Monday, March 29, 2010

The truth will set us free.

The crisis in the Catholic church over clergy sexual abuse will not go away. It has finally reached the pope's doorstep, which should surprise no one.

Still, many want to defend B-16, as he is called on many blogs; and I, too, would like to believe that the Holy Father is indeed holy and without blame. But it is hard to do so,knowing what we now know about the way the hierarchy always protects the institution over the individual.

The pope's defenders unfortunately include the likes of Bill Donohue of the Catholic League. This self-appointed spokesman is a loud-mouth who adds insult to injury when he says, as reported recently, that the problem of abuse is worse in public schools than in the church. He is one of those who keep attacking the messenger, in this case the New York Times, for trying to get at the truth about what happened in the Munich archdiocese under then Cardinal Ratzinger, who went on to head the watchdog Vatican office that supervised all claims of abuse.

This is a painful and abhorrent topic for people like me who revere much of what the church stands for and hate to see its leaders denigrated. Perhaps, since this is Holy Week, I should put this shameful burden in the hands of the Suffering Servant, who bears widespread human suffering with heroic patience.

In the final analysis, there can be no healing without justice, no justice without truth. The pope must satisfy the faithful that he has told the full truth about his role in enabling sexual abuse by priests; so far, he has not done so.

Monday, March 22, 2010

life and death, patience and patients

On this pre-Easter weekend, I awaited word on the death of a dear friend's dad in Miami. The end for him came just hours before the Congress voted, at last, on health care reform and breathed new life into what is for millions of Americans a life-and-death struggle. All this on the first day of spring.

As I reflect on what has been called by its critics Obamacare, I can only be grateful that it has been made possible by a president who has, among other attributes, the rare gift of patience. This was in evidence not only during his careful deliberations over Afghanistan last year but in the year-long battle to enact health care.

Whereas most people hurry, he ponders and plans.

Part of what makes Obama a national asset is this often-overlooked virtue, which enables him to be a good listener, a master of policy details, and a strategist who is willing to wait until his many critics look like fools. He seems to accept insults and small setbacks since he patiently keeps his focus on the big picture.

Years ago, in researching a book,The Triumph of Patience, on the neo-Stoic virtue of patience as spiritual strength and heroic fortitude, I looked long and hard at what this virtue once meant and still might mean. I never expected to see it so beautifully displayed at the highest levels of political power by the singular man who has given life to what seemed not long ago a dead or dying idea.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

wasting time

Somewhere recently I read that we tend to spend 85 percent of our lives waiting. Everything from elevators and red lights to doctors' offices to ordering in a restaurant involves waiting, and it is commonly thought that such waiting is necessarily a waste of time.

But I wonder if it is--and if the time we are given can actually be wasted. Perhaps it has to do with the attitude we take toward the time we have each day, making the most of the moment.

For example, while waiting for a flight to take off at an airport, I can easily retreat into the private world of my reading or meditation and be grateful that I have been given this period of seemingly useless time in which to be present to myself or to the text before me. Or to God. I can savor the power of the now.

In his recent book, 'The Naked Now,' Richard Rohr (one of my favorite spiritual writers) mentions the mystical tradition of the third eye. We have three eyes but seldom use them all.

One eye is physical, to see things; one is rational, to analyze or reflect on things; and the third eye is one of true understanding. This is the contemplative sphere of the mystic. Rohr, like Eckhart Tolle, is very good at de-mystifying mysticism, giving the reader a down-to-earth sense that all of us can be mystics. Mysticism is not about having visions or trances; it is about seeing the big picture, of going beyond either/or thinking.

So much depends on being aware of the present moment as a timeless event, which brings me back to the impossibility of wasting time--looked at with the third eye.