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"It's Over" for the Catholic Church and Its Abusive Clergy

By       Message Mike Rivage-Seul       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   46 comments

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Readings for 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time: I Kgs. 17: 10-16; Ps. 146:7-10; Heb. 9: 24-28; Mk. 12: 38-44

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Last Thursday, the editors of The National Catholic Reporter (NCR) published an open letter to all bishops in the United States. The letter's topic was the fallout surrounding the clerical abuse scandal. Its theme was "it's over" -- a refrain repeated seven different times in the document.

The repetition is relevant to the Gospel readings for this 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, the episode of the "Widow's Mite." The story summarizes the attitude of Jesus towards clerical corruption in his own day -- and in our own.

After visiting Jerusalem's temple just before his own execution, Jesus concluded that Judaism as represented there had no future. His words and actions expressed his clear conclusion, "It's over!" He gives up on the temple system. His despair tempts me to give up on the Catholic Church.

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Before I get to that, let me fill you in about the NCR letter and the apparent meaning of its catchphrase which implies that the Catholic Church has no more future than the Jerusalem temple Jesus cursed.

"It's over," the editors said because:

* The clerical abuse scandal has brought the church to rock bottom.
* This is a question of such rot at its heart that the corruption threatens the very identity and unity of the Catholic Church not only in the United States, but worldwide.
* The feds have now entered the picture ordering chancery officials not to destroy the paper trail they've been hiding for more than 50 years.
* Abusers and their enablers have been recognized as federal criminals.
* The bishops have nowhere left to hide. Like the king in the familiar fable the bishops and clergy all stand naked before the world; we all realize that they have no clothes. They have lost moral authority.
* Even Washington's Cardinal McCarrick abused boys and seminarians for decades.
* And the cover-ups go right to the top -- to the Vatican itself. The hastily-sainted John Paul II "let wolves roam his flock" because of his falsely inflated idea of a "heroic priesthood" to which no one can any longer subscribe.
* Blaming gay priests for the crisis is so obviously yet another diversionary attempt to block the fundamental reforms required in a clerical culture that has demonstrated a basic ignorance of human sexuality.
* So is blaming Pope Francis who alone among recent popes has exhibited the courage to confront the problem and to remove from office clerics even at the highest levels of the hierarchy.
* The only reason for belated confessions of guilt on the part of bishops is that they have at last been caught with their pants down (literally!) beginning as far back as 1985.
* Without relentless journalistic investigation, clerical abuse would have continued unimpeded and remained covered-up.
* As a result, apologies, studies, conferences, and spiritual retreats for prayer and meditation all ring hollow.
* Only very fundamental changes have any hope of saving the church.

Absent such transformation, it's over!

And that brings me to the familiar story of today's Gospel reading, "The Widow's Mite." Contrary to what you've been told, it's not about the widow's generosity. It's about her exploitation by a clergy every bit as corrupt as the popes, bishops and priests we've just been discussing.

As Mark tells it, Jesus and his friends are visiting Jerusalem for the Passover Feast during the final week of his life. They are in the Temple. On the previous day, they had all taken part in (and perhaps led) a demonstration there against the temple priesthood and its thievery from the poor. I'm talking about Jesus' famous "cleansing of the temple." Soon the temple priesthood and scribal establishment will offer a reward of thirty pieces of silver for information leading to Jesus' arrest. Judas will find himself seriously considering collecting that reward.

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In the meantime, Jesus continues his on-going instruction about the corruption of the Temple System. In the episode before us, he takes a position, Mark says, "opposite" the temple treasury. The treasury was the place where Jews paid the tithe required by the law as interpreted by the priesthood that Jesus despises. It was a "flat tax" applying the same to rich and poor.

Ever class-conscious, Mark points out that "many rich people" somehow made it clear to all that they were putting in large sums. Then a poor widow came along and furtively put in a penny. Jesus calls attention to the contrast: "large sums" vs. "two small copper coins, which are worth a penny."

"It's all relative," Jesus says. "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on." Jesus then leaves the temple in disgust.

The standard way of treating this reading runs like this: (1) The widow in the Temple donated to the temple priests "all she had to live on" and was rewarded with Jesus' praise; (2) follow her example (3) donate generously to your priest and you will be richly rewarded either here, in heaven, or in both places.

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Mike Rivage-Seul is a liberation theologian and former Roman Catholic priest. Retired in 2014, he taught at Berea College in Kentucky for 40 years where he directed Berea's Peace and Social Justice Studies Program.Mike blogs (more...)
 

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Mike Rivage-Seul

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I thought moving to a virtual suburb of New York City (Westport, CT) would bring me into contact with more vital Catholic faith communities than those available in rural Kentucky. No such luck!

Submitted on Sunday, Nov 11, 2018 at 10:00:02 AM

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Greetings, Mike! Happy Vet's Day. Welcome to New England.


Nicht meer Ky. If at some moment, rare today, You might have the

time, you're very welcome to visit us here on the coast of Maine

Belfast, 112 Wood's Road, 207-338-4319, Nelson and Ola Wight.

If we're still about by next summer, we will have been living in connubial

bliss for 67 years, avec 6 enfants, quatorze petits-enfants et peut-etre

sept arriere-petits-enfants. New ones on the way.


Great and sad article again, Mike.

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Thanks for the invitation, Nelson. How kind. And congratulations on your exemplary marriage and wonderful family. It is family that has brought Peggy and me to CT. We now live a 7 minute walk away from my daughter, her husband, and her 4 children ranging in age from 10-4. And there's another grandchild on the way, due to arrive in February. It seems that you and I have been similarly blessed.

Submitted on Sunday, Nov 11, 2018 at 2:36:49 PM

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I am happy for your families, but concerned that Nelson posted his personal information. I suggest the editors delete this as a matter of safety. (Love you, Nelson!)

Mike, I celebrate your exit from the umbrella of the despicable Catholic church. This coming from a born, bred and educated ex-Catholic. I am 72 yrs. old and I know full well that the 'hold' of Catholicism is a lifelong grip. But you 'got' what the church had to offer you decades ago; empathy, and the thirst for justice and liberation.

Carry on; don't look back~~and Joyous Flight to you, sir!

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Thanks, Janet. This afternoon my wife and I will be attending Mass at Fairfield University (Jesuit run), which was recommended to me yesterday by the pastor at the church where the meeting I referenced took place. "Although," he said, "it might not be radical enough for you." Everyone laughed. One man said, "I think he just called you a radical." I replied. "I hope so; I embrace it!" Anyway, Janet, I'll write a little report here when we get back this evening. The shame about this whole thing is that the radical message of Jesus of Nazareth is lost in the whole dynamic. That I will not give up on. I see it as one of our last best hopes for stimulating critical thought on the part of the many who identify themselves as Christian. It's about social justice for the poor.

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I wish you all the best, Mike.


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A double thumbs up to you Janet...

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Why thank you, David Watts!!

Mike will find his path. I mostly want Nelson's post to disappear asap.

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Double dopamine fix.

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Glad to see someone recognizes the implications of posting personal info. This kind of thinking needs to spread!

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Janet, I, too, am just about 72 and totally share your sentiments, and loved your words to Mike. Beautifully said.

And Mike, as Julian of Norwich said, "All will be well, and all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well."

Good for you and be at peace.

Ronnie

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Thank you, Ronnie. (and Julian of Norwich!)

:)

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Nelson, why are you posting such information?!?

Think about getting Rob to take it down.

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I hear you l& c, DA, I WAS MISTHINKING, LIKE MSGG.

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What is MSGG?

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Messaging

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I messaged Rob. Hope he sees it soon.

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Another lovely Sunday homily from you, Mike. So many of them come down to this duality in which both a God of liberation, and one of liberation's opposite pole can be found in our Scriptures. How much emphasis is there on that duality in the,"Liberation Theology," that Jesus was really all about? (I do worry, but only a little, about people posting personal info here, but expect there's some security in obscurity.)

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The Catholic church left me decades ago with its punishing dogmatic exclusivity and arrogant parochialism. Glad to hear that that Church "is over". I sympathize with the Master Jesus. Its a good thing He is up to His mission to cleanse the Church of its manmade dogmas, for the people desperately need His guidance and do carry Him in their hearts. The Church has been denying for decades that Jesus has returned. Too bad, since there is much to clarify as to Who He really is, Who the Christ is, what is the mission of the Church and what role it must play in the transformation of lives. His face lights our stairway landing every evening. I've tried to tell the clergy (any clergy) that He is back and has a new mission, but there is dead silence in return. One clergyman wrote back that my handwriting was "too flowery"!!! Onward and upward, Mike. The Saints, the Angels and Archangels and the Great Teacher Himself surround humanity in this time of transformation of all on Earth.

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Thanks, Mike, for having the courage to share. I left the Church years ago because of the scandal about predatory priests and was lucky to find a little community of friends here in the Netherlands after my husband died led by a radical old Dominican monk who is 85 and in failing health. As long as Father Leo is on the altar, I'm there. When they succeed in pushing him out, I'll never set foot in a church again. I am totally grossed out that Mother Teresa (that old fascist sympathizer) was canonized on Pope Francis' watch. I still hold him responsible for the cover ups because he HAD to know and the gestures he's making now: too little/too late. Once again, thanks for your essay. It did this old heart good.

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HILLARY CLINTON is willing to be President & pope, if all infallible men are retired or too fatigued to lead the world.

.wsj.com/articles/hillary-will-run-again-1541963599

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Make America God's Again. Give it back to the natives and go home, catholics, go home.

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What nice comments in this thread. Thanks, friends. My wife and I did attend Mass at Fairfield University this afternoon. Something has happened to me. I just can't get into it anymore. Peggy agreed. I don't think we'll be going back. (I keep thinking about starting a home church again -- or perhaps opening a storefront for radicals.)

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The few times I have gone to a Catholic service, I have been impressed with how open everyone seemed to seeing a miracle - except the Priest.

Inspired by the new Pope, I tried again, and this time, the Priest seemed to teaching about powerful superstitions, having never even managed a sincere prayer himself to gain actual experience of the Divine.

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This dichotomy at the heart of Christianity - and all the Patriarchal Religions so closely aligned to it - is what pushed me away from a belief in God.

I now ponder Atheism, and hedging my bet with Agnosticism - Tho that really seems pointless.

Not that I haven't known several true Followers of Jesus, and those who truly followed other beliefs. But those people were not Good because of their Religious Faith, but in spite of it.

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Patriarchy is central. It's the reason that when the question is,"How many gods in Heaven?" the answer, "One," is uniquely wrong. Atheism's, "Zero," agnosticism's, "I don't know," and polytheism's, "Many," (the one I happen to favor) all make more sense, and have a lot less bad karma on 'em.


It's possible that today's largest group consists of people who find religion, and religious discussions, such a turn-off that their answer to the quantity question would be, "I don't know and I don't care and I don't care to know, either." It might be the most valid answer of all.

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""I don't know and I don't care and I don't care to know, either." It might be the most valid answer of all." That is the answer today's largest group also answers to all the not good things going on all around us. Take 9/11 for example...

Submitted on Monday, Nov 12, 2018 at 8:25:06 PM

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Yeah, good Points--Bad Points. Let's find ourseves a city 2 live in.

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 13, 2018 at 4:21:12 PM

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None of the possible choices you mention is out of line - except 'one', as you say - unless one's idea of 'God' is of a lone Sadistic Bastard setting us all up just for fun...

Other than that, take your pick, or 'All of the Above'. No reliable evidence seems to be available to choose only one possibility.

Me? I enjoy the idea of Parallel Universes with endless possibilities - why settle for just one?

Submitted on Monday, Nov 12, 2018 at 11:43:37 PM

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Parallel Universes is good! It helps with the impossible reconciliation of a good god with the cruelty of nature and humanity. I always find that a painful dilemma.

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 13, 2018 at 2:42:31 PM

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Janet Supriano

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Maybe it all starts with the 'I don't know.'

12 min.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diJrraOLF5k

Submitted on Monday, Nov 12, 2018 at 4:39:49 PM

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David Watts

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Reply to Janet Supriano:   New Content

Janet, I just watched the video and listened to Sadhguru. I won't say this very well but when he says just pay attention and when he says welcome the "I do not know" so one can learn and find out, does that touch on the "spirituality" you have talked about? Or is it completely different?

If I did not say that well enough please turn what I said into something that makes sense to you and let me know if I am way off base, if I am.

Submitted on Monday, Nov 12, 2018 at 8:20:06 PM

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Janet Supriano

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Reply to David Watts:   New Content

David,

Yes. For me. (since I'm the only person I can speak for.)

Honoring the 'I do not know,' is the foundation of the search. Along with a penchant for connecting dots, rooting in rabbit holes, and working on puzzles, that are often too hard to finish. :)

For some people, 'certainty' is the prize. For others, it is 'curiosity'. For still others, it's 'I don't care'.

Keeps Life interesting!


Submitted on Monday, Nov 12, 2018 at 10:53:21 PM

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Mike Rivage-Seul

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Reply to Janet Supriano:   New Content

Everyone of us has experienced love. I JN 4:16 identifies God as Love. Love exists. So where's the debate about the existence of God -- unless it's about rejecting the other (unloving) ideas of God we've all been exposed to -- whether they're found in the Bible, in church teachings, superstition, etc.?

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 13, 2018 at 1:42:42 AM

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Janet Supriano

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Reply to Mike Rivage-Seul:   New Content

My comment was not a debate on the existence of a creator. I certainly didn't create all this.

David Watts asked me about my personal view of spirituality (as different from belief/religion). I find 'I don't know' to be a good position from which to explore the nature of existence and to discover an ever-evolving relationship with the creator.

John may well have identified God as Love. For some people, John's definition gives rise to questions. A journey begins and in the journey lies the fun.

I believe somewhere in the book (not the only book on tap), Jesus encourages others to question all things.

So where's the debate?

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 13, 2018 at 2:07:05 PM

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Mike Rivage-Seul

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Reply to Janet Supriano:   New Content

Dear Janet, I'm sorry if I was a bit sloppy with my phrasing. I didn't mean my remark as an attack. We're all in this together. I'm trying to figure it out too. And I appreciate every one of the thoughts you have shared in this thread. It's just that I've been thinking lately about the radical implications of the statement that God is love and love is God. For me it's been sparked by my re-reading of Marcuse's Eros and Civilization.

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 13, 2018 at 4:25:43 PM

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Janet Supriano

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Reply to Mike Rivage-Seul:   New Content

Dear Mike, Messy phrasing dismissed. :) I look forward to all your articles and the thoughtfulness they generate. I've heard it said a lot lately, with regard to the state humanity finds itself in: "The only way out is to go within."

Together let's celebrate learning, growing and yes, most certainly Love.

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 13, 2018 at 6:52:54 PM

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Dana Bruce Thibault

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Reply to Janet Supriano:   New Content

Superb. Most people cannot say "I don't know." The biggest problem with people is they want to tell others what to do. The Catholic Church leads in this ego sickness. No surprise their emptiness is filled with desire to screw boys, the patriarch made powerless.

Agnosticism is the only way. There sure as sh*t is something cosmically mysterious. Find it.

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 13, 2018 at 5:24:23 AM

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Janet Supriano

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Reply to Dana Bruce Thibault:   New Content

YES, DBT!

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 13, 2018 at 2:08:58 PM

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David Watts

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To Carol and Janet, you talk about parallel universes. How does the idea of an infinite number of universes fit in? That might mean there are an infinite number of both good and bad gods. And a thought just occurred to me, if there are an infinite number of universes, shoot, I suppose there could be an infinite number of agnostic gods. If I were a God I think I would be one of those. Self doubt I guess. :)

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 13, 2018 at 7:35:47 PM

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Janet Supriano

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Reply to David Watts:   New Content

You made me laugh out loud with that one! At the perfect time. Thanks! :)

No self-doubt, David Watts, 'specially if you're a god!

As you know, I think it's possible we live in a multi-dimensional reality right here on this planet. Our eyes perceive just a fraction of what exists. So who knows what or who is occupying the space right now between me and m'dog? Well, they'd better be nice like my ol' guardian angel!

So with infinite universes, each with parallel universes, containing inter-dimensional realities in every location...well, we are gonna be Pretty. Doggone. Busy. trying to figure things out while we cruise through eternity.

Jeez, I need a nap just thinkin' about it! :)

ps: The smoke here is quickly approaching intolerable this afternoon. Many blessings to the firefighters, the grieving and displaced.

Submitted on Tuesday, Nov 13, 2018 at 10:42:23 PM

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Janet Supriano

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Submitted on Wednesday, Nov 14, 2018 at 12:29:39 AM

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David Watts

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Reply to Janet Supriano:   New Content

That has got to be the shortest comment I have ever read. I like it when people get straight to the point. :)

Submitted on Wednesday, Nov 14, 2018 at 4:51:24 PM

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Janet Supriano

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Reply to David Watts:   New Content

Wow! A thumbs-up dopamine hit for keeping my mouth shut!!

I think I'll poll my family. How much will you give me to shut-up? heh heh :)

(we might get that yacht faster than I thought!)

Submitted on Wednesday, Nov 14, 2018 at 9:15:18 PM

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David Watts

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Reply to Janet Supriano:   New Content

:)

Submitted on Wednesday, Nov 14, 2018 at 10:46:37 PM

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Autshumatu

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Thanks Mike for opening theological musings of this kind. I am an veteran Anti-Apartheid activist, who in post-Apartheid SA became a high school teacher and trade unionist, in 1999 married my sweetheart a US citizen in the US. I served on the Episcopal parish board when the question arose about the church becoming an NGO. I had just adopted Anglicanism but when I questioned how any church, ran according to business principles levels with the ministry of Christ, I was viciously attacked. I approached the church minister and she too was viscipusly attacked, lost her parish housing and was transferred south of the city! I contacted her there and before I left town, she, with fear and trembling in her voice implored mere never to contact her again. I was lured out of town and as soon as we settled on the east-coast, was separated and kept in limbo for six years when my -ex divorced me and since on NY city streets I experiences what is known by many as "organized harassment". All the sadness aside - what we grapple with, which manifest as the mystery of God is academic: grasping the technics of our living zeitgeist paradigm, where modernity is in deep crisis and if we can make sense of deconstruction as I did - the Nietzschean notion of multiplicitoes of truth will eventually bring us many steps closer to grasping the mystery of God. Please read Derrida - particularly his "The Gift of Death". But to read Derrida one CANNOT approach it with how we all had this far been conditioned on the modern paradigm, with critical analysis as panacea to making meaning. One first need an orientation into deconstruction and few has the will to share that. Even and especially corporate institutions of higher learning and contemporary corporate church.

Submitted on Thursday, Nov 15, 2018 at 3:04:08 PM

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