Why can there not be more than one way to look at and live those parts of the catholic tradition that are not “essential”. In fact, there already are. There are the various Eastern Rites, the Anglican Ordinariates, celebration of the Tridentine Mass, admission of some married men to ordained priesthood on a case by case basis, to name a few. Why can there not be even more? God is One, but there is more than one way to know Her/Him.
John XXIII said his view of the Council was “to make the human sojourn a little less sad”. It seems to me that the current operation of the Roman Church is doing just the opposite. For some folks the operative value is the fear that God, or the Roman Church allegedly acting in God’s name, will punish them for something. Many folks, though, have seen through this toxic smoke cloud and have simply left in one way or another.
It has long been taught that whatever our notion of God may be, it is not God. God is beyond anything our minds can come up with. If this is the case, how can any Church say that only its interpretation of God and God’s will is the correct one for everybody always? It seems more than convenient that God as presented by these churches agrees with everything a given one of these churches does or says. What gives any church the right to impose its views on the citizenry through passing laws? Any who argue with such a course of action are accused by a church as infringing on freedom of religion. But freedom of religion belongs to everybody, not just a church that has the numbers to enshrine its values in law over against any other tradition’s values.
Why can there not be another authentic interpretation of the Gospel for today’s world that is lived without the fancy clothes and titles and bling, august and remote pronouncements, labeling, excluding, threatening, punishing? Jesus didn’t do any of this, and aren’t churches claiming to be his followers and disciples?
What began as a small group of people trying to imitate Jesus in loving service to God and fellow humans has morphed into a multinational corporation, perhaps even an empire, that seeks to impose its unique set of values on the rest of the world, stated values that it does not itself practice and which are not reflected in its operations, and doing so in the name of God that only it knows.
Christianity began as a movement. As years passed, in order to keep itself in existence, it became an institution. There is the danger, though, that fidelity to the institution and its rules may replace the original goals of the movement, as seems to have happened in some traditions. Being loyal to a given church has become for many folks more important than opening themselves to a relationship with the same Jesus who started the whole movement. Such a mindset is encouraged by the institution itself and its leaders. If folks don’t believe a whole laundry list of things determined by what calls itself legitimate authority, they are not catholic. Says who?
People often want “more faith”. For many good folks faith means believing every single thing the Roman Church or its leaders say. Some dioceses are demanding that catechists and other teachers sign an oath that states, among other things, “I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act”. Where is Jesus in all this? Isn’t there something about, “It is mercy I desire, not sacrifice”? There is a popular phrase making the rounds these days: “less church, more Jesus”. Makes sense. Rings true.
For many others, though faith means a deepening relationship with Jesus in some way as they just try to “not do to others what they don’t want others to do to them”, and do their best to lead a wholesome and meaningful life. Many folks in their own way are trying to maintain some sort of connectedness that goes beyond what they face every day but somehow gives context to it. The established churches do not always provide such a sense, and so many are looking on their own, and doing very well at it. Many have found that in their search for meaningful living they have chosen a course of action that has aroused the ire of an established church which feels its power threatened, and responds with some sort of violence, always, of course, in the name of the Prince of Peace who came to serve, not be served.
Just sayin . . .