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For the Love of GodKenneth G. Ramey Salem-News.com
Today Love, to the Church, and to Evangelists, is a striving for communal-adherence to their brand of Christianity; can adherence to dogma is a requirement of God’s Love, as it was in the beginning and always will be, if traditionalist have their way.
(PASO ROBLES, Calif.) - Christian philosophy is based on the Greek model especially that of Plato whose philosophy ["love of wisdom; the science which investigates the facts and principles of reality and of human nature and conduct"] became the cornerstone for the Institution of the Church where Christian “Philosophers” define the Nature of the Good Life as they see it, and Ethics ["the science of moral values and duties; the study of ideal human character, actions and ends”] is the Active Arm of philosophy, the Church.
The Church’s purpose is to inculcate principles and practices necessary to achieve the Good Life as disarmingly defined as the Love of God that flows from the top down so long as Christians submit to and abide by Church authority. Historically, those who attempted to reach God by independent means were denounced, excommunicated, and even burned at the stake.
Today Love, to the Church, and to Evangelists, is a striving for communal-adherence to their brand of Christianity as demonstrated by the “Notre Dame Controversy” where adherence to dogma is a requirement of God’s Love, as it was in the beginning and always will be, if traditionalist have their way.
At a gathering of friends nearly fifty years ago, Roy, of Lutheran persuasion, asked John [who was more American than Mexican] and not a strong Catholic, how he could embrace Catholicism. John was not prepared to defend what to him was a weak cultural attachment, and obviously was taken aback. I listened for a time while Roy took advantage of his opportunity, but when it was clear the discussion was out of John’s league I interrupted to ask Roy about his concept of God.
Christians, regardless of their church affiliation, are wont to think of God [Jesus] in Universal terms when He is not. Roy, it turned out, was a product of his givens rather than a man of his own conviction. When I asked Roy for his concept of God, he wasn't sure what I meant, so, I asked specific questions; does God sit on a throne; does he have a beard? Roy didn't know.
Suddenly it was he who was fumbling for words; would you concede that God is a person, omniscient and omnipotent, and knows how many hairs there are on the head of all persons everywhere? "Yes," he replied. Do you also believe God is Love? Faithful to his teaching, his answer again was an unqualified, "Yes."
Then explain to me the love of a God who chose to reveal Himself to one small segment of humanity knowing the horror, bloodshed and death it would provoke for tens if not hundreds of millions of people. Why would God, an all-powerful Being possessing complete, unlimited universal power and authority choose such a course when He could have avoided the slaughter?
Roy was in a quandary, his wife was pouting in the kitchen, John was speechless, and I didn't have a clue myself at the time. The atmosphere was becoming emotional, as usually happens when reason is absent. But there was no breach in our friendship. We all worked for the same bank in similar capacities.
I worked in the Training Department of the bank, where I interviewed applicants and, if I hired them, saw to their training,. I interviewed two priests who resigned from the Church [if such a thing is possible] and a third who escaped before taking his vows.
The Seminarian, having had quite enough of his experience simply bolted before taking his vows, and in an exuberant celebration of his freedom painted the town red, urinated in public, and was arrested.
Of the two priests, one had been reduced to such a submissive state he would be of no value to the bank, but I hired the other who obtained his release from priestly duties via Papal Dispensation [a trial period to let him test the waters of the “wilderness”] during which he was still considered a priest. Bill assured me he had no intention of practicing the priestly art or of ever returning to the cloth. “I am a mortal being who objects to being thought of in any other light,” he told me.
At the personal level, religion is seductive and usually less blatant than at the executive level. However, the leadership does set the pattern. Bill was a priest in the eyes of the Church and would continue to be until, or unless, he broke Cannon Law. As a Dominican friar, Bill was a teacher, he loved children, and wanted to marry.
If he did, he’d be guilty of breaking Canon Law and would immediately be ex-communicated. He assured me he was prepared to accept the consequence. There would be a period of indoctrination, under my supervision, where he’d be assigned to several branches for a year for training before receiving his first permanent assignment.
I assigned Bill to an office near his residence, a usual practice, but within days the VP in charge of our department received a letter from the Church. Bill was recognized as a priest by a Brother-in-Christ also of the Dominican Order. So long as Bill remained in that office no priest would be permitted to enter, including those who made deposits. The threat was clear. I was told by my VP to remove him immediately.
I phoned Bill as required , and asked him to report to my office. When he arrived his frustration was obvious by the number of cigarettes he smoked, one after the other. We agreed we should confront the priest responsible for Bill's removal at a house in San Francisco used by priests on leave from their duties or on vacation. When we met, he was in civilian clothes and asked me if I was Catholic [I am not], then he explained the reason for his action
A woman who knew Bill as an active priest had made sexual accusations against him and was bought off [sent by the Church to Hawaii] to allow time for Bill to be removed from her presence. I looked at Bill who said not a word, but who smoked a lot.
"No greater love hath man than this," I mused, and thought the Church must really love Bill if it was willing to finance a trip to Hawaii to silence his "accuser," boycott the branch to which Bill was assigned, and threaten to close the Church account(s) to protect him from evil. Where might I assign Bill where his presence would not be objectionable to the Church, and he could get on with his training?” I asked. Anywhere would be OK, I was told, except the branch to which he was first assigned. But, it wasn't acceptable at all; matters only got worse.
I purposely said nothing to the Branch manager when I reassigned Bill to his branch far removed from his first assignment. Consequently, I was surprised, when the manager, excited almost beyond control, called me the next day to ask why I hadn't told him Bill was a priest?”
A Jesuit Monsignor had approached the manager [himself a Catholic] to tell him a priest was working in his branch and so long as he did, the Church was obliged to curtail, if not actually end, its relationship with the branch. I presume Bloke-A, who knew of the new assignment, reported it to the Jesuit Archbishop of that Diocese who assigned the Monsignor to the case.
I hadn't told the manager, I explained because of our prior experience, and because I had been assured by a Dominican priest that this would be an acceptable branch. I didn't expect a problem, so I thought it best not to advertise the fact. The manager's demeanor softened and we agreed to leave Bill there till I could work out another arrangement; it wouldn’t take long.
The next day the manager called me again. He had just received a call from the Archbishop exercising his apostolic authority, who insisted Bill be removed from the branch, “Now!” Again I called Bill to my office, and for lack of a better idea, was forced to place him on suspension till the matter of his employment could be settled . Seldom have I witnessed such torment in an individual. We agreed we should take the issue to the top. I would call the office of the head of the Dominican Order in San Francisco, under whom Bill had served, and would let Bill know if and when we might confront him together. Then I sent him home to wait.
For the first time [in my ignorance] I realized that the Church did not speak with one voice. Apparently the Jesuit Monsignor and Archbishop had leave to act as they did in spite of the assurance I had received from the Dominican Brother-in-Christ. The conduct of the Church, I felt, was beginning to take on the character of a conspiracy, and I was not the only one who thought so. Before we could meet with the head of the Dominican-Order an incident occurred that contributed to the solution of the problem.
During Bill’s suspension, a meeting was conducted in the very branch from which I was forced to remove Bill a second time. The Topic was Affirmative Action, intended to promote Blacks and other minorities, but at this meeting it was the dilemma of the priest and the conduct of the Church that got top billing. The leaders of the seminar were from Administration but were not familiar with the situation. My office became the focus of a great deal of attention. Fortunately, I kept meticulous records, and the general impression, once the facts were known, was that Bill had not been treated fairly, and many Catholics were among those who voiced their opinion to me.
When Bill and I finally met with the head of the Dominican Order I told him of our problem, and said unless the Church allowed Bill to work in peace I would have to let him go. I added that I was surprised the Church did not speak with one voice. The Affirmative Action Movement [during the 1960s], and the meeting at the branch from which I had to remove Bill by order of the Archbishop, did not present the Church in a good light. The dismay with which Catholics heard the news of the Church's conduct was not doing the Church any good; his response with thoughtful.
The three of us agreed on a branch assignment for Bill with the understanding that, if there was any whistle blowing by any member of the Church, I was to let the Dominican head know immediately. The matter was resolved, and several years later Bill resigned from the bank to take up his old vocation, teaching. He married the lady who became the mother of his first child. Love prevailed, but he had broken Cannon Law, and because of it he was "free at last."
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