Category Archives: Saint Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry

Of Chickens and Ducks: A Taxonomy.


Republished with permission from the Companions of St Silouan Athonite


Those of us in the vocation of teaching or preaching sometimes find that no matter how we attempt to describe something, we fall short of the mark, that is, we just don’t have the wherewithal to communicate complex situations in terms our audience can fully embrace.


As I lay in bed one early morning unable to sleep, and immersed in reflection, I began musing and imagined the various Christian faith communities as chicken farms, and I created a taxonomy of about 4 categories of chickens. I reached for my journal and jotted down some key thoughts in order not to lose them. Once I found peace having jotted down the necessary mnemonics, I was able to doze off. I rose early that morning to reconstruct my dozy thoughts. Here they are:

There are Ducks among the Chickens

On the one hand we have the factory farms where the chickens are confined in large coops and fed a prescribed diet doped with various enhancers. These are the Roman or Western Rite Christians. They are kept in parochial coops, fed a diet of dogma, doctrine, catechesis, and Canon rules and regulations; they are under the chief keeper, the bishop, whose minions, the priests are the farm hands. The corporation headquarters calls all of the important shots for these chickens. It’s “systematic.” The lights in the coop go on timer-controlled, stay on for a set period of time, and then go off. Feeding is done automatically, mechanically by the hopper method — homiletics or liturgical preaching —, in the process of delivering  a premixed formula — a so-called liturgy —, which the clucks devour at set times, and then go on with their lackluster, routine lives until it’s time to make the trip to the processing plant. That’s category 1.

Factory farmed, raised systematically, kept in line by protocol.

Category 2, took shape when I turned my thoughts then turned to the chicken-metaphorical Eastern Orthodox Rites. Here I have free-range, cageless chickens, who roam about within a perimeter of dogma and doctrine. These chickens have relative freedom and autonomy, although the head farmer makes all of the major decisions affecting their lives and his farmhands live among the chickens, ensuring that they stay healthy, and keep the foxes and weasels at their distance. These chickens rise with the sun and roost when the sun sets. They have relative variety and color in their diets and it’s natural, no artificial additives; organic. These clucks are out there digging around and experience the mystery that is their life and the beauty that is their world. They live their live with relatively few rules and regulations, and finish their lives plump and clean.

Wandering and feeding in the beauty and mystery of creation.

There’s a third category of chicken in the chicken world I’ve conjured up. It’s the chicken kept by the guy down the road who wants his eggs fresh and his Sunday dinner just outside his door. Nice and convenient. This chicken is kept in a rather pedestrian, vulgar way, allowed to roam about, kept in a makeshift hutch or in a coop. Their keeper is not particularly well educated in chicken-care nor in what chickens need out of life so their diet and care is a bit haphazard and generally subject to their keeper’s idiosyncrasies and whims. Their keeper gets his chicken knowledge out of a popular magazine or off the Internet. No real plan, no real structure, each chicken has a personal relationship with its owner. Neighbors see these chickens and refer to them by the owner’s name: “There’s Joe’s chickens in the road again. “ “Or Amy’s chickens are in our backyard again.” With little or no supervision or protection, these chickens sometimes become road-kill or are taken by a fox or a dog. But they can also be happy chickens because they don’t know anything else, and they can be healthy chickens, but they’re good only for soup because they’re very lean and underfed; a bit tough at times. These are the non-mainstreamerspopular religious movements, sects, cults and storefront “churches.”

Backyard chickens.

Getting near completion of our taxonomy of religious chickens, of course, we have some chickens who fall somewhere in between these three groups, or chickens who get “rescued” by one or the other categories. They’re still chickens but a bit confused.

Finally, we have the un-chickens. These are creatures that think they’re chickens, look like chickens, act like chickens but are definitely not chickens. Fortunately, these bizarre items are rare and they do make the tabloids or National Geographic. They even manage to attract vulnerable followers, who think that these un-chickens are the real thing. Most of these un-chickens are charlatans, some may actually believe they are chickens, but they are easy to identify and can’t easily hide their deception from the discerning observer.

The Un-chicken. They look like chickens, act like chickens, but don’t know they’re un-chickens.

I would be remiss if I didn’t include the un-chicken category. These are not chickens at all but ducks who want to be chickens. These ducks leave their aquatic environment for dry land among the chickens. These ducks have lost track of their special gift: mythologically they inhabited and belonged to three worlds: the world of water, the world of dry land, and the world of the ether. Some would say that these ducks, if they were aware and awake, would realize that they mediated between the sky, the earth and the water. They are special. They think they’re chickens but they still sound like ducks and walk like ducks. Some of the chickens don’t even know there are ducks among them; some of the ducks don’t know they’re ducks. But in reality, you can’t mistake the ducks among the chickens but no one seems to mention the fact and no one makes a peep…or a cluck.

Moving freely between worlds.

And then there are the ducks. Wild and free. Diving into the depths or flying invisible paths. No words or texts are needed to guide them. They find their food along their journey’s course. They quench their thirst in fresh, living water. They live in all three spheres but belong to none in particular. Unlike the chickens who are earthbound and know only a circumscribed tract, the ducks share three worlds; they know the world under the reflective surface of the pond in which they dive, they know the dry land where they walk, and they know the heights, which they share with eagles. We might call the ducks among us the mystics or the contemplatives, those among us whose keeper is the Spirit.

The Spirit is in our midst!

Br Silouan …
A chicken in discernment to be a duck!

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A Novel Venue for Developing True Spirituality: Companions of St Silouan Athonite


Some General Information About
The Companions of St Silouan Athonite

First of all and from the outset: This is not a religious group nor a denominational outreach. It is not a cult-in-the-making.


One nagging question that I have frequently posed is this: Why do most people think of spiritual care at the last minute, when someone is at Death’s door or when you are facing the dying process of a loved one? It’s like exercising and eating a healthy diet after the heart attack, isn’t it? Why not get started now.


This is an ecumenical, interfaith, non-denominations, judgement-free community of persons who are solely interested in companioning each other on their spiritual pilgrimages.

The inspiration for forming a wider group of spiritual companions came from my association with a Russian Orthodox Monastery in Northeast New York. The monks decided to resurrect a concept of a group of lay persons who would live some of the monastic values while in the secular world. These so-called companions of the monastery would apply, be considered as aspirants and then admitted to the so-called companions. They would subscribe to a rule of life, establish for themselves a prayer discipline, support the monastery in time and treasure, and make regular pilgrimages, either to the parent monastery or to some other monastery or retreat venue. It was a great idea but poorly organized. It was open to all faiths and, while it had an insignia identifying the companions, a small stylized cross, it still had the flavor of a very distinct Christian denomination. I couldn’t imagine a Buddhist, a Jew or a Moslem wanting to become a companion and having a cross as their insignia.

My patron saint is St Silouan of Mount Athos, St Silouan Athonite for short. I chose Silouan because of his humility and simplicity, his dedication to love and forgiveness, his compassion. Although Silouan was highly advanced in monastic ascetic spirituality and reached the height of monastic hierarchy as a Staretz or elder, a schemamonk, his humility and simplicity were legendary. Silouan, a Russian Orthodox Christian elder monk, who lived on the exclusive Greek peninsula known as Hagios Oros, the “Holy Mountain”, or Mount Athos, he lived values that transcended the Christian model and are the common threads of all the great world spiritual traditions.

As a professional theologian and thanatologist, a scholar of religion and psychospiritual care, I find that the vast majority of persons who call themselves members of a particular faith or belief community don’t have a clue about what their denomination teaches. Most ministers have no clue about what’s going on in interreligious dialogue, much less about their particulars. Most institutionalized religion has been caught with their pants around their ankles when it comes to credibility.

In recent decades we have all too often heard the ambiguous and practically meaningless phrase, “I’m spiritual, not religious.” Even the “spiritual” professional literature from the healthcare, deathcare and spiritual care disciplines can’t even agree on an across-the-board commonly held definition of what spirituality is! In fact, one publication did a review of the literature and found more than 90 different “definitions” of  spirituality!

In my professional practice I deal with end-of-life, death, dying, and survivors. I know the value of religion and I know the value of spirituality; I think I know where the one stops and where the other starts. Every time I think I’m sure, a situation arises that sets me back to square one.

One thing is certain: every human being is spiritual. There’s no doubt about it. Once you can admit you recognize that there’s something greater than yourself, that transcends your understanding, you have become spiritual. Now how you use that evolutionary revelation to best advantage and how you ease into it to make meaning of difficult moments, suffering, challenges is another story. To get the most out of your spirituality, you need companioning, guidance, others willing to talk about their spirituality and to share their insights.

That’s what this group, the Companions of St Silouan Athonite, is all about.

It’s an open group meaning that anyone inclined to explore the group can freely do so. What you receive from the group and what you give to the group is purely a matter of what you have at any given time in your journey. The pilgrimmage is self-paced. The requirements are your own.

The only formal hierarchy is me, the self-styled “Principal Companion,” actually the monitor of the group and the main person doing most of the work on this site.

In the near future, once the group shows signs of stability and growth, I will offer two levels of formal membership: Aspirant and Companion. The Aspirant is a candidate who has identified a sincere calling to companion others in developing their spirituality. The Companion is the person who has achieved a certain level of competence in companioning through personal discipline and involvement.

Initially, there is no commitment other than the personal commitment you make to yourself and to those with whom you have a relationship to follow the Simple Rule of the Companions of St Silouan Athonite. As the Companion community matures, we may ask for volunteer support or offer specific products for generating funds. Those products will be subject to the Community’s approval, basically all full Companions will have a say in what is offered and what is done.

At some point in time, again as the Community grows and matures, it would be great if we could have a Companions retreat once a year at locations offering retreat accommodations and meeting facilities.

The organization will be very loosely structured: Most of the site will be public access. That means that announcements, reflections, etc. will be public access.

Anyone interested in more intense involvement will be asked to “Follow” the site by signing up with their real name and their email. This means only that the moderator, I, will see who you are and know our email. You will receive an email automatically notifying you whenever a new item is posted. You can do the same for comments.

At some time in the near future, I will post an application form on this site. If anyone wishes to become an Aspirant they will fill out the form and email it to me.

To become a full Companion, you will fill out the same form but only after 6 months of Aspirancy, include an essay about your spirituality and the importance of being a Companion, and you will document your spiritual activities, retreats, spiritual direction, etc.

A full Companion will receive a letter of good standing and a Certificate of Companionship, both of which will have only sentimental value.

Very soon I will create a suitable “habit” for Companions. The habit will be a small item identifying the wearer as a Companion. It will likely be a lapel pin or similar item. Cost will be kept low, since the value of the habit is to be kept intrinsic and the habit itself is to be kept very humble.

Since most everything will be done digitally and the material for reflections etc. will come directly from my own resources or from material I’m reviewing at the time and find suitable for the Companions, no real overheads will be generated. As for the habit, the Companion will purchase that directly from the manufacturer.

I may from time to time suggest certain devotional items such as prayer ropes and the like or items to enhance sensual aspects of the spiritual practice. If I do so, I will also provide links to suppliers of such items. I do not have any financial interest in any of these suppliers but if one were to come about, I would announce that fact publicly to the Community.

Aspirants and Companions are accountable to themselves. If you misrepresent something you do your conscience is your judge, no one else.

Finally, all I ask is if you are seriously interested in becoming a participating member of the group that you contribute to the reflections or to the feedback about reflections. The only requirements are that you remain on topic, leave egos outside, and don’t bring any personal baggage on board. No proselytizing and not judgmentalism.

In closing, I do sincerely welcome your comments, recommendations, suggestions, even criticisms of me and only me. Comments should be made using the comments form on each post; they will be moderated and then published. If you don’t want what you write to be public please email me your thoughts to st.silouan.companions@gmail.com. Your email communications will be confidential and I now notify anyone concerned that I invoke clergy privilege should any law enforcement agency request insight into the emails. When I say confidential, I mean confidential.

As always, I am available at st.silouan.companions@gmail.com should you have any questions or concerns.

To view the Simple Rule of the Companions of St Silouan click here.

Looking forward to exploring the beauty and mystery of spirituality with you,

Peace and joy!
Rev. Ch. Harold Vadney BA, [MA], MDiv.
Principal Companion


Church, Companions on a Slippery Slope


Church Victim of Slippery Slope Logic

Passing through some of our local communities, I frequently notice churches, that is, the physical building, the places of worship, and what characterizes them. The structure, the upkeep, the appearances, the messages posted outside; these say a lot about the people these brick and mortar structure, symbolic representatives of the beliefs and communities they claim they serve. I often see the trite clichés like “God is home, come on in!” or “Be yourself; everyone else is taken” and similar trite slogans. Apparently the Roman Catholic Churches in this area, Ravena and Coxsackie, NY, have given up on being taken seriously so now these parish leaders, the pastors have to play cool cutsie, mimicking their Protestant and Reformist cohorts. Such silliness simply degrades the sacred space and makes idiots of those who still frequent them.

Contrary to what you have been led to believe, dear readers, churches are not where God lives [Thank God!], that is, churches are not God’s personal primary residence, they are sacred spaces where we can find safe, quiet space to reflect, meditate, be still, or engage in a conversation with the Divine, a practice we call prayer, but have forgotten – or never knew how to do it. Nowadays most conversations with God turn out to be like conversations with those twits exercising their thumbs on an electronic device; God’s trying to reveal himself to the twit who’s functioning with half a hemisphere.

Repurposing Our Churches

 Materialist-consumerists worship their new idols: mega-flat screens, surround sound, a nymph, and a bottle. Happy worshipping!

When I hear of closure of churches, merging of congregations, sale of church property, conversions of churches to art galleries, restaurants, even private residences, I feel a cold shudder. These churches have become like dinosaurs; they were once living, awesome organisms, and they thrived and nurtured similar life but at some time long ago they became sick, languished and died. Now all we have left of them are lumps of rock we gawk at in museums or use as paperweights in our studies. So, too, many of our former sacred spaces are now secular spaces where the inhabiting materialist-consumerists worship their new idols: mega-flat screens, surround sound, a nymph, and a bottle. Happy worshipping!

So where has God gone once evicted? God’s where he’s always been: in the dark silent depths of our hearts, unless we’ve replaced God there too with some idol like money, sex, a car, a political figure. Yes, O’Idolaters of Ubiquitous White Noise and Distractions, the Ultimate Truth still lies hidden in that wet, fertile, darkness deep within a human being (No, not a vagina!) but who nowadays with their stymied white-cane spirituality would dare explore the silence within when there’s so much to do in the world? Why would anyone want to become acquainted with their true self when they can invent another, more pleasant, acceptable self and transform it at any time. Who will know? You will. But you don’t care because you’ve been diving down that slippery slope for so long you wouldn’t know your true self if you tripped over it!

In my meanderings I spend time in churches, at meetings and conferences, on Internet forums, at monasteries, interacting with others in a variety of settings. I note the anxiety and the vulnerability of so many people; I note their white-cane spirituality, blindly pursuing some sort of agenda-seeking-to-become-a-religion, a tool for a virtual life; I listen to and become offended by the ignorance and narcissism of those claiming to be called to a vocation, as clergy, as lay religious, as lay ministers in churches, congregations, parishes; I frequently observe the infantile fascination of the unwashed when, in a strange ecstasy of voyeurism, they rub shoulders with monks, priests, nuns, or spiritual leaders, and they grin idiotically as if caught in an act of masturbation. “Hee, hee! Look at me!” Narcissism, too, is a form of idolatry. I have to wonder whether the gawkers or the gawkees actually realize the pitiable dynamic going on. It’s rather like the voyeurism of social media but worse. Worse because the so-called spiritual leaders are actually enjoying the worship, and the egos soar – and the wound deepens and festers, poisoning the entire mystical body.

If churches and faith communities are hemorrhaging members, the religious vocations are dwindling into membership cachexia. And like starving rats will go for anything that smacks of survival. For several decades now, the materialist consumerism and the dumbing down of society has left the message of higher truths and spirituality to languish in the shadow of anti-human propaganda, corporate greed, political narcissism, social confusion, despair and anxiety. Fear of loss is the underlying message everywhere we look. That fear is nourished by the messages we receive of time running out for something, anything, everything; fear the terror threat, fear the coming rain or snow showers, fear the threat represented by the guy next door, fear the North Koreans, fear the Russians, fear the illegals. What we need to fear is the false teaching in the poor preaching, we need to fear the pulpit politics, we need to fear the bigoted perp patrols.

Stuck somewhere in a learning curve…

We are stuck somewhere in a learning curve. But where? We need to learn to fear our own demise and ignorance thanks to the conflicting and contradicting messages we receive from the media, the poor performance of our education institutions, and the dishonesty and corruption of our political system. Add to that the failure of our Judeo-Christian religious institutions to teach correct doctrine and dogma, and to provide effective preaching in support of implementing doctrine and dogma into our day-to-day lives in furtherance of “happiness” and a “good end.” And it’s no wonder people are despairing and anxious. The only religion that’s growing these days is Islam and our response is to demonize it as a bunch of whacko terrorists. Doesn’t anyone see where this is leading? But then, when I was a kid it was the Roman Catholics and Protestants killing each other. Only the bigotry and creeds have remained the same; only the faces have changed.

Failing religious institutions and religious organizations and institutions are desperately prostituting themselves in a vain attempt simply to survive. But like our cultural and political institutions our religious and faith institutions are appealing to the lowest common denominator in the attempt to get what they can and run with it. It’s not working, people, that’s why you see so many storefront and strip mall micro-churches flooding into the vacuum left by mainstream institutions. Problem is this: the storefront and strip mall micros are just as bad as the movie-theatre or stadium megachurches, because they create their own ideologies, agendas, idolatries and there are plenty of sheeple to participate because they don’t know anything better. Thanks Vatican II and interfaith dialogue, ecumenism. Lights, cameras, action! Worship!

I can speak from personal experience made in a relationship with a monastic community in Northwest New York state, near the Vermont border. The monastic community there is comprised of monks and nuns, both referred to as monastics, mostly lay religious (as opposed to ordained clergy), living in community according to a formal rule of life. Work, prayer, rest. Sounds like the good life, doesn’t it?

The monastery is nestled between mountains on several hundreds of acres of forest and meadow. The buildings are far from the noise of the picturesque local village and the hustle and bustle of the “world.” The work life of the monks and nuns is what supports the monastery and keeps the lights on and food on the table. Support from benefactors, publishing, music, and retreats are icing on the cupcake. Spiritual life is divided into private prayer and liturgy in the beautiful basilica and the small temple church. You’d think they have it all and then some. Their outward appearance is idyllic; what’s going on inside is traumatic.

But writing books, hospitality for retreatants, dog breeding and training, and cheesecakes cannot guarantee survival. You see, just 50 years old in 2016, the monks and nuns are aging and more are dying or leaving than are being recruited. One of the problems is the fact that the bishops, though they support the concept of the monastery, do little to encourage monastic vocations. Why? Because they have a difficult time just recruiting priests for their parishes. Also because of the What’s in it for me? attitude of possible recruits, the consecrated life doesn’t offer much that can compete with the idols of the secular world. Schools and churches just haven’t taught higher values so we end up with materialist consumers who have no concept of spirit; they are virtually spiritually deaf, mute and blind. There’s a certain paradox, contradiction in so much that Christians today claim.

Get the *&%$# of my way. I’ll be late for church!

So where does an organization in decline turn in the desperate attempt to survive a couple of more years? Like the consumer society they live in, they are compelled to sacrifice quality for quantity. Like the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany reports in a recent issue of Sheaf, the official gazette of St Bernard’s School of Ministry and Theology, the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese reports “200 deacons and growing.” When you can’t attract young men to the priesthood you have to attract old men to the diaconate. Numbers not quality count; that’s why the permanent diaconate was revived by the Roman Catholic Church in the 60s to stem the decline in seminary admissions; in many dioceses the diaconate has become a boy’s club, a church country club, an organization of narcisistic logrollers. “My dad the deacon.” “My son the deacon.” “My wife, Mrs Deacon!”

Deacon Chic Coming Soon to Your Parish!

The Episcopal church has been ordaining “women” for decades; many (mostly gender ambiguous specimens) in the RC church are advocating ordaining women deacons and the reasonable expected consequence of this slippery slope is women priests! When does this comedy of errors, this farce stop? [Editor’s note: For those of our readers with limited vocabularies, a comedy of errors is a related series of amusing or farcical events involving a series of awkward missteps or other mistakes.]

Clergy or Special Ed Class?

In the 13th century, in about 1221, St Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan Order, decided that there were many lay persons unable to join a monastery or live in a religious community, who were being left out of the Franciscan experience. He founded the so-called Third Order in addition to the First Order (the Franciscan Friars) and the Second Order (the Poor Claires). The Third Order has been around for almost 800 years now, and was thriving until recently, and it too is dwindling. The Third Order, like the First and Second Orders, is geriatric and dependent on an institutional walker. Even with the approval of the New Rule for the Third Order by Pope Paul VI in his Seraphicus Patriarcha, the Third Order is turning senile. Like so many once bustling religious orders, the Renewal of the Roman Catholic Church backfired, and now the main activity of the Franciscans is competing with the Evangelicals in the Third World or selling off Franciscan properties in the First and Second World, or burying dead Franciscans in this world. The Third Order is generally made up of old women, a few middle aged men, and some hyperpious (sociopathic) young adults. We can see where that’s going. You guessed it! They’re the one’s swinging the rosary beads in front of the abortion clinics and in front of state capitols, providing rich entertainment for the studs and trollops on their way to the hourly rate hotel around the corner.

OK. But can someone tell me how this works? How about you, Father?

More recently, the monastery I was discussing above, having had a previous community of married persons called “Companions” for some thirty years (1983-2014), until they either died or went off to nursing homes, decided that the monastic community had to generate some sort of alternative resource to support the monastery. Once the last Companion was shipped off either to the nursing home or to the cemetery, the building formerly occupied by the Companions was renovated and turned into a rather nice “guest house” where, for a “donation” of $80.00 a night, visitors to the monastery can stay. What the monastery did was to re-invent the “Companions,” who were originally married couples who lived together in an almost monastic community on the monastery grounds, and observed a life rule, and opened the new “Companions” to all faiths, all people who wanted to be “formally connected with the [redacted] monastery” and “deepen their spiritual lives.” The officially adopted and published rule of the new “Companions” calls them a “fellowship of lay people.” One of the purposes of the “Companions” is to “grow in wisdom” and to “understand the mystery of God.” If you haven’t caught some of the contradictions and inconsistencies in this, we’ll point them out to you below.

The Franciscan Third Order Cross.
(We did not have access to the Companions “distinctive cross” at this writing.)

Why become a member of this new “Companions” group? Well, according to the promo put out by the monastery, “They follow a realistic rule of life, wear a distinctive cross, have access to web resources dedicated specifically to the Companions, and help support the spiritual mission of “[redacted]. If all that sounds impressive, it’s not. Any adherent to any faith or belief tradition follows a “realistic rule of life”; “good”, that is, authentic Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. all incorporate some sort of prayerful piety in their daily lives. Oh! You get to wear a “distinctive cross” by purchasing it for about $69.00. That’s nice but a name tag engraved on an attractive plastic plate would serve just as well as an announcement that: “Hey, look at me! I’m a member of a distinctive group and you’re not!” Didn’t we just note that narcissism is a form of idolatry? Isn’t this a form of pride, a lack of humility? Does the Cross have to be “distinctive”? Sounds like a Pharisee to me. Having access “web resources dedicated specifically to the Companions” is touted as another of the membership perks. We’d rather not comment on that one but if falls short of expectations, we hear.

Let’s face the facts: The monastery may be facing annihilation over the longer term if it doesn’t (1) come up with some sort of recruitment scheme for the long-term future of the community, and (2) come up with some sort of outside “support for its mission,” which translates into people who are able and willing to give in support of the community before it has to start selling off acreage. The old “Companions” committed their lives and fortunes to the monastic community; they’re gone now and so, too, probably are their fortunes. We expect that the monastery is looking to the new “Companions” to pick up some of the slack.

And this is how it’s gonna be!

Our study of the new “Companions” and its format would indicate that as an institution it doesn’t promise much. It’s too loosely organized, there are no real commitments, everything is pretty lackadaisical in terms of governance – or dictatorial, since one of the monks is the sole director and calls all of the shots. The members are scattered all over the place, so it will be difficult to convene them for any sort of gathering. There are no financial commitments such as dues and the monastery doesn’t offer discounts or financial incentives specifically for Companions so there’s no actual money coming in apart from the odd donation, and no reason for Companions to support monastery funds generation through purchases or participation in for-fee (Oops! I mean to say, “donation.” That’s church jargon for you pay a fee but they don’t pay a tax for the “gift.”)

We have heard that the director of the companions wants to organize a retreat this year for “Companions” at the monastery but that is getting lukewarm reception from “Companions.” Wonder Why?

If the new Companions were organized as a more local group, they would be similar to a parish confraternity, and their numbers would be strictly limited to locals who participate in the parish or church community. To get numbers you have to appeal to a wider geographical coverage, like the entire state or country. But the monastery’s denomination is not even mainstream. Yes, it’s Christian, and that poses a problem right from the get go, but it’s also a very minority Christian denomination. But realistically, of all the obstacles, challenges and problems facing the Companions is the reality that being a Companion doesn’t offer anything particularly special that can’t be gotten by anyone walking through the monastery doors. Excuse me, for I have erred! There is one thing that is reserved for Companions only: the “distinctive cross.” A special design only for Companions, and only one per Companion, please. Available only through the monastery online store for $69.00. Now doesn’t that make you feel special?

A major theme was discussed by the monastics in various meetings before the Companion program was formally started…

We’ve obtained information from one of the Companions, an email from the Director, forwarded to us for information. Apparently there was some back-and-forth among the Companions about the proposed undecided retreat date, and the Director, apparently a bit pissed, but his response is interesting. He states in his email that, “[t]he Companion Rule talks about a fellowship with [redacted monastery], this fellowship is with the individual Companion and the monastics of [redacted].” This means that the fellowship is not between the individual Companion and the other Companions and the monastics of the monastery; rather it is between the individual Companion and the monastics! The director says further that this was a “major theme discussed by the monastics in various meetings before the Companion program was formally started.” Too bad the people aspiring to be Companions are not clairvoyant or mind-readers because the Rule is not clear on this point! He points out rather clearly that the Companions are not obligated to “share…with other Companions,” “that if Companions want to reach out to other Companions” they can do so of their own “free will” (But why would it be otherwise, we ask?), and emphasizes that “participation with other companions is voluntary.” That’s all very nice but where’s the bloody companionship in the Companions?

Tell me! What will the monastics decide?

We are informed that in an introductory letter to Companions, the Director states that the principal and only form of communication used by Companions central will be online. Sound a bit exclusionist? But in the more recent communication he goes on to say that although they might have computers and be connected to the [i]nternet [sic; recte Internet] “Companions do not need to be ‘shamed’ if they do not post comments on the Companion forum.” It seems to us that by definition, communication is a key word in companionship. If the Internet is the primary mode of communication and the Companion Forum is the designated place for Companions, why don’t they communicate? The do, but behind the scenes, sometimes in confidential ambush. But this is not uncommon practice in religious institutions. Much is done in secret and much done in secret is evil.

As for the “retreat date,” the Director writes: “[I]t will be up to the monks and nuns of [redacted] to set the date…the same would apply if held off campus because the mosastics must have the free time to offer a retreat.” So much for a Companions’ retreat. Question: Who’s the retreat supposed to be for?

Still in the learning curve. But where?

What’s really disturbing is that the Director writes, “[t]he monastics are still within the “learning curve” of the Companion program.” We have learned that there have already been a number of casualties among the Companions due to the “learning curve.” If this so-called Companions group purports to offer so many significant benefits, how can they achieve these under the current conditions and in the midst of a learning crisis? Please don’t call us, we’ll call you. By the way, let us know when you’ve gotten past milestone (3) of the “learning curve.”

Fellowship

Just a final word on fellowship and companionship

Just a final word on fellowship and companionship for those who are interested. We do hope that members of religious communities of any tradition, and especially the Companions get to read and reflect on this: [Editor’s note: While we do use as our authorities excerpts from Christian Scripture, parallel concepts with substantial identical meaning can be found in any of the great belief traditions. Anyone familiar with the sacred texts of those traditions will have no difficulty identifying those similarities.]

The Greek word  “fellowship” κοινωνία (koinónia) as it occurs in the Christian Second [New] Testament means essentially a partnership, joint participation, communion to the mutual benefit of those involved. Christian fellowship, then, is the mutually beneficial relationship between persons of common interest or belief. We believe that Christians can have the identical fellowhip relationship with those outside the Christian tradition. So we’re OK with the use of fellowship in the Companions Rule, if that’s what is meant. We don’t think it is clear in the Rule, though. First DING.

The mystery and privilege that is human fellowship is that it exists because it has been enabled it by Divine grace. Those who believe the Christian Gospel are united in the Spirit through Christ to the Father, and that participation is the basis of what we generally tend to call fellowship, a first step to companionship. This special relationship confirmed by Jesus in his high-priestly prayer:

“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23).

The phrase translated by “complete unity” in this prayer is the oneness that believers seek to experience in true communion —companionship — with another, and by extension, with the triune God.

If the ground is fertile for fellowship, it will grow naturally, because it’s natural for human beings to want to be around people similar to themselves and, in time, one finds one’s self desiring, seeking out, and cultivating the companionship of people who subscribe to similar beliefs and values. As a member of a faith or belief community one’s beliefs, traditions and values may be countercultural, that is, they be in stark contrast to the world around you. That’s one of the reasons why for fellowship in relationship with persons with whom we can share, relate, converse is a very important gift.

Whether one is of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition, the lessons we can learn about fellowship are condensed in the Christian pastoral letters to the Philippians. Here are some of the lessons we can learn about true fellowship and that it means:

  • praying for one another (1:3, 4)
  • serving God together (1:5, 7)
  • partaking together of God’s grace (1:7)
  • trusting in God’s sovereign working in one another (1:6)
  • heartfelt affection for one another (1:8)

Our prayers should not, in our opinion, be constantly begging for something other than what we face. We should pray that we have the strength to accept what is happening to us as God’s love for us; we should not pray that the situation change but that we be changed by the situation. This is the basis of hope: accepting the moment in anticipation of a positive outcome. We should reflect on Paul’s prayer at Philippians 1:9-11 (paraphrased):

‘And I pray this, that our love may abound even more and more in knowledge and every kind of insight so that we can decide what is best, and thus be sincere and blameless for the day of reckoning, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through virtue to the glory and praise of God.’

So where does companionship fit in this scheme of relationship living? Companionship in the Second Testament has a very specific meaning as opposed to the concept of fellowship.

The original concept of companion, as we read it, has to do with journeying together (Gk  συνοδία (sunodia) — a journey together), or to receive or give access to one’s self (Gk. προσδέχομαι (prosdechomai), both involving the prefix σύν (syn), indicating the notion of being with, together with, in union, in communion. Companions are further described as σύντροφος (syntrophos) used to mean “nourished by” or in the sense of a foster-brother, brought up with; one’s companion. Other words translated as companion express the notion of accompaniment such as περιάγω (periagó) — to lead around or take around as a companion) or παραλαμβάνω (paralambanó) meaning to take along with oneself, to join to oneself to, to companion.

It seems that companionship is a relationship in which the participants emphasize achieving an almost profound intimacy with each other through individual growth and self-actualization and excellent communication sharing so that their best spiritual and temporal fruits can be harvested. Companionship implies a relationship characterized by its closeness, and is more intimate than fellowship. Shared culture, tradition and values can be the basis of sincere fellowship but companionship requires the willingness and capability of going even deeper, and requires a higher degree of development of self-awareness, self-reflection, authenticity, commitment.

Companionship involves trust, vulnerability; not sameness.

To be companions, we don’t have to be clones of one another. Likewise, the responsibilities and vulnerabilities increase with companionship, and the companion must anticipate some of the challenges. Companionship goes beyond fellowship in its requisite attention to forgiveness, reconciliation and genuine presence. Companionship adds to the definition of love the aspect of sacrifice of one’s own interests to nurture the spiritual growth of others.

Companionship may be thought of as a form of fellowship but companionship is built upon interchange or communication, and communion, that is, a closeness that exists among companions, those closely associated with one another in virtue of a life rule or standards to which they are committed and hold in common. The key in companionship is communication and the focus concepts that describe companionship are interchange, communion, sharing, dialogue. Communication means sharing reflections, perceptions, ideas, information, needs, support, resources, gifts, using words or other symbols, dedication of time and treasure, being accessible and present, or even body language and actions so that all members of the relationship understand these to be expressions of one’s commitment to the community of companions.

Unless we have chosen to forsake all that is society and isolate ourselves from any contact with human beings, and choose to escape human community by living in isolation in some remote wasteland, we live in a society. Living in a society means that we live in close interaction with other human beings, and that the interaction will necessarily fluctuate between pleasure and pain. We have to navigate the testy waters of human relationships each moment of each day; we have to tread water or drown. Again, Holy Scripture teaches us something about what to do when we feel that our space has been violated.

In companionship there is also vulnerability, and vulnerability can often lead to suffering, even if only unintentionally inflicted. Ancient wisdom teaches that “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” (Prov. 19:11) To overlook an offense means to be able to understand what might have caused a person to offend you and to let it go. Christians generally believe that they are adopted members of the family of God and fellow members of the body of Christ. (e.g., 1 Co. 12:27; Rom 12:5; Eph 4:25)

Companions are Soul-Friends

Communication, accompaniment, forgiveness and reconciliation are the hallmarks of true companionship. If you are companions on a journey why would you vex your companion, and if you are aware you have offended your companion, you would likely go to great lengths ask forgiveness and obtain reconciliation. “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 18:23-24). We think that is a profound statement on companionship and the intimacy and communication that is seminal to the concept of being a companion.

And, of course, we do recite a familiar passage in our daily prayers, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Regrettably, in our materialist-consumerism, in the political and social climate of today, we are really poor losers. Rather than practice the principles of our faith and belief traditions, the precepts of our institutions, and our true nature, we’d rather ambush, deceive, misinform, simply flick the bird to those who should be our companions on the journey of life. This is equally true for individuals as it is for our organizations and our institutions. We are on a slippery slope, a situation in which a relatively small and well-intentioned first step leads to a chain of related events culminating in some significant, usually unintended or negative effect.

Companions Together.
See beyond the monkey.


Not Anti-Catholic Sentiment; Just the Truth!


The Roman Catholic church has been steeped in its Roman origins for almost two millennia. Rome was obsessed with order and hierarchies, legalisms and an emperor cult, very similar to the Roman Catholic church.

Not Anti-Catholic Sentiment: Just Examples of RC Indifference & Indiscretion

Like the ancient Roman obsession with order and legalism at the expense of anything like spirituality, the Roman Catholic church today is obsessed with order, including hierarchies, and what is tantamount ot an emperor cult — it has an obsession with secularism.

He sure does like to play 'dress-up' but what does it say about Catholic social teachings on poverty?

He sure does like to play ‘dress-up’ but what does it say about Catholic social teachings on poverty?

If anyone has been present at a Wednesday public audience in St Peter’s square, you’d wonder, “Is this a three-ring circus, a Superbowl homecoming, a Roman triumph? Or is this something to do with idolatry?” Yes, it would make the impression that the Emperor were arriving and the expressions on the pious populace would indicate a certain attitude of awe, even worship of an idol, a man whom they have never met and many have not even come within 100 feet of but whom they embrace as if he were a god. It’s no wonder these poor wretches are labeled superstitious, idolaters.

Has the emperor arrived?

Has the emperor arrived?

The Roman Church has followed a path so different from the Eastern Catholic churches in that while Constantinople was at a peak of resplendence, Rome and the Western Church we a backwater trying to survive the barbarian invasions. The Roman Church was always in politics and nothing much has changed; needless to say, if the Church was in politics it follows reasonably that it was up to its neck in intrigues and hypocrisy, as any Church scholar worth is opinion would have to admit.

Having noted Pope Francis’s hypocrisy in his recent comments about walls and Mr Donald Trump’s questionable Christianity, I received some flack from just a couple of annoyed RC’s — all well meant, I can assure you — but nonetheless making the impression of the defensiveness of the guilty.

I’ve written extensively on popular piety and idolatry of parish priests, and how those priests use and abuse their privileged status. I’ve also written on the ignorance and abuse of parish priests who do as little as possible to extract as much as possible. I’ve also written on the ruthlessness of parish priests who squeeze parishioners for all they can get.

the old-boys’ club called the permanent diaconate

Somewhere along the line, Roman Catholic priests and bishops —I won’t even get started on the old-boys’ club called the permanent diaconate and how that’s been perverted by the privileged few—have lost their sense of spirituality and have turned careerist, just as any corrupt politician does once he’s tasted power. Unlike the Eastern monastics who have retained their deep spirituality and have survived even as counterculturists, Western religious have either prostituted themselves or taken a turn for the secular, at least in appearance.

One apparent Roman Catholic presbyter (a.k.a. priest) admonished me for being anti-Catholic, and disrespectful in my opinions. He may have been correct and I respectfully acknowledged his well-meant opinions. I even thanked him for the charity of his fraternal correction, although there’s nothing anti-Catholic in my writings, it may be an indication of simplistic thinking when some misapprehend my critiques or rather observations to be anti-Catholic diatribe. Anti-Catholic they are not; anti-hypocrisy they are.

One of Fr Louis Guardiola’s remarks on LinkedIn regarding my comments on Francis’ imprudent remarks was that I may not have been familiar with the Roman Church’s teachings on social justice. Of course, Fr Louis could not possibly be aware of the fact that I am very, very familiar with Catholic social teachings from the question of the “morality” of war to the “morality” of poverty, from Leo XIII Rerum Novarum (1891) commenting on the condition of labor and workers, to Pius XI’s Quadragesimo Anno,  “Forty Years After [Rerum Novarum] (1931) to Mater et Magistra, “On Christianity and Social Progress” (John XXIII, 1961), to Pacem in Terris (“Peace On Earth”) (John XXIII, 1963); Dignitatis Humanae (“On Human Dignity”, a declaration on religious freedom) (Vatican II, 1965); Gaudium et Spes (“On Hope And Joy” a Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World) (Vatican II, 1965); Populorum Progressio (On the Development of Peoples) (Paul VI, 1967); Octogesima Adveniens (A Call to Action on the Eightieth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum) (Paul VI, 1971); Justitia In Mundo (“Justice In The World”) (Synod Of Bishops, 1971); Familiaris Consortio (Apostolic Exhortation on the Family) (John Paul II, 1981); Laborem Exercens (On Human Work) (John Paul II, 1987); Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (“On Social Concern”) (John Paul II, 1987); Centisimus Annus (On the Hundredth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum (John Paul II, 1991); The Challenge Of Peace: God’s Promise And Our Response (U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1983); Economic Justice For All (U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1986), and so many more were required reading and study during my divinity studies. Yes, Fr Louis, I am very, very familiar with the Roman Catholic Church’s teachings on social issues. (For those of my readers who are interested, please see the attached bibliography.)

My concern arises when the church, any church, leaves their familiar island paradises and make sorties out to navigate the perilous waters of secular politics in a world of mind-boggling complexity. My concern arises when a faith leader makes an imprudent statement that can be misconstrued to be an endorsement or a condemnation of a potential foreign leader, especially when that faith leader’s statement can easily be shown to be hypocritical (I think some circles have gotten excess mileage from the palaver of the Vatican’s high walls in response to Mr Trump’s statements on building border walls.) That is the gist of my commentary on Pope Francis’ imprudent statement that Mr Trump is un-Christian. It appears that statement actually backfired on the Supreme Pontiff. Do you wonder?

My critiques of the United States bishops like the ultra-liberal Matthew Clark and Howard Hubbard were in their time welcomed by many concerned Roman Catholics.

The well-wrought points of the illicit practices of parish priests perverting the liturgy and their ignorance of the doctrines regarding the liturgy and homiletics as in my article on one RC priest in the RC diocese of Albany, Mario NAME, and his playing the secular song, “So this is Christmas,” in lieu of a Christmans homily!

Careerist priests with little or no spirituality are anathema

I have pointed out the avariciousness and mercenary attitudes of priests who race to the bedside of the dying elderly to ensure a shot at the estate; those very priests, like Richard Carlino, a Roman Catholic priest doing his unholy mischief at St John the Evangelist RC church in Schenectady, New York, who loves his travels abroad and their fine dining. Careerist priests with little or no spirituality are anathema to me.

At least the heretics and heresiarchs of Church history performed a vital function in raising questions that needed deliberation in solidifying dogma and doctrine. Careerist priests do nothing but scar the Mystical Body.

During one of my pastoral formation years I was in a Maronite parish in Troy, New York, where the small but very pious and dedicated parish community was scandalized by one priest, George Bouchaya, only to be bullied by a monkish priest imported from Lebanon, unable to preach in English, totally ignorant of American culture, only one year after ordination, who specialized in hiding money in a money belt on trips to Lebanon, while packing all sorts of electronic devices and cell phones for distribution in Lebanon. When questioned about this and admonished, he ignored good counsel. Ultimately, he engaged the support of a couple idolaters and his bishop, Gregory Mansour, Maronite bishop of the eparchy of Brooklyn, supported him and his activities. In this case, as in so many other cases, the ignorant parishioners closed their eyes because they wanted to keep their parish. Bouchaya later returned (or was he sent back?) to Lebanon to assume an administrative position at his Lebanese monastery. (Editor’s note: The Maronites are an Eastern Catholic sect native to Lebanon, established by Mar Maron, a Lebanese saint. The Maronite Church is one of the 21 or so Eastern Churches in full communion with Rome.)

Ignorance or indifference of the church’s ministers is one of the problems the RC and other denominations are facing. So many RC’s are disillusioned by the inconsistencies, the uncertainties, the scandals, the indifference of the presbyters, that the RC church is hemorrhaging the faithful; the faithless seem to be hanging in there, after all that’s where all your friends hang out, isn’t it?

Ignorance or indifference of the church’s ministers

We recently reported on one Mario Julian, pastor of St Anthony of Padua RC Church in Troy, New York, who was apparently too busy to prepare a homily for Christmas midnight mass and chose to play a secular Christmas carol instead. If you haven’t already, please read our article: The Outrageous Ignorance: Instead of a Homily a Pop Tune at Christmas!

And Yes! even the Western religious life has gone to hell in a handbasket. We have written extensively on the decline of women’s religious communities and their secular capitalistic, heretical mediocrity. Even the Franciscans have gone awry, prostituting themselves to the diocesans. Mario Julian even has his own Mini-me in his assistant, Franciscan brother Phillip Hira.

Julian & Hira

Julian & Hira

We understand that Mario Julian has recently had bariatric surgery, that is, he’s had his stomach stapled. Catholic social teachings, again.

There is also some similarity between American politicians and the American RC church. If you take, for example, two of the present presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Ben Carson, the former a billionaire who made his money in real estate and the latter (Carson) a Black millionaire surgeon, need one final power trip, a trophy position. That’s the position of POTUS, president of the United States. In many cases, similar things can be observed in the Church in the permanent diaconate, for example, or worse still in the priesthood. One glaring example of personal experience would be the recent ordination of a former equine veterinarian, who was married for several decades, has grown children, but was able to cozy up to ultra-liberal bishop of the RC diocese of Albany, New York, and managed to get himself sent to John XXIII seminary, a seminary for elderly men who want to become priests, that is, men who have amassed enough money and influence to be sent by their bishop. We won’t mention Mr Lesser’s decades of flying in the face of the Roman Catechism or the fact of his coziness with the incompetent pastor of St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Ravena New York, James Kane, who is also head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany’s Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious  (one of the great jokes of modern church). Talk about politics! One such example is our fat little veterinarian friend, Frederick Richard Lesser, who retired as a veterinarian, sold his practice, cuddled up to ultra-liberal bishop Howard Hubbard, and got himself ordained at about 60. I attended an RC divinity college with Lesser and knew him rather well. I also knew for a fact that our pastoral formation supervisor advised him against seeking ordination. Lesser was arrogant, had a mean side to him, was a bit schizoid, and had enough psychological baggage to make Imelda Marcos look like a barefoot peasant. I was absolutely shocked when I observed Lesser as cross-bearer at the current RC diocese of Albany bishop, Edward Scharfenberger but I knew what was going on behind the scenes. Scharfenberger ordained Lesser in 2015, despite quite a number of reasons why Lesser should not have been ordained.

Veterinarian Lesser in his new priest outfit.

Veterinarian Lesser in his new priest outfit.

Finally, and probably most illustrative of a sicko church or at least a sicko diocese — but who can say with certainty that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany is the rare exception with these several glaring examples — is the image of the current bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, posing with an Episcopal bishop and holding Denver Bronchos chasuble. Yes, Albany’s chief Roman Catholic pastor and teacher holding up a sacred vestment adorned not with any symbol of the Trinity or the Pascal Mystery, but a symbol of depravity, excess, capitalistic secularism, a symbol of a professional football team. Do we have to say another word about wrong messages?

Albany's E. Scharfenberger, bishop, sending the Wrong Message. Again!

Albany’s E. Scharfenberger, bishop, sending the Wrong Message. Again!

So, NO! brother Louis! It’s not anti-Catholic sentiment at all. It’s the fact that from within the Roman Catholic church has been a three-ring circus since the 70’s and it’s not getting any better. After almost 50 years since Vatican II officially arrived on these shores in the official English language translation, the confusion and scandal has steadily increased from the very lowest level of ministry to the top, from the diaconate, to the presbytery, to the episcopy, even to the papacy. It’s become a veritable bad joke with no boundaries. It’s sending wrong messages. It’s indifference and indiscretion abounding. No! It’s not anti-Catholic sentiment, it’s the truth.

Pax et Bonum! Heresiarch

Pax et Bonum!
Heresiarch

Click Copy of catholic social teachings to download the Catholic Social Teachings bibliography.


Ring Out the Old, Wring Out the Old, Renew Radically! Albany Roman Catholic Diocese


Step 1: Cast out the demons!

Step 1: Cast out the demons!

 For some time now we have been silently observing, waiting for the housecleaning to happen.

In the past decade or so there has been catastrophic change in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, which has been characterized by many as being one of the most liberal, if not ultra – liberal dioceses in the United States. This liberalism has its roots in what can be described only as a general misunderstanding of the renovamento of VII, an ignorance of the key teachings, burnt – out, exhausted pastoral leadership in the former bishop of the Albany diocese, Howard Hubbard, who in his final years as bishop had all but lost control of the diocese, had delegated most of the leadership of the diocese to a handful of self – serving sociopaths, was showing signs of physical decline and conspicuous suffering. As is to be expected in such cases, there were those who were waiting in the wings to grab any power— albeit with no real authority, only the color of authority—that was left unguarded by the chief pastor and spiritual father of the diocese. The results were disastrous, going far beyond heterodoxy and heteropraxis, verging on the heretical. The Albany diocese started to look more Presbyterian than Roman Catholic.

The institution of the permanent diaconate, too, reflected the signs of perversion of a noble institution, and under the exclusivist domination of a few narcissists, took on the nature of a country club clique with only the hallucinogenic adumbration of the holy diaconate. All too many—though in all fairness we cannot say all—of the Albany diocese deacons paraded around as if they were members of an exclusive club, holiness was continues to be more the exception than the rule and we are still suffering under totalitarianism of the old – boys’ college of Albany diocese deacons, some of whom continue to tyrannize parishes, alienate parishioners, and open hemorrhaging wounds. The smoke of satan entered the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany through many such small cracks that eroded into huge fissures hemorrhaging faithful.

An example of the exclusivism, agism and general corruption of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany diaconate program is illustrated by the sad story of one aspirant who was encouraged to apply to the program, was accepted, but was called into then director Frank Berning‘s office for a “meeting” only to be told that Berning “had missed the aspirant’s age.” The aspirant was told flatly that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany rules set age limits and that the aspirant would be “too old” for ordination by the time he completed the pre-ordination program. The applicant was 58 years old, well-educated, completed a Master in Divinity degree (far superior to the majority of deacons!), and was in excellent health (in contrast to the majority of ordained deacons).  (See below for a contrasting story of a company-man who, at 58, is a seminarian and ordination candidate; he will be 59-60 years old if/when ordained!) That’s just one example of the nonsense that went on and probably is continuing in the RCDA. So much for the Holy Spirit!

One of the most recent debacles that has come to a head is the problem at St Francis of Assisi parish under the unpopular parish life director, deacon Ray Sullivan, who is doing more to alienate parishioners than to build a community of the faithful. That’s just one of many such examples that cry out for the current bishop’s attention. It is situations like those at St Francis and St Patrick’s, among many others, that beg the question of where the principal pastor’s mind and heart is when the faithful are suffering under misguided figures like Ray Sullivan (St Francis) and Jim Kane (St Patrick’s) and the St John-St Ann group!

Truly, as Pope Paul VI spoke the words, “The smoke of satan has entered [the Church] through a small crack.” In Albany there were many such small cracks.

St Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry: One of those cracks is represented by the liberal quasi – feminist institution housed under the Albany bishop’s very nose and promulgating and proliferating some of the worst perversions of Roman Catholic doctrine and teaching we have ever witnessed, openly criticizing the Church and its leadership in the presence of non – Catholic and non – Christian “students,” some of its instructors expressing blatant disrespect for Church hierarchy, sometimes referring to the Vatican derogatorily as “those men in Rome,” and casting the Roman Church in a very unfavorable light. This was most egregiously done in the presence of students and clergy of non – Catholic denominations, who already had an anti – Catholic bias. Moreover, as a so – called school of theology and ministry, this group welcomed individuals who had incomplete formation and were and are ill – equipped to adequately understand the concepts and principles essential to the coursework. Some glaring examples include a Southern Baptist who had been “pagan” until two years prior to “finding Christ” [?!?] and entering St. Bernard’s (through a small crack) to undertake studies in divinity before returning to his Baptist seminary to be “ordained” under an apparently accelerated ( =  rushed) program even before completing his studies. He had no knowledge of the major part of the “Catholic” subject matter [and sorely little of what there was of his own impoverished tradition] presented in the coursework but none–the–less was graduated from St Bernard’s. Another woman student, an Episcopalian, was rejected by her Episcopalian diocese approximately 3 times in her quest of ordination; in one course she was asked how many sacraments her denomination celebrated; she was unable to answer the question! She did not know how many sacraments her denomination recognized! She was graduated from St Bernard’s with a Master of Divinity degree!!! While we fully support the doctrinal concepts of interfaith dialogue and ecumenism but not to the extent of irresponsibly and wantonly opening a so-called Roman Catholic institute indiscriminately to the unwashed; there is a place for such dialogue and the forum arbiters  should not be the doctrinally ignorant or those seeking radical change in the Church!

Worse still is the situation wherein some who cuddled up to diocesan hierarchy could do whatever they pleased. One such individual, who in a pastoral formation course was advised by the supervisor to forget about ordination to the priesthood and to engage in his current ministry. This individual was active in a local parish in a local village just outside of Albany, Ravena, that enjoys the dubious reputation of being a nest of hypocrites, and is headed by a less than competent “pastor”, who also held office in the Hubbard, and still holds that same office in the Scharfenberger episcopate as head of the Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. We mention this individual, Mr Richard Lesser, only because St Bernard’s had the audacity to publish in a recent newsletter under “Sharing Our Faith – Graduate Testimonials” (http://www.stbernards.edu/news/sharing-our-faith-graduate-testimonials/) a testimonial by Lesser.  Without exception, those “Testimonials” are selected from those very loyal to the heterodox leadership of St Bernards, the notorious sisters of St Joseph of Carondelet (a community of feminist female lay “religious”, which includes the disobedient heretic Elizabeth Johnson and others of similar disrepute!).

Smollin

Smollin

Lesser is a product of the spiritually impoverished Hubbard era, a finesser who cuddled up close to the former bishop and somehow finagled his way into seminary. Lesser was sent to the Blessed John XXIII National Seminary, Weston MA by the diocese of Albany. To exemplify how he established himself in the Howard Hubbard club, Lesser was crossbearer in the procession at the installation of current Albany bishop Scharfenberger. Lesser certainly knew how to play the game. But he did not escape the scrutiny of more astute, less agenda – driven members of the diocese and the St Bernard’s community. One telling example was when, in of all places in a St Bernard’s course in conflict management, he verbally attacked a fellow student with the words, “Why are you such a prick.” The instructor, another profligate, Sr Anne Bryan Smollin, one of the controlling Sisters of St Joseph of Carondelet, and one of the key offenders, sat impassively by—the situation was so acute she may have exposed herself to discipline by the state licensing board had the matter been escalated. The offended student chose to forgive rather than to prosecute.

Rick Lesser, Liberal Seminarian

Lesser

That notwithstanding, it must be mentioned that Mr Lesser, before weaseling his way into seminary, had served in the notorious St Patrick’s of Ravena parish as a catechist and lay minister. But the most damning criticism we have of Mr Lesser is the fact that for more than 24 years he practiced as a veterinarian in direct violation of the Roman Catholic Catechism paragraph 2418: “It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly. It is likewise unworthy to spend money on them that should as a priority go to the relief of human misery. One can love animals; one should not direct to them the affection due only to persons.” There is much hypocrisy to be found in Mr Lesser and we will continue to oppose his ordination. To ordain Mr Lesser is to plant another potential cancer in the Albany diocese. If Mr Lesser at 58 years of age wishes to dedicate his life to contemplation, true spirituality and prayer he would be best advised to give all of his property to the poor and seek admission to a monastery or to a lay order of some sort. It is our suspicion that Mr Lesser sees in the priesthood and ordination simply another stage from which to perform. That is a travesty of Orders.

Moreover Mr Lesser and his ilk are products of their particular friendship with the ultra-liberal Hubbard episcopate and would simply be an instance of infecting the current episcopate with the agendas and behaviors of the Hubbard episcopate. The current bishop’s modus operandi should be to purge the diocese of every remnant of the secular sisters and the liberal priests and deacons’ clubhouse. Humility — or more likely burnout and exhaustion — may have characterized former bishop Hubbard but it was and is pitifully absent in his minions.

We mention Mr Lesser not because he is alone in this dubious class of Albany diocesan denizens, but because we have particular and personal knowledge of Mr Lesser’s past. There are other similar situations but let the Lesser example suffice for these purposes.

Lesser, moreover, became a pet of St Bernard’s. St Bernard’s has become a hotbed of ultraliberal studies and, on the basis personal experience, perpetuates an agenda of feminist church politics and heterodox theologies, conspicuously supporting many of the renegade nuns who have advocated such travesties as abortion, and feminist theologies.  We have written copiously about these types and would recommend perusing this blog for our expositions of their evils.

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Albany, Edward Scharfenberger was conspicuously absent from the 2014 St Bernard’s commencement in Rochester, while the Roman Catholic bishop of Rochester, the Most Reverend Salvatore R. Matano, and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Syracuse, the Most Reverend Robert J. Cunningham, were present; Sharfenberger was not there. Was Sharfenberger making a discreet statement about St Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry? And what does that mean for St Bernard’s in the diocese of Albany?

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Albany, Edward Scharfenberger was conspicuously absent from the 2014 St Bernard’s commencement in Rochester…

Much of what we have described in this essay is the result of poor pastoring and a failure at the pastoral level but more egregiously at the higher education level (St Bernard’s) to loyally, obediently, and credibly teach the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, and to refrain from public dissent on issues of established doctrine and policy.

The poor pastoring is the direct result of the former bishop having lost leadership control of the diocese, and the fact of many deacons and lay ministers taking fullest advantage of an aging, tired, and burnt–out presbyterate, and wresting illicit control of parishes, so inflicting egregious harm in virtue of their incompetence or ulterior motivations.

We call upon Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger to revitalize the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany and to re-establish episcopal control of the diocese!

We shall elaborate on this point of poor pasturing and failure in the mandate of faithfully teaching Church doctrine and theology in a subsequent essay.

Laudetur Iesus Christus!

Laudetur Iesus Christus!

Laudetur Iesus Christus!


How Sick is the Church? An Opportunity to Share Your Inputs


Francis: Rebuild My Church

Rebuild my Church

[But not into an art gallery, disco, or brothel!]

By way of introduction, here are a couple of examples from real life, that you may have experienced:


  • PS, a Roman Catholic priest and RCDA tribunal judge, made the revealing and statement in a moment of resenting sarcasm, “They’ll ordain anything these days!” That raises the questions of “Who?” will ordain and Who are the “anything?” But that’s just one example of the many careless and imprudent public statements that are being made by persons in visible and influential positions in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany.
  • A Roman Catholic Sister of Saint Joseph (you know, the nuns who seem to have usurped the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany Pastoral Center and most administrative and higher teaching  positions) has a favorite innuendo – filled phrase, “Those men in Rome!” The impression made by such insensitive and indifferent statements on auditors of any persuasion can be devastating.
  • A Roman Catholic priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany claiming to be of Ukrainian origin and liaison to the Orthodox churches, refers publicly to the soon-to-be-canonized Pope John Paul II as the “Polack on see of St Peter.”
  • Women chaplain interns under the tutelage of a Calvinist supervisor at a major Albany, New York, hospital, in a Clinical Pastoral Education (hospital chaplaincy) announce that they are disgruntled Catholics, publicly announce their support for women in the priesthood and criticize the Roman Catholic Church openly and publicly; they are then invited to present talks at the so-called Spring Enrichment.
  • Roman Catholic clergy and male religious cow to that same Calvinist supervisor and are degraded by the non-Catholic, mostly women, chaplaincy staff.
  • Women gatekeepers decide who speaks with the bishop, the pastor, etc., and create an environment of exclusionism.
  • Hungry faithful feel unwelcome in God’s house; unwelcome at His table.
  • A well-educated, highly competent,  man in excellent health applies to the diaconate program of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany. He is initially welcomed but is later called in by the director of deacon formation and told, “I did not notice your age. The deacon program is 6 years and you must be ordained by age 62. That’s the diocesan policy. You will be 64 in six years so we cannot enroll you in the program. Thank you for your interest.” In the meantime, poorly educated, ailing men are welcomed into the program, some drop out because of health or program leadership.
  • A graduate of St Bernard’s School of Ministry and Theology continues a ministry of pastoral and spiritual care to the faithful who are not affiliated with a Roman Catholic parish; the minister practices a Roman Catholic spiritual discipline with a local male religious community. The minister attempts to place an ad in the official Roman Catholic newspaper offering his services in pastoral care, provides the text of the ad, the ad is accepted by the Evangelist, he pays for the ad. Several days later the female editor of the Evangelist contacts he minister and informs him that the ad will not be printed because he is not associated with a parish.
  • A feminist theologian and member of a women’s lay religious community, the Sisters of Saint Joseph, comes under fire for her heterodox writings on the theology of the Trinity; she lectures to the public at the local Sisters of Saint Joseph Provincial House

Rebuild My Church!

Rebuild My Church!

We have over the past several years received a number of communications complaining of problems perceived in at least the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany but which may be reasonably inferred to be endemic in most of the American Catholic Church. We have listed some below, but instead of a bulleted list, we’ve made it into a survey list that our readers can check off and which can be tallied to get some idea of the range and nature of ecclesiological, pastoral, and magisterial problems the Catholic faithful are experiencing in their dioceses.

We’d like to invite our readers to review the following list and to click on the circle preceding a “problem” if you find that you have experienced such a problem.

At the end of the list, you can tell us whether you are Roman Catholic, Protest and, Jewish, or Other, and after that list you can tell us where you live.

This is all anonymous and for information purposes only. You can see the results up to the current date by simply clicking “view results” at the bottom of each poll box.

Thanks very much for your participation in this interesting undertaking.

American-Idolatry

Ecclesial and Pastoral Pathology List

In the list below, simply check off the list items that most correspond to how you feel. If something is not included in the list, you can enter it in the space at the end of the list or leave a comment to express your thoughts.


 

Religious or Faith Affiliation

This is where you can let us know about your faith tradition. It serves two purposes: (1) it informs us of the percentage of RC readers responding, and (2) it informs us of the percentage of non-RC respondents who have some perception of the problem.


 

Ministry Activity

We’d also like to know about your ministry activity. Are you involved as clergy or as a lay minister? What are your perceptions about these problems.


 

Where Are You Located?

We are discussing the situation in the United States but this doesn’t mean that these problems are unique to the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. But it is important for us to know where our respondents are located, and whether the majority of our readers are experiencing these problems in the Roman Catholic Church in the United States.


 

Yes, it does come down on the heads of the American bishops; as the saying goes, “The fish rots from the head down.” If the bishops do not recruit to the ranks, the ranks deplete. If the bishops lose the reins of their diocese, the horses run amuck. If the bishops do not take command of the front line troops, they have mutiny on their hands. If the bishops abandon the rudder, the ship of Church runs aground. In the present state of affairs the faithful are angry, confused, depressed, and lost. It’s just such an ecclesiology and pastoral theology at work when Protestant authors note the hemorrhage of the Roman Church and the recourse of the faithful to evangelical, fundamentalist, and Orthodox traditions. The breakdown of Roman ecclesial hierarchical authority has created a festering wound that refuses to heal because it’s not receiving the appropriate attention.

But it’s not only the bishops who are failing us and the Church, its we, too, who as members of that mystical body we call Church, turn our backs on Mater et Magistra, Mother and Teacher, and then point the finger as if we were pure as lilies. Now, during Lent, instead of giving up something, let’s do something. We can start by identifying where the pathology is and then proposing a course of therapy. That’s the whole sense of this survey.

Otherwise, and generally speaking, the Roman Church must return to its origins and principles or it is doomed to mutate into an institution that bears no resemblance to its former self; much is the fault of bishops who have lost control over their dioceses, and much the fault of those who want to be Church but want Church to change according to their parameters. This is a similar situation where some agendas want God to have specific genitalia or be a particular something; in otherwords, anthropomorphizing God, downward theism, if you will. Poor teaching has brought this about; God is pure spirit and doesn’t need a created body! God is perfect and doesn’t need to be made according to creature parameters. God is unmade and cannot be made.

Our culture is overwhelmed by idolatries! Idoltatry is worshipping something created as if it were God. Look around you, what would you give up to be closer to God? If you don’t say everything and anything, then you are an idolater! You are putting something before God or between you and God. In the simplest of terms, that’s idolatry!

But much, too, can be attributed to the ambitions and scandal of those with heterodox agendas acting under the aegis or cover of the Church; these are the most insidious and dangerous pathogens that must be eradicated if the Church and the Tradition is to survive.

 Please leave a comment about this article.

Where are you on this scale?

Where are you on this scale?
Idolatry————————Humility


Smoke of Satan…Again…Still


The Editor of a Widely-read Blog Recently Forwarded to Us a Comment from A Reader. The Reader’s sentiments are so widely shared by many Christians today, that we felt it would be instructive and informative to publish the question and our response here:

Marcus-Allen-Steele-Satan

What are Pastors and their Minions Thinking…
If They’re Thinking!

Tony S. writes:

Thank you for all of your help and understanding with my recent comment about St. Patrick, Ravena.  We have two children 3 and 4 years old.  My wife wanted to bring them up Catholic, but since our encounters with st. Pat’s, we went elsewhere.  It’s a real shame.  I miss the Catholic Church.  That church was not welcoming at all.  A lot of the people you mention in your blog are parishioners there.  It’s a very hypocritical place, in which we did not want any part of.  The Bethlehem Reformed Church has a great Pastor and welcoming and supportive community.  However, being raised Roman Catholic, I still feel like I’m missing something..I am missing the tradition and rituals that the First Reformed Church doesn;t have.   Tony S.

We Respond:

Hi, Tony!
 
The Smallbany blog kindly forwarded your correspondence to me, since I contribute to a number of blogs as contributing editor for faith, spirituality, religion and church. I hope I can be of some support to you and your family.

Regrettably, as you have already experienced, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany has missed the mark in terms of feeding the spiritually hungry and, again regrettably, has turned into a company club with branch lodges, called parishes, throughout its territory. Pastoring is far low on the list of prioritiesl, even though the former bishop Howard Hubbard had the best of intentions, his minions (not soldiers; soldiers follow regulations and orders) had their own agendas. Unfortunately, when the chief pastor gets his information and intelligence from demons, well, the result is demonic.

Church Hierarchy Needs to be Cautious>/big> Satan Lurks Where You Least Expect Him!

Church Hierarchy Needs to be Cautious
Satan Lurks Where You Least Expect Him!

One of the problems was that post-Vatican II priests were a confused lot, having been raised and educated in the Tridentine (pre-Vatican II) tradition and then having to live and work in a radically changed Church. That was compounded by the feminist movement in the cloisters and convents of the women religious institutions; nuns left the schools and hospitals and headed for the board rooms. That’s when all hell broke loose. The rabid nuns took over administration and higher education, filled the corridors of the profit-making arms of the church and left the priests to pound the pavement, some preferred to subject themselves to the bullying of the now secular executive “nuns”. (See our article, “Renegade Nun Lectures in Latham: Nuns Gone Wild!“.)

Nuns Out of Order BIG-TIME!!!

Nuns Out of Order BIG-TIME!!!

Then came the conspiratorial sex-scandals. Statistically the problem was minuscule. Politically and media-wise it was catastrophic. Why the anti-Catholic trend in the scandals? Well, the US has historically been anti-Catholic because the US hates rules (that’s one of the problems with the American Catholic Church). But within the RC Church in America, one way to get a stab at “those men in Rome” by the non-Catholics, the secular nuns (especially), and the scandal-hungry press was to attack the all-male RC priesthood, and demonise a very disciplined, highly-educated (compare with most of the poorly trained Protestant sects), committed, but selective and hence highly vulnerable group. If the nuns and wannabe women in the Roman Catholic Church couldn’t wait and wanted to get a Roman Catholic clerical collar, so the conspiracy goes, the best way to do that is to discredit and disgrace the exclusively male clergy. After all, women, even lesbian women, would never sexually abuse a minor! (But what about the abuse of children by poor parenting, divorce, bullying, gratuitous violence on TV, in the cinema, and let’s not forget the obscene games they now can play, and the electronic toys.)

The Smart Phone: The Ruin of Communication A Tool of Destruction of Youth

The Smart Phone: The Ruin of Communication
A Tool of Destruction of Youth

Many millions of Roman Catholics are very poorly educated and catechised because they, the parents and guardians of the children, have too many other distractions that have priority over religious and spiritual; in other words, moral and ethical education. The decline of the family, profaning of the traditional marriage union, and poor parenting (the rise in individualism and materialism (the woman who must experience motherhood, dropping the infant into the arms of daycare after 3 months so she can get back to her career!), and the commitment only to self (I have a life and I owe it to myself to live it my way.), and the feel-good culture has inflicted deep and serious wounds not only on the Roman Catholic Church as a community, but on our entire culture, as well.

satan inside

These effects are not lost on the so-called pastors of most churches, but most noticeably on traditional churches like the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. Once the bedrock and foundation of ethics and morals that provided a refuge to the suffering and to the marginalised and a safe haven for recuperation for those in the world, the fragmentation and distractions of the culture of pathological ego and individualism that have destroyed the notion of community overall, have corroded faith communities, too.

Is anyon familiar with Genesis 1:27 or Genesis 2:21-23?

Is anyone familiar with Genesis 1:27 or Genesis 2:21-23?

Pastors in politics, pastors preaching politics, online ordinations, the 51% making a mockery of the 49% (in the past two or three decades the number of sitcoms, films, commercials that elevate the American woman at the cost of degrading the American male have come to dominate all aspects of commercials and entertainment!).

Agenda-Vaginas in the Pulpit. In my experience with so-called disgruntled Catholics (as many so-called Catholic women, usually post-menopausal or feminist by persuasion) and women clergy has been unfortunately negative. They have agendas and spirituality takes a minor role. Their vaginas, not the Divine, moves their hearts and minds. They demand roles in society, culture, church, and life that are not provided for in the very Holy Scripture they have professed to preach and to teach! And because of the trust (The word “faith”comes from the Latin word “fides” and means “trust”!) the ignorant members of their congregations put in their church elders and hierarchies, these women must be preaching orthodoxy. Bad choice, people. They are actually preaching heresy or at least heterodoxy!

A Freak with his Minions Why do women priests look so retarded?

A Freak with his Minions
Why do women priests look so retarded?

 So why do you think older priests now have lost resolve, confidence, interest? Why do you think that pastoral and spiritual care has gone to hell in the proverbial hand basket? Why do you think that way back in the 60’s Pope Paul VI made the remark, “The smoke of satan has entered the Church through a small crack.” We smelled the smoke back then, now we have a satanic wildfire consuming the Church, and it seems no one is interested in dialling 911, or if you do, you get put on hold. Ask me, I know!

clay figure child

Just a Clay Figure

It’s up to spiritually thirsting people like you, your wife and your friends to take charge of the situation and ensure that your children and your children’s children have the wherewithal to cope with the world that will inevitably confront them. Think of it this way: Man is created as a hollow clay figure and stays a hollow, clay figure until the day that clay returns to the clay from whence it was formed, UNLESS the potter fills that clay figure with something of value, something to believe in. Whether you think of the Divine as the potter, the parent as the potter, or the Church as the potter, that clay figure needs to be (ful)filled. It needs not only the physical necessities, not only the human necessities that parenting and community provide, but in order to become a contributing, benefacient (benevolent, charitable, altruistic, humanitarian, neighbourly, public-spirited) PERSON (as opposed to a clay figure), it needs to be formed with spirit, beliefs and values that for thousands of years we have called religion. The clay figure needs to have a sense of awe, needs to appreciate a sense of mystery, needs to move away from thinking of itself as the centre of the entire universe and the sole occupant of that universe. The clay figure needs to be filled with faith (trust) and love (charity, humility), in order to have HOPE in the future.
 
Thinking of it in these terms, Tony, you may have a better appreciation of what is going on and how to confront it without becoming apathetic, confused, despairing.
 
As for you search for truly Catholic liturgy, I’m afraid you won’t find it anywhere in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany that I am aware of. You’ll probably have to go to a male religious community (friary or monastery) to find the spirituality that you are seeking in the Liturgy, a Divine Liturgy that still offers mystery and awe without the bells and whistles. A Divine Liturgy that hasn’t yet raised the smoke screen so many of our churches have raised to hide the hypocrisy, the corruption, and the worldliness that has entered through that ever-widening crack along with the smoke of satan.

My recommendation, Tony, would be to visit one of the local Eastern Orthodox churches some Sunday (Greek, Russian, Ukrainian Orthodox) to experience a truly beautiful liturgy (they tend to be longish but if you can sit for 3 hours for a ball game, can’t you do 2 hours for God?). Or, the closest male religious community that I know of in the area is the Saint Anthony of Padua Franciscan Friary in Catskill, New York. A great many Roman Catholics and quite a few Protestants considering conversion to RC attend the Sunday Masses there and the friars have particularly beautiful traditions around the Easter and Christmas seasons.

Russian Orthodox Icon: The Divine Liturgy

Russian Orthodox Icon: The Divine Liturgy

This was supposed to have been a short note but has become an entire article. It’s come so naturally and rings so true that I am going to post it on one of my Church blogs. I hope you don’t mind.
 
Of course, if you have any questions at all, or need any help or recommendations, please contact me directly via a comment to this blog.
 
In the meantime, let’s ask for God’s blessings to give you and your family peace and health in mind, body and spirit.
 
Laudetur Iesus Christus!

We look forward to receiving comments and opinions from our readers. Thank you in advance!

Read our related, topical article Where Have All the Mothers Gone?

Are we spiritually dead?

Are we spiritually dead?


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