Wednesday, October 20, 2010

THE LONG GOODBYE TO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

 Just read this powerful statement at Open Tabernacle, quoted in Betty Clermont's article, "Banging Our Heads Against a Brick Wall" in which she quotes from Cathleen Kaveny's article, The Long Goodbye,' on disaffected Catholics leaving the Church.


From the perspective of these Catholics, doctrine and practice are not developing but withering. But why not stay and fight? First, because they think remaining appears to involve complicity in evil; second, because fighting appears to be futile; and, third, because they don’t like what fighting is doing to them. The fight is diminishing their ability to hear the gospel and proclaim that good news. The fight is depriving them of the peace of Christ.

Never have I heard a more powerful statement of the spiritual motivation behind much of the mass exodus from the church. While some individuals are given the grace to 'remain and fight,' a heroic grace to be sure, many others are being led in the Spirit to find their peace elsewhere. Interior peace is the ultimate sign of the Spirit's direction. As our holy father master told us novices years ago, "Always go with the peace."And they are doing just that - in droves - and with the Spirit's blessings.

On another note, I've just finished Brother David Steindl-Rast's wonderful reformulation of the Apostle's Creed, Deeper Than Words, and have begun it again from the beginning. It's that good - and essential for our times. A modern classic. 

Taking each word of the Creed for a meditative reflection, Brother David comments on the irony that  the Roman Church,  among the more exclusive branches of Christianity today, exclusively arrogates to itself  the designation, "Catholic," which Brother David explains really should mean all-embracing and inclusive. The present Roman institution is none of these (when applied to LGBT people, among others), and in its practice contradicts the description of Catholic. I'm paraphrasing him in a way which sharpens his gentle, but clear and prophetic criticism, but his intent is clear. At this present moment in history, one cannot be both Roman and Catholic in one's Christianity. (See Jordan's critique of this statement in the comments.)

Brother David:

The earliest definition of CATHOLIC faith that the Christian tradition developed is still valid and valuable today. Seen in a new light and understood in our contemporary context, this definition, proposed by Vincent of Lerins around 450CE, can be helpful in a new way. Vincent described the CATHOLIC faith as a faith that has been held "by all, at all times, in all places." In his time, "all" meant all Christians. But our horizon has grown wider. For us, "all" means all human beings. There is no longer room for a narrower understanding of Catholicity. Truly CATHOLIC is only that faith in Life and its Ultimate Source that all humans share. It remains alive in the hearts of humans who are not even aware of it. It can be awakened by any religious tradition.

Catholic faith is not a specific brand of Christian faith, but Christian faith is one particular form of catholic - i.e. universal - faith. The CATHOLIC CHURCH in which one can have faith is the community of all who have faith, to whichever of the world's religions they belong. It is understandable that many Christian communities today replace the word CATHOLIC in the Creed with 'Christian' in reaction to the Roman Church's calling only itself CATHOLIC - an exclusiveness that contradicts the inclusiveness of that term. It would be more faithful to the spirit of the Creed, however, to translate the word CATHOLIC as "all-embracing" rather than replace it with a narrower term, even the term "Christian."


And to conclude with a quote from my good friend John, a gay therapist from San Francisco, whom I met forty years ago in the Jesuit Novitiate:

Since I decided that I am not a Catholic and have made a psychic break with the Church I am able to go to Mass and am able to accept the priests (and their sexual lives) with much more of an open heart.

2 comments:

Jordan said...

Jayeden,

I consider myself to be both quite Roman and Catholic in my Christianity. I think it is certainly possible and more widespread than suggested here.

I would also not say that Roman Catholicism is the least tolerant of the Christianities---even officially, the Church continues to teach with Saint Augustine that many who belong to our ranks presently will not be saved, whereas many who do not belong to our ranks visibly nonetheless belong to Christ without being seen.

In short, it does leave open the question of the salvation of each individual because we can't put a limit on the grace of God. We can never say "A Muslim is going to Hell because he is a Muslim". Fundamentalist Christianity does not do this.

Jayden Cameron said...

Thanks for the correction, Jordan, there are certainly Christian denominations that would send Muslims to hell simply for being Muslim - or gay. I've since amended the article with quotes from Brother David's great book.