Today’s blog explores the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, the Catholic Church, Lent, a new vision of Lent and the vision of New Church.
A Word from Matthew Fox
On the morning of Ash Wednesday, I received an email from Friends of Creation Spirituality, specifically, their founder and leader, Matthew Fox, and his official statement on the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. Here is an excerpt:
A Comment on Pope Benedict’s Resignation
by Matthew Fox
In many regards my Good Bye salute to Pope Benedict XVI is to be found in my book, “The Pope’s War: How Ratzinger’s Crusade Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved” where I put the past 42 years of the papacy in perspective. There I catalogue his unenvious track record of killing of theology and silencing of 105 theologians. History will remember Benedict for bringing back the Inquisition and emasculating the great Christ-like movement of Liberation Theology and for ignoring for decades the facts of priestly pedophilia. After all the buck stopped at his desk as head of CDF and he was apparently too busy to address that horrible reality since he was so preoccupied with playing the 20th century Torquemada and hounding theologians smarter, more generous, more creative and more brilliant than himself in order to shut them up.
The lack of conscience in the Yes men he and JPII appointed to positions of decision making means that no Catholic should be holding their breath expecting the Holy Spirit to elect a decent leader. The church as we know it is finished and that is a blessing in itself. The Holy Spirit expects us to move beyond Imperial Religion to the essence of Jesus’ teachings: Do it to the least and you do it to me….
Time to move from religion to spirituality. Especially creation spirituality which nourishes our mystical AND prophetic souls for carrying on the work of peace and justice in our time.
Behind Fox’s comments, I hear his own unhealed hurt, anger and frustration over the Institution’s inability to be open to the mystical and prophetic Spirit of change that has been sweeping the Church for the past century. And, Matthew Fox is not alone in this hurt.
Hope in a New Church?
I, like Fox, have forsaken any hope of change coming forth out of the Institution and as he mentions, JPII and Benedict have stacked the cards so as to insure the continuation of a conservative, nostalgic, “reform of the reform.” The prophetic, mystical, spiritually and emotionally healthy, justice-oriented church that many (including myself) long for is not likely to come out of Rome. Instead, the NEW CHURCH that is being born will come out of the people….people like you and me that long for collaboration instead of hierarchy, a focus on love instead of fear, a God that is bigger than the Old Man in the Sky, a Church that honors the unique gifts and vocational call of WOMEN as well as men, GAY as well as straight, MARRIED as well as celibate. And most importantly, a church that takes Jesus’ call seriously and seeks to BE THE LOVE that Jesus was and the LOVE that he calls us to be.
Let’s Start NOW with Lent
WE are the NEW CHURCH. And it starts NOW. TODAY. WITH LENT. For centuries, Lent has been the time that we focus our attention on our depraved, sinful, stained nature. The theology of Lent tells us we are imperfect and flawed and as such, undeserving of God’s love….UNLESS WE CONFESS OUR SINS, BEG FOR FORGIVENESS, REPENT, PRAY, FAST, ABSTAIN and offer alms to the poor. Lent teaches us that we did something to be deprived of God’s love, that God’s love is conditional and that in order to avoid the fires of hell, we have to spend eternity begging, pleading, wallowing, trying to earn back God’s meager love. For forty days, we are invited to wallow in self-loathing and covet our shame like Gollum coveting the ring. “My precious….” What if starting today….with this LENT, we did something different?
Lent in the NEW CHURCH
Starting today, I am suggesting a new theology of Lent. Instead of 40 days focusing on sin and retribution meted out by a harsh and judgmental God, let’s focus on God’s love. Let us take the next 40 days to REMEMBER how amazing and loving God is and that because we are made in the image and likeness of God, we are inherently perfect. More importantly, we are invited to remember that God is love and that it is out of God’s love that we have been made. As such, we are the very essence of LOVE itself. Of course, there is the human condition and as a result, we frequently forget this LOVE that we are and in that forgetting, we experience fear which leads to non-loving and non-peaceful acts. Instead of wallowing in the shame around these acts, let us remember that in God’s love, we are freed of our fears and no longer compelled to act in non-loving or non-peaceful ways. Instead of flogging ourselves with the Cat of Nine Tails in penitence, let us focus on the Love of God and allow ourselves to more fully remember this love within us.
Help for the NEW LENT
My book, Authentic Freedom – Claiming a Life of Contentment and Joy is a fabulous resource for a NEW LENT in the NEW CHURCH. Through the process of Authentic Freedom, we are invited to remember the DIVINE TRUTHS that allow us to live as peaceful, loving, contented and fulfilled human beings. We recognize our non-loving and non-peaceful behaviors as stemming from our spiritual fears, the fears that come forth out of our false-perception of separation from God and we are given effect tools for transcending these fears so that we can REMEMBER the LOVE of God and remember the LOVE THAT WE ARE.
Goodbyes and Hellos
So as we bid adieu to Benedict, let us accept this opportunity to begin the NEW CHURCH TODAY….and say Hello to a church of love, service and justice….starting with US.
Authentic Freedom Ministries