Friday, January 18, 2008

Christian Unity Week

Today starts the "week of prayer for Christian unity," with the theme "Pray without Ceasing." I have a special intention for this week of prayer. It is for the members of a schismatic group which calls itself the "Reformed Catholic Church." They operate pretty much under the radar, but they are organizing parishes, dioceses and even religious orders, using all the familiar structures, language and rituals. (The unfamiliar part would be the ordination of women, the recognition of same-sex unions as marriage, the acceptance of abortion under certain circumstances; things like that.) They are not "reformers" in the way of the Protestant reformers, who thought they were bringing the Church and its practices back in line with earlier, purer forms. These new, would-be reformers have set up what they think the Church of Christ "ought" to be like. That being the case, it is not surprising that their vision coincides on a remarkable number of points with the spirit of the age. Also unsurprisingly, they made sure that their bishops (so far, all seem to be male) received valid Orders, so that the Catholic Church (the original one) will have to take them seriously.
It would be easy to condemn this group and its adherents out of hand: there is a certain pitiful pride in their press releases and blog posts. The leaders of this movement clearly believe that they are to our age what Francis of Assisi was to his: called to "rebuild the Church."
And to create yet another break within the Body of Christ...isn't that a tip-off that something has gone very wrong?
But I can understand why some people may latch on to something so obviously delusional: people whose marriages or partnerships cannot be recognized by the Church might grasp at the chance to preserve their Catholic identity and a cherished relationship; women who strongly desire the priesthood and do not adequately understand why the Catholic Church cannot ordain them might convince themselves that Orders would be valid in a splinter Church; people who (again, it is so tied in with not understanding the mystery the Church is living in!) think of Catholic life in political, rather than sacramental, terms, and so read everything in a lens of "exclusion" and "inclusion" might well want to preserve the familiar rites while rescripting their context.
In a way, it all comes down to the dread fear of conversion, and none of us are really free of that. Many of us may be free in the particular areas of conversion that the "Reformed Catholic Church" manages to bypass, but none of us relishes the idea of having to face our own resistance to grace and our own blindness when it comes to good and evil.
This week of prayer for Christian Unity, which culminates in the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, can be a week of prayer also for openness to the Lord's ongoing gift of conversion and repentance--for all of us.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Might many of the leaders of the Reformed Catholic Church be former nuns and/or priests?

osf said...

St. Francis "rebuilt" the Church through holiness and penance. That's probably what our times call for, too. (And all times!)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. If even a handful of Catholic bloggers were as articulate and thoughtful as you are, the Web would be known for the saving of souls instead of being a source of damnation.

Anonymous said...

It is very sad to think of a further splintering of Church unity. Probably the people in this movement believed that the disunity was already there, and that this was a way to resolve it. I'm sure they acted in sincerity and good will, but like you say, with a good bit of self-deception (wishful thinking?) involved. It can be hard, scary even, to communicate the whole truth about Church teaching to people when their emotional lives are so invested in the very thing that needs converting!

xaipe said...

Anonymous #1, oh, goodness. I wouldn't exactly characterize the internet as a place of damnation! There are enormous resources for good, and lots of people using the internet for evangelization!

Anonymous said...

The title of your blog about the Reformed Catholic Church could well be rephrased "Christian Unity WEAK". anon

Veritas said...

Sometimes I get a bit disheartened when I hear or read of yet another splinter group, but then I remember the words of the Christ before His Ascension and His assurance of the Holy Spirit's presence and guidance and then I feel encouraged.
I will pray for this group and indeed for all within the body of Christ. It's good to read of others' concern while sharing our hopes too.

xaipe said...

Veritas, I really hesitated before, during and after writing this post, for that very reason: fearing to add a discouraging, discordant note. But I also thought it important that people be aware that this is happening, because it is so deceptive, so alluring to those who perhaps most need to hear the bracing word of Church teaching. And also so that we would all be even more motivated to pray for those who are involved in this. Thanks for your comment.

Anonymous said...

This "mystery" (of misogyny perpetuated by the patriarchy and trapped in human and antiquated values) is no mystery. It's people justifying holding other people down using religion. And it makes me sick.

xaipe said...

There is plenty that is wrong, and even more that is distasteful, in the way we human beings deal with one another, especially in the name of what is sacred. We are ingenious in our forms of selfishness! But "No one can lay hold of anything unless it is given from above." That's what John the Baptizer said when it became clear that Jesus was "drawing everything to himself." When there are times when I see things in the Church (at any level) go in directions I would not send them (if I were God!), I recall these words of John. That's because I believe in an actual God who is over all. I do not see life in the Church as simply another political arrangement. I worked for the Vatican for a while, and that experience only convinced me even more that were the Church a merely human, political institution, it could not have survived this long. I am sorry, anonymous, that you are sickened by what you see in the Church. If we were to live more faithfully in response to the universal call to holiness, perhaps we would be more effective in bringing God's beauty to light for you, even in the human limitations we cannot avoid, even though the sacramental reality we are trying to live looks like an injustice. It may have been exercised in unjust ways, but that doesn't alter the objective reality. It really is a mystery.

TOB woman said...

"The early stages of 20th century feminism drew unfortunate parallels between masculinity and patriarchy, but it is important to keep in mind that they are not the same thing. The masculine, like the feminine, is an inner energy, a form of consciousness. It is what Jung called Logos, and it incorporates judgment, discrimination, reason and a will to action. Since the dawn of patriarchy, we have not culturally or individually experienced a healthy, authentic masculinity. It has been relegated to the same dark underworld as the feminine by the insistence on power as the overriding force in patriarchal cultures." (Kathleen A. Brehony, Ph.D.) (Clinical Psychologist)
So it's a mistake to see "patriarchal oppression" where there is a firm distinction between masculine and feminine.

ari said...

I don't think that the Reformed Catholic Church and the Protestants of "yore" are quite as different as you suggest. "Sola scriptura" may have been the equivelant to modern-day acceptance of same-sex relationships... I do think that both groups have broken unity in Christ's own body.

I must add that I am a Protestant, but that the more I read, the more troubled I am!