13 December 2007

"Friend and Sister" of St. Cronan's

The Post-Dispatch story from yesterday on the St. Cronan's event contains the following text:

Their church building — big, warm and dry — stood just yards away, but the St. Cronan parishioners had decided that they'd rather be cold and wet than without a woman they called their "friend and sister," Rabbi Susan Talve of Central Reform Congregation.

Talve has spoken at St. Cronan's, a parish known for its progressive social activism, during many previous prayer services during the Advent season. But this year, the pastoral leadership received a phone call from St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke, asking them to revoke Talve's invitation.

I have received a lot of feedback on the St. Cronan's post-- both positive and negative. Some of those defending the non-protest vespers protest on Sunday pointed to the fact that the presence of Rabbi Talve is a tradition at St. Cronan's. Without addressing the obvious issue of just why would a Catholic parish routinely invite a leader of another faith to lead its advent reflections, there are other factors that make this particular choice inappropriate.

This speech occurred back in March 2006 at Aquinas Institute, itself the subject of a visit by Vatican officials in the wake of the abuse scandal and the resulting investigation of the course content and formation of all seminaries. See this story from NCR for general info, and this report from KSDK for specifics as to Aquinas. In her speech, the Rabbi offers her insights on, among other things, the sin of the Israelites and the golden calf. She gives an interesting spin on it-- and I don't want to be accused of taking these remarks out of context, thus the link to the full speech above.

From an Evening Prayer Reflection by Rabbi Susan Talve on the Occasion of the Aquinas Lecture
March 9, 2006


...The sin of the golden calf is the sin of certainty, believing that we can know what we cannot know, losing all humility, and from this sin, despite Moses' pleas for forgiveness, many of us die. We learn that the price for the certainty is great.

Like the golden calf, the sin of certainty reduces the complex nature of creation to a single simple response that leaves no room for interpretation. The sin of certainty is what keeps us from tempering passion with compassion. The sin of certainty also has room for only one idea. It is what keeps us from listening to alternative views with open minds to receive new information and ideas that could change our beliefs not for political or self serving reasons but because our hearts have opened to them.

[...]

To counter the sin of certainty, we try to produce souls who are not afraid to interpret situations in multiple ways and offer arguments for different positions and points of view with a kind of humility that always remembers that this is the human point of view and not Gods.

The sin of certainty always limits us and keeps us from the wonder and the promise of the possibilities for healing and hope in our mishkan.

[...]

The calf tells us that we need to be certain to commit to a relationship or a goal and that questioning and doubt are weakness. With the golden calf we see a frozen reflection of what is and we become attached to it even if it is no longer true or good for us. We are trapped in the certainty that this is the only way; the only solution, the only path and we cling to it even when it isn't right for us anymore. The mishkan always leaves the space for doubt and allows us to take risks that will grow into greater love, greater opportunity.

[...]

I'll bet Thomas Aquinas never imagined these two Jewish women would be preaching and teaching in his mishkan on his feast day!...

Now, of course, as a Rabbi, Susan Talve should not be expected to hold a Catholic view on any particular matter, or of any point of scriptural exegesis. She has her own religious convictions. That is precisely the point, though. Is it not? The reflections above seem to give comfort to those persons who consider themselves both Catholic and progressive. Those who believe that holding to "certainty" may foreclose them to greater gifts. Those who believe that the truths of Catholicism aren't something that can be defined by the authority of the Pope but rather are the result of an ongoing dialectic in which dissent of the "faithful" is a force for a slow realization of the truth given by God that the faithful themselves determine. In fact, precisely the kind of thing condemned in the strongest possible terms by Pope St. Pius X in Pascendi.

With regard to the public actions of Rabbi Talve, we have as the foremost problem her congregation's hosting of the infamous fake ordinations in defiance of the request of the Archbishop. Moreover, she was featured in one of the "stories of hope" on the site of the euphemistically named "Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures", supporters of Amendment 2, that amended Missouri's constitution to protect embryonic stem cell research.

Everything that I have covered above may be perfectly in line with the religious traditions of Judaism, of which I am certainly not an expert. I will also assume that she is 100% in good faith as to the motivation for her actions and beliefs. Great. But the point is that these positions and actions make her a person that a Catholic parish true to its name, its faith, and its duty, would never invite to lead a prayer service for its members.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

You write: "Without addressing the obvious issue of just why would a Catholic parish routinely invite a leader of another faith to lead its advent reflections, there are other factors that make this particular choice inappropriate."

Why is it inappropriate to invite a person from another faith to join in Advent reflections?
Are you against the neighboring churches working together in prayers and deed? I wonder what you think of the MCU C4 efforts in Saint Louis?
http://www.mcustl.org/mcu_c4.php

Do you think we should be isolationists? Are you afraid of other religions? From the time I can remember,and long before Vatican II, the good sisters taught us to love one another and to accept others as they are; to show by example; to welcome others into our churches and homes that they may share the goodness of the Lord and may learn from our love. We never were told to close our doors to "those" people. They practiced Matthew 25 in all ways. I wonder how these good sisters would be treated today. Would the archbishop send them away?

By denying others of different faiths the chance to share their perspectives, we imply we are afraid, that we fear our own faith is not strong. Our jewish, non-christian, and non-Catholic neighbors are not monsters. They worship and pray and try to do good. We have nothing to fear.

thetimman said...

anon,

The MCU is a good example of one of the legitimate types of interfaith activity-- banding together to further some common community societal end. The MCU does not stand for the endorsement of syncretism, which is what is implicated by having persons who do not believe your faith teaching members of your faith in matters pertaining to the faith. Big difference.

I am not an isolationist. Far from it. The Church has a mandate from the Savior to preach the Gospel to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Christ did not command his disciples to engage in dialogue with all nations.

We are not to exercise a phony love for those who do not participate in the fullness of the truth by confirming them in error, but rather are to really love them by sharing the truth about Christ and His Church. Rabbi Talve did not attend the service as a member of the audience to listen to Catholic preaching; instead, she came to lead Catholics in prayer. Again, big difference.

Obviously, I in no way called Rabbi Talve or any non-Catholic person a monster, as you suggest.

If you saw a person in a barrel about to go over Niagra Falls, would you accept them as they are or might you try to warn them about the big waterfall?

wolftracker said...

Well, if certainty is a sin, my next confession will sound a lot like this.

Me: Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. It has been two weeks since my last confession. I accuse myself of the sin of certainty.

Priest: Certainty?

Me: Yes, Father. Since my last confession, I have read that certainty is a grave sin.

Priest: Are you certain?

Me: Well, Father, I don't know how to answer. I am sure that I have been convinced about many things, but if certainy is truly a sin, I must ask you not to ask me if I am certain about being certain. You see, I would hate to commit the sin of certainty as I confess the very same sin.

Priest: Hmmm. What have you been so certain about which has given rise to this sin?

Me: Well, many things. Like, I am certain that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit comprise the most Holy Trinity.

Priest: Yes this is true, but there is no sin to be firm in your knowledge of this truth.

Me: What about the golden calf?

Priest: What about it?

Me: You know, the sin of believing what we cannot know and all that jazz.

Priest: My child, certainty is no sin if you are convinced of the truths of Holy Mother Church. Instead, a greater sin is that of uncertainty--where we muddy the waters and try to tell others that they can never be certain of anything and everything. This leads to the Dictatorship of Relativism that our Holy Father has discussed so eloquently.

Me: Thank you, Father.

Priest: No problem.

Etc., to end of sacrament.

thetimman said...

WT, perfect relativistic sacrament--no absolution given.

Anonymous said...

You write:
"If you saw a person in a barrel about to go over Niagra Falls, would you accept them as they are or might you try to warn them about the big waterfall?"

Are you assuming that the person will not survive? People, such as Carlisle Graham, have survived the trip.

If that person were "about to go over," he/she probably could not hear anything I had to say, perhaps I should write "yell," because the roar of the falls would drown out my words.

And yes, I would accept that person as he/she is because that person made a choice. Whether I agree or disagree is not relevant. I can but hope the person deliberated before choosing to go over the falls.

You write: "Rabbi Talve did not attend the service as a member of the audience to listen to Catholic preaching; instead, she came to lead Catholics in prayer. Again, big difference."

What is wrong with her leading Catholics in prayer? Are we not praying to the same God? Is she teaching heresy, or is she leading us in prayer? Is she using the same old testament we use? Is she providing us some historical background? What is the sin in her leading us in prayer? Are we going to question the translation she may have used? That would be a joke, given the number of translations we have of the bible.

You write: "We are not to exercise a phony love for those who do not participate in the fullness of the truth by confirming them in error, but rather are to really love them by sharing the truth about Christ and His Church."

What is phony about the love? Are you suggesting we must not love those who think differently than we do? Our love is for the person. We can share our beliefs with one who does not believe as we do and do so in sincere love. We should not love the Rabbi because she thinks differently than we do?

thetimman said...

anonymous, I can't argue with your decision to let someone go over Niagra Falls without trying to help. That position will have to speak for itself.

As for your point of whether Rabbi Talve and you pray to the same God, I can't speak definitively to either of your conceptions of God. All I can speak to is the traditional Jewish and Catholic beliefs: Jews believe in the absolute unity and singularity of God, and Catholics, believe in the Triune God. Stated another way, Catholics believe that Jesus is not only the Christ for whom Jews were waiting but also the Second Person of the Trinity. I don't know, does Rabbi Talve believe in Christ as Messias and God? If not, she should not be instructing Catholics. If so, she may with to reconsider her religious affiliation.

Liberals like to confuse love with being "nice" or "accepting". I wonder if someone who risks their eternal damnation by engaging in mortal sin or obstinately embracing heresy will thank you for "accepting" them when you knew them in this life. I think they might be better off if you witnessed to the truth. Maybe they would thank you personally in the next life for giving them a wake-up call.

wolftracker said...

Anonymous asked: Are we not praying to the same God?

WT: Timman said it better than me because he is smarter, but I will try anyway. I do not think we are praying to the same God. And if by chance we are, then one is praying and the other is disobeying in a reverent fashion.

How can I come to this position? Words are nice, but actions speak better. No matter the Rabbi's words, she is one that follows a god that tells her it is ok to be part of a group called Clergy for Reproductive Freedom, a group that accepts abortion. This is something a Catholic (one who thinks with the mind of Holy Mother Church) knows to be antithetical to the God of Abraham, whose greatest gifts are life and redepmtion. Abortion steals one, perhaps both--we know not.

This is but one example where actions show that a different God is consulted by her and by us.

If, by chance, she communicates with the same God that we do, then she is disobeying His clearest commandments and is one who gives the appearance of prayer as she does so. In that case, she is a hypocrit.

Is she teaching heresy?

Yes, her presence as a Catholic event is the personification of heresy. Why? See above.

Is she leading us in prayer? No, she is leading those in attendance in a farce that appears to be prayer.

My views are mine. I do not wish to burden the Timman with them. So don't blame him for my thoughts, anonymous.

And may I ask a question of my own? Thank you. WHen will progressives see that actions speak louder than words?

Anonymous said...

Thetimman writes:
"Liberals like to confuse love with being "nice" or "accepting". I wonder if someone who risks their eternal damnation by engaging in mortal sin or obstinately embracing heresy will thank you for "accepting" them when you knew them in this life. I think they might be better off if you witnessed to the truth. Maybe they would thank you personally in the next life for giving them a wake-up call."

No, no confusion. One may love but does not have to be nice or accepting of behaviour. I may not approve of your behaviour, but I still can love you. It is when we confuse the human being with his/her actions that there is confusion. Loving someone does not mean refusing to speak to them of their actions. Because we may love someone, we may be quite direct in addressing what we may consider wrong.

Anonymous said...

Just a quick correction: All of the seminaries in the U.S. (not "certain seminaries") were subject to apostolic visits; Aquinas Institute was not singled out as you imply.

It would be appreciated if you would correct this in the original post.

- (a different) Anonymous

thetimman said...

anon, thanks. I didn't mean to imply that only certain seminaries could have been visited, but that Aquinas was one of the ones that were in fact visited. I have changed that part of the post.