Sunday, December 4, 2011

Catholics Occupying Things

For those interested, an Occupy, Catholics! group has been formed.  Its website is here, with a helpful set of links to various other sites that tie into the Occupy movement.  And it also now has a Facebook group.

I gather that the primary goal of Occupy, Catholics! is to muster Catholic support for the Occupy movement, and to demonstrate that Catholics can play (and already are playing) a key role in supporting the movement.  And that's very good.  If I had my druthers, though, the group would also focus intently on Occupying the Catholic church itself.

The Austrian and Belgian initiatives to which I provided links yesterday demonstrate to me (and, I hope, to others) how deep the hunger reaches for lay Catholics to own our church, before it's too late to have any real effect in reversing the church's precipitous decline.  And I have to say, I'm growing weary of the milquetoast (and, often, downright mendacious) response of many Catholic liberals to what's happening in our church.

I've just read an exchange at Facebook between two of my grad school classmates who have gone far in institutional Catholic circles, if "far" is judged by securing cushy jobs in Catholic universities, wielding power in influential Catholic academic organizations, and through that power, gaining high-profile access to the mainstream media.  All of which was easier for these classmates than for their lay fellow students, because they happen to be religious and therefore happened to have entree, when they sought jobs and power positions following graduation.  And they're still talking about whether Vatican II is being reversed, as if that's the most pertinent theological or pastoral question around, at a time in which people are walking away from the church in droves, as fast as they can walk, Vatican II or no Vatican II, "new" liturgy or old liturgy.

My point: much of the analysis of the malaise of our church right now among centrist Catholics comes nowhere near recognizing how dire the pastoral situation is for many of their fellow Catholics, for whom the key questions are no longer whether we should be intoning "consubstantial" or "one in being with," but for whom the key questions are about finding and sustaining any sense of divine presence at all in a church that has revealed such a savage face to many of its own followers and to the world in general.  Many centrist Catholics have not yet caught on to their own complicity in the savagery--and so they are doing far too little to reverse it, as the savagery consumes alive the souls of many of their fellow Catholics.

It's time to Occupy our own church, and perhaps then we'll have some effect when we join Occupy movements that call for greater justice in society as a whole.  I'm really tired of having going-nowhere one-way conversations with fellow Catholics of the center, who lament the "new" liturgy while informing me that I must be crazy to imagine the church shows a savage face to gay folks, when their own parishes  in places like suburban New York City or Yale are full of the gays.  

Total denial that simply annihilates the witness of thousands and thousands of wounded gay and lesbian Catholics (and thousands and thousands of other Catholics wounded for equally serious reasons): this will do absolutely nothing to heal a badly wounded church, while we chatter at our comfortable centrist Catholic blogsites about the shortcomings of the new liturgy.

And speaking of badly wounded: when articles like this scathing report about who knew what when in the sordid Kansas City story now become routine in mainstream conservative-tinged media outlets like Reuters, the institutional leaders of the Catholic church have really seriously shot themselves in the feet.  Lose allies like Reuters, and you've not only lost the moral center of your society: you've lost your entree in circles of power on which you counted to assist you in keeping the public from seeing how badly you've forfeited the moral center.

Finally (and back to the Occupy movement), I find the support of artists, poets, writers, musicians, etc. for the Occupy movement particularly encouraging.  Creative people are the canary in the coal mine in most societies, and when they get on board with a movement of social protest like the Occupy movement, that means it's beginning to make a real impact on the imagination of people who have the ability to reshape the imagination of society at large.  As the NME site noted recently, musicians have now organized an Occupymusicians group to support the movement.

Things are happening.  Through the dark chasms that have opened in many societies in recent years as a result of gross economic and social injustice, tender new life is springing up.  And I find hope in that development, this Advent season.

The video: the Dominicans of Blackfriars, Oxford, singing "Rorate Coeli Desuper," a traditional Advent song in the Catholic church which gives voice to the longing for justice among the people of God (echoing Isaiah).

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