With all of the controversy going on right now over the health insurance law and how the law violates Catholic beliefs, many things have been going through my mind. Tonight, at a class at church titled “Catholicism” by Fr. Robert Barron, we discussed the 4 marks of the Catholic Church. The four marks are one, holy, catholic and apostolic. One part of the discussion caught my ear and sent my own thoughts off on a tangent. When we discuss the 4th mark, apostolic, we talk about how the bishops today can trace their direct line back to the apostles. We can also say that even the priests, through the laying on of hands by the bishop during their ordination, also ties the priests back to the apostles. My thought was that the priests and the bishops are all men. This is what Christ started Himself by choosing men to be His 12 disciples and I see the strength and wisdom in this teaching and am not trying to argue against it. Rather, where my thoughts went on tangent were with the way that I was raised as an American Catholic woman and how that experience raised walls between myself and the Church.
When I was growing up in the aftermath of Vatican II, there was so much confusion as to what the Church believed that we, the children, were taught very little about our faith. The main tenets that were part of our classes were the belief in the Trinity and that Jesus loved us. There was little to no teaching on sin and I distinctly remember being told that when it came to morality, it was up to me to form my own conscience and then make an informed decision for myself.
So, as a young woman being raised during this time, I was not taught respect for priests or for the hierarchy of the Church. In fact, I distinctly remember instances where I was taught by the actions of others that the Church would bend the rules if you either paid enough money or went to the right person in power. That it was a political arena, not much different than civil politics.
I also remember being raised believing in ERA. ‘Women can do anything a man can do.’ ‘Women can do anything they set their mind to.’ ‘Women are no different than men and we need to stand up for what we believe in and not let a man control us.’ I also remember being taught that a man was not trustworthy. Men cheat on women and were easily manipulated to doing what you wanted by playing the ‘sex’ game piece. Because of their vulnerability to our feminine wiles and their need for sex, men are weak. I am sure you have heard the saying, “Men will be men.” (of course, this wasn’t said in a complementary way, but as an acknowledgement of this sexual weakness.) Needless to say, this drastically affected my view not only of the men around me but of the priests and bishops too.
As I think back to the newspaper article that was in the local paper this past Saturday, I can’t help but think that the women who were interviewed for the article could have been me but for the grace of God. In fact, if that article had been written even 22 years ago, that could have been me saying those things verbatim.
All this is to say that maybe what we need to do as a Church is to understand who it is within the Church who doesn’t understand the teachings of the Church on contraception and abortion. Then, with humility for the role the Church had in NOT educating my generation, humbly and openly seek to engage this segment of our population in an open and honest dialogue as to WHY the Church teaches what it does and HOW it is the truth. This teaching needs to come from those of us who have fought this particular demon within ourselves and have come to a peace and balance with it in our own lives. Those who are not 100% in support of the magisterium and what the Church teaches (ie. some of the more liberal Catholic women who can be very vocal within the Church) should NOT be the ones to do this. I also do not think that a priest can do this well either unless he establishes first a level of trust with the woman. For a woman like who I used to be, would not open her heart and her mind to a male who might be trying to gain control over her. A woman like who I used to be would not trust any man to know what is right or wrong for her. Because, a woman like who I used to be, has been hurt by a man, … or two, … or three, … or more. And even possibly, a woman like who I used to be has been hurt not only by these men, but also by a priest. So, to move beyond that pain and that lack of trust, there needs to be a great understanding, an unfathomable mercy and above all, the infinite power of the saving Grace of God.
Through a gift from God, those 3 components helped me. Now, we need to reach out and offer them to others.
Today’s Gospel reading from Mark is about Jesus calling the Legion of demons to come out of the man by the tombs. We also need to call the demons out of those around us who have been consumed by the demons of anger and bitterness to the teaching authority of the Church. Through calling out of the demons which are preventing them from seeing and understanding the teachings of God and of the Church, may we heal those who have been victimized by the circumstances of their times. Only then, can we heal.