It is high time I publish something other than a homily. So let it be done – my musings on sin and the conflict between faith and fear.
Conservatism is a crippling ideology. Rooted in, based on, and perpetuated by fear, conservatism is a paranoia of the unknown. Given its anti-gospel nature, conservatism should not exist within believers of a Good and mysterious God. And yet the inordinate urge to preserve, maintain, and posses, so often dominates our church. So why do we hate freedom? Is our faith imperfect? In reality, we love freedom but are afraid to exercise it. And yes, our faith is imperfect.
In Christianity, the essence of God is made known by God’s Word (Jesus Christ is the revelation of God as Love), but the revealed facts about God only lead to more mystery. What is love? And why would anyone believe in such? The answer is faith, but our faith is imperfect.
When I reflect on the core of my faith as it challenges the human condition, some usual themes -the want for stability, security, certainty, and the affirmation of self-worth- consistently appear. Perhaps these are my own issues, I am willing to concede that, but evidently I am not the only one.
Recently I read a stellar book, Render to Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church, by Jason Berry. Extremely well researched, Berry exposes the sins of an institution plagued by conservatism. In fairness to Berry, he never uses the C word; his issue, not mine, is with an all male hierarchy.
Scandal rocks the church.
Legitimized cults, in my view, the Legionaries of Christ and the Society of St. John, Religious communities whose sins (re: money, sex, and power) have been exposed in recent years were enabled by the conservatism God's people. Fear, the great enabler, has empowered the poisoned. The poor in the pews, those longing for stability, certainty, and an affirmation of their quaint images of God , church, world and themselves, have allowed con-artists like Maciel Degollato, Carlos Urrutigoity and Angelo Sodano to use and abuse. And for doing so, the people of God must account.
Fear is in everyone, Christians are not immune, such feelings make us vulnerable. When all we want to hear is what we already believe, we are easily duped. We are told what we want to hear, and believe because we, the ignorant, have been affirmed. This, a capitalising on vulnerabilities of frightened, naive and needy, etc, is abuse.
Conservatism enables abusers (consider the behaviour of unregulated banks –enabled by conservative ideology). In light of church scandals exposed by people like Jason Berry and Catholic media (see. National Catholic Reporter), it is fair to say that we, the frightened and therefore conservative people of God, have been abused, while we too have enabled. For the latter, we must account!
It is not easy to be free; to own (be responsible for) the church to which we belong, but it is our vocation. As people of God, it is our duty to question authority and offer ourselves in service of Christ’s true mission. In baptism we are anointed priest, prophet, king, and become sharers in the ministry of God Himself. The task, therefore, of preaching the gospel is not reserved for the ordained but belongs to all baptised. So let’s proclaim it! We, the people of God, must account for our sins (for enabling abusers of money, sex and power). We can defeat fear and embrace faith. Like Christ, we will learn to liberate instead of conserve. Or will we? I am not so sure; my faith is imperfect.