Saturday, August 11, 2012

Dealing with Negativity toward the Church

I joined a Facebook group this week that looked interesting and left it after no more than two days. By its name it seemed to be a Christian group (having the word Christian as part of it) that honors the sacred feminine. While I did expect to see some pagan tendencies, what I did not anticipate was the strident anti-Catholic attitude of certain members (which in some cases came across as an attack on my spiritual journey).  I understood that some were motivated out of concern that I would make a grand mistake by joining the Catholic Church, but it was rude nonetheless. It didn't take long to realize that in general, this is by and large really not a Christian group.

What were the complaints? The word patriarchy overwhelmingly came up, as well as misogyny. Specifically, references were made to the sex scandals in the Church and the "hostile" refusal of women to the vocation of the priesthood. Now, I too have complained about the patriarchal history of both religion and the world and have bemoaned the plight of women and the destruction of our earth. Luckily, though, I do not have too many negative memories of church itself. There was one sermon in one church that left me feeling like I had been punched repeatedly in the gut and head, and I never returned. But the issue had nothing to do with women.

What I have lamented in my own church upbringing in Protestant denominations was the absence of Mary and the sacred feminine. But I have no resentment in this regard. The path that finally led me home was evidently the one I was meant to tread. I went to a church as an adult with a female minister, and I had no problem with that. In fact, she was wonderful! But I do not feel strongly that women need to be allowed to be Catholic priests, and if the Church has solid theological and historical reasons for this prohibition, I trust the Church's authority. And I think that is the key. The problem many people, from all Christian denominations, have with the Catholic Church is her claim to authority. Authority is not the same thing as abuse of power. I feel liberated, in fact, that the Church does possess and act with authority, that there is a place where Truth can be found, and where the cacophony of clamoring voices is hushed. I can confidently rest in the protective authority of the Church.

That is not to say that I have blindly believed every doctrine or dogma without question. But when I have doubts or confusion, I just keep praying and studying and have faith that understanding will follow in God's time and in His way. I go to the source. The Church teaches that God is neither male nor female but is pure spirit and possesses the perfect attributes of both Father and Mother. The Church herself is called Mother, and so is Mary, who is the foremost disciple of the Church. Traditionally, it is through Mary and the Church that the feminine, maternal aspect of God is revealed. And as I have repeatedly discussed, while the exclusive use of the name "Father" is problematic, it is not meant to exclude the motherhood of God. In a similar way, my blog, Organic Mothering, does not exclude fathering. Also, the Holy Spirit, while called Lord, is clearly depicted in bridal-maternal language, and in fact in both Sacred Scripture and Catholic practice is often referred to as Wisdom, who is personified in female terms. The sacred feminine may be hidden to a great extent, but she is quite certainly present. The very Divine Presence of God is Shekinah, another clearly feminine name.

It's true that there have been misogynist statements made by early Church fathers, and surely today as well, but that is not the official position of the Church at all. Many Church fathers also made egalitarian comments in favor of upholding the dignity of women, especially within marriage.

And as far as the Church's teachings on abortion, I am in full agreement. Legalized abortion has not "liberated" women; it has put women and all of society in chains instead. I'm still considering the subject of birth control, but I have no doubt that in many cases at least, it has been the cause of health problems and has negatively impacted morality. At any rate, none of the Church's proclamations on these women's issues would lead me to believe that the Church hates women, which is exactly what misogyny means.

I have not been Catholic in the past and have not had negative experiences in the Church, and I don't judge those who express their pain as the result of Catholicism. But that suffering does not come from God. The Church herself is not evil, but some of her members are. Holding onto resentment is poisonous to the soul. Some of those harmed in the past seem to give constant, new fuel to their anger. They don't seem to be willing to forgive and be healed. They want to stay angry and bitter. They evidently get some payoff from continuing to grieve and suffer, to refuse to unite their suffering with Jesus on the cross and then to come down from the cross and rise from the dead with Him. They have thrown the proverbial baby out with the bath water. I have compassion for those in this circumstance, but I can't dance around the fire with them and condone the way they keep throwing in more logs and fanning the flames. Emotions are contagious. Build up your immunity by staying securely under Mary's mantle!

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