Nov 1, 2010

Yet Another Progressive Bids Farewell

Prickly Pear, the author of the blog, Far From Rome, has just posted a very moving statement on his blog announcing that he has finally decided to stop participating in the sacramental life of the church. Even though this has been my own path for over twenty five years (though I celebrate the Eucharist privately among friends), it still made me very sad for the present state of the Church. However, I had to remind myself of my own experience of peace and joy on the margins and my firm belief that the Spirit is 'permitting' the present disarray of the Church for her own mysterious and life-giving reasons. We are being led beyond the boundaries into the wilderness of faith. You can read Prickly Pear's statement here.

There is a movement underway here and I'm convinced its a movement of the Holy Spirit - showing us in such lives that the 'sacramental life of the church' (and I would include the Eucharist) can continue, flourish and survive outside the present formal obediential structures of the Roman institution (though this was not exactly Prickly Pear's intent in his statement, I'm enlarging here). Many of us are being called to witness to the life of the Spirit independent of the institution. When it is healthy, it can be an enormous help, but it is not an Absolute entity that is essential to the spiritual journey. When it becomes unhealthy, it becomes a danger - to young gay persons especially. The great Catholic tradition, however, is another matter, and here as well I feel many of us are being given the calling to maintain the living flame of this tradition in the wilderness of a very dark time. I have been doing this in peace and joy for twenty five years because 'outside' the doors is precisely where I encountered the living Risen Eucharistic Christ in my life. Occasionally, I stop in for a formal ceremony in Church, because I do miss the reverence and dignity a beautiful church can give the celebration of the Eucharist. But on every such occasion, I've been reminded interiorly that being a formal part of the institution is simply not my vocation. In other words, it doesn't seem to have been a conscious, deliberate, rational decision on my part, but more one of interior guidance and inspiration, for which troubling matters of conscience acted as a confirmation of the inspiration to move outside the boundaries, but not it's primary cause. One responds to the inspiration, of course, with a free act of will and trustful surrender, but the inspiration is wiser than we are and more far seeing than all of our rational motives. The Spirit is ahead of us on this one, way ahead. The bottom line for myself: peace and joy and the living face of the Beloved are found outside the door, not within the formal chamber of the church. And since so many of us are feeling this, what then is the Spirit saying by this powerful witnessing movement? We cannot claim credit for it ourselves, something very significant and powerful is being messaged here about the very nature of institutional religion. Peace, joy and love in the Spirit flourish on the margins of belief.


Terence Weldon said...

Jayden, I hadn't yet seen Pear's post, so thanks for the pointer.

Your observations are sound, and tie in to something I've been wanting to write about for some time. A couple of months ago, an Irish paper asked, with reference to the call for a boycott of Mass, "Is this the start of a revolution in the Catholic Church?". My response is no, the start of a revolution is no longer possible - it is already under way.

It is now commonplace to observe that almost nobody any longer pays any attention to official doctrine on contraception - obedience to other matters of sexual ethics is not much stronger.

The practice of regular private confession to a priest has almost disappeared. How many Catholics still wrestle with their conscience if they miss a Sunday Mass?

The power of the episcopal oligarchy rests entirely on their control of our minds - and it is now obvious that that power is eroding rapidly. Yet this doesn't mean that people are turning away from God and religion - interest in spirituality and personal prayer remains high.

The old slogan "pray, pay and obey" has given way to "pray, don't pay and disobey."

And I thank God for that.

Richard Demma said...

Thanks, Terrence. I love your coined aphorism: pray, don't pay and disobey. Thankfully, that applies to most loyal but independent Catholics in the pews who will continue to attend church while blissfully ignoring the absurdities from the top. I'm reminded of a dear gay couple in Thailand some years ago. Robert, from a wealthy US Catholic Irish Boston family, had stopped going to church years ago because of the church's stance on gay people. His very sweet partner, Yutipong, from an upper class Bangkok Chinese family, took his mother faithfully to Church every Sunday. When Robert would rail and rant and ask the question,"Why?," Yutipong would reply sweetly, "Because it makes me feel good." And that stopped all arguments. Good Catholics in the pews who are freely ignoring the thunderings from the top "feel good' spiritually because something happens to them at Mass = and they are not going to allow the injustices of the system to deprive them of this satisfaction. However, that does leave those of us who feel required in conscience to make some kind of witness statement by distancing ourselves, however painful that may be. One Spirit, many gifts.

colkoch said...

This is really a difficult decision to make. I have toyed with joining another community, but do not because my 'muses' keep telling me humanity can not leave the message in the hands of the Vatican--nor let them misuse the wealth or continue to enculturate laity into a form of spiritual slavery--especially women and gays.

As you have pointed out previously Jayden, Mary has in every visitation called for the conversion and reform of Catholic leadership. She is not speaking about a conversion to the tenets of Catholicism but a conversion of world view to the view Jesus had.

Part of that conversion calls for recognizing our egos, or self aware consciousness, does not have a soul as a separate dependent entity. It's the other way around. Our soul has a human expression as a part of it's identity.

Unfortunatley the Church helps to condition our ego to thinks it's the whole enchilada--as if the ego can determine the fate of the soul. This whole world view can be looked at as teaching a form of spiritual narcissism--a narcissism that is reflected in our clergy. Our soul is so much bigger than our little ole egos.

That's why I love this little ditty. "God is great, God is good, God lives in our neighborhood. Inquire within."