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October 21, 2009


Sigh. It's a long, long way from the heady optimism of Liberation Theology's heyday in Latin America, isn't it. I guess it speaks volumes to me that I didn't even read past the headline when I read about Benedict extending a hand to disgruntled Anglicans -- I just really feel like they deserve each other, which is small-minded and petty. I know a lot of people are sort of in agony about it now, but I am, for better or worse, no longer one of them.

Thanks, Pica. I'm not in agony either; I feel pretty detached, but still wanted to comment.

A couple of reflections from Nouwen that I have recieved coincidentally the last few days! It is hard to bear the big picture in mind always All these tactical political moves are perhaps just a steps of a greater divine dance that is happening that will be gradually revealed to us in "the fullness of time".

Believing in the Church
The Church is an object of faith. In the Apostles' Creed we pray: "I believe in God, the Father, ... in Jesus Christ, his only Son º in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting." We must believe in the Church! The Apostles' Creed does not say that the Church is an organization that helps us to believe in God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. No, we are called to believe in the Church with the same faith we believe in God.

Often it seems harder to believe in the Church than to believe in God. But whenever we separate our belief in God from our belief in the Church, we become unbelievers. God has given us the Church as the place where God becomes God-with-us.

The Church, Spotless and Tainted
The Church is holy and sinful, spotless and tainted. The Church is the bride of Christ, who washed her in cleansing water and took her to himself "with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and faultless" (Ephesians 5:26-27). The Church too is a group of sinful, confused, anguished people constantly tempted by the powers of lust and greed and always entangled in rivalry and competition.

When we say that the Church is a body, we refer not only to the holy and faultless body made Christ-like through baptism and Eucharist but also to the broken bodies of all the people who are its members. Only when we keep both these ways of thinking and speaking together can we live in the Church as true followers of Jesus.

As a Methodist in the American Southwest, the subtleties of this situation are lost on me. In fact, my first thought was regarding Henry VIII and what he might think of the Catholic Church extending any sort of olive branch to Anglicans, rather than any sort of contemporary issue. My husband's family are lapsed Irish Catholics, but his mother's break with the Church involved the size of her family and methods for keeping it small, something that obviously pre-dated his existence. I do understand something of the draw of the Church, though. Even after all of these years after breaking with the Church, she is still concerned with papal decrees and other Church pronouncements. A few years back, she called me to say that she'd like to be cremated, now that the Catholic Church no longer prohibits that. What a powerful hold the Catholic tradition retains on her 72 year-old heart.

A friend commented by email:

"Beth, these observations are very apposite. A practicing Roman Catholic told me today that Benedict XVI is simply destroying the RCC. Apparently the strategy is to force the liberal Catholics to leave and go elsewhere."

A friend ... who is both Italian and Catholic...phoned me this morning. "Did you hear that the Pope is accepting Anglican priests? Just wait till they hear that they need to learn Italian!"

My first thought was how upset progressive Roman Catholics must be.

I think you are right that this is mostly about the fatal tendency in institutions for the preservation of the institution to become the overriding aim.

As Sarah Silverman says "sell the Vatican and feed the hungry"

As a liturgical Lutheran who's looking forward to Reformation Sunday this week-end, I enjoyed your post, especially the ideas in #5. It's been an interesting summer for Lutherans, although our struggles with the sexuality issue seem to attract less press. For folks who need a different message than that offered by conservative Catholics and Anglicans but a mass-like liturgy (Luther was a Catholic monk before he nailed his theses on the Wittenberg door, so he learned liturgy from the experts of his time), I'd suggest the ELCA, where we are now accepting everyone, regardless of sexual orientation and ordaining gays and lesbians in lifelong committed relationships. Of course, we'll continue to disagree about these decisions--at various Synod assemblies, we even formally agreed to disagree while respecting divergent views.

A bit after I read this yesterday, I saw on a Sunday night British church programme - a popular old chestnut we occasionally look at to see the church interiors or if we might like the music, which we generally don't so we turn it off - that the Pope is thinking of canonising Cardinal Newman. I suppose I might normally just have thought 'Oh, that's nice, though I'm not quite sure how they'll be able to claim he worked any miracles...' then I remembered about this, and it fell into place that this is probably a bit of cynical politicking.

Just by the way.

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