The other day I noticed a Facebook 'status update' from one of the classmates from theology. It was a reproduction of a quote from a 'Catholic' publication in which the hierarchy and priests were put down for being out of touch, and various sorts of deviants and dissenters were held up for what was called their heroic and long-suffering faithfulness.
It's curious to me how people could go through the same course in theology and come out with such different view of things, but I suppose it happens all the time.
I guess my trouble with such proclamations is that despite any sophisitication as a Catholic I have grown into over the years and despite the very fine theological education I have received thanks to the generosity of God's people and the trust of my Capuchin brothers, my own Catholicism still sits at its original location in a desire to 'follow the instructions.'
Part of my own conversion to the faith, and the ferocity with which I pursued it at the time, was driven by my unwillingness to live in a world without unified, demanding, and ultimate meaning. I was burned by one of my first philosophy professors who consented with glee to the conclusion of our class that there was no such thing as a 'meaning of life' but only 'meanings in life.' It wasn't good enough for me; I needed something better to stand on. And from my first St. Joseph Sunday Missal and rosary pamphlet, down to my cover-to-cover devouring of the Catechism when it first appeared in English, to the Code of Canon Law and the GIRM and GILH and my Denzinger enchiridion, I have rejoiced to find in these the authentic, apostolic interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures that I first began to read during the hot summer nights of 1991, when I took my first eager but stumbling steps to go out to meet the Person who had been coming to meet me all along, Jesus Christ.
I just want to follow the instructions and find in them deliverance from the entangled mess of confusion and passion and noise that Christian Tradition calls the 'world.'
Not that I don't have my criticisms of bishops and priests as well. All of us--bishops especially--should be doing public penance for the crimes we have committed against children. Even in this, our bishops made a mess of themselves in Dallas. Though I have known many priests who are among the sea of quiet saints who hold the Church together, men of humility and work, gentleness, devotion, and prayer, I am the first to admit that I am daily scandalized and disedified by priests who seem to take the promises of their state very lightly, seem to relish to indulge the disorderly parts of their personalities, and who display a spirit of bourgeois and privileged entitlement in their lifestyles. These things have been sources of scandal, hurt, distraction, and confusion since my very first day living among religious and clergy. At a few moments in the course of things it has gotten so bad as to distract me from everything else and threaten my own vocation and resolve. So I know what it's like to be hurt and feel betrayed.
But I will never condemn my priests and bishops, nor recommend that they 'get over it' and start to conform to the confusions, errors, and glittering fashions of the world, because it is from them that I have received the apostolic teaching that has given me a reason to live in this world and something to do while I do.