NOW WE’RE talking a language a broader group of spiritual people, the religiously inclined who don’t attend church anymore, including many Catholics, can embrace. The “obsessed” preaching of deeply personal elements of people’s lives by the Roman Catholic Church has caused the faith it represents to fray. Faithful becoming victims of misplaced piety the Vatican’s own houses of worship across the world could not meet.
Offering contrast, the light of Pope Francis I offers a potent counterweight and a pathway towards potentially new religious health.
The New York Times reports on Pope Francis’s humble admission of the failure of the Vatican’s own message.
In remarkably blunt language, Francis sought to set a new tone for the church, saying it should be a “home for all” and not a “small chapel” focused on doctrine, orthodoxy and a limited agenda of moral teachings.
“It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” the pope told the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, a fellow Jesuit and editor in chief of La CiviltÃ Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal whose content is routinely approved by the Vatican. “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.
“We have to find a new balance,” the pope continued, “otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”
I don’t know how many of you watch the new series on Showtime, “Ray Donovan,” but the foundation of the plot is moored in the lead character, played by Liev Schreiber, as well as his brothers, being abused by a Catholic priest. The violence that becomes the center of all of their lives is the sickness the Catholic Church has spread through their denial and deceit, making their moralizing the height of hypocrisy, which turns off anyone seeking spiritual sustenance.
Pope Francis I is leading the way out of this darkness.
The spiritual person’s quest for meaning, as we unravel our own answers to life, goes well beyond the biggest things that divide religious communities. Women of faith, including someone like myself who considers God’s outdoors the greatest church ever built and meditation the most effective way of worship and prayer, rarely if ever ruminate over the questions of abortion, contraception and gays and lesbians. These issue are points of political activism that are choking the church, whatever your denomination.
If you ever find yourself in the throes of life shaking traumas, which I have, that include abortion but also go beyond, your ability to sit in your own silence and let the answer present itself goes beyond the question itself.
As Pope Frances I has also telegraphed recently, much to the shock of religious people, being moral doesn’t depend on belief in God. It blew the conversation wide open to even consider such a thing. As my husband, a recovered Mormon and formally devout church goer, says, if everyone just applied the Golden Rule of do unto others… how much better off would our world be?
Pope Francis I is offering a rhetorical reformation in the form of blowing down doctrine walls that have been set up in the modern era, but have caused people to disengage from religion, leading to a general breakdown of faithful dialogue. The focus on politics instead of energizing faith, the obsession with authoritarian rules on how people must live, creates walls of expectation and ego.
The Pope’s message comes at a time when megachurch preachers like Joel Osteen are stealing the limelight and the attention of the faithful in large numbers, proving religion is shifting in new ways across the spectrum.
The biggest change is that people who used to be religious church going individuals, spiritual individuals like myself, are now turning to meditation for the answers in greater numbers. Churches have not only failed modern women and modern peoples everywhere, but the adventure of meditation opens up gateways of revelations that are inexhaustible once you tap them, needs no intermediary to explore, and is as satisfying and more energizing than anything you can experience in church.