Monday, May 26, 2008

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson and Robert Blair Kaiser

We think of Ian Fleming as the creator of only James Bond. But he is a great writer and great writers see much more when they look out on our world, work on what they see with creativity, and enthrall the world thus seen with more than just one hero for our times. Fleming is such a great writer, not limited by that one genre for James Bond; there is the other one in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Wikipedia tells us that this book is a children's novel written by Fleming for Caspar, his son. At first, the car named Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is just a sports car, but as the book progresses, the car surprises the family by beginning to exhibit independent actions. After many intriguing adventures, Chitty and the family fly home to England, although Fleming hints that the car has yet more secrets. For more, read the book. Or, go to

 Our Robert Blair Kaiser is another great writer, who broke free from the chains of just one genre, moving easily, skillfully, in the fields of ecclesiology , biography, fiction (more real than fact!) -- three books in a row:

  • A Church In Search of Itself: Benedict XVI and the Battle for the Future
  • Cardinal Mahony: A Novel
  • "RFK Must Die!" Chasing the Mystery of the Robert F. Kennedy Assassination

Mahony and Benedict XVI are Church, and Kennedy is State, as in Church and State. Have you heard of Hillary's reference to the assassination of Robert Kennedy? Check out Kaiser's most recent book, an Open Sesame, which unlocks closed doors, so we can see how the inside functions to obfuscate the outside. The way both Church and State can do.

 Kaiser's genius – his friends call him Kaiser -- is also shown in his founding an organization for Catholics to take back our Church from the clutching grip of the hierarchy before it becomes lost in cold, dead hands. He calls it Take Back Our Church. In the acronymic way of designating lay groups dedicated to reform and renewal, it became TBOC. You may pronounce that Tee Be Oh! See, in sort of a marching beat akin to "America the Beautiful"-- or Tee Bock, should you mean business in a no-nonsense sort of way and are tired of waiting for bishops to wake up. Run it altogether for the website at:

 It's kind of tough, if not disheartening, for a layman and his bunch of men and women, known as the Laity – a lousy word for The People of God – to get going and rebuild the glorious Catholic Church, now lying in ruins as the Roman Catholic Church, for the Pope and Curia have more or less stolen it. They kept it locked up in the cellar of the Vatican, by setting up a weird group of guys, all men, all celibate, self-perpetuating by natural selection, the careful kind fostered by all secret societies and cults, as a tight-knit, tiny-tiny bunch of bishops, who control the world. 4,500 or so of them have 1,200,000,000 lay people hopping up and down from full squats to deep kneels to tippy toe longings, by a simple snap of their fingers, the ringed ones holding big sticks that go THUMP! when bashed on the ground. Never stick a foot out when a bishop's going by, and run for cover should it be a cardinal. You can tell the difference by their colored gowns: purple for bishops; scarlet for the birds.

 TBOC could use a little help from a bishop or two, to give it some clout, if not a tad of respectability, which might entice more bishops in a row to toddle on over to the people's side of the Church and make meaningful that old advertising slogan of Church qua Church – Instauratio Omnia in ChristoRestore Everything in Christ. TBOC is about instauration, and a bishop could help.

 One showed up recently. Where? Not in America where most bishops are toadies, nor Europe where they appear to have given up and are holding on till retirement, but, of all places, Australia. And his name is Geoffrey Robinson, Bishop of Sydney, who retired in order to write Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church. He is currently on tour in America and is being joined by Robert Blair Kaiser, author of Cardinal Mahony: A Novel in which Roger is a good guy, but that's fiction and the fact is that he isn't. Rodger the Dodger has done the implausible in banning Bishop Robinson from appearing in Los Angeles. Can you believe that? A cardinal swats a bishop in public, before the whole world, as if saying, "This is my town, Buddy. No Aussies need apply. I don't like the way you wear your hat."

Ian Fleming and Robert Blair Kaiser had helped me realize that the stature of a writer stands not in one book, and Church can bear more than one adjectival description. I commune in a corrupt Church and hope for a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Church. Cardinals and Bishops are Ordinaries – possessors of absolute power, equals, immune from onslaughts by a co-equal hierarch. They can ban and bar dumpy, grumpy old men like me who are lay – Gawd! I hate that word, and "non-clerical" is worse – but no hierarch can outhierarch another hierarch. Not even the pope.

 What is going down – definitely not "on" – in the Roman version of the Catholic Church? A dying grasp on power before it slips from cold, dead hands? Hasn't Roger the Dodger read that magnificent book Kaiser wrote about what he could be, the book which turned the fact of his fiction into the kind of cardinal you'd like to have in for dinner, take to a ball game, call up on your cell phone and ask, "Hey Roj, what's up? Wanna go over and listen to Geoff? He's speaking tonight. The guy's got guts, like you in had in Kaiser's book."

Bishop Robinson's book is getting known. America, our favorite Jesuit periodical – used to be, that is, until Tom Reese got booted by a brand new pope who lives on resentments – had this to say, as quoted by

"[T]he importance of Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church lies in the fact that a bishop, an ecclesiastical `insider,' has had the courage to challenge the institution of which he was a part and invite serious conversation regarding a broad range of church issues that have too often been declared off-limits by church leadership. If Robinson's book opens the door to more open and responsible theological conversation by members of church leadership regarding the unique demands facing our church today, it will have fulfilled its purpose."

Wonder whether Cardinal Mahony and Bishop Brown, a sycophantic dreamer who loves scarlet, look on Bishop Robinson as a Funny Food Fighter and themselves as Hefty Hostile Hierarchs . . . Ah! What a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Church we cherish.

 Bishops come and bishops go,

Clucking cardinals row by row,

Go! Tee Bock! to stop the flow,

Of that black line chained in tow.


"Banned In Boston" was one helluva marketing ploy to sell books and get people to go to movies. "Ban a Bishop" may be the best way TBOC, when the bishop banned is a Geoffrey from Owstrayleea. A bishop from Australia could be a Crocodile Dundee from the Outback and would take no crap from a kangaroo. What an image that is! Cardinal Mahony, the black-haired one, as a jumping 'roo. Fancy how his footwork, long practiced, is now an instinctive habit, keeping him safe from the darts and arrows of outrageous fortune in LA. Ah! Yes, but Geoffrey's on the way. Making the news. People are looking up. Maybe, maybe . . .

 Kaiser's the man of the people-people and Robinson's the bishop of the people-people. Mahony's just an ordinary, a typical ordinary Ordinary, a contrary contrarian. And now Kaiser has found the bishop he was hoping for, the first of many to follow. There are a lot of real bishops in our Church. They're just keeping their heads down while riding out the earthquake of John Paul that buried Vatican II and the shocks of the aftermath of Benedict XVI. As those abate, there is a stirring as people come up out of the ruins, looking around for help. Kaiser knows bishops all over our world. There are more than one who, like the Holy Roman Empire in 1519, are waiting for the Martin Luther of our times to fire them up and lead them on out. It won't be easy, but it will be good to restore all things in Christ by unpacking the Church. John Paul II had 28 years to pack it with his kind of bishop, the same way Franklin Delano Roosevelt dreamed of packing the United States Supreme Court. JPII got away with it. FDR got squelched. Bishop Robinson confronts. A few of the old guard try to stop him. But, . . .

 There are more Geoffrey Robinsons out there, waiting to jump in. TBOC! TBOC! TBOC!. If Tee Be Oh! Sea is a bit smarmy, patriotic like politicians like it, then go blunt and simple and Australian with Tee Bock.

 Two men of God: Robinson and Kaiser. Great writers. Read them.

  • Kaiser makes Mahony a hero in fiction truer than fact. Read it, yet?
  • Robinson's got courage in confronting a monolith. Read it, yet?
  • Kaiser's the man out front in TBOC's website. Read it, yet?
  • Kaiser just wrote "RFK Must Die!" Read it, yet?

Tolle, lege!

No comments: