All the controversy about the Catholic Church gives me pause to think about why I should not quit the Church. I persisted in my resolve and was granted dispensation by Pope Benedict XVI. I found out soon after that Saint Pope John Paul II was not granting dispensations to priests during his tenure. I have no problem with that, except he should have come out and told me. This dispensation can only be granted by the Holy Father. I actually took the full and complete instructions to become an Anglican at St. Peter’s Church in Tallahassee, (including the complete Alpha series) because I was furious because it took my Church sixteen years to grant me permission to be a Layman instead of a Clergyman. Think about it. For sixteen years, I had to fight the Catholic Church to become a member. Forget about leaving. All of this is swimming around in my head, the reason I left the ministry in the first place was I did not think celibacy, as a discipline, should be the sole model for the Laity. I am not saying Celibacy is the problem for pedophilia anymore than I would or could say that Marriage is the problem for adultery and fornication and the high divorce rate. Looking back on some of my struggles to be a Catholic, I offer these insights. They are definitely not official and I can only hope that they are not officious (my lame attempt at humor).
THE CONTEXT OF ANY CONTROVERSY INVOLVING THE CHURCH UNIVERSAL
It is impossible for me to leave the Church Universal. The reason? It is all that there is out there, granted you want to belong to the church militant on earth, the church triumphant in heaven and the church penitent in purgatory. How are you going to leave something that is for something that is not the Body of Christ? Do you think that changing churches is like moving your membership from the Moose to the Elks Clubs? If so, you are a catholic in name only and my advise is go ahead leave the Church. You were never a real part of it, or more accurately, it was never a real part of you. You are the seeds Jesus tells us are thrown on rocky ground and never took root.True enough, I was so angry that I took instructions (good ones, I might add) to be an Anglican. This was before I discerned about being a Lay Cistercian at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery in Conyers, Georgia (Trappist). I was so angry at the Church (looking back on it a big mistake) for doing this to me that I did a little passive-aggressive dance and said, if you don’t want me or because I see so much controversy in the Catholic Church, I will show you, I will leave. How naive? If something is worth fighting for, you will sell all you have to purchase it, even to fighting your own Church to do so. You may not get all of what you want, but it will be the context in which you are in good and fertile soil and are helped by the Holy Spirit. In my case, it was enough for me. I made a commitment to not just the Church of the mind, but also the Church of the heart and the mind (Lay Cistercians).
I don’t agree with the climate of permissiveness and complacency in the Church when it comes to abusing children. Neither do I. It is wrong and those responsible should go to jail, if it can be proven they were accomplices. Do you think any other place you go will not have these and other issues? The issue is, we must do all in our power to keep the young, the old, widows and widowers safe. Who will do that, if I leave the Church?
If I leave the Church Universal the anawin have no voice and advocate for change. God hears the cry of the poor. He asks me, “whom should I send to help the victims of not only sexual abuse but apathy with hearts that are far from me? Here I am, Lord,” I reply, “I come to do your will as a Lay Cistercian and try to help parishes and their parishioners love you as you have loved them.” Impossible? Not with you and other with me. Reformation of the Church comes from the Laity, particularly, I am convinced, by Lay Cistercians, Oblates of St. Benedict, Dominican Laity, Franciscan Laity, Augustinian Laity, and Carmelite Laity. These movements focus on having in them the mind of Christ Jesus, the true answer for a renewal of the heart to love each other as Christ loved us. We must move from the church of the head to the church of the heart and head. These spiritual movements help us do just that.
The Church doesn’t care enough about victims of sexual abuse. All the money in the world won’t keep those who have been abused from waking up at night with a scary nightmare and feeling the violation all over again.We must be with each other, all victims in one sense or another. Christ was the victim of all of us by having to die on the cross. The victims of the Holocaust should be the object of our reparation for our collective sin. Those victims of incest in families that live in fear of their parents is real. Read Matthew 25:31-46. These are real victims. Who will care for them, if I leave the Church Universal?
I didn’t commit these crimes so why should I have to pay up or bear the guilt? Of course you didn’t commit these crimes, people you don’t even know or care about did. Were you responsible for the crucifixion of Christ? Is it Jews of the time who should be responsible? Who is responsible for the Holocaust? Payment is not always with money but with placing your heart next to the heart of Christ and teaching others of the peace and love that comes from the encounter.
The Church covered up these abuses. In many cases, especially in the past thirty years, the Church kept secret lists of abuser-priests. St. Benedict tells us in Chapter 4 not to return evil for evil. I am the Church and I can make sure, that, at least what I can control, is not covered up. This phenomena takes place as part of Policing, Medical Boards and Hospitals, in fact in many institutions.
The Church is corrupt and essentially evil. It cannot reform itself. My notion of Church Universal is that it is part of the mystery of Faith. It is at once holy with individuals who don’t practice the will of God. That doesn’t make sense, until I realize that when the World thinks of corruption, it does not offer true healing and reparation for the bad works of our members. If I leave the Church Universal I only have three choices: I can do good works and help victims and make reparation for all of our sins; I can do bad works and calumniate and detract from the perpetrators of crimes; I can do no works, in which case I am part of the problem. My community of faith needs me, a broken-down, old Temple of the Holy Spirit, not to reform the Church Universal but to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Phil 2:5) in silence, solitude, work, prayer, with others in community.
I can’t stop anyone from leaving the Church anymore than I can make them join it. Christ is the reason any of this makes sense. If you think Church is a bunch of rules, I would encourage you to find something else. If you are searching for how to deal with the painful effects of Original Sin and how to approach the Mystery of Faith and love others as Christ loved us, I am part of that Church and convert my life daily so that Christ can increase and I can decrease. The Holy Spirit will never leave the Church, but you are free to do so. Just reflect on how important you are to Christ’s mission. You won’t get it by following rules but by changing your heart to be more Christ-like. I can tell you from experience. You will not be dissapointed.
I cannot leave the Church Universal because I cannot find anything else in all of reality that is the way, the truth, and the life. “Lord to whom shall we go, you have the words of everlasting life.” Instead of getting angry with people because society says the Church is corrupt, (it is sinful and in daily need of redemption) I choose to recommit myself to Jesus Christ, saying, “My Lord and My God. I believe, help my unbelief.” I trust in the Holy Spirit that the words and mission of the Church Universal entrusted to all of us (even if you don’t believe it) is to give glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was and who will be at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology