Friday, April 5, 2013
Whose Church is it Anyway?
"I don't believe in those positions that propose supporting a kind of 'corporate' spirit in order to avoid damaging the image of the institution.” This is today‟s quote from Pope Francis, who seems to really get it!‟ He was talking about the abuse scandal when he said it, but I pray it prefigures his approach to
leadership, and there is every indication it will.
Jesus tells us that we are to “die to self,” and to live for others, especially those on the margins of society. He did not exclude His Church from that in-struction, yet so often Church leadership has seemed more concerned about itself as institution over the needs of people working in communion to live the Good News. Or, as I have often said, the main mission of Church cannot be topreserve and protect itself! That‟s the corporate spirit Francis speaks about.
In a recent opinion piece in the New York Times, Notre Dame professor Gary Gutting reflects on why he stays in the Catholic Church. He has a number of
reasons, including that the church is so much a part of his life that to leave it would be to leave himself, he doesn't want to leave it to the "preserve and protect‟ group and that he wants to show the world that faith and reason are not incompatible.
It was his article that led me to a Trinitarian understanding of church: The Church, meaning the institution headquartered in the Vatican, the Church, meaning religion, and the church, meaning the people of God.
Too often, these distinctions are ignored and only one or another becomes the working definition, to the detriment of the other two. The Church makes
proclamations to the Church that are impractical and insensitive to the church. This leaves the people of God in a position to do one of three things: obey,
ignore or leave. The first and third choices are called enabling in the mental health field. The second, while perhaps often the most reasonable alternative, causes division. Is there another? I think there are many.
The long-term goal is dialogue—mutual respect and compassion leading to understanding and insight. If we trust in God‟s Spirit, which we call Holy, we
should not be afraid of dialogue. One cannot have the church without it, yet The Church can be too power-driven and the Church too timid and weak. So we work toward it with honest discussion. I suspect Francis can lead in that direction.