Disconnect and Connect

Pewsitter noticed Robert Mickens’ NCR piece and I’m not totally sure if they got it. If the man is reporting what’s happening in the world and in the Church, why shoot the messenger?

The pope emeritus is cited:

“The obligatory nature of the faith and its way of life began to seem uncertain and problematic. If there are those who can save themselves in other ways, it is not clear, in the final analysis, why the Christian himself is bound by the requirements of the Christian faith and its morals,” the former pope said.

“If faith and salvation are no longer interdependent, faith itself becomes unmotivated,” he noted.

If these quotes are accurate, I’m not sure this reflects well on Pope Benedict. Everything is relative, considering context, I guess. People indeed want to “save themselves,” if they can. Isn’t that part of the life instinct?

Outside of Twelve-Step groups, non-Christians have such pelagian aspirations. And why not? The natural and social sciences give us lots of answers, as Professor Mickens concedes. Does the retired pontiff concede people need motivation to do things to cooperate with their salvation? I recognize the subtle distinction offered here. And there’s no way Pope Benedict is a pelagian. But I think the Christian vector has to be about more than personal salvation–what’s in it for me. That’s not how the saints operated. And sainthood should be our aspiration, not mere survival. In a natural environment, animals and plants struggle for survival. But are human beings called to more? That’s my hope.

Another citation:

“The traditional doctrines no longer match Catholics’ contemporary experience of church membership, marriage and ministry, not to mention their sense of sin and their experience of illness,” (Joseph Martos) notes.

(He) calls this the disintegration of “the unity of practice and theology.” And he argues that our post-Vatican II theologies have failed to repair the rupture because the ideas they express “no longer correspond to the world inhabited by most Catholics.”

Again, either this is true, or Professor Martos is mistaken. Either way we are obligated to accept his intent for honesty as genuine, as we must with Pope Benedict and Robert Mickens.

Commenting on the Easter Vigil, a theologian friend once remarked that every Bible story, and every incident in our own lives could fall into one of two categories. It’s either a Creation or an Exodus. That might be an oversimplification, but I saw the point.

For me and for my counsel of college students and others, the main thing I was driving at is simply this:

Do you pause to reflect on your life and notice things? Do you see God’s hand in ordinary events? Do you see connections between ordinary events and the events of the Bible? Do you understand the connection with others, living and dead? Speaking of the need for liturgy to connect, or more accurately, for people to connect with the liturgy, there must be time to pause to notice. And the liturgy itself must get closer. Sometimes more than halfway. And we who lead are also responsible to pause, notice, and reflect. Where are people most engaged, and what helps them connect to God? My sense is that the answers are in front of us, but that the needed movement will be more difficult because of the sacred cows we may need to release and let go.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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