SUSTENANCE FOR THE JOURNEY
As a Catholic married to an Anglican, I greatly appreciated Cristina Traina’s article, “Until All Are Welcome” (December 15). Both my wife and I have entered into Eucharistic fasts in those situations when comments were made at Mass saying only Catholics could receive. If one half of a married couple is unwelcome to receive, how can the other half truly be considered welcome?
However, I question Traina’s use of the term “hospitality.” My understanding is that hospitality is always toward the “other,” never for someone who is “one of us.” I think that’s one of the problems that led us to this point.
We all too readily see people from different Christian traditions as being “other,” when we should instead see them as true brothers and sisters in Christ, and therefore “one of us.”
Various Catholic documents have spoken of fratres sejuncti, inappropriately translated into English as “separated brethren” when a more appropriate term could be along the lines of “estranged” brothers (and sisters). Our unity is imperfect, because the connective tissue between parts of the body of Christ has been damaged. But that imperfect unity is still real. There is no “separation,” no part of the body that must re-attach itself to the torso before it can be fed.
I believe we have to move beyond seeing our brothers and sisters in other Christian churches as “other” (to whom we might consider extending Eucharistic hospitality), and begin instead to recognize them as “one of us,” with whom we may practice Eucharistic sharing. The imperfection in our unity is, after all, not on the level of being truly brothers and sisters, but on the level of estrangement between true brothers and sisters. And, if we are going to move forward on the journey to unity, we all need to be fed for that journey, or die along the way.
I have thought long and hard about the issue of sacramental ordination, validity of sacraments, etc., and wanted to share my thoughts after reading Cristina Traina’s article, “Until All Are Welcome.” Life experience has taught me much, including about the issues surrounding ordination in Old Catholic, Anglican, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant churches, and how those churches understand the Eucharist. At some point I have received Communion with all of them.
One could come to the conclusion that the claims of all these churches are tainted, that the history of Christianity shows enough bloodshed and persecution on the part of church authorities to make any claim of authenticity essentially inauthentic—a case of mauvaise fois, or “bad faith” as Jean-Paul Sartre put it.
While I may be a believer, I also have to confess that the behavior of Christians in history is so shocking I am bound by conscience to question the claims made by the various congregations, including any monopoly by clergy on sacramental ordination. My conclusion is that these claims are arbitrary. Any believer with the indwelling Holy Spirit is a priest, and, if conscience will allow, he or she may serve in a sacramental capacity without any formal approval from any religious authority whatever.
I realize this idea is not new. George Fox of the Quakers would agree while doing away with the necessity for sacraments altogether; some Protestant ministers recommend one have Communion services at home. The difference here is that I see the idea of ordination as a “necessary evil.”
The fruit of pride and ego must die with Christ at Calvary. The clerical vocation should be one of service, including training in many of those skills gained by candidates for a master’s degree in social work as well as, of course, a theological background. But as far as having a unique magical power, such an understanding of ordination should go the way of the Inquisition and the auto-da-fé, witch trials, and the murder of “heretics.”
Canon law is arbitrary; for conscience’s sake one may obey it or not. Whether one does or not, one has made a choice. If one assumes responsibility for the choice, one is acting in “good faith,” as the existentialist would have it. We might wish for more Kierkegaards or Bonhoeffers, but in reality we most of all need more mensches, real people who refuse to hide behind the mask of comfortable conformity.
I am inspired by the protest Traina describes in her article. The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. She has taken a first step. I hope many will also be inspired to follow.
When I finished reading your editorial, “What Now?” (December 15), I was disturbed by your attitudes regarding our president. You may not like him personally or how he speaks or tweets, but to say that he is an “unstable, wicked man” is too much. He may not be what we are used to in a president but I believe that, of the choices we had, he was the lesser threat to our country. What has been going on for so long in Washington and within both parties is wrong and we are just now beginning to see the corruption that is there. I don’t need to tell you this information because, if you are honest, you can see it yourselves. As you state, this is “a season of unveiling and revelation, when what lurked in the darkness is brought into the light and what quietly festered becomes fully known.” I believe what Pope Francis says, that “divine mercy is the foundation of Christian hope.” God is still in charge and with his grace transformation and healing is possible. Let’s do our best to make the United States the compassionate country that God wants it to be.
CALLED TO HOLINESS
William M. Shea’s proposal could not be more clericalist (“Imagine There’s No Clergy,” January 26). In ascribing so much responsibility for the historical mistakes of the church to the clergy, Shea undermines the laity’s capacity for agency and participation in the life of the church. He reinforces the clergy’s historical tendency to abuse authority by denying it the gifts of forgiveness and transformation through the Holy Spirit. We, the laity, do not need just more sacramentality, as David Cloutier argues in his reply, but creative and invigorating proposals that will keep both laity and clergy alive in their symbiotic relationship. It is the very distinction and variation in how we are called to holiness as laity and clergy that enriches the church. Shea’s inability to see how the ministry of the sacraments makes the church more sacred than institutions like Congress and the Supreme Court, which he gives as examples, suggests that perhaps he would be better off running for office. The clergy is essential to the extension of the “enchantment” that Cloutier discusses. My brief proposal as a member of the laity is that it falls on us, too, to discern and foment the attitudes and visions of the clergy. To promote the social and sacramental life of the church, our energies and our receptivity to the work of the Holy Spirit must be directed to where it can flourish and transform rather than perish. How can we, as the laity, cultivate the sacred together with the clergy? How can we turn the relations between clergy and laity into sources of growth? These are the kinds of questions that, when asked and answered in collective practices, will create space for the Holy Spirit to work in the expansion of the experience of the sacred. Cloutier did an amazing job in responding to Shea’s proposal with the idea of super-sacramentality. The clergy doesn’t need to be abolished. It needs to be truly converted. I believe the laity can help.
Deneb Kozikoski Valereto
New York, N.Y.
Thank you so much to Amanda C. Knight for her courageous and deeply personal article (“Be Such as God Made You,” January 26). I’m sure it was not easy to write, but her insights were incredibly valuable. She has an immense amount to offer! I don’t have any daughters, but I will invite my sons to read what she has written. I also have an “adopted” daughter who, I feel, would really benefit from Knight’s reflections.