catholicism…the “quintessential dysfunctional family of the 21st century”

Robert McClory, over at NCR, has written a blog post after my own heart. Can We Talk? is a reflection on the responses he received on a previous post titled Dissent? Don’t You Dare!

In the first post, McClory explored the stifling of “thoughtful and earnest dissent” within the Catholic Church since Humanae Vitae. He believes that, “The curtailing of all dissent in this era does not serve the good of the church. Rather it leads to disruption, disintegration and disaster.”

The ensuing discussion from readers on his blog is a microcosm of the larger, vitriolic style of debate present in our church today. The loud voices on the right challenge any and all dissenters to unquestioning obedience to church teachings – or please leave. The loud voices on the left speak out for the right of each conscience, “without adding any qualification.” And, of course, there are the off-topic comments “perhaps influenced by the Republican presidential debaters”!

But there are other voices that offer hope. McClory writes,

These are thoughtful, searching folks who read, pray and ponder thorny problems like dissent without coming to rancorous or absolutist positions. The hang-up here is that these searchers, like the proverbial choir, talk only to like-minded associates, so their balance doesn’t get into the discussion. More often than not, it’s the extremists who frame the debate.

So can we talk?

I have this idea of a debate on dissent in the church, or better, a series of debates between qualified representatives from left and right — no grandstanding, no polarizing, no gotcha questions, no yelling.

Undoubtedly, the result would not lead to mass conversions from either camp, but it just might lower the decibel level, even set a tone of respect we haven’t seen in a long time.

Somehow, we’ve got to get out of this quagmire that has turned Catholicism into the quintessential dysfunctional family of the 21st century.

A big AMEN!!!

truth vs love???

One of the dangers of reading too much, is that you store brilliant little nuggets in your brain and then forget where you read them! This is especially true when I`m cyber-surfing. I zip from local to national to international news, checking out several sites for balance. Then it`s time to check out the latest catholic news pages and blogs. Oh, and who can resist those tantalizing head-lines on the Yahoo home-page. Yes, of course I want to see the shocking fashion disaster on the latest red carpet…who doesn`t?!

I read recently (I don`t know where!) that our theology is affected by the emphasis we place on either truth or love. Oh no, yet another dividing line to categorize Catholics. Truth and love are central to our faith. How can we think of placing them in competition?

But, as is often the case, we build up a dichotomy by placing an undue emphasis on one to the detriment of the other. Church history is full of examples. The early councils concerned themselves with the heady question of the humanity and divinity of Jesus. They finally concluded that it`s not either-or, but both-and. Hard to wrap your head around, but such is the reality of mystery.

The reflection around truth-centered or love-centered theology goes something like this. Those who focus on the truth are more concerned about rules and regulations. Faithfulness is measured by obedience to the teachings of the church in all matters.

Those who focus on love are less concerned about dogmas, doctrines and ritual and more concerned about social justice and living the gospel in the world.

We have to be wary of any generalizations or over-simplifications. But, there is some truth (!) in this observation. And, as with other unnecessary dichotomies, they occur when we take the pendulum and swing it too aggressively in one direction or the other. And when we hang around on the extreme edges too long, the judging often begins. Traditionalists accuse the progressives of apostasy or heresy. Progressives accuse traditionalists of having a lack of gospel charity.

There is beauty and harmony when truth and love are in balance. How well do we balance truth and love in our own lives? Do you know someone who exemplifies this balance? What does their faith look like?

Set-decorator Catholicism: The common traits of set-decorators | National Catholic Reporter

The first common characteristic of set-decorators is their affinity for surfaces. Professing commitment to the depths of the faith, they are obsessed with rustling cassocks, billowing capes, sounding bells and bows, the stuff, in short, with which they can redecorate the set of hierarchical Catholicism. If they build it, these clerics believe, the people will come.

via Set-decorator Catholicism: The common traits of set-decorators | National Catholic Reporter.

Have you ever read a piece of writing that had your head-a-bobbing in agreement? Have you ever been drawn into a metaphor so strongly that you are torn between lingering on each image and speed-reading to see what happens next? The above article is part two of a lengthy essay written by Eugene Cullen Kennedy. I read the first part  while on holidays and was itching to share it on this blog.

Kennedy uses the term `set-decorators`for those clerics who embrace the pre-Vatican II liturgical style of ritual, pomp and finery. The focus on fine fabrics and lace is only one aspect of this clerical culture. It also promotes an old-school style of authoritarianism that views the laity as disobedient children, and a style of leadership that allows no questioning or dialogue. The young seminarians who embrace this style of priesthood have one eye always open on future promotions in the Church. And there is more…

As always, the discussion board is a mixed bag of reactions. Readers love it or hate it. What do you think?