no birds singing. When he saw a squirrel on a nearby tree, it threw a branch at him instead of the usual "hello" and offering of something to eat. Things went on like this for the rest of the day. By nighttime Occur was tired and hungry and cold – and wet. For the first time, Occur was sad. He cried and wondered what this thing to be sad was. The raindrops coming out of his eyes mystified him. He wondered why things had changed. Then, he realized that until he went into the pond things were the same. So, he went back to the pond to try and find the past. But it wasn’t there.

As the moonless night hid his despair, Occur stood on the bank of the pond, paralyzed by fear. It was like his lungs had shrunken and his mind weighed a thousand tons. He had never been afraid before and, like his tears, his fear mystified him. When he tried to speak, nothing came out but sterile huffs of breath. Even his vision seemed different, the darkness haunted his feeble sight and the stillness became lonely and void.

Slowly, Occur began to gain mobility in his limbs and mind and he decided to sit down. When he sat, the waxy blades of grass that poked his seat reminded him of something: the past. Yet, still, he could not find it. It was not there as anything but a distant and cold memory. "It must be gone forever", he muttered. So, he decided to get up and venture into the woods to see what they had in store.

The sun was rising. As rays of light began to pierce the canopy of branches and leaves, Occur's sadness and fear became something different. He was free. He needed no one. He would no longer hold on to that distant past of others and their feeble offerings. He would make his own way in the world. Never again would he seek out new things. Never again would he be betrayed. "From now on, I will be a monster", he said proudly.

Monday, February 16, 2009

More from VN: Deem on Chaput on the Pitfalls of Partisanship

Mr. Deem, who goes by Policratus, has posted an interesting piece from Archbishop Chaput on the dangers of entrusting issues of moral import to a particular political party of choice. Here is my own quick and dirty summary:

If you want to fight poverty, then, don't expect the Democrats to feed the hungry and if you want to advance life, then, don't put your trust in the Republicans to love every human person unconditionally. Both of them are deeply invested in these things, and more, not getting done. It is the tragic, sick cycle they feed on.

I do, however, have my reservations about Chaput's argument. His analogy between rape and abuse and the Civil Rights Act seems to be very similar to the kind of bickering that transpires between the trenches of political aisle warfare. And its a bad analogy because it does not exclude broader reform from happening in an ongoing way--very similar to the theological idea of conversion as a way of life. All in all, I like that he has the insight to step away from polemics but I dislike his inability to see his own polar attitude on these things.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Psychoanalytic Critique of Cults in the Catholic Church: Part III

"Who is this king of glory? The LORD of hosts is the king of glory." (Psalm 24:10)
"For the Lord" meant to be against the world and its list of dysfunctions. These worldly things became more and more numerous as time went on. I knew that there were some cases where we didn't observe all the worldly things as problematic, but I wished we did. The more radical a life "for the Lord" was, the more things it had rejected. I wished that Mom and Dad would take away our bed mattresses so we could be like the really radical members and sleep on a wooden plank of a bed. I always envied the people who lived in Akron and wished we could move there to do all the things during the week I heard about from the other kids. The kids had a private and secret sect of conduct and, even though I didn't really approve of it, it was fascinating. The older boys would send down the line stories and tales of bad things they had done and when no one was around they would shock us younger ones with their antics. Most of these antics were using bad words and spitting, but sometimes they talked about girls too. That made me feel really uncomfortable. The world became clearer to me as I grew. I began to see the difference between an "ordinary" person or Catholic and the truly dangerous ones. I suspected people who were not charismatic and especially those who dressed suspiciously. I was not shy. I would boldly correct someone from the world. I was confused when my Mom told me to not tell the goat lady that using the Lord's name in vain was a sin. I was getting better at guitar. Even Dad was noticing this. I could strum better than him already. He always played things in that other way the Spanish songs went. Living "for the Lord" meant that we had to be different and at school this was hard. I never made that many friends; but it didn't make me sad. I understood why and I liked it that way. I never felt like a victim. As I grew in prayer I learned the zenith of approval could be found in public worship. Especially if, during the time of prophesy or spontaneous singing, I could think of something poetic or deep to say. I made the adults so proud when I did this. And I knew it must be "for the Lord". This affirmation led me to believe that "the Lord" could be found in the approval of community. In a certain way, I secretly wanted to be even more radical than my parents were. Sometimes I wondered if we were being radical enough. I burned with passion for these things. Now, I was in trouble plenty and got into my own share of mischief, but there was no doubt in anyone's mind that I was fully committed to "the Lord". I had a personal relationship with Him. I did my daily prayer in mimicry of the adults. But when I read the Bible, I read it in earnest. I poured over it seriously and intensely. I loved to read. I loved to read big book, adult books. Sometimes I would peruse my Dad's collection of books and read the back of the cover. I learned how to read the descriptions and the table of contents and pretty much get a good gist of what the whole book was about. I learned about how important defending the faith and the tenets of the Charismatic Renewal (like praying in tongues) was and how important countercultural ways of living were too. I always clustered these authors together with my Bible reading and the things from the community. Mr. Herman and others went to Honduras and I slowly forgot about him for the most part. But by now my parents were deeply involved in the community and other subgroups like Couples for Christ. For me, it was all part of the same thing. We were to go to visit Grandma and Grandpa for a while during the second semester of my second grade year and we would be doing something with Mr. Hermann there. Little did I know that we would go to Mexico City in a train and decide to move to Mexico by the next school year.

So far I have rambled between the late 80's and early 90's. What strikes me most about thinking about this as it happened it how very pleasant it was to me then. Also, I am struck with how many skills I use today (in my musical and academic work) were begun at that time. My greatest regret, however, is that my "Lord" was not God. My God was not infinite or limitless or mysterious. He was so understood and codified that I never looked twice at one of my favorite Psalms: Psalm 24. I never really wondered who "the Lord" was. Skepticism or questioning were clear tools of the devil--really, they were. Intellectual explanations or even Catholic interpretations were just excuses for giving in the the world. I was sure who the Lord was and how to live for Him. The details were in whether I would be radical enough.

This is one of the reasons that, while I look fondly on this part of my life in so many ways, I see such an approach as cultish. The sign of a cult is not in some straightforwardly evil plan, instead, it is in the incredible narrowness of that plan. Narrowness at the time was good thing. There could be no room for the world in our lives. But, as I re-read the Cultural Approach today, I see it rooted in a certain insecurity. "The Lord" is nothing more than an image of the angst of Mr. Herman and his followers. But this angst is not a true property of the Lord of Psalm 24. That Lord is God. And this God is not a mere placeholder for our own radical proposals. This God is infinite, mysterious, and catholic (universal). This does not do away with real things, but it also saturates them with more than they can contain. It humbles them and us in the process.

This is the hallmark of a cult: hubris. As a religious organization it is the ultimately the arrogance of idolatry. To belief that one can so neatly and tyrannically give meaning to the person or the family is a pure act of selfish pride. It is to create God using our own finite ideas. With it comes a different god, one fashioned in the image of something altogether different. Discipline and threats of expulsion into the wretched world--or, to put it another way, fear tactics--preserve this god, this idol.

However, when we ask "Who is the Lord?" in humility we are not threatened--we are loved.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Psychoanalytic Critique of Cults in the Catholic Church: Part II

When I entered the room I knew there was something very special about this dinner we were invited to. I was wearing a striped shirt. Everyone else was dressed up in ties and white shirts with faded navy blue pants. I wished I could dress like they did. We went through the night of Lord's Day and soon began to return for whole weekends. We were welcomed and everyone was very nice to us and soon I began to want to help Mom and Dad with the changes we were learning. I loved the big meeting--especially the music. I had never heard such a big sound before and the songs were new and exciting. Some of them were sung in parts, women and men, and others had sign language that the women did. Everyone was so happy, the women glowed and the men were all so serious but positive and friendly. Soon we began to have the kinds of prayer meetings I had only seen at Church or people's houses in our own house. They all began with music, soon a guitar stand would sit next to the dinner table. I worked to learn to play the faster tempo music and also began to learn some Spanish songs from the Spanish prayer meetings at Church. My siblings seemed to not quite get it, but I knew that I wanted everything that this new life from Akron had to offer. I was no older than six or seven years old. You see, I had seen it all before. I mean, I was no stranger to the raising hands during worship or the other things that other people would have found strange. I had always loved to go to prayer meetings and when they were in our home, when I was "asleep" I would try to listen in. But until now things at home were never this serious or this organized--this official. But the seriousness made it seem more important and soon I jumped into the process by trying to grow in prayer and reading the Bible and writing my own songs. I would consult with my sister to see how they sounded and she would always give me feedback that mostly said that I sounding like I was howling. But I knew that these changes were "for the Lord". With time I began to understand the urgency of this movement and began to revere the leader, Mr. Herman. He had written a book! I was so impressed by that. I had never known anyone who had written a book. This book, A Cultural Approach to Christianity, laid out every aspect of the Christian life. It explained what was wrong with the world today and how to fight it by living a radical Christian life. And it went into grave detail to put everything in its place. From how to dress, eat, behave, worship, and more, it was clear--painfully clear. The pain was all the spanking. One of the biggest changes were generous helpings of corporal punishment for violations of the precepts of the cultural approach. Now I knew that we weren't doing all of them, but I wanted to. I hoped that we could become Servants of the Cross someday. They wore special patches on their oxford shirts and sometimes wore a brown colored pants instead of blue. My brother was really young but he was not deterred by any of this. He would do anything to break rules and even when I tried to warn him, he would willingly disobey and pay for it. But, he had to learn somehow. I struggled the most with the food. It was so gross. The first time I took a step back was when I felt that I couldn't physically eat the dense peanut-butter and jelly sandwich and was ordered by one of the leaders to be spanked by my parents--and they did. That moment was the first time I felt an intuition of injustice. But, on the whole, I was committed to seeing our family grow in this new lifestyle. When Dad quit his job at Church--where a lukewarm priest had taken over--and devoted all of his time to the charism of the community, family renewal, I was proud. When we were to move to Mexico to help Mr. Herman start a new mission, I was excited. It was "for the Lord".

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dear Sam: Stop using the 'C-word'

Before I move on in this series, many people has been e-mailing me complaining about my use the the term, 'cult'. I will try and explain here briefly.

All I mean by cult is an organization that has formally established methods of conditioning people's lives in a way that puts them under a single lens of authority and credibility that cannot be questioned or dissented from. The effect this often has is the formation of a powerful community that shares--under threat of expulsion or discipline--a single mind controlled by the narrow prescription established and codified by the leader and the inner circle of leadership.

You may wonder: Well, I can think of lots of organizations that function that way. What about the Catholic Church? Is that a cult too?

Here is the difference: In the non-cult there is a democratic sentiment--an openess to dialogue and debate--and a general lack of concreteness to the prescriptions in the organizations, especially evident in the practice of its members. In a cult, on the other hand, there is a tyrannical sentiment. In fact, many of the practices of the cult are intended to prevent dissent or justify it when it comes along.

This disciplinary aspect of a cult is its hallmark. It cannot survive unless the minds--and the bodies--of its members are thoroughly regulated and, more importantly, self-regulated. Carter G. Woodson makes this point clearly when he wrote:
If you can control a man's thinking, you don't have to worry about his actions. If you can determine what a man thinks, you do not have to worry about what he will do. If you can make a man believe that he is inferior, you don't have to compel him to seek an inferior status, he will do so without being told and if you can make a man believe that he is justly an outcast, you don't have to order him to the back door, he will go to the back door on his own and if there is no back door, the very nature of the man will demand that you build one.
So, when I refer to a cult, I am mourning one, or both, of two things:

1. An organization that disciplines the human mind and conscience with formal strcutures of discipline and authority in order to limit the horizon of one's thought.
2. The person who has lost the dignity of thinking--and even feeling through intuition--for herself.

A Psychoanalytic Critique of Cults in the Catholic Church: Part I

A few days ago, during my daily-randomized ritual of news browsing, I found the story on Fr. Maciel's scandalous double-life. I do admit that such a story brings out the worst in us--and maybe that has something to do with it--nonetheless, this story just won't stop itching. For days now I have spend considerable amounts of time scouring commentaries, points, and counter-points in English and in Spanish and the biggest question I ask my self is: why? A few friends of mine have asked me if I am a member of Regnum Christi, and, since I am not, why do I care so much? Other friends who are members of RC have asked me why I insist on torturing them with my commentaries and inquisitions. So, this question of, "Why do I care so much?", has moved me to write this very different--even risky--kind of entry. I am not entirely sure what I have to say, but, after some thought and reflection, I have a general idea.

You see, there is something special to me about this tragic cycle of events that has affected Regnum Christi and the Catholic Church at large and, at the same time, I am completely removed from it. In the nonsense that can be our consciousness, I seem to have woven these events together to my own life. What I mean to say here is that, for some reason, there is a deep connection for me between the scandalous events and lessons coming from these current events and my own life in the Church. For years I have flirted with the idea of writing about my experiences, but there was never anything to make them relevant or interesting. You see, I do not have what seems the "standard" stories that garner immediate attention. Yet, I find myself in deep empathy when I hear those stories. It is as if I did in fact go through those cycles myself, even though I know that I did not; at least not directly.

Those are the psychoanalytic reasons. But there are many more, I think. For too long has the genuine goodwill of certain people guarded other well-intentioned people from making critical statements about the general organizations they belong to. Organizations that have, and continue to, wreck havoc on many lives in the name of something is not as they say it is. Let me be clear. Painfully clear.

Many movements in the Church that have responded against the "modern turn" of the post-Vatican II church and the evils of secular society at large in the name of orthodoxy, radical calls to holiness, evangelization, and more, have implicitly or explicitly claimed a monopoly over the faith. A monopoly over God. They often guard against critique by citing the radical nature of their call and uniting it to the radical witness of the saints and, especially, the martyrs. That way, any strong arguments against, or ridicule of, their work can be relegated to "persecution". Guarded by these and other methods of seclusion, they... Wait a minute. Let me be even clearer. I will name names.

I am talking about organizations in the Church that were sprung from a variety of things (e.g. the Cursillo movement, the "Duquesne revival", the protestant evangelical/Pentecostal movement, the tele/stadium-evangelical movement and more) and collectively created the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement. You see, this movement did not exist on its own within the Catholic Church. It was mostly supported by private, lay initiatives like prayer meetings that grew into communities and traveling retreat-like gatherings and seminars (most popularly being FIRE rallies and The Life in the Spirit seminar). The community I am most familiar with is Bread of Life Charismatic Covenant Community in Akron, Ohio, founded by Dick Herman and run by an inner circle called The Servants of the Cross. Their remnants, that is their founder and the inner circle, can be found today in a Mexican mission called, Seguidores de la Cruz (Followers of the Cross). The community itself does not exist anymore, to my knowledge.

The larger cultural impact this community and others like it (and I am told that most other ones were not as draconian as this one) served as the vehicle for the rise of many other movements; even ones that are not charismatic in their worship. One of these is Regnum Christi. While RC predates the Charismatic renewal by several decades, perhaps the most popular face of the American Legionaries of Christ (their order of priests) is Fr. Johnathon Morris, LC. He comes from a family who were registered members of Bread of Life. And, I should say, that this family have been nothing but kind and generous to me and I count several of the younger siblings as my friends. And Fr. Johnathon isn't the only one who left a community for RC. I met several of them when I was in Rome at a private screening of "The Passion" enabled by Fr. Johnathon who was the spiritual adviser for the movie shooting. And I know of many, many more.

One "person" left-out of this discussion is my alma mater: Franciscan University of Steubenville. And I intend to leave them out. This is not blind affection, but, in my life, the University has had nothing, or at least very little, to do with this psychoanalytic memoir directly. At least not with this chapter of it. Nonetheless, with very little trouble, thick lines could be drawn to connect Franciscan to this movement for historical purposes.

Now, I do not want to sound like--or actually be--a bitter former member railing against something that made me mad. I am very sympathetic to the work done by this movement. When I say this I am not just posturing. This movement saved my father from drug addition in the seventies and served as the first place I learned exegesis through reading scripture and other books. Also, generalities are cheap. Very cheap. I will happily retract what I say in the particular, that is, in the case by case or person to person basis, but, make no mistake, the general phenomena I describe was and is real.

So, when I continue, I hope to do the work that seems appropriate to take place in Regnum Christi--because they got caught. What I mean here is that many informal and formal movements on the past century have gone unquestioned--or, to put it another way, never got caught in a way that forced them to question--and, even if they have now disappeared, they should be held accountable to the truth. The truth that no one has a monopoly--not even a weak monopoly--over God, or those things that flow from such an excessive source. To pose as such is to create idols that substitute for the things we want and--here is the heart of my point--the methods used to preserve that spoken or unspoken monopoly are not religious or spiritual. They are nothing more or less than degrees of social manipulation that are in direct conflict with the freedom and authority of the human conscience to exist in whose image it is made in. To be blunt, my first point is to say that such methods (the ones I will soon describe in greater detail) are the line that separates the religious movement from the cult.

More to come.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Vatican Darwin Conference & the Lowly Status of Intelligent Design

Here, in the midst of my Maciel obsession, is an interesting piece of news about the Vatican's efforts to discuss the scientific and theological implications of Darwinism and evolution. The odd-person out, it seems, is intelligent design. That theory has only been added to be considered as a cultural phenomena, not as a scientific or theological issue. The Church has come a long way since Galileo.

Click here to read a report with additional sources from CathNews.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Las Hijas de Maciel

"¿Es ella, la ahora famosa, más hija del P. Maciel que lo que soy yo? No, creo que no."

Is she, the now famous, more "daughter" of Fr. Maciel than I am? No, I think not.

"Esa chiquilla, hasta ayer desconocida, sin deberla ni temerla, se ha hecho famosa en el mundo entero en un solo día y no puedo negar que eso me ha hecho sentirme un poco celosa, pues yo no saldré publicada en todos los diarios (tal vez en ninguno) y ¡también soy hija del P. Maciel! No llevo su sangre en mis venas , pero gran parte de lo que soy (casi todo) se lo debo a él. Sí, el P. Maciel es mi padre (Nuestro Padre, como cariñosamente le llamamos los miembros del Regnum Christi) y lo digo con mucho orgullo."

This little girl, undiscovered until yesterday, without owing or fearing her, has made herself famous in the whole world in only one day and I cannot deny that this has made me feel a little bit jealous, since I will not come out published in all the daily news (perhaps none) and, I too am a daughter of Fr. Maciel! I do not carry his blood in my veins, but a great part of what I am (almost all of it) I owe to him. Yes, Fr. Maciel is my father (Our Father, as we, the member of Regnum Christi, lovingly call him) and I say it with much pride.

--Comments from a story on with my own translation.
Before I write a longer post explaining my fascination with the recent developments in the Maciel scandal, I wanted to mention a trend I have been reading from Legionaries of Christ writing in response to Latin American (for the most part Mexican) coverage of this story. In a fascinating twist of prose, there are a great number of women who are posting as the other, or another, "daughter of Maciel." Now, by this they mean spiritual daughters. But, they seem to express a certain dismissal--and even envy--of the biological daughter of Maciel since, after all, they are just as much his daugthers too.

If you read Spanish, you will find a striking difference in the rhetoric and polemics on this issue. For my part, I find it fascinating and gut-wrentching. There is no doubt, however, that the Spanish commentary reveals what most English-speaking sensibilities will not. In that graphic and less-deodorized rhetoric there is much to be learned from.

In my next post I will begin, at personal risk of crossing into the realm of self-pyschoanalysis, to describe my own reasons for finding these tragic events so important. I hope whatever lessons I might convey will have some impact on the culture at large (or small).

Monday, February 9, 2009

Vox-Nova on George Weigel on Regnum Christi

Since this has been the only thing going here lately, here is more on it from Vox-Nova

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Heartfelt Exchange on Regnum Christi

Yesterday I received a kind, while critical, message about my title choice, "Regnum Creepy?," for the article on the recent scandalous discoveries about the revered founder of Regnum Christi and Legionaries of Christ, Fr. Maciel. I agonized over a response and wanted to post snippets of the exchange here for a more through evaluation. I will refer to this person as "Nice Person."
Nice Person: The recent revelation about Fr. Maciel is devastating to me personally and to many. Though you may not be able to understand this and you are entitled to any opinion you like about the Regnum Christi movement, Fr. Maciel himself, or even me, you may be unaware that many people are grieving and that your blog title "regnum creepy" is hurtful. Fr. Maciel is personally responsible for my growth in holiness, and to discover such a shocking double life is heartbreaking.

You don't need to change the title or do anything really, I just thought you might want to know that some who will read this will have open wounds like me and those words are like salt.

My Response: Thank you for your charitable and generous e-mail. You're right. Many people are grieving--myself included. I grieve as a Catholic, but I rejoice in the truth and I am restless know more and more of what that means, exactly.

Regarding the movement, however, I have seen it from the inside out and, in particular, I saw it swell with community members after the covenant community we belonged to (Bread of Life) dissolved. That process of dissolution took many years and along the way I met many casualties who came from our own community, other ones, and subsidiaries or allies of them like RC and Opus Dei and more.

It is my belief fundamental belief that despite the spiritual formation I received from those organizations (including RC), the truth does not belong to them exclusively, they have no monopoly over it or over my conscience. While their teachings carefully shelter themselves under the generous mantle of the Church, their hubris as movements can only lead to humility or dissolution of some kind.

No matter how we parse it out there is a genuine creepiness--evident in the tragic nature of this scandal--that we ought to wrestle with and, when we come out of it, we will find that we owe them nothing, for the truth is not a possession to be had.

I mourn for you and many of my friends who are faithful Catholics who have found good counsel in RC or alike. At the same time, I also rejoice for you to be in such a poignant, salt-to-the-flesh process of death and resurrection--conversion--in the discovery of truth. I can only hope and pray for more of it in my life too. Please pray for that in me.
Final thoughts: I have thought more about the specific word "creepy" and what it means to describe this scandal. As I give it more and more thought it not seems to convey the feeling of things, it also describes them in more literal terms. To "creep" is to be sneaky and secretive. These discoveries of Fr. Maciel crept along while he was alive and he kept them hidden. That is creepy--literally.

Monday, February 2, 2009

On Words

I found myself making another linguistic distinction and remembered that my post, "Oh Sam You're Just So Special", seemed to go by too quietly. In case you wondered, the intention of that piece was to defend my way of looking at words and their meanings. Several people have objected to the sense in which I have treated 'socialism' and 'life' (within the term 'pro-life'). Their argument is that there is a mostly common and agreed upon meaning that I should abide by too. Any other meanings are ill suited for the purposes of doing anything other than empty, intellectual semantics.

I disagree. Words like 'socialism' that distill into "something about social," or 'pro-life' that clearly means "for, not against, life," are not defined by popular sentiment. They very well may function that way, but that does nothing to change what they mean to say. To question their meaning and posit a fuller representation is not to theoretically quibble, it is actually to advocate for the use of the language in ways that are consistent with common--not exclusive--intuitive senses that originate in human life, not apart from it.

So, in defense of what I coined the "weak intuitive" meaning of socialism or my abiding sentiment that 'life' is a broad expansive term that cannot be limited to this or that special interest group's own usage, I think that some words (certainly not all of them) have meaning that cannot be ignored simply because of their popular usage. At the same time, I think word games are parts of the primitive dance of the human struggle for truth, so, I am not arguing for some essentialist correspondence between language and objects.