|Mathew Fox is not the least bit off base when he discusses Creation Spirituality. I find him far more hopeful than Shelby Spong.|
I've always like the thinking of Mathew Fox. Jamie Manson is running a two part interview with him, and the following is an excerpt from the first part. In this section Fox gives his thinking on the future of organized Christianity and Catholicism in particular.
So the church should be not only post-denominational, but post-institutional, too?We have to move away from looking at religion as primarily a sociologically institutional vestment and start seeing it as yeast within society that raises up justice, compassion, healing, celebration, forgiveness and, of course, creativity. Leonardo Boff talks about "ecclesiogenesis," or "birthing church." What kinds of communities are we birthing? And what kinds of nonsense are we standing up to? There are forms of fundamentalism arising throughout Christianity and they are hijacking the real spirit that Jesus unleashed. We have to save Jesus from the church. (That's an interesting way of putting this idea, saving Jesus from the Church. Personally I don't think Jesus needs to be saved from anything or anyone. Christians need to be saved from the immaturity of their institutional religions.)
Do you think people must begin seeking church outside the walls of the institution?Definitely. It's so clear that the institutional version of the church is melting before our eyes. I began The Pope's War with a quote from Fr. Bede Griffiths, who said to me at the very end of his life, "Don't even think about the Vatican. Don't look over your shoulder. It'll all come tumbling down one day like the Berlin Wall. Keep using your energy to grow new shoots."
We are ready for a new era in Christianity. It doesn't mean we surrender our own traditions or roots. But there is such a thing as ecclesiolatry. Some people would rather worship the church and hide inside an institution while throwing darts and bombs at the so-called secular world out there. The truth is there is only one world, one creation. We have to stand up to ideology, which is like idolatry. It freezes up hearts, minds and souls. We have to listen to the Holy Spirit. She elects to make things new. The Holy Spirit has always been biased in favor of creativity. (I would also add adaptive evolution.)
Do you think this melting down of the institutional church could be part of the Holy Spirit's plans?Absolutely. The premise of The Pope's War is that we've been given two schismatic popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, over the past three decades for a reason. And that is to shake us up so that we will press the restart button on Christianity. (Schismatic might be strong, but what the current retrenchment is pointing out for a lot of Catholics is once you have crossed a certain point in understanding and consciousness, you can not go backwards.)
Further in this post Mathew Fox describes a state of denial that many of today's Catholics live in that blinds them to the actual reality of the Church. It's easy to see this denial at work when well meaning Catholics defend the Church and it's priests in the face of mounds of evidence about abuses, corruption, and criminal cover up. They see all this unfortunate truth as biased anti Catholic attacks. The real truth is the anti Catholic attacks are actually being perpetrated on Catholic laity by the actions of our ordained leaders. That is, this is the real truth if the Church really is the People of God and not just the clerical system.
I agree with Fox that the last two popes have served to shake us up and forced us to really take a look at what form--if any--of Catholicism we wish for the future. When an individual is forced to make a decision, rather than go along for the ride, that individual at least has a personal stake in their own faith expression. That's as true for any progressive as it is for any conservative. The polarization we currently experience in the Church can also be seen as an expression of the fact that individuals are claiming their own faith expression, and they care about it. That's not a bad thing at all. The problem comes when one looks at what is being claimed as Catholic in the institutional form.
The institutional expression of Catholicism, as crafted under the last three popes--I include Paul VI as it was two of his decisions which really started the reverse swing-- has been purposely limited in a well thought out and executed campaign, in favor of a wholly external form of Catholic identity. It's all about command and control from above with obedience the highest form of Catholic expression. This is the signature spiritual charism of all the new lay movements like Opus Dei, the Neocats, and the Legionairies. The implied definition of God in this view is the Old Testament Patriarchal God of retribution and conformity, and not the New Covenant Jesus of love and compassion. The signature psychological trait is to conform one's self and conscience to an external source of authority. Jesus called for the exact opposite. He called for finding the God with in us as our source of authority.
This particular form of Catholic identity is passive and receptive on the part of the laity. The highest form of theology is apologetics. Spirituality for the laity centers on various forms of ritual piety and Marian expression while mysticism is the purview of monastics. There is no room for prophets because there is nothing left to reveal. It is static and priest centered. Some would say priest ridden. It works well for a specific segment of the population or for the initial steps on a spiritual path. It fails for everyone else, but especially for those who are past the initial steps of the spiritual path. It places a particular notion of sexual morality ahead of social justice. It encourages scapegoating and the ostracizing and expulsion of certain sinners from the conformist community. It's leadership responds to the most rigid of it's flock and it acts from fear and in secrecy. It is a 'self' centered church in which saving one's personal soul is the end game. Jesus taught our job was to lose our 'self' to find life. It is not surprising that this church is well on the path to remnant status in the West and as the educational levels continue to rise in the South the same shrinking will occur there as well.
Many conservatives are pointing to the growth of this current Church amongst youth. To some extent this is true, but it's also true that youth grow up and that's the problem with this current church. It is not a church for mature thinking adults--well, unless that adult has developed a prodigious capacity to compartmentalize incongruity and logical inconsistency. Or stops thinking about their faith at Confirmation.
Vatican II started down a path that was going to take some time to bring to fruition. It opened up a conceptual thinking about the Church, and the lay relationship to the Church, for which neither the the laity nor the clergy had any intellectual preparation. Given this, it's not surprising a certain amount of chaos ensued. It was a chaotic time all the way around. But the vision Vatican II described was awesome and rife with the potential to launch Catholics into a brave new world---kind of like the first time a teenager gets the keys to his own car. Unfortunately for Catholicism, the keepers of Peter's keys couldn't take the anxiety and took the keys back. Trouble is, when you get used to driving a car, riding passively on a bench seat in the great big bus is no longer going to suffice. You can't go back. There's just not enough freedom to grow. Where Vatican II Catholics wind up from here on out will be up to them as individuals because the Church no longer has any room for them collectively. One thing I know, the solutions will be creative with probably a few wrecks along the way, but such is life itself and that's what makes it all worth living.