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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Monsters R Us

I hesitate to do this, but before any of this will make sense, you have to go visit this website.

My hesitation is based on the fact that I really don't want to encourage cowards who post things anonymously - especially scathing things like this. That being said, you have to promise me that, after your visit, you will leave a comment telling him (and, I have no doubt this is the male variety of coward), exactly what you think of his cowardice and violence.

Our anonymous coward from the Hills of North Georgia who, by the way, is NOT an Episcopalian, is writing his opinion about the recent action by the Presiding Bishop to depose former bishop of Quincy, David Mac Burney, who has already made it known that he has left the Episcopal Church.

He's allowed his own opinion. Absolutely. His opinion, however, is that the actions of our Presiding Bishop are, in his words, "monstrous." His description of her is one befitting that of a hideous monster.

Here is my response in a reflection on monsters.

I have always been fascinated with words. The one thing that always shows up, year after year, on my Christmas Wish List is a complete multi-volume set of the OED, the Old English Dictionary. (How long, O Lord, how long?)

I suppose this should come as no real surprise. English is not my mother tongue. Indeed, I was part of the new wave of the children of Portuguese immigrants in the city of my birth, and, since we could not afford the RC school in our parish where we might find some temporary sanctuary until we learned to become bilingual, we were sent to the public school system which was, unfortunately, simply not ready for us.

The first three months of my academic career were spent in the Special Needs class - with the children whose IQ's were borderline, or they had what we now know as 'learning disabilities'.

Never mind. Mrs. Kelliher was our teacher. She knew the score. She worked with me privately in class and after school and, within three months I was mainstreamed into the regular classes. She loved me into my new language and I, in turn, loved her and my new language. I ran to it as a baby turtle pushes through egg and sand and runs ecstatically to the water, my new home, never to return to the shell and grit of my origin.

I understand the power of language. I know its ability to shape images and imagination, thought and feeling. I know how language can hurt and harm - even unintentionally.

As a young Roman Catholic child, I found the word "monstrance" fascinating. This is the word used to describe the receptacle into which the consecrated host is placed for adoration. I discovered that the word comes from the Latin, of course, monstrare = to show.

But why, I wondered, did this word also find its root in the word 'monster' - that which is so hideously ugly as to make children cry, women flee, and grown men pick up clubs to kill? Certainly, this was not a proper term to describe something which held the precious Body of Our Lord.

On further investigation, I discovered that the word monster has its derivative in the Latin monstrum = a portent or a warning. As I grew older, my study of language naturally led to being a life-long student of human behavior, which is so often shaped by language.

And, I began to understand.

Monsters are only hideous because they are a warning. They show something about us, about our human nature, which we keep in the shadows of our lives - deep in the murky, ancient waters of the human soul. Or perhaps, if you will, hidden away in the Bell Towers of the church like the Hunch Back of Notre Dame.

We choose to see the epiphany or 'showing' in the monstrance. We choose to see the warning in the monster.

The warning the monster gives us tells us less about that being and more about what lurks in our own souls. These are the themes which were explored by great wordsmiths and storytellers like Victor Hugo and Mary Shelly. It calls us to remember the story of the Titans in the mythology of Prometheus.

Monsters are fashioned from the depths of our own psyche, deep in the dark corners where anxiety and fear lurk. They reveal more about the frailty of our own humanity than the creature on whom we cast our terror and need to punish or enslave or kill.

In this way, monsters are, in their own way, a monstrance, an epiphany or a showing.

And, it has ever been thus:

There are none so blind (or blinded by fear or anxiety) as those who refuse to see.


Kirkepiscatoid said...

The other interesting thing is have you ever noticed that "female monsters" can be created simply by the accusation of "lack of nurturing?" In other words, be anything but a martyr or the Blessed Virgin Mary and poof! Instant female monster.

As far as some of those folks on the site you cited taking umbrage over the "God as mother" stuff, I guess they've never heard of the word shekinah--a female word for God as manifested in holy objects, like the Ark of the Covenant. Since when can a genderless God have only a male face? Oy vey.

I call my church building "she" and "the old girl", because when I'm alone in her, I can feel 90 years of prayers stuck to the walls, and that certainly qualifies as "shekinah." I guess that makes me a monster too.

RB said...

I do have a few questions.

Where do you find that Bishop MacBurney has left the Episcopal Church? I cannot seem to locate any such statement.

What harm did Macburney commit in the confirmation of children in a non-Episcopal church? (Your article seems to value service and ministry to children.)

Do you feel that the Presiding Bishop's inhibition of MacBurney only a few days after his son's death (ignoring the pleas of Bishop Ackerman) was justified? Why does this not upset you while the characterization of the Presiding Bishop's actions as "monstrous" seems to bother you tremendously? Is there no place for any sense of compassion toward clergy on the "other side"?

Ralph Burton

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

RB - are YOU the author of the Hills of the North Blog? Who are you?

First of all, even David Virtue writes that MacBurney has long ago "severed ties with TEC and re-affiliated with the Anglican Bishop of Argentina."

Yes, it's also true that he never formally relinquished his standing in the HOB, which is the precise legal reason for the formal actions against Cox, Schofield and MacBurney.

It's a formality. They left. They admit they have left. The PB and HOB are simply formally recognizing and accepting their decisions.

And, if they have left, they are violating centuries-old canon when they perform any sacramental act in a diocese not their own.

I can't imagine anyone - most especially the PB - who doesn't grieve for the loss of MacBurney's son. But MacBurney had long ago left TEC. Not only that, he was engaging in ecclesiastical mischief and sacerdotal lawlessness by performing confirmations without the consent of the bishop diocesan.

He's a bishop. He knows the rules better than most. His actions in the Church of Argentina and in performing these illicit confirmations does not exactly paint a portrait of a man who was in deep emotional grief over the loss of his beloved TLC.

To try to connect his disposition with the loss of his son is simply ridiculous hyperbole which reveals more of the desperation of the Right than it says anything about the PB or TEC.

The lawlessness of the Right is disgraceful. The emotional manipulation of the Right in screaming "violence" and "monster" is simply beyond the pale.

Bill said...

I must be strange because I've always been fond of monsters. I always remember the scene in the Hunchback of Notre Dame when Cosimoto asks the gargoyle, "Why was I not made of stone--like thee?"

If the PB were a man, he would never have been accused of being a monster. It might have been said that he was stern or forceful but never a monster. When it comes to women, we have these hangups. Women aren't forceful, their bitches. Women aren't stern, their heartless. It's a double standard.

As far as these ex-bishops go, they made their beds. They knew the rules. They knew the potential consequences. It's very possible that they didn't think a women would take them to task. Well that sure backfired on them - now didn't it.

Lost in Texas said...

Not monstrous, just unkind. Even if McBurney is "guilty" and liable to be deposed, if the PB knew, as she apparently did, of his sons condition,what would have been the harm in waiting a month. Wouldn't he be just as deposed in May as in April. I am a law school graduate, and I can appreciate as much as the next man the importance of procedure, but I wonder, if you would be as flip if you or Bishop Robinson were deposed so soon after the loss of a beloved child.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

"Flip?" You think this piece is "flip"?

Many, you really are lost - and not just in Texas.

Now, just in case you didn't know it, the above sentences were an example of "flip".

My essay was as thoughtful and intelligent and as fair as I can muster in the face of all of the vitriol and poison being served up every other minute by those on the radical Right Fringe.

The timing of the PB's decision may seem odd for a Chief Pastor, but I trust that it was absolutely necessary given what might have been happening in the background unbeknownst to us.

She's really caught between a rock and a hard place - being Presiding Bishop who is riding out all the tempests being brewed in all the various teapots on the Right side of the Anglican communion.

Lord, have mercy and help us all through the rest of this schism.

Lost in Texas said...

I was not referring to your original post, which I actually thought was very interesting. I was referring to your response to Ralph Burton. You still have not answered my question. I agree that the PB could and posibbly was jsutified according to the Canons to inhibit McBurney. I questioned the timing. She knew of his family situation and she could have waited. Also , this is the second time I have posted here and the second time you have insulted me via my screen name. I have never insulted anyones intellegence or beliefs here. A little coutesy would be appreciated. Now how about answering my question. If you or Bishop Robinson were inhibited or deposed under similar family circumstances, even if you had renounced the disipline of the TEC, how would you feel

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

You know what, Mr. Lost? You choose to post anonymously, albeit under a 'screen name'. When you give the courtesy of the disclosure of your identity, you can expect to be treated in kind.

I've not been to law school, but I know a rhetorical set up when I see one. This is not about you or me or our depositions or ill children.

This is about the impossible vocation of dealing with folk who take their marching orders from the Chapman Memo. They are hell bent on destroying TEC as they leave.

Could she not have waited? The answer to that is obvious to me: No.

Why? I don't know, but I do know ++Katharine and I know her to be an excellent pastor. She is also one of the most self-differenetiated, psychologically healthy clergy I've ever met.

She would never fall prey to any of +Keith Ackerman's well-documented of't times hysterical emotional manipulation.

Given the dirty tricks being deployed every 10.5 seconds by the Right Fringe, I can just imagine why she had to act as she did, when she did.

Bottom line? I trust her. You don't. Pity. Probably not the only thing we disagree about. And look: God is still in heaven, the world is still spinning on it's axis, and the sky has not fallen!

Amazing, right?

Lost in Texas said...

My name is Brent Clarke and I live in Amarillo Texas. I didn't know that that was required for people to be civil. I am not setting up a rhetorical question. I do not dislike PB Shori and I have nothing against LGBT folks. I have worked with them and for them. I have no problem with LGBT folks in my church and I have no problem with PB Shori taking advantage of the Canons to remove clergy who do not meet the requirement of the TEC. I do not think her actions were evil or monstrous or sinful . I simply state that they were mean and unkind. You say she could not have waited. Why? You are a priest and according to your bio, should be very knowledgable about the working of the church. What possible harm could have come from waiting for the man to bury his son? I will agree that PB Shori is quite possibly a fine priest and accomplished minister. I have no first hand knowledge of her self-differentiation or psychological health. I have questioned neither. Do you believe that Bishop Ackerman was lying when he said the son was dying. Subsequent events would seem to prove him correct. I do not think it is amazing that GOD is in his heaven, I count on it, as I do his love.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hello, Brent. I am, as a Christian, always kind to strangers. However, when people post anonymously on blogs, they exchange the courtesy normally extended to strangers for the privilege of hiding behind anonymity. As far as I'm concerned, that comes at a cost. Thank you for being honest about who you are. It's ever so much better to have a conversation this way, don't you think?

Brent, you are obviously not listening to me, or reading what I've written. I am very well versed in how the institutional church works. I've been involved in activism in the church for most of the 22 years I've been ordained.

I've told you why I felt ++Katharine had to act when she did. First and foremost, I have absolutely no doubt that there was a serious, compelling reason for her to act when she did or she wouldn't have done it.

Do I know what that is? No. I don't need to. I have read the Chapman memo. I have seen these boys in action. If you have not read the Chapman Memo, please do. You will be astounded. And, you will understand what I'm talking about.

Or, spend some time in the comments section of places like SFiF. Take your antacid with you, however. Most of the comments there will turn your stomach.

Secondly, I have known +Keith for years. I've seen him operate many times on the floor of the HOB.The poor man dissolves into tears every other second. If he called me, I would not have bought into his emotional manipulation either. Indeed, my suspicions about whatever was being planned in the background would have been heightened.

Finally, I am astounded by how often the Presiding Bishop's personal integrity and pastoral ability has been called into question as she goes about responding to the impossible vocation of leadership in these days of schism in the church.

Were she a man, she'd be lauded as being a strong, decisive leader. Courageous. Bold.

Am I saying that this is sexism? You bet I am. That much is painfully obvious. But, it's not the primary dynamic. The cries of outrage and the brushfires of controversy are all part of a very well orchestrated attempt to whip up sympathies across the pond. The fact that our PB is a woman makes that even easier for them.

That's my perspective. You asked. I answered. You don't have to agree with me. I don't expect you to. But, please read carefully what I've written before asking questions I've already answered.

John said...

As a "True" Anglo-Catholic I believe in the rights of LGBT. However, the social rights that should be granted and the theological point to offer blessings of such behavior is absurd . Behavior is the key. Just as gambling and cursing are behavior. All sinful. Just as heterosexual behavior is is sin outside of marriage is a sin. Now that I have got that off my chest. Lets dive in to the fun. I believe that PB Jefforts Schori has made many mistakes since her accession as Primate. Through dive bombing, for lack of a better term, she and her henchmen David Booth Beers have done nothing to prove their actions ever show Christian Charity. Through manipulations of the constitution and canons of TEC they have maneuvered to put for different ideals that are contrary to Scripture; which I am sure you are versed in Madam reverend. Where in scripture does it state to pounce on the faithful when they are at their lowest? Where in scripture does it say that their is no other church but the episcopal church? Where in scripture does it say that Jesus is a woman? Where in scripture does it offer that these actions, eluded to in the first three questions, are exceptable. The answer is nowhere in scripture. We are called to turn the other cheak, but also to defend Christ, as well as love our enemy in the scriputre. Has the National Church and you forgotten the important commandments, in the Mass,before the Kyrie? Oh wait thats right Rite I is not used in most episcopal churches anymore. Frankly I have a problem with the timing and the inhabition itself. He is a Christian, a Catholic Christian, who has not Abandoned the Communion, he has only abandoned the idea that PB KJS, knows all, and will defend Christ to the death. She has proven as much with her lack of Charity and lack of temperance in the face of discourse. I pray for her everyday and will continue to as long as she is in office as the Primate. I will pray for you to Madam Reverend, that all who have disdain for those of differing opinions will have a softening of heart. As I pray the same for my self. I am not a low church or middle church Episcopalian or Anglican. I am an Anglican and Episcopalian. However the more the Church divides and speaks with hateful tone towards their Christian brothers, this leaves only one place to go as a Christian body. BACK TO THE BASICS. Which has not been done in the Anglican communion since the late 60's. I know that if we go back to the basic catechism and teachings of the church and back to prayer to the HOLY TRINITY:GOD the Father, GOD the SON and, GOD the Holy Spirit. That all problems will be solved without lawsuits, threats and depositions. This is my Humble opinion. But I think it is a valid point. Your thoughts Ma'am?

John Riddles here.

RB said...

Rev. Kaeton:

Yes, +MacBurney broke the rules. But some rules should be broken, and some violations are more serious than others. I suspect that you yourself are the kind of person who would not allow canons or ancient traditions to keep you from doing ministry to people -- and by that I mean no insult.

The confirmation +MacBurney performed was at a church that was no longer Episcopalian, so no other Episcopal bishop could claim it was their church. Would you deny the sacramental rite of confirmation to the children and newcomers of this church because of this ongoing dispute, since they have no bishop nearby who can perform it?

By the way, I found the quote from David Virtue to which you referred. What it actually says is this:

Even though the church MacBurney visited had severed ties with the Episcopal Church in the United States and had re-affiliated with the Anglican Bishop of Argentina, a primate of the worldwide Anglican Communion, the charges allege that MacBurney impermissibly crossed Diocesan boundaries.

It does not say MacBurney had severed ties with TEC. It says that this church did. MacBurney is still (for the time being) and Episcopal bishop. So this action does have a real effect.

BTW, no, I'm not the blogger from Hills of the North. I'm a simple Episcopal layperson in Nebraska.

Ralph Burton

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

John, My credentials as an Anglo-Catholic are just as "True" as yours. I know. Hard to fathom, right, my being a woman and all that. I will also pray for the softening of your hardened heart. If you want to know what I think about this subject, just read what I've written in my previous comments.

+RB - Well, you brought me my first chuckle of the day. MacBurney "broke some rules" but we should ignore that because "some rules need to be broken."

++Katharine broke your sense of the rules of social grace and she's a monster.

I think we've come to the official end of this conversation.

John said...

Saying you are an Anglo Catholic and actually being one are 2 different things. Nowhere in these posts does it state the answers to my questions, For the record, this has nothing to do with your gender. It is through your words that you demagogue orthodox anglicans and anglo-catholics. I separate the two for a very important reasons.

Anglo catholics believe the Church was set forth as a schismatic sect of the Roman Church Usually these folks are charitable and loving to both sides of this debate. In fact the call out the orthodox, more so than the Episcopalians, for their tactics and puritanical mindset.

"Orthodox" Anglicans are the people that worship as lovers of the protestant approach brought forth thru the 39 Articles and Cranmner. They are less tactful and usually on a one on one basis; will show Christian charity but in the cyber world use somewhat aweful tactics, just as bad as the PB does in the case of MacBurney.

So these terms are not together. You here talk bad about both that recognize authority outside of TEC, which is the heart burn with your blogs. From your statements and comments here Madam Reverend, your claim to catholicity other than reading the creeds is bogus. I would love the opportunity to discuss this with you outside of a thread here. But as always the moderate gets shot the Liberal crys and the conservative comes up with answers. That is a statement to what SFIF would want someone to believe. They are just as "wrong' as you in most cases, when it comes to showng Christian Charity.

Discourse is not a bad thing. In most cases it should be embraced. The church leadership is cutting of the group who hold the differing ideas. THis is not Christian. Its Politics. IF we are going to plav politics then thats a game I want in on, but I can tell you this, if they want to remain in the socio-politica spectrum, which is the case now, I gurantee my thoughts and ideas as well as my group in the politics will win. We need to as a group return to our knees and strengthen our relationship with God through his HOLY TRINITY.

I would like someone to point out to ++Katherine that the canons do not allow some of the movements she has made and is making. It is an Administrative role not an Authoritarian role. ..

Just to point out the church is the Mother... Jesus is the SON of God. That is not pointed to u Madam as much as it is the ones who approve of referring to Jesus as Mother Jesus.

Please answer the questions as set forth in my previous post.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

John, while I agree with most of what you say about those who claim to be "orthodox", I disagree completely with your definition of what it means to be an Anglo-Catholic. It reveals the very arrogance and tactlessness which you ascribe to the "orthodox."

I have neither the desire nor need to describe or defend my catholicity to you. A "true" Anglo-Catholic would never require that of another. Neither would s/he, in all Christian charity, ever apply a litmus test to anyone who claimed to be Anglo-Catholic, much less dismiss that claim out of hand in the most uncharitable term of "bogus".

My gracious, you haven't even met me!

Rather, a "true" Anglo-Catholic would warmly embrace another into that particular and distinct community as one who cherishes the rich tradition of belief in the incarnation of God in Christ, a devotion to the theotokos of the BVM, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in all of God's creature.

Neither do I wish to engage in this conversation with you on this blog.

Perhaps we shall meet one day on this side of Eden and have a conversation in person. If you are as "true" an Anglo-Catholic as you claim to be, you would have a natural preference for the relational and the incarnational.

And, for what it's worth, I don't know a woman who is ordained a priest in God's one, holy, catholic and apostolic church who would not find your salutation of "Madam Reverend" offensive.

If you wish to bestow upon me a title, then I request that you do so with the same charitable equality as all of my other brothers who are "true" Anglo-Catholic.

If you refer to ordained men as "Father" and not "Mr." then my request is that you refer to me as "Mother" and not "Madam Reverend."

John said...

I do earnestly apologize for the reference to you as "madam reverend." In no way was it meant to be offensive. I am not familiar with salutation and proper greeting of female clergy, except deacons. That is what is so wonderful about the word Deacon, it is not gender exclusive... I will refer to you as Mother Keaton, I was truly unaware that it was common. I meant to be nothing bt respectful. THeir was also never an ask for you to defend your catholicity. Their were questions about the defending of ++Schori and where scripture defends her actions. Anyway I do apologize. Look forward to and welcome an open discussion.

RB said...

MacBurney "broke some rules" but we should ignore that because "some rules need to be broken."

Yep. What is your opinion of the action in Philadelphia some years ago when they first ordained women into the Episcopal priesthood, in violation of the canons as they stood at that time? I feel darn good about it, myself.

I note that Jesus violated some rules when he healed on the Sabbath -- in the synagogue, without permission of the synagogue ruler.

Some rules need to be broken.

Frankly, if I had to choose between a bishop who shows by his actions that he cares about children, and a bishop who shows by his actions that he cares about his turf -- well, as a father, I wouldn't have to think about it very hard.

BTW, no one that I know of called the Presiding Bishop a "monster" -- the Hills of the North blog depicted her actions as "monstrous". There is a profound difference. I think he went a bit far in some of what he said, I do question whether her actions were in fact petty and insensitive.

You'll have to forgive me. I have this tendency to Question Authority.

Ralph Burton

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

John, Thank you for your apology. It is "Kaeton" not "Keaton". Not to worry. More people than I can count make that same mistake. Please do let me know when you'll be in the area - perhaps we can meet for tea.

RB. To compare MacBurney's actions with those of the Philadelphia 11 is like comparing apples and spaghetti. Good grief! The first is a clear cut abuse of power. The other is righting the wrongs of the abuses of power. You know. Like Jesus did.

MacBurney was not acting pastorally. It was ecclesiastical mischief, pure and simple. He knows it - which is why he's not defending himself. Nothing to defend. He is, however, letting the tempest continue to swirl - which, of course, was the point in the first place.

You are splitting hairs, my friend, about "monstrous" and "monster." There's a difference between legitimately questioning authority and just being a smart aleck.

Paul Powers said...

At diocesan conventions here in the Diocese of Fort Worth, the Bishop is addressed as "Right Reverend Sir." When you become the IVth Bishop of Fort Worth, you will be addressed as "Right Reverend Madam," unless you prefer to be addressed as "Right Reverend Sir," for which there is precedent of a sort from the various "Star Trek" series and from British usage where the Queen is Duke (not Duchess) of Normandy and Lord (not Lady) of Man.

In the meantime, while "Madam Reverend" is both ecclesiastically and gramatically regretable, it may not be off the mark for you to encourage your parishioners to address you as "Reverend Madam" (at least during your annual parish meeting).

Elizabeth Kaeton said...




(I hope God loves me more than that!)

FranIAm said...

I am always loathe to comment on TEC matters, as an RC observer in a church filled with its own problems.

However, I found myself weeping when I read this post, the second time I have wept at this blog today.

The levels of anger, fear and ignorance shown by some shock my heart.

However, with you and with so many other TEC bloggers that I read and know at various levels, I am almost always moved by what I read.

Your story in particular really got me Elizabeth... your teacher loved you into your new language.

The clarity and generosity of love in your heart and in your work is clear.

Thank you.