Monday, July 12, 2010

Pierce: response

[This is an update to the previous post]

Tom Roberts at NCR mentioned the Pierce essay on his blog. In the comments section of that blog, I mentioned my response to Pierce (see previous post here).  Roberts then did a follow-up post, highlighting my response to Pierce (thank you).

So now, via Roberts' blog on the National Catholic Reporter website, here's a heartfelt, and thoughtful response to my post by Winifred Holloway.  I don't think that we're on opposing sides, we're all thinking aloud here -- and I must acknowledge that many of my own friends (both "regular" parish members and theologians) would say she represents them well:
I think Nancy Dallavalle misses the point of Pierce's essay. It was not that he was merely giving intellectual assent in his own way to the Church in his mind. I read it as a frustrated cry of a committed Catholic who is dismayed, possibly heartbroken, (I know I am) by the retreat the leadership has made into the medieval era with its pomp, privileges and a seeming notion that they posses the divine right of kings. This is not the Church that we came of age in. It is not the Church that I always thought of as a light in the world and was proud and grateful to be part of. I don't think Pierce was denying our community with one another. I think he believes the community has been hijacked by a willful, obstinate and overprivliged hierarchy. They do not listen to the other members of the community. Since lay people have no power in this "community", many like Charlie (and me) attend Mass, do what we can as Christians in the world, and hold to our beliefs in the faith that has nourished us all our lives. Not easy to do. Those open windows have been slammed shut. A kings and serfs church is not a community.
Well said.  This is why we are all frustrated.  But that faith ("that has nourished us all our lives") is not free-floating, it is bound to -- given by/lived through -- an institution.  Grace is mediated (not only, but) primarily and in an exemplary way in the sacraments offered by a specific community that is "small c" catholic  horizontally (now, in many places, in communion in the present) and "large C" Catholic vertically (received, in communion with the past, and in particular ways, in communion with the founding story).

I know -- you knew that already, thank you very much, professor.   But I think that "Catholic" (sacramental, structured community) is the most powerful social and religious idea around, and I don't want it lost just because every possible mis-reading of it seems to be ascendant all around us -- in the medieval flailing that deforms reasonable questions about liturgy in Rome; in the tribalism that deforms the common good sensibility so needed for "Catholics in politics" in the U.S.; in the fetishizing instrumentalism that blunts, world-wide, the Church's crucial message about the absolute dignity of all human life.

'Catholic' is how we are together, it is how God is with us, it is how we should be with the world.  We can despair, we can fail, we can rail -- but we cannot retreat from this.  Ms. Holloway is right on target and, like Pierce (and myself), seems unlikely to quit the institution she decries.  We are all here, in the pews, this very mixed story is ours, as is the grace that we find mediated in this structured community.  We can cling to the notion that we are somehow innocent victims, or we can try to move the very mixed story forward.  I'm pushing for the latter.