Friday, July 13, 2007

National Catholic Reporter (NCR) and Catholic pluralism

On the Saint Benedict post below, I have added a link to my mention of the National Catholic Reporter, for which Sister Joan Chittister, OSB is a columunist. I'm highlighting it again here.

One of the things that grieves me about the current brouhaha re: the Pope's latest pronouncement is that it will only aggravate the kind of oversimplification of Catholicism and lumping together of Catholics and, dare I say it, anti-Catholicism, that I have encountered again and again in Episcopal and some other Anglican circles (and not just there). I've a much longer rant on this matter which I will not write on-blog, but for now, remember this:

1. "The church" does not equal "the hierarchy," especially where Catholics are concerned.

2. And vice versa. The hierarchy does not equal the church.

3. The Roman Catholic Church is as wildly pluralistic and messy as any other communion, and usually more so.

4. Most Catholics in the U.S. (and in many other parts of the world) don't refer to themselves constantly as Roman Catholics. Episcopalians call them that much more often.

5. In our history as Anglicans (before the word "Anglican" showed up), back in England, we were reacting or opposing our way of being Christian and being church not just to the Roman Catholic Church, but also to a particular wing of Protestants, the Puritans (and a particular incarnation of the Puritans at that). My friend and mentor Bill Countryman taught me this and often reminds people of this. It's problematic for us to define ourselves constantly in opposition to Catholics and Catholicism or --more frequently-- to take every opportunity to take hahaha digs at Catholicism, as if the current Pope (to whom I can barely bear to refer by his papal name because I so love and revere the original Benedict) and Catholicism were the same thing. (Note: some of what is going on in Anglican-land these days has to do with the Puritan wing trying to define Anglicanism, but that is another story. And my good United Church of Christ friends would also caution me about uses of the word "Puritan," which has acquired negative and particular connotations during its history. But I digress.)

As a former RC, I sometimes wonder whether the Catholic Church I know and still love --though I left it gladly, but not resentfully, to become an Episcopalian-- is the same church as the one that gets caricatured in conversation by members of the Episcopal Church I know and love.

Many others besides Episcopalians are in the grip of stereotypes and false perceptions about Catholics and Catholicism. In fact, some of this is why, many years ago, I wrote a book on Catholic women: stereotypes were even worse where Catholic women were concerned. I can't tell you the number of women I interviewed, all over the U.S., who told me they constantly ran into people who thought Catholic women must just not have a brain and were poor benighted creatures who just said "yessir" to any and all members of the hierarchy. It just ain't so.

Why don't they just leave, you ask. That is a matter for another conversation. Read the book. Andrew Greeley also has some things to say about that -- he started writing about this very question in, oh, the early 80s, I think.

That said, the Roman Catholic hierarchy isn't making things easier. Many of my Catholic friends feel embarrassed to be Catholics when certain statements come out or particular events happen. And I love being an Episcopalian and being proud of my church as an institution. It does make a difference, and a big one.

But the ecclesial picture just isn't as simple as we represent it.

Back to my "things to remember."

6. The Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA), of which I am still an active member (there are several Anglican, Lutheran, and other non-RC members), is one of the best, sharpest, most thoughtful theological groups I know. See above under "yes, Catholics do use their brains, and well."

7. So, again: have a look at the National Catholic Reporter sometime. You can't get access to their full issues online, but there is plenty there on the website to give you a feel for the breadth and depth of NCR's coverage, and there is some website-only content, too.

Full disclosure: I used to write for the NCR and still occasionally do, when they ask me.

A short piece I wrote about the 2002 CTSA meeting in New Orleans is here.

And they've quoted me (see way at bottom of page) in my more recent Episcopal days, too. (That was a sentence from a sermon I'd sent to the now former editor.) You'll also see , right above, a quote by my friend (and former co-parishioner at Good Shepherd, Berkeley) James Tramel.

1 comment:

johnieb said...

Sometimes guilty, and acutely embarrassed by it right now. Maybe more later.