Random Thoughts, 11 March 2012

March 9, 2012 at 11:51 3 comments

The Jesus whom I have created in my own image and likeness seems to be leading me on an exciting journey. I am coming to, if not have already arrived at, a conclusion that while the Catholic Church is a unique approach to Jesus, it is not the unique approach. Nothing earthshaking here, but it does seem to be a bit different from so much of what I was taught, and for this I am profoundly grateful for my Army experience on many levels. While the Catholic tradition is the right approach for me, I certainly would not impose it on anyone else.

Each of us is on our own journey, and we have to respect and trust each other, keeping firmly rooted in our own prayer life. Each of our traditions has a small facet of the image of Jesus, none of us has it all. I have served with so many wonderful folks who believed in Jesus but did not follow the Catholic tradition. Who am I, or who is anyone, to say they are wrong? We concentrated on what we held in common, Jesus and his Gospel, and served our folks. In a wider sense we did the same with our fellow soldiers of other traditions that were not Christian, or were not of any tradition. Overall, it was both a humbling and enriching experience: humbling, because it taught me that I did not have all the answers or know everything; enriching because I was led to a more wholesome and profound experience of grace always in and around us.  It was a great privilege to conduct “worship services” for soldiers who were not Catholic, and often were not Christian. It was clear they loved God in their own way as I loved God in mine. It was also clear that God loves us all, beyond anything I can say.

The perceived lack of constructive leadership in the Catholic version of Christianity these days has led to any number of abuses, the most obvious of which, although not the only one, is the priests sex abuse situation and its cover-up by the bishops. Among the others are, to name a few, autocratic style of some bishops, the attitude of Rome towards so many folks in the updated missal fiasco, disrespecting of people and abuse of priests by various bishops, lack of transparency in diocesan financial affairs, public humiliation of ministers at liturgies, being less than truthful in dealings with people, to name a few.

When those of us who did so made the promise of obedience to the bishop at ordination, even in our enthusiasm at the time we did not intend to live blind slavish obedience to whatever the bishop said. In the current situations of apparent abuses by bishops, blind obedience does not work. Responsible mature obedience, grounded in a person’s prayer life, is what is called for. The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. A number of bishops rule by threats and fear, and this is a form of evil. A worthwhile question is what to do about it. Each of us has to find our own path as our journey takes us through different situations. We can support each other, but we cannot judge each other, and we cannot do anything alone. The many Gospel Stories show us that.

It seems to be a policy of Church leadership (I hesitate to use such a dignified word to refer to what church authorities are doing these days) to tell folks what they can and cannot think, what they can or cannot talk about, ie, women priests, optional celibacy, same—sex marriage, etc. I’m not sure where this is found in the Gospel. But evidently it’s there somewhere, because the bishops say it is. Some would go so far as to impose their particular Catholic idea of truth on all citizens through the public legislation process. Evidently other traditions and their values have no standing. Perhaps since these bishops believe their way is the only correct way, all others are in error, and error has no rights.

Then there is the idea that the views of any religious tradition can be imposed on others. Can we really protect our understanding of our rights while depriving other traditions of theirs? What makes one religious tradition better than others? If we, by force of numbers and political will, can impose our standards and values on our fellow citizens, what happens when we no longer have a numerical or political majority? What goes around comes around.


Entry filed under: Catholic, Church Leadership, Current Church, Priest, thoughts.

Gospel Thoughts, 11March 2012, Cleansing the Temple 9 March 2012, Thoughts on the Current Cleveland Opportunity

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. John W. Greenleaf  |  March 9, 2012 at 17:28

    Very well said! And now we need to gather people and together speak and act…….Our Catholic tradition is too important to let it simply slip into the dusts of the past.
    – John

  • 2. Annmarie Gilbert  |  March 10, 2012 at 08:00

    I will be sharing this with my 13 year old daughter who asks me all the time, “mom, how do we know our way is the right way” (our Catholic faith)? “other religions think their way is right too”. She will appreciate the open mindedness that I discovered in Fr. Sheil when I was 13. Thank you.

  • 3. Jim Dubik  |  March 12, 2012 at 09:12


    Interesting that the gospel for this Sunday was Christ “cleansing the temple” and Christ meeting the Woman of Samaria at the well.

    IN the first, Christ cleansed practices that were not aligned with the spiritual work of the temple. This passage, in my mind, is linked to the one about putting a basket over a lamp. The abuses to which you refer are practices not aligned with the spiritual work of the church, and therefore, ought to be cleansed. They are also the equivalent of a basket placed over the light of Christ, the light of our Church, and therefore, ought to be removed so that light may shine for all to see.

    How these practices are to be cleansed, and how they are to be lifted so the Light may shine, is a matter for all of us. Each has a part–the laity and our clerical leaders. This is a Baptismal and Confirmaional duty: not just to point out the practices that should be cleansed and the baskets that hide the Light, but also help in replacing bad habits with good ones.

    The practices you correctly point out did not emerge overnight. They developed over years and as a result of multiple causes. To some extent all of us held some responsibility. All of us, therefore, must respond in helpful ways to help our Chuch regain its Spirit and in ways that magnify Christ’s light.



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