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February 20, 2013
Transcript Part II: Former Catholic Priest Matthew Fox on Ratzinger, Opus Dei and the Broken Catholic Church
By Rob Kall
Part II of my interview with Matthew Fox-- on the likely candidate to replace Ratzinger, on Papalology, Creastion Spirituality, standing up to power, the problems of the Catholic Hierarchy, the emerging possibilities for a bottom up Catholic Church, the men's movement, Patriarchy, chaos theory, Goddess and the war against the Feminine,
I interviewed Matthew Fox on February 13th. This is part two of a two part interview. Here's a link to the audio podcast. And here's a link to part one of the interview. Transcript Part 1: Former Catholic Priest Matthew Fox on Ratzinger, Opus Dei and the Broken Catholic Church
Thanks to Don Caldarazzo for doing the transcript.
I met Matthew Fox about nine years ago when we were both speakers at the first Mythic Journeys conference an amazing event bringing together writers, mythologists, psychologists, poets. At the time, I was running the Storycon Conference on the art science and application of story, which I'd founded two years earlier, and which ran for six years.
Matthew Fox was first stopped from teaching Liberation Theology by Cardinal Ratzinger, then defrocked. He has since lived an extraordinary life. But he also brings a unique point of view on Pope Benedict, the next pope the college of cardinals will choose and today's Catholic Church.
interview part II
Rob Kall: So, there are some speculations about who will replace Ratzinger. What are your thoughts on that? It sounds to me like you think it's...
Matthew Fox: As I said earlier, I would be completely surprised if there was any real pressure there, because all of these Cardinals who are voting and being voting on were appointed by Ratzinger or John Paul II. So they were all appointed for being Yes Men. That's one of the scariest things that's happened in the Church the last forty  years, is they've only put in Yes Men, they haven't signed a document, they have not talked about Womens' ordination, they have not talked about married Priests, they won't question that Birth Control might be a dumb idea, when there's already enough humans on the planet, etc. So they had these people sign up with extreme Right wing positions, and then they climb up the ladder.
It's a closed system, and the truth is, closed systems are contrary to nature. Nothing in nature works, can survive, as a closed system. It's in a death spiral. I just don't think -- you know the media loves the Papacy. It's made for the media, really, because they can zero in on one person who is wearing pretty robes in Historic buildings and all this stuff -- it just really captures the eye! So they turn Pope's into cult figures, and with very, very little critical thinking behind it, so I just think it's dangerous to be projecting so much on one person and one institution.
And I think that's why the Holy Spirit is deconstructing it. I mean, it's losing it's credibility, and I think we have to -- religion is not as lazy as that. Religion has to be Spirituality, it has to be a struggle, it has to be some inner work, and some intellectual work, and grass roots - just what you're talking about, that we have to reinvent Christianity from the grass roots up. That's what we want to do, Harvey and I, with our program called "The Christ Path." We want to take this moment in history.
I mean, the real issues are not about Popes, the real issues are about the survival of the planet for God's sake! You know, these are the Spiritual issues of our time, and of course, melting our war machine into real work for real people. There's so much unemployment in the world, when there's so much work that needs doing and so forth, it makes no sense. Humans have to wake up. That's what has to happen, and a healthy church would be leading the way in that, it wouldn't be narcissistically preoccupied with it's own make believe heroes, idols. "Papalolatry," I call it. The new sin of our time. When the television marries the Vatican, you have Papalolatry. And it's an idol, it's an idolatry, it's not real religion. Projection.
Rob Kall: Papalolatry. Interesting term. So, OK. You've got this vision. "Humans have to wake up, and a healthy church would be leading the way in that." What would that look like as it emerges? And there are what, 1.3 billion Catholics? How would it grow? How would it become habit and identity and recognition? How would the Vatican respond to it, or has it responded to it? I guess it's already responded to it in terms of Liberation Theology, but if, as you're saying, "It's time now for something new to emerge," how will it look? Tell me a bit about that.
Matthew Fox: One thing is, it would be ecumenical, what I call "Deep ecumenism (oecumenism?)" With that I mean, let's make out the essence, the distillation of the teachings of Jesus and Buddha and Mohammed and Isaiah and Lao Tzu and Black Elk and other great spiritual teachers of the world. I think that clearly no one religion has all the answers, we're all struggling today as a species, and so we can draw common wisdom. I've written a book on this called One River, Many Wells, where I take eighteen  themes that I think are common to all of humans today. It's about survival, the sacredness of creation, for example. The whole environmental issue. Meditation, calming that reptilian brain that we have. All religions teach how to do these things.
Compassion: the Dalai Lama says "we can do away with all religions, but we can't do away with compassion. Compassion is my religion." Well, cool! That's what Jesus said too: " Be you compassionate as your Creator in heaven is compassionate." So, there is a consensus out there that's at the heart of our religion. If you stay at the superficial level, then you don't get down to this stuff and you're just talking about people in white robes, or my bible is better than your bible, and all the rest. We can't afford that anymore as a species.
So, that's one dimension, the ecumenical. But of course, for that to work, you have to get into your own tradition, and say "What was the essence of what Jesus what about? What did he really teach, and what Spirit did he unleash in the world?" And that's where it gets interesting and exciting, and very, very beautiful, because Jesus was a revolutionary teacher about love and justice, and he took down the empire of his day, the Roman Empire, and he knew he was doing it. After all, his mentor John the Baptist was beheaded when Jesus was a young man because he took on the empire.
So, that kind of courage, that kind of spirit of generosity is what the great Christians through the years, whether it's Martin Luther King Jr., or Hildegaard of Bingen, the great saint, and so forth, and what they accomplished. So it's doable, and it's brilliant, and it's beautiful. The West doesn't have to apologize for the beauty that's in the Jewish tradition of the prophetic standing up to power. We have to do more of it. Much more of it. Of course when we don't, then of course we have things like the Holocaust and the horrible goings on that occur whenever humans put power ahead of love.
Rob Kall: So, what I'm asking though, is what does it look like? You're doing something with Andrew Harvey that is moving in this direction. Are there already some churches, some organizations some groups that are doing what you're talking about? How can people find this as an alternative to what they've been getting from Ratzinger and his Right wing Cardinals?
Matthew Fox: Good question. Yes. I've been teaching Creation Spirituality for forty  years, which is this tradition of justice and creativity, peace and wisdom, and incorporating the Divine Feminine along with the Sacred Masculine. There's a website, there's an organization called Creation Spirituality communities, CSC. They have many groups all over the country, all over the world, really, practicing these things, and we've had schools and so forth, and many people are teaching this. Harvey has a group called "Sacred Activism," so that's another organization. ]
There are many organizations like this, and I think now is the time for more and more networking, because there is a lot of exploration going on out there. Do you know how many Jewish people have become Buddhist in the last thirty years, or at least have incorporated Buddhism? That's a powerful thing too. The protest energy of Judaism, the prophetic tradition and the intellectual tradition of Judaism, along with the more serene, if you will, more contemplative tradition of Buddhism, that is a very powerful combination. A lot of people, of course from my generation, I'm in my young seventies [70s] now, went East for their spirituality, but a lot of them feel called, too, to incorporate that into their Western ancestry, and so forth. That's a lot that's going on.
In the Catholic Church today, and this doesn't make news much, but there's more and more small communities happening, where they meet for Mass on Sunday or something, but in small groups. They'll have women presiding, they'll have married Priests presiding, they'll have Gay people presiding, but they're doing it together in a circle. It's not about idolizing one ordained person up at the altar.
Rob Kall: So, you just said that, in the Catholic church, people are getting together in small communities, getting together in a circle, sometimes led by women. Is this happening in Catholic Churches, or is it happening in peoples' homes?
Matthew Fox: It's happening in homes, it's happening in rented halls, it's happening in Protestant churches; some of these groups are, in effect, renting the space, Protestant churches or even Jewish synagogues to do this. That's what's interesting, people are using their imaginations, and they're realizing that they're not being fed in the Catholic system anymore. So many people have told me over the last few years, especially these days, that they can't go to Mass anymore, because what is being preached and taught there is so Patriarchal, it's so sexist, it's so top down, that their souls are not being fed. And so they realize they have to take what I call "Take the beauty from the burning building, take what's of worth, the treasure from the burning building, and putting in different forms in different gatherings," and this is happening.
And then of course there's Mens Movement. It's very important that men deal with their spiritual evolution as women have been doing for decades. I think this is essential too, that we have a detoxed sense of masculinity, a cleaned up masculinity. I wrote about this a couple of years ago in my book called The Hidden Spirituality of Men. But men are yearning, really, to get in deeper touch with healthy spirituality. And again, the Patriarchal model that you're getting, such as from these last two Popes, is not adequate, because neither is the "football model," or the "I win, you lose" model. It's reptilian brain stuff, and men are realizing more and more that they can do better than that.
Rob Kall: This is the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show, WNJC 1360 AM, reaching metro Philly and South Jersey, sponsored by Opednews.com where you get Liberal news and opinion. I'm speaking with Matthew Fox. He's the author of The Popes War, a former Catholic Priest, and we've been starting off talking about Pope Ratzinger and his resignation, but we've moved on and we've talked about perhaps the future of the Catholic religion for Catholics who no longer tolerate the top down, hierarchical, Patriarchal way that the Catholic church is stuck.
Now, Matthew, you just talked about how people are leaving because the church is top down and so Patriarchal. I've come to believe for many years that Conservatism, the Right wing, it is anti-feminine. Not just anti-women as we learned in the last Presidential election, but it opposes the whole idea of the feminine archetype. Have thoughts on that?
Matthew Fox: Absolutely. As I say, what does the Taliban, the Vatican, and Pat Robertson [each word said stressing the last syllable as "ahn"] all have in common? It's this rabid fear of the feminine. And of course, the idea of the Divine Feminine is absolutely sends them out the window. So this is a great insight to realize to realize that this is what the real battle is about. It's this balance of Yin and Yang, of the masculine and the feminine, of the Divine Feminine and the Sacred Masculine.
This is really where a lot of the struggle is being played out, and this is why you'll have the Vatican beating up on women. Now they're coming after the sisters! I mean, how you can come after Catholic Sisters (laughs), who've devoted their whole life to working the front line, to the poor, and educating, and working in inner cities, and all the rest; it's hard to fathom, especially when this very church has been covering up priestly pedophilia for decades. But you realize, just what you're talking about, that the drive to control women is behind so much of Fundamentalism.
I think it goes back, frankly, to the old days. The Goddess Chaos used to be honored in the old days before Patriarchy took over. She was integrated, chaos, into society and into people's lives in that culture. As Patriarchy took over around 4500 BC, the myths changed; and now Chaos was no longer a Goddess that was honored and incorporated, she became the enemy, she became something evil. So you have Marduk killing Tiamat. And I think that all fundamentalism is based on this ideology, that men are taught in that context that their job is to control the feminine, especially the goddess Chaos.
This held sway for centuries until the 1960s, when science itself finally rediscovered the value of chaos, the Chaos Theory, that nature operates with chaos. The weather system is chaotic, the ellipses of the planet and so forth, is chaotic. So this imperfection is in fact part of all creativity, and so now we can shift gears and realize that the Goddess Chaos is integral to all of our lives, and it's all about creativity. This is why Fascism and Fundamentalism (and they're always in bed together), they cannot tolerate our creativity, because creativity includes the Goddess Chaos, and it includes the Feminine. So this is really what we're up against.
Rob Kall: OK. Let me just pick your brain a little bit on this. You talk about the Goddess Chaos and how she was celebrated until patriarchy took over about 4500 BC, then you talk about Marduk killing Tiamat. Now you're referring to Gilgamesh there, I believe. Right?
Matthew Fox: Right.
Rob Kall: Yeah. So, what happened in 4500 BC?
Matthew Fox: Well patriarchy began to take over, and destroyed the tradition of the Goddess who stands for the sacredness of all Earth things, from caves, to rocks, to animals, and all the plants, and all the rest. And then war, and of course the development of cities grew up, too, and alphabets and all the rest that made us a much more left-brained species, and fed patriarchy - actually fed those who got on top by conquering rather than celebrating.
As Marija Gimbutas (Lithuanian-American Archaeologist) reads, "The essence of the Goddess Civilization was the celebration of life." I don't think anyone would say that that's really the essence of our civilization; you know, we're spending, as a species today, Thirty-nine thousand dollars [$39,000] a second on war! Thirty-nine thousand dollars a second. We're so committed to the Gods of war, that we're really not connected to Gods of celebration, of conviviality, of play, of creativity, of color, of music, of art.
That's what an alternative civilization would be about; and frankly, I think that's what Jesus was about, and all these great spiritual thinkers were trying to break us out of this reptilian brain marriage with testosterone, if you will, into the mammal brain of compassion. And compassion includes celebration, includes love of life. We're not scoring very well in that regard these days.
Rob Kall: There's a best-selling book out right now, Antifragile, by Taleb, and I think what he's describing is the embracing of chaos, and the idea that chaos is not craziness and disorder, but craziness as creativity and higher levels of order, and I love that you tie that together with the feminine.
Matthew Fox: I'm glad. Here's another thing on my mind: you know Lenny Cohen's music? His song hallelujah? It's a powerful song, and it's about "How can we maintain an Alleluia approach to life? How can we maintain a passionate love of life?" I think that takes us real close to this idea of the Goddess as a celebration of Life. Cohen is Jewish, and so you can say "How can we still sing Hallelujah after the Holocaust?" And he wrestles with it, and he talks about well, "A cold and broken Hallelujah." Sometimes life breaks us and things get really tough and take us down, but still we're here to sing Hallelujah. And the song is so powerful because it really is a hymn. It's really a spiritual mantra, because he repeats the word hallelujah fifty-four  times in that song. He takes us through the burdens of living, but still how, as he says "Even though I've made a lot of mistakes, I will stand before my Lord of Song at the end and sing Hallelujah."
And I think that says a lot about the real meaning of Spirituality. We are here to praise. We are here to say thank you and be reverent, and to be able to sing Hallelujah even when life is tough. That's what religion should be teaching. The rest of it is details.
Rob Kall: Now, you've written a lot about Christ Consciousness. What is that?
Matthew Fox: Well, the Cosmic Christ, you know, Christianity really flies on two wings: the historical Jesus, the person himself; he taught what he taught and took on the Empires etc, and he was a mystic himself, an earth based mystic from the wisdom tradition of Israel. But, the second wing is the Cosmic Christ, and that is the unleashing of the Christ Consciousness. In other words, of the awareness of what Jesus said, "The kingdom of God in within you, the kingdom of God is among you." The awareness of the divine presence.
So the Cosmic Christ is the divinity in every thing, in every being in the universe. John 1 of John's gospel says, "Christ is the light in every being." In the East they called this "The Buddha nature." The Buddha nature is in trees, it's in stones, it's in the galaxies. It's the same thing as the Cosmic Christ. It's a metaphor; it's an archetype for the utter holiness of all beings, the sacredness of all beings.
What's interesting about the Jesus take on it, of course, is that it includes the wounds in all things. That's what the crucifixion tells us about, about suffering. And of course, the Buddhas also talked about how every being undergoes suffering in this world. So it's not just pure light, it's also light with wounds. And it's an invitation, therefore, to connect to others, and to realize the brilliance inside all of us.
The catholic Monk Thomas Merton had this great line, he said "How is it possible to tell everybody walking around that they're all filled with a brilliance like the sun? How is it possible to tell one another we're all filled with brilliance, a brilliant light like the sun?" And that's the Cosmic Christ position, that Christ is the light within all things. And that tradition, the mystical tradition, has not been passed on well the last century, either in Protestantism or Catholicism, and it's very important to being this back. This is where the excitement lives, and this is where we can connect to other deep mystical traditions: Sufism from Islam, Buddhism from the East, and other traditions as well.
Rob Kall: I've long believed that - Maslow said something like. "The founders of religion are very wise and inspired, but as soon as the religion becomes an institution, it gets ruined." Do you think there is a way... Pardon me?
Matthew Fox: There's a lot of truth to that. Father Bede Griffiths, who I mentioned earlier, said the same thing. He said, "Every religion begins with a mystical experience." The Buddha under the Bodhi tree, Jesus in his context, Isaiah, all of it. But, he said, "When you have these experiences, then you'll put them in language because you want to tell others about it, then it gets in a doctrine, because you kind of want to spell it out, and pretty soon it gets away, because the Left Brain, and the Dogmatists, and the Canon Lawyers, and the accountants, take over."
So you have to be continually -- there's a good line in Catholicism, Ecclesia semper reformanda: "The church is always needing to be reformed." And that is true, you always have to go back to the inspiration of the original source, snd get away from this pile of Canon Laws, and church buildings, and basilicas, and Papal pronouncements. Utterly, religion is something very simple. It is about the heart being turned on, to be generous, and to be just, and to be courageous enough to pull that off; and to be compassionate, and to celebrate.
That's what it comes down to, and we're at one of these times of history when we have to simplify, we have to come back to the real meaning, not just of the Christ event, but of the Buddha event. The Buddhists have to clean their act up. The Muslims have to clean their act up. The Jews have to clean their act up. The time for the shaking down our religions to get to the distillation of it, and then linking up with the distillation of each, and create a new thing, with the help of science.
Rob Kall: What about Atheism? Where does that fit in? How do you see...
Matthew Fox: It has a real place to play, because Atheism helps us to criticize, frankly, the idols of religion. Like I talked earlier about Papalolatry, which happens when television takes over the Vatican. So, I think Atheism has it's place for sure.
But there are many kinds of Atheism, you know, we think there's only one kind. It's like Protestantism, there's all versions of it. Some Atheism is anti-Theism. Theism says God is up in the sky, and the rest of us live here. So I'm an anti-Theist also. I call my perspective Pan-entheism: Everything is in God, and God is in everything. That makes me an anti-Theist. So from that point of view, I would be an Atheist.
Meister Eckhart, one of the great Christian mystics, a Dominican like I was, says, "I pray God to rid me of God." So if that's not close to Atheism, I don't know what is. So in a way, questioning our God is something we all have to do, and Atheists are on that track. Now, you know, some atheists, some of these people making big bucks by going on television and publishing books and all - I'm not impressed by the amount of Ego in a lot of that.
But there's a brilliant book on Atheism that came out from a Swiss fellow last year, it's been a big seller in Europe, it's a beautiful book. And he says, actually, the atheists should (laughs) accomplish what Christians have accomplished. They should better education, better architecture; he praises the Gothic buildings in cathedrals in Europe. These Christians, these believers, really accomplished a lot, that we're not coming close to accomplishing in our more Secular culture today.
Rob Kall: What's the book? We've got to wrap, so what's that book and the author?
Matthew Fox: I apologize, I can't remember the exact name of it now, but...
Rob Kall: All right, well then let's move on. Before we wrap, which I've got to do right away, do you have a website?
Matthew Fox: I do have a website: Matthewfox.org . Very simple. Two T's.
Rob Kall: All right. This has been a great conversation. Thank you so much, but hold on a minute.
Matthew Fox: Thank you for your wonderful questions. Here is the book! Religion for Atheists, by Alain de Botton.
Rob Kall: Religion for Atheists. OK, great. Thank you.
Matthew Fox: Real good book. Beautiful Book.
Rob Kall: OK.
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