Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Monday, January 31, 2011

If Jesus can change, so can the church

- Woman, great is your faith. Your daughter is healed. - Jesus

There's an interesting post ar In All Things by Tom Beaudoin, professor of theology at Fordham University = Twenty-somethings and Catholicism: Reflections on the Fordham Conference (UPDATED). The post is about the "Lost?" conference at Fordham University, a conference aimed at understanding better the relationship between the Catholic Church and 20-somethings.

Recently the pope's mentioned wanting to re-evangelize Europe, and also wanting to open a Court of the Gentiles for turning atheists. I doubt these efforts will work because the reasons why people are leaving the church, the reasons why many won't consider joining in the first place, will not be addressed, much less dealt with, by the church. Professor Beaudoin seems to agree with me in his post. He writes ...

[...] The most frequent recommendation for the Catholic Church was to pay greater attention to young adults. At this conference, one could hear that the institutional church "needs to listen," that church leaders and pastoral workers "need to meet people where they are," and that what is essential is that 20-somethings "be really heard." I myself have used these phrases since I started writing about the so-called "Generation X" nearly fifteen years ago.

But after so many years of rather intensively following the conversation about Catholicism and young adults, these exhortations are, I am convinced, of quite limited value .... Why do I register this note of deep skepticism? Because deep listening is predicated on a willingness to be changed by the encounter, to have one's conceptions, even basic conceptions, revised by the other (as well as a trust that the other brings this same fundamental openness). This openness, as much literature on interreligious dialogue shows, is not a weakness or a bracketing of real difference, but rather the limit-test for whether the truth of, in, and through the other can be acknowledged, and thus whether real hearing can happen. Pastoral workers and church leaders cannot advocate "meeting people where they are" if it is only to try to convince people about what "we" think we already know about God, sex, faith, justice, or whatever Catholic material we deem of urgency. "Meeting people where they are" thus always borders on patronizing: people can't "get" to where "we" are, so "we" must "go out" and meet "them." ......

How could a move to real listening be more broadly credible? The Catholic Church has to have the courage to say, and to prioritize in its doctrinal, catechetical, pastoral, and theological life, that it is not done knowing God, nor is it done knowing sexuality or salvation, among many other matters, in the light of God. Perhaps the most appropriate next official document would regard what the Catholic Church is able to admit that it does not understand ...

Maybe part of the reason the institutional church doesn't want to consider change is the belief that changing one's mind = having been mistaken. But I think the refusal to consider change doesn't exemplify perfection, it exemplifies death. Even Jesus was willing to change his mind. In the film Jesus, after Jesus helps the Canaanite woman, the disciples are upset with him for helping her and say, "Our God is for the Gentiles!????" Jesus says to them, "I saw a girl dying. Would you rather I let her die? This woman has taught me that my message is for the Gentiles as well. If I can learn, so can you."

And so can the church.

You can read articles about Matthew 15:10-28 at The Text This Week


Blogger Deacon Denny said...

Good post, Crystal. Good reference with that healing, and good connection with the modern Church situation, too.

9:16 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Denny, thanks :)

9:22 PM  

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