In response to recent Catholic news headlines, a dear friend mused…
I find it interesting that unhappy traditionalists tend to send letters to Rome (witness the attacks on the Australian bishop, complaints against a newly named French bishop) while progressives unhappy with the status quo assemble and practice what they want to see in the church. This says a lot about our views of church!
It is an astute observation. On one side of the trenches we have Catholics who place all their faith and obedience in the hierarchical leadership (as long as the said leaders are of a traditional mind-set.) These Catholics are the loyal spies for orthodoxy, eyes and ears carefully tuned to spot the heresy or liturgical faux pas. It is their holy duty to record the failings of priests and fellow parishioners. They send regular, carefully written dispatches to their local chancery. If there are no sympathetic diocesan ears, or if the guilty party is the bishop himself, then the accusatory missives are sent directly to Rome.
On the other side of the trenches, we have the Catholics who have lost faith in the hierarchical structure of leadership in the Church. They support priests and bishops of integrity, but will not offer blind obedience based on ordination alone. They believe that the Church is the People of God, and it`s time for God`s people to stand up to injustices and inequality. They gather together for inspiration, support, and to strategize for change. The mere act of gathering will set off warning bells among traditionalists.
The former group believes that excommunications are an effective way of purifying the Church. The latter group does not bow to threats of censure or canonical punishments, as was shown in the recent gathering of the American Catholic Council.
I admit that the above descriptions are stereotypical caricatures, painted with very broad strokes. But it shows the deep theological differences that are present in our Church. As with all trench warfare, there is lots of noise and damage but little progress in finding common ground.
What will it take to cross over this ideological divide?