An acquaintance forwarded me a recent article, written by a former Catholic priest, which chronicled his journey out of the priesthood as a result of the sex-scandal corruption that has been exposed in the Church’s hierarchy over the past several years. It deeply troubled me, yet it also invigorated a sense of hope. Those two emotions interlocked in a weaving circle of thoughts and reactions swimming in my mind…
The guy who sent it to me is not a believer in Christ. I think he’s an agnostic or atheist…which makes it more interesting that he enjoyed the article and thought about sending it my way. I thanked him for forwarding it to me, and asked him what he thought about it. We’ll see what he has to say. Perhaps he’s representative of many people today who would seem to have a favorable view of Jesus if not for some of His so-called followers. There’s a lot of talk today about people being “spiritual but not religious,” and I suppose in all honesty that I would put myself in that camp. I’m not against organized religion (another popular claim these days), understanding that the opposite end of that spectrum is merely self-centered ecclesiastical chaos. Besides, Jesus and His apostles certainly prescribed the basic functions of organization. My wife and I are active members in a semi-large congregational church, but we hold no illusion that its organized forms are sacred in and of themselves. Function and Form / Ordained and Manmade.
So what happens when the Church/churches cease to look like, sound like, and feel like Jesus? Many thinking individuals today have trouble believing in a message that has historically been associated with corrupted messengers – the latest example being altar boys and nuns sexually abused by deranged wolves in sheep’s clothing. Of course, for every story like this, there are thousands of faithful Catholic priests and laypeople who are serving the hungry & sick, living holy lives of true worship, deeply beloved and blessed by their Heavenly Father. I know and love some of them. But those aren’t the stories that we tend to see on the news or in the headlines.
The article ended with a few pages of the author’s dreams; which was encouraging because often when people complain, they don’t offer any alternatives. This is where the hope came in. He talked about wonderful examples of true faith. He also talked a lot about how things once were, in the Church that Jesus and His original followers started. It was EGALITARIAN…the author used that word. I forgot what it meant, so I Googled it…”The principle that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities.” That has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? It’s the way that Jesus believed and taught and commanded us to live our lives. His enemies were the power-brokers who wanted to protect their turf, and didn’t have room for His new message. It’s ironic how the tables sometimes turn when power and greed and a host of other sins are allowed to grow in a vacuum of vested interest.
I do wonder, if “Church” was to take on a radically different form more akin to its humble beginnings, how that might impact people’s views about the original teachings and ways of Jesus. Could we see a resurgence of faith and hope and love in our day? Could we see a greater reliance on the words of scripture than on manmade traditions that cover it over? Could we see more humility and transparency in a world of deceit? The author thought so, and so do I.
My favorite quotes from the article came from the final few paragraphs…some of his final parting shots:
“I want to be part of what brings about the liberation of the Church from the imperium that took it captive 1,700 years ago”
“The Church, whatever else it may be, is not the organizational apparatus. It is a community of memory, keeping alive the story of Jesus Christ. The Church is an in-the-flesh connection to him – or it is nothing.”
As long as there are people like that, who refuse to accept anything short of the way of Jesus, relying on God’s ongoing intervention to bring about “His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven,” then I would say that our hope is secure.
I’d be interested in your thoughts about this. Also, if you’re interested in reading the article, let me know and I’ll get it to you.
I’ll close with this passage, 2 Timothy 3:
“In the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these people also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.
You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings…yet from them all the Lord rescued me.Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned itand how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person of Godmay be complete, equipped for every good work.”