Breathe it in…

[UPDATE: I added an appendix to this post the next day, in red, below.]

“21 Folly is joy to the fool: and the wise man maketh straight his steps.  22 Designs are brought to nothing where there is no counsel: but where there are many counsellors, they are established.” — Proverbs 15 

Cdl. Sean O’Malley is considered the closest American to the pope, if not his “BFF”. Considering how bursting with ecumenism O’Malley is, it’s no mystery why.

“Cardinal O’Malley, female Methodist pastor team up on ritual” (January 14, 2014, The Patriot Ledger)

“What moved me was not so much that I was anointing him,” she said. “It was him being willing to accept that from my hand – to ask me, as a woman in ministry, to do that.” … She paused with the priest at the cardinal’s pew, so they could receive the baptism water from Cardinal O’Malley. The next moment, the cardinal quietly asked the Rev. Robertson to administer the water for him. “My heart immediately went to my throat,” she said. “To be asked that by the man who might be pope someday – I was stunned. I was choking back tears for hours.”

if you give a mouse a cookie

[I think you’d agree that getting Robertson’s take on the indifferentist incident with O’Malley is important: 

At the root of the word “significance” is the word “sign,” and that is what occurred in that moment of anointing. You don’t get to be a Cardinal by being unaware of the significance of your public acts. In a [cough, cough] completely spontaneous [or, off-the-cuff] moment, Cardinal O’Malley seized the opportunity of signifying the truth of Galatians 3:28, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”  Which is, of course, also the truth of baptism.

In that moment of anointing–as he anointed me and I anointed him–we were not Protestant or Catholic, Scotch or Irish, male or female, cardinal or clergywoman. We were Christians, babes in Christ, spiritually naked before the Lord who called us both to service. Nothing could have better signified what everyone in that room had just reaffirmed. In baptism, we are one.

The things that came to divide us after our baptism exist still.  There was a reason beyond the accident of the day that we celebrated a reaffirmation of our baptism together and not Holy Communion. There are uncomfortable realities even in the world of Protestants, even in the world of United Methodists, that resulted in me being the only vested clergywoman of any kind in that service. And there were other symbols of unity that it was not even possible to signify because those exclusions run too deep still.

It was imperfect. In a perfect world this reflection would not exist because a a [sic] United Methodist clergywoman anointing a Roman Catholic Cardinal would be routine and unremarkable.  In a perfect world Cardinal O’Malley and I would preside together at the Lord’s Table. In a perfect world I might preside with a Cardinal Brighid O’Malley. 

But grace exists, even in our imperfections–perhaps especially because of our imperfections. And yesterday afternoon, Jesus took the [implicitly equally ordained] hands of his servants, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, and Rev. Anne Robertson, and had them anoint each other, thereby signifying to all of us what heaven will be like. [In other words, the particularities of Catholic sacramental theology are merely earthly concessions to the hardness of man’s heart and Cdl. O’Malley is cool because he gets that.]

“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” 

In light of Robertson’s rhapsody, the question presents itself even more urgently: To what kind of ecclesiology and soteriology did O’Malley, wittingly or not, give his in-the-papal-bosom blessing by “playing Church” with Robertson?]


About The Codgitator (a cadgertator)

Catholic convert. Quasi-Zorbatic. Freelance interpreter, translator, and web marketer. Former ESL teacher in Taiwan (2003-2012) and former public high school teacher (2012-2014). Married father of three. Multilingual, would-be scholar, and fairly consistent fitness monkey. My research interests include: the interface of religion and science, the history and philosophy of science and technology, ancient and medieval philosophy, and cognitive neuroscience. Please pray for me.
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19 Responses to Breathe it in…

  1. rubyroad2013 says:

    I guess this is his response to this:
    He has friends in high places.

  2. Tony Jokin says:

    To vent my frustration about something that caught my eye from your link but is a bit unrelated: The Blessed Virgin Mary was not unwed. She was married at the time of the Annunciation.

    The reason it particularly caught my eye is that I have been having way too many people say the same thing that its as if there is a virus running around.

    The rest on the other types of “families” is just…. its not even worth writing down my thoughts… At least the Cardinal’s letter on homosexuality cited in this case is not that bad.

  3. ErnstThalmann says:

    And here a picture of the future church of Frank The Hippie Pope, a cardinal, eyes glazed over in romantic ecstasy while some female, protestant minister sentimentally “annoints” him! What insufferable vomit! One gets the sense that O’Malley would benefit decidedly from the administration of a dose of castor oil! How to respect such people, anyway? At one point you get sick enough of this kind of crap and you just pick up and go. What benefit does the Church offer anyone with garbage like this. What’s it doing for anyone when all of the laity’s attention is riveted on the hierarchy and its foibles. What’s it doing for anyone, is it positively impacting anyone lives at all from the Pope right on down? If it is, I don’t see it. Your likely to see more Christianity in a 12 Step group.

  4. Tony Jokin says:

    On this particular issue, I don’t know what else to say other than if Ecumenism is about attending events at the other person’s faith and involves encouragement of disordered practices (female clergy), it seems already like a sham. I thought Ecumenism required dialogue on disagreements. Is the Cardinal going to sometime later go “Hey Rev. Robertson, I want to talk to you about the anointing you did on me. We Catholics don’t accept it because…x. y. z”? I can see the other person replying, “then why did you ask for it?”.

  5. Speaking of 12-Step Christianity, I know not a few folk who’ve been driven to drink over the past few months. 😉

  6. Pingback: Playing at Religion | The American Catholic

  7. Branch says:

    Wow. Robertson’s remarks after the occurrence are very telling.

    The O’Malley Effect! Everyone should have their own. Ours, of course, will be that of the miserable bedwetters but we can’t all be crowned Most Popular in the class, can we?

  8. Branch says:

    Also, why does she make note of the fact that she is a DIVORCED clergywoman? Is she trying to say that they’re beyond that Catholic hang-up as well?

  9. ErnstThalmann says:

    Better yet, she might have used the occasion to come out if she were “gay”. But the whole thing would really have carried an impact if she were a “bishop”, gay, divorced and remarried. I’m sure the exquisitely sensitive O’Malley would have found nothing alarming about such an exchange of tenderness if those were true of her. And Frank? Who’s he to judge?

  10. Branch says:

    I don’t see how it all leads to anything but a deadening indifferentism. When the truth is gone, so is everything else.

  11. ErnstThalmann says:

    Well put.

    I mean, here is a Cardinal engaged in what amounts to an orgy of Christian syncretism, the ideal of every half-baked college dorm room “theologian” in the world. Thoughtless gestures of this kind on the part of Catholic clerical “leadership” leave one nauseated. And we subordinate our faith to such people? I’m at the end of the line identifying with those that run things. On far too many occasions they don’t speak for me.

    There was a time about fifteen years ago that I’d occasionally attend a Church Of Christ (Christian) worship service on Sundays with a friend of mine. In this denomination, there is an impoverished “Eucharist” of sorts – you know, the kind that is held out as a “remembrance” of Christ. The elements – grape juice and a cube of bread – are brought to you as you are seated. Naturally, I declined as they were offered to me. But why is it that I, a layman, am aware of my responsibilities to the Catholic Church and here we have a Cardinal treating his so incredibly shabbily? And absolutely nothing will be done to prevent a recurrence. That’s a bridge too far.

  12. Those defending this incident are missing the forest for the trees. They argue that, since baptism is the universal sacrament, which even non-Catholics and laity can perform, there’s nothing amiss in O’Malley’s stunt. He was merely reaffirming the enduring graces of baptism for all believers, they say. Errrm, well, I grant that he was, at least formally, “merely” reaffirming baptismal vows, but the problem is what ELSE he managed to affirm by his actions. It’s like trying to defend Burning Man on the grounds that it’s “merely” a celebration of human creativity. Well, yes, but the problem is all the other perversity that gets thrown in with the bargain. To say that O’Malley didn’t affirm religious indifferentism and what Crude calls the tyranny of the aggrieved, is like saying that one can afford a car without being able to pay for insurance or gas. Don’t tell Pope Francis, but there are severe “sunken costs” in O’Malley’s stunt, and they shouldn’t be allowed to reflect on Francis’s papacy.

  13. It certainly is a “pontiff” too far. Pope Francis speaks harshly against clericalism, but what else do you call it when leading clerics not only get to ride roughshod over basic Catholic decorum and prudence but also get praised for it, while laity in a similar situation would be lambasted as a sellout?

  14. Branch says:

    “an orgy of Christian syncretism, the ideal of every half-baked college dorm room “theologian” in the world.”

    The argument will be – is – that Christians need to stick together in these times, that we should emphasize common ground, to be unified. (Cf.:

    We are told to calm down a bit, for the reunification of Christian churches could take hundreds of years, but in the meantime, “we have unity of the spirit of love.” So, we are unified, in love, until the reunification. So, two questions at least:

    1) What does reunification mean? Are we talking about reunification in truth, which we Catholics possess in full? In doctrine? Or is it just in “purpose” for perpetuity?

    2) What will bring the reunification about? Are we supposed to just cling to the spirit of love until some eventual doctrinal unity magically comes about one day?

    And, isn’t it illogical to think such unity will ever come about if it is continually allowed to give way to this indifferentism now, in this… waiting period?

    “Be easy, Doctor. I like an easy man,” Lord Melbourne, Queen Victoria’s first Prime Minister once said to Professor Hampden.

    That’s the unspoken condescending advice that I think we’re being given. Let’s not be so uptight about the truth, about taking what we believe about reality seriously.

  15. ErnstThalmann says:

    Ecumenism is increasingly looking like a failure. What have we to show for decades of conversations with the Orthodox who continue to quibble over what ought to be easily resolved differences over understandings of the Holy Trinity? We arrive at what seem to be agreements with the Lutherans about how we are to understand the doctrine on justification only to have the conversations stall. Its not that the issues aren’t understood, its that we’ve fallen into the deception that what continuing conversations offer is hope yet in the process what we achieve is the substitution of gestures – like this one of O’Malley’s – for substance. And can you imagine a resolution of premillenial dispensationalism with our eschatology? Good luck.

  16. ErnstThalmann says:

    You know, one gets to a place where one wonders if the Catholic model of “Church” is even doable given the excrescence that is so much of its history. It seems to me that we must do ourselves right if we are to do ourselves at all. Assurances about the Gates of Hell notwithstanding, how many Protestant Reformations and clerical abuse scandals can there be without the whole structure foundering. Ask yourself, how well are we doing with a “ruling class”?

  17. Crude says:

    Part of the problem, in my opinion, is that conservatives never think to demand concessions from anyone. That really needs to change.

  18. joe m says:

    Really, if you are familiar with contemporary United Methodism, this is depressing. The Cardinal apparently buys into the ‘be nice, say Jesus, and quote scholarship’ mantra that reigns there. How else to explain it. Likewise, regardless of his order, the attire, between the two of them, is precious to the point of embarrassment. This continued trajectory towards sentimentalism and Up with People affirmations versus theology is going to empty the churches of most if not all traditional Christians. Just watch.

  19. Empty the churches? Under Francis? B-b-b-but that’s… impossible! What about The Francis Effect Affect?

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