Thursday, December 29

Holy Mother and Bride of Christ

The intent of my post is not, of course, to challenge that the notion of Church as Mother or as Bride of Christ, or the effectiveness or either title. But they do provide a framework for an observation I would like to make.

Amongst committed Catholics, an observer might note two general trends. Some very committed Catholics tend to hold things against "the Church" quite readily (usually, they mean the bishops, because this phrase is thrown around rather like "the Man"). The Church is to blame for this, the Church is accountable for that, the Church must answer for this. Certainly, they love the Church: usually, they have grown up very much "in the bosom of the Church," in a culture heavily marked by the influence of Church institutions, like schools and such. Yet there is a simultaneous familiariy and a sort of contempt which accompanies that familiarity.

There are also, amongst committed Catholics, those who are much less likely to criticize "the Church" corporately. Even where they might have the exact same complaints, these complaints might be directed at "the bishops" or perhaps not levied at any particular individuals, but also not "the Church." Consequently, the idea of holding the whole Church (from Justin the Martyr to Edith Stein) demanding an account for the actions of a few individuals--even bishops!-- "from the Church" doesn't particularly make sense. An observation of their usage of "the Church" tends, simultaneously, to be more broad: perhaps not trumpeting "we are the church!", but still speaking of "the Church" in a way that suggests the reaction of all the faithful through all time to the call of Chirst, or at least that community which directly inherits the Apostolic tradition in succession and teaching.

The first group of committed Catholics tends to have grown up, as I said, "in the bosom of the Church," and for that reason, I posit, tend to be older (since the Catholic ghetto was so largely deconstructed after Vatican II), or from areas of the Church where those institutions are somehow continued to exert a strong influence (older dioceses). Interestingly also, they tend to somewhat resent those institutions. The second group tends to be those who --even if they were born Catholics-- were not brought up in such an exclusively institutionally Catholic enclave; hence, I posit, they tend to be younger Catholics, to be converts, or to be those who are from younger dioceses where such a strong institutional presence has not been constructed.

I say this rather in reaction to something I read. In describing a new youth program at a local church, one 60-ish parishioner was saying, "This new program will be very good for the youth, it will let them do their own thing; it's too late for us, but not for them." Now, I can tell you that this concern which the 60-ish parishioner exhibited is (in my area) rather strictly confined to those who group up before the Council: they had a very thorough, but very strict, education in invariably Catholic schools, from kindergarten to college. In this context, his concern for the creativity of the youth rather makes sense. Since the Council, however, in this area, religious education has more or less ceased to exist; no one goes to Catholic schools, only a few to Catholic colleges. Creativity isn't particularly on the minds of the youth; one of my classmates in the program, who was not particularly religious, lamented that we didn't learn anything for all the activities we did.

I'm not sure what this really means, vis-a-vis the desirability of creating "Catholic ghettos." But it does seem to me that those who grow up in them, as I've remarked before, very often
(1) Seem to view the Church as "the system"
(2) Seem to place themselves outside or marginal to "the system"
(3) In their outlook, tend to resent "the system."

Whereas, those who have made more counter-cultural decisions to embrace their faith
(1) Seem to view the Church as a historic community
(2) Seem to more easily associate themselves with that living community (if not to insist that they ARE that community)
(3) In their outlook, tend to have a more tender care for that community

So while I'm not sure what this all exactly means, it helps me to make this observation. It reminds me that, in trying to understand the approach different people take towards the Church, they very often have different conceptions of the Church, which are very much a cultural thing.

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