05Jun The Church risks destroying its own mision

I am presently teaching European jail chaplains in Romania, the poorest country in Europe. Seeking some guidance and consolation amidst the historic and present suffering of these people, I had an afternoon of prayer and took to reading T.S.Eliot’s FOUR QUARTETS.

In “East Coker” he says that “our only health is the disease” and that “to be restored our sickness must grow worse” and even “the whole world is our hospital”. It gives me some strange direction amidst this tragic communist experiment, the state of politics in the USA, and the daily Vatican meltdown as it continues to try to regain some control and authority by condemning things in every direction.

We are clearly in a very strategic period of history where people are grabbing for power because they do not know how to heal, restore, or bring life. You would think the Pope and bishops should know better, yet they only need to look to this part of the world to see what imposed and authoritarian change accomplishes – which is nothing and worse than nothing. The push back, the alienation, the cynicism lasts for centuries, as I see here in a former Communist state.

I am afraid, as T.S.Eliot says “our sickness must grow worse” to see how sick we are, and “our only health is in the disease” itself–to bring the poison to the surface so none can deny it. The Roman Church and the US Congress are both showing a very sad misuse of their power, which is no longer a power for good or for the common good.

The Catholic church has become its own worst enemy and does not need atheists or agnostics to undo its mission. Like St. Peter himself, it is denying and destroying its own message. The sadness I see here in Romania is the sadness of power totally misused in the name of “reform”. I am afraid it is a prophecy for the future of the Roman Catholic Church.

6 Responses

  1. Fr Jim Sheil, CLE, OH, USA

    Unfortunately very true and on target. Or maybe fortunately, as the Holy Spirit is raising up wonderful folks who love the church, recognize the truth of Richard’s words, and are willing to open themselves in prayer and go wherever the Spirit guides them. What the Spirit has in mind might be something we could MIT recognize from where we are now. Thanks, Richard.

  2. Fergus P Egan

    There are many good Catholics who are capable of leading from the bottom up – some good priests and many good Baptised Catholics with a vocation for holiness. We can all recognise them. But many of them have been side-lined and blacklisted by the hierarchy. So how are we to cure the sickness if we are not allowed to treat the patient? Or worse, is the Holy Spirit to be denied a full presence in the Church just because his agents are denied inclusion just because they are not ordained ministers or consecrated bishops, or are otherwise out of step with Rome’s current marching tune.

    Thank you Richard Rohr, OFM, for your article.
    Can we expect some movement of reform?

    Fergus P Egan

  3. Gene Carr

    Surely the first lesson of the Romanian tragedy is that it tells us what happens to people and societies that fall prey to Marxist ideology, and even its more deceptive variants, such as that represented by the Frankfurt School. Isn’t that precisely what the Holy See was trying to guard against in so-called ‘liberation theologies’ that were and are infected with the Marxist virus. As for the US Congress, isn’t it working as the American Founders designed it? That is, they not only separated Church and State but also the powers of the legislature, executive and judiciary. The current Congress is reigning in an overweening executive whose ‘hope and change’ rhetoric harbours totalitarian ambitions, not least signaled by turning what might have been a promice of heathcare reform into an assault on freedom of religion. No one who has taken the trouble to delve into Obama’s formative influences–not least the influence of Marxist ideologues Frank Davis and Saul Alinsky will be surprised at this.

  4. Wilfrid Harrington, O.P.

    ‘The sadness of power totally misused in the name of “reform”‘. This, succinctly, characterises the current conduct of the Vatican. Thank you, Richard, for your perceptive analysis.

    Wilfrid Harrington, O.P.

  5. Con Carroll

    People should be themselves: be not afraid to speak your mind. It will not win you friends – we are not here to be accepted. I often ask myself what has happened to the Gospels? Where has the Spirit of Francis of Assisi gone to?

  6. Chippy McFarlane

    I like the juxta-positioning of TS Eliott and the state of the church – I use an anaology that the church is a sinking ship – some swim for shore (other less homophobic, sexist, classist – denominations), others bail out, others perhaps seem to knock more holes in the boat. Taking this analogy to my experience of church what I have found is that the bailing out process is very difficult because for every positive expression of Christ towards those who need to hear his voice there seems to be a hundred negative expressions – every interaction between a Roman Catholic and the world has to be a positive interaction – more than this for every article in the press telling of sexual abuse by priests there needs to be 100 positive experiences of church since the horror of abuse takes a lot of counter balancing.

    Now when it comes to my daughter and young people I know, they are not getting ‘positive experiences’ nearly enough – they won’t blindly accept the utlra conservative agenda and they will continue to leave in droves unless something changes. The laity can no longer be the ‘done-to’ and the clergy the ‘doers’ – the dynamic of a church moved away from the priest on a high dais with the back to the people – the laity were encouraged to read the bible (e.g. Focolare) and were now hearing the mass in their own language (ending the link between liturgy and the elite educated classes). So for my daughter who can hear and understand and is part of the ‘faith seeking understanding’ culture she will challenge and seek a voice. Fail to give it to her and she will leave – swim for shore. A very popular priest in Edinburgh, Fr David Gemmill (sadly deceased) said to me ‘don’t worry about young people leaving the church – they’ll come back when they want their kids baptised’ [paraphrased]. But this may have been true in the past but now I don’t think this is the case. Why? They’re are not getting enough positive experiences of church and until things change they won’t be likely to.

    This is where a catholic laity, empowered and full of self-belief, can be part of the counter balancing process – we can give the positive experience of church – speak up for truth let people know not all Catholics are homophobic, sexist and classist. The Church isn’t for an elite with conservative views – it is our church, not the Bishops or Priests or the Pope or the Magesterium – liberation theology isn’t dead it is alive and kicking in Scotland, and in the UK. Priest who are brave enough to bail out and plug holes in the ship need and deserve our support.