Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Holy Week, Catholicism's Central Symbols, and Mourning: Mary Gail Frawley-O'Dea (and Andrew Sullivan)

Words of profound wisdom from Mary Gail Frawley-O'Dea about how the failure of Catholics to mourn in the midst of the abuse crisis impedes healing, gives us the surface illusion that surface solutions to deep problems will be sufficient, and plays into the very obsession with power on the part of church leaders that is the heart of the abuse:

Failure to mourn is rampant so external truths are sacrificed at the altar of inclusion in the club.   It is all hogwash, of course, and it all comes tumbling down like the world trade towers did when we rename the crisis as a centuries long attack on the teachings of Jesus perpetrated by an all-male kyriarchy whose primary consistency has been to maintain their own power no matter the cost to anyone.  Monarchical Catholicism and Jesus parted ways long ago and lots of people have pretended not to notice or have compromised their ability to think broadly and deeply, to trust their own spiritual compasses, to fashion their own authentic and personal relationship with the Divine and with Jesus of Nazareth who eschewed secular and even theological power when it was laid at his feet.

What we're called to mourn here strikes deep, because the betrayal itself is deep.  It is, as Andrew Sullivan suggests in his lead article in this week's Newsweek (and see also here), the horrible disfigurement of Christianity--of Jesus, who he was, what he said, and what he stood for--by many of the primary spokespersons for Christ in the world today.  A disfigurement that leaves many of us for whom the face of Jesus still grounds everything no choice except to walk away--and fast--from the very institution that claims to safeguard and offer that divine face and its mercy to us . . . .

As Sullivan suggests, adding to the mourning some Catholics have already begun to feel due to the revelations about the abuse crisis is our additional mourning that the leaders of our church, those precipitating the crisis by their abuse of power, appear incapable of mourning.  Instead of seeking to retrieve moral authority for the Catholic church and its message by entering into deep mourning--and, he proposes, resigning from their positions after we've learned what they've done in covering up sexual abuse of minors--the leaders of the Catholic church have doubled down on their hateful diversionary political attacks on carefully selected others, including gay and lesbian human beings:

The hierarchy was exposed as enabling, and then covering up, an international conspiracy to abuse and rape countless youths and children. I don’t know what greater indictment of a church’s authority there can be—except the refusal, even now, of the entire leadership to face their responsibility and resign. Instead, they obsess about others’ sex lives, about who is entitled to civil marriage, and about who pays for birth control in health insurance. Inequality, poverty, even the torture institutionalized by the government after 9/11: these issues attract far less of their public attention.

Leaving many Catholics with no choice except to mourn now the double betrayal of pastoral leadership, and the occlusion of the most central symbols of Catholic faith by those who claim to own and interpret those symbols for the rest of us in a unilateral way . . . .

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