The following is an excerpt from Bishop Gumbleton's brilliant, piece, A New Meaning of Obedience, published in the National Catholic Reporter yesterday, August 12th. It simply confirms what many of us have felt for years, that the Spirit is calling us to an alternative witness outside the formal boundaries of the institutional church. But I've never heard such a stirring, inspiring confirmation of this difficult path from a bishop of the Church before. The fact is the institutional church in it's present state needs this powerful witness given by those who must in good conscience 'walk away.' The recent open statement of novelist Anne Rice comes to mind. What we are being taught - in anguish and in tears - is how relative the value of the institution and it's leadership really is. We are being taught to let go, because faith can survive outside it - though not without the sacred tradition it is meant to channel and which it so often betrays. 'To go where perhaps we would rather not have gone, but to go where God needs us in confidence, joy and peace in our hearts.' Amen.
That’s another thing we find happening in our church today, where God seems to be leading some of us, many of us in fact, away from sort of a blind obedience to laws that were created, the human laws, even though they were created within the institution of the church. A couple weeks ago, I was part of the national meeting of the organization called SNAP, which is a Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests. Now these are people, almost all of whom have had bitter experience with the hierarchy of the church. They can’t go into a church like this anymore; they’re too traumatized and hurt, so they have to find their own way, but for many of them, it’s a deeper faith life than they’ve ever had before. They discover God loves them, they can follow the path where God is leading them.
And, you know, there are 30 million people in this country, 10 percent of this population in the United States, who have walked away from our Catholic church, from the institution of the church, probably some in your families, but that doesn’t mean they’ve walked away from God for some of them because perhaps they’re gay or lesbian and they’ve been excluded, called disordered, and they can’t accept that. They know they’re good people so they have to walk away, but it’s God calling them, and with confident assurance and strong conviction, they go where perhaps they would rather not have gone. But they do it because they have faith.
So all of us, I think, have to keep on listening in our lives to God speaking to us deeply within our spirit and develop a relationship to God, not a relationship to a human institution, not a relationship to human laws, not intellectual assent to doctrines, but we must develop a relationship with God that will give us that confident assurance and strong conviction that when God asks us to move in some way in our life, or to accept some difficulty in our life that we would rather not, that we can go where God needs us with confidence, with joy, and with peace in our hearts.