I have seen a progression through the many years of my involvement with the Independent / Emergent / Old Catholic Church – one where bishops and priests engage in attacking one another to the point where it becomes their sole ministry. Rather than love, it has become the status quo to attack and destroy the “competition”. No longer do we draw on the teachings of our Lord and Christ, but I also recognize that even within those angry faces, those faces whose sole purpose is to destroy, shines the face of the Divine God looking back at the world. I recognize they have been damaged and quite possibly never moved through their issues into health and wellness, and so they perpetuate old and abusive standards.
From my own observations over these past 12 years, bishops and priests fight over power and control than working together towards a common goal – the salvific vision of compassion, love and forgiveness. Instead what I have seen is petty bickering and the outright slaughter of good people and their ministries while playing and pretending to be teachers of the same compassion, love and forgiveness; all done in the name of our Christ, Jesus.
A friend on Facebook posted the following quote which provoked some I thought which I felt needed to be addressed.
“I bid my brother bishops to ‘convert’ to the modern world. We are feudal bishops, we must become bishops of the atomic age. The characteristic features of the present-day world are socialization, urbanization, cultural pluralism,… They call, first and foremost, for a new lifestyle on the part of bishops. The bishop must expend time and effort to become truly acquainted with the world in which he lives.
To make time for dialogue with his priests, his faithful, and Non-Catholics, he must give up activities of a secondary nature: e.g. consecrating bells. He must learn the idiom of men today. Even the style in which he expresses himself must move toward greater simplicity. His authority must be exercised differently. He must encourage priests and lay people to start a dialogue with him and to undertake initiatives on their own. He must realize that he exercises his authority over grown men, who have a keen sense of their own personal responsibility.
He must lay particular stress on poverty, not through theatrical gestures, but by introducing a new style into the Church.” ~Juan Iriarte, Bishop of Reconquista, Argentina September 24, 1964 third session, Vatican II.
My friend also posted that “two [sentences] later the moderator of the session interrupted him, stopping his comment.” She discovered the text while researching bishops who have broken away from the time-honored traditions of abuse and power-mongering. Yet, even today the tradition holds fast. Do these alleged men of God even hold in their hearts the teachings our Christ commanded we exemplify and preach to the world?
The Independent Catholic Movement, actually even other grassroots catholic movements as well, suffer from a lack of unity and fullness of hypocrisy. Some of our leaders are following old traditions set forth by the Sadducees and Pharisees. They speak with bravado and a “notice me” attitude as if theirs is the only true mission of the Christ. And they forget that we too are not looked upon with favor by our Roman counterparts – whom we have mimicked with such cunning and perfection.
Catholicism, especially in the Independent movement, has cast out the Christ in favor of corporatism and greed. The sacraments are play-things for them to achieve orgasm. Even the average Jane and Joe Pewwarmer have fallen victim to either being willing participants or unwilling victims. And yet somehow we continue to believe the Church will Provide or that everything is done for the highest good (Summum Bonum).
We simply must STOP lifting any minister upon a pedestal from which they may never descend. They are human beings not Gods, nor are they the voice of God. They are supposed to be teachers of a Christian teaching of love, forgiveness, compassion, understanding, and of a hope to rejoin the God in heaven through the life, death, and resurrection of our Christ, Jesus. (Remember, Christ is a title, not a last name…).
We are losing our identity as followers of a Christian moral imperative. We are losing our voice of solidarity with the ministry and example of the Christ. We are losing our way along a very dark and disturbing path towards a very uncertain future.
The dark night of the soul has only just begun…
We must forgive, but we don’t have to forget or place ourselves in situations where we must choose between the people of God and those who serve God. We must always choose the Christ’s teachings and the People of God.
The Rev. Father Kenneth Nelan is the pastor of the Sacred Wandering Pastoral Center in Milwaukee Wisconsin. He is also the celebrant of the Sunday Mass broadcast on Facebook.