Catholic Anarchy responds:
I can’t say I can’t relate to Rice’s frustrations with the Catholic Church and with her feeling that she is an “outsider.”
I do think the Googling God post is awfully presumptuous about Rice’s reasons for “quitting Christianity.” I’m not sure that the author can make the judgment that she has chosen to “go it alone” and to “horde [her] relationship with God for [herself],” or that she prefers “the ‘vertical’ relationship between God and self without the ‘horizontal’ relationship where one also relates to God in relationship with others” just because she has decided to “leave Christianity” while clinging to Christ. The “you’re in or you’re out” view of ecclesiology will no longer cut it. The boundaries of the church are fluid and we cannot limit it to “Christianity’s” often tired institutional forms, as important as they might be. Sounds to me like she has left “Christianity” but is still very much attached to the Body of Christ. May she find peace wherever she finds “church” to be.
I don’t think I’m saying that Anne is “in or out” and that’s it. Hardly and my open invitation to welcome her to any community I’m part of shows it.
Ironically, I think that’s exactly what Ms. Rice is saying!
“If you don’t agree with me I’m walking out” seems to be her attitude. Now granted we all have frustrations with our communities and I want to own my own failures in that regard. I’ve left parishes over the attitudes of pastors, the unwelcoming nature of parishioners and even because of a preference in liturgical style. However, I think to lump not just Catholicism but all of Christendom into one lump and saying that she’ll have nothing to do with them, is a bit much.
For me (and please note that I’m speaking for myself, and don’t know the mind of Ms. Rice, who I deeply respect), to leave my denomination alone would be like saying to every teacher I ever had that I am no longer willing to be part of the dialogue where we grappled with scripture, church teaching, ecclesiology, liturgy, theology, etc. I’d be poorer for not being in those conversations and poorer still for stopping now.
People can, and often do, help us change our minds, see our own shortcomings, see wisdom in their point of view and solidify our own convictions. Great theologians have had deep divisions over centuries but I don’t think too many of them simply picked up their toys and went home.
My friend Alex Swingle made a comment on Facebook that I found interesting as well:
Maybe her reasons should wake the church up from their slumber? As a Catholic I totally understand where she is coming from
A quick story to back up Alex here:
My friend’s mother is a staunch Catholic–not a conservative by any means but certainly a devoted Catholic. Her son in his young adult years stopped going to church. I doubt if he stopped believing in God, Jesus, the Real Presence, or any other tenant of the faith. But what he stopped doing was trying to fit into a community.
His mother prodded into this and he simply said that in his newfound hometown he couldn’t find a parish that spoke to him. He admitted to not looking too far afield. And that’s when mom uttered:
“Well you can’t be so passive! You have to speak up in a community and tell them that they aren’t meeting your needs. Or travel to another place where they will meet your spiritual needs. Why won’t you fight for your faith to be fed?”
Her son’s answer was something that I think the church should heed:
“Oh mom! I just don’t have that kind of time!”
This is why I often say that the quality of the welcome in parishes is clearly the most important element to pay attention to. There’s already enough division in the church, we don’t have to add to it. Pointing out divisions up front is an easy way to eliminate people from the community.
Now that doesn’t mean that we stop talking altogether about what divides us, or what might trouble us, or even where we think the church is “out of touch.” But we can do all of this with charity, even agreeing to disagree and then moving on but keeping the door open for future considerations to dialogue. Loving one another in community goes beyond divisions. Hanging in despite those divisions to me, is a sign that we are willing to love those who we don’t particularly like sometimes.
Isn’t that church? Isn’t that what Jesus would hope for? Or are we trying to set up über communities where we can point fingers at others who disagree.
Granted, others might have that attitude and may have been un-Christian towards Ms. Rice, and indeed, she may have good reasons for leaving everything behind. But that doesn’t stop me from feeling sad about it and hoping that she reconsiders. I would probably disagree with some of what Ms. Rice thinks about Christianity and she might disagree with some of my beliefs, but I’d always want her to sit in my pew and hold my hand during the Our Father and then offer a sign of peace to her afterwards.
We are one body, one body in Christ…and we do not stand alone.
Perhaps that is a lesson for us all?