Spiritual, Not Religious

The most satisfactory meals of the week were generally eaten on the weekend, with family and friends. People generally do not get much satisfaction from eating alone. And so it goes with prayer. I had great meals during the week. I actually prayed during the week, but my best prayer was the one on Sunday with other people. When the Christian world stopped to come together.

I think man and woman were created in the image, and formed in the likeness of God. And in my view God had a social nature. There were a lot of “spiritual, not religious” people looking for mates on Match.com. They seemed to live in denial of their own spiritual nature, when it came to the community. A mate like that would scare me.

That same social nature in the natural selection process leads to intimacy. How can “spiritual, not religious” people find true intimacy and fit into the social fabric alone? Was this why the social studies of the new generation show so many people no longer bowl?

Ad limina visits occur every five years to Rome, by bishops. Those ad limina visits. According to canon law No 399, a bishop needs to report to the pope an account of the state of his diocese once every five years. The bishop delivers a written report on the state of his diocese as well as a renewal of his pledge of dedication to the Holy See. The Pope then delivers his own address to the bishop, offering his perspective on the challenges facing the Church in that diocese. (Those priests ordained after the late 1980s had the same kind of loyalty oath that priests ordained before them never had to take. And thus one reason for the conservative nature of so many young priests these days — the ones who tried to preach from a seat of authority with the New Evangelization, rather than teach the young and the old.)

Ad limina visits. When everything was supposed to look so good. Then the pope goes to Africa, and discovers the real world there, where things are not so hot for his priesthood. No one seemed to be studying it, except Jeffrey Anderson of St. Paul who has made countless millions, profiting from the mistakes of the priesthood.

Those ad limina visits were on hold. But the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life had issued a decree on December 22, 2008 that it will begin an Apostolic Visitation or comprehensive study undertaken in order to look into the quality of institutes of women religious in the United States and the life of the members of these religious institutes. Visitations in a comprehensive study to review the quality of convents in the United States and the institutes of women religious. Yeah, the people in the convents.

March 18, 2009.
“On a day in which his focus turned largely to the inner life of the church, Pope Benedict XVI indirectly, yet unmistakably, demanded a halt to financial and sexual scandals that have recently tarnished the image of Catholicism in Africa, a continent that is otherwise perhaps the most compelling “good news” story for the church in the world in light of dramatic 20th century growth. Speaking to the bishops of Cameroon, Benedict XVI called for greater oversight of priests and religious. The church has also been hit by a number of sexual scandals, most involving reports of priests involved in either causal or long-term relationships with women, and, in some cases, having fathered children.

The very setting of the pope’s address to the bishops offered an ironic reminder of the point. Benedict met the bishops in a parish church rather than the main Yaoundè cathedral, because the cathedral is still undergoing renovations that were supposed to be completed well before the papal visit. Mass-goers and the local government had been asked to contribute funds so that the cathedral’s new bells would be in place to ring out when Benedict arrived. In fact, however, the bells never arrived, the work is not completed, and the former rector of the cathedral was recently replaced amid speculation about missing funds. The cathedral is not an isolated case. In September 2007, amid charges of embezzling church funds.

Bishop Immanuel Bushu, the bishop of the Buea diocese, read the letter of suspension during Mass in his cathedral, ordering a popular priest, Fr. James Ekwede, to vacate his rectory and seek refuge “anywhere he likes.” Similarly last January, Bishop George Nkuo of the Kumbo diocese had to step in after a spat erupted in a local parish, which had led to the pastor placing the entire parish community under interdict, refusing to say Mass or celebrate the other sacraments. In the background were accusations of embezzlement, and the peace deal negotiated by Nkuo involved an agreement that some $500,000 in parish money would be independently audited. In a nation where corruption and mismanagement of resources is widely regarded as pervasive, it’s perhaps not terribly surprising that there are echoes of it also within the church. Nevertheless, the cases have given the church a black eye.” –John Allen, in the National Catholic Reporter

Time. The passing of the days. Building on the past. Formed in the classics, and then letting go to be absorbed in new lands. In new geographies. Growth and maintenance.

Ad limina visits, when everything was supposed to look so good. Then the pope in Africa discovering in the real world. “Dr. Livingston, I presume.” With the discovered mistakes of the priesthood, no one from the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life dared talk about the loss of the money for corporal works of mercy from all the sexual abuse cases settled around the world. There was no comprehensive study undertaken in order to look into the quality of institutes of men religious, and why the numbers were allowed to fall off, and what might be done to change all of this. Despite the loss of money for corporal works of mercy, the spin doctors of the church were working to canonize John Paul II. All the king’s horsemen. The ones appointed by this pope and the last one.

Calendars to measure time and the growth of the church. Time. The passing of the days. Solar and lunar calendars to start again each morning. Solar and lunar time was a lot alike, a little different, like men and women. Gregorian calendars, and carrying on, until the day when the Christian world stopped coming together because there would be no priests. The loss of money. That loss of Sunday prayer would hit Rome one day, with loss of revenues. When there were less practicing Catholics. There was a cost to poor leadership. The politics of the church might continue until none of us would be able to afford spiritual food. With other Catholic people as well as other people with belief, but not really belonging. The spiritual who felt so out of place.

People generally do not get much satisfaction from eating alone, and so it goes with prayer. The day might be ahead on the calendar when we all would be “spiritual, not religious,” having a lot less satisfactory meals. While popes wrote their theology books that no one read, and no one really oversaw the governing of the universal church.

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