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|March 1, 2004||
Vol. 1, No. 209
Preparing to cure what ails us
by Arthur Jones, NCR editor at large
Calling all bishops. Cancel some of your Holy Week engagements.
“Collectively,” writes theologian Eileen Flynn in Catholics at a Crossroads: Coverup, Crisis and Cure (Paraview Press), “all Catholics suffer from shame and the pain of watching the church lose its credibility and sense of purpose.”
How right she is. Now let’s switch to Lent. Something I’m not good at, it’s usually half over before I get started.
(I’m far better at introspection than I am in putting the results of the introspection into action.)
And, he suggested, fasting is a much neglected means of concentrating heart and mind.
Some people do fast. They’re fasting each Friday at Dolores Mission in Los Angeles, a community that knows all about pain. It regularly buries its young men and women and children killed in brutal gang slayings, sadistic drive-by shootings and retribution. Dolores Mission is fasting for peace in Iraq, peace in everyone’s lives.
There isn’t much peace in the Catholic church at present. The cover-up and crisis is a major part of it domestically, what’s coming down from Rome is a major part of it internationally.
For many, there’s more to the unrest than that, but I’ll spare you my rant and get to the point. Actually, Flynn’s point.
She writes: “Few people are happy with the Catholic church today. Priests, bishops, cardinals and the pope may seem tranquil on the outside, but they are crying on the inside. Progressives are unhappy about the way the reform-minded agenda of Vatican II has gotten sidetracked, and conservatives bemoan the disintegration of what once was a proud, enviable institution.”
Flynn, in her book, mentions “cure.”
And I thought about the fasting thing. As a preliminary to a cure, fasting isn’t bad as a kick-off to internal change.
And I’m very willing to have others do it -- specifically the U.S. bishops.
Despite the pressures on them -- or even because of the pressures on them -- the Catholic bishops of the United States during Holy Week, should engage in a public fast. Somewhere, anywhere they can be seen as objects of sincere Christian abject humility.
And if a group of them will get together to fast during Holy Week, somewhere, anywhere, repentant about the cover-ups they’ve signed off on, and the crises they’ve created, I’ll publicly join them.
Any two or three bishops publicly gathered in His name to fast, and I’ll be there.
I’ve plenty in my life to be abjectly humble about. To do penance for.
And a touch of Christian solidarity during a fast with a group of fellow Catholics I’ve come to mightily distrust, might just be good for my soul.
Perhaps I’ll learn if the bishops really are crying on the inside over what’s happened to the church. I know I am.
Arthur Jones' e-mail address is email@example.com.
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