Saturday, June 9, 2012

When Good People Do Nothing

I follow Mayor Cory Brooker (Newark, NJ) on Twitter. He's an exemplary model of using the tool to engage with his constituents. He occasionally posts little quotes that make me pause. While they may not be his own all the time, they are definitely worth sharing. This one got me today:

Evil triumphs when good ppl do nothing. But love prevails when a community of conviction engages in rebellious kindness & defiant compassion

I did a little bit of digging on this quote. It seems the first part comes from Edmund Burke, a 1770's Irish statesman. Other's have used the quote: from JFK to William Safire. It's even used as a tagline to a 2003 Television mini-series, "Hitler: The Rise of Evil"  While the context of the quote connects to a bounty of considerable issues, I remain fixed on the reflection it stirs in my own thoughts.

My thoughts surround a recent issue;a "showdown between rebel American nuns, a bishop, and [again] the Vatican." See today's Guardian. My favorite quote from the article
"It has become abundantly clear that, particularly in matters related to the pelvic zone, the hierarchy is not interested in exploring questions or engaging in dialogue," columnist Jamie Manson wrote in the National Catholic Reporter

While looking up the full post for the context of the above quote, I found another post by the same author in which a disturbing trend is happening. This article was triggered by "an ad placed in The New York Times urging liberal and nominal Catholics to "quit the church" because it can never be changed from within, and to participate in it is to cooperate with its oppressive system."

With every new seemingly-removed-from-reality-as-we-know-it-today thing that comes from the Holy See, I'm ever more disturbed and troubled at the lack of spirituality and humanism of The Church. I know reasonable folks would ask, "Why do you stay, if you don't like it so much?"

At this point in my life, leaving the community and identity of being a Catholic would be similar to the pain of going through a divorce, or worse, disowning a family member.

Identifying as a Catholic (for me) is not about blind obedience to a body of leaders who are ever more distant from the people they are supposed to lead. My Catholic identity is part of my cultural heritage, and the part of my spirit that gives me strength when I've had really tough life challenges. Do I pray? Yes. Do I attend weekly mass? Sometimes. Why not every week? Simple:

When the homily is about politics; when the music is so badly out of tune that I can't even think, I won't be able to have my reflection with God. I prefer going to daily mass in the morning, if I can squeeze it between exercise, getting kids out the door, and reporting for work. The daily mass typically covers three readings from the bible, and a short sermon. Maybe a couple of songs sung in a capella, if the priest wants. There's usually quiet time after communion to meditate for a few minutes. I cherish this time. If I want to know what's happening in the parish, I'll grab a bulletin.

Do I believe in God? Yes. Do I believe there was a Jesus? Yes. Do I believe there were hundreds of people who devoted their lives to helping others in the model that Jesus lived? Yes.

Do I believe there are and have always been leaders in the Church who thrive on their power over others more than embrace the humble teachings of Christ? Damned right.

The values I learned as a Catholic are a part of my life and struggles to simply be a good person. I think about the prayers we say in mass as a way to reflect on my actions toward others. That's it. I will speak aloud the prayers in Mass - all except one line. Because I do not believe in "one Holy Apostolic Church." (Apostle's Creed) I believe there are many doctrines who embrace the teachings of Christ, and other inspired spiritual leaders. Just as there is more than one color of skin on the planet, there is more than one way to address the souls within.

Back to the issue of the day's concern.

In 1894, the Sisters of St. Joseph built the convent and the school as part of Holy Infancy Parish. There are two nuns who, after serving the Church and Catholic Schools for more than 50 years, have just retired from leading my kids' school. These two nuns were the last of the order at the school, and the last of a great generation of religious women who dedicated their lives to teaching children. These women didn't teach just the sacraments and the parts of mass, they lead the school by educating the whole child spiritually, academically and emotionally. My kids' education is based on the gospel values of love, justice, and peace. These women gave children the tools necessary to be a good people in life after school and outside of the Church. Academics aside, I send my kids to the school because I believe the teachers and the co-principals helped me and Steve raise our kids to be decent human beings.

Even the kids, at the tender age of 9 years old, understand that their school is special. My son said it best: "Having strict teachers is a good thing because no one is allowed to make fun of anybody else. We get so much more work done, and can do fun things when people get along."

For the Vatican to question them, and any other women or lay person who has dedicated their lives to teaching in catholic schools on any level angers me as if they were attacking my own mother. For Christ's sake, if it not for the nuns, who else would have kept the church together during all the priest sex scandals?

We need another Martin Luther. I'd settle for another Pope Paul VI.


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