A Necessary And Liberating Humility
Thoughts on the First Readings – Joe Frankenfield
Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11
Many Catholics are wrestling with our troubled Church. They’re shaken by leaders who seem to choose institutional power and image over honesty and care for others. As one friend put it, “We’re rigid about all the wrong things and, in the face of the clear evidence to the contrary, we seem to think that we’re smarter and more moral than everybody else. It’s a struggle to believe that we’re acting in good faith and not simply trying to hold on to control. I’m not proud to be Catholic anymore.” The man speaking was angry but he had tears in his eyes.
Our current maelstrom is the result of many currents. One seems to be the hierarchy’s tacit assumption that they don’t slog through the same morass of human weakness and selfishness that bogs down the rest of us.
Paul’s letters and the gospels portray apostles and disciples who were lying, petty, squabbling, grubbing after influence, opinionated, dense and rigid. These traits haven’t disappeared. And few people are unaware of that fact.
Describing the Church as the “spotless bride of Christ” and “holy Catholic Church” may protect a certain theological point of view but most folks see it as merely a self-perception out of touch with reality. As another friend recently noted, “This Church needs a strong dose of humility if it hopes to survive.”
A modest suggestion is that we cease being amazed that our community is seriously flawed throughout and humbly acknowledge that moral weakness effects not only our perceptions but our judgments. We are wise to be hesitant about accepting moral guidance from those claiming authority but wise as well to be hesitant about assuming that we ourselves see and react to life out of wisdom and selfless love. The claim to be Christian entails the responsibility to make serious and wise moral judgments not because to fail in this dishonors God but because failing in this harms people and our world.
The weakness of leaders often elicits new responsibility from those accustomed to following. The Church and the larger community face a series of serious moral decisions. Whether we’re invited or not, we must take our places at the table for these conversations.