In the face of the most recent revelation of the deep culture of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, I wonder what will become of the Church. Ultimately, this may be the beginning of the end of institutional religion which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. However, in spite of all that is wrong with the Catholic Church, there is some good and if they can heal all that currently ails this 2000 year old institution, the Catholic Church has the potential for being a great force for good in the world. It will take a miracle to get there, but if Pope Francis (read Pope Francis’ response to the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report HERE) called me today and invited me in as a consultant on how to heal the Church, making it relevant and useful to the modern world, and he was willing to pay me a sh.t-ton of money to do so, I would undoubtedly say yes. So Pope Francis, in anticipation of your generous offer, 🙂 here are my thoughts on the first order of business in healing and reforming the Catholic Church:
The first order of business would be to get rid of the ridiculous notion of original sin! If we are made “in the image and likeness of God” and “loved without condition,” then how can we be sinners? Wounded and in need of healing? YES. But not inherently evil. Eliminating the projection of Saints Paul and Augustine ‘s unhealed shame will do two things a) eliminate the first source of manipulation used by the Church against its members and b) heal the shame Catholics have been conditioned to feel.
Eliminate the hierarchical priesthood. Fire them all. In their place, prepare, equip and empower the most powerful priesthood that the Church has so far only given lip-service to: THE PRIESTHOOD OF ALL BELIEVERS! Every single person on this planet (and in the Church) is uniquely gifted to be a vessel of Divine love in the world. Some are called to be teachers, preachers, facilitators of ritual, healers, counselors, artisans, leaders, pastors, sales people, administrators, financiers, etc. etc. etc. Support the LAITY is naming, claiming, and cultivating their unique giftedness and then empower them to use these gifts in service to the mission of love and the betterment of the world.
After 1 and 2, my sense is that the rest will simply take care of itself. Absent the shame that imprisons and controls, and empowered in our gifts, Jesus’ mission of love (the mission the Church claims as their own) will naturally and effortlessly be fulfilled. Scripture will be re-interpreted. Sacraments re-written. Liturgy will become vibrant and life-giving. The Catechism will be tossed out, along with Canon Law. Religious Education will be replaced with Spiritual Formation – the process through which people become self-actualized. Meditation and Contemplation will be at the center of all that is done. Baptism will become a ritual of celebration and welcome (not for the purpose of removing “the stain of original sin”). Confession will be replaced with Spiritual Counseling so that the unhealed wounds that cause our non-loving behaviors can once and for all be healed. All people will be ordained in their own gifts and mission. The people of the Church will work for justice and peace in our world and love will lead the way.