...he can't stand what the Church teaches.
And he is 80 years old.
Here is the full text of his letter.
TO : Family, Relatives, and Friends, Colleagues and Partners in Ministry, CLC Members, Ignatian Associates, Project Mankind, Parishioners of St. John’s, St Benedict the Moor, Sacred Heart, Jesuit Classmates and Companions
FROM: Bert Thelen, S.J., June, 2013
May the Grace of Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Peace of the Holy Spirit be with you! I am writing to tell you about what may be the most important decision of my life since entering the Jesuits. With God’s help, at the behest of my religious superiors and the patient support and wise encouragement of my CLC group and closest friends, I have decided to leave ordained Jesuit ministry and return to the lay state, the priesthood of the faithful [alarm bells! He does not call it the priesthood of Jesus Christ. No. His ordination came from the people, not from the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.] bestowed on me by my Baptism nearly 80 years ago. [He is about to become an octogenarian to make this decision.] I do this with confidence and humility, clarity and wonder, gratitude and hope, joy and sorrow. No bitterness, no recrimination, no guilt, no regrets. [As you read on later, it is anything but NO bitterness.]
It has been a wonderful journey, a surprising adventure, an exploration into the God Who dwells mysteriously in all of our hearts. I will always be deeply grateful to the Society of Jesus for the formation, education, companionship, and ministry it has provided, and to my family for their constant support. I can never thank God enough for the loving and loyal presence in my life of each and every one of you.
Why am I doing this? How did I reach this decision? I will try to tell you now. That is the purpose of this letter. For about 15 years now, as many of you have noticed, I have had a “Lover’s Quarrel” with the Catholic Church. I am a cradle Catholic and grew up as Catholic as anyone can, with Priests and even Bishops in our household, and 17 years of Catholic education at St. Monica’s Grade School, Milwaukee Messmer High School, and Marquette University. I took First Vows at Oshkosh in the Society of Jesus at age 25 and was ordained at Gesu Church to the priesthood ten years later in 1968. I have served the Church as a Jesuit priest in Milwaukee, Omaha, and Pine Ridge for 45 years, including 18 years on the Province Staff culminating in my being the Wisconsin Provincial for six years and attending the 34th General Congregation in Rome.
My last 14 years at Creighton and St. John’s have been the best years of my life. I have truly enjoyed and flourished serving as pastor of St. John’s. I cannot even put into words how graced and loved and supported I have been by the parishioners, parish staff, campus ministry, Ignatian Associates, and CLC members! It is you who have freed, inspired, and encouraged me to the New Life to which I am now saying a strong and joyful “Yes.” You have done this by challenging me to be my best self as a disciple of Jesus, to proclaim boldly His Gospel of Love, and to widen the horizons of my heart to embrace the One New World we are called to serve in partnership with each other and our Triune God. It is the Risen Christ Who beckons me now toward a more universal connection with the Cosmos, the infinitely large eco-system we are all part of, the abundance and vastness of what Jesus called “the Reign of God.” [Obviously his fellow Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin influenced this. He just got CHRISTIFIED! Booya!]
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. [His going for the jugular here!] 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, [the pagans know better. Even atheists know better that there is a hierarchy of things in the universe.] 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. [I think he skipped the page where Jesus said "I give to you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you declare bound in heaven..." That pretty much talks a lot about leadership with control, no? And he does even recall what St. Paul wrote about the qualifications of a bishop, presbyter and deacon. That sounds like hierarchy to me, noh? So what kind of church is this man talking about? I blogged about this a couple of times. He is of the same mold as the other liberals who want same sex marriage, contraception, laicization and the likes. Not surprising though, considering he is a Jesuit. Ha! Or was. Ha!] So, following my call to serve this One World [New World Order! Illuminati! Ha!] 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. [In reality, what he cannot accept is what Christ Himself did not allow. Christ will never ever accept homosexual acts nor homosexuals living together like they are husband and wife, when in fact they are both husband, and both wife. Christ did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. (cf. Mt. 5:17)]
I have become convinced that the Catholic Church will never give up its clerical privilege until and unless we priests (and bishops) willingly step down from our pedestals. Doing this would also put me in solidarity with my friend, Roy Bourgeois, my fellow Jesuit, Fr. Bill Brennan, the late Bernard Cooke, and many other men who have been “de-frocked” by the reigning hierarchy. [And he thinks it will ever change. Dude! 2,000 years. Count it!] It will also support the religious and lay women, former Catholics, and gay and lesbian couples marginalized by our church. I want to stand with and for them. I am, if you will, choosing to de-frock myself in order to serve God more faithfully, truly, and universally. [Whoever the god he has in mind though...]
But why leave the Jesuits? Make no mistake about it: the Society of Jesus shares in and benefits from this patriarchal and clerical way of proceeding. [THEY DO?!?!?! Wow!] We still regard ourselves as the shepherds and those to whom and with whom we minister as sheep. I discovered this painfully when the Society of Jesus decided against having Associate members. We are not prepared for co-membership or even, it seems at times, for collaboration, though we pay lip service to it. “Father knows best” remains the hallmark of our way of proceeding. I can no longer, in conscience, do that. But I still honor and love my fellow Jesuits who work from that model of power over. It is still where we all are as a company, a Society, a community of vowed religious in the Roman Catholic church. Leaving behind that companionship is not easy for me, but it is the right thing for me to do at this time in my life. When I went through a formal discernment process with my CLC group, one member whose brilliance and integrity I have always admired and whose love and loyalty to the Jesuits is beyond question, said of my decision, “You cannot NOT do this!” He had recognized God’s call in me. [Well...did he follow you?]
A few other considerations may help clarify my path. The Church is in transition – actually in exile. In the Biblical tradition, the Egyptian, Assyrian and Babylonian captivities led to great religious reforms and the creation of renewed covenants. Think of Moses, Jeremiah, and Isaiah. I think a similar reform is happening in our Catholic faith (as well as other traditions). [Wha?!? Moses, Jeremiah and Isaiah were all preparing for the arrival of the promised Messiah. That is the religious reform they were all waiting. What in the world is this guy looking for? A female pope? Not afr fetched! Hey! They have it in the Episcopalian Church!] We have come through far-reaching, earth-shaking evolutionary changes, and a new (Universal) Church as well as a new (One) World is emerging. [He is reading too much comic books or Dan Brown novels for sure.] My decision is a baby step in that Great Emergence, a step God is asking me to take.
Consider this. Being a Lay Catholic has sometimes been caricatured as “Pray, pay, and obey.” [Never heard that told to me. Maybe he was the one saying that.] Of course, that is a caricature, an exaggeration, a jibe. But it does point to a real problem. [An exaggeration points to a real problem. Now that is an oxymoron for you!] Recently, the hierarchical church mandated the so-called revision of the Roman Missal without consulting the People of God. [And the hierarchy is not part of the People of God. Maybe we can ask Joe the Plumber how to run the country's health care policy. Yeah, any simpleton can decide on anything there is under the sun. Maybe he can ask Jane the Ballet Dancer to perform his next medical check up because anyone calling themselves People of God can do that, like translating Latin into modern English.] It was both a foolish and a self-serving effort to increase the authority of Ordained men, damaging and even in some ways taking away the “Pray” part of “Pray, pay, and obey.” [How in the world did "And with your spirit" increased the power of the ordained. He must have felt it... Did you Fr. Jojo, Fr. Bob, Fr. Z???] No wonder more and more Catholics are worshipping elsewhere, [because the Mass is boring??? We need more dance moves? We need to ask people to clap more often at Mass?] and some enlightened priests feel compromised in their roles. [Compromised? How in the world will this priest feel if the priests were asked to celebrate Mass, Novus Ordo, ad orientem? Oh my! He might hang himself for praying to God with the people facing the same direction rather than looking and smiling at each other from across the table, er...altar.] I, for one, feel that this so-called renewal , though licit, is not valid. [Licit but not valid. Did this guy come from a sedevacantist group or from those Facebook groups of Google Theologians and Liturgists?] It is not pleasing to God, and I feel compromised in trying to do it. [And same sex marriage for him is PLEASING to God. Wow! He totally did not read in theology school the writings of a man named Paul....But it is also in the Old Testament, no? Sodom and Gomorrah? Does he know what sodomy is and how it is....never mind. Ugh!]
Now, consider this. All of this liturgical, ecclesial, and religious change is located in and strongly influenced by what both science and spirituality have revealed as happening to our world, our planet, our universe. [Wow! He consulted the stars! Madam Auring!!!!] The very earth we are rooted and grounded in, as well as the air we breathe and the water we drink, are being damaged and destroyed even beyond (some say) our capacity to survive. [How in the world is that connected to the Roman Missal???] And, as Fr. John Surette, S.J., has so wisely observed, “Injustice for the human and destruction of Earth’s ecosystem are not two separate injustices. They are one.” Biocide is even more devastating than genocide, because it also kills future inhabitants of our precious Earth. [And he never even wailed for the countless unborn humans continuously being massacred by their mothers in the womb in the name of choice and progress, no? And he cries for the polluted air and the dirty river. Is this what they teach at Theology schools nowadays? Oh yeah, sorry I forgot. Booyah Euntes!!! Oh Shanti!!!]
[Euntes performing their signature song and dance version of the Gloria for the New Church...Who are the people in your neighborhood...in your neighborhood...]
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. [You just have a new pagan shaman right in front of you folks.] It is time for the Church to turn her attention from saving face to saving the earth, from saving souls to saving the planet. [Because the eternal salvation of your soul is nothing is you don't have an earth with clean air and water to live at. Yeah makes sense. Makes perfectly idiotic sense!] It is time to focus on the sacred bond that exists between us and the earth. [Booyah Euntes! Oh Shanti!!!] It is time to join the Cosmic Christ [I told you! He was CHRISTIFIED! Booyah de Chardin! Oh Shanti!!!] 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?” [And Christ said "Go out into the world and preach the Gospel to every nation. Tell them to dump their wastes properly and use lead free gasoline and....Oh no. Wrong version of the Gospel.]
In light of all this, how can I not respond to the call both Isaiah and Jesus heard, the call of our Baptism? “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me and sent me to bring Good News to the oppressed.” All creation will be freed, and all people will know the freedom and glory of the Children of God. Yes, Lord, I will go. Please send me.
[Oh my God! Look at that poor tree! It is hurting! Look at the barbed wires! It is oppressed! We need a savior for that tree! I wish Isaiah were here to show us how...
It's a bird, it's a plane...it's.. Oh my! It's Super Bert!]
And that is why I am leaving Jesuit priesthood. Since first vows I have always thought and hoped and prayed that I would live and die in this least Society of Jesus. But now, something unexpected! A real surprise! I HAVE lived and died in the Society of Jesus, but, now, nearly 80, I have been raised to new life. I am born again – into a much larger world, a much newer creation. [Alive! Alive! Alive forever more!] I have greatly benefited from the spiritual freedom given in and by the Society of Jesus. I feel no longer chained, limited, bound, by the shackles of a judicial, institutional, clerical, hierarchical system. As St. Paul once reminded the early Christians, “It is for freedom that you have been set free.” And as St. Peter, the first Pope, learned when he said to Jesus, “You know that I love you,” love is all about surrender and servanthood. [And he forgot about the bondage being told by the prophets to the freedom that Christ actually set us free... Liberation Theology sprinkled with a lot of EcoSpirituality. What do you get? Euntes! Booyah! Oh Shanti!]
Thank you for your attention to this self presentation. [Oh God! Is this guy related in anyway to Convicted KSP Queen Carlita Celdran???] I am grateful that you have followed me in the journey described here, and I am sorry for whatever sadness, disappointment, or hurt this may have caused you. [Honestly, I feel different...] But what I have written here is my truth, and I can’t not do it! If you want to discuss this with me, ask questions, or give me feedback, I welcome your response, either by letter, e-mail or phone.
( 402-305-2665 ). Please pray for me, as I do for all of you, the beloved of my heart and soul.
Yours in the Risen Christ, Bert Thelen
Right after Vatican II, everyone jumped at the democracy bandwagon in the Church. Even if Vatican II did not mandate it, everyone started dissing their congregation's Constitution and Rules, some of them written personally by their holy founders. Most dissed their religious habit to make them "one with the people". Most even changed the names of the one managing the whole group. They don't want to be called "superior" because it connotes power and domination. So they changed it to "minister general" or "servant coordinator" or any other politically correct word that would not convey a sense of authority and lording it over. But the truth of the matter suddenly dawned on these hippie congregations. After each congregation had their fair share of headaches and rouge members, they had to stomp their foot and say "this is where the buck stops." and then started flexing their muscles. The followers who were so sold out to the whole democracy and equality things started wondering "Why is he becoming the ugly patriarch we dumped after Vatican II?" Whether you like or not, even in big multinational corporation, even in a family, the basic unit of society, it will be the CEO or even the mother or the father who will say "enough is enough. This is what we will do and all will follow. No questions. Nuff said.
From amidst this drama, I say...
Thank God he decided to leave than to stay in the ministry and in the Church and continuously tear Her up apart with his heresy.
Anymore jesuits and dissenting cleric and religious out there want to follow him and join his One World Church?
Yeah, you two. I'll sponsor your ticket.
And a final word from your ultra-montanist Founder, defender of the Catholic Faith par excellence, obedient son of the Catholic Church, scourge of heretical Protestants...