The CBS morning news program was interviewing a Roman Catholic sister about the past month's hue and cry from the Vatican over nuns in the United States caring more about the poor than denouncing marriage equality.
I almost started to cry for this woman as she talked about the excitement that had filled the RC church after Vatican II, and mentioned the "opening of the windows and letting air in." I remember reading that when a cardinal questioned Pope John XXIII on what he hoped to accomplish with Vatican II, he went to a window and opened it.
In the meantime, his successors have not only closed the window, it seems Pope Benedict XVI intends to place locks and bolts on it.
The earnest interviewers prodded the sister: what does she think needs to happen? She responded with, "Vatican III." And what would that look like to her? From what she says, a Roman Catholic church where the laity have more of a voice, and decision making is more democratic. It's the laity, she says, who know the good works of the nuns and their commitment to living out their vows of service to others... which includes LGBT people and the environment.
Sadly, what the sister is looking for is, well, not Roman Catholicism. At least not Roman Catholicism as it has been practiced now for centuries. She is yearning for the church that, in the early 1960s and in a world of increasing pluralism, tried to get to that place where it had more in common with those who broke away and were labeled by the Vatican as the unclean, unorthodox, rabble rousers... aka Protestants. Vatican II was Pope John XXIII's attempt to stretch out a hand into that open air on the other side of the window and meet God in a new place, in the experiences and faces of those who had been labeled heretics.
Pope John XXIII died before Vatican II was done. Since so many confuse the Church with God, I wonder if that's what some meant when they scoff that, 'God died in the 60s.'
Every time I see the Roman Catholic Church doing something else to crucify Love incarnate in the world, I cringe. As the sister noted in her interview, there is a growing denomination in the United States: ex-Catholics. So many of my friends who are now either Episcopalian, or Jewish, or pagan, or agnostic, or atheist, come from families where they were raised in the Roman Catholic Church. And it is that Church that made them think that God is some paternalistic fire-breathing drill Sergeant in the sky and that Jesus preferred men (but not that way!) because all the apostles were men, so only men can serve at God's altar in the church. The view of God that the Vatican seems to prefer is the half-world view, where there are men... and then the rest of us. No wonder they waste so much time thinking and plotting around issues of homosexuality; the only other beings that count in the world are men!
Interesting, too, that CBS did this interview on the day when many of us are marking the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, when she learns she's going to be the God-bearer and goes to her cousin, Elizabeth, who is going to give birth to John the Baptizer. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the one feminine example the Roman Catholic Church has glorified. And yet, I believe that same young girl who bore the Son of God is weeping tears of frustration to see what has become of the people her son came to redeem. How would this incarnation of the Vatican have treated her today? Branded her a feminist (as if that's a bad thing!) and told her to stand ten paces behind her husband?
I feel for the nuns in this situation. Today's Eucharistic reading from Colossians reminds us all that whenever we are faced with the obstacles erected by those in the world, we need to go back to the place that is the center of our calling and being:
Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ
dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and
with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to
God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.--Col. 3: 14-17
Christ is eternal. Popes are temporal. Stay strong and stay the course, my sisters-in-Christ.