Friday, August 6, 2010


So, Anne Rice is quitting Christianity. Given her reasons I cannot raise much objection. I have pretty much done the same thing. My family and I have taken to conducting Liturgy in our home, with a small worshiping community. It’s very informal and very “un-churchlike” - if by “Church” one means a lot of pomp and ceremony. I like to think that we are like the earliest communities of Christians, worshiping in small households, but without the threat of persecution. Who knows?

Probably not even close.

I quit for the same reasons she did:
“I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life.”

These are sound reasons. The breaking point for me was a letter from my diocesan bishop that said, in essence, that he wasn’t telling anyone how to vote, but as Catholics we were morally bound to vote only for candidates who opposed legal abortions. Yeah right. I have never voted for a Republican in my life. Nor have I ever voted for candidates based on one issue. That is ignorance in the extreme. A Catholic Bishop throwing down that particular gauntlet made me very, very angry. The sheer arrogance of it was deeply offensive.

So, I quit.

It was hard. My family's Roman Catholic roots are deep. My brother is a Dominican priest. I had three aunts who were Dominican Sisters. The halls of the Dominican Motherhouse in Adrian, Michigan still evoke a sense of mystical intrigue for me. The chanting of the liturgical hours still causes me to stop and look inside at my own mystical connection to the Creator of the Universe.

Unlike Anne, I have never been an atheist. I have had an ongoing internal dialogue with God going on for as long as I can remember. It is the most consistent part of a spiritual journey that has taken me from my humble little parish in Deerfield, Michigan (St. Alphonsus) to a Charismatic Christian Community to a very devout sojourn in the Antiochian Orthodox Church and finally back to Roman Catholicism. All along the way I was guided by that internal dialogue. I learned a lot. Life had it’s bumps and distractions; a divorce, a remarriage, three children with the first wife, an adopted son with my second (and last) wife. I have encountered trials and tribulations and exhilarating spiritual insights. Some of these insights originated from my religious devotion but most of them have come when I dared (often to the abhorrence of my “pastors”) to think “outside the box”.

Perhaps the most profound insight I have happened upon is that God DOES NOT have some “perfect plan” for my life. I am expected to make it up as I go - just like he does. This statement usually evokes outbursts of disbelief and/or accusations of “heresy” from those who have known me from my past religious sojourns. But it’s true. No Bishop, Pope or “pastoral guide” can prove me wrong.

I believe that this is the essence of what Anne has discovered. (She can correct me if I am wrong).
O Sensei, Morihei Uisheba may have said it best:

"One does not need buildings, money, power, or status to practice the Art of Peace. Heaven is right where you are standing, and that is the place to train."

Much Love…Mitakuye Oyasin!

Papa Medicine Crow

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Miracles and changing the world

"Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature." Augustine of Hippo

I believe that we can affect matter, time and space with the power of thought and the assertion of our will...I pray...pretty much constantly. Prayer is thought and the assertion of the will. Whether "God" does it or my own thought and will is of little consequence to me...but I have experienced the power of it in some very practical and often subtle but powerful ways. The seemingly serendipitous coming together of opportunity and resources to some unanticipated (because it seemed impossible) fortunate turn of events.

Raging against systemic injustice is an exercise in futility. The world is not made up capitalists and socialists and communists and fundamentalists and atheists...(these are labels we use to dehumanize those we wish to hate) is made up of people...billions of individual people...caught up in the their own cycles of suffering, death and rebirth. I feel the burn of frustration at the intentional evil done in the name of wealth, power, religion etc.

When I quiet my mind and heart I realize that I am very. very small...but I possess tremendous power...I can change my thought process...I can choose to be compassionate in the face of greed...I can love the "unlovable"...I can endure any suffering...I can be joyful even in the depths of my own sorrow (Joy and sorrow are not opposites. Happiness and sorrow are because they are emotions...Joy is a state of being). The only way that systemic injustice will be defeated is through individual acts of justice...and Love. There are no short cuts.

God isn't coming down from the sky to set everything right...we've got to do it. We have the God given power to do it and we have the resources to do it. If we are created in the "image and likeness of God"...then we have the ability and the responsibility to BE Godlike and create a world worthy of a God of Love and being loving and compassionate.

"Great acts are made up of small deeds." Lao Tzu

Much Love...Mitakuye Oyasin!

Michael Iott
Society of Blessed John XXIII

Friday, July 10, 2009

"I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves."

"Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this house!' And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you." Luke 10:3-6

We are not just hearing a call to renew the Church. We are hearing a call to further the mission of the Church. In fact - the latter is the primary call. The readings for Sunday July 11th in the Revised Common Lectionary ( have David dancing before the Ark of The Covenant and being looked down upon by the daughter of Saul...who obviously thinks he is not living up to his stature as King. Then on to Amos who is told by Amaziah :
"O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king's sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom." To which Amos replies: "I am no prophet, nor a prophet's son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, 'Go, prophesy to my people Israel.'

Our purpose is not, primarily to renew the Church. Our mission is to preach, teach and BE the Good News of Jesus to a world sorely in need of hearing and seeing it. While the Church carries on the purging of any who will not conform to her arcane doctrinal/dogmatic prescriptions, closing ranks as an exclusive club for the initiated "true believers" and telling the rest of us to go away, we must be about carrying on the the mission of the Church.

If we have any hope of "renewing" The Roman Catholic Church it will come only by carrying out her primary mission...with or without the blessing and/or approval of the Vatican. We are being called to dance before the "Ark of The Lord" like a bunch of crazy hippies (David danced in his underwear...not sure many of us could pull that off). We are not the upper crust of the ecclesiastical world...many of us are the modern equivalent of a herdsmen and the dressers of sycamore trees...but we are still being called to prophesy to the People of God. The fact that we are of no real consequence in the hierarchical "pecking order" gives us a freedom of action that those maintaining a sense of "ecclesiastical dignity" can only dream of.

"One does not need buildings, money, power, or status to practice the Art of Peace. Heaven is right where you are standing, and that is the place to train." Morihei Ueshiba (O Sensei)

"Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words." Francis of Assisi

Much Love...Mitakuye Oyasin!
Michael F. Iott
Society Of Blessed John XXIII

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Immaculate Conception and "Original Guilt"

The Immaculate Conception and "Original Guilt"

Marian devotion is a very longstanding practice in the Catholic/Orthodox tradition. The Orthodox church honors Mary as the Theotokos (God Bearer) and has incorporated Marian devotion into the Liturgy and prayer life of the Church without elevating it to the level of Dogma. The Roman Church has made belief in the Immaculate Conception a Dogma (a belief that is required) while in Orthodoxy it has remained an honored tradition...but not a required belief. The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception rests on the Western Christian Doctrine of Original Sin...which I call "Original Guilt". According to St. Augustine (a not so recovered Manichean) we are all born already guilty of Adam's sin. In that scenario the Mother of God, in order to be "pure" enough to bear the Son of God would have had to be born without that original guilt.

This is the root issue standing in the way of reunification between the Eastern and Western Churches. The Orthodox Church considers Augustine's doctrine of Original Guilt a heresy. To the early Church and the the early Councils Original Sin was merely the observable fact of our human predisposition to sin and the inevitibility of it. But no one can be guilty of something someone else did. Alexander Komiakov (a Russian Orthodox theologian of the late nineteenth century) argued quite convincingly that most of the errors of the Protestant Reformation, especially Calvinism, are rooted in what he considers a vestage of the Manichean Heresy, from whence came Augustine and his peculiar twist on the obvious fact of Original Sin. According to the most ancient traditions of the Catholic/Orthodox Churches all that God created is essentially good. Augustine's Doctrine is Manichean in that it presumes that we are born morally depraved, and in fact all of physical creation is essentiually evil. Therfore we must be Baptised in order to be saved. This belief in our moral depravity is what makes room for the belief in such things a "purgatory" and "limbo" and the clergy as the only avenue that the ignorant and uneducated masses have to salvation...and down through the history of the Western Church to the selling of indulgences and the eventual "Dogma" of Papal Infallability. It's not about God or "tradition", now it's about control and power.

The "laity" are not just an important part of the Church the Laity IS the Church. The Clergy are servents, ideally raised up from among the Laity...not separate...not privilaged...and in every way accountable to the laity. No one has authority to govern anyone who does not consent to be governed by that person...regardless of who laid hands on him or her or how many crosses he or she puts in front of his or her name. That is an observable fact of our existence.

How we govern ourselves is not the mark of our is the seven Sacraments and the historical continuity of Apostolic Succession. The laying on of hands does not turn a lay person into a Priest or Bishop...the community does that...and the laying on of hands affirms that choice in a physical, historical continuity going back to hands of Jesus himself. When we celebrate the Eucharist the bread doesn't become God because some guy in fancy vestmerts says some magic words....God becomes bread in the context of the Community Worship...because the Community has called God forth in the words of institution at the hands of the Celebrant. The Church is not "Clergy" and "Laity"...the church is the community...the entire community, from the youngest to the oldest.

Michael F. Iott
Society of Blessed John XXIII

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Dogmatic Dictatorship

Reading the news coming out of Iran has set me to thinking. The similarities between the unrest in Iran and the unrest in the Roman Catholic Church are striking. Iran’s ruling theocrats have the Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Basij militias, and the Vatican has Opus Dei, CUF, ETWN and other, so called, “conservative” groups. The ruling clerics in Iran are clamping down in a knee jerk reaction to the aspirations of faithful Muslims who long to be freed from the tyranny of their Islamic Theocracy to embrace the ideal of the Islamic Republic that showed such promise after the fall of the Shah in 1979. In like manner the Vatican is engaged in active suppression of Roman Catholics looking to leave the medieval monarchy of the pre-Vatican II church behind and reclaim the consensus community model of church that characterized her first three centuries.

The Vatican is in much the same place as the mullah’s in Iran in trying to put the “genie back into the bottle” . Of course (thankfully) the hierarchy of the Roman Church no longer has the temporal power to put dissidents to “the torch” or literally beat us into submission. They are, however engaged in an active program of marginalizing the progressive elements in the Church and putting forth the threat of excommunication toward any who even question the Church’s stand on priestly celibacy or the ordination of women. The irony is that while one priest can molest children in parish after parish and be treated with “compassion” and discretion, a priest advocating the ordination of women or married men is threatened with excommunication.

The “threat” to the Church is not women aspiring to serve the Church in ordained ministry, or male priests being forced to choose between a healthy sexual relationship and ordained ministry. The greatest threat facing the Roman Catholic Church is irrelevancy. Since Blessed John XXIII “opened the windows” to let the fresh air (and the Holy Spirit) in, “pew sitting” Catholics have been actively engaged in their Faith journey. We have discovered that there are no “cookie cutter” solutions to the problems we face on that journey. I can acknowledge that abortion is a sin, but is making it illegal (as a matter of secular law) the most life-giving response? We have begun to place a value on faith as a verb, something active and dynamic and are no longer content with merely ascribing to “The Faith” as dictated by the hierarchy. If we are continually told to just sit in the pew and do as we are told, we will eventually exit the pew altogether and find a way to serve God outside of the decaying edifice of the Roman Church.

In both the case of the reformers in Iran and those within the Catholic Church, the goal is distant and beset with many obstacles. But in both cases there is no going back. The theocratic dictatorship of the Iranian mullahs and the dogmatic dictatorship of the Roman Catholic hierarchy are both destined to be jettisoned as those they are trying to control and suppress become more insistent on exercising the freedom and responsibilities we have as Children of God.

Michael F. Iott
Society of Blessed John XXIII

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Statement of Intent

The Society of Blessed John XXIII is an international society of Roman Catholics who wish to live their faith in the full Spirit of the Second Vatican Council, which was called by Pope John XXIII and convened from 1962 to 1965.

Some of us are Roman Catholics who have for years been working for reform within the structure of the Church and, having been frustrated in that attempt, wish to quietly live out our Vatican II faith while letting the rest of the Church peacefully go their own way. While we have not given up the hope that some day the whole Church will adopt the reforms needed to fully implement the documents of Vatican II in the Spirit of Blessed John XXIII, we have accepted the fact that the current bent of the hierarchy means that it will not happen in our lifetimes. Not wishing conflict with others in the Church, we intend to cease our attempts at reform, and simply proceed to live our faith as best we can within the Church as it is.

Others of us left the Roman Catholic Church and joined other churches whose doctrine and practice were more in line with our conception of what the Church should be. Most of us became Old Catholics or Independent Catholics. Some of us even became Protestants for a while. Some dropped out entirely and became unchurched. Gradually we have come back to the Roman Church, attending Mass at a progressive parish (if we could find one). But hierarchical pressures on even the best of parishes have made this almost impossible. We now intend to create our own parishes, missions, and intentional communities under the protection of the Society, remaining fully Roman Catholic, while operating free of the rigid dictates of hierarchical interference.

We have valid Catholic bishops in apostolic succession who have agreed to assist us in this endeavor. Some of our clergy are Roman Catholic priests who, having left active ministry for various reasons are returning to serve the Society's parishes. Others are validly ordained clergy from the Old Catholic/ Independent Catholic movement who have joined us. If additional clergy are needed, they will be raised up from within the laity, elected by the people, and ordained by our bishops in apostolic succession.

Because we are “conservative” and “traditional” Roman Catholics (in the true sense of those words), we will be returning to some practices of the Early Church which have long been neglected, but which are in the Spirit of Vatican II. Among these practices are the election of bishops by the people, ordination without regard to marital status, gender, or sexual orientation, and ownership of property by the people rather than by the hierarchy.

It is our hope that, having gone through the painful separation from and reconciliation with the Society of St. Pius X, the Church will not pressure us or threaten us with excommunication. We do not condemn or denigrate any other part of the Church. (Nor do we condemn or denigrate Christians who are not Roman Catholic.) We wish only to be allowed to practice our faith within the Church in accord with the dictates of our conscience.

Most Rev. Dr. Robert M. Bowman, COSF
Fr. Jerry Brohl,
Michael F. Iott,
Society of Blessed John XXIII

A Formula for Change in the Church

I'm reading Robert Blair Kaiser's novel Cardinal Mahony. It's an easy read which clearly maps a plan for changing the church.

1. Find a RC cardinal or ordinary who has had a dramatic and radical conversion experience. That means he has seen the error of his ways and prefers being a minister of Jesus rather than a front man for the Vatican.

2. Hook him up with a progressive Vatican II canon lawyer, a sexy social activist love interest (to keep him human & on track), a hardened, experienced community organizer, and an effective PR/media person.

3. Let him know he is loved but not trusted

4. Present him with the notion of autochthony

5. Ask God to gift him wth large, brass balls.

Jerry, COSF