Last week, I wrote an article entitled: The Catholic Church. Although many Catholics wrote to thank me, several were unhappy; and one, an Air Force Officer, was downright outraged. I think he wanted to have me burned at the stake, but he satisfied himself by denouncing me as “afflicted with a sort of spasmodic, anti-Catholic Tourette's Syndrome.”
Although I’m sure he did not intend to embarrass or demean the many wonderful people with Tourette’s, he obviously believes that Catholics like me should not have thoughts and beliefs contrary to the “official” Catholic line. If he were a Southern Baptist he might condemn Dr. Kirby Godsey for Is God a Christian?
My Air Force critic finds my “jejune musings” on gay marriage, women priests, priestly celibacy, papal infallibility and birth control--drab and colorless, tiring and uninteresting. I’m okay with that, but he also finds them “anti-Catholic.” I’m not okay with that; not anymore. Sure, there was a day, centuries in fact, when Catholics were not allowed to print any opinion that was not stamped with an “imprimatur” from the Roman Curia. Those days are over.
Pope John XXIII had an Italian phrase he used all the time I was with him; “Aggiornamento,” he said. It means: “Up-grade.” He wanted to up-grade the Church. You can’t up-grade something that is perfect. If the Pope believed that all these traditions and myths, and yes, even dogmas, were perfect, he would never have used that word, and he would never have called the 2nd Vatican Council. He would never have asked theologians and Scripture Scholars like me to examine the interpretations of the Bible and the Church’s theology, and “up-grade” them.
Hey, I don’t claim I’m right. Never did. But I do claim the freedom to examine and explore and discuss and argue everything about the Catholic Church. I earned advanced degrees in Theology from Catholic University in Washington, D.C, as well as my SSL in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical University in Rome. I don’t have to have the same “faith” as the Pastor of our local church, just as he might not have the same “faith” as Pope Francis. That doesn’t mean we all can’t love and cherish this richly endowed heritage we call Catholic, but continue to up-grade it.
But I understand. Many Catholics—like many Jews and Protestants and Muslims—want their church to remain the same. My sainted grandmother was like that. When she saw her Irish Catholic Church begin to allow Catholics to marry Protestants (in the Church mind you!) she prayed the good Lord would take her while she was still a Catholic! I get the feeling that some Catholics still feel that way even today.
My Air Force critic urged our editor to have me dump my un-orthodox opinions on the “Evangelicals” in our community, and watch them scream. He must feel that they are incapable of thinking. Quite the contrary; Evangelicals picked up their warm-hearted spirituality from Pietism; their doctrinal precision from the Presbyterians, and their individualistic introspection from the Puritans. I’d say they are quite capable of thinking through just about anything spiritual.
It’s just my opinion, mind you, but I think “Faith is an individual’s Sanctified Imagination.” Put that in your plane and fly it.