Rev. Jim Ryan, M.Div., Ph.D. firstname.lastname@example.org
Not that anyone cares, but I will not read the McCarrick Report, not a synopsis, not an abstract, not an article about it, not one page, not one word. Get the picture? Who needs to fill one’s brain with one more piece of evidence about Roman Catholic Episcopal malfeasance and criminality? Who needs to acknowledge the legitimacy of a group of men given the title bishop who couldn’t wait to fawn all over the pseudo-Christian Donald Trump and to congratulate him in 2016 for his “tremendous” even “landslide” win of the Presidency, but who don’t seem to know who President-elect Joe Biden is? The emptiness of their vapidness would cause one to shudder if one cared. All I need do now is connect them with the now discredited Pope John Paul II and I will get requests from a few people to be removed from this distribution list.
When it comes to faith, identity, and evidence of ethical integrity we live in a topsy-turvy world where church has little to do with institution, hierarchy, and yes misogyny, and everything to do with being a gathering of believers who treasure one another rather than hanging on every word and directive of an anachronistic group of mostly old, mostly white, did I mention all male so-called prelates? Do you want to know what the church thinks, how the church decides, and why the church matters? Go no further than the gathering of people you believe in, have confidence in, the gathering you love. Do I need to say again what Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered in my Name….?” (Matthew 18:20)
So, a career climbing and sexually stunted predator turns out to be the same guy with the Cardinal’s red hat. And the intransigent, loyalty commanding, tunnel visioned and truth denying autocrat turns out to be the same guy with the Papal zucchetto. What else is new?
While hand-wringing over the future of the church may continue, I put my assurance in the living Word. Long since have we passed the time when true personal commitment in a community setting extends to no more than 35-45 persons. Institutional church has become a twitter feed. Sure, there can be 90 million (or is it 2 billion) followers but is that the group you want to be with, serve with, pray with in those times of challenge, conflict, tragedy and triumph?
Yes, it’s a topsy-turvy world. Bigness no longer represents connection. Sure, I’d love to return to St. Peter’s Basilica (like I’d like to return to the Eifel Tower), to be a part of a liturgical festival in Vatican Square. But does that mean I’ll live my life by the direction of a single man’s voice over a loudspeaker? I think not.
Community, real life-imparting community, is small. Coming to life changing decisions requires real human connection and being of service to others in need matters most in the setting of local community. Why else do all those fund-raising organizations gear their campaigns so that you feel like you are giving to one other person?
If all that matters actually happens in such a close, perhaps intimate setting, then why in the world would I hand over such meaning and connection to an institution whose leaders continue to practice the John Paul II litmus test of criminalizing women for making a most important of life decisions within the context of the community of their choosing?
This topsy-turvy world begins to turn right side up in one’s community of love, support, trust, and connection. The right sidedness of such community celebrates gathering in Jesus’ Name – regardless of those who claim to know from afar what’s right for you. We community members who gather confidently and with joy in each other’s company are Christ in and for the world.
Let the institution be reined in. Let it be curtailed from the make-believe of supposedly dealing with its cover-ups of criminal behavior of peers. Rather, let the freedom of the children of God transform and turn right side up the communities which are the settings of hope for their actual lives. We’ll know we’ve turned right side up when the institution reflects its people and not the other way around. So, let’s read the life of Jesus and leave it to others to read damning reports on their colleagues. When they get their house in order then we will be happy to accept them back into the community of the living Word.
A Prayer (JR)
Sender of gifts, bountiful provider of grace and blessing, we take time to give thanks –
For creation and its sustaining;
For life and its thriving;
For family, human and animal, and its supporting;
For faith and its believing;
For love and its presencing.
At this time of national transition we give thanks for a democracy that withstands assaults upon it and for citizens who protect what we have received for future generations.
May we share your wealth, loving Creator, with all your creatures, especially persons in need or in bad health.
Bless our gatherings in your Name. Amen!