It’s been a long time since we had a rant/counter rant.
It’s about time.
Last week in the Plain Dealer there was a front page story, above the fold, about the Community of Saint Peter, the priest with about 300 parishioners who decided to break away from the authority of the bishop and establish what has become, in essence, a new Church and thusly avoiding the closure of their parish as so many others experienced during the recent downsizing in this diocese. The current article was about their music minister, a nun, who was “pressed to quit breakaway church.” Apparently a nun, in good standing with her order, the Sisters of Notre Dame, has been worshipping and ministering in this community since before they established their own Church and continued to do so until very recently. The superior of the order is quoted as saying, “It’s a very sad situation and very complicated.”
Sad? Yes. Complicated? Not so much when one doesn’t weigh all factors equally but places first things first.
The man in charge of the congregation made the statement that it is a horrible loss for them, which no doubt it is, and that the persons responsible for inflicting such pain should be ashamed.
But the Church did not leave Sister Susan nor the congregation, they left the Church (granted, under very difficult circumstances. But no other congregations left en mass.) Sister Susan did not have to stop worshipping with them. She could have freely chosen to stay. But you can’t live in two houses at once. The bishop did not “cause” the split, their pastor did.
True, there are nuns and clergy who work with non-Catholic institutions even for worship services. What is so different about this situation? This community does not exist alongside but in opposition. Must they cease to exists? Who can stop them? But a choice was made and one must either be a part of it or not.
Many will see the situation differently. But the point is to see it from the point of view of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is very much a family. Christ is the bridegroom, we are the bride. In this particular instance the bride (or part of the family) has decided to keep enjoying all the perks of living in the bridegroom’s house, but wants to spend weekends with someone else. We don’t – we can’t work that way.
Now here’s the great question to which we are not privy (and it is only remotely our business at all and only since those involved decided to go public:) Does Sister go to Mass in addition to worshipping with this community? Okay, maybe there is some complication there. . .
In Carsten Jensen’s book, “We the Drowned,” one of the characters (who is agnostic at best) said, “But a church is like a ship. Certain rules apply and once you come aboard, you have to adhere to them. And if you can’t, you should stay away.”