In a lengthy, moving letter to friends and colleagues, veteran Jesuit priest Bert Thelen explains his reasons for leaving the order and the priesthood and returning to the lay state. Thelen, who is almost 80 years old, has served as parish priest, provincial staff member and provincial during his 45 years of service.
"Why does this 'YES' to embrace the call of our cosmic inter-connectedness mean saying 'NO' to ordained ministry? My answer is simple but true. All mystical traditions, as well as modern science, teach us that we humans cannot be fully ourselves without being in communion with all that exists. Lasting justice for Earth and all her inhabitants is only possible within this sacred communion of being. We need conversion -- conversion from the prevailing consciousness that views reality in terms of separateness, dualism, and even hierarchy, to a new awareness of ourselves as inter-dependent partners , sharing in one Earth-Human community.
"In plainer words, we need to end the world view that structures reality into higher and lower, superior and inferior, dominant and subordinate, which puts God over Humanity, humans over the rest of the world, men over women, the ordained over the laity. As Jesus commanded so succinctly, 'Don't Lord it over anyone ... serve one another in love.' As an institution, the Church is not even close to that idea; its leadership works through domination, control, and punishment. So, following my call to serve this One World requires me to stop benefiting from the privilege, security, and prestige ordination has given me. I am doing this primarily out of the necessity and consequence of my new call, but, secondarily, as a protest against the social injustices and sinful exclusions perpetrated by a patriarchal church that refuses to consider ordination for women and marriage for same- sex couples ..."
...It is time. It is time to abandon our refusal to see that our very environment is central to the survival and well being of ALL earthlings. It is time for the Church to turn her attention from saving face to saving the earth, from saving souls to saving the planet. It is time to focus on the sacred bond that exists between us and the earth. It is time to join the Cosmic Christ in the Great Work of mending, repairing, nurturing, and protecting our evolving creation. It is time for a new vision of a universal Church whose all-inclusive justice and unconditional love, an expression of Christ consciousness and the work of the Holy Spirit, empowers ALL and can lead to a future that preserves the true right to life of all of God's creatures. This includes future generations who will bless us for allowing them to live, evolve, and flourish. Can't you hear them crying out, "I want to live, I want to grow, I want to be, I want to know?"Jesuits are always either the very best of the very worst priests you'll ever meet. The Newman Center at my alma mater has had two liberal Jesuit priests in succession and, well, let's just say that if you don't believe in miracles, you will when you see even a single soul emerge from there with their orthodox Catholic faith intact. Jesuits were once the most universally respected male religious order within the Church. They were the best in almost any field they entered. St. Ignatius of Loyola was a remarkable man and a saint whose example we men of the 21st century could do well to emulate.
Corruption of the best is always the worst, as the saying goes. There is no heresy, sacrilege, or blasphemy so outrageous that some Jesuit hasn't done it within the last hundred years. That's not to say there isn't even one good man left in the order. I've written here of my encountering now Bishop Michael Barber of Oakland, CA during my time in the seminary. The order as a whole, I fear, is a lost cause and there are many, many problems in the Church that could be quickly solved if it were suppressed again.
I pray for Father's sake that he's suffering from advanced senility because this in particular - "It is time for the Church to turn... from saving souls to saving the planet" - is Satanic. On first reading, it's easy to dismiss Father as just another elderly hippy who couldn't let go of the Spirit of Vatican II. It's easy to snark. Or it's easy to take the opposite tack and congratulate Father for being so enlightened, and open minded, and speaking truth to power like the commenters at NCR are doing. I suppose we should be grateful for the small favor he did the Church by leaving instead of remaining and disseminating his heresy from within. But Father is putting his immortal soul in grave danger of burning in hell for all eternity through his apostasy. I pray our Lord gifts him with repentance before he leaves this world.