Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Faithful Dissent?

Can there be such a thing as faithful dissent, or is that simply an oxymoron? I'd like to think it's possible to be a faithful Catholic while respectfully disagreeing with certain practices and policies. Typically those embrassing dissent come primarily from the extremes of the Church--both conservative and liberal. I tend to see myself pretty much in the middle (ok, maybe slightly right leaning) but here are some of my pet peeves:

Celibacy Requirement for Priesthood. The first thing to keep in mind here is that this is a discipline not a doctrine of the Church. It is primarily the Latin Rite that maintains this requirement and even in the Latin Rite there are married priests. Pope Benny can wake up tomorrow morning in his Vatican apartment and decide to end this discipline. Perhaps that's what is so frustrating. A man who is raised Anglican (or even Lutheran in some cases) and married & ordained in his denomination can convert to Catholicism and be ordained as a priest. The church will allow this for a convert, but if you're unfortunate enough to have been born Catholic this is not a possibility for you. I'd be at the seminary door tomorrow if this rule were changed. This is one of the primary reasons I left the Church to begin with, because I felt called to marriage and pastoral ministry (priesthood). I'm holding out hope for change. It needs to change; not because of a shortage of priests, nor because of the recent sexual misconduct scandals, but becuase I firmly believe God is calling men to both vocations and the Church is acting as a barrier. It is ironic that men who left the priesthood to get married have been treated more harshly by the Church than those guilty of abusing children. Don't tell me that God won't call you to both because they are not mutually exclusive.

Public Recitation of the Rosary. Ok, this may seem a bit odd, but bear with me. I am all for the Rosary and I'm all for public or group prayer. The problem is that the Rosary is best used as a means of mediative prayer--you're supposed to meditate on the mysteries. This is best done in private. I'd like to see devote Catholics learn and use the Liturgy of the Hours in public prayer as this is the public prayer of the Church. In fact, the Council Fathers emphasized the importance of the Hours in Chapter IV of Sacrosanctum Councilium even stating that laity "are encouraged to recite the divine office." Of course, this leads me to my next pet peeve...

Overemphasis on Mary & the Saints (boardinging on idolatry). This is one of those areas where the Church's formal teaching is correct, but there are a wide range of abuses that need clearer correction from the Magisterium. I believe in the communion of the saints. I have no problems with seeking their intercession. Mary as Mother of God is due a special honor by the children of the Church. Unfortunately, in reality there is a good amount of practical idolatry; and I'm not just talking about the weird crap that goes on in Latin America. It's been my expereince that many Catholics have an image of God as a taskmaster Judge keeping score of our rights & wrongs and generally disappointed with us. There's an unhealthy fear of God that causes many to feel that they must go to Mary & the Saints because they don't feel worthy of going to God directly. This causes people to worship Mary rather honor her. I've even heard of people developing a personal relationship with Mary while never thinking the same relationship is possible with Jesus. Too often the Church is too quiet or too slow to correct abuses and superstitions. Only when you have a healthy understanding of God can you have a healthy understanding of the communion of saints.

Technophobia. I know, this one isn't exactly a theological problem, but it's still a problem. Have you actually seen what passes as websites for some dioceses and parishes? OMG! It's the 21st century people, get with it. People do not rely on the Yellow Pages and phone calls to get information about your organization whether its a church, school or business. They rely on the internet and your online presence is often your first impression. I don't even think this is on the radar for most churches. My own parish's website (when it's up) is still advertising events for the fall of 2006! The Vatican's site actually isn't bad, and there are some dioceses and parishes that do a good job, but they're the exception to the rule.

Spectator Mentality. This is my last one (for now). There's an institutionalized segregation between the clergy & the laity, between the saints & the rest of us, that leads to a spectator mentality for most pew warmers. Now, this isn't necessarily confined to Catholicism. There is the old 80-20 rule--20% of the people do all the work while 80% consume it. However, by emphasizing the role of the clergy most lay people feel that doing ministry is not for them. By emphasizing stories of the Saints it's implied that only super-holy people have access to God for their prayers to work miracles. The Church needs to open up areas of non-sacramental ministry to the laity and actively train them & encourage them.


+ Alan said...

Aaahh, my brother, you know where I'm at. I hear you on all this stuff. And you know, I could add at least 3 or 4 more to the list. I'm just glad the Inquisition's not burnin' folks any more. :)

Kyle said...

I listened to an mp3 of the local "Theology on Tap" the other day, and the woman praying the invocation began, "Let's pray now for our Mother to be with us."

I laughed out loud.

Anonymous said...

Wow, one of the better blog posts I've read lately. I'm with you Tom on this stuff! If the Roman Church corrected some of these issues, I have a feeling there would be a bunch of Anglicans converting to the RCC.


tom said...

Thanks for the kind words fellas. I was thinking that much of the spectator mentality issue is just deeply rooted in the tradition of the church. For centuries the laity were largely uneducated and the ministry mentality of the church has failed to recognize that today's laity is often as qualified (in some cases more qualified) than some clergy.