Thursday, April 08, 2010

A flame divided but undimmed

Last Saturday night I attended the Easter vigil mass at my church. I enjoy the whole triduum, but the Easter vigil service is my favorite--all 2.5 hours of it, from the blessing and sharing of fire to the Exsultet to the seemingly endless readings to the litany of the saints. There's a lot going on there, but one of the central features is the rite of initiation: it's at the Easter vigil mass that converts are received into the church via baptism, eucharist, and confirmation all in one blow.

Watching that part of the service made me reflect on the people who are choosing to become Catholics at this particular moment in the church's history. It's hard for me to imagine that I'd convert, myself--but it's equally hard for me to imagine leaving, even now, even after the revelations of the past several weeks.

I've been trying to figure out why that is, when plenty of people who share my politics are declaring this to be the last straw for them: final proof of the Vatican's indifference, contempt for laypeople, and disordered attitude toward sexuality.

But you know, I didn't need further proof of those things. I don't really feel any differently about this pope or about the Vatican as result of the latest sex abuse scandals or the revelations about their coverup. I continue to believe that the Catholic Church's attitudes toward most of the range of issues involving sex, gender, and sexuality are at the least misguided, and in many cases actively anti-Christian. I believe the church has been complicit with evil in the way it's dealt with the sex abuse scandal--but I already believed that, just as I believe the church to have been complicit with evil plenty of times in the past. Institutions are. People are.

Everyone has a breaking point, and maybe I'll reach mine. But I don't feel I'm near it. In fact, as the revelations keep coming, I've sometimes caught myself wondering whether this could be the beginning of the end: not of my involvement in the church, and not of the church itself, but of this particular awful chapter of its history.

I don't expect things will get better in the weeks and months ahead. I don't know when they'll get better, and I doubt I'll ever see exactly the church I'd like to have. But I've been thinking about what Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote about not being afraid of tension, and about the way crises can crack a system wide open, starting the process of slow, painful, eventual change.

Maybe it's too much to say that I'm hopeful. But I'm not without hope, either.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this thoughtful post.
I especially liked your concluding comments. It helps towards giving me - perhaps not hope per se - but at least an aspiration that hope has not become impossible.

What Now? said...

Beautiful post, Flavia, and I hope that your tentative sense of hope will be realized.

Renaissance Girl said...

I love this post.

Anonymous said...

i understand and also hope your hope continues. the triduum really is awesome!

scr said...

this article seemed relevant


Flavia said...

WN: you know, I think of you sometimes when it occurs to me to wonder whether I could ever "defect" to the C of E. Apart from the fact that it's both incredibly insulting and incredibly ignorant to think that the two churches are so interchangeable, your & D's experiences have helped to remind me that the real problem is with institutions (and with horrible individual people) much more than it is with doctrine.

(Not sure you want that to be my take-away from the past several years in your lives, but there you go!)

And bro: hadn't seen that. 'Tis awesome. Thanks.