The above is Pope Francis’ moto proprio regarding sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. It’s a difficult read for those of us not fluent in legalese, but as I make it out, it’s a pretty solid document. The abuse of vulnerable persons is thoroughly condemned and the repercussions for such deplorable behavior are clearly laid out. It can’t be the final statement on the subject – circumstances will doubtlessly occur which will require further attention from the Servant of the Servants of God, but as a first step and general declaration of policy, it’s pretty alright.
But why should I care? I’m a Lutheran, after all, not a Catholic, so why should I be invested in the Pontiff’s statement regarding anything? Well, ya see, it’s like this – there’s a line in the Apostle’s Creed, which we recite pretty frequently at the local Lutheran that goes “I believe in…the holy catholic Church”. The lower case “c” in “catholic” means that we’re not talking about the Roman Catholic Church, but about the worldwide church, the complete body of Christ, the “including a wide variety of things; all-embracing” church, all of Christendom. Following the Apostle’s Creed does not mean that I have to obey every article of every Christian variation, but it does mean that I have some reason to give a shit about them and that I’m obliged to recognize them as fellow travelers.
I see Christianity as a big tent with plenty of room for diversity. Some people are inclined toward a lotta ceremony and ritual and enjoy standing and sitting and reciting and responding in church and those people have the Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican churches. Other people want less of that and they can go to other, lower churches. Some people believe that all are welcome at the Lord’s table and they can be in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America; other people don’t wanna acknowledge the fundamental rights of queers and they can join the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Please note that I am allowing my position on queers to shine through – I recognize the Missouri Synod as a valid Lutheran variation – they are part of the holy catholic Church and certainly are members of the Body of Christ – I just happen to disagree with them on a couple details of doctrine. Family members often disagree and that doesn’t make them not family.
I’d like to see a more thorough recognition of our kinship within Christianity, a more blatant acknowledgement of shared belief with a clear statement about the different denominations being variations that serve the different needs of people. The secular world views Christians as divisive and narrow-minded – because many Christians are. If we can put our own house in order – get along with each other as siblings, despite our puny rows over details – we can be the light to the world that our Founder intended us to be. I’m ecumenical as shit, so I’d extend the hand to other religions – not to the point of officially stating that Hindus are just as right as Christians, but recognizing the inherent value of Hinduism and trusting that God will accept their benighted attempts. Again, I don’t feel obligated to say that all religions are just as fine and dandy as the one I belong to, nor do I expect anybody else to – if Hindus wanna take a jab at Christians, that’s okay with me, as long as it’s done in the way of siblings occasionally razzin’ each other. We’re all fallible, flawed human beings, given to mixed motives and wrong-doing, bound by the laws of time and space, ignorant of the bigger picture, attempting to have some sort of relationship with the Divine Mystery which is in all of existence and yet is more than that. It is appalling hubris for any of us to think that we have the only good way of acting out our part of that relationship. If the Greatest and Most Ineffable Entity that ever was and ever will be can put up with my feeble attempts to mumble my way through “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” on the Sunday mornings when I don’t have to work and can get to Mass and take that as a reasonable step in the right direction, worthy of acceptance and blessing, then I have no grounds for supposing that the rites and behaviors of others are not so accepted, even if they’re Methodists or Rastafarians.
That said, there are some organizations that claim to be Christian, but are plainly not. The Ku Klux Klan and Westboro Baptist are hate-groups that invoke the Bible to support their malice. Though I hope and pray for them and believe that Christ is infinitely merciful, I feel no obligation to recognize them as fellows.
So, I do have some reason to give a shit what the Pope has to say on the subject of reporting baby-touchers to the local secular authorities. And I’ll continue to pay attention to the missives of Frances, who I really like as a Pope – better than Benedict, that’s fer durn-tootin’. I will continue to extend the hand of fellowship to other followers of Jesus Christ – and to those who think that other names are just as good or better – but not to the haters who are lying when they say they are Christians.