But I’m a Christian first!

Note: If you are really pleased with the Catholic Church as it is today, you may not want to  read any further.

 

There was an unexpected comment from inside a prison cell during my visit on Wednesday of last week:

“The one religion I have no use for is Catholic.” He’s Muslim.

“Really?” I said

“Catholics are creepy! All that sexual abuse of kids.”

“You know, I’m Catholic.”

“You are?”

“But I’m a Christian first!”

Ever since that exchange (and we did continue talking), I have wondered what prompted me to say that. My not identifying with the institutional church is certainly part of it. Wondering what bishops, cardinals, and the pope bring to the party is another part.

The thing that keeps me in the Catholic faith is that there is nowhere else to go. Also, I need to remember the influence of the Sacraments and of our tradition upon who I have become … along with God’s grace.

I’m simply not big on the hierarchy and all the pomp and trappings that go with it. I still imagine Jesus roaming around the Vatican or any diocesan office wondering how all this came out of his demonstrating and talking about leading a humble and loving life.

Our local bishop provides ceremonial, administrative, and managerial support to the faith communities in the archdiocese. That is good and necessary. But I don’t look to him for guidance in matters of faith and morals. I look to the members of our faith community under the guidance of our pastors.

To me, the bishops in this country have nothing to say. Perhaps they will someday, but for now their voice lacks credibility and is usually out of step with those in the pews. The corporate  insensitivity and cover-ups displayed toward the sexual abuse of our children can never be excused. Forgiven by some, but never excused.

I believe to be a good Catholic is to be a good Christian, to follow Jesus in his words and actions, to hear and keep the gospel message. Is that what we see and hear from the hierarchy? No.  What we see and hear is exclusion, intolerance, arrogance, a group that is tone-deaf, a group that fails to listen to the faithful (at least those of us without money).

We see and hear from the hierarchy an asymmetrical view of the human experience, an undue focus on sexual issues rather than on loving relationships. Other things in their portfolio of issues include abortion, gays, maintaining 7 Sacraments for men and only 6 Sacraments for women. Gee, that last issue said that way smacks of theological ignorance, except we know it’s all about power anyway and theology has nothing to do with it.

The U.S. bishops’ bi-annual inserting of themselves into the political process is nonsense and, as we have seen, can cause much damage through encouraging voting for those who are insufficiently pro-live, voting for those care more for the unborn than for breathing citizens in need. I should say that they claim to care for the unborn.

Our bishops also encouraged voting for and electing an administration filled with fear and vengeance rather than hope and forgiveness. But unthinking conservatism doe spawn more unthinking conservatism, and election time is just around the corner once more. The archbishop before this one thought the war in Iraq was a “just” war. And so it goes.

I could go on, but a conversation at a cell door does bring up many, many things to reflect upon.

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