Crying in the wilderness
Beyond survival, humans have some very strange, strong needs not apparently seen in other living species. Faith is one of them. Nobody can doubt the power of the urge to worship, to believe beyond what we can prove. No animal can hope, like a human does, for an ability to connect with those we love after we die. The need for faith and the mystery and pageantry that surrounds it is clear. Credo is a cry, asking for something to make our lives on earth more meaningful.
The great religious institutions have so much to be proud of. Care, repair, education, time to reflect, guidance about behaviour, feeding the starving, healing the sick, pageantry seldom seen outside a cathedral or mosque, communion of kindred spirits, a friend in prayer. Even the most ardent unbeliever must admit the good things that have been done in the name of a God or a wonderful Prophet. But all institutions tend to become self-serving and it is a tragedy of our time that one in particular has fallen so low in its performance of duty and service.
The Catholic Church was where I was brought up as far as religion was concerned. Most of the people who dealt with me were good, kind, well intentioned and devoted to making something of a rather timid child. I loved the singing and the rituals. Pageantry is to me what mankind offers as a symbol of appreciation and gratitude for the benefits of life. I could say I loved the church.
The pressures it subsequently brought on the conduct of a marriage were an overload for young people trying to make their way in the world while following the rules at the same time. But to ignore the rules was to deny the faith, and faith, at that stage, was a very necessary support in the absence of familial help and interest. The disgraces we had occasionally seen at school led to a waning of faith and an unintended cynicism about the leadership we were asked to follow.
You don’t quit an institution because it has a few bad people in it. When the number becomes great and the widespread cover-up attempts come to light, adherence to what have always seemed ridiculous rules becomes silly. Unfortunately, the baby often goes out with the bathwater. Age has something to do with it, too. Knowing that you don’t know what you believe is a philosophy. ‘Religion is religion; my faith is my own’ becomes a reality, enough to sustain a glimmer.
The tragedy of all this is the pent-up love, hope and desire of many who would like to see an institution, religious or other, that they could join, help, believe in and not discover later on that they had been duped and let down. There is such an overwhelming desire for faith that to lose one of the major props of a big part of it is to threaten the whole concept of hope in a future.
The Catholic Church has been shackled by its Curia of old men living unnatural lives in isolation from the very people they are supposed to be supporting. They have turned their mission from the Carpenter’s Son into a controlling, self-gratifying committee at loggerheads with itself and the world. They have made the job of Pope almost impossible, but perhaps not quite. Has Good Pope Francis the courage to root out the outdated, to send his curia into the streets of the poor and to transform the church once again into a community of like minded people searching?
From his public statement that seems to be what he wants. ‘Who am I to judge if you are searching?’ he said publicly. He might be deposed in a process of reform, even killed. Surely that is what leadership is about when disaster strikes. We so need him to show real leadership action, not just words, by applying the rules of his religion to those who minister in, and administer, it. His example is superb. His faith is undoubted. His courage needs demonstrating further.
If he took the brave step we could change his title.
From Holy Father to Wholly Father.