Bedecked and bejeweled in the recognizable robes of leadership the Catholic Hierarchy stands in the field searching for their "flock". Where are the faithful sheep that have trailed in their footsteps seeking discipleship, direction, and discernment over the years? When we were small children with interlaced fingers inward with the pointers aiming to heaven, with thumbs acting as doors, we chanted "Here's the church, here's the steeple....open the doors and here's all the people"! The wiggling fingers represented the throngs of people who used to pack pews for Sunday services. But where are those people now?
Out of the 68 million Catholics in the US, less than half attend weekly Mass as they we raised. The once blind obedient herd of Catholics have migrated to SBNRs (Spiritual But Not Religious) and NONES (those checking off the box "none of the above" when it comes to proclaim one's religious affiliation. The idea that ONE Church is the ONLY way to spiritual truth is long behind us.
When I travel discussing my book, "A Change of Habit; A Spiritual Journey From Sister Mary Kateri to Sister Mary Vodka", I inevitably am pelted with two questions: "What were you THINKING when you entered the convent?" and "Are you still a Catholic?"
To the first question I penned the prequel, "The Making of a Guilt-Sponge" that chronicles how a devoted and dedicated young catholic girl, a "guilt-sponge", got swept up in the spiritual eddy that hurls her into the convent.
The second question, "Are you still a Catholic" reflects the understanding that to be a "Catholic" you must be one in agreement with the authority of the hierarchy. You are either "in or out", "for or against" or "black or white". Sound familiar? I respond to that question explaining that "yes, I am a Catholic". Perhaps the Pope wouldn't deem me Catholic but I did not leave the Church, the Church left me. I experienced, reflected, learned and grew with the times, responding with faith being led from within.
Yes, life's journey, whether as individuals or institutions, consists of a pattern of expansion and growth. The cycle of experiencing, reflecting and learning lead to new growth which is essential for life. The seeds of change and growth have been sown, but have fallen on deaf ears and blind eyes. It seems that the flock has moved on leaving the Hierarchy "outstanding" in their fields....alone and wondering "where are all the people". Hurdles must be acknowledged and addressed to bring a about a unification. Issues of birth control, the place of women in the Church and the acceptance of gay priests are good starting points.
Articulating the dilemmas concerning these very issues within the Church, Sister Louse Akers takes on the power of the Patriarchy, in the well documented article entitled: "Sisterhood" by Barbara Lyghtel Rohrer, published in "The Sun". Sister Louise Akers has been barred from teaching or speaking in any institution related to the archdiocese of Cincinnati because of her refusal to publicly renounce her belief that women should be allowed to become priests. While Sister Louse chose to stay in the convent taking on the Church Patriarchy I could not remain in religious life representing ideals that we not me. Although different venues; both of us are calling for a shift in the power of the Catholic Church.
There is a wonderful Senegalese Proverb that sums up the challenge for the Catholic Hierarchy: "If an egg is broken by outside force, life ends. If broken by inside force, life begins. Great things always begin from the inside."
It's time for the Church Hierarchy to crack open the window letting the fresh air of the Spirit breathe "renewal" into the new papacy and the Patriarchy. The time is long overdue for the Shepherds of the Church to reunite with the flock.