Ash Wednesday Thoughts 2012

February 22, 2012 at 14:37 5 comments


Today is Ash Wednesday. I was privileged to celebrate Mass this morning with a local parish grade school. The children and teachers were wonderful, they prayers were anything but. As I have been reflecting on my experience this morning, I am coming to the conclusion that conformity is the ultimate goal, and intelligent thought is not necessarily a desired part of the process. Looking at the joyful enthusiasm on the faces of the students, I found it neigh impossible to read the prayers in a way that could get through to them. No doubt this is due entirely to my own shortcomings, since the prayers as they are translated are perfect in every way. Leadership has told us this, and leadership of its nature cannot be wrong. They have told us this themselves, so it must be true.

The notion of conformity again raises its ugly head in the current controversies about the HHS mandate and the issue of same-sex marriage. I know where I stand on this whole controversy about HHS healthcare mandate. In principle I am against any religious tradition attempting to impose its views on the citizenry through civil law. This is a dangerous slippery slope. When populations of any given religious tradition become a majority, the consequences seem obvious – then they can impose their will on the citizenry. I hesitate to go too public because of the energies invested by folks on all sides of the issue. There does not seem to be much in the line of civil discussion, only judgementalism and name-calling, neither of which do I want to be a part of. This type of attitude may be contagious, and I have done enough in anger in the past. I do not want to go there again. I certainly do not preach this at Mass simply because the folks are entitled to hear the Gospel, which my views definitely are not.

I keep thinking of BXVI’s statement that the Gospel must be proposed, never imposed. It seems to me that the leadership and their followers (obviously I do not fit into that category) are trying to impose their version on folks. They can make whatever rules they want for folks who belong to their church, and what the folks do with them is varied. But I think there is a serious question as to whether they have the right to impose those views on folks who do not belong to their church. I do not think that any religion has the right to impose its views on society as a whole, and to claim that when their efforts to do this are questioned or opposed by society then their religious rights are being violated seems ludicrous at best, if not downright self-seeking and morally wrong.

In my narrow-mindedness I do not think it a good idea to use theology, which is of its nature somewhat subjective, as a basis for conducting civil matters. There are a number of differing theologies, many of them claiming to be uniquely true, thereby labeling all others false. I believe respectful and honest dialogue is important to reach a meaningful “working relationship”. Rather than try to legislate civil matters, I believe it would be better for each of us to live our own theology as best we can.

It would seem that folks, whether or not they are catholics themselves, who work for catholic institutions are penalized in their own health insurance situations. The bishops protect their rights by denying folks their own rights. It would also seem that the hierarchy are trying to impose their version of morality on an entire nation. There does not seem to be any room for personal thought. If anybody disagrees with the hierarchy’s interpretation of anything they are intrinsically in error, and error has no rights – or so the line of reasoning seems to go.

I think, and this is only my own opinion, that the issue here is power – the leadership, and many individual members thereof, feel they have to preserve their power at all costs. There have been several situations where individual bishops have reacted to persons, especially priests, whom they feel have impugned their power, in ways that are certainly not pastoral in any common understanding of the term. I do not feel that there is an integrity issue here, because there does not seem to be much integrity involved.

It would seem that there is the possibility of an absence of transparency regarding money that is being used to promote the hierarchy’s viewpoint. There seems, for example, to be some concern about monies being used to defeat any movement that supports same-sex marriage. Where is the money coming from? Is it coming from the folks in the pews who might not agree with their money being used for such purposes? I do not want my money being used in this way. This is why I do not give any money to parishes for the general fund, or to diocesan campaigns for any other purposes. I prefer to give to specific parish needs with the assurance it will be used only for those needs.

There are too many stories about priests being threatened or told not to speak or write on any topic unless they can support fully the bishop’s view on anything. It seems, although it is only from anecdotal evidence, that dissent or individual thought by priests is not tolerated in many places.

In my own narrow-minded reading of the Gospels, I do not find Jesus anywhere complaining that his rights were being violated. He very simply spent time in prayer with his Father, and then went to the folks and did his best to bring his Father’s love to them. He did not demand that they agree with him. He just loved them. In my own narrow-mindedness I do not see much of this in the conduct of the hierarchy, or in several the bishops, in the issues of today. I am myself being judgmental here. I am sure there are many pastoral bishops, probably known only to their dioceses. Their folks are blessed, but what about the rest of us? Good folks are being hurt – always, of course, in the name of Christ and the teaching of His Gospel, by those who know much better than the rest of us. Just sayin  .  .  .

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Entry filed under: Catholic, Church Leadership, Current Church, Gospel thoughts, New Missal, Priest, thoughts. Tags: , , .

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jeff  |  February 22, 2012 at 15:22

    Good stuff, Frog. I think this particular pondering could lend itself to a lot of different situations. I especially like this summary the most: “I do not find Jesus anywhere complaining that his rights were being violated. He very simply spent time in prayer with his Father, and then went to the folks and did his best to bring his Father’s love to them. He did not demand that they agree with him. He just loved them.”

    Reply
  • 2. mary  |  February 22, 2012 at 17:44

    Hi Jim,

    Your thoughts are very profound. Power as a motivator eventually has a consequence. Clearly you are being touched by Jesus. He only wanted Love as a the motivator.
    Thank you for including me in your pondering recipients.

    Mary

    Reply
  • 3. Pete Russ  |  February 23, 2012 at 01:26

    Whoa, Jim.

    I took the liberty to rewrite some of your ponderings as my own ponderings to point out the real culprits here.

    Please ponder this.

    “. . . In principle I am against Health and Human Services attempting to impose its views on the citizenry through civil law . . .

    . . . When Health and Human Services becomes a majority, the consequences seem obvious – then Health and Human Services and lobbyists can impose their will on the citizenry . . .

    . . . I do not think that Health and Human Services has the right to impose its views on society as a whole . . .

    . . . I think, and this is only my own opinion, that the issue here is power – Health and Human Services, and lobbyists thereof, feel they have to preserve their power at all costs.”

    And now the rest of the ponderings.

    Pete

    Reply
  • 4. John W. Greenleaf  |  February 23, 2012 at 06:27

    Well said Jim. I wonder what the USCCB leadership would say if a group of American Muslims wanted to impose a fundamentalist Islamic morality on US citizens. They would probably water their pants.

    About liturgical prayer…..a very good friend in Michigan lost her mother last week. At the funeral 80% of the congregation responded “and also with you” when the presider said “the Lord be with you.” Hearing the response, he stopped, looked at the congregation, smiled, and said “thank you! I like that!”

    There is hope but only when we the people start acting like the church we are!

    Very kind regards
    John Greenleaf

    Reply
  • 5. Jim Dubik  |  February 25, 2012 at 10:31

    Jim,

    Thanks once again for your thought-provoking reflection.

    Quite frankly, I’m still thinking through the complexities of these issues. You know, I’m not a reactive kind of person, so it will take a long while for me to conclude to anything.

    A set of seemingly conflicting propositions and questions are bounding in my head:

    1. Choice: Freedom is essential to our religion: free response to the Spirit’s call, freely given assent to the gifts God offers, freely chosing Christ’s way. As I read the Bible, freedom plays a key role from Adam and Eve’s choice to Christ free self sacrifice on the Cross.

    All this leads me to wonder how freedom to chose is now left out of so many of our discussions as Catholics? Also, I wonder about the potential difference between the political right to chose and the spiritual freedom inherent in faith? And I wonder why a society based at least partially on individual rights that offers its citizens choices in their lives is incompatible with a religious organization that wants to guide its believers principled actions with respect to those choices?

    2. Rights and obligations: It seems to me that inherent in a group’s right to do whatever is a corresponding obligation to respect another group’s right to NOT DO whatever. Or vice versa.

    Our government cannot force a citizen to act counter to his or her conscience, nor can the government compel an organization to act counter to its corporate conscience. They may have the power to lock a citizen up for non-compliance, and close an organization down for non-compliance–if this is a matter of law, but that’s a power issue not a matter of conscience.

    And are organizations that take money from the government in order to sustain their work bound to the government differently from those who do not take such money? Taking financial support does change one thing: it restricts the options of the organization taking the money. Un-bound organizations are freer agents than those who are bound. But are there other moral differences? Can an organization take financial support from the government on one hand, but reject governmental “control” with the other hand? If a Catholic organization uses government monies to pay employees, some of whom are Catholics and other who are not, and to sustain its operations, does the organization incur obligations to its non-Catholic employees that are consistent with the government’s laws?

    It seems that the Church may have a right to impose rules consistent with its conscience with respect to its members–but then faces problems of freedom, but has no such right relative to non-members.

    As you can see, I’m more confused by ways the public and Church discussion has been conducted than I am clear.

    Jim

    Reply

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