cardinal law

News from the Creation Spirituality Front in Oakland

Dear Friends of CS, Holiday Greetings to you all!  Many thanks to all those who are carrying on the work and vision of the movement/tradition from Mary Plaster in Duluth to Susan Coppage Evans in Boulder to Diane Wolverton in Wyoming and many, many more.  (Can’t mention you all.)

A few words from my Oakland base.  Here are some things going on.

My two books that came out this Spring are stirring things up a bit.  Christian Mystics just received an award as “one of the best spiritual books of 2011” from Library Journal. The Pope’s War is coming out in paperback in the Spring and is already out in German.  The translator wrote me that she “cried often” while translating it because her generation (she is in her forties) was promised “never again, no more fascism” and that the book proves fascism is back in the church and especially through the German wing of the church.  This book is a “bomb” she says and Germans need to read it.  Reviews coming in from Germany, all of them positive.  Others have told me the “book is a page-turner—I stayed up two nights in a row to finish it” they say.  A number of positive and thoughtful reviews in the US too.

Susan Coppage Evans and I launched a series of CS retreats this Fall in Boulder, Co., based on the Four Paths.  September event was Via Positiva with Mary Oliver as our guide.  I loved working more deeply on Oliver’s wonderful poetry and had the privilege of seeing her in person deliver a reading and q and a in San Francisco ten days before our retreat.  In January we are doing the Via Negativa with Eckhart as our guide.  Later we will do Via Creativa with Hildegard as our guide and then the Via Transformativa with Howard Thurman as our guide.  Spread the word! Lots of good practice stuff going on with Susan leading that and I offering in-put on the various subjects and guides.

I am very grateful to Mary Plaster for carrying the torch with a facebook page with my name on it.  Thank you, Mary, and Congratulations too for the wonderful work you are doing with theater pieces and puppets galore!

Mel and I have been working diligently to rescue some of the wonderful articles and interviews from Creation Spirituality Magazine from its very first issue to its very last.  We are putting these on its own web page very soon and access will be free.  I was excited and pleased to see how many great articles were written and interviews offered over its 13 year history—articles that are still very relevant.  (I was also amazed to see how many I had written, just about one per issue).  Authors or Interviewees range from Jerry Brown to Buck Ghosthorse, from Joanna Macy to Bill Everson, from Jeremy Taylor (a regular) to Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, from Charlene Spretnak to Starhawk and many, many more.  Thanks and kudos to all the editors over the years of the cs magazine.  It is nice to revisit it at this time in my life.

Nicole Porcaro has been working diligently on putting together a Manual for the Cosmic Mass and I have been overseeing the project.  She is drawing on the documents that Debra Martin brought together for her Manual when teaching the course on the TCM at the Ballroom plus history plus more.  We hope to have that Manual on line by February.  (Nicole is getting married in early January!  Send your blessings her way!)

Beginning in January and with the hard work of Diane Wolverton we are launching a teleconference course on “Mystics: Pioneers of Consciousness” taught weekly for 10 weeks (first week free) by yours truly.  We are hoping this will be a first “out of the gate” experience for starting an on-line teaching experience that is global and that is using the latest in technology that insures interaction among students and teacher as well.  You can go to  Spread the word please!  Maybe we are resurrecting UCS in this teleconference format making it much cheaper and more accessible than ever before.  We shall see how it evolves.

I am working hard with Adam Bucko of NYC who is co-founder of “The Reciprocity Foundation” (see who has been working with street youth in NYC for six years.  We are writing a book together in dialog form about young adults and spirituality, have handed out lots of surveys and have also interviewed on film about twenty interesting young adults from Bay Area to Boulder to North Carolina to NYC.  So we are creating a film project as well.  We expect to have the book completed by February and the film later this year.

The work with Yellawe goes very strong in Chicago where Ted Richards is active with three Chicago versions of the project called “The Chicago Wisdom Project.”  (He is also commuting to NYC to work with New Seminary there).  In Oakland we have linked YELLAWE up with Kokomon Clottey’s project, “Art Esteem” and his and Aeesha’s Attitudinal Healing Project this Fall.  This month it morphs from an afterschool program at McClymonds high school to being an accredited afternoon in-school program and we all see that as a plus.

I am still on the road a lot with lectures, workshops and preaching.  And some Cosmic Masses in the works also.  I will be going to England and Scotland in the Spring for a series of lectures.  I remain very grateful to Aaron Stern and the Academy of the Love of Learning for their support and mutual work and vision. Their new building in Santa Fe is a stunner and fully Leeds approved and above all full of wonderful activities.

I have been seeing more of Brian Swimme lately and share his joy that his life’s work of putting the “Journey of the Universe” to film is now getting a great hearing by being on so many PBS stations this season.  Surely Tom Berry is blessing the project.

I am currently writing an article on the Occupy Movement, a movement which I have great hopes for.  I have visited Occupy in Boston, NY, Ashville, Boulder, Oakland.  Lots of cs energy and principles there!  I will make the article available on line shortly.

A high point for me this year was going to Rome for the launch of the Italian version of my “Original Blessing” book—they launched it on the anniversary of Giordano Bruno’s burning at the stake in Rome in 1600 (he too was a Dominican and keen on spirituality in science).  A well known Italian philosopher wrote a very rich Introduction to the book (which is now in its fifth printing) and an Italian publisher is committed to publishing “The Pope’s War” and also “Creativity” (which is being translated by a fellow in Florence—seems like the perfect city).  While in Rome I posted an Italian translation of my 95 theses at Cardinal Law’s basilica on a Sunday morning.  Much drama with the Vatican police there in street clothing leading the attacks.  We, not they, remained non violent.

So that kind of brings you up to date from Oakland.  If you have some money to contribute to a still very viable non-profit called FCS, don’t hesitate to do so. If you don’t I fully understand.  You can help other ways by spreading the word and maybe stirring up some lecture invitations or pushing books or courses such as our on-line ones, etc.  And many thanks to Dennis for his continued and dogged work contributions to FCS—and to Dominic Flamiano too for his legal assistance.

Blessings on your Holidays and New Year Days for 2012!

Grateful for all you Be and Do,

Matthew Fox

Posting 95 Theses at Cardinal Law's Basilica

Just before we started the event I asked my 30 year old woman translator if she was scared.  “No,” she said. “Even though we don’t know what is going to happen, I am looking forward to it.  It is important that we do this and what happens will happen.”  Courage!  Always a sign of the spirit. The action at Cardinal Law’s basilica was memorable for many reasons: the crowd that gathered (it was announced beforehand in the paper), their questions; their passion in taking on the policemen especially around the right to hang the theses on a gate; the beauty of the morning with sun shining from an all-blue sky; the length of time we stayed there—about 80 minutes (much larger gathering than Wittenberg);  the Vatican plainclothes police with dark sun glasses staring at me the whole time; and above all the strategy and courage of the young people who created the excellent poster which looked like a medieval Manuscript in a large type that yet was practical and easy to read; their flexibility in adapting to the policemen’s tactics, for example they smartly engaged the moment and the Vatican plain clothed police when the crowd had dispersed.  I was away from this engagement but saw dramatic interaction from where I was.  I so look forward to seeing their film.  I especially wonder if Stephano the filmer got the attack by the Vatican thugs of the second film maker on film?

How right Barbara was about 1) Vatican police dictating orders to Roman police and 2) the thugs that are policing the Vatican these days. Just as I learned after my Wittenberg action how much darker the Vatican was than I had anticipated, so with this Italian, Roman, action, I learned how much darker still were the forces and veritable police state ruling not only Vatican City but, in many respects, Rome itself.  Penny Lernoux’ words are chilling: “Ratzinger is only a front man for the German-Polish mafia,” she said.  Or Barbara’s words: “The Vatican is run by a gang of mafia thugs.”

Our protest was non-violent and remained that way in the face of violence on the part of the Vatican police.  Are Italians forbidden to preach or to listen to a preacher in a public square?  Was the Basilica event an historic moment?  One of empowerment for Italians vis a vis the church?  Consider that Italy never underwent the Protestant Reformation (but only the counter-Reformation of the Council of Trent).

Our videographers and photographers were taking pictures of the police videographers and photographers and vice versa.  It was like a scene from old East Germany.  The Stasi.  That was the feeling emanating from the Vatican police.

Before we began, one of our people went into the church to scout things out.  Many policemen were inside.  He went up to one and said, “I heard there was going to be a demonstration here today,” (or something close to that) and the policeman got very agitated and said: “No there won’t be.  We will see to that.”  So that was our first clue that our demonstration would be outdoors and even outside the fence.  But as it happened, even that distance was not enough to satisfy the Vatican police (who apparently have very broad jurisdiction in Rome itself).  During the course of my presentation and the q and a period of about 80 minutes, the sheet containing the theses were taken down (I took them back at one point from the policeman who took them down), put up again, taken down, held up by some of the participants standing by, etc. etc.  Up-down, Up down, Up-down.

A man who asked some very sophisticated questions about my presentation (he had the air of a lawyer about him and was of mature age), ended up in a shouting match with the policeman who was literally receiving phone calls from higher ups on his ear phone telling him what to do.  From the pained look on his face I had the distinct impression that he wished he was elsewhere—like rescuing a cat stranded in a tree or even a spouse form domestic abuse or handing out traffic violations—just anywhere other than in a church courtyard on a Sunday morning being dictated to by plainclothes police with their phones in their ear and hearing a presenter calling for a religious reformation (or revolution?).  The shouting match between the police and this “lawyer” person was about 1) who owned the property we stood on and 2) Who owned the fence demarcating this property from the church steps and on which we hung the theses.  The “lawyer” said in an angry voice to the policeman, “my taxes paid for this sidewalk and fence so keep your hands off the preacher’s theses.”  There was considerable back and forth.

Meanwhile, “radio radicale” was there the entire time with a microphone in my and the translator’s face and with a number of questions posed as soon as I finished my presentation.  My presentation followed my 4 points I laid out in my “New Reformation” book—how our day paralleled Luther’s day in four respects: 1) invention of printing press/invention of electronic media 2) politics as rise of nationalism/politics as globalization and sparks of democracy 3) rise of humanist scholarship of which Luther was a part/rise of scientific and theological scholarship of our time and 4) corruption in the highest places of the church/corruption in the highest places of the church including Cardinal Law overseeing this particular cathedral, he who passed one priest from parish to parish who abused 150 boys and who now sits on a commission in the Vatican appointing bishops around the world!  A woman professor told me she took a 3 hours train ride to be present for the event.  She taught anthropology and religion and invited me to come to her university to lecture—they would pay for my trip to Italy she said.

Before we began, one man came up to me who was about 44 years old and said: “I no longer call myself a Catholic but simply a Christian.”

All the while the young members of our team were alert and smiling and doing their assigned tasks whether taking video, guarding the theses, mixing with the group, translating, photographing the cops, hanging around me for protection.  (They had arranged all that beforehand among themselves with no coaching from me.)  They did it with smiles on their faces. They gathered with the plainclothes Vatican cops when the event had finished and argued vociferously about their demands to see their papers and my documents as well.  “We have done no crime so you have no right to demand our papers,” they declared.  But maybe they had committed a crime.  The crime of inviting people on church soil to think.

Their final act was to keep the thug Vatican cops demanding my papers engaged while one of their group quietly slipped away, came rapidly up to me and said “walk away fast” to the taxi stand at the side of the church.  Drama.  A day of drama.  Working with the young people was marvelous.  They were alert, flexible, prepared, strong, smiling, committed, competent, brave.  Intergenerational wisdom indeed!  Intergenerational courage also.

A number of people requested copies of the theses to read and study.  We told them that they would be posted in the Italian version on the Fazi web page.  Among phrases I heard from thoughtful Italians in conversation during my visit: “The church is dead.”  “We are a culture today with no new ideas. Old people are running things in a very old way.”  “Unemployment among the young is at 24%.  Many are being supported by their grandparents and parents even after college graduation sincere there are no jobs to be had.”  “A growing tension between the young and old.”  “Old money is running everything. “ People are scared with the bad economy.  The women’s movement is very weak.  “We are a conservative country.  Even liberal minded people have trouble imagining women priests.”  You can get a college degree for just $2000 per year but there are no jobs after school.  “The one thing Italy gives the world consistently is…Beauty.  That is our only gift to the world.”

I ask myself: Why are the Italians seemingly so keen on my work at this time?  One reason is the timing.  There is a lot of anger among Catholics and it is clear that first a Polish papacy and then a German papacy have not always sat well with Italians.  Another is that there is no love lost for Ratzinger himself.  In my time there and even near St Peter’s I did not see one poster for sale of Pope Ratzinger.  Another is that Aquinas with his non-dualistic philosophy is SO Italian in spirit in so many ways and the Augustinian mind-sets of the two recent popes is not at all of the Aquinas mind-set.  Furthermore, we need to remind ourselves that the Protestant Reformation did not penetrate Italy; it affected it by way of the counter-reformation but that did not question the powers of the papacy.  My 95 theses do put deeper questions.  Is calling for a Reformation in the church today rousing a sleeping giant in Italy?  The Italian capacity for real spirituality in the creation spiritual tradition is vast.  Is the Roman Catholic church, together with the media, not perfectly set up for non-violent resistance? For church-step sit ins?  For filling the jails?  For exposing the darkness of the Vatican and its ways at this time in history?

All in all, it was a most amazing trip—perhaps the most amazing gig in my life.  The people I met from the publishing house, Vito and our public dialog at the amazing conference of writers, his passion and radical critical mind, the many serious and passionate and intellectually-solid interviews on radio, in magazines and newspapers, and the amazing TV program.  The filming and event at Law’s Basilica.  Much to remember and to build on.

The abuse at the hands of church has been going on for so many centuries—buttressed by an ideology of suffering and penance and sin, that I had no idea what Romans have suffered at in the hands of the Roman Catholic church.  This is one reason a number of commentators called “original blessing” a “Copernican revolution” for a religion based on punitive images of God and a consciousness of sin. A difficult thing to do, to change it. I recall a Native American woman who was also a Catholic returning from a ceremony at the Vatican to beatify Blessed Tekawitha: “There are evil spirits in that place, (i.e. the Vatican)” she recalled.

I think most Catholics today—Italy, Ireland, United States, Latin America and parts in between—are in a complete state of disgust.  This morning’s Boston Globe quotes some Catholics in Ireland.  One says: “When we were growing up, you believed in the church more so than you believed in God….Now the whole thing is transformed.  You believe in God but you don’t believe in the church.”  And a priest, Fr. Tony Cullen, says: “I’d like to see the clerical church die, and the proper church emerge, the church of the people.”  What to do?  How create new structures?  Stay and fight?  Abandon it altogether?  Fight from the outside?  All of the above?  One thing is certain: The clerical church is dying.