PMS 5: Why Can’t Catholics Be More Like Episcopalians?
The Washington Post runs yet another in its growing number of Papal Malarkey Syndrome articles on its “On Faith” page. This one is from Annie Selak, who is described as a “Lay minister in the Roman Catholic Church and specializes in the question of young adults and vocation in the modern world.” Her LinkedIn page says she’s “Rector at University of Notre Dame,” whatever “rector” means in this context.* She purports to give us the Young Catholic’s View of what the Church needs in its next pope:
- A church that takes our experience seriously: If you dig through church teaching, you can see that experience is a valid and necessary aspect of forming conscience. However, it does not feel like that is the case. Whether it is the sexual abuse crisis or new translation of the Roman Missal, the church seems distant from what is actually going on in the world. We want the church to ask the questions we are asking, rather than ones that seem trivial at best and irrelevant at worst. Catholicism can recover from mistakes, but one thing the church cannot recover from is being irrelevant.
Yes, the Catholic Church is always avoiding the big questions: sin and salvation, meaning and purpose in life, the nature of reality and God, right and wrong. I grok her pain. (For those of you not up on your hip lingo, “grok” means “I understand” or “I empathize,” etc. It was really big in the early-to-mid 1960s after the publication of Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, from which it is taken. To “grok” and be “grokked” used to be the height of relevance, and used to show that you were Relevant to Youth Culture. Now, not so much.)
What she really means, of course, is that the Catholic Church hasn’t given in to the Zeitgeist, which she makes clear in her next paragraph:
-A church that emphasizes the inclusive ministry of Jesus: Jesus was incredible, right? Why is it that we so rarely hear about that? Jesus consistently reached out to those marginalized from the community, yet the church does not follow suit. Who are the marginalized today? Most young Catholics are quick to point to two groups: women and people who do not identify as heterosexual. Regardless of political leanings, there is an overwhelming consensus that the church needs to do better in these areas. The Vatican has repeatedly shut down any dialogue surrounding the ordination of women and church teaching on homosexuality. At the very least, these issues need to be opened up to a thoughtful, informed dialogue that includes historical analysis, social sciences, tradition and Scripture (notably, all areas the church affirms in the formation of conscience). There is an urgency to these issues, as these are not nameless people on the margins, these are our friends, family members, mentors,and leaders. One of the things that draws young people to the Gospel is the inclusivity of Jesus; how is it that the exclusivity of the church turns people away?
Yeah, that’s the Vatican all over. Refusing to endlessly litigate stuff and Get Right with the Culture, failing to listen to members who want to Speak Truth to Power, ignoring the Assured Results of Science (or the Scientific Consensus, if you prefer).
-A church that embraces that God is everywhere: The younger generation of the church resonates with the universal notion of Catholicism. We see diversity and unity as two concepts that go together, rather than being opposites. Moreover, we recognize the importance of other religions. Some of Pope Benedict XVI’s biggest missteps related to his interactions with other religions. But young Catholics have grown up alongside people from different religions who are some of the holiest people we know. Nostra Aetate, Vatican II’s “Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions” affirms that God is present in other religions, yet you would be hard-pressed to find anyone in the pews on a Sunday morning who knows this. We need to affirm and emphasize that God is present in other religions and sincerely work on improving our relationships with them.
All that “Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life” stuff gets sooooooo old!
-A church that engages struggles and is open to dialogue: We want to wrestle with the hard questions of how our experience interacts with Scripture and tradition. Yet, it feels like young Catholics are alone in this desire. Many young people respond to this vacuum in two ways: by either taking everything the hierarchy says as absolute truth or completely disregarding the church. Neither of these responses are what the church actually calls us to do. We do not need answers; we need to engage the world. We do not want to be spoon-fed theology. Rather, we want to wrestle, grapple, use our minds, engage our hearts, debate, think and pray. And we want our church to do that with us.
So, let’s sum up shall we? It isn’t hard, actually: she wants the Catholic Church to be more like the Episcopalians, because that’s the church to which all the Young People are flocking.
*Checked after I posted. It means she’s in charge of one of the women’s dorms.
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