Part of the “war” we’re in is also occurring in the Vatican, most prominently in the Curia and a small tribe of change-reluctant U.S. bishops here. This resistance is not new.
The era of Vatican II, a disruptive, mid-60s event, unknown to the majority now, was a period of aggiornamento, Italian for forecasting, updating, and remodeling the institutional Church. The focus was to become more pastoral to engage and support the peoples’ lived experience and address our human needs.
Instead, some narcissistically-minded clerics–recognizing some loss of power, chose to “interpret the final documents” for us thereby diluting and changing its original intent. It took time for the people to recognize this theft. But, in time, chose to adopt the “spirit” of Vatican II instead where for the first time we were called The People of God with inclusivity to all the baptized. Christian unity was stressed by accepting that all faiths have a ray of truth to them.
We have not been served well by the faith education we received primarily because it distorted Jesus’ simple message of “love one another.” Rather, we were taught a detour to follow the mandates of an autocratic, paternalistic institution. That mistake had a heavy price to the People of God. We were taught that we were a sinful people. That alone demeaned us and formed a limping self-esteem riddled with guilt, so embedded in us to be aligned with our DNA.
The values of our faith were never part of any curriculum I experienced. How about you?
I have come to be aware that Scripture is really a manual on relationships with stories (parables) highlighting the good, the bad, and the ugly issues we all encounter in our own relationships. Why did it take me so long to see this truth?
The faith we embrace is founded on myths (see Joseph Campbell’s work) and many of us have accepted the parable told as truth, while others, have seen it as symbolic of a core message understandable by the illiterate people of that time.
As a movement, we believe we are gifted people whose gifts remained enclosed in a bubble of humility, marketed to us as virtuous. The Spirit is trying hard to get our attention now, as we face a crossroads to value ourselves as God sees us and no one else. In the U.S., we are viewed as citizens who embrace a set of ideals that define us. They are individualism, liberty, equality, hard-working, and governed by the rule of law.
As Christians, however, the ideals we are called to uphold are love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-26). With Christ in our lives, these values/ideals should yield noticeable changes in us and our impact on the culture we live in. Currently, however, “we are loved for what we’ve done but to be loved for who we are is a completely different experience.” (Fr. John Riccardo)
Under Pope Francis’ pontificate, there have been significant strides to move us to practice both sets of ideals, and his efforts in his Synod on Synodality there is a recipe for success once that message reaches the people. I have great hopes that will be the greatest legacy a Pope has gifted us with.
“Just remember, there are no quick fixes. But, by taking action just a little bit every day,
you will build up a powerful reservoir of confidence, self-esteem, and discipline.”