Saturday, December 09, 2006

Vatican Upholds Nebraska Excommunications

I almost put up this post yesterday, but I hated to make a post like this on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The bishop of the Lincoln (NE) archdiocese, however, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, decided to use the eve of that Feast Day to announce that his 1996 declaration that the liberal Catholic group Call to Action stood under automatic excommunication was upheld by the Vatican in a letter from Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re on November 24th. In rejecting CTA’s appeal, Cardinal Re told Bishop Bruskewitz that his ruling:
“was properly taken within your competence as pastor of that diocese…The judgment of the Holy See is that the activities of Call to Action in the course of these years are in contrast with the Catholic faith due to views and positions held which are unacceptable from a doctrinal and disciplinary standpoint…Thus to be a member of this association or to support it is irreconcilable with a coherent living of the Catholic faith.”
I’m not particularly fond of Call To Action. They are far, far to the left of where I stand, but I think the use of excommunication is ham-handed and unwarranted. Why does the Church still feel that it needs to impose truth by law and by silencing opposing voices within it by force? Wheat and tares grow together within the Church. Can’t the Truth stand on it’s own? Yes, the sight of the late middle-aged women in CTA going around ordaining each other is goofy, but what are the elements in the Creed that they dissent from? Where is the hierarchy’s sense of discernment? Are they trying to quash all possible sources of prophetic voice? I don’t agree with them on everything, but in some areas, CTA is dead-on right.

What bothers me more is the reaction of Cardinal Re and Rome rather than the actions of Bishop Bruskewitz himself. Nebraska is in the heart of the Bible Belt. Catholics who are living under a siege mentality sometimes feel like they need to “out-fundamentalist” the evangelicals. I know how that dynamic works, but there is evidence of some strangely retrograde thinking in Bruskewitz, which really makes you wonder about the current state of the hierarchy.

Bishop Bruskewitz does not allow altar girls or female EOMs in his archdiocese. Bring him here, and I’m going to have trouble keeping my faithful wife and my faithful daughters within the Church… In addition, the list of other groups that he listed in his declaration of automatic excommunication was interesting.
Although the Vatican letter only dealt with Call to Action, the other groups named by Bruskewitz were: Planned Parenthood, Society of St. Pius X, Hemlock Society, St. Michael the Archangel Chapel, Freemasons, Job’s Daughters, DeMolay, Eastern Star, Rainbow Girls and Catholics for a Free Choice.

Job’s Daughters, DeMolay, Eastern Star and Rainbow Girls all are affiliated with the Masons. Are Bruskewitz and the hierarchy still obsessed with freemasonry? A hundred years after the exteme anti-modernist Pian pontificates, and forty years after Vatican II, are they still fighting against the French Revolution and the enlightenment? The fact that some of these Masonic Groups were women’s organizations is somewhat indicative of a sense of misogyny on Bruskewitz’s part too.

Job’s Daughters

DeMolay

Eastern Star

Rainbow Girls

Wow. Daggers. Daggers pointed at the very heart of the Church. Why would anyone want to be a Catholic and a Mason at the same time anyhow?

The next time you go to a July 4th parade, watch out for those guys on the go-carts with the fezzes. And, Lord forbid, if a child of yours should ever suffer from serious burns, stay away from the Shriner’s Hospital if you care at all about your immortal souls.

I see mostly glee and cheering in Catholic blogdom over this announcement, although there was some outrage among traditionalists that the Society of St. Pius X was included under the same condemnation and under the same breath as CTA. There is quite a bit of irony in that, because the SSPX is probably the most anti-masonic organization on the planet, after the Ahmadinejad regime in Tehran, with whom they have much in common.

Here is CTA’s response to the news.

Enough of excommunications, at least until the episcopate learns to discipline themselves and their own priests. Just as a starting point of reference, as long as Bernard Cardinal Law is still a cardinal in good standing, with a plum assignment in one of Rome’s major basilicas, and positions on several dicasteries, I urge the CTA members in Nebraska to keep on going to Mass.

Are the VOTF next, for their questioning, for demanding accountability, and for being a gadly? I suspect that they are. If anyone out there signed up in the early days just to find out what they were all about, they might have to wind up answering for it.

Our hierarchy is a mess, and the center of the Church has utterly collapsed. The Second Vatican Council is becoming more and more of a dead letter every year. It is getting harder and harder not to take sides.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
-- William Butler Yeats, "The Second Coming"

20 comments:

crystal said...

Great post, Jeff!

Funny - my grandmother belonged to the Eastern Star, and her sister to the Daughter's of the Nile ... they were Presbyterian/Masons. They'd be spinning in their graves (I mean crematory urns) if they knew I'd become a Catholic :-)

I'm sorry and upset to hear that about Call to Action. I wonder if Pax Christi will be next? I didn't even realize the church still excommunicated people ... is it still as it was in medieval times, that people excommunicated are treated like pariahs, can't get the scraments?

Liam said...

Very good post, Jeff.

The announcement was very sad news. It is amazing how arrogant the hierarchy continues to be after all the scandals. Let's hope this is an isolated case and that the next crop of bishops will be, if not open-minded, at least somewhat intelligent and somewhat pastoral.

I can imagine that certain parts of Catholic blogdom reacted with glee. That is also sad. Even if an excommunication were called for, it should be regarded as tragic. Oh well.

cowboyangel said...

Jeff, what exactly makes the CTA so leftist? I looked briefly at their website - found these statements:

We believe:
• the church is called to be a model of openness and justice at all levels,
• theologians and church institutions are called to be free in their search for the truth,
• laity and clergy are to be consulted in the formulation of church doctrine and discipline, including human sexuality, academic freedom, roles of the laity and liturgical issues,
• the priesthood is open to all people: single, married, women, men,
• the people of a diocese should be consulted in the selection of their bishops,
• the call for justice in church and society is the church’s major priority.

CTA members are not in the minority. We are vocalizing what mainstream Catholics already believe:
• 60% of U.S. Catholics believe that the Church should become more democratic in its decision-making (December 2004 Contemporary Catholic Trends Survey )
• 78% see a greater need for shared authority with the laity (November 2002 Contemporary Catholic Trends Survey)
• 81% support a greater openness in financial and administrative matters in the American Catholic Church (November 2002 Contemporary Catholic Trends Survey)
• 65% believe that bishops should disclose financial settlements in sex abuse cases (November 2002 Contemporary Catholic Trends Survey)

They don't exactly remind me of anarchists or anything. Does this have to do with wanting women to become priests? Is that what it boils down to?

"as long as Bernard Cardinal Law is still a cardinal in good standing, with a plum assignment in one of Rome’s major basilicas, and positions on several dicasteries, I urge the CTA members in Nebraska to keep on going to Mass."

:-)

Exactly.

I don't mean to sound disrespectful, but sometimes I think you and Liam and others get too worked up about the Catholic hiearchy. If you step away a bit, it becomes pretty clear how incredibly removed they are from any semblance of reality. I know you all have to deal with the consequences because you're practicing Catholics, but I hate to see you feel like you're somehow odd. You cannot coddle and cover up for child molesters, leaving someone like Cardinal Law in a position of authority, while getting uptight about the celibacy of priests, especially when there's absolutely nothing written about it in the Bible. Their priorities are so far from any normal and historical definition of Christianity that you should be laughing at them - as everyone else does who isn't Catholic.

Again, I don't mean to be disrespectful. I have tremendous respect for anyone who genuinely tries to follow Christ. What I'm talking about has nothing to do with Christianity - it's about worldly power. Not too different, actually, from what you're saying about American Corporations. As I said, it's just hard for me to watch you all get upset sometimes.

Jeff said...

Hi Guys...

William,

They don't exactly remind me of anarchists or anything. Does this have to do with wanting women to become priests? Is that what it boils down to?

In the case of Bishop Bruskewitz, yes, I think that is probably the biggest factor in his decision. His refusal to even allow altar girls in his diocese leads me to suspect that is indeed the case.

As far as the hierarchy is concerned, I don't want to smash it. They have their place and their function, as outlined in Lumen Gentium III, 18-29. I am only asking that they live up to the rest of what was set down in Lumen Gentium about collegiality, and their responsibility to listen to the laity. It should be written into Canon Law that the hierarchy must listen. A reform of the Curia was supposed to follow the Council. It never happened. The Curia re-seized control after the bishops went home. Clericalism is back on the rise and they are starting to try to define the Church as a pyramid again, with themselves at the top. The Church is not a pyramid structure. That is a common misperception.

Some people don't think a hierarchy can ever be reformed. I don't agree. Splitting off and starting new churches is not the answer. It takes pressure off of the hierarchy, and leads to endlessly splitting denominationalism.

So, just for the record (I consider you all my friends regardless, and I think I know by now where most of you stand... You can all take me or leave me as I am):

I believe that mandatory celibacy is destroying the Catholic Church. Celibacy is a discipline, not a doctrine. Celibacy does have value in certain circumstances, but it should be optional for diocesan clergy. The different religious orders should be able to make their own rules on it. This will happen someday, I just wish they'd get on with it, and not wait until the last possible minute to do something about it.

Women's Ordination is never going to be a burning issue for me to champion. Sorry, but I'm just an old-fashioned Irish guy from Boston. Men have to be left with something to do in the Church. I'm not going to wade into the fight for it, but if it ever happens, I'm not going to go sede-vacantist over it either...

Our consciences don't allow my wife and I to use artificial contraception, but I am fully aware that 90% of Catholics do... Therefore, the question is, is this a teaching not received, or a teaching poorly taught? I don't think this issue is quite settled yet. It's going to take a while to play out.

My biggest difference with CTA is probably on abortion. I am quite conservative on this matter; they seem open to question the teaching... Sanctions against abortion go all the way back to the Didache, which is about as far back as you can get.

Homosexuality? Being almost absurdly straight, I don't understand what causes it for the life of me... There are a lot of Levitical codes we are no longer bound by... on the other hand, the motivations in St. Paul's letters need to be studied closely. I'd like to know more about the science around it. In any case, homosexuals should not be demeaned or singled out in any way. We are all sinners, with plenty of planks in our own eyes to pull out.

As far as the peace and justice issues are concerned, capital punishment, and the preferential option for the poor, I think CTA is right on the money on these matters, but are certainly not unique in holding those views.

Peace

crystal said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
cowboyangel said...

Jeff, Thanks for the thorough response.

When you said "leftist," I thought you were talking more about economic and political issues. My time in Spain left me thinking of leftists and liberals as being very different creatures, the former more concerned about economic and politicial issues and the latter more concerned with social ones. That's probably an overly simplistic schematic on my part, as I try to comprehend the great difference between "the liberal left" in the U.S. and most of the rest of the world. Bill Clinton and The New York Times are on the left here, but a "leftist" in Spain - and I think in most of the world - would find that ludicrous and insulting. Liberal, yes, both in terms of social issues and economic liberalism. But not on thet left.

Which is a terribly long explanation for saying, "Oh. I see what you mean."

Your statement of beliefs is interesting. I believe I mentioned it in a previous comment, but I'm reminded of MLK, who was economically on "the left" but theologically conservative. I myself struggle with political labels [though you wouldn't know it from my above statements], because I don't fit into a neat category. I find myself much more conservative socially or theologically than my "liberal" friends, particularly in terms of abortion and homosexuality - which seem to the two main points around which politics in the U.S. revolves. On the other hand, I'm too radical for some "conservative" [and, actually, some "liberal"] friends in many areas. When I was involved in Evangelical circles, I was constantly arguing with them about politics and eventually left in large part because I never felt like I belonged. I liked Sojourners magazine,the JustLife group, Jim Wallis, and some of the other groups concerned with "social action." But even with them I had problems at times. Then again, I have problems with everyone when it comes to politics. Some kind of inate stubborness and distrust of large organizations, I suppose. [Both are strong characteristics of Texas history, and I don't think that's a coincidence.]

Though I was trying hard to not show disrespect in my earlier comment here, I realized afterwards how muich of my own anger, bitterness and comeplte distrust with the Catholic hierarchy was coming out. Thanks for not taking it personally.

>Some people don't think a hierarchy can ever be reformed. I don't agree. Splitting off and starting new churches is not the answer. It takes pressure off of the hierarchy, and leads to endlessly splitting denominationalism.

The "endlessly splitting denominationalism" or fragmentation is a genuine concern in these matters. Unlike you, however, I do not think hierarchies can be reformed once they pass a certain point. How to determine what the point is, of course, remains almost impossible. The real issue, which I find very interesting, is how hierarchies become autonomous units of power that have little to do with the larger organism they come from. That is, the U.S. government - or any government - is supposed to be "of the people, by the people and for the people," but they're really a unique entity of power. The same goes, in my eyes, for the Roman Catholic Church. While the hierarchy is supposed to be part of the greater Catholic Church, they seem to exist separately to me. So I respect the Cathlic Church as a body of people, but loathe the hiearchy of the Church. But I see them as separate entities - rightly or wrongly. It has something to do with power and how it affects groups of people. I've seen it happen even in small groups or organizations. An elite forms that starts to control things more and more, even though they're supposed to be on the same level as everyone else.

On the other hand, I'm not an Anarchist, though some of what they say about power is true and should be heeded more. If the Left had listened to them more in the past, we wouldn't have wound up with the monstrous hierarchy that was Stalinism. The split between Marx and Bakunin was very, very interesting, though I don't really know enough about it.

There is a time and a place for hierarchical organization, an army, being a good example. [It's interesting to read about the Anarchists in Spain and how they had to deal with the realities of the Civil War. Suddenly, some of them weren't quite so anarchistic when it came to organizing the fight against Franco.] But the rigid structures of the past have caused a lot of problems. Hopefully, we as a species are moving into some new and different directions in regard to these issues. I think the internet is an interesting model of something new.

I was pleased to read what you said about the Lumen Gentium and that the Church is not a pyramid structure. I hope people like you are able to bring about some of the needed changes.

And I've gone on way too long again. Sorry!

Mike McG... said...

Well argued, Jeff. Three comments:
1. This controversy richly illustrates the law of unintended consequences. Bruskewitz couldn't have given Call to Action a better Christmas present. CTA regularly recruits via mass mailings. Undoubedly the next mailing will feature Bruskewitz and be quite successful.The Catholic center of gravity shifts to the left since such authoritarianism is intolerable to most Catholics. Meanwhile the two ends of the American Catholic spectrum are confirmed in their mutual contempt.
2. I fear this controversy presages an acrimonious future for American Catholics. We seem no more skilled than our Episcopalian sisters and brothers in handling dissent. Certainly the Catholic right is determined to stamp out dissent, but I'm not at all sure that CTA isn't simply more sophisticated in their intolerance of dissent. Your views on women's ordination and abortion would be intolerable, for example, to my CTA friends. Tolerance, it seems, is in the eye of the beholder.
3. There is a desperate need for a vibrant center but little evidence of it, save Aun Estamos Vivos and occasional writers like Peter Nixon and John Allen. Incidents like this, sadly, tend to diminish the center by seeming to force us to take sides.

Jeff said...

Hi William,

Yes, thanks for getting that cleared up. Sorry if I caused some confusion with what I meant by "left". Like I said, I don't have a problem with CTA's views as they touch upon politics.

I hear very much what you are saying, and I sympathize with your views on authority, particularly when it comes to the institutional Catholic Church. A little strange that I'd be a defender to some degree, because among my friends and co-workers, I'm known as one who isn't shy about speaking up to power, and also for being non-plussed and unfazed by status, wealth, titles, or authority. As a matter of fact, I have a bit of an authority problem. I don't like having anyone's will forced on mine, nor do I have a desire to force my will upon others. It makes me poor management material. You are sure right about one thing - Look how hard it is to force accountability upon a powerful institution. Take the Foley scandal in Congress as an example... Not one member of Congress is going to be held accountable for what they knew. Not one. In this regard, they are just as bad as the Catholic Church hierarchy, and apparently learned nothing from watching how that scandal unfolded.

Nevertheless, you feel that this Church hierarchy has passed the point of being reformable; you loathe them, and see them as seperate from the body of the people. I can't go there with you. I do hear you, but I suppose I see it differently. I guess I have more of an organic, or holistic view of the arrangement. It's like a family thing. I have had family members over the course of my lifetime whose presence I could barely tolerate, who did things that I hated, but I could never disown them. They were, after all, family. Maybe family isn't the right word here, but we, the faithful, and the institutional hierarchy, are One Body in Christ, for better or for worse. In the basic incarnational principle, we recognize that God works through the human, made in the image of God, but flawed nonetheless. We just need to keep these guys honest sometimes, that's all. We can't be lazy about it. They have a tendency, seen over and over again, to define "The Church" as themselves - as the "Perfect Society", rather than all of us together as the "People of God", a Pilgrim Church making its way through history.

Just by the very nature of what it is, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church is always going to be a conservative institution. They tend to think in terms of centuries, or even millenia, rather than decades, and the challenge for the laity is to take a long view too, without becoming discouraged. I understand to a point how the hierarchy thinks. They feel they need to safeguard a sacred trust, a Sacred Tradition and patrimony, which means that all and any change tends to be glacial. Sometimes I even take comfort in that. Sometimes that glacial pace of change is a good thing, because it prevents us from chasing after every cockammamie new idea and whim that comes along down the pike. In the tension between the People of God (the priesthood of all believers) and the hierarchy, a tension which is called the life of the Church, change does manage to occur.

You said:

I realized afterwards how muich of my own anger, bitterness and complete distrust with the Catholic hierarchy was coming out.

See, there is something very instructive here that the hierarchy should take note of. They rail on and on, for example, about relativism and the lack of faith in Europe. People everywhere have a natural predisposition towards faith and seeking God. After all, God made them that way. That's not it. What the Europeans have completely lost is trust in the institution. This lack of self-criticism, a refusal by the hierarchy to look in the mirror at its own mistakes, is maddening. "If they don't listen to us, they must lack faith...".

What can I say, William? I am Catholic to my very bones. I can't ever change. I can't leave it. I'll tell you what distresses me... Do a Google blog search on the terms "Bruskewitz" and "CTA" and read the dominant strain of thought out there. I can't let that all go unanswered. I can't let that be the sole impression left out there of my Church. It's the whole reason why I have a blog to begin with. People may get bored hearing me harp on it, but I still believe in the Second Vatican Council, even if others have turned their backs on it. I'm not going to turn my back on the event that shaped the Parish that shaped me and helped to form me into the person that I am.

BTW, when were you in Spain? I have been there a couple of times... Yes, Bukharin, Trotsky, and Kirov all found out that their buddy "Khoba" Stalin wasn't messing around. The P.O.U.M and the Anarcho-Syndicalists in Barecelona during the Spanish Civil War found out the same thing. I don't know a lot about the anarchists, though. Do you?

Jeff said...

Hi Mike,

How are you my friend? Long time, no see.

Would the CTA see me as intolerant, homophobic, and sexist? Maybe so. After all, we are all human and subject to the same prejudices and reactions, whether we come from the left or the right. I suspect however, that the CTA would not question the sincerity of my faith, call me a heretic, or shout at me in all caps that I AM GOING TO HELL.

But, I could be wrong.

Mike, I don't know what to think. Do I have a constituency to speak to? Maybe the web skews things. Fifteen or twenty years ago I felt I was in the midst of the mainstream. Now I feel I have to work very hard to find like-minded compatriots. I've seen so many people leave... people I never dreamed would ever leave.

Maybe in my views I'm trying to hard to conciliate competing interests, trying too hard to have it both ways. Are my views incoherent as a self-styled "centrist" view, or have we really become entirely polarized?

Deacon Denny said...

Jeff --

A pleasure to read your post. Was referred to your blog via crystal -- and loved it, including the thoughtful comments.

As an ordained deacon who regularly receives CTA materials, I am dismayed (though not surprised) that the Vatican chose to support a bishop who is quite obviously well out of the mainstream theologically. I would never consider a move into the Nebraska area, as long as he's around!

I'll have to visit your blog more often. Thanks for the words.

Jeff said...

Thank you Deacon! I've got your blog bookmarked, and I'm looking forward to giving it a thorough read.

God Bless

Mike McG... said...

"I suspect...that the CTA would not question the sincerity of my faith, call me a heretic, or shout at me in all caps that I AM GOING TO HELL." Correct, Jeff. While our predispositions may be to seek the like-minded, all but the most ideological among us are drawn to sincerity and you exude sincerity.

"Do I have a constituency to speak to? Maybe the web skews things. Fifteen or twenty years ago I felt I was in the midst of the mainstream. Now I feel I have to work very hard to find like-minded compatriots...Maybe in my views I'm trying too hard to conciliate competing interests, trying too hard to have it both ways. Are my views incoherent as a self-styled "centrist" view, or have we really become entirely polarized?"

You *absolutely* have a constituency...a constituency that loves the church warts and all. And thank you for trying so hard. Some nuanced thinkers may not find blogging a comfortable venue, what with its stark black-white cast. But others enjoy the fray and relish the opportunity to others. Your consitituency is a critical one: Catholics who advocate for an inclusive rather than ideological church.

Andale, pues.

Jeff said...

Thanks Mike, that means a lot to me.

I really urge you to open up your own blog. It's easy and it doesn't take much time. You don't need to be an every-day blogger either. Just post when you can.

Cheers,
Jeff

cowboyangel said...

Good comments, Jeff.

>I can't go there with you. . . . I am Catholic to my very bones. I can't ever change.

Nor do I want you to. You're doing just fine the way you are! As I said before, I'm glad you're able to work within the Church for change - or to simply adhere to Vatican II. We all have our paths to follow. I respect yours, or I wouldn't keep coming back to read what you have to say.

>It's like a family thing. I have had family members over the course of my lifetime whose presence I could barely tolerate, who did things that I hated, but I could never disown them.

Of course, in an abusive situation, it's sometimes better to just get out. :-) That's how I felt about New York City! But I hear what you're syaing.

I was in Spain for 3 months in 1989-90 - when I met Liam - and then I lived there from 1995-2000. Met my wife (from Rye, NY) in Madrid - thanks to Liam, who introduced us - and she and I got married at Nuestra Senora de La Ascension in a small village outside of Madrid - with Liam as Best Man.

I know a little about the Anarchists, but not a lot, to be honest. As objects of study I find them interesting, though I disagree with many things. I had some interesting experiences with them in Spain, however - some very positive ones and some irritating ones. I'm intrigued by some of the Christian Anarchists. Jacques Ellul, the French thinker/theologian wrote a book called Anarchy and Christianity, which was fascinating to me. The relationship being how do we live in the world but not be of it. The Anabaptist thing, etc.

Where were you in Spain?

I really loved it and miss it every day.

Jeff said...

Of course, in an abusive situation, it's sometimes better to just get out. :-) That's how I felt about New York City!

Ha! That's pretty good... Unfortunately, family relationships are often abusive ones.

That's pretty interesting about the anarchists. I really know very little about them except that 100 years ago they were pegged by some as the al qaeda terrorists of their day. I know that Spanish anarchism had sort of a flavor of its own and seems to have had some staying power. Christian anarchism... that sounds like something worth reading about. For me, the knowldege goes about as deep as Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls.

My college girlfriend spent the second half of her junior year "studying" at the University of Cordoba in a PRESHCO program in 1982. Don't get me started on that... I think they may have even stopped those programs due to all of the emotional wreckage and heartaches inflicted on both sides of the Atlantic... After she graduated she taught English at Berlitz in Madrid for a year and a half. I went over there to spend a few week with her in 1985 as Spain was still waking up from its years of fascist slumber. I love the country. I saw Madrid, Segovia, and my favorite city in all of Europe to this day, Toledo. As for Elena, in the long run, it didn't work out.

My best friend (you may have seen him post here as "Joe") met a Madrilena years ago here in Boston, wound up marrying her, and moved to Spain to start a new life in 1989. They live in Madrid now. I visited them in 1991 while they were in Sevilla. I also saw Granada, Ronda, Cordoba, Malaga, Madrid again, and a heck of a corrida in Utrera, which is a few miles south of Sevilla. It was fascinating to see the changes that had occurred in the intervening six years. I can't imagine how different it must be now. Andalucia is cool, but there is something about Castile that is really mystical.

cowboyangel said...

>I really know very little about them except that 100 years ago they were pegged by some as the al qaeda terrorists of their day.

With good reason. Between 1890 and 1901 they assassinated the King of Italy, the Empress of Austria, the President of France, the Spanish Prime Minister, and our own President McKinley.

Of course, there are as many kinds of Anarchists as there are Christians, and a lot of them are and always were non-violent.

>I know that Spanish anarchism had sort of a flavor of its own and seems to have had some staying power.

The Spanish are funny - they're so family and community oriented, yet they have a strong Anarchist tendency that continues today. It's a kind of tribal Anartchism, I guess, as opposed to the very individualistic Anarchism or Libertarianism in the U.S.

>Christian anarchism... that sounds like something worth reading about.

I read about it 20 years ago - when I was invesitgating various branches of Christianity. Tolstoy's The Kingdom of God is Within You. Things like that. It's interesting. I should probably re-read some things now. Given how much I've been through since then. And I'm still interested in the topic of Power and its relationship to spirituality.

>For me, the knowldege goes about as deep as Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Actually, that's not a bad place to start. I think Hemingway did a pretty good job talking about the Civil War and all of the different kinds of people involved. Oh man, the ending of that book still sends chills through my spine. One of the best endings of a novel ever, I think. Very powerful for me at least.

>a PRESHCO program in 1982. Don't get me started on that...

Don't get started - but what's PRESHCO?

> my favorite city in all of Europe to this day, Toledo.

Yes. Toledo's wonderful. A hidden jewel, if you ask me. Such an amazing and fascinating history, with the Muslims, Jews and Christians all trying to work things out. Rilke called Toledo a city where Heaven and Earth intersect, and there are other legends and quotes about it being a portal between the two realms. That's actually true of many places in Castilla, I believe. If you ever get a chance, go to Avila. It may be the most mystical city I've ever been to - all 3 trips left me feeling like there was something unique about it.

One of my greatest memories of all-time for Spain was wandering around the streets of Toledo the night before Corpus Christi. It's a very big deal. The streets are covered in rosemary and people drape beautiful tapestries from their balconies. There are the giant puppets on stilts, dancing all night, families, everything. Ironically, the actual procession of Corpus Christi the next day was an incredibly dry and fascistic affair. An absolutely bizarre contrast.

>My best friend (you may have seen him post here as "Joe") met a Madrilena years ago here in Boston, wound up marrying her, and moved to Spain to start a new life

I tried. I went to Spain to marry a Spanish girl. She just wound up being from Rye, NY.

>but there is something about Castile that is really mystical.

Have you ever seen El espiritu de la colmena? Wonderful film ingeneral, but it really captures what you're talking about. Also Julio Medem's great film, Tierra. My two favorite movies about Spain. And Antonio Machado's poetry also conjures up what yu're talking about. I first went to Spain in large part because of Machado's poetry.

Jeff said...

William,

I’ve had a lot of problems with blogger lately too. I’ve had a heck of a time trying to post on blogs with the Beta version the last couple of days.

Don’t forget Czar Alexander II. The anarchists took him out too... I think I know what you mean about Spanish anarchism. They want to be left alone from all external authority, but they are much more communitarian than individualistic anglo libertarians, as you pointed out. When I hear “anarcho-syndicalism” I can’t help but think of the scene with the peasants piling up mud in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. “Bloody peasants… Did you hear that? What a giveaway… Oh, now we see the violence inherent in the system… Help, help, I’m being oppressed!”

The ending of For Whom the Bell Tolls is really something isn’t it? The movie with Gary Cooper and Ingmar Bergman really doesn’t do it justice at all. For me the most powerful and emotional part of the book was when Pablo was telling the story about how the rebublicans in his town had publicly lynched all the nationalists in the square and thrown their bodies over a cliff, one by one, working all the way down to the village priest. Pablo wanted to see how the priest would face death, and was disappointed that he died a coward (in his eyes).

PRESHCO stands for Programa de Estudios Hispanicos en Cordoba. It’s a semester’s worth of fluff courses at the University of Cordoba.

My friend Joe has recommended Avila to me as well. It looks impressive, with the castle walls still intact around the town. Toledo was just amazing. The narrow streets, cafes, plazas, soaring cathedrals, the Tagus river and the surrounding hills filled with olive groves… It really is beautiful, and the amount of history packed in such a small place is amazing… The exterior cathedral walls with the moorish chains and manacles still attached, the Alcazar (sent chills down my spine), all of those el Greco works. Tapas and cerveza… I’d really like to go back again someday.

I tried. I went to Spain to marry a Spanish girl. She just wound up being from Rye, NY.

Nuthin’ wrong with that!

I haven’t seen El espiritu de la Colmena or Tierra, although there are a lot of Spanish films I’ve really enjoyed. I like just about everything directed by Pedro Almodovar. I also like Carlos Saura’s El Amor Brujo and Carmen. Have you ever seen Mario Camus’ Los Santos Inocentes? It’s a good commentary about the class distinctions in the Spanish latifundist culture. I’m fascinated too, by a lot of the colorful and powerful personalities from the period of the Spanish Civil War… Largo Caballero, Juan Negrin, Gil Robles, Jose Antonio de Primavera, Frederico Garcia Llorca, Dolores Ibarruri, General Queipo de Llano, Dali, Picasso, Manolete, Robert Capa, Paul Robeson, Hemingway, Jose Maria Gironella… It’s a long list.

cowboyangel said...

>When I hear “anarcho-syndicalism” I can’t help but think of the scene with the peasants piling up mud in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

One of my favorite scenes from the movie I've seen more times than any other. It's scray to think how much of my world-view and knowledge comes from Monty Python. But, really, their scenes on political groups/organizations in Holy Grail and Life of Brian are absolutely brilliant. It's their fault that I'm such a political skeptic!

"Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony."

>Toledo was just amazing. The narrow streets, cafes, plazas, soaring cathedrals

I love the cathedral, especially the Transparente, where the angels are gazing down from the open vault and one is reaching out through the opening.

>I haven’t seen El espiritu de la Colmena or Tierra

I highly recommend both, in that order.

>I like just about everything directed by Pedro Almodovar.

You realize that in a couple of those films, you were reading Liam's translations? He did the English-language versions for a lot of Spanish films, and you'll see his name at the end of the credits in at least one of the Almodovar movies.

>Have you ever seen Mario Camus’ Los Santos Inocentes?

No, but I'll look for it now.

Jeff said...

Always glad to run into another MP fan. They provide for great social lubrication and a common point of refeence for a couple of generations now. You can spend a whole evening doing various quotes and impersonations.

Liam did translation for an Almodovar film? Get the heck out of here! That's great! Liam, if you see this, I am very impressed.

I can think of one kind of freaky, eerie Spanish film I saw recently. The ghost movie The Devil's Backbone. Sort of like the The Ring meets the Spanish Civil War.

Trailers, reviews and clips.

cowboyangel said...

At one point in my life - say, at 18 or 19 - I think I had the entire Holy Grail memorized. I worked at a supermarket with my best friends, and we'd do whole big sections of the film while straightening out the shelves.

Yes, Liam had quite a career as a film translator. I believe he met Almodovar, along with several other Spanish directors. They would come in to the studio and work with him on the synchronization of the subtitles. He has many stories.