Posts Tagged ‘Catholic Church’

But I still love the church

November 29, 2010

Several years ago, our monthly discussion group had a Mass around a coffee table in the lounge of a residence for religious. The celebrant poured wine into the chalice and set the bottle on the table. A few moments later he said, “We better move this bottle back to the counter otherwise we’ll consecrate the whole batch.” I remember wondering if he was joking, or if there  actually was some “rule” requiring that the bottle be moved.

Sometime after that, I read an article on invalid baptisms. Apparently some were baptizing using the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer, and of the Sanctifier.”  These baptisms would be invalid, the article said, since the words were not according to the formula, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

During the past week, there was an article on the mutual recognition of baptisms between the Roman Catholic Church and several Christian denominations. It was agreed that one need not be re-baptized if the proper formula was used and if documentation proclaiming the validity would be kept in the church records.

This last bit of information was a complete surprise to me. People are “received” into the Catholic church all the time without being re-baptized. Do we really do a validity background check? Does it matter?

I guess I take Saint Paul too seriously, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all”

Then I think back to the wine-on-the-table incident. Maybe the celebrant wasn’t joking after all. Perhaps the Holy Spirit really doesn’t know what she’s doing. Maybe it is the correct words for baptism  and the correct placement of wine bottles  that make the Sacraments work rather than the intent of those present. That the Holy Spirit comes forth only when the formula is correct to the last syllable and the ritual is followed to the tiniest movement.

So, one can only conclude that we worship a complete moron … in the eyes of the hierarchy. Can’t you picture the Holy Spirit descending toward the little infant surrounded by beaming parents and reverent godparents only to retreat with alarm and horror when she hears the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of …. ” Is there a cosmic alarm that goes off: ABORT BAPTISM! GRACE DENIED! ABORT BAPTISM! Is that poor kid going to go through life with the stain of Original Sin just because the recipe was botched?

But I still love the church and our local faith community no matter how silly things get in the front office.

Yes, it is easy to become distracted

May 2, 2010

In this morning’s New York Times is an article by Nicholas Kristof which is one of the more thoughtful reflections on the Catholic Church today I have ever read. He speaks so well about the true church, the people, and the relentless efforts by many day after day to fulfill our baptismal obligations, to care for the poor and others in need, to love one another.

Yes, it is easy to become distracted by the betrayal we have been (and continue to be?) subjected to by the clerical hierarchy of the church. But the people I minister to, men in maximum security prisons, aren’t concerned with what goes on in diocesan offices or in the Vatican. If the pope and all the bishops were to drop dead, their lives wouldn’t change; their hunger and need for encouragement, support, and spiritual sustenance wouldn’t be diminished.

When I am standing at a cell door, the temporal presence of the Roman Catholic Church exists in only two people: me and the man on the other side of the door. Building the kingdom, proclaiming the good news, is  a “now” phenomenon taking place at the micro level in millions of instances every second of the day all over the world. What the pope or bishops think or declare about anything isn’t really part of the picture. It seems that the work of the church goes on in spite of them rather than because of them.

That’s an unfair statement. The deposit of faith has been developed, clarified, and passed down throughout the centuries by the same type of people who seem so out of touch today. But what they do and what they teach are two separate things. Once the sheep learned to read, things began to unravel.

The gospel message began to be seen more clearly as getting lost in all the pomp, rituals, as well continued bogus claims about the origins of some of our sacraments. Elaborate schemes to maintain any and all vestiges of power while suppressing  prophetic voices questioning the mythology, are becoming more and more visible and, naturally, more repulsive.

Going through the Vatican museum a couple of weeks ago, I noticed my pace quickening as the reality of that whole farce sank in further and further. How did such a  self-serving charade ever get started? Certainly not from the gospels, the teachings and practices of Jesus.

We humans seem to be unimaginative when it comes to conferring importance on things or people we hold dear. Sacred objects need to be gold. Monuments to saints – even those dedicated to living with and for the poor – are soaring, domed, cavernous structures filled with marble masterpieces, vast frescoes and mosaics, and paintings by the masters. All priceless stuff.

Leadership of our faith tradition are given a hierarchical structure, titles, positions of power, fine places to live. Then, of course, they develop their own laws, norms of behavior, rules of obedience and secrecy, and declarations of infallibility  to keep those under their spiritual care out of the sanctuaries and where they belong.

Read the Kristof article if you can find the time.

But just watch …

March 25, 2010

If members of a faith tradition are being excluded (see article in NCRonline and those following) because of a particular teaching within that tradition, one has to wonder: Upon what authority is the teaching based? I’m trying to think of an instance where the one whom the Christian tradition claims to follow excluded anyone. Maybe that’s expecting too much of church leaders.


Headlines throughout the day reported threats of violence and death against Democratic members of congress following the passage of the overall of health care  legislation. It would be a stretch to say that the threats are against both parties. A stray bullet hit an unmarked building holding an office of Eric Cantor R-VA, hardly the same.


Over the weekend, Congressman John Lewis and others were given a trip down memory lane courtesy of some tea partyers. Anyone who thinks our nation is in a post-racial era, causes me to wonder what they read (assuming they do), who they listen to on the radio (one can only imagine), what network they watch on TV (surely not FOX News), where they live, who they hang out with, how well they know people of color.


I do have to apologize for not assigning many good intentions to our conservative friends in government and their base. November’s election will be an exercise in measuring how fearful and misinformed our nation’s electorate can be. For the life of me, I can’t understand how a party, guilty of such inept governance and leaving our country in such an incredible mess, would ever be voted back into positions of power. But just watch …

Which is more laughable?

February 6, 2010

Talk about a pendulum swing during this snowy Saturday!

The morning began with an opportunity for me to speak to a church group about the death penalty. This particular group meets once per month for an 8:00 pro-life Mass followed by a meeting. They had not covered the topic of capital punishment, at least not recently.

A few parents, who have sons on death row, were there on behalf of the Missourians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (MADP). The general discussion went very well with thoughtful questions and a sincere interest to learn more. Literature with information and website URLs was made available. One site they were encouraged to visit is the Death Penalty Information Center.

So, later in the day I received an email notice of a posting in NCRonline referring to former President George W. Bush’s receiving a pro-life award from a group of Catholic business men. I don’t know which is more laughable, Bush being seen as pro-life, or Catholic business men believing Bush’s behavior to be pro-life.

The Catholic Church sure has gotten into a rut. Seldom is there a public face put on anything other than abortion or stem cell research. There is, or course,  an occasional article on Catholic social teachings and social justice issues in archdiocesan papers, but that is not what I would call public dissemination. I don’t even know many Catholics who read them.

More needs to be done. Voices need to be raised. Besides pedophilia and abortion, I wonder what the public image is for the Catholic Church of the 21st century. Thank goodness for the Catholic Relief Services (CRS). They can single-handedly give the Church a good name.

I can’t help but believe that if a symphony orchestra played one note all evening, people would be walking out throughout the entire performance … and some rather early too. It is of little surprise, then, that people are drifting away from the Catholic Church.