My thoughts on the Popes interview in America Magazine.

Tomorrow I am speaking at a "fishbowl" (where people have an interactive conversation about a topic while others watch).   I am the minister representative at a University.  The other speakers are faculty.  Our topic is the interview with the new Pope Francis I that was in America magazine.
So what is my take? I am there as a minister.  So what, then, does that make my expertise?  A theologian can discern the theological implications of what is being said. It is their task to unpack the nuance and implication that are embedded in the words of a Pope.  And my task?  What is it exactly?

This is the struggle for me.  As a minister in the Church one might think that it is my job to help people be drawn closer to the church through this interview?  Perhaps as minister in the church it is my job to help people know God, via the church, by this interview.  Except that I am not a Catholic minister. I am a minister who is also Catholic.  Catholic is my practice. I deeply espouse it for my personal faith.  It is not function and does not need to be the source, summit, and salvation for all people.

So then it seems that my interpretation must be about the people.  I must find the voice of the people of faith in the interview.  I must listen for the places where the people are heard, understood and know and I must find the places where the people are not heard, where they are ignored, unknown, or dismissed.

So here are the people who, for one reason or another I want to be in this document.

Those who have been deeply wounded, shamed, or abused by the Church:

The Pope calls the church the field hospital.  That the church must care for the wounds of people first!  On one hand I love it! That is so true. On the other hand, in much of the article the church is essentially likened to the Priests (though not exclusively).  But it is Church authorities who have done centuries of abuse.  Obsession and shaming over sexual sin, denying some Catholics Eucharist for unorthodox belief, and systematic abuse of children and people not in positions of authority have caused centuries of woundedness.  The problem, with the Pope's analogy then is that the church is not the field hospital, the Church is the battlefield!

The concern for me is that as long as long as the "worst" priest are the ones sent to prisons, mental institutions, hospitals, and poor parishes and as long as priests are given lisence to preach shame, humiliation, and exclusivity form the love of God then we will be a Church where many authorities are wounding.  (Sadly this is the mess that so many lay ministers are trying to clean up)

Those who are not ordained who work in the church:

In my home parish alone there are 3 lay full time employees and 1 part time priest.  In parishes all over the United States and much of the world the Catholic community is organized, supported,   implemented, explored etc. by lay ministers (trained theologically and not).  NEVER is lay ministry acknowledged in this document.  Those who run the Catholic church on the ground are completely overlooked.  They are not mentioned at all.  I fear the deep down we have another Church authority who would be delighted if we had excessive vocations to the priesthood (in the form that it exists now)  so that we could get ride of lay ministry.

Fundamentally, all who are Baptized Catholic are anointed Priest, Prophet and Ruler (King) and we are all part of these elements in the church.  These baptismal gifts, given freely to all by a god who cannot stop giving of herself, are altogether ignored.

Those who call themselves women:

There are copious amounts of articles about the implications for women from this interview. Women are in need of their own theology, women have a special role, women are mothers, etc.  It's just demeaning.  The idea that we need a theology of women  that is altogether separate from the theology of men is bullshit.  And, he pretty much said that his hermeneutic around feminist theology is one of suspicion- "machismo feminism" is what he fears.  Seriously! Then get off the machismo theology thing altogether and stop it.

Those are Catholic:

Finally, for me the tone of the this interview is very hopeful!  There is NOT a constant grabbing of power or shaming of those who are not unorthodox.  Their is a sense of humility and community.  This is a Pope that I think will listen, learn and will be listened to and learned from.

I heard from a Priest friend, "I feel like I don't have to be embarrassed to be Catholic anymore," and this I understand. I do not love this Pope. I do not agree with him on many many things. But I am going to pay a bit more attention, because I think he is trying to be relevant, trying to grow, trying to be curious about the world, about religions, about new things.  And this I can be on board with.

So in the end we will see what I say, I suspect it will be real.  Some good, some bad...but always honest and hopefully centered on the love of God.


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