My curmudgeon friend has been on my case again, bombarding me with insights, complaints and suggestions about life, the Church, the US government, and the world.
I can’t cover all of his animadversions, but here are a few of a religious nature.
He still laments the English translation of the Roman Missal we are currently using. The collect for Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent is an example of what he terms “gobbledegook” – “May the venerable exercises of holy devotion shape the hearts of your faithful, O Lord…”
He’s amused by church leaders who are trying to read the signs of the times, that is, the signals which Pope Francis is giving regarding simplicity, poverty, and ministry to people on the periphery. Many ecclesiastics are having to second-guess their former attitudes, policies, and routines. Fancy finery, quick condemnations, and expensive construction projects are no longer de rigueur.
He’s still waiting for the pope to call for a Year of Women Religious, in recognition and gratitude for the ministries provided by sisters and nuns over the centuries and round the world. It would be a way, he says, of stepping back from the recent debacle investigating religious women and harassing the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).
The failure to respond to the priest shortage is another of his disappointments. He has read Same Call, Different Men, the study released in 2012 by the National Federation of Priests’ Council and the Center for Applied Research (CARA) which notes that the most striking trend is “the aging of the priesthood.” More than 40% of US priests are over age 65. Expecting priests to pastor two or three parishes is, as the curmudgeon puts it, “a recipe for burn-out, health issues, and retirement. These guys are tired.”
In a similar vein is his complaint about the reluctance to ordain women as deacons. He points to evidence for such ordination in Church records, including the New Testament. He argues that women deserve the grace of the sacrament if they are performing the services, and ordination to the diaconate is not a slippery slope to ordination to the priesthood.
The list could go on, but I think you get the idea.
The old curmudgeon has some valid points, issues worthy of discussion.
The Church has been characterized as one, holy, catholic and apostolic, but it is also messy. The apostles argued about who was the most important. Paul called the Galatians “crazy” and confronted Peter for being wishy-washy.
Made up of human beings, the Church is subject to human foibles and failures. We are therefore always in need of reform. Maybe we need the curmudgeons keeping us thinking and correcting. Some of the prophets may well be counted among that number.