Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This feast day is, in a fundamental sense, a feast day that commemorates the seeding of the spiritual purity and the Incarnational truth of Roman Catholicism. Without Mary there is no Jesus Christ, there is no Church. Mary is the ground of the Church, the fore bearer, the woman on whom the foundation rests. The Church is feminine at it's core. We may have a church of 'Fathers', but it is a Mother who is the original and driving energy of Catholic spirituality. This is still true today.
God's intent was that Jesus would be the fruit of her vine. Jesus taught that we were all brothers and sisters of His Abba, reserving the only human parental role to his Mother. Jesus even said, call no man your "Father". On the Cross itself, He to his Mother, "Woman behold your son, son behold your mother." The relationship implied here is not that John would take a dominating role as Jesus calls John, Mary's son.
It seems to me Jesus based his concept of servant priesthood on the parental role of motherhood--the servant to the family, not on the parental role of fatherhood, as that was reserved for His Father. Institutional Catholicism, in it's exclusively male face, has totally screwed this up. It should come as no surprise that in our time we have the sexual abuse crisis. It completely symbolizes how spiritually perverted Catholicism's priesthood based on power became in it's direct rejection of Jesus's intent for a priesthood based on service.
Which brings me to the current fiasco in Ireland. The following piece from Clerical Whispers concerns Dublin Archbishop Diurmaid Martin. Archbishop Martin makes some startling admissions and statements in this homily. It appears that the chastened Archbishop is beginning to see Jesus's handwriting in the sand when it comes to the Church in Ireland.
THE ARCHBISHOP of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has appealed to young people not to abandon the church.
He also said the church’s response to the current crisis will come from new structures combined with accountability.
At St Andrew’s Church, on Dublin’s Westland Row yesterday, Dr Martin said: “I appeal especially to the young people among you not to abandon the church. Your church lies in the future, the long future which will be there when my generation will have long since gone.”
He continued that “the church will not be reformed by abandoning the church, but by living the word. The church needs your integrity and honesty and idealism. You have something special to bring so that arrogance of the past can be replaced by a new idealism of the future.
“Perhaps I should not say new idealism, because we have to recognise that there is so much of that idealism is present in the church already and feels rightly betrayed,” he said.
Reflecting on the current crisis, Dr Martin continued: “The church on many occasions in history has betrayed its vocation and failed its people.” Its response “will come not just from new structures, which are necessary and that process will go on, but structures must be combined with accountability, as Cardinal Brady said”
What was needed was “a solitude which can strip from us, as individuals and as church, all the accretions and the superficialities and the corresponding arrogance and sense of self-importance which so often negatively colour our lives and decisions.”
The church needed “to step out of so much of what appeared to be positive but was truly damaging; the church needs to step out of behaviour patterns which had led it away from authentically preaching the word or even placing its own structures above the cleansing power of the word.
“In the painful solitude of the desert, the church must learn how to return to its fundamental mission,” the archbishop said. (And that mission is based in maternal nurturing not notions of paternal dominance.)
“We have too make straight the paths our own lives and address the hills and valleys and the crooked ways of our lives and the false values we represent by the way we live.” (Why is it our bishops only speak of the church as a 'we' when they are referencing their 'own' failures? What 'we' have to do is stop giving total obedience and complicit silence to the actions of 'their' church."
On this Feast of the Immaculate Conception I pray for a re conceiving of the notion of priesthood and sacramental authority. I pray that it begin with cutting the word 'authority' out of the sacramental equation, and replacing it with nurturing. If we make that one change it opens up a whole new vista concerning priesthood and sacrament. Or to be more accurate, it returns to Jesus's original concepts for the Eucharistic table and His servant leaders. I really believe it's only on this path that the shattered trust can be rebuilt.