Saturday, March 1, 2014

"Secrets of the Vatican" /Frontline/PBS Program: A Response by Susan T. Masiak

I haven’t joined the conversation yet because a close friend passed away this week and my mind has been mostly . . . there.  However, I note the wisdom and the pain in many of the recent emails and wish to offer my thoughts. 

I agree that we need to firmly distinguish between being disciples of Jesus’ Way of thinking and living, and the institutional/organized ‘Roman Catholic Church’.   The second only exists to serve the first.
Jesus also lived in a system and time of primitive institutional thinking.   He saw how this hurt people; his way freed them from the limitations of that system.    He lived and died a Jew; he never left the system --- though he was killed anyway  because the Jewish  leadership was so threatened by the freedom of his teaching that they convinced Roman system that he was an insurrectionist --- someone trying to overthrow the system.   In some way, they saw correctly that his inner freedom based on living an authentic life of truth, love, justice, forgiveness, connectedness, etc. would either overcome or make irrelevant their system of external power and status.   They had to get rid of him; they thought they did.

Really, what has changed in 2,000 years?   Another religious system that sometimes tries and often fails to support our discipleship, the truth of who we and others are – how is this different?   Systems, as developed up until now, create rituals, levels of authority, rules, status for a few --- regardless of intent, that’s what they are and do.   Someday this may evolve, who knows – but either way, Jesus taught that they need not control who we are, how we lead our lives, or our inner peace.   

It’s possible that if we are living our truth in a time when an institution has great ‘worldly’ power, we can be hurt, punished, killed.   It’s possible that we may be living our truth in a time where there is a ‘critical moment’ and we need to throw our support, or even our leadership to effecting change.   But mostly, we simply need to figure out a way to live our truth while not being controlled by the institution; essentially, ‘working around’ it, participating in it, leaving it, whatever.    Treating it as what it should be:  a support, not the ultimate reality.  

That ‘working around’ should include the recognition that hostility on our part toward the institution is . . . our issue to resolve.    And we must resolve it because Jesus taught that hostility is not a good fit with his interior freedom; hence the ‘forgive your enemy’ thing.

I would go further:   someone once said that “anger is like juice in an orange --- it only leaks out when the orange is cut, but it’s always been there.”    Anger is often our response to perceived threat --- yet with Jesus as the model, no exterior threat is ‘real’ (including being crucified) -- we need to seriously evaluate our perception of threat.    There are a number of spiritual guides that effectively tackle this, from A Course in Miracles to Richard Rohr  --- but let’s just note here that the people we admire – the spiritual masters who’ve effected positive change in this world – tend to have one thing in common:  they have resolved their anger and hostility issues; they come from a place of peace and love for everyone – even their oppressors.   Only then do they have the freedom to act if/when the opportunity is right. 

And, if we nurse or think or act out of inner hostility, how are we different from all those who are hostile toward ____ (fill in the blank: infidels/ progressives/ liberals/conservatives/Obamacare/Unions/this or that tribe in Afganistan or Africa)?  All those who harbor hostility have two things in common: they know they are ‘right’ in their thinking and that others are ‘wrong’, and they think their hostility is somehow part of their goodness.    Neither is true:  one thinking may be more advanced/evolved at this point than another but it will be someday become primitive at some point in the future; hostility (per Jesus) is never part of goodness and truth.

So, regarding the institution of the Roman Catholic Church, we can be ‘systemically free’.  We can affirm when Pope Frances teaches something that moves the world forward while being patient when his teaching is trapped in primitive thinking.  We can accept RCC theology that is rational and resonates as truth, or choose other more advanced theological models that better reflect our increased understanding of the world.   If the RCC blocks our living of our ‘calling’ in a particular way, we can find other ways (in and/or outside the institution) to live that calling.  If discriminated against because of our race (past), theology or sexual orientation (both present), we can find ways to live our reality within the institution (or outside it) while we consistently speak our understanding of truth.  We can participate in the RCC rituals that build discipleship for us, or create new ritual forms that provide greater support.    I know all our hearts ache for those still suffering from the effects of the sexual abuse; they may never be free of the pain inflicted on them as children and we can only offer them special care, healing opportunities, never allowing their experience to be swept under the rug, etc.   The rest of us --- time to move on, folks! 

We can celebrate living in a time when communication and technology make great change possible, while still being at peace with more primitive thinking, the chaos of change, and the tendency for those not ready for change to deeply entrench the most regressive ideas of the past.

But most and above all – we must be guided by Beatitude orientation of love and forgiveness; taking care of each other; using our gifts for all because we are ultimately one reality (OK, that last is a concept from other religious traditions but relates to our ‘Body of Christ’ wisdom).  Only this brings peace.   Only this will put us in the best position to offer our support or leadership for effective change because it allows us to develop into a unique expression of God.  Nothing else matters -- certainly not the current state of the institutional RCC!

Peace to all!   Susan

Susan T. Masiak, Spokesperson
Pathways from Poverty to Self-Sustainability
677 Augusta Dr., Rochester Hills, MI 48309
(h) 248.651.5444  (c) 248.705.8868

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