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By Diogenes (articles ) | May 28, 2005

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton is currently four months past his sell-by date. His homily for Trinity Sunday should give ample reason for the folks at the Congregation for Bishops to move his retirement papers to the top of the stack.

When you think about it, when the [Trinitarian] formulation was agreed upon, during the Council of Nicea in 325, during the time of the Roman Empire, this might not have been the best time for the church to come to this understanding of three persons -- father, son and Holy Spirit -- because under Roman law, "father" was not a term, for the most part, that made people respond with love. Under Roman law, a father had total control over the life of his wife and the life of his children. It was a period of what we call patriarchy. Because of that, it seems to me, we within the church lost the sense of God as mother and with this idea of God as father, we also took up the cultural accumulation that had built up during the Roman Empire where a father was seen as a dictator within the family; a father could punish, even kill, his spouse or child and would not be subject to any law.

Putting aside Gumbleton's extreme simplification of ecclesiastical history -- which he appears to have learned from his Rosemary Ruether Coloring Book -- one is moved to ask what gift he hoped to give his congregation by delivering this sermon. What spiritual good do they come away with? A successor of the apostles insinuates that the teaching Church [they can't hear his lower-case 'c' -- or can they?] is a bumbling human enterprise even in her most careful and solemn doctrinal judgments. His hearers can only conclude that the Church is unreliable as a teacher and subject to correction by the most facile contemporary revisionism.

Even if, contrary to fact, Gumbleton were right that "father" was a term of menace in the 4th century, why infect the faithful today with a disease they didn't have in order to dose them with an antidote they didn't need?

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  • Posted by: SentimentalGent - May. 30, 2005 10:19 AM ET USA

    Jesus Christ had to deal with one Judas Iscariot. Over the centuries, His vicars have had to deal with more and more "Judases" as the Church grew and expanded. And you know, I feel so sorry for these "heretics" — essentially hating the Church they belong to and yet unwilling to leave. Is it a pschological problem or just being blinded by sin? The damage they do to the faithful is mind-boggling. They will have much to answer for when they leave this mortal coil and stand before the Father.

  • Posted by: Larry K. - May. 28, 2005 10:49 PM ET USA

    In addition to all of Gumbleton's other errors, Nicaea said nothing about "three persons". The divinity of the Holy Spirit, although implicit in the teaching of the apostles (Mt 28:19, 1 Cor 2:11), was not made explicit until Constantinople I in 381.

  • Posted by: - May. 28, 2005 7:37 PM ET USA

    The good (naive) bishop is obsessed with Motherhood to the point of denying what Jesus said about HIS heavenly FATHER and taught us to pray Our FATHER, not my Father, not my Mother but OUR FATHER!!!

  • Posted by: Ignacio177 - May. 28, 2005 2:36 PM ET USA

    Is there a theology teacher here who would not give such a student an F and tell him to go back to JND Kelly and study a bit more. I would. How did this man get named bishop, successor of the apostles?

  • Posted by: - May. 28, 2005 2:05 PM ET USA

    May I ask here, to those of you far more educated than I, just what does it take to get fired or retired or removed in our Church today? God is Father not because WE are perfect fathers but because we arent. God as father doesnt glorify men it humbles them in their weakness and failings. And hopefully inspires us to be the leaders we should be.

  • Posted by: - May. 28, 2005 12:37 PM ET USA

    Bishop Gumbleton, might I suggest a little light reading for you...? Try the Holy Father's Introduction to Christianity... Like you, it is a product of the 60s. Unlike you, it is grounded in orthodoxy. He even mentions Nicea! You may have to read it more than once...

  • Posted by: Vincit omnia amor - May. 28, 2005 12:29 PM ET USA

    Wow, the dangers Bp. Gumbleton's homily posses to the Faith (& the faithful) are extreme. This is serious as a cardiac. How twisted can you get??? And if this is his "take" on THE central mystery of Our Faith, then I can't imagine what he is teaching (or leading others to conclude) about the other doctrines/truths the Church gives to us from Her Master.

  • Posted by: scunoology - May. 28, 2005 11:52 AM ET USA

    Seems to me that Bishop Gumbleton needs to revisit a course in Patristic theology. I recall that the Universal Church at the time was anything but a set of purely Roman bishops. At the council were bishops from all parts of the Empire - Gaul, Greece, Alexandria, North Africa, Palestine, Syria, Antioch, Jerusalem, etc. And I assume that the Holy Spirit was there as well, insuring that any teachings were free from error. I hate it when these revisionists try to rewrite the Credal formulae.

  • Posted by: frjimc - May. 28, 2005 8:53 AM ET USA

    Oh, you poor naifs! How could you not know, you who are the products of the very best theology the 21st century has to offer, that the scriptures that you depend on are only the products of patriarchal oppression themselves? You REALLY ought to pay more attention to the press releases from the annual "Jesus Seminar." Finally, after twenty centuries, there are people who are not bound by the constraints of faith who can tell us what Jesus REALLY said.

  • Posted by: - May. 28, 2005 7:22 AM ET USA

    Why cast aspersions on the Fathers of the Council of Nicaea for the name "Father" -- or for that matter, for the Trinitarian formulation? Why not say instead, "Jesus, how could You, a subject of the Roman Empire, use the names 'Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,' and pray, 'Our Father, Who art in heaven...'?"

  • Posted by: Gil Bailie - May. 28, 2005 5:21 AM ET USA

    It's not as though the Fathers (excuse the phrase) of Nicea pulled the term "Father" of thin air. Didn't Jesus occasionally risk using the term?

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