A great number of people responded to my request for their personal reflections about living the faith today. I cannot use all of them here but offer a selection. I greatly appreciate the thoughtful responses of everyone who took time to write. Some people indicated I could publish their names others asked that I not publish their names.
We begin with reflections by Patricia:
Greetings, and thank you for the opportunity for me to communicate some thoughts toward what I believe should be important to all Catholic Christians, and to all Christians. My name is Patricia Squires, and I am a 65 year old Catholic Christian. I am a convert of 30+ years and I must admit I have been very disappointed by my Church in recent years. This is primarily due to American Bishops/Priests seemingly aligning themselves with the far political right of America, leaving me, a liberal American, feeling a bit lost in “my” Church, and wondering if there is a place for me, as a Catholic, any longer. Then, along came Pope Francis, and he gave me a bit of hope. I continue to search for others, in our faith community, who consider the following thoughts/issues of utmost importance. Please feel free to use my name should you wish to…..the Catholic Church seemed to be side-tracked, with John Paul II and Benedict XVI, from the progress begun in Vatican II. They seemed to be more “rules” oriented, rather than showing love and compassion. Pope Francis seeks to bring us back to that path, and I believe that we desperately need to return to being a more loving, compassionate, and welcoming group of Christian people. We need to concentrate more on what Jesus taught us. If we are truly Christians, we must be followers of Christ, and his real teachings, rather than what the hierarchy from centuries ago, deemed to be most important.
A few older priests sent often touching observations. Here I give one example. The other asked me not to publish his name:
I am a retired priest and I am angry and disappointed. I studied philosophy and theology for eight years and more than fifty years after ordination, I find myself in an organization which has grossly lacked leadership and intellectual integrity. The clergy are not required to keep current with the best theological thinking of the day nor assisted in doing so. Bishops feel safer this way since what you don’t know will mean that you won’t think for yourself or challenge anything the Church says. This means that traditional formulations of doctrine are perpetuated without any development and encourages unthinking careerism…..So with parishes closing or consolidating and average clergy becoming older and fewer, ranking hierarchy stand firmly against allowing the divorced and remarried to receive the Eucharist and we cannot even discuss the discipline of celibate clergy. Instead of discussing the glaring problems within the Church, the hierarchy are campaigning against same sex marriage, with no success, and the perceived loss of religious freedom…..”
Sister Joyce from New York offered a nine-point reform program:
1. Addressing Climate change and accompanying environmental issues in systematic ways. I think this to be the most critical in our times…2. Gender equality and all that it can mean for decision making and for ministry at every level, including ordination of women to the deaconate and priesthood. 3. Restructuring of the papal office and the teaching magisterium so that it reflects a horizontal approach, so that invited to the table of conversation are theologians of every discipline and in conversation with scientific, economic and psychological scholars of some repute today. 4. Getting rid of the hammer of excommunication and replacing it with ongoing conversation on all thorny issues…. 5. Banishing all clerical titles such as Monsignor which one thought was supposed to have been eliminated after Vatican II and all excessive medieval garb a la Burke style who is an embarrassment to the church. 6. Providing a comprehensive pastoral response and welcoming of people whose fundamental sexual orientations are varied…. 7. Think and respond differently to homiletics. It is a well-known fact that homilies are terrible in many local faith communities. Create a policy requiring a priests to get real training in homiletics. Also invite the laity with some background in theology to participate in homiletic training. 8. Make social justice a priority in every parish and provide diocesan training….9. Require all pastoral staff to get training in ethics and morality a la Vatican II plus. To that end, rethink and reverse the church’s teaching on birth control. It makes no sense at all.
Joris reminds us
…Jesus of Nazareth realized that to be devout in any way at all, one must first be adult–authentic, self-actualized, contrite, grateful, and aware.
Pamela, a few years younger than I, introduces herself as
…a 69 year old Catholic woman who reads a lot. My sources are Global Pulse, Commonweal, America, NCR, NY Times. I live in the diocese of Phoenix, so while I support my diocese, I have asked them not to send me the diocesan paper so as to avoid aggravation. What is the biggest challenge facing Christians today? My answer: welcoming the stranger. What is the biggest challenge facing Catholics today? Ignorance of the broad richness of the church’s thinking…..
And I conclude this week’s reflection with keen observations from my good friend, Sue, who is a very fine historical theologian:
It won’t surprise you to know that I think the deep-level misogyny lurking in our Church is the most important issue to address — and the thorniest. The research I’ve done on the old churching rite of women after childbirth turns up a 2000-year-long history of fear of women’s bleeding anywhere in proximity to holy places. I believe there’s a direct tie-in to the utter refusal to even countenance any discussion of ordaining women. I suspect that a fear of women’s bodies results in the overemphasis on “pelvic” issues in moral theology and, at least in the U.S. church, the embarrassing overemphasis on “religious liberty” as reinterpreted to cover the teaching on contraception to which only an infinitesimal number of Catholics would assent. Until the Church fully accepts that males and females have received the same Baptism (you wouldn’t think that would be an issue!) we cannot hope for a level of credibility that will permit us as a Church truly to preach the Gospel and be heard.
“Once people start to believe change is possible,
the drive to achieve it accelerates.”
Patrick Edgar, President, Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church
6 thoughts on “Voices of the Contemporary Believers”
What a wonderful way to start my day!! I could identify with each one. Thank you for giving voice to my beliefs. Arline
Sent from my iPad
Jack, as you know I am a retired Active Duty Army Chaplain and diocesan priest. In a partial response to your request for comments on living the faith today, I am especially disturbed by hierarchy’s attempts to quash discussion on certain topics, eg, women priests. As recently demonstrated, any priest who publicly supports, or even shows interest in supporting, the ordination of women is in a hard place.
I think trying to live the gospel in our own particular settings always involves questioning whatever is in front of us. I deal with this by compartmentalizing into two separate churches: the church of the folks in the pews or who used to be in the pews, and the church of the hierarchy. The two are pretty far apart. Without trying to attribute motives to any of the bishops, it seems they are more concerned with conformity and keeping folks in line than on living the gospel in today’s reality.
I think we have to prayerfully, and the operative word is “prayerfully”, question what is going on in the church around us. One thing I see is that the folks are not being well served. This does not point to any lack of interest and dedication in any pastor, but a fault in the system and a lack of dynamic pastoral leadership. (Disclosure — in my own narrow-minded focus: I do not see any leadership at all, only management, which is significantly less than leadership; to call what our church “leaders” are doing and not doing “leadership” is a slur on that word and an insult to real leaders, and I have had the privilege of knowing and serving with quite a few.)
Many folks, especially the young, are just walking away from the church because they know that what church management is saying does not reflect what they see in their life. They know that folks labelled as “intrinsically disordered” are not, that they are good folks who do not deserve to be treated as they are by management. Members of the church who reach out and work with them often have to stay under the radar because the management doesn’t like it. Increasing numbers of folks favor marriage equality, despite what management says. Management is becoming less and less relevant to folks, so folks just walk away.
Many folks are put off by what they see as management’s practice of declaring any who disagree with them as violating their religious freedom, in effect saying that only management has this freedom, and no one else does.
Basically, its seems that the official policy is, management knows everything, folks know nothing.
I have been a priest for a few months shy of 50 years, most of the time spent on active duty. I think I grew as a priest and as a person in the Army. Because of my status as retired military I am financially etc independent and not subject to the same perils of other priests who depend on the bishop for their livelihood. I am still tryiong to figure out what my responsibility is. I preach the gospel as I see it in my own life. I hear this is controversial. Oh, well . . .
Feel free to use my name if you think it will do any good.
We have known each other for many years now. I am grateful for that. I have always thought you are one of the most insightful and truly pastoral chaplains I got to know although I must say most of the chaplains I have worked with over the last 30 years were wonderful men.
I am thinking more and more that the mission of us older Catholics is to be prophetic. We can do that more easily than younger men and women because our security is less dependent on the institution……
The future? The church of Christ will endure but not necessarily just within the walks of Rome.
My very warmest regards
Amen! Mangement vs leadership, only the hierarchy has religious freedom or the right to follow their conscience or the Spirit only speaks through them?
Yes indeed….management or leadership! Jesys of Nazareth was a genuine leader!