Monday, November 16, 2009

I gave you fair warning....

I got an email from a friend about going to a Roman Catholic mass and hearing the priest declare what a great job Pope Benedict is doing in 'ecumenical relations' by welcoming Anglicans 'home' to Rome.

It was no surprise to me since I went to a funeral recently at a RC church and heard the priest speak longer about 'blessed Benedict reaching out to the Anglicans' than he did about the dead person.

By now everyone has surely hear that the Pope, waking up and having a 'Pope thought'--which is, you realize, theologically unquestionable since all Pope thoughts are--that he, in his blessedness should invite Anglicans 'home to Rome'. It plays well since it is like ET saying "ET phone home". ANGLICANS HOME TO would fit on a bumper sticker nicely.

Just to be clear: 'ecumenical' is a term that refers to dialog and co-operation between different Christian denominations. My suggesting, for example, that all gay Roman Catholic priests would be welcome to come to the Episcopal church is not 'ecumenical' a whit...and would greatly reduce the already shrinking number of RC priests. (OK, that was bad. I apologize. But me writing that to an audience of half-a-dozen or so is like a candle against the sun of the Pope trying to raid the Anglican church because we are a church that encourages disagreement and--surprise, surprise--gets it!)

I've been criticized by members of the parish I serve for being less than polite to the 'Big Firm' of the Roman Catholic Church. I've taken that criticism seriously whenever it came. No more, beloved!

The Pope went to far this time--a law until himself that he is.

I have willingly and joyfully presided at weddings of divorced Roman Catholics who told me up front that once I--through my role as a priest--blessed their marriage and gave them a second sacrament of the Eucharist, they would trudge back to Rome and become members of the parish that wouldn't bless their love. ANYONE who wants God mixed up in their relationship seems to me to deserve to have God involved. I'm more than happy to do that. But what I don't get is why they'd go back to the abusive relationship after the Episcopal Church had welcomed and affirmed them.

It is my opinion--and I'm ready for any grief this brings me--that many Roman Catholics' relationship with their church is like the battered spouse syndrome that counselors and psychologists simply can't understand. It's like the foster children I worked with as a Social Worker who wanted to 'go home' to the place where they beat them, burned them, abused them and almost killed them. I don't get it, but it is a reality.

I call Roman Catholics who become Episcopalians "recovering Romans" until I see that they have found a way to 'be' Episcopalians without looking over their shoulders in both fear and the pointless hope that things will be better 'back there'.

I often get asked by RCs, "Is this church 'catholic' or 'Christian'?" If they asked Catholic or Protestant, the answer would be the same, but what fascinates me is how many RC folks don't realize their church is, finally, 'Christian'. Anyway, whichever way the question is asked, whether it be 'catholic or Christian' or 'catholic or protestant', the answer is the same. That answer is YES.

The theological tightrope we Episcopalians walk is difficult. We are 'catholic' and, of course, Christian. We are both Catholic and Protestant. That takes some thought and pondering to get your head and heart around. Being a Roman Catholic isn't nearly that confounding, takes next to no thought and is pretty simple since blessed Benedict can wake up any morning and tell you what to do and think.

We Episcopalians ask you to think for yourself and do what God--not the church or the Pope--leads you to do. That's the difference.

Ok, I've written it down. It is eternal in the webosphere. I can't take it back. Yell at me if you wish.

Oh, just one question regarding the Pope's 'ecumenical' action--when you hear the name 'Benedict', who is the other one you immediately think of......?

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.