When I was a kid, my mom and dad did not fight often. Though rare, I still remember those instances with crystal clarity. I recall the deep dread. There wasn’t a lot of shouting, but there was a chill that seeped into every room in the house and ultimately it took root within me. How would this shake out? Would they split? I felt angst-ridden and wanted to flee. Yet, where would I go? I had no other home and I didn’t want any other family. I desperately craved harmony but felt helpless as to how to achieve it. I didn’t feel safe until I knew they were once again in accord, which gratefully was generally pretty quick. Except for that time my mom went on strike so my dad would do more around the house. I think that lasted an interminable three days. “Mom, can you iron my school uniform?” “Sorry, honey. Ask your dad. I’m on strike to improve working conditions.” “Huh?”
As I’ve read numerous accounts of the recent struggles within the hierarchy of our Church, I can’t help but be reminded of those stinging family fights. (In case you’re not into Catholic insider baseball like I am, Pope Francis made an unexpected and significant change to the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and The Family, making it a theological institute charged with studying from a scientific perspective. This sets off serious warning bells regarding his motives. You can read about it here. This after he already made big waves with his document “Amoris Laetitia” which opens a big ol’ can of worms about the Eucharist for divorced/ remarried Catholics. More on that here. In the midst of that big controversy, a media darling American priest, who is counted as an advisor to the Pope, has come under fire for his book which seeks to challenge and potentially steer the Church’s outreach to the gay community. Many argue its lack of grounded Catholic theology. His supporters, however, claim he has been wrongly maligned. It’s gotten pretty heated. More info here.) I’ve taken sides, just as I usually did with the fights between my mom and dad. I do fear the Pope has gone off the rails and I’m truly grateful to the those who are speaking out. Though one parent may have had my resolute support, it did not change how devoted I was to both of them or how much the discord troubled me. I still experienced detachment and felt lost—just as I feel now.
Many of the articles and essays regarding the latest conflicts mention that times are very different than in years passed. The rhetoric is ramped up and is lacking in civility. Archbishop Charles Chaput’s recent essay appeals to everyone for more fraternal good will. But will it come? There are dire warnings of more warring of the roses. The internal chill has set in. I still feel helpless. I worry about the outcome. There is nowhere I can go. This is my Church.
Sensing my distress, as my parents squabbled one day, my mother came to me and hugged me. “It’s totally normal that your dad and I fight from time to time,” she consoled. “In fact, if we didn’t fight occasionally that would be unhealthy. You know I love your father and he loves me. We’re just having an argument.” I remember feeling like an 800-pound gorilla had sprouted wings and floated off my shoulders. But what of Mother Church and the Holy Father? Will either of them speak up to soothe their flock?
Disagreements are inevitable as long as the divine institution of the Church is populated with fallen humans. I don’t require an answer to all of the conflict, but I need assurances that the integrity of our Church family is going to prevail. That we do love one another and we’re just having an argument. 500 years ago, Martin Luther fractured the family. He packed his bags and set up a separate household—one that was very sparsely decorated. Neither side acted very charitably with all the sniping and backbiting. The children suffered. Today, Protestantism has splintered to an estimated 30,000 or more denominations. That’s a lot of stepbrothers and sisters to contend with! Just consider the jockeying for morning bathroom time. I long for stability and oneness.
Maybe we all desperately need a hug from mom. And so we appeal to our Blessed Mother:
Mary, Queen of Peace, we ask through your intercession for healing and restoration within our Church family and with all of our extended Christian brethren. Lead us to unity in Christ. Console us in our despair and confusion and draw us closer to your son who offers us perfect hope and rest through eternity. Help us to remain steadfast in support of our Church, in the midst of arguments, rivalry and controversy. May your son guide our Church’s leaders in accord with His will. That we may be one body in Him.
“and so that there may not be disagreements inside the body but each part may be equally concerned for all the others. If one part is hurt, all the parts share its pain. And if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy. Now Christ’s body is yourselves, each of you with a part to play in the whole.” (1Corinthians 12: 25-27)