Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 9, 2000
WCR Letters to the Editor
Inter-church couples live in a painful, lonely place
My wife and I, an Anglican/Roman Catholic couple, had the privilege of attending the marvellous Assembly 2000 sponsored by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton Sept. 14-17.
Would that every diocese had the vision and the resources to carry out such an assembly! We welcomed the call to ecumenical openness from many speakers, especially hearing a panel of Church leaders as they spoke of the path to Church unity. This is a matter of urgency for us in interchurch marriages, as we live in our marriages the joys and sorrows of that path.
We were especially struck by Bishop Victoria Matthews, Anglican bishop of Edmonton, as she expressed her hope that in this year of jubilee, "the eyes of the blind be opened."
On the way to the airport after the conference, we asked our driver to stop by the North American Baptist College, where the Association of Interchurch Families international conference will be held Aug. 1-6, 2001. As we spoke of the work of the Association, especially around questions of Eucharistic sharing, he listened quietly, then said "I understand what you're talking about."
His story poured out. A deeply faithful Catholic, he had married a woman from another Christian tradition, having first checked with various priests as to the implications and consequences of such a marriage. She took an active part in their life of faith, and eventually seriously considered becoming a member of his Church.
That journey was seriously compromised when the priest conducting the faith development session they attended spoke of the "sacrilege" of other Christians coming to receive the Eucharist.
Hearing this, the husband chose the wise path of asking for clarification. With his wife standing nearby, he heard the priest say that she didn't have to come to church with him, and that if she did, she should stay in her pew and pray while he received.
This, he felt, went completely against the teaching of the church (and his experience) that they were part of the same Body of Christ through Baptism, and made one in Christ through their marriage.
If they were indeed "one," where was that "one" to worship, to eat and drink the body and blood of Christ as Jesus said must happen?
If they were indeed one, why was their unity not recognized, whether they chose to worship in his church or in hers?
For the last five years, he has felt there was no one around with whom he could talk about the situation. Instead he and his wife live the painful reality alone, and participate much less in his church.
We have often heard it said that few couples live the interchurch reality. Examples like this (and there were other, similar conversations on the weekend), combined with the fact that some 50 per cent of Catholics now marry across denominational lines, indicate there are instead large numbers of such couples.
They live the joy of unity and the pain of churches sinfully divided, while those churches pass them by, unaware of their existence.
It is our hope that the words of Scripture, expressed by Bishop Matthews, may come to pass. In this jubilee year, may the eyes of the blind be opened, in our clergy and our laity, to the painful reality of these couples in our midst.
May these couples also come to experience the joy of being able to live out their reality and unity of their "domestic church," fully celebrating and sharing the richness each brings to the Body of Christ, and being welcomed by the tradition with which they have become one through marriage.
Give free reign to unorthodox Catholics
Some of us Catholics are not keen on being sheep, regardless of who the shepherd is, but when the German shepherd Ratzinger tries to round up the flock to make us bleat in unison, we are deeply concerned.
Does this man have any idea how much damage he is doing to our Church? Does the pope have any idea, or is he a helpless victim of curial manipulation?
Pluralism and diversity are signs of a healthy civilized society. If people are allowed to think and to express their thoughts in words and actions we have to expect diversity.
If we are the "people of God" and a "royal priesthood" we are entitled to respect for our individuality.
What keeps us together is our common commitment to Gospel values and not fear of hell fire, orders from on high or simplistic answers to complex questions.
I have some hope that our Pope John Paul is aware and supportive of diversity within our Church. After all, he has beatified "two very different popes" (WCR, Sept. 18).
Pius XI was a spiritual bully who had the arrogance to declare the papacy infallible, Pope John XXIII opened the windows of the Church to the world and the people.
In today's Church we find followers of both points of view. We have parish priests who have serious trouble sharing responsibility with their parish councils and lay ministers.
We also have parish priests who genuinely care about people. Right here in Alberta we have bishops who want power and control and bishops who want social justice.
Right here in Edmonton we have a Catholic school system on an "aggressive promotional campaign" (WCR, Aug. 28) proclaiming identity and faith and a superintendent who promises to visit every school to check up on their Catholicity.
Fortunately we also have a powerful ATA local, whose president emphasized the value of being helpful to each other, which is an obvious Gospel value.
Also, fortunately, we had a magnificent choir and orchestra of teachers, conducted by the best music teacher in the system. That is what made the liturgy a celebration, but you did not even mention them. Your article in your Sept. 18 issue just focused on the power brokers.
Most of the time you do a decent job of reflecting the pluralism within our local Church, but your taste and your publisher's taste obviously lean toward orthodoxy and fundamentalism.
Keed up the good work and give free reign to unorthodox Catholics like Bishop Fred Henry, Father Ron Rolheiser and Hank Zyp. They are the people who hold out hope for our Church, my kind of people, my children and my grandchildren - salt of the earth.
May the Holy Spirit bless your efforts and ours. A Church for the new millennium is possible, but it will require something more profound than youth rallies, pilgrimages and popular devotions.
Concerned about schools' future
Assembly 2000, this was a place where we could be open to the Holy Spirit and grow in our Catholic faith! How many times do we hear people say, "I want to know more, learn more about my faith and the Catholic Church"?
Here was the perfect opportunity and how many people took advantage of it? In our parish of St. Mary's, we have approximately 1,500 families. If there would have been one person representing each family, there would have been more than were there on Saturday. This was open to the whole archdiocese so the attendance was a drop in the bucket.
On Friday the ranks were swelled with teachers that used the assembly for their professional development day. That was wonderful, but where were they on the following days?
I am very concerned with the future of our Catholic schools and parishes when people don't take opportunities like this to deepen their commitment to and knowledge of their Catholic faith.
Thanks from the bottom of my heart to the organizers for all their hard work. Thanks to the bishop, the priests in our archdiocese, and those who gave their support by attending this function.
St. Mary's Parish
Too much 'spiritual superiority'
I wonder what Jesus thinks of the recent Vatican ballyhoo about his Church being the sine qua non of salvation?
For all their doctrinal correctness, Rome's brass-polishing eccleciastics might remind him of his own disciples who habitually argued about who was the "greatest" and who would have the best seats in the kingdom.
Jesus might be amused that the WCR devoted five articles to Catholic "ethnocentrism" - (especially, since he himself was notorious for friendships with "outsiders," and for calling "blessed" everyone who was just, merciful, pure of heart, a peacemaker, etc.) - and only one article to a place where he would love to be, that is, a refugee camp in the Horn of Africa.
Unfortunately, Jesus can only go to Eritrea and Ethiopia in our sandals and through our generosity.
Why, then, do we spend valuable time belabouring our spiritual superiority when we could be working with all God's people to build the kingdom of love, hope, justice and peace in our desperately needy, suffering world?
Veronica Marie Rochford
Thanks for column on suicide
I thoroughly appreciate Father Ron Rolheiser's recent article on suicide (Aug. 21, "Christian misconceptions about suicide"). As someone who has been personally touched by such a tragedy I find it very consoling to learn more about this compassionate view on the issue.
Defining suicide as part of a severe illness, rather than as sin, is healthy and realistic. Believing that God embraces the suicide victim with gentle, welcoming arms is very reassuring.
Thanks again, Father Rolheiser, for the reminder that God is infinite love.