Professor discusses “The new Catholicism” in his latest novel “The Womanpriest”
Posted on 02 July 2023, 10:45
In his latest book, a novel titled The Womanpriest, Dr. Stafford Betty, (below) a retired professor of religious studies, deals with many issues facing society, religion, and the Catholic Church, now and in the future. The protagonist is an indomitable woman priest whose life revolutionizes the Catholic Church. In addition to the issue of a woman serving in the priesthood and in higher offices within the Church, Betty discusses a number of other controversial subjects, including the nature of God, the nature of the afterlife, the atonement doctrine, abortion, homosexuality, the infallibility of the pope, suicide, and a “heap of outdated doctrine and arrogant old men.”
Most of the readers of this blog are likely familiar with Professor Betty. He is the author of Heaven and Hell Unveiled and When Did You Ever Become Less by Dying?, both published by White Crow Books. My prior interviews with him can be found in the archives for May 30, 2011, June 30, 2014, and January 14, 2019. With the issues discussed in his current book, I concluded it was time to again put some more questions to him.
Stafford, almost all your recent writing, including three nonfiction books and two novels, has been focused on the afterlife. But your latest novel, The Womanpriest, is about Catholicism. Why the change?
Well, as a former Catholic raised since boyhood in the faith, I’ve retained an interest in it and a certain nostalgia for it. But I am also critical of it, so much so that I’ve gravitated away from it toward its far more rational and progressive cousin, Anglicanism, or what we call in America the Episcopal Church. The Womanpriest is not about the Catholic Church as it exists today but a future Church that doesn’t exist but should. I wrote the novel as a blueprint for this future church, culminating in the election of a woman to the papacy in 2080. Besides an entertaining story, as every novel must be, it shows how this extraordinary woman, Macrina McGrath, with plenty of help along the way, transforms the Church into something worthy of the name Catholic. I’m a teacher from first to last and am always looking to make things better. Thus this novel.
Can you say a little more about what led you to leave the Church?
It began when I was 25 and just back from Vietnam. My faith had served me well during the war: I was so certain of heaven that I lived without the fear that most of the other officers had. As the public information officer, I helicoptered to hot spots to get stories from the front lines and lived in what William James called “the strenuous mood.” It all came apart when I read Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not a Christian when I got back stateside. What happened? I realized I had no evidence for God’s existence, Christ’s divinity, and, most importantly, an afterlife. Even worse, Russell made the doctrines I treasured seem ridiculous. I came away a troubled, unhappy agnostic and enrolled in a theology program at Fordham University to see if the Jesuits could reassemble the wreck. They couldn’t, but I discovered something I thought better: the religions of India.
Clearly, your book makes a strong case for women being admitted to the priesthood and for marriage to be permitted for the clergy. If you were the pope, beyond those two concerns, what major changes would you make?
What changes would I make—and in fact had Macrina make in the novel? As a boy I must have recited the Apostles’ Creed a thousand times. Many of you know it well. Here is the way I would say it today. “I believe in God the Father and Mother, creator of the universe. I believe in the ethical teachings of Jesus Christ, whose life was tragically cut short by corrupt men he outspokenly condemned. He was crucified like a criminal under Pontius Pilate, but his spirit did not die. Shortly after his death his closest friends saw him in spirit and took heart that he was, while in heaven, still with them; and they could not contain their joy; and out of that joy grew a young movement that would soon be labeled Christianity. I believe that the same divine spirit in Jesus is in all of us and that the Christian Church exists to help us grow into saints modeled after him. I believe that we are called to forgive and love each other and that we will be forgiven and loved in turn. I believe that life is everlasting and heaven is the ultimate destination for which all men and women were created. Amen.”
As pope, I would substitute this, or something like it, for the Nicene Creed. Missing would be the mythology that grew up like weeds around Jesus’ teachings. Gone would be Jesus’ physical resurrection from the dead and descent into hell, the virginity of Mary and her immaculate conception, Jesus’ Second Coming to bring the world to a close, and other pre-scientific beliefs that became dogmas but that we can now label superstition.
You say you attend an Episcopal church. In what ways does it differ from the Catholic Church?
As I say, they are cousins. Their liturgies are almost identical. Both are unfortunately waterlogged by the recitation of the Nicene Creed. But Episcopalians began ordaining women to the priesthood fifty years ago. A woman has even served as the primate, the head, of the Episcopal Church. An openly gay man has been ordained a bishop. Divorced men and women who have remarried outside the Church are not refused Communion. Women who have had an abortion can serve on the various church committees and even become deacons. In many Episcopal churches the priest asks all in attendance, whether baptized or not, to approach “Christ’s table” and receive communion. Sexual scandals arising from an enforced celibacy and all the damage done to children are rare—marriage is the norm. Anglican Catholics have moved on with the times. Roman Catholics have not. Or rather, the Vatican hasn’t. I say this because many Catholics think like Episcopalians. They are just not supposed to. Thus their spiritual lives are marred by what psychologists label cognitive dissonance. I’ve written this novel to help remove the dissonance.
All is not perfect, of course, in the Episcopal or any other Church. There is nothing in the doctrine to suggest that the God Episcopalians worship is the master architect of a trillion galaxies or that Jesus is a little less than the co-creator of this astonishingly big universe. In other words, present doctrine is not likely to attract well-educated, scientifically literate, relatively affluent parishioners. And that is too bad for everybody. The Church needs them if it is to grow, and they need the Church if they are to remain relatively sane in this maddening, soulless world.
Why put up with something so imperfect? Why go to church at all? Why wince your way through a creed you don’t believe in?
Sociologists have shown over and over that people who attend church on a regular basis are happier, healthier, and live longer. They even have better sex lives. You can see why at the “coffee hour” following Sunday church services. Lonely people, many of them widows, make friends. And the service itself—the music, the beflowered altar, the very shape of the building, and the priests and deacons that make it all run—is often quite impressive, even lovely. And, of course, the call to support the wretched of the earth and resist injustice brings out our better angels.
Like you, I parted ways with the Church many years ago. The adoration and worship aspects, all that bowing and kneeling before the altar, which took up 85 percent of the Mass, never made any sense to me, as it suggested a power-hungry anthropomorphic God – a Roman emperor or Egyptian king of sorts. Do you see that as a concern? If so, is there any hope for a change in the format of the Mass?
Yes, all this kneeling and bowing does feel awkward. And the liturgy is full of begging for God’s forgiveness for our sins, as if the more unworthy we make ourselves the more impressed God is. I would deemphasize sin in the liturgy. In my own way I do this by standing when many others kneel. But just as often kneeling and bowing are expressions of awestruck humility, or even wonder, which doesn’t strike me as improper at all. The greatest saints, the mystics, are often depicted in this posture. The attitude I cultivate in myself toward the Creator is gratitude. A prayer of thanksgiving for the great adventure of life on a physical planet, with all its joys and sorrows, its successes and failures, is the way I begin most of my days. I say it while sitting, not kneeling.
You deal with the afterlife in this book, at least to the extent of providing some clarification as to what purgatory and hell are all about, but we are still left with a very humdrum heaven, one that doesn’t attract most people. I’ve personally concluded that it is beyond human comprehension; however, such a conclusion doesn’t invite belief. Do you see a solution to this?
In her sermon on the afterlife, Macrina says, “For the newly dead, God’s Heaven is like the glare when our eyes aren’t ready. If we were lifted straight into Heaven the instant we died, we’d be uncomfortable. We’d feel out of place.”
In my previous novel, The Afterlife Therapist, I left my hero at the edge of a more evolved world that stretched beyond the astral plane into eternity: “Later, alone, seated on a terrace looking out over his luminous new world, with its strange horizons and landscapes—a beauty that almost frightened him, as if he were a person blind from birth suddenly gifted by some miracle with vision—Aiden wondered what lay ahead. His heart swelled as he anticipated what it might be. He imagined himself taking up a new post ‘in the infinite imagination of God’—those were his thoughts. He remembered a mantra Ravinder had taught him, ‘Arise, Master, and fill me wholly with thyself,’ and he seemed to tumble into the mouth of those words as he contemplated them. He became aware of a gradual loosening, a surrendering of his old personality, a sheering off of all that was old in him. He felt submerged in an immense Other that at the same time he felt one with. He felt known and loved by this Other, but the eye that looked into him and loved him was the same as his own eye. He remembered the phrase ‘from glory to glory.’ He was on his way. He felt that he had just awakened from a happy death.”
(I owe the language of this description, incidentally, to Meister Eckhart.) But that novel was set in the afterworld, while The Womanpriest is chained to more earthly concerns. Still, I might have worked in something like the above. Perhaps I should have.
And final thoughts?
My ultimate purpose in writing the novel was to reformulate Catholicism along the lines of the research you and I have devoted our lives to. As I wrote in my book The Afterlife Unveiled, “There are no rigid creeds or magical beliefs that souls have to accept. Whether you are a Baptist or a Catholic or a Mormon or a Hindu or a Buddhist or a Muslim or an Anglican is of no importance. Many of earth’s favorite religious dogmas are off the mark anyway, and the sooner they are recognized as such, the better. Experience in the Afterworld will generate, as a matter of course, a more enlightened set of beliefs that will better reflect better the way things really are than any of earth’s theologies.” I stand by those words. The new Catholicism that Macrina represents reflects these perspectives without identifying their origin.
Catholicism has given the world much that is great: its soaring Gothic cathedrals, its magnificent music from Palestrina to Duruflé, its millions of paintings that turn our attention heavenward, its contemporary orientation away from converting heathens to serving the poor, its increasingly ecumenical theology, and the throng of mystics it has nurtured in every age. Rather than turn my back on all this, I’ve chosen to embrace it and, in my own small way, attempt to reform it. Macrina’s history shows how this might happen. Once the Church opens the door to female ordination, this new Catholicism, marinated in teachings from the world of spirit, will quickly blossom. A real Macrina will someday ascend to the Seat of Peter. It might even happen before 2080, the date chosen for the novel.
Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.
Next blog post; July 17
Amos Oliver Doyle, Mon 17 Jul, 19:40
I am currently reading one of Chico Xavier’s books that was translated into English. I think a problem with Xavier’s books in English is that the translation seems inadequate to express the intent originally written in Portuguese by Chico and his guides. I hope in the future that more of Xavier’s books are translated into English but a better translation is needed. - AOD
Thank you very much Mr. Williams, that really is one of the faculties that we all have, we can share our ideas going through cultural barriers, obviously for some it is something more complex and especially if we become too attached to a particular culture, the The language issue is a barrier and the translator does a good job, but he still struggles with the semantic aspect of human ideas.
Certainly Chico Xavier’s work has a very strong emotional component, coherent communications and captivating content, made up of 451 works including novels, poems and communications that is quite extensive to explore, although without a doubt as Mr. Tymn has expressed in his publications on Mrs. Betty White possibly has subconscious overtones, it is something that we can see due to the great Christian influence typical of the spiritualist doctrine, although it does not detract from the value of the works, we cannot forget the life of Chico Xavier, which undoubtedly adds a lot of weight, especially the one that does not He sought to profit and, on the contrary, supported many charitable causes, his life quite modest, his academic training that contrasted considerably with the content and his vocation disinterested in helping alleviate the pain of thousands of people.
Other important factors are the large number of letters from spirits with great personal content verified in a later study, including some in languages unknown to him, in addition to letters taken as evidence in two trials authenticated by highly respected graphologists and with consistent content. to forensic evidence.
Mr. Tymn had expressed that after the 40s or 50s spirit communications had declined, being stronger in the first half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, although in Brazil a strong spiritist movement continued with a large amount of information where in some parts it declined and the spirits looked for other places to communicate their message, currently Divaldo Franco is its greatest representative, I know there are many communicators around the world although personally I am very suspicious of those who profit from this faculty.
Mr. Oliver, thank you for sharing Michelle’s experience, as with all NDEs, the great change that I signify is notorious, her way of expressing herself shows a great emotional charge that makes it a bit difficult for me to fully understand the message, added to the translator who does not help either, I also understand it since many people who have lived that experience express the lack of the linear factor of time, something that I experience in my dreams, especially if they are very long since it is very difficult to connect everything linearly.
Kevin A., Mon 17 Jul, 17:29
I may have previously mentioned that I attended a weekend Spiritualist get together, around the 1991-2 mark. I was sitting having a chat with a spirit one Saturday afternoon via a trance medium.I was chatting to him about communications when he mentioned that the world would be soon united by a free network. As my background was telecommunications engineering I asked how this network was possible. All known networks were propriety and expensive. He was a bit vague and his technical knowledge was limited. I was asking the communications protocol and why it would be free in a hungry for profit world with opposing governments. He said it would allow spirit messages to be better delivered. I asked if the content of the messages would change, the answer was no.
I have always kicked myself that I didn’t ask about which stocks in which to invest.What surprised me was their foreknowledge. I was always thinking six to twelve months but they knew well in advance. Looking forward to your article on The Night-side of Nature by Catherine Crowe.
Bruce Williams, Sun 16 Jul, 05:45
I don’t know what you all will think about this interview Jeff Reynolds did on his “JeffMara” podcast with a woman who had an NDE but I am providing the link just in case some might be interested.
The woman is no Eben Alexander. She is not a snooty neuroscientist, she has not written a book or conducted seminars for hundreds of people but nevertheless she is someone who has lived a real life, someone who obviously was once a very beautiful young woman and after having lived a very hard life her inner beauty still shines through. Jeff is very good at allowing his interviewees to tell their story without interruption or criticism. He has a great accepting body language and loving manner and is not condescending or critical in any way. He accepts everyone for what they are. I think Mr. Reynolds has a great future ahead of him. - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Sun 16 Jul, 01:12
Yes, Bruce, indications are that attempts to communicate by those on Other Side began well before the Fox sisters. Judge John Edmonds was told by a communicating spirit that attempts were being made at least 10-12 years before the Fox sisters in 1848, but it was dismissed as bunk and not popularized by the limited media of the day. My next blog will be about some of the pre-1848 phenomena as reported by Catharine Crowe in a book that was published in 1848. Crowe states that Germany was well ahead of the rest of the world in this respect as a number of its scientists accepted Mesmerism and experimented with it before scientists in other countries accepted it. But Wesley was even before Mesmer, so it looks like there were many failed attempts by the spirit world long before the Fox sisters. Considering the lack of a communication network in those days, I can see how that happened. Then again, we now have a worldwide communication network and mainstream science still doesn’t accept it.
Michael Tymn, Sat 15 Jul, 04:52
I have recently obtained Nosso Lar, The Messengers and Kardec’s Spiritism Emma Bragdon. Firstly let me express admiration for your communications as I know from first hand experience of translating ideas across cultures. Your rhetoric is very strong (a compliment to your original expression).
Your expression translates well.
From the The Translation of Nosso Lar there is “Imagine that two individuals have been invited to give the same talk to different audiences. The first speaker takes the theme to heart, delves into its ideas, convinces himself of the facts and when on stage speaks with profound conviction, allowing his audience to share in his emotions to the extent that it enthusiastically affirms every major point and endorses its conclusions. This audience is captivated by the ideas, applauds warmly and avidly seeks to learn more from the speaker during the break.
The second speaker delivers basically the same speech - where content is concerned -but uses the methodical approach, lacks humour and feeling and speaks in a monotone. The audience stays to the end, applauds respectfully and quietly heads for the exits.
Nosso Lar aimed for the first type of experience.”
I believe that Michael and others also provide this first experience. The quality of the ideas presented by Michael and the various conversations serve to explore “the other side of the coin”.
Bruce Williams, Thu 13 Jul, 09:46
I also believe that these discussions are very supportive. As with old friends we may hold differing views but respect the views of others.
Good to hear your thoughts.
The Spiritualist Churches are filled with many lapsed Catholics as well as other religions. Each group usually relates to the group with similar religious upbringings. This is a common human quality. I moved between computer operating systems and their followers. Each operating system group including BeOS had their hard liners. I can well imagine the afterlife world as you related where groups stay together. Thanks for the link.
John Wesley (I was in the Methodists for a time) had the knockings in one of their houses. (The Methodists traveled by horseback and were attacked for their unpopular no alcohol beliefs. I gave a friend a book about John Wesley and his horse (that was the title). It was a tough church to start.)
John Wesley had a similar experience with the knockings as the Fox sisters.
The article explains that it was natural causes but knockings were more common than just in America. If you take the spiritualist viewpoint that the spirits tried knockings to start communications then there were many failed attempts.
In a simlar way to the US military prisoner who sent the word torture by his blinking in morse code in propaganda interview. Communications come in all forms.
Its a good thing I didn’t try the joke about the dog of a pub owner who died and in the afterlife noticed that he was missing his tail. He returned to his master one dark and stormy night at 3am, knocked on the door and showed his master that he was missing his tail. The publican shook his head and said he couldn’t help as he was unable to help as by law he was unable to retail spirits after closing. As you can tell the opening jokes in Church aren’t the best.
Bruce Williams, Wed 12 Jul, 02:35
Thank you all very much for your fraternal welcome.
Mr. Bruce Williams, your joke reminds me a lot of the world and situation described by Andre Luiz in the book Nosso Lar written through Chico Xavier, a book and a movie that made me cry, although the many torments that a soul can suffer are also scary. in the afterlife, without a doubt I will set out to look for something more of Summerland that as I understand it is a kind of heaven built by consciousness, I think that both worlds could be as William Buhlman has said a consensual reality between many souls, so there are many of these mansions as Mr. Tymn says, I have heard several communications testimonies where several of these worlds are described which agrees with Nosso Lar where it is stated that there are many of these homes for spirits.
Continuing with my response to Mr. William, I have already searched for some articles and books by Bertrand Russell to learn a little more about his vision of these issues, it gives me a lot to know that he agrees with my comment about our current society, one reflection is that It is very curious how we treat this fact of death, it is very present in different media: news, books, music, soap operas, series and animations, but it’s like, well, you die and that’s it, we take it for granted but we don’t delve into it, what happens next? ? Many religious people have a notion and their teachings indicate that they will reach heaven, the world of the dead, hell, different interpretations taking it as a fact, until now it amazes me how we take it for granted so easily without questioning all of it in depth.
In my numerous appointments with the psychologist, I also observed this way of not delving into this subject, the psychologist constantly told me “Now you only have to think about life, as long as we live, we must not think about death, it is a separate coin” in a way it is a tendency to avoid it, I must comment that she is a specialist in logotherapy.
Mr. Stafford makes a very good observation, without a doubt all this work that people like you do through different media is a very valuable help, I have met many other people who make a great diffusion for example the Aware of Aware blog from Dr. Orson Wedgwood, a colleague of yours in the literary world and researcher of the afterlife, the blog of the thinker Ian Wardell that I find very fascinating, addressing many topics including the afterlife and great criticism of the current vision of the world, the blog Future and Cosmos of the also a thinker and computer scientist Mark Mahin equally very interesting for all his observations to science and many other topics as well as a researcher of the afterlife, the page of the philosopher, computer scientist and with significant knowledge in physics Bernardo Kastrup who makes observations very fierce, I was also surprised to learn the number of institutions dedicated to these issues such as IONS, Pari Center, Essentia Foundation, Open Science, among others, we cannot leave behind great personalities such as Dr Raymond Moddy, Dr Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, Dr van Lommel, Dr Eben Alexander, Dr Sam Parnia, Dr Parisetti and figures like you who create and disseminate so much content.
Kevin A., Wed 12 Jul, 02:34
Cora L.V. Richmond published in 1878 “Voices From Life’s Thither Side” in a small book titled “Is Materialization True?” an interesting collection of lectures, reportedly from spirits of Benjamin Franklin, Robert Dale Owen, John Wesley and others. In one lecture purportedly from John Wesley titled “John Wesley’s Search for Heaven”, Wesley is given a guided tour of the “many mansions” or “spheres” of heaven by a spirit guide.
After he entered the Afterlife, Wesley explained, “Presently in the guise of an Oriental priest—I should judge one of the Magi of the East—-there came a spirit seemingly adorned with great power and splendor, and he stood in my presence. I could not recognize in him the Master whom I sought, although his presence was full of commanding power, and his appearance one of transcendent loveliness.”
Wesley is guided by this “oriental priest” through “heavens” of people of various belief systems beginning with Egyptian believers in Osiris; the heaven of the Brahmin and the “three-fold deity, Brahma, Vishnu and Siva”; followers of Buddha; the children of Israel; Protestant Christians segregated into their various sects and according to the Oriental Priest, “. . . while more remotely, as you will see yonder, are the followers of the Roman Catholic faith, who have a heaven of their own, a state barred and walled about that no Protestant can ever enter” ”
Amos Oliver Doyle, Tue 11 Jul, 19:10
So perhaps your “joke” about the walled-in Catholics may be closer to a spiritual reality than one supposes. - AOD
Kevin from Colombia has given us a lot to think about in his remarkable soul-searching comment. It confirms the importance of what Michael does in his blogs and what Jon Beecher does for the world as publisher of White Crow Books.
Stafford Betty, Tue 11 Jul, 14:38
Michael, Amos Kevin and others,
Bruce Williams, Tue 11 Jul, 14:04
Michael you reminded me of a Spiritualist joke. A person arrives in the afterlife and is met by an old friend. The old friend says Please wander wherever you wish. The person wanders around the Summerland and comes to a very high wall. He walks around it but it goes too far. He stops another person and says, Friend why would such a high wall exist in Heaven? The person replies That’s where we put the Catholics as they think that they are the only ones here. (Bad joke but we get tired of the spirits jokes).
Amos, I expected an excellent response from you and I wasn’t disappointed. I thought that Pearl used the ouija board but appreciate your detailed explanation. There were a few mediums which used the telepathic method (not trance, nor automatic writing ) such as Mrs Willett. It is a technique which is fast and accurate. Mrs Willett used the term Direct Impressions (from memory).
Kevin I like quotes and Bertrand Russell in his Unpopular Essays told an anecdote about F W H Myers. Myers (who was converted to a belief in future life) asked a woman who had recently lost her daughter to what she thought had become of her soul. The mother replied: “Oh well, I suppose that she is enjoying eternal bliss but I wish you wouldn’t talk about such unpleasant subjects”.
Thanks for your comment “I think that our societies do not ask this question”. I would fully agree with you. It is a very important question.
Thank you for taking the time to comment here. It is much appreciated. I’m glad to hear that this blog has helped you overcome the atheism and nihilism you were experiencing.
Michael Tymn, Tue 11 Jul, 08:55
A greeting to all, I hope you are very well.
I apologize in advance for any mistake in my writing, since I speak very little English so I am using a translator.
My name is Kevin, I’m from Colombia, I came to this blog thanks to a recommendation from Dr Parisetti, in an endless search to find some comfort.
I would like to express to you what has brought me here and my courage to make this comment, six months ago a deep fear of death awoke in me, in itself it is not a fear of dying, it is undoubtedly a deep fear of non-existence, of the nothing, so to speak, go out forever. Until that date I had not thought so deeply about death, I think that our societies do not ask this question so often and try to separate that fact as much as possible, sometimes we have it present in music, movies and series but without a doubt only in a superficial way and in the end no one understands it enough, this led me to episodes of depersonalization together with an uncontrolled fear, I thought that something bad could happen at any moment, I felt that I could suffer a heart attack or a stroke, fear to sleep, loss of appetite, waking up with the feeling of vomiting, completely pausing my activities and losing all pleasure from doing them, including listening to music, watching series or eating what I previously considered delicious, completely losing the meaning of life and of everything stuff. Obviously I knew that I had to go to a psychologist, but after many sessions I felt that I was not getting anywhere.
I even lost my faith in a Supreme Being, whom I acclaimed inconsolably for his help, although I was educated in a Catholic school, at a certain point I did not feel satisfied with his teachings, I began to question all that but knowing that there were many ways to Getting to God, science and my curiosity about many scientific topics did not intimidate me, I felt that this was how I was understanding the work of God, there was no conflict there as it has been proposed that science must be atheistic or is there to deny the existence of God since that way we will know everything.
As Mr. Michael Tymn has mentioned, just knowing all these issues related to the afterlife has been able to provide a balm for my soul, this whole situation has led me to a tireless search for all available information on mediums, paragnostics, ECM, OBE , paranormal investigations, conscience investigations, religious texts, etc. Without a doubt, it has helped me a lot to move forward and I have learned a lot from the entries in this blog as well as from the discussions that have been formed in the comments.
After a very long introduction without being able to cover everything, we can move on to the subject of the publication, I find the vision raised by Mr. Stafford very interesting, not only Catholicism needs a great reform, as Mr. Tymn expresses, it is necessary that all religions adapt to the evidence to offer a more complete and attractive vision that encourages the arrival of new members to their congregations, although in South America Anglicanism is barely a minority, in fact it was unaware of its existence, the qualities exposed by Mr. Stafford I find them very striking, especially their opening to modern society, opening the doors to the inclusion of women as important figures and practitioners, and the acceptance of the LGTBI community, even to the point of allowing them to practice rituals, allows them to reach many people who are looking for spirituality without straying from their traditions and without fear of being repudiated, I know many homosexual people who are deeply religious and spiritual but for fear they do not attend services officiated by the Catholic religion.
It is also very important to observe other religions, especially Hinduism or Buddhism, very fashionable thanks to the current of the new era, but which also need many changes. In my search, I tried to approach Buddhism to get a not very good impression, that worship and obsession with nothingness I find it extremely nihilistic and I could say dangerous, for something it attracts certain people of atheist ideals of the caliber of Sam Harris, a religion without God is attractive to them.
It is a brief reflection of this great interview but I hope this is a small participation on my part in this blog, I still have many articles to read and I hope a lot to comment, I appreciate your attention.
Kevin A., Tue 11 Jul, 01:59
I vaguely recall reading some spirit communication many years ago indicating that a former pope had settled in to a Catholic community in the afterlife and was continuing as pope for them. I got the impression that the Catholic community wasn’t aware of other communities. They held on to their old beliefs and apparently the pope had no change in his beliefs. I don’t know how credible that story was and I don’t recall the reference.
Michael Tymn, Mon 10 Jul, 22:14
“Do Popes change their views in the afterlife?”
You might want to take a look at the reporting (it’s somewhere in the Leslie Flint books) on Cosmo Lang from the 1940’s. Although only a mere Archbishop of Canterbury, we might say it’s pretty much the same thing as a Pope—and his own afterlife thinking was reported as a diametric reversal from what it was in physical life…
Don Porteous, Mon 10 Jul, 20:31
I just want to alert you that any comment including the name of Pearl Curran or the name of Patience Worth will prompt a generous response from me. Therefore, I feel obligated to respond to your most recent comment and your implied query whether Pearl Curran used “telepathic techniques”.
In Pearl Curran’s description of how she received stories and poems from Patience Worth she did not mention telepathy, that is, she did not use that word. Rather she described her experience receiving information from Patience Worth to be somewhat similar to the way Geraldine Cummins described her receipt of information from the spirit world. They both said that they saw panoramic views in their mind’s eye of scenes they were to write about. Pearl Curran said that over and above these scenes she heard Patience Worth speaking to her, telling her which part of the scene to use in the story and often interpreting the scene, including words used by the characters who spoke in various languages. Often the visions that Pearl Curran received set the tone or emotion for a poem to come and then complete lines of poetry would follow in congruence with the tone or emotion of the visions Pearl saw. Pearl said it was like opening a “magic picture book” with the scenes unfolding before her.
I think generally Pearl Curran heard the voice of ‘Patience Worth’ in her head and then either with or without the Ouija board she spelled out the words as she heard them. They were recorded by an amanuensis and punctuated at a later time. Pearl Curran was never possessed by Patience Worth, nor did Pearl Curran ever go into a trance as such although she may have been slightly distracted at times. I would not say she used “automatic writing” although she is often described as using “automatic writing”. Her hand was never used by Patience Worth to write anything. She said that she used the Ouija board as a “thought dispeller”, much in the same way that some modern mediums use a scribble pad when they receive information from alleged spirits. And, that the Ouija board was a “dead piece of wood”.
Amos Oliver Doyle, Sun 9 Jul, 21:15
The Patience Worth story is out there for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. And I have to say, that after more than 60 years reading about mediums and seeing their videos, I think that Pearl Curran is the most evidential one of them all. - AOD
Michael, Stafford and Amos,
Michael thanks for this book recommendation Wallace said The facts beat me. I have many of his books, including two version of The Progress of the Century (1901). The versions differ. Wallace came out with food labeling and the links between disease and sanitation.
Amos thanks for your comments. I worry when we are on the same page (smile). I have also chased the Wallace book. Also I must find out about Pearl Curran’s techniques- Michael mentioned that she used the telepathic techniques as Mrs Willett used. Any words in her own words of the technique?
Stafford _ your book pushes boundaries and my mistake if I missed the section Macrina says a lot about the afterlife, purgatory and hell especially but you mentioned she kept it personal. Does her personal belief pass in to Catholic policy? I admire your book (I wish I had your storyline).
Having a personal opinion for a Pope. How does that work with papal infallibility? My understanding it is only in matters of the Church that the infallibility kicks in.
Bruce Williams, Sun 9 Jul, 10:41
I think that Macrina would be a great stepping stone to Catholic IV. We can do merch, tee shirts etc. You have created me to think about interesting ideas, do Popes change their views in the after life?
Virtus et sapientia,
Amos Oliver Doyle, Sat 8 Jul, 21:21
I too have been for many years a fan of Alfred Russel Wallace. Thanks for the recommendation. I ordered the book and look forward to reading it. Wallace is underappreciated and not acknowledged by the scientific community and the uninformed public in the way that Darwin is probably because Wallace was inclined to be more interested in spiritual matters and explanations than Darwin was. - AOD
This is not quite on the topic of this post, but since I just finished reading “The Heretic in Darwin’s Court,” a 2004 book by Ross A. Slotten, I thought I’d recommend it here. It is a 600-page book about Alfred Russel Wallace, co-originator with Charles Darwin of the natural selection theory of evolution. My primary reference to date has been Wallace’s 1896 book, “Miracles and Modern Spiritualism,” but this book provides much more detail than that one, not only with regard to Wallace’s scientific research but also about his studies of mediums. The resistance by mainstream science to Wallace’s recognition of consciousness being outside the brain was even more than I had realized. It was a very educational and entertaining read. I may do a future blog about it.
Michael Tymn, Sat 8 Jul, 19:17
Bruce, I need to point out a misunderstanding. Macrina says a lot about the afterlife, purgatory and hell especially. She devotes over a thousand words to the subject in one of her earliest published essays, “Rethinking Purgatory and Hell.” This comes straight out of what spirits working through mediums tell us about their habitat. In Macrina’s view, Purgatory is the Catholic name for the Astral Plane, a place not of punishment but of teaching and growing. It was a joy to write about it.
Stafford Betty, Sat 8 Jul, 06:10
Thank you Bruce for the links. - AOD
Amos Oliver Doyle, Fri 7 Jul, 14:19
Stafford, Kris M and learned others,
I love these discussions and the various spiritual insights presented. In particular, “the Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter is a lovely bridge between the Episcopal/Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic Church.”
I was unaware of such a bridge but I think that the concept of new and improved marketing has worked. Catholic I, Catholic II or Ordinariate are great options. Stafford would already know this but a good link is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Vatican_Council.
Still no mention of the afterlife. Maybe Catholic III (Stafford character holds her views personal). Catholic IV (the sequel?)
I test most religions by their view of the afterlife. I don’t tell many of my friends of my views as hard line doctrines emerge. I looked at the following article as an example of current Catholic thinking:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says we must reject all forms of divination, including “recourse to mediums” (CCC, No. 2116), which are psychics who channel spirits of the dead in order to get information.
According to an article by Mark P. Shea, editor of the Catholic Exchange Web site, titled “You Can Trust Me, I’m A Psychic,” he explains: “It is one thing if a person is made the recipient of a supernatural insight or gift (as for instance, St. Bernadette was when the Blessed Virgin appeared to her at Lourdes). It is quite another if a person defies God’s express will by seeking supernatural knowledge and power in ways the Lord has expressly forbidden in the First Commandment.
St Bernadette gets a gift (I always look at churches as making spiritual gifts either better or more widespread) and she is approved by the Catholic Church. Me, I am running from those same people carrying flaming torches and pitchforks. (Stafford starts with St – accidental?).
I have seen many changes in the Catholic Church such as their psychic section (or is it anti-psychic) being increased by 250 (this is where my mother saw my future). Exorcism: Vatican course opens doors to 250 priests.
I like women and Casper type spirits (friendly ghosts) so my career future was not as my mother expected.
Bruce Williams, Fri 7 Jul, 04:28
Thank you for your recent comment. I’m not sure, but I think it was in response to my last comment about the inductive approach vs. the deductive one of putting God first. I understand how this can be misinterpreted or misconstrued. I certainly agree that the afterlife has “many mansions” and is not necessarily the blissful heaven of Christianity. All I am trying to say is that accepting the evidence for consciousness surviving death is a more sure path to God, however one wants to comprehend or visualize Him, Her, or It.
I like the way British Air Marshal Lord Dowding put it. He claimed the “hereafter” offered by religion is much too vague and “deliberately wooly,” so much so that it makes absolutely no sense to the ordinary person. “The result is that when the time does approach the man is frightened. He fears death. And when he wakes up on the other side he often won’t believe he is dead because he feels so much the same as he did before he died.”
In effect, if organized religion can overcome this “wooly” afterlife idea, it can better appreciate the bigger picture, including God. That’s why I believe in the inductive approach. At the same time, I realize that the deductive approach works fine for some people.
Michael Tymn, Thu 6 Jul, 21:50
Newton, I agree with you, and for the reasons you giv, and so does Macrina. Personalism is not for sale. Given all the misery in our world, it’s a true test of faith to hold this belief, I grant that. But without it, and the promise of more divine worlds beyond purgatory (what an awful word), there is ultimately no hope.
This quotation from Macrina’s journal sums up her (and my) position on the afterlife:
A God worthy of the best that humankind can imagine. A morality of universal love that Jesus preached in his great sermon on the mount. A spirituality of prayer and meditation directed to God and the saints. A delight in the world that God has given us and a responsibility to cherish and sustain it. Accountability for the decisions we make and an afterlife based on it. A never-ending ascent to diviner worlds for those who choose and deserve them—-what St. Gregory of Nyssa called rising from glory to glory.
Stafford Betty, Thu 6 Jul, 21:34
Stafford Betty, you said, “I see the Episcopal Church in the vanguard of a future Christianity.” Agreed! And the longer I’ve been in TEC, the more I think this is what the Catholic Church *could* and *should* have become following Vatican II (and what a lot of Catholics who are gamely hanging in there still hope it might become).
Christine Lehman, Thu 6 Jul, 20:04
Newton Finn (and others), you might enjoy the sitcom “The Good Place” which came out a few years ago and addressed that exact question (about whether even a wonderful, joyful afterlife might eventually become something else)! Plus it’s chock-full of some actual philosophy, a rarity in TV (or let’s face it, anywhere) these days!
Christine Lehman, Thu 6 Jul, 20:03
Absent it being a gift of a loving God, the fulfillment of His promise of eternal life, what possible security or reassurance could be found in an afterlife either self-existent or the product of some impersonal force? Would such an afterlife last only for a time, maybe only long enough for an NDE? Even if it started off heavenly, might the afterlife eventually morph into something hellish? Indeed, could this apparent afterlife be entirely unconscious, merely an imprint on a cosmic record susceptible to reading by a medium? There is no firm and lasting consolation, I submit, in the most persuasive evidence of an afterlife divorced from the Creator of it and of the life we’re stuck in right now.
Newton Finn, Thu 6 Jul, 19:37
Thanks, Christine for that clarification about the Ordinariate.
That aside, I think there is more movement from Roman to Anglican Catholicism than the other way round—and for the reasons you point out. I see the Episcopal Church in the vanguard of a future Christianity. I think it needs to go further, but it’s on the right track, especially regarding its high estimate of women as church leaders.
Is that the experience of others of you?
Stafford Betty, Thu 6 Jul, 18:23
Kris M, while you may certainly attend the Anglican Ordinariate if you like it, please be aware it came into existence specifically to attract Anglicans who oppose the ordination of women, same sex marriage, et al. It is very much a part of the Roman Catholic Church, so would not be an attractive option to anyone who LEFT that church for the Episcopalians for precisely those reasons.
Christine Lehman, Thu 6 Jul, 15:47
Yvonne Limoges just provided me with a link to an interesting article dealing with the 400th anniversary of Blaise Pascal’s birth. To quote one paragraph:
“Pascal’s central argument in ‘Pensees’ for believing in God did not rest on proof of God’s existence. On the contrary, Pascal argued that God’s existence cannot be proved because, for him, God is hidden—a “deus absconditus.” He wrote that there is enough light for those whose only desire is to see, and enough darkness for those of the opposite disposition,” but ultimately no certainty was possible—and so humans faced a choice.”
I think this supports what I have said many times at this blog, that Religion, including the Catholic Church, and Science both take the deductive approach of assuming one has to identify God before believing in an afterlife. The inductive approach of first studying the evidence for an afterlife is much more effective. God may or may not emerge from that study, but does it make any difference? If there is a God but no afterlife, so what? On the other hand, if there is an afterlife without a comprehensible Supreme Being or Creator, we do not have a “so what?” situation.
And that is why I believe Macrina needs to change the focus of the Catholic Church to the evidence supporting survival rather than worshiping God. I am confident that I will not see blasphemy as one of my “sins” when I do a life review.
Michael Tymn, Wed 5 Jul, 23:54
Dear Dr. Betty, Mr. Tymn, and Others:
I am a lifelong Episcopalian who, in recent years, has gravitated toward the Catholic Church. After having done some research into the Catholic Church and its traditions, I found a lovely Catholic parish, not far from my home, that is part of the Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter - the equivalent of a diocese for Roman Catholics who were raised and nurtured in the Anglican/Episcopal tradition. The Ordinariate was created by the Vatican on January 1, 2012.
The Ordinariate’s mission is particularly experienced in its celebration of the liturgy, which features Anglican traditions of worship while conforming to Catholic doctrinal, sacramental and liturgical standards. Through Divine Worship: The Missal, a definitive book of liturgical texts for the celebration of Mass in the Ordinariates around the world (approved by the Vatican for use, effective November 29, 2015), the Ordinariate shares its distinctive commitment to praising God in the eloquence of the Anglican liturgical patrimony and Prayer Book English.
In addition, the founding documents of the Ordinariate make clear that it is intended to be an instrument of Catholic unity: an opportunity to model what the future reconciliation of separated Christian communities could be. The Ordinariate aims to fulfill the Holy Father’s vision for Christian unity, in which diverse expressions of one faith are joined together in the Church. In parishes of the Ordinariate, it isn’t unusual to see former Anglican/Episcopal Clergy (many of whom have spouses and children) who are now ordained Catholic Priests. Likewise, many of the parishioners of the Ordinariate are former Anglicans or Episcopalians. The Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter is a lovely bridge between the Episcopal/Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic Church. In case you may be interested in reading more about the Ordinariate, I have copied below a few links:
Kris M., Wed 5 Jul, 20:42
As I have stated in the past, I appreciate my Catholic upbringing. I can recall several big negatives, but overcoming those negatives was part of the learning process. Perhaps more than anything, the Church made me curious about miracles, including Lourdes, Fatima, Guadalupe, the Stigmata, etc., etc. and provided an interest and introduction to other psychic phenomena.
Michael Tymn, Tue 4 Jul, 23:09
Stafford led a wonderful discussion on his book at our Zoom Global Gathering last Sunday. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEVciGX6EKM
Wendy Zammit, Tue 4 Jul, 22:34
Macrena always has her eyes set on keeping the Church Catholic. In some ways she is very traditional. She advocates for a two-tier Church that accommodates both the needs of progressives and traditionalists. She is deeply moved, for example, when a Costa Rican peasant gives her an icon of La Negrita, the regional symbol of the black virgin. To be Catholic is to be universal and inclusive. It’s like Hinduism, which has no pope and no dogmas that exclude different, sometimes contradictory expressions of the religion. As a result, Hindus don’t kill each other. And they honor Christianity as a valid expression of religion with beneficial, saint-making characteristics. However, there are borders that Macrena will not test. Her afterlife beliefs, once cleaned up, are consistent with Catholic doctrine, and the personalism of God, she believes, is essential for religion to take hold. Her emphasis on the Two Great Commandments is fundamental to her vision. There is a deep seriousness and caution about most of what she does. For example, though she believes in reincarnation, she keeps it under wraps, under advice from a friendly bishop, until the time comes when the Church is more open to it. She is under constant fire from atheists seeking to destroy all religion and evangelicals who, like Muslims, think that God founded the religion rather than inspired men and women.
She sees the Nicene Creed with its description of God’s very being, valid for all time and setting apart truth from error with heresy and persecution for dissenters an inevitable outcome, as a mistake. A more organic growth of the religion free from legalistic decree would have prevented untold suffering and better reflected Christ’s loving spirit.
Macrena wants to rebuild, not tear down. Will her progressive reforms threaten conservatives set in their ways? Yes, there will be casualties. But For too long, Catholicism has been out of balance, skewed toward the conservative. Macrena wants to restore the balance.
Stafford Betty, Tue 4 Jul, 18:53
I think are on to something. (I will preface this with a humour alert - that is don’t be offended).
We could rename your lead female to Macarena. Think of the new church as a celebration of life including dance. Now I am not going as far as whirling dervishs (we can make that a next level) but think of the wants and needs of your audience.
Origin story of the keys of Peter, church allows the want of entry to the afterlife.
Needs are the rituals that people enjoy. If I was Pope (five years of Latin training) I would bring back mass in Latin. My mum lost faith when it was changed from Latin as she felt it lost its authenticity. The Vulgate is a late-4th-century Latin translation of the Bible, largely edited by St Jerome, which functioned as the Catholic Church’s de facto standard version during the Middle Ages.(She thought that I had a career future in psychic section of the Catholic Church). Another need is dance (covered above). Methodist hymns (better content) covers the need of feel good singing.
I like that you have imagined a different church. I wonder if your book will serve as a blueprint for the future? It is always great to sell new and improved. Ask Microsoft with their operating systems.
Bruce Williams, Tue 4 Jul, 05:01
Et tu, Brute
Well, it may indeed be true that the repetitiveness is a problem for some people. I seem to remember that was one of the reasons the so-called “New Mass” (at over 50 years, hardly new any more!) added several different versions of the Eucharistic prayers, which the priest could switch around as desired.
Andy course, the traditionalists hated all that and demanded a return to the “simplicity” of the original! Can’t please everyone, right?
But personally, I am okay with whatever they throw out from the altar on Sunday morning, as long as the music is good and there’s a coffee hour afterwards, with friendly conversations available. To me, that’s where church really happens!
Christine Lehman, Mon 3 Jul, 22:46
Christine, I chuckled at the thought of me being considered great!
My father was a daily communicant for the last fifteen years of his life. He found strength and peace in the Mass. But I’m pretty sure he would have loved it more if there had been less repetition. Like you, he was just never given the chance. If there had been an occasional break in the routine, of even a rotation, say between the Last Supper Mass, the Transfiguration Mass, the Great Commandments Mass, and the Parables Mass—to name a few possibilities—he might have looked forward to his daily communication with the Lord even more. What do you think?
Stafford Betty, Mon 3 Jul, 18:00
Stafford wrote: “One of my gripes, shared by Michael, is the repetitiveness of the Mass. In my novel, Pope Macrina introduces four additional Masses based on Jesus’ life. Why should the Last Supper be the only sacred event reenacted? There is so much more to celebrate.”
Stafford, first of all, if you are the great Stafford Betty, I really enjoy your books as well! Second, while I understand your dislike for the repetitiveness of the Mass, I actually kind of like that part! Maybe because going to any sort of Mass or liturgy is because it draws me back to my childhood, going to church with my parents and grandparents.
Still, the repetitiveness of the Rosary bothers some people too, and I know there are a myriad of different variations on that theme (as well as lots of different types of prayer beads), so perhaps your future Pope Macrina might be onto something! (and now I need to read that novel!)
Christine Lehman, Mon 3 Jul, 16:24
Don and Christine, thanks for sharing this important information and your insights. The good “Catholic stuff,” including the rosary, is present in my new church, which is pastored by an Oxford trained Cuban ex-Catholic himself. So Bertrand saw the light. Let us hope that Rosemary has this right and that he came through as clearly and dependably as Mozart’s music. When I visit my sisters in Mobile, Alabama, I never miss the chance to visit beautiful 200-year-old Christ Church, which is pastored by a very impressive married woman. I still have trouble with the Nicene Creed, most of which I consider Christian mythology. My personal religion centers on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew, 5-7) and the Two Great Commandments, with a dash of India’s spirituality (especially the Bhagavad Gita) added. One of my gripes, shared by Michael, is the repetitiveness of the Mass. In my novel, Pope Macrina introduces four additional Masses based on Jesus’ life. Why should the Last Supper be the only sacred event reenacted? There is so much more to celebrate.
Stafford, Mon 3 Jul, 10:25
Nicely spoken…and Michael, nicely questioned.
Two points; Firstly, your “early enlightener,” Bertrand Russell, apparently had his own moment of enlightenment once firmly ensconced on the other side. As quoted in Rosemary Brown’s 1970 “Immortals by My Side”...
“Do I believe in God now? Many people will want to know my answer. Yes, I now believe without equivocation, and with a positive intellectual comprehension which was and is the only acceptable proposition as far as I am concerned.”
Secondly: As Michael knows, my wife was a “lapsed Catholic.” As my first book was being written, she was more than just an interested onlooker, but very much an active critic and commentator. The bottom line was that somewhere along the way, she realized that she really couldn’t continue to justify her aloof stance towards religion—at least not ALL of it. She still had major problems (as do I) with many of the more rigid stances of formal Catholicism that you mention—but when she had the good fortune to be introduced to a newer entity called the American National Catholic Church, which retains the full Catholic ritual, but in a far less “exclusive” and far more welcoming fashion, she jumped right back in. There does indeed seem to increasingly be a “market” for a more open and inclusive brand of thinking…
Don Porteous, Sun 2 Jul, 16:41
Another Catholic who has discovered the Episcopal Church here! I migrated last summer and was happy to find I could bring all my favorite Catholic “stuff” with me (like the Rosary). Wish more women would make the leap - it’s really amazing to see what the Catholic Church *could* have been like, if it wantedto.
Also, Mr. Tymn, just recently rediscovered your books and am very happy to find your blog as well. Some great insights! Thank you!
Christine Lehman, Sun 2 Jul, 14:59
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