Sunday, September 12, 2010

Singing in a Strange Land: Claire Bangasser on Grieving the Fate of Vatican II

I'd like to draw attention today to the latest posting at Claire Bangasser's wonderful blog, A Seat at the Table.  Claire writes about the grief that many of us experience now, as we look back at what we saw happening with Vatican II, and the church we now see in front of us all these years later--after the restorationist regime of John Paul II and Benedict not only stopped Vatican II's reforms in their tracks, but turned them back.

Here's the heart of her statement:

It is fascinating really. Between 2,100 and 2,300 people attended Vatican II, plus many experts and representatives of other denominations. All together, eight documents were published, all endorsed by those people attending. Ever since, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, nearly single-handedly, with the help of their staff, have rolled back many of the decisions endorsed by more than two thousand men.

Last night, then, as I took in the blog title above, I realized that I have been grieving the demise of Vatican II for a long long time. I am not alone in this. I wondered, therefore, whether it would not be healthy and important to choose a day for acting out this grief, alone or together. Maybe this day for me is today.

And here's my response (posted as a comment at Claire's blog): 

Claire, thank you for a wonderful posting. You've put your finger on something I'm struggling with right now, too--and hadn't yet been able to identify.

I've re-read today the thread at Anne Rice's Facebook page in which she explains why her devotion to Christ forces her to renounce the name Christian right now.

And I'm beginning to understand what she wants to say with that renunciation, in a new way. When I blogged yesterday at my site about the different way in which the U.S. Catholic hierarchy has treated Newt Gingrich in the past year, and one person after another supporting women's ordination, it began to hit me in a stark way: how can one stay with a system like this?

Whose priorities are so obviously distorted? Far from the gospel?

I'm not entirely sure of the answer. What I'm sure of is that I'm really very tired right now--tired most of all of the insupportable disparity between what I think the church believes at its core, and the behavior I see exemplified in our pastoral leaders.

And the silent complicity of too many of my brother and sister believers, who make me feel as if I am simply not wanted, with my questions about why we don't address that huge, insupportable disparity. Thanks for giving a voice to some of what I am feeling too, these days. Grief is definitely the right word. 

I begin to understand--very sharply so--why Anne Rice has taken the step she has taken.  It grows increasingly difficult for me to remain connected to a church that belies its core principles in such gross ways at this point in history.

And I'm speaking here not just of the hierarchy.  Or not even especially of the hierarchy.  What is increasingly difficult to sustain is the attitude of nonchalant disengagement on the part of many Catholics today, including--and especially--those most publicly committed to ministry, theological dialogue, and decoding the church's teachings for the public sector.

Those folks do not intend to give a place in their dialogues to their progressive brothers and sisters and the uncomfortable questions we want to raise.  They don't even intend to engage us or treat us as if the questions we raise count--or as if we are there in the room. They intend to go on talking about communion and love and human rights and God's salvific plan for the entire cosmos and every person in it as if a group of their brothers and sisters simply doesn't exist.

They don't intend to ask the hard, inescapable question of why so many folks have left the church at this point in history.  And they don't intend to engage in the hard, inescapable pastoral (and apologetic) task of listening to the testimony of those who have left, of figuring out what it is about the behavior of the church's pastoral leaders and its significant lay spokespersons that is provoking the exodus. 

It seems better, under these circumstances, to exit the room and work on behalf of the church's core ideals somewhere else and in some other way than the usual ways--the usual ways now offered to us by the powers that be within the hierarchy and the church's intellectual elite.  Outside the church.  Because remaining connected to it corrupts the soul and obscures the ideals for which many of us intend to struggle, precisely because the church and its reading of the gospels has pointed us on that journey.

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