Thursday, June 19, 2014

One Church? Universal Church?

This short essay is from a Catholic perspective--but don't let that freak you out. My views might not be that different from yours:

When we recite the Creed at mass we assert our belief in “one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” And we say that we “believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.” But too often the reality is that we in the Christian community are splintered into groups that don’t talk to each other and don’t trust each other. The very word “Catholic” comes from a Greek word that means “universal.” So all throughout our Creed we are professing a church that is one, unified, and universal.

This oneness and universality of the Church has been aggressively promoted by Pope Francis. In fact, he takes his campaign for unity beyond the Christian churches, Orthodox and Protestant Christians, to Islamic and Jewish leaders. This is not a new movement in the Church. This was one of the great thrusts of the Ecumenical Vatican Council, Vatican II, convened in 1962 by St. Pope John XXIII.

We should pray for mutual respect and mutual understanding both within the Christian community and with non-Christian churches. That was a goal of our most recently consecrated saint, John XXIII, and our current Pope, Francis.

On the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, we need to think about this issue of unity. When we receive the Eucharist we should remember that we as a community are the Body of Christ—let that body be one, united, universal!

*     *     *
After writing the above reflection, I was asked if somehow this issue connected to social justice concerns. It was then that I realized that I hadn't made my concerns explicit. They lurk between the lines--and maybe I was afraid to express them explicitly for fear of offending some people in the Church. The fact of the matter is that for my entire life (and most terribly in my youth) the Church has worked against unity, oneness, universality. In Catholic grade school I was told by some of my teachers that non-Catholics could not go to heaven. I once told that to my neighbor friend, Brian Cox. I hope Brian forgives me for that stupidity--I was echoing something I heard from an adult teacher. Also, we were forbidden from attending non-Catholic services as a kid. I bet I didn't attend a non-Catholic service until I was 23 years old. What were they afraid of? That my faith would be undermined or destroyed by going to a Methodist or Lutheran service? Well, maybe they were right. The stupid faith I had growing up would have been challenged indeed!

In more recent years I have been terribly offended and hurt by announcements in the church missal or from the pulpit that those who aren't Catholics cannot receive Communion, even when they believe almost the same things that we believe, even when they are Christians and people who live out the spirit of the Gospel. I have certain people in mind when I say this, people I work with in a church soup kitchen for the homeless--but I won't mention their names here. But in my mind, the Catholic church sins against the wishes of Jesus and the spirit of Christianity when it excludes my friends from Communion.

There are so many other examples of the Church sinning against unity/oneness/universality and not adhering to the guiding principle of "What would Jesus do?" I think especially of the discrimination against gay people, divorced people, and even former priests. A good friend of mine, a former priest of the Diocese of Erie, was excluded from Communion because he was not "laicized"--and he was not laicized because the Church put a hold on laicizing former priests, thinking (I imagine) that it would keep more priests from leaving. Ha ha!

So many sins of the church that I love! I want a welcoming Church!

No comments: