Monday, June 4, 2012

Preparing the Ground for a New Luther?

Are we facing in the wrong
direction?  not only at the
altar but for God's Work in
the world?
I was at Mass Saturday evening and heard the Gospel:
"All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you."
What concerns me most about the nonsense right  now with the Vatican’s complaints about the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the “scandal” with the Pope’s butler leaking confidential documents,  the Vatican Bank and its inability to meet transparency standards set by international conventions, Cardinal Bertone’s alleged coup to consolidate all power in his Secretariat of State, the issues about Caritas Internationalis needing more hierarchical  supervision, Cardinal  Burke parading around thinking he is Louis XIV—and then the nonsense here with the alternative magisterium of Michael Voris and “Real Catholic T.V.,”  Carl Anderson and the mismanagement of the Knights of Columbus, and everything else going on is that—wait a minute: we have a mission and we have taken our eyes off that mission. 
     “Go and make disciples of all nations”—where is that in this current mess? 
     Somewhere in the reign of John Paul II the steersman took his eye off the course of proclaiming the Kingdom of God and the bark of Peter has been foundering in waves of turmoil ever since.  The Second Vatican Council is about more than putting the liturgy into everyday language, turning altars to face the people, (neither of which things the Council itself actually did, mind you); what the Council did do was to set a course for the Church to proclaim the Gospel in the Modern World.  What is going on today is nothing more than a free for all as those with power jockey for more power whether on the level of the Vatican bureaucracy or the American hierarchy.  The political connivance, led by Cardinal Francis George of Chicago in 2010, that kept Vice President of the conference, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson from becoming president of the conference—the first time that a sitting Vice President did not become President of the USCCB—is only one example of the misdirected energy that is going to infighting rather than carrying out a vision for the Church here in the United States.  The connivance of Archbishop Lori (who owes his Baltimore See to the generosity of Carl Anderson and the Knights of Columbus money which Anderson uses freely for some very  biased agenda items), with Cardinals Burke, Law, and Levada to go after the American Sisters  is yet another.  The transformation of a personal vendetta of an American bishop into a scathing attack on Sister Elizabeth Johnson—a more sound scholar and better theologian than any of the bishops—for her book Quest for the Living God is a third example of wasted energy that should be devoted to bringing Christ to people with profound spiritual hungers.  Richard Rohr has written
      Much of the Western world has given up on the church and is going other places for wisdom.  Unfortunately, in these other places they are sometimes “willingly filling their belly with the husks the pigs are eating” (Luke 15:16) But we in the church must ask ourselves if we have not been the parent who sent them away because there was nothing trustworthy or life-giving at home."  (Richard Rohr, Near Occasions of Grace, Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1993, p. 26)
      This is precisely the situation in which we are finding ourselves as Church—we have a tremendous storehouse of spiritual nourishment to share with a world that suffering in immense distress and hunger of every sort but instead of bringing the Gospel and its life-giving hope, we are squabbling over who holds the keys to the pantry.  And when the internecine squabbling stops long enough for the Church to speak something to the world beyond its doors—it is always a message of negativity.  As I have written before: today everyone can tell you what the Catholic Church is against but very few can tell you what we stand for.  
       From a historical viewpoint this situation is fraught with signs of danger for the Church.  The loss of reputation for moral integrity, the concern with power and wealth by many prelates, the ignoring of advances in scientific knowledge and learning, the alienation of an educated and competent laity, the defense of antique social and political structures in a rapidly evolving society—these are all reminiscent of situation that led up to the Protestant Reformations of the 16th century.  Vatican II was called to heal the divisions in Christianity but the betrayal of the Council over the last thirty plus years is threatening us with further discord and schism.  We need to refocus on mission and be willing to surrender our personal ambitions for the sake of advancing the Kingdom of God. 

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