I was fully ready to enter a post today talking about how two of our more conservative priests have been called to the carpet by their bishops and more so previous to this both Fr. John Corapi and now Fr. Frank Pavone would often talk about the need for all the faithful to have a strict sense of obedience to the magisterium. Because both have taken their Bishops on publicly in a rather contentious matter it seems hypocritical.
But then I just got sad. And knew the response from those supporting Fr. Pavone would be vitriol–just as it might be if I were to support Fr. Pavone and say that his good work supersedes any financial mismanagement.
Our church is not much different that our government, although it shouldn’t be. Factions form and they are far more fractious than we think. We have folks who are selective adherents and others who are strict conservatives (to steal some phrases from sociologist Christian Smith). And most of the time we can’t talk to one another.
The factions in our church have grown so wide that people have stopped listening to each other. A colleague who knows me well once asked if I enjoy debating people here on this blog. I replied: “No. Not at all. What I enjoy is hearing the perspective of another. I then get to understand them more closely. I may still disagree but I also hope that someone changes my mind once in awhile. Mostly, once I understand the other, I can work with them and bring some harmony to situations that arise.”
As an example, we have people who believe that the new liturgical translations are going to “properly order” those who are sometimes “liturgically inventive” and others who think that the whole thing is a waste of time. Couldn’t we look at this as a way to help those who haven’t understood the liturgy at all and want to more fully participate? It also gives us a new opportunity to talk about the mass–which, let’s face it is the place where many people will have their only experience of church life–unlike us religious professionals. What about milennials who seek a bit of order (albeit not a slavish one) to their lives in an often chaotic world? Wouldn’t the liturgy help them pray a bit better?
We have young people who have little time for inner church politics, who are often confused at mass, troubled by the hypocrisy of our clergy (and others) and wonder why they can’t get married on a mountaintop. Many don’t seek religion at all and instead choose to relate to God “on their own” and dispense with the more communal aspects of faith. That’s a loss for us.
There are others who are thrust into religious meaning-making because of situations in their lives that have troubled them. Death of a parent, national and international tragedies, job loss and economic insecurity. But often, we’re all too tied up with the all-too-internal debates that matter to us churchy-folk to pay attention.
Should we care that people in charge of Catholic entities sometimes abuse their power? Certainly. Should we ingrain ourselves in a cultural war over it? Absolutely not.
I’m praying for a church where we can be less concerned about ideology and more concerned about praying together–despite our disagreements at time. I mentioned the other day in a staff meeting that while we’re all trying to get together to speak with one voice at mass (and good luck with that!), isn’t it more important for us as Catholics to also figure out what else we should speak together about? Aren’t there injustices in the world as well that we need to speak volumes about?
Shouldn’t Catholics make a big campaign and spend a lot of money on making people aware that poverty is a serious problem and it cause over two-thirds of the world to go to sleep hungry at night? While worship is important, it is just as important for us to consider where our worship propels people into serving the needs of the world. That’s a much more attractive message and it just might bring back a lot more people to our fold.
In short: What else do we need to speak with one voice on that we generally don’t?
If there was one good thing to come out of the church’s sexual abuse scandal it was that everyone spoke out for the victims and our bishops took it seriously enough to respond firmly.
So today, let’s pray for greater collegiality despite scandal, despite our need to be right, despite the chaos that is often present in the world.
We are reminded that they will know that we are Christians by our love. May that love be more than enough to keep us together.