Thursday, August 9, 2012

Vatican vs LCWR: A Trinitarian Controversy?

I've been praying for the nuns.  And as I pray, I've been pondering how this current crisis is a clash of differing assumptive worlds.  Differing ways of living.  Of praying. 

We are led to question:   What is church?   How does one lead (or exercise authority)?  And at an even more basic level:  How does this relate to - even spring from - the Trinity?  Who is this God of Mystery whose Divine Life we are invited to share?  In whose image we are made.

It seems to me that the Vatican and the LCWR are literally working from different theologies.  And I think it boils down to the very basics of the Creed.  The nuns are working from one play-book.  The hierarchs from another.  In how decisions are made.  In how relationships are structured.   

Key here, I think, is the role of the Holy Spirit.  How the Spirit's procession is conceptualized.  How the Spirit's guidance is sought and implemented.

The Vatican uses a top-down process.  Guided by the assertion of infallibility.  And apparently by a view of God as someone who demands unquestioning submission to his agents in Rome.  Think back to the Roman Empire and it's dictatorial oppression of dissentThink back to Saul as a complicit bystander of the stoning of Steven, a disciple who saw heaven open as he was martyred.  Recall too how Jesus later asked Saul:  Why are you persecuting me? 

Somewhere along the way the Vatican took Imperial Rome as its Icon.  Rather than the We-Community of Triune Holy Mystery

The LCWR, on the other hand, uses a communal process of leadership and decision-making. Following the edicts of Vatican II, a council which took the Spirit as it's guide and model, the LCWR views each of its members as integral to communally discerning the Spirit's guidance.

So which group better images the We-Community of the Trinity?

This question leads us back centuries and centuries into the distant past.  To 325.  To conflicts over the Creed.  Conflicts, which, I now believe, have bearing on the nun crackdown of our day. 

As you may recall, the Council of Nicaea painstakingly hammered out a creed.  And one of the tenets of this Creed, a tenet still recited by the Eastern Church, relates to the procession of the Holy Spirit "from the Father."  Some time later, in the Iberian Peninsula, there arose a change in the creed, which later made its way to Rome - where it stands to this day.  The Roman version has the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son.

Now this may seem like a small thing.  But consider the image of the Trinity as described by Irenaeus (late second, early third century):  the Son and the Spirit as "the two hands of God."  That's a pretty understandable image.  Unless you recite the Roman version of the creed.  When the image of the "two hands of God" turns into an image of one hand... and then what?  I don't know about you but it's pretty hard for me to wrap my mind around an image of the Spirit (hand) as proceeding from both the Father and the Son (hand).  While it is so easy to take Irenaeus at his word, envisioning the Trinune God as Our Father extending to us his two hands. Directly!

Our Baptismal Calling is to participate in the Divine Life.  To be immersed in Holy Mystery.  Once christened other Christs, we are members of a Holy Priesthood - guided by the Holy Spirit.  It is our task to transfigure the world.

This is what the sisters are doing!  And what the Vatican seeks to undo!

And if you ponder the Mystery, it makes me wonder if the Holy Spirit is doing way more than animating the nuns to do good works.  Something much larger - which bears on our understanding of the Trinity may be at stake here.

I've merely sketched this out.  But you can do your own research.  And ponder this for yourself.   I hope you will!

1 comment:

TheraP said...

I am taking the liberty of posting something from Bill at Bilgrimage, which is in response to this post. Bill is a theologian whose analysis I value. And I am very grateful for his close reading of this post. And the way that he has enlarged the discussion.

TheraP, thanks for the link. I liked your posting very much. I'm struck by the opening phrase, "differing assumptive worlds." I do think you've put your finger on something very important with that phrase and the analysis the flows from it.

What leaps to my mind immediately is St. Gregory of Nazianzus's observation, "What is not assumed is not redeemed." I've long thought that the willingness of important members of the Catholic hierarchy at this point in history to read some other members of the human race out of the saga of salvation (I'm thinking, of course, of the experience many of us who are gay have with these gentlemen of the cloth) borders on heresy.

They seem unwilling to "assume" us into the church as fully human members of the human family and the body of Christ.

By contrast, it seems to me many religious women are working to "assume" those on the margins who are overlooked, and their assumptive world is therefore all about bringing in, valuing, affirming, and incorporating those at the margins.

I just read a comment at the Commonweal blog site by someone who, I think, stated that she's 82 years old and a lifelong Catholic. She says she wrote Bishop Lori a letter some time in the past, asking that he stop sending her appeals for money for causes to which she didn't choose to give. I think she says her letter addressed him in a personal way.

In response, all she ever got back were more form letters from the good bishop.

To me, this speaks volumes about the failure of many of our hierarchical leaders, at this point in history, at the most fundamental pastoral level of all. They have assumed the values of ruthless, ahuman corporate CEOs.

Blessings upon you, Bill!