Today’s blog looks on in hopefulness over the actions of the new pope and over the course of the next several days, offers a challenge to the Catholic Church as to how it might reconcile itself to those who have left.
Seeds of Hope
To Vatican II minded Catholics, seeds of hope have been planted as we look upon the actions of the new pope, Pope Francis: rejecting the papal palace for a small apartment, washing the feet of prisoners on Holy Thursday, seeking to reform the bureaucratic structure of the Roman Curia, seeking preferential treatment for the poor, speaking to global issues of social justice, suggesting a return to the implementation of the Vatican II reforms – just to name a few. While the jury is still out, Pope Francis’ initial actions suggest a return to what the Church is supposed to be about in the first place – continuing the mission of Christ in the world – healing the sick, feeding the hungry, ministering to the poor, clothing the naked, healing the blind, working for justice, etc. etc. etc. While the former administration was busy dodging the consequences of their fearful, power-driven actions and trying to project the blame elsewhere (uppity lay people, women religious, secularism, capitalism, the influence of Eastern practices, etc.), it seems, at first glance, as if the new pope is more concerned about getting back to basics. Of course there is much in the way of reconciliation that still needs to happen, but Pope Francis’ initial actions inspire one to entertain thoughts of hopefulness.
An Uppity Lay Woman’s Challenge to the Church
As a woman who was raised Catholic, experienced nearly twelve years of a Catholic elementary and secondary education, completed seven years of ministerial training under the guidance of the Catholic Church and lovingly ministered in the Church for 10+ years, I have a few things to say about Catholicism. Even though for the past few years my attendance at mass has been at best, sporatic, I still passionately love my faith….more specifically, I love the faith I was raised in – a Vatican II minded, contemplative faith, centered in a personal relationship with Jesus, doing his work in the world and working toward compassion, harmony and justice. The polarization that took place within the last two administrations has been heartbreaking, to say the least. I wept as I witnessed the exodus of millions of Catholics who no longer felt welcome in their Church or just simply found in it nothing relevant to their own personal lives. It is my hope and my dream that with the new administration, some of the reasons for Catholics leaving might begin to change.
A causal, rather than a symptomatic approach to change
As Westerners, we have certain hot-button topics on our wished-for list of reforms: women’s ordination, married priesthood, gay marriage, contraception, and dealing with the fallout of the sex abuse scandal. I would offer that these issues are merely symptoms of deeper issues. Like the work I do with Authentic Freedom, I would suggest an approach to reform that goes to the ROOT CAUSE of disease, not just tackling the symptoms, but healing the Church at its unhealed spiritual wounds. By facilitating healing at the root cause, as I have witnessed with clients and students of Authentic Freedom, the outward symptoms of disease simply take care of themselves. If we confront the deeper spiritual issues, questions about women’s ordination, a married priesthood, contraception, gay marriage, will simply take care of themselves and the answers will become obvious…because no longer are we an institution ruled through fear, but one rooted in compassion and working for justice. At the end of the day, the issues that get our undies in a bundle all boil down to one question:
What would love do?
Original sin the original wound
In Authentic Freedom, we talk about the core spiritual wound of humanity. This wound, the false perception of separation from God, is the source of our fear and the origin of every non-loving act (toward ourselves, the earth and others). The Church, interpreting the Adam and Eve myth from the perspective of punishment, has called this wound original sin and placed it within the framework of an angry, punitive God and HIS disobedient children. Adam and Eve, our mythical ancestors, disobeyed God and were banished from paradise, and all the rest of humanity with them. We then, are condemned to spending the rest of our life (or eternity, depending on whether or not we believe in purgatory) earning back God’s fickle and conditional love so that we might someday enjoy the return to paradise. As Catholics, we are taught that seeking God’s love is not enough, we must appease the angry God through regular participation in the sacraments – the doorways to God’s grace with the Church holding the key. It is my contention that if the Church wants to heal itself and if it wants to be an effective vehicle for authentic healing and reconciliation in the world, it first needs to heal its perception of and teachings about original sin.
The Core Wound
Healing our perception of original sin allows us to recognize the perception of separation from God as necessary to the human condition and the consequence of choosing the opportunity to learn through being human. While this false perception of separation allows us to temporarily experience ourselves as unique, separate individuals, it also results in a longing that causes us to search – specifically, to search for a way to return to Source – to return to the love that we knew in our Oneness with God. At first, we seek outside ourselves for the remedy to this longing, but eventually we discover that there is nothing “out there” that eases the anxiety and restlessness of this longing and that the only remedy to this longing is to go within. No longer is original sin something to be held over our heads as a threat to eternal damnation, no longer are we inherently flawed or stained, no longer have we been banished by God and unworthy of God’s love until we participate in the sacraments, now we are the loved and adored children of God hungering to remember that love that we somehow forget in choosing the human condition. And the Church is no longer the gatekeeper to grace, but a compassionate and loving guide, sharing with its people all the many tools for remembering that place of Oneness with God – for remembering God’s love and that we are made of that love: spiritual practices of meditation, prayer, contemplation, mantra, chant, devotional practices, worship, art and architecture that inspire wonder and awe and spark our imaginations, poetry, parable, wisdom writings that speak to our souls, sacred writings, opportunities to serve, as well as the sacraments.
In the coming blogs, I will continue this discussion, specifically in regards to the tools at the disposal of the Catholic Church for helping us to ease the pain of longing and find a deep and abiding peace within in our remembered Oneness with God.