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More pain

posted by awelborn

lest anyone persist in the fantasy that Church Problems = Catholic Problems, take a look at this piece from Christianity Today, a companion piece, almost to William Lobdell’s LATimes piece.

Beginning with a small, "casual, hippy-era" (her phrase) church, moving through various pastors there, onto a mega-church, then to an Anglican parish…it never ends.

But she does end with St. Francis de Sales.

The nugget I took away from her piece was something I have often told others struggling with this – and myself. The only respite she finds from the horrors of church politics and the damage of corruption in church leadership is in direct ministry to the homeless. I told someone struggling with these issues once to decrease his internet time, spent reading about and talking about scandal, and go to daily Mass, then hang out with the old guys who’d been in attendance, and were probably going for coffee right before they went to the St. Vincent de Paul center to do some corporal works of mercy.

Again, it’s not a call to quiescence or ignoring problems. Lord knows, I’m not into that. But in the end, Jesus’ call to us to love, spread the Good News,  and pour out ourselves in service to the poor. Over and over we see and hear it, and have to answer the question…what did the saints do? They did many things, in all areas of life, at all levels of human activity, but in the end, the focus of the saints was Paul’s – to let Christ live in them.

Despite the turmoil and our dysfunctional church experiences, my family moved to California so that my husband, Jeff, could study for the pastorate. The goings-on at the megachurch where he was a student and then an assistant pastor made everything that came before seem like Sunday school games. During Jeff’s tenure on staff, both we and others were victimized by abuse of power. We also witnessed sexual misconduct and abuse, dishonesty, cruelty and cowardice, and a contentious church culture that fed on gossip. I have never seen anything like it, inside or outside the church.

This experience cured me of both naiveté and certain kinds of ambition. It also exhausted our resources. We are just now beginning to recover, 18 months later.

An early step in our path toward wholeness was one-on-one ministry to Orange County, California’s homeless population. Jeff and I took jobs at a homeless ministry in the high desert. Our directors had been missionaries in Asia during the ten years that we were traversing the landscape of American evangelicalism. The differences between them and us were startling. Jeff and I were not jaded, but we were marked by grief. We limped—in part because our children were jaded. And we saw disaster lurking behind every craggy rock. Our coworkers walked with a skip in their step, and danger didn’t concern them much. This was both liberating and disconcerting.



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EM

posted July 25, 2007 at 1:17 pm


I’ve apprecited these posts, Amy. I’ve been corresponding with someone for some time now (he is also struggling with keeping his faith), and I have run into a wall with how to respond to him. I’ve given him responses to reasons such as the abuse crisis and the lack of sacred liturgies at parishes. I feel like there’s nothing else I can say and it just seems like he’s on this road to ending up where Lobdell is and nothing can stop him. I struggle with when to make the decision to let go and just let him take his impending course away from religion. He wants the “perfect” church and just cannot accept that no church is perfect. Therefore, the answer is starting to look like just scrapping the whole concept of church. Any thoughts from readers would be appreciated.



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EM

posted July 25, 2007 at 1:17 pm


I’ve apprecited these posts, Amy. I’ve been corresponding with someone for some time now (he is also struggling with keeping his faith), and I have run into a wall with how to respond to him. I’ve given him responses to reasons such as the abuse crisis and the lack of sacred liturgies at parishes. I feel like there’s nothing else I can say and it just seems like he’s on this road to ending up where Lobdell is and nothing can stop him. I struggle with when to make the decision to let go and just let him take his impending course away from religion. He wants the “perfect” church and just cannot accept that no church is perfect. Therefore, the answer is starting to look like just scrapping the whole concept of church. Any thoughts from readers would be appreciated.



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EM

posted July 25, 2007 at 1:18 pm


I’ve apprecited these posts, Amy. I’ve been corresponding with someone for some time now (he is also struggling with keeping his faith), and I have run into a wall with how to respond to him. I’ve given him responses to reasons such as the abuse crisis and the lack of sacred liturgies at parishes. I feel like there’s nothing else I can say and it just seems like he’s on this road to ending up where Lobdell is and nothing can stop him. I struggle with when to make the decision to let go and just let him take his impending course away from religion. He wants the “perfect” church and just cannot accept that no church is perfect. Therefore, the answer is starting to look like just scrapping the whole concept of church. Any thoughts from readers would be appreciated.



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David H. Lukenbill

posted July 25, 2007 at 1:51 pm


Great Post Amy, and the article is very sad…but your analysis was perfect…just get out and do the work Christ and the Church calls us to do:
“The whole Church is apostolic, in that she remains, through the successors of St. Peter and the other apostles, in communion of faith and life with her origin: and in that she is “sent out” into the whole world. All members of the Church share in this mission, through in various ways. “The Christian vocation is, of its nature, a vocation to the apostolate as well.” Indeed, we call an apostolate “every activity of the Mystical Body” that aims “to spread the Kingdom of Christ over all the earth.”” (CCC, Section 863)



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Anglican Peggy

posted July 25, 2007 at 3:30 pm


Amy,
I couldn’t agree more with what you say. In fact, that is basically just what I said to Mr Lobdell.
Sometimes we can become over-exposed to the failings of the church or other sources of negativity or evil in the world. In a strange way, we can become almost mesmerized by it, like watching a train wreck. After awhile all that you can see is the train wreck.
Those negative examples are sticky and they start to build up often without our noticing until we can reach a point where we just can’t hold up under the weight.
I’ve been through this many times in my life, one especially tough episode came a couple of months after I was confirmed in the Anglican church! I know what it feels like and what saved my faith and confidence. Just like you said, I unplugged and focused on Christ, on worship, on fellowship. Then one day the black cloud permanantly lifted when I realized how alive and active the good is in our fallen world and that its font begins in Jesus. That live-giving water flows out from him and does good for the world to spite the darkness.
I think there are two ways to focus on Christ. There are those who counsel it as a way of denying reality while the house burns down all around. Then there is the kind of retreat, a fall back to his position, a getting closer to his Hope and Life, that restores and rebuilds and remotivates us to return to the fight to serve others as selflessly as he did. The truth is that there is no better way to resist the evil that we hate so much than to continually return to Christ and then return to the good fight. Quitting in despair does nothing at all to defeat evil. Quitting is allowing evil to defeat us.
I have found that in Christ there is inexaustible energy, healing and good will available to us in order to resist and defeat evil. Quitting is just not an option compared to what He has to offer.



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Bender

posted July 25, 2007 at 4:49 pm


Let us be clear — except in the rare case of formal excommunication, no one is ever driven out of the Church. The conduct of others — no matter how egregious — is never the cause of someone to “lose their faith.”
They only one responsible for someone leaving the Church is the person that leaves. They lose their faith and they leave the Church because they freely and wilfully choose to do so. It is not that they cannot accept certain things about the Church, but they will not accept them.
Likewise, it is not anything in the Church that causes the never-ending complaining and criticizing of the Church and Her shepherds (which we even hear from self-described orthodox and traditionalists). Rather, these people are on a never-ending rant because they choose to be.
In either case, the problem is not the Church, as sinful as some of Her members may be. The problem is a severe lack of humility in those who constantly complain about how crappy the Church, the bishops, the liturgy, and fellow Catholics are. Ultimately, this lack of humility is combined with a lack of the virtue of discipline and an excess quasi-Protestant philosophy that we mere laymen are qualified to judge the sufficiency and adequacy of the Church and liturgical practices.
Such a self-centered, uncharitable view will naturally demand a false Church that fits their false idea of perfection, a Church from which they can take and make demands of, rather than giving and loving the Church as She really is, which is a perfection far greater than mere human minds could construct, even though each and every member of the Church (with the exception of Her Founder and His mother) are and were sinners.
That we are a hospital for sinners, and not the hotel for saints that some apparently demand, is not the reason that people complain and leave. They leave because they put themselves first and choose to leave.



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Mary Ann

posted July 25, 2007 at 4:57 pm


Somewhere in one of Flannery O’Connor’s letters, she mentions Gerard Manley Hopkins’ advice to a person who was having difficulty maintaining faith. The advice? “Give alms.”



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Fr. Brian Stanley

posted July 25, 2007 at 5:26 pm


Thanks, Amy, et al. A lot of us need to get back that “spring in the step.” Don’t want to sound too much like Jeremy Bentham and his egocentric notion of “enlightened self-interest,” but service to others is also good for the server: there is plenty of grace in that service. And it is my understanding that service utimately and primarily pleases God, too. :)



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Francesca

posted July 25, 2007 at 6:02 pm


Hi Mary Ann, is that Hopkins or Pascal?



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Henry C. Luthin

posted July 25, 2007 at 8:17 pm


I am reminded once again of Chesterton’s response when he was asked what was wrong with the Church. H said, “I am.” Thanks, Amy.



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