Believers and Deceivers. The findings have surfaced with ominous regularity over the last few years, and with little notice: Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could. Public health experts who have led the studies caution that there is no simple explanation of why so many members of a profession once associated with rosy-cheeked longevity have become so unhealthy and unhappy. The problem is rather distress. Distress is the product of frustration and repeated disappointment.

Martin Buber. " He does not take the place of man’s turning or bring about a redemption which man has merely to accept and enter into. The ‘Messianic’ prophecy is no prediction of an already certain future: it too conceals an alternative, for there is something essential that must come from man. The belief in the coming of a Messianic leader is in essence the belief that at last man shall speak with his whole being the word that answers God’s word. God awaits an earthly consummation, a consummation in and with mankind. The Messianic belief is ‘the belief in the real leader, in the setting right of the dialogue, in God’s disappointment being at an end.’ (The Prophetic Faith, op. cit., pp. 140-144, 151, 153 f.; Israel and the World, op. cit., ‘Biblical Leadership,’ p. 131.)"

Disappointment has been around a long time, and all the way up the food chain.  Imagine Moses’ disappointment. He leaves his brother Aaron in charge while he attends a summit conference with God and receives the Ten Commandments. Returning, he finds Israel in anarchy, idolatry and unspeakable perversion. Where’s Aaron? Leading the rebellion! When Moses needs him most, Aaron fails him miserably.Hence, the disappointed have always had good company. Or perhaps misery just enjoys like-minded company.

The disappointed
All shuffle round in circles
Their placards look the same
With a picture and a name
Of the ones who broke their hearts
The disappointed
All congregate at my house
Their voices sob with grief
That they want to be chief
Of the tribe with broken hearts
Once, I had no sympathy
For those destroyed and thrown away by love
Seems, your ring upon my finger
Signifies that I’ve become the spokesman of…
The disappointed…

"The current discourse on paedophile priests – considered from a sociological perspective – represents a typical example of "moral panic". The concept was coined in the 1970s to explain how certain problems become the subject of "social hyperconstruction". More precisely, moral panics are defined as socially constructed problems that are characterised by a systematic amplification of the true facts in the media or in political discourse. "

The Pope in Britain.A bit of a crash landing. Applause has been luke warm to middling, but not ecstatic.The ambivalence took shape  in 1558 when Elizabeth I succeeded  the notorious Mary, and that Tudor succession marked a definitive resolution of which way Britain would go in the Reformation era. The subsequent telling of the tale also indicated how British culture would develop: History would assign the two queens the names Bloody Mary and the Virgin Queen. The British crown would for centuries be anti-Roman Catholic, on their home turf,even if more tolerant abroad…as long as tribute was paid.

Two other characteristics have been cited as typical of moral panics. First, problems that have existed for decades are reconstructed in the media and political accounts as new or as the subject of a recent dramatic increase. Second, their incidence is exaggerated by statistics plucked from the air which, while not confirmed by academic studies, are repeated by the media and inspire persistent media campaigns. Historian and sociologist Philip Jenkins, of Pennsylvania State University, has emphasised the role of "moral entrepreneurs" in the creation and management of panics whose agenda is not always revealed."A clergyman is sitting on a chair and is saying to a ragged urchin, O’ C – for O’Connell that’s right – now Pat what does M P stand for eh?” The boy replies, “Mealy Potato”.

…Will bear me on their shoulders
To a secret shadow land
Where a sombre marching band
Plays a tune for broken hearts
And day grows darker now
Everywhere, everywhere
The disappointed
Are coming in their millions
They’re spilling from the bus
At a monument to us
Made of bits of broken heart
The disappointed
Are growing every second
They blot the sun to black
At the bottom of the pack
I’m the king of broken hearts (XTC, Andy Partridge )

The Pope met the head of the world’s Anglican Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in London. Relations between their two churches are said to have been strained ever since the Vatican unveiled plans to make it easier for dissident Anglicans to become Catholics, moving towards the Morman gambit of baptising dead souls and bringing them posthumously into the flock.  Friday’s was seen as a gesture of reconciliation, as was the pope’s appearance at Westminster Abbey, Britain’s Anglican Cathedral.

Sir Thomas More, philosopher, writer and personal advisor to King Henry VIII. Henry was the king who split the English Church from the Vatican 500 years ago because it refused him permission to get a divorce. On friday, Benedict was on the same spot where More was tried for refusing to accept Henry as head of England’s church – a stance that cost More his head.

"Just weeks after the arrest of alleged Jewish terrorist, Yaakov Teitel, a West Bank rabbi on Monday released a book giving Jews permission to kill Gentiles who threaten Israel. Rabbi Yitzhak Shapiro, who heads the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva in the Yitzhar settlement, wrote in his book "The King's Torah" that even babies and children can be killed if they pose a threat to the nation. Shapiro based the majority of his teachings on passages quoted from the Bible, to which he adds his opinions and beliefs. "It is permissable to kill the Righteous among Nations even if they are not responsible for the threatening situation," he wrote, adding: "If we kill a Gentile who has sinned or has violated one of the seven commandme

- because we care about the commandments - there is nothing wrong with the murder."

Jun 6, 2005 / 12:00 am (CNA).- The Catholic League is demanding that an image of Pope Benedict XVI surrounded by swastikas be removed from a Florida art exhibit at the Broward Art Guild. The New York-based national organization argues that the piece should be removed because it is offensive to Catholics. The league says the action would be justified since another art piece considered offensive to homosexuals had been previously removed.

Catholic League president William Donohue said he was alerted to the issues regarding the art exhibit, called Controversy, May 31.The Sun Sentinel had reported May 27 that one of the artists, Michael Friedman, had complained to Mary Becht, director of the Broward County Department of Cultural Affairs, about an entry by Alfred Phillips, depicting President George Bush being sodomized.

Becht agreed and told the guild’s director, Susan Buzzi, to move it to “a less prominent space within the gallery.”It was subsequently “set near a corner of the gallery facing the wall.”“The irony,” said Donohue, “is that Friedman’s own contribution was allowed to stand: it shows Pope Benedict XVI surrounded by swastikas.”

Sir Thomas More. Hans Holbein.

The secular cheerleaders – Richard Dawkins, Geoffrey Robertson and their fellow non-believers – have suggested that the Queen, having invited Benedict, should have her constabulary arrest him as a sort of grand finale to the sexual abuse scandal. To the dismay of many, it didn’t happen. Perhaps diplomatic immunity. But, in mainstream British opinion there is no shortage of voices clamouring against even the idea of a state visit for a pope, and perhaps particularly this pope. Some of that reflects persistent and ignoble bits of British history, in which neither Catholics nor Germans are regarded kindly, so a German pope is doubly offensive.

"The reaction of art critic Sister Wendy Beckett to Andres Serrano's Piss Christ came to me like a Good Samaritan in my interpretive ditch. During an interview with Bill Moyers she said Serrano's photograph wasn't blasphemous, instead it was a commentary on "what we have done to Christ." The fact that Sister Wendy's opinion is a charitable over-interpretation will not concern me here, instead I'll risk offending a few more sensibilities by saying something that smacks of nostalgia for the Medieval. But aren't we better, more sensitive, more tolerant than people from the so-called Dark Ages? Perhaps you're partially right, but some things were easier, more humane, more in tune with Christ. Not to belittle the achievement of St. Francis, but he came from a society that was organized around corporate help for the down and out. Whole religious festivals were built around it, some professional guilds were dedicated to helping the poor in their spare time. They systematically got their hands dirty in that human junk we still see around us. Theirs was a personalized help that had a better chance of helping those on the margins regain their individual dignity. That personal touch is what's missing from large and depersonalized modern charity organizations, Christian or otherwise. Just send your money, out of sight, out of mind, you feel fine. Repeat. Like washing your hands clean... Given the Gospel's demand for human warmth, for getting your hands soiled, for totally restructuring your aesthetic and ethical ideals of human beauty and dignity—what can you do in your bureaucratic iron cage? What to do instead of washing your hands clean in abstractions? "

The hostility that many British are voicing toward Pope Benedict XVI has surprised church officials in Rome, perhaps by its tone of football partisanship ;  the first formal state visit to Great Britain by a reigning pontiff is seen as treating A.C. Milan at Wembly as the hated outsider.  The four-day papal visit,  has prompted negative reactions by far exceeding anything the Pope has encountered when traveling even to non-Christian countries such as Turkey or Israel. The protests have ranged from the mean-spirited and the tasteless to the vehemently ideological. Does he get what he deserves? And does the Lord indeed move in mysterious ways?

Is there an aesthetic component to theological disappointment? The two have to be connected to the nature and substance of beauty, both real, objective and perceived. Its origins, at some point, have to be rooted in the error; fallcy of repearted attempts, make that assault by the clergy themselves of a campaign of humanizing God; a banal patronization that dilutes and neuters the scope and power of the dynamic.This has to be the source  of the theme of aesthetic disappointment.

There are, of course, many ways that we could be disappointed aesthetically speaking. The sort of aesthetic disappointment of interest  involves the sudden and irreversible loss of aesthetic interest in and appreciation of a given object or event due to the discovery that what we had formerly admired is not the kind of thing that we had taken it to be.Illusion or outright fraud in presentation. It is precisely the kind of disappointment that, for Danto,or Kant, might occur if one were to discover that a much admired artwork had been replaced by its identical twin from the world of ordinary objects. Perhaps gravity pulls everything down into the world of the mundane.

"Karolina Sygula has one deep religious desire--to no longer be considered a Roman Catholic. But she may be on an unattainable quest. As harrowing as Paul's road to Damascus was, apparently the road back turns out to be more difficult and more bureaucratic. Ms. Sygula, who was born and baptized in Krakow, Poland, and raised in Toronto, insists she is not angry at the Church but she has certainly grown frustrated in her quest to be separated. It would be easy to blame various child-abuse scandals within the Church for her decision to leave, but if that were the case, she explained, her inclination would be to stay to work for change. "But the fact that I don't believe in God clearly is in contravention to the official policy of the Church and I can't work within the Church to change that."

Thinkers like Kant and Danto are actually much closer in their accounts of aesthetic disappointment, and thus aesthetic appreciation, than one would initially suppose. From Danto, we learn that our aesthetic response to art is deeply conceptual in ways that our aesthetic response to mere objects is not. From Kant, we learn, through his elucidation of two cases of aesthetic disappointment that full appreciation of natural beauty crucially presupposes the capacity to view natural beauty “as if it were nature’s art.” Read in light of Danto’s discussion of the crucial differences between appreciating art and appreciating beauty, Kant’s treatment of cases of aesthetic disappointment in  The Critique of the Power of Judgment yields rich insights into what it means to appreciate the beauty of nature once one is cognitively prepared to interpret something as a work of art. the prosaic aesthetic of religion, devoid of the poetic has perverted any aesthetic of spirituality that would be ambiguous enough, yet coherent and comprehensive enough to side step this man-made morass of disappointment. The result is a transfiguration of the commonplace which a vulgar and grotesque concoction, which as much resemblance as Frankenstein would have to a ballet dancer.

Could clergy burnout be somehow related to Albert Camus, an atheist, and his myth of sisyphus; where disappointment is the daily bread? "Albert Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus refers to the tale of the plight of Sisyphus, whose life purpose is to roll a stone up a mountain with absolute certainty that the stone will descend to the bottom again. One might imagine that our absurd hero Sisyphus would rather choose death than such a hopeless existence. However, according to Camus, he does not prefer death. Sisyphus is the epitome of the absurd. He is the absurd hero. He rebelled against the Gods and defied death. He was condemned for loving life too much, so the Gods sentenced him to the ultimate torture. “ much through his passions as through his torture. His scorn of the gods, his hatred of death, and his passion for life won him that unspeakable penalty in which the whole being is exerted toward accomplishing nothing. (p.89)”

“In May, the Clergy Health Initiative, a seven-year study that Duke University began in 2007, published the first results of a continuing survey of 1,726 Methodist ministers in North Carolina. Compared with neighbors in their census tracts, the ministers reported significantly higher rates of arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma. Obesity was 10 percent more prevalent in the clergy group.

The results echoed recent internal surveys by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which found that 69 percent of its ministers reported being overweight, 64 percent having high blood pressure and 13 percent taking antidepressants. A 2005 survey of clergy by the Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church also took special note of a quadrupling in the number of people leaving the profession during the first five years of ministry, compared with the 1970s. ( Paul Vitello. N.Y. Times )

"Moral entrepreneurs (who) organize the panic... . This at a time when political, juridical and even electoral decisions in Europe and elsewhere are being made about the abortion pill RU-486, euthanasia, the recognition of same sex unions. Only the voice of the Pope and the Church is being raised to defend life and the family. The reading of certain articles in the media shows that very powerful lobby groups are seeking to silence this voice with the worst possible defamation—and unfortunately an easy one to make—that of favouring or tolerating paedophilia."

…At the bottom of the scale, the cost of the visit — an estimated 10 million pounds (about 15.4 million U.S. dollars) to British taxpayers — has generated repeated complaints, although such protests are never heard when other heads of state come to Britain.More seriously, a controversy arose in April after the leak of a joke memo that a junior Foreign Office official had written suggesting that the Pope should bless a gay marriage and open an abortion clinic as part of his official program.The government offered an apology to the Holy See, but the prank betrayed the sort of ignorant contempt that passes for cleverness in the corridors of power in Britain.

The National Secular Society, an atheist lobby group, has submitted to the government a petition against the papal tour and will demonstrate against the pontiff during the visit. The group’s opinions are quoted widely and even promoted in the British press whenever the papal visit is discussed.Is the papacy an easy target? The society’s protests against Islam, by contrast, seem limited to campaigning against the ritual slaughter of animals, perhaps due to fear of Fatwa’s and holy wars.  Worst of all have been the vocal antics of those who say they want to put the Pope behind bars. Professor Richard Dawkins of Oxford University, the evolutionary scientist and militant atheist whose book “The God Delusion” sold millions, has stated that he would try to stage a citizen’s arrest of the Pope.

"A Brooklyn rabbi, accused seven years ago of stealing government grants, was busted Thursday for blackmailing a Connecticut hedge fund to give $4 million to two schools he works with, prosecutors said. Rabbi Milton Balkany, 63, was charged with extortion, blackmail and making false statements as part of an elaborate scheme to shake down the hedge fund, prosecutors charged. They say Balkany told the hedge fund the U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI were trying to get a jailbird he knew to give up information about illegal insider trades made by the financial firm. There were no insider trades. Balkany made up the story to trick fund managers into giving millions to the Bais Yaakov School in Borough Park, where he is the dean, and another school, Torah Vodaath, prosecutors said. "

Together with human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC, Dawkins claims the Pope bears guilt for the child abuse scandal. A week before the papal visit, Robertson published a book arguing that Benedict should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity and explaining why he believes the Pope cannot claim sovereign immunity. And on Monday, just days before the Pope’s plane was to touch down in Edinburgh, gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was given an hour on prime-time television to attack the Pope, the visit, and Catholicism generally in the most simplistic, ignorant, and virulent terms. Indeed, so bad-tempered has been the mood in Britain surrounding the visit that the British ambassador to the Holy See felt compelled to suggest in August that it is better for the Pope to generate hostility than indifference.

Guy Fawkes and eight of the alleged conspirators

But why would there be such enmity in a Christian country when there was none from a Muslim or a Jewish one? The fact that these attacks come from people who are already discredited has done nothing to stem their resonance. Tatchell attacks the Pope over the child abuse scandal, but he himself defended sexual relations between adults and children as young as nine in a letter to The Guardian in 1997.

Robertson, meanwhile, was sacked from his post as president of the Special Court for Sierra Leone in 2004 because he refused to withdraw as judge in a case whose defendants he had proclaimed guilty in one of his books. But he continues to pose as an authority on the law and due process. On the contrary, the outpouring of anti-Catholic feeling has put British Catholics so far on the defensive that many of them now think their opponents are perhaps at least partly right.

Anti-Irish propaganda from Punch magazine, published in December 1867.

Britain has become one of the most virulently anti-Christian countries in the world. After a few decades in which the traditional anti-Catholic prejudices fell into abeyance, the basic anti-popish reflexes of an ancient Protestant nation have come back with a vengeance, spurred on by ideological attacks on the only Christian church that seems to stand for anything at all. The Anglicans, meanwhile, having been mired in their own internal problems for years.

ADDENDUM. Elizabeth Lev:

“…congratulating France for what seemed like a successfully completed revolution. The hated King had been brought to heel, and change had swept through an oppressed nation, offering hope for a brighter future under better government. Newspapers, then coming into their own, proclaimed the dawn of a new era of peace and prosperity while proto-pundits compared the change of rule to England’s Glorious Revolution of 1688.

One observer however, English statesman Edmund Burke, wasn’t fooled by the triumphant images produced by revolutionary PR teams; he saw gathering clouds for the darkest storm yet. His first clue that the Revolution had yet to run its course? The sustained hostile attacks on the Catholic clergy. After the National Assembly diminished the authority of Louis XVI in 1789, anti-monarchical literature dwindled, but fierce accusations against Catholic clergy for misdeeds past and present increased. Isolated cases of clerical immorality were magnified to make depravity appear endemic to the entire priesthood (ironically, in an age where sexual libertinism was running rampant). The French propagandists labored night and day, dredging the past for old scandals whether decades or even centuries distant.

In his Reflections on the Revolution in France, published in 1790, Burke, a Protestant, asked the French, “From the general style of late publications of all sorts, one would be led to believe that your clergy in France were a sort of monsters, a horrible composition of superstition, ignorance, sloth, fraud, avarice and tyranny. But is this true?” What would Edmund Burke make of the headlines of the past few weeks, as stories of a clerical sex abuser in Germany a quarter century ago, made front page headlines and top TV stories in US news? What would he think of the insistent attempts to tie this sex abuser to the Roman pontiff himself through the most tenuous of links?

In 1790, Burke answered his own question with these words: “It is not with much credulity I listen to any when they speak evil of those whom they are going to plunder. I rather suspect that vices are feigned or exaggerated when profit is looked for in their punishment.” As he wrote these words, the French revolutionaries were readying for the mass confiscation of Church lands. As the present sales of church property to pay settlements swell the coffers of contingent-fee lawyers and real estate speculators, one has to credit Burke for a profound and historical sense of human nature.

The salacious reporting on clerical sex abuse ( as if it were limited to only Roman Catholic clergy) has been given a prominence greater than the massacres of Christians happening right now in India and Iraq. Moreover, the term “clerical sex abuse” is often misleadingly equated with “pedophilia” to whip up even more public outrage. It doesn’t take the political acumen of an Edmund Burke to wonder why the Catholic Church has been singled out for this treatment. While no one denies the wrongdoing and the harm caused by a small minority of priests, their misconduct has been used to undermine the reputations of the overwhelming majority of clergy who live holy quiet lives in their parishes, tending to their flocks…

Karolina Sygula case: “But even if she got through to the parish of her baptism, and a notation was made on her record, that still would not mean she wasn’t a Catholic. If she was excommunicated she would not be able to take communion but would still be considered a Catholic. Father Frank Morrisey, an expert in Church law at St. Paul’s University in Ottawa, said when you cut through canon law the explanation is really quite simple. “As far as the Church is concerned: once a Catholic, always a Catholic.” It is cold comfort for Ms. Sygula, but other faiths also have no escape clauses except in the rare case of heresy–but there it gets fuzzy. ( Charles Lewis, National Post )


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  1. Lemuel says:

    First time I heard of moral panic and it is a good one from a Cohen. Your observation of burnout is relevant for the times. Perhaps Moses had a moral panic, but he was alone. Ha, ha, ha, except for those of the House of Levi that were totally cool headed. It was a good combination against Aaron and the people of Israel.

    Why would there be moral panic from ministers got me curious. Nice one, Dave.

    • Dave says:

      thanks so much! You brought up the point about the Cohanin which is interesting. There is this conflict that has never be reconciled between the two houses, and its implications are profound; elitism etc. also the matter of death in particular, the value of life, aesthetics and so on. Best, Dave.

  2. Lemuel says:

    Dave, Glad you have the issue on the Cohen. Has this been a problem from neglect of Jewry in America and in Britain? On the two houses of Davidiy, I do not know where to place the tribe of Judah from his book. :) Though I do not find problems about rites of return, or perhaps I am not abreast on the latest.

    Do you think the actions of the Brooklyn rabbi and Teitel really that widespread amongst rabbis and the Cohanim? Say, something unique to them and their perceived identity as from the tribe of Levi?

    • Dave says:

      No, i don’t think it is widespread; the link between religion, money and madness is somewhat intriguing however. The Cohanin and the House of levi yes. an eternal opposition. where do you think the goth movement came from? You always pose amazing questions that frame complex issues not brought to people’s attention. I think all faiths have this division as well as a “lost tribe” issue and complex, which ultimately is that necessary third way.

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