"Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? -- New American Standard Bible, ©1995
Growing up in born-again bastion of Wheaton, Illinois, my childhood friends celebrated every type of Christianity. Among the largely Catholic population there were Covenants, Evangelical Frees, Methodists, Lutherans and non-denominational religionists who attended a variety of Christian churches. I found it most extraordinary that many of them actually read the Bible! What kind of craziness is that? Catholics I knew didn't read the Bible. The priest and selected laymen read parts of it on Sunday for us. Other important stuff was picked out and fed to us by nuns in Sunday school. But actually read it on our own? No way. I've never been in a Catholic Church that even had Bibles in the pews, let alone in our hands.
As an adult, I think I now understand why actually reading the word of God on our own wasn't encouraged in my Catholic Church, or most anyone else's. It was the same reason, I believe, the mass was in Latin for so long. If we truly understood what was going on, we might have actually learned something. We might have empowered our selves. We might have interpreted the Scriptures on our own, prioritizing God's edicts in a way that the Church might not support. How could we be blind followers if we studied the same Bible as our moral leaders? Isn't that like standing next to the magician when he's performing a trick? It made sense that the Church try to keep us ignorant and in fear (thus solely dependant on the Church for spiritual survival), rather than educated and potentially empowered.
Today's current state of my Catholic Church's dis-grace has reached a hell-hot fever pitch. As reported in the Huffington Post, we have the Bishop in Peoria, IL preaching politics against the President from the pulpit, risking the Church's tax exempt status and a bishop in Seattle who is trying to overturn gay marriage, while many in his flock (including men of the cloth) opening rebel against him. And, rather than focus on things such as world hunger or disease, the Vatican is trying to reel in a group of "radical" U.S. nuns who comprise 80% of all nuns in the U.S.
At risk of posing a question of the logically obvious: Why doesn't my Catholic Church get its own house in order first? Get the plank/log/boulder/semi truck/elephant out of its own eye before it tries to remove a speck from another's eye? Maybe you've heard about the Philadelphia bishop in the middle of the current pedophilia scandal. Or the now almost countless scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church involving priests raping young boys and girls? Or the cover ups of these events by our blessed priests, bishops and higher ups executed around the world to avoid "harming" their precious church? What part of that is the work of true followers of Jesus? None of it. Not one damned bit of it. With millions around the world suffering, starving and in need of spiritual guidance, is homosexuality and birth control the best we can do?
If you doubt that the Catholic Church has strayed from God's will for us, consider this: Would Jesus live in the Vatican? Would He parade around in expensive cloaks, wearing His own custom fragrance and hand made shoes? Would He surround himself with priceless artwork while millions starved, and allow His Church to hide behind a host of lies and deceptions? Would Jesus censure nuns for having opinions about how to serve the less fortunate, or would He role up His sleeves and help? Would He welcome into the arms of faith those who desire a relationship with Him, or attempt to make their lives a living Hell?
I think it's a fair guess that Jesus wouldn't be caught dead in the hierarchy of the Catholic faith today. He gave us guidelines in the bible that far too many priests quote from the pulpit and choose to ignore and/or defile. The Catholic Church is in desperate need of a revolution. The believers among us need to stop blindly following and search the God that is in all of us for answers. Our leadership has let us down, and we need to take the actions they can't.
Maybe it's forming a Sunday walk-out day, where we leave the pews and volunteer in our communities as a form of peaceful, spiritual protest. Maybe it's vocalizing our honest stance on birth control, and making public our usage of it. Maybe it's wearing letters of the alphabet to church: B if you're in favor of birth control, E for Equal Rights for all of God's children, PM for Priest Marrying, FP for female priests, etc.
As Catholics, we need to stand up for what we believe is the Christian thing to do. Remove the plank in our church, forgoing politics and power grabs and the pride-filled sin of trying to force others who don't believe as we do to live like us. If we can start to do things in God's name that are truly for Him, Jesus will be the first One in line to cheer us on.
Sarah O'Leary is a spiritualist, author, licensed minister and member of the Catholic faith. She can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.