A Roman Catholic couple, visiting Madison for the weekend, came to services at Grace yesterday. They were talking to parishioners and to Deacon Carol after the rest of the congregation had made its way through the line. By the time I got to them, their hands were full with brochures explaining the Episcopal Church, our welcome bags, etc. They shared their experience of growing frustration, even alienation from the Roman Catholic Church. The parish where they had been members for decades was no longer comfortable. They struggle with some of the statements by the RC bishops, and with “politics from the pulpit.” They also struggle with the role of women in the Church and were thrilled to see Deacon Carol and other women serving at the altar.
I struggle with my pastoral response to people. They’re not the first who have sought us out in recent months. There’s a wedge being driven in the Roman Catholic church that is forcing many to rethink their place in it. As Episcopalians, we can welcome them in, invite them to explore whether we offer a suitable home for them. We can also pray for them and show compassion. I know all to well how difficult it is to leave the religious tradition of one’s childhood and family. I know too that many who make that break may never again feel like they are at home in the world spiritually. My heart aches for people like that. It aches as well that people are forced to such points, often against their will. The Roman Catholic Church of today is not the Vatican II church which many welcomed and loved.
James Martin, SJ, offers a prayer for frustrated Catholics (it works as well for others who are frustrated with the institutional church in which they find themselves).
Here’s what Bill Kellerthinks:
Much as I wish I could encourage the discontented, the Catholics of open minds and open hearts, to stay put and fight the good fight, this is a lost cause. Donohue is right. Summon your fortitude, and just go. If you are not getting the spiritual sustenance you need, if you are uneasy being part of an institution out of step with your conscience — then go. The restive nuns who are planning a field trip to Rome for a bit of dialogue? Be assured, unless you plan to grovel, no one will be listening. Sisters, just go. Bill Donohue will hold the door for you.
And one who’s going the other way (from atheist to Catholic)
I’ve not posted about the conflict between the Vatican and the American nuns; I’m a spectator there. But the German magazine Der Spiegel published an article in English on Pope Benedict XVI that deserves reading. Without a word about the American Church–the article is focused on Vatican machinations amid the ongoing scandal, and the jockeying for position with the 85-year old pope’s health beginning to fail.
Speaking of Vatican II, America links to an article written by Martin Marty in 1968, reflecting on the end of the council and its significance. It, too, makes for interesting reading.