arrogant catholics

Love is not boastful

It is important for Christians to show their love by the way they treat family members who are less knowledgeable about the faith, weak or less sure in their convictions. At times the opposite occurs: the supposedly mature believers within the family become unbearably arrogant. (Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia 98)

Pride and arrogance are never pretty. Pride and arrogance in a Christian are not only ugly, but also go against all that Jesus modelled in both word and deed. Pope Francis often echoes Jesus’s zealous criticism of the Pharisees of his day, challenging modern Catholics to judge less and dialogue more.

The recent death of Mother Angelica, the founder of EWTN, has prompted a discussion on the legacy she has left behind.

On the one hand, this conservative nun built a media empire that was the envy of many American bishops. This anti-feminist woman showed that women can, indeed, be a powerful voice in the church.

On the other hand, her brand of ultra-orthodox Catholicism rankled many. Behind her folksy speaking style was a harsh, judgmental view of Catholics who did not live up to the high religious, cultural and moral standards promoted on her network.

Many years ago, I used to watch a lot of EWTN. There was some good, solid catechetical programming. The daily liturgies and prayers are, I’m sure, beneficial to many shut-ins. But, I was quickly turned off by the zealous orthodoxy of some of its presenters, including Mother Angelica herself. Interviewers and interviewees fed each other on a constant diet of “spot the heresy” and “point out the sin” in liturgical practise, doctrine, and the daily lives of ordinary women and men.

There is a big difference in seeking perfection in our own faith lives, and spending our lives scrutinizing the imperfections of others. Self-appointed heresy hunting is seldom wrapped in a cloak of charity and humility.

Father Thomas Rosica C.S.B. is also a founder of a Catholic media network, Salt and Light TV here in Canada.  (In my humble opinion, Salt and Light TV is to EWTN what BBC News is to Fox News.) Father Rosica is a respected scripture scholar and communicator, and also works for the Vatican Press office as a spokesperson for English speaking media.

On May 11, 2016, Fr. Rosica received the St. Francis DeSales Distinguished Communicator Award. His Keynote Address is a brilliant synopsis of the change in tone and “branding” of the Church under Pope Francis. You can watch or read the full speech online at Salt and Light TV.

In his address, Rosica describes the culture of encounter and dialogue promoted by Pope Francis. Francis is showing to the world what we, as Catholics, stand for rather than repeating a long list of things we are against. Our pope preaches about the need to care for the poor, the marginalized, the migrants and refugees. He promotes care for the environment and the need for mercy in both the world and the church.

When speaking about the “Digital World and Catholic Blogosphere”, the usually calm Rosica gives an emotional observation of the harm being done by some overly zealous Catholics online.

It (the internet) can be an international weapon of mass destruction, crossing time zones, borders and space. In its wake is character assassination, destruction of reputation, calumny, libel, slander and defamation.

Instead of using the internet as a graced platform for evangelization, those who partake in this character assassination have,

…turned it into a graveyard of corpses strewn all around. Often times the obsessed, scrupulous, self-appointed, nostalgia-hankering virtual guardians of faith or of liturgical practices are very disturbed, broken and angry individuals, who never found a platform or pulpit in real life and so resort to the Internet and become trolling pontiffs and holy executioners! In reality they are deeply troubled, sad and angry people. We must pray for them, for their healing and conversion!

These are harsh words coming from a man skilled in diplomatic communications. For this reason, his words aren’t to be taken lightly.

I’ve written before about the heresy hunters that troll Catholic sites looking for victims for their inquisitorial endeavours. (I’ve been a victim myself.) The wonderful discussion boards at the National Catholic Reporter are often high-jacked by these self-righteous souls.

Pope Francis continues in Amoris Laetitia,

In family life, the logic of domination and competition about who is the most intelligent or powerful destroys love. (AM 98)

The logic of domination and competition about who is the holiest or purest destroys love in the church.

=====================

See also: EWTN: The Legacy of Mother Angelica  by Michael Sean Winters (National Catholic Reporter)

Can Catholic TV move beyond Mother Angelica’s legacy? by Raymond A. Schroth (National Catholic Reporter)

francis speaks out against clericalism…again!

Pope Francis continues to make daily head-lines that excite this liberal heart. Here’s one from yesterday, written by NCR’s Joshua J. McElwee,

Francis: Spirit works in laypeople, ‘is not property of the hierarchy’

On the one hand, it’s sad that this announcement makes head line news. Shouldn’t it be obvious that the Holy Spirit isn’t an exclusive gift to priests, bishops and popes? And, yet, how many times have we been led to believe that those with the sacred oils of ordination have a direct line to the Divine while we, the great unwashed in the pews, are wallowing in ignorance?

Ongoing Vatican reports on Pope Francis, like the one above, provide a path-way to a deeper understanding of Amoris Laetitia. As much as I have would have loved Francis to single-handedly sweep away all church teachings that have caused women and men to feel excluded from the Body of Christ, I also know that I would not want other popes to have this kind of power.

What Francis is doing is greater than simply changing laws. He is challenging minds and hearts to prepare the way for a more participatory, egalitarian and inclusive church.

Clericalism is the antithesis of a participatory, egalitarian and inclusive spirit. In the NCR story above, Francis called clericalism “one of the greatest deformations that Latin America must confront”. The context was a letter written to Cardinal Marc Ouellet in his role as head of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. The pope is obviously well acquainted with the church in Latin America, and feels strongly about the issues that he is addressing.

Francis speaks often about the evils of clericalism, and the damage it has imposed on the church. In the letter , he writes,

Clericalism, far from giving impulse to diverse contributions and proposals, turns off, little by little, the prophetic fire from which the entire Church is called to give testimony in the heart of its peoples…Clericalism forgets that the visibility and the sacramentality of the Church belongs to all the people of God and not only an elect or illuminated few.

One of the most quoted lines from Amoris Laetitia is,

We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them. AL, 37.

In the letter to Cardinal Ouellet, He writes,

We trust in our people, in their memory and in their ‘sense of smell,’ we trust that the Holy Spirit works in and with them, and that this Spirit is not only the ‘property’ of the ecclesial hierarchy.

The Holy Spirit works in each of us? We might have better knowledge than a priest of what is right and wrong in our own situation? Who would have known!

Clericalism IS at the heart of much that is wrong with our church. Clericalism feeds, supports and shelters the power and control that has been associated with the hierarchy for centuries. Clericalism wraps itself in finery and surrounds itself with symbols of prestige. Clericalism demands to be served rather than to serve.

Francis is nudging the People of God to an adult faith, a faith that sheds an unhealthy and dysfunctional dependence on “Father”. Father does not always know best. Clericalism stifles the independence and freedom needed to be formed into spiritually, emotionally, physically and intellectually mature women and men.

Fr. Richard McBrien, theologian and church expert, dies at 78 | National Catholic Reporter

Fr. Richard McBrien, who as a scholar brought distinction to a university theology department and who as an author and often-interviewed popular expert explained the Catholic church to the wider world, died early Sunday morning. He was 78.

via Fr. Richard McBrien, theologian and church expert, dies at 78 | National Catholic Reporter.

Here on the Canadian prairies,  the Prairie Messenger has long been our source for Catholic news. The weekly newspaper provides us with local, national and international coverage of current affairs in both the world and the church. It is also a rich depository of varied voices in its columns. Over the years, writers like Fr. Andrew Greeley, Sr. Joan Chittister, Eugene Kennedy and Fr. Richard McBrien challenged readers to embrace the church with an adult faith. This required going beyond an unquestioning obedience or turning a blind eye to the human weaknesses of the institutional church. It meant bringing issues of faith and practice out into the open for honest dialogue and discussion.

As we moved further and further away from Vatican II, in years and in practice, ecclesial censorship attempted to silence these voices. The NCR article above describes Fr. McBrien’s experiences with this censorship. One writer on the NCR discussion boards mused that censorship often comes from a mere 1% of the church’s population; the high and mighty who are more concerned about wielding power in the name of purity than promoting a healthy dialogue.

Sadly, NCR had to close the article’s comment board because of vicious and disrespectful attacks by some more traditional minded posters. The irony of these trolling heresy hunters calling themselves faithful Catholics and good Christians continues to amaze and sadden me.

Luckily for us, the Prairie Messenger never stopped publishing Fr. McBrien’s articles. The first time my simple column shared a page with this giant of a writer I was thrilled, honoured and humbled. Fr. Richard McBrien’s love of Catholicism while presenting thoughtful criticism is a model and inspiration for me and, I’m sure, for many progressive Catholics.

May he rest in eternal peace and joy.