Recently I heard a program about Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. One of the things he said was, “It would be more honest to blame religion for its own defeats; religion declined, not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid”. This certainly seems to be the case with the current situation of the Roman branch of the Catholic Church. It is fast becoming irrelevant to an increasing number of catholics, as it does not reflect the life they are living every day. It is dull and insipid in its pronouncements and ridiculous costumes. To say the church leadership is oppressive is truly an understatement. In the way the Vatican deals with any who do not follow the party line exactly it is abusive, violent, brutal, repressive to say the least. Its leadership style is more reflective of tyrannical despots than of the Prince of Peace and the Son of a Loving Father, in whose name they claim to speak.
A few days ago I received a letter from an Army Wife I knew when I was on active duty, and whom I respect very much. This letter is in the previous post. She reflects Rabbi Herschel’s statement. I think she expresses what many folks feel, both the folks in the pews, and many of those who have just walked away. To me her letter is yet another indication that the Holy Spirit is alive and well and very much involved.
An ongoing question for us is what does it mean in our particular circumstances to live as Jesus lived. When we prayerfully consider the Gospels and their Stories, what do they say to us in our life? Not what does someone else say they say to us, but what do we hear them saying to us. The Gospels speak to us on our journey as it is, not as anybody else tells us it should be.
More and more folks seem to be saying in one way or another that the Gospels are calling them to question what is allegedly being done in Jesus’ name. Questioning is important. If the teachings of the church do not reflect real life as lived by folks, where and why is the disconnect? Few people question the basic teachings of the church. It is the discrimination and the abuse that bother many of them, such as the silencing of any who raise questions about matters deemed to be not discussable by “leadership”.
For many years catholics were told to do certain things under pain of sin. Among these is going to mass on Sundays. This was presented simply as a matter of obedience – you have to do it because we tell you to “or else”. The “or else” part of this is mortal sin. If someone misses mass and dies before going to confession, they will die in mortal sin and go to hell — or so the story goes. Many parishes felt all they had to do was provide mass and the folks would come, because of the “or else”. The quality of the liturgies was not important, because the people had to come regardless. This continued on, but folks started to stay away in droves. Who can blame them? Who really believes the Father of Jesus would be so angry at someone for missing mass that he would condemn them to hell for all eternity?Yet, “leadership” seems to be trying to get back to that same mentality. Folks are just ignoring them, so “leadership” just hollers louder. The “do it because we tell you to” mentality is gone, hopefully forever.
The church system maintains a caste system based on gender that is disappeared throughout most of the world. It does not allow women to be priests. No matter how “leadership” fancyfies its rationale, fewer and fewer people believe it. So “leadership” just hollers louder, and fewer folks listen. If anybody wants to get in serious trouble with “leadership” all they have to do is come out in favor of women priests. This is especially true if the person is a priest, a theologian, or a teacher in a catholic school. Questioning this “doctrine” is not permitted, and the penalties are severe. This is also true with the “great gift of celibacy” and the priesthood. Discussion is not permitted. But, as some have said, if priestly celibacy is such a great gift, why can’t we talk about it?
The church is currently celebrating a Year of Faith, urging catholics who have walked way to return. I don’t know what the success of this campaign is. The faith has a lot to offer, but “leadership” keeps getting in the way with their inane threats and pronouncements. Its not about them. Its about Jesus bringing his folks together and working with them to live his message of Our Father’s love for everyone. Everybody has something to contribute, not just the celibate men in the funny clothes.
Many folks, upset with the way “leadership” is acting, are forming their own eucharistic communities where they gather to worship, to be led, and to perform their own apostolic works. While they might not be strictly roman catholic, who is to say they are not eucharistic? “Where two or more are gathered together in my name, I am with them.” This might be a worthwhile option for some folks. The Holy Spirit is alive and well. “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” Who is to say this is not what is happening?
Just sayin . . .