Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Beyond Jesus?

“Moving beyond the Church, even beyond Jesus.” Those words are used in the title of an article in the California Catholic Daily. They are attributed to a speaker at the Leadership Conference of Religious Women. Statements such as these have triggered an investigation by Cardinal Levada of the Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly known as The Holy Office of the Roman Inquisition). For the full story please read:


Reading those words “Moving beyond the Church, even beyond Jesus” seem on one level as abandonment of the Church and of Christ. Yet, before reaching for your pitchforks and torches it might be good to remember that the late John Paul II was similarly criticized in 1986 when he convened an International Day of Prayer at Assisi.

At the time, the late pontiff was accused of opening the door to religious relativism. Inviting individuals such as the Dalai Lama, who is also inconveniently addressed as “your holiness,” was just too bitter a pill for many in the Church to swallow. Obviously, John Paul II was not abandoning the Church or Christ. He was merely acting on the belief expressed at the Second Vatican Council that truth resides in every religion.

Spiritual growth and an aperture towards greater holiness necessitates, as does all learning, a modicum of humility. Namely, that we do not possess all the answers, we do not know all of the truth, nor do we understand fully the little, which we presently know. The understanding of the truth about God is different and fuller within the Catholic Church of 2009 than in the Church of 1909, 1509, 1009, 509 or 9. God is still working with us both collectively and as individuals.

To say that a community is “Post Christian” sounds like Christ has been jettisoned; however, I remember a professor at seminary using that very same expression to describe this age. We no longer live in medieval times. The twentieth century was arguably the most secular century in human history. In this sense, we are all Post Christian.

The sisters have merely suggested that opening themselves to the rest of humanity and learning from their spiritual traditions enriches us all. That in no way constitutes a betrayal of Christ or an abandonment of the Church. It is quite arguably precisely what Jesus would want us to do, at least if you read the accounts of his reaching out to the Samaritan communities in the Gospel. It should come as little surprise that this will be badly received by those in positions of religious authority today, the religious authorities of 2,000 years ago were equally upset.


Fran said...

I am often reminded - and I say this as a Catholic and a theology student - that faith is not a museum, not a static moment to be held forever. I believe that my own, or any fist, clenched tightly on that immoveable object, finds itself grasping sand.

And we know what happens when we grasp sand...Our fist is suddenly grasping nothing.

A healthy dose of wisdom when approaching something new is a good thing. Fear of anything we don't understand... well that is a another altogether and very sad at that.

There is truly no accounting for grace and I am sad to see it limited in this way.

Fr Kenny said...

Thank you for this, Father. It gives me a wee bit of hope, living as I do in the West of Scotland!

headbang8 said...

As always, Farther Geoff, you give us an utterly reasonable and truthful point of view. Faith shouldnot impose a tyranny on the mind of teh believer; rather, it should provide a starting point from which to explore the world.

Anonymous said...

Just something to consider-

Jesus Christ is both human and divine.

If, as human, He is only considered to be "Jewish" human, then the Church would not exist. Obviously, as Paul pointed out, He is not just Jewish, nor Greek, etc; but all human nature.

That, to me, means that no one label or definition, originating from culture, ethnicity, or "race", can encompass Christ.

Jesus was certainly a Jew but as Christ he was more, or perhaps, neither Jew, nor Greek, etc;.

I'm not clear in articulating a notion difficult to express, unfortunately.