Here Comes Everybody

There have been a lot of articles and other posts over the course of the last week relating to the decision of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith to appoint a bishop to exercise oversight over reforms of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. The CDF accuses the LCWR of “radical feminism” and “corporate dissent.”

Not surprisingly, given the breadth of views within the Catholic Church, there are some who defend the action of the CDF and others who have expressed vehement criticism of the action.

One reaction caused me to pause longer than others. One of my Facebook friends wrote, “These men are not the Church.”

As phrased, that is simply wrong. That is to say, the CDF alone is not the Church, none of us individually is. But a lot of people and groups fall under this large tent that is the Catholic Church. The parish I left at the end of this past year because it no longer spiritually nourished me, as well as the parish I joined. The people who share my vision of what Catholic social teaching says and the people who have a different understanding of what it means. The CDF and the rest of the institutional hierarchy and every individual Catholic – whether they go regularly to Mass or not. The people who say things that make me want to join hands and walk with them and the people who say things that make me want to cringe. We are ALL the Church.

It upsets me when “conservative” (for lack of a better description) want to tell me I’m not the Church, suggesting I go elsewhere if I disagree with them. It upsets me equally when those at the opposite end of the spectrum suggest that those with whom they disagree are not the Church.

There is something to James Joyce’ description of the Catholic Church as “Here Comes Everybody,” an acknowledgement of the variety of people that make up the Church. An essential aspect of Catholicism is precisely that. I think we would all be better off if people were less quick to suggest that anybody is not part of everybody.


5 thoughts on “Here Comes Everybody

  1. Great piece, as usual, professor.
    I am always bemused when traditionalist Catholics pick and choose which teachings of official Church doctrine to which they choose to adhere, in effect, ignoring Catholic Social Teaching on war and peace, poverty, “the preferential option for the poor,” and so forth, and disdaining the consistent teaching of the Hebrew Prophets, the Gospels, the ancient Christian writers, and modern papal teaching from Leo XIII to Benedict XVI.
    Thank you lending a sane voice when “Listening,” “Awareness,” and “Dialogue,” which Pope Paul VI called the marks of the true Church in “Ecclesiam Suam” [1964 encyclical] appear to be so lacking.
    O tempora, O mores! [“O what times, O what customs!”]
    — Geraldo

  2. It seems worth noting that NETWORK was the only other entity singled out for criticism by the C.D.F.
    One may give pause to ponder a NETWORK response: “We didn’t split over doctrine; we split over politics.”
    As an ex-Washingtonian, I can attest to NETWORK’s fine record of legislative advocacy over four decades for the poor and marginalized; the immigrant and the undereducated; and, the unemployed and those lacking affordable health care.
    As in so many areas of the public arena, American Catholic religious sisters and nuns have done the faith proud since the days of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton: in schools, orphanages, hospitals, social work and in parish ministry.
    “In necessariis, unitas; in dubiis, libertas; in omnibus, caritas.”
    “In necessary things, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; above all else, charity.”

  3. Thank you both for your thoughtful observations and comments…

    “In necessariis, unitas; in dubiis, libertas; in omnibus, caritas.”

    All would contibute greatly to preparing His way by simply taking to heart Gerald’s words and embracing and living our lives guided by the two great commandments.

  4. I appreciate your thoughtfulness professor. I agree that these men are indeed ‘the Church,’ but I think its difficult not to respond in kind when instead of appreciating the vital work that consecrated women do, the Church must ‘remind’ women religious that they are not and can never be “authentic teachers of faith and morals.” Many of us who have struggled with reconciling humanistic and feminist goals with our faith have been led and inspired by sisters. With all the troubles it might address, this seems like a particularly unnecessary and divisive place for the Church (in its official capacity) to focus its attention.

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