Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Cardinal Collins on Agitation of US Right for Congregational Worship During Pandemic: "Shallow" and "Absolutely Irresponsible"

The culture-war battles within the US Christian communities are so old, tired, enervating, aren't they? I regret any time I am pulled into them again — and yet, it's almost impossible not to be pulled into them, when you and people like you are among those being targeted by a powerful sector of Christians in the US.

In one way, it comes as a huge shock that, in Catholic circles, a certain group would want to use the closing of churches and cessation of services as an occasion to mount culture-war battles about, well, what? The godless secular government is targeting Christians?

We Catholics can't have God without Mass?

In another sense, this is all so drearily predictible, the belligerence, the defensiveness, the inability to see what is happening now as a call to deepen spiritual life apart from church gatherings, the obliviousness to the tremendous amount of death and suffering all around us, the refusal to recognize that what we do in the "privacy" of a church can have serious consequences for people in the community at large.

What I hate about the belligerence, in particular, is that it raises my hackles and I become belligerent in return, and what good does that do? I get dragged to the level of those who want me to waste my energy answering their taunts — and this really is the goal of the kind of trolls who have lit on this blog in recent days — when there are more important things to do, and to do right now, to try to process what is happening in our world at a gruesome moment of history, where any religious group that claims to have spiritual foundations needs to attend to those foundations.

And they are clearly not found in televising spectacle Masses and then having people watch them as if they're watching theater, nor are they found in taking monstrances and flying over people and blessing them with the monstrances. As if the Middle Ages are still trucking on and Vatican II is a distant dream in the far-off future….

And as if Jesus did not model for us the retreat into private places to pray alone when he went to the desert for forty days before inaugurating his ministry, and then spent his final night alone in the garden in Gethsemane…. And as if one holy teacher in the Christian tradition after another has not encouraged people to find God in the privacy of their own rooms and their own consciences and their own hearts….

I will never forget how floored I was when I went to the funeral of a very good man to whose family I am closely connected and his daughter said to me the following day, "I thought today of how wonderful it is that Dad can now look down from heaven and see every Holy Sacrifice of the Mass taking place in the world, all at one time."

A picture flashed before me of heaven as a big circular t.v. room with screens all around, where you can spend eternity watching the Mass from screen to screen.

If that's heaven, I don't want to go there. These are such childish, materialistic understandings of worship and the spiritual life and heaven that I wonder how how so many adult Catholics can still buy into them, and how they are reasserting themselves in the midst of a horrific pandemic when the last thing folks need is childish religion or spirituality.

Maybe this time of empty church buildings symbolically exposes the Churches' hidden emptiness and their possible future unless they make a serious attempt to show the world a completely different face of Christianity. We have thought too much about converting the world and less about converting ourselves: not simply improvement but a radical change from a static "being Christians" to a dynamic "becoming Christians."

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