Well, Mr. Dawkins is going to have to wait again (a few weeks ago I wrote the first part of a reaction to noted atheist Richard Dawkins’ comments on how there is no room for faith in science and how faith is always unreasonable). Last week, I had an experience I chose to share rather than dealing with Mr. Dawkins. This week, a few things have happened in the institutional church that I know from your messages have disturbed some of you (me too!) to a point that to avoid addressing them would be a disservice to you, as well as dishonest. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get a free trip to Rome after these comments, but maybe not a return trip.
First, the current Vatican office of our former Archbishop here in Portland, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, put a collar around the neck of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, saying that their point of view is too feminine and they need to be controlled by a man in order to assure their orthodoxy. Second, a classmate of mine, who is the bishop of the Diocese of Peoria (Illinois), gave a homily in which, according to the secular press, he accused President Obama of taking the United States down a path similar to that of Hitler and Stalin in Germany and Russia, respectively. Other than that, it has been a quiet week.
Even though I am away from the parish, I have received a few messages reacting to both of these events. The writers express their pain and confusion about the disconnect between what they experience as Church in our parish community and what seems to be represented by the leaders of the institutional Church. What are they to make of it all, they ask.
What am I to make of it all? I cringe when I read such things, and try to read between the lines. But in both these cases, what appears between the lines strikes me as even more problematic than what is on the lines themselves. I wish they hadn’t done that. I wish he hadn’t said that. And I reflect on the timing—so close to the celebration of the hope and promises of Easter.
I can say for sure that my faith is not based on, nor is it contingent upon temporal actions or statements. They shall pass. Eternal truths are not contained in temporal measures. Passing assumptions do not shape eternal life. So I move on, with a much heavier heart, certainly, but also with a more radical energy as well. We will welcome more guests. We will feed more hungry, visit more sick, cloth more naked and house more homeless. We will move deeper into the Body of Christ, where eternal life is found, and not get caught up in the pettiness of everyday life.
We will also weep for those who use the Body of Christ to assert their own understanding of truth, as if that really mattered. We weep because of whom they hurt and because of what they are missing. Which is more fulfilling: to be on the right side of an argument or to go beyond oneself for the good of others? In choosing the second, perhaps we can bypass the first. Perhaps. What do you think?