We are Catholic because of:
· Jesus’s teachings, especially to love others as ourselves
· Our cultural upbringing, our birthright
· The “bells and smells:” we love the rituals that engage our senses and the sacredness of spaces
· Vatican II teachings, especially the emphasis on the full, active, and conscious participation in liturgy
· The emphasis on liberating theology, a way of being church that honors a plurality of experiences and understandings of God and scripture through different lenses, including but not limited to the experiences of women, LGBTQ population, and all marginalized people
· The emphasis social justice issues and on “walking on the walk,” being Christ for others
· The nourishment that we receive through faith, family, and friends who are on the same journey as we are
· The community of believers – “the people of God” – that help support us on our journey and invite us to continue to grow
· The community of saints, our cloud of holy witnesses
· The centrality of the Eucharist that we consider to be the True Presence of God
· We are unified in our belief in the importance of Jesus’s ministry, but we do not insist on the rigidity of uniformity in our understanding of how that unfolds in individual lives
Community comments on the topics of grace and sacrament:
· Sustains us in times of hardship and sickness
· A divine working beyond understanding
· Thin places where you become more aware of God’s presence
· After loss of loved one in the feeling of continued presence
· The ability to do things that are above and beyond personal abilities (decorating a cake, performing surgery or taking care of elderly parents)
· A divinely orchestrated softening of the heart
· Helps us to overcome our doubts as rain waters seeds
· As foundational safety net even before baptism
· Community as a vehicle for grace
Difference between church-ordained seven sacraments and the idea of sacramentality (Christ in all things):
· Like birthday cake (celebratory and intensified) vs regular food
· Like focused light vs diffused light that we fail to notice sometimes
· Sacraments are a ritual that humans need to feel presence of God because we need to experience the tangible.
Are sacraments needed for salvation? Vatican II teaching recognizes rays of truth in other religions and that RCC subsists in one true church, among others. This teaching is a departure from regarding the RCC as the one true church. Not everyone understands or follows this teaching today, however.
· We don’t need sacraments to get to heaven just like we don’t need birthday cake to live. But they are a special celebration that intensifies our awareness of the presence of God.
· Discussed the difference between traditionalism (no changes or growth allowed) and the tradition being dynamic and living (meaning changing and growing).
The power of grace is not necessarily the ability to give assistance but rather the ability to accept assistance. For example, my dad’s willingness to accept care from his own son as a profound act of love on his part demonstrated a humility that to this day I’m not certain I could emulate should I find myself in a similar situation and was offered such assistance from one of my children.
I see the gift of grace from God to be similar. To allow the gift of grace to bear fruit requires a sense of humility on the part of the recipient -- a trait not overly abundant in human nature. In fact, as mentioned when discussing the book of Genesis during Bible study, the source of original sin in humanity in large part includes pride — the desire to achieve wisdom independent of God.
I see grace as enhancing the ability to accept assistance — and with regard to God, that entails overcoming human nature and having the humility to open your heart and accept God's love and mercy.
CSH Responses to the discussion:
· A mark on your soul (sole?) that everyone is born with
· Missing the mark, either through acts or omissions
o Some discussion about whether acts need to be “willful” to be “sinful”
· A break in relationship with others, ourselves, creation, and God
· A forgetting of our truest selves
· A felt absence of God
· Selfish behavior or tendency to put ourself first (although need for self-care is important)
· Lack of self-care through neglect
· Adding burdens to marginalized, like transgendered folk
· Offense to others
· The opposite of love
· Taking someone’s joy
· Making people feel bad
The idea of original sin is “BS.” Reference was made to May 13, 2021 article by Diane Butler Bass “The Uproar Over Goodness: When ‘original sin’ becomes a get-out-of-jail-free card.” Original sin discussion will be part of our Town Hall on baptism.
The Primacy of Conscience was discussed as something that helps us decide what is or is not sin.
· Does that mean that each of us gets to decide?
· While the Bible and the church’s teachings should guide the formation of conscience, they do not replace it, especially where the teachings fail to align with the teachings of Jesus.
· The idea of the Primacy of Conscience has been lost in Catholic teaching with many in the church holding that a well-formed conscience should never vary from church teachings.
· It was suggested that the church discourages its followers to think for themselves, and follow their own conscience, as a way to exert control over them.
· Example: Once the dispensation for attending Sunday Mass ends, then missing mass becomes a “mortal sin” again. Is this from God or from man?
Catholic Social Teaching was cited as the reason some of us are still Catholic; it serves as a more helpful guide to living as disciples of God than the 10 Commandments.
· We need a better framework than the 10 Commandments which keeps us stuck in black and white thinking and treats the people of God as if we were children.
Sin is complicated! There is a need for a pastoral approach for understanding why people behave as they do. Examples: jail ministry and emotionally abused children – it is impossible to judge them by the same standard as people raised in nourishing environments.
Important to remember that even as we sin, we are more than a label.
· Do we ever lose our relationship with God? Can we ever lose the love of God? No, because that’s how God is: how God sees us has nothing to do with us or our behavior, and everything to do with who God is.
· If we never sin, we have no need or understanding of forgiveness or God’s mercy.
· Sin is a verbal, physical, or mental thought, knowingly done, against a person (yourself included), place, thing, nature, or God.
Examples: Wish evil on someone, hating someone, doing damage to another’s property, and of course anything against the 10 commandments
· Most of all - Failure to try to love all.
Ours is not to judge, but to love.
Forthcoming town hall discussions:
· Structural sin, perhaps at our next town hall.
· Original sin
· atonement theology
Define it vis-à-vis: personal sin:
Unlike personal sin which depends on individual, intention, and environment, we can participate in Structural Sin without any intentional wrong doing. If we only focus on avoiding personal sin, we miss the larger and more egregious problem of Structural Sin.
Structural sin is “intolerable harm which results from the normal operation of social structures.” Definition by theorist Claudia Card who has created a controversial list of examples that includes marriage and motherhood.
Structural Sin is “seen in everyday life and disguised through good, inevitability, divine mandate, and social necessity… [consists of] chains that bind us into systemic exploitation of others and of the Earth" which are intricate and cleverly hidden.” Cynthia D. Moe-Lobeda
Note: “Social necessity” can be construed as convenience or lack of socially preferrable alternatives (fair trade discussion)
There is always an element of control or “power over” exercised by one group of people who exploit their power over marginalized others who have little or no voice or agency or opportunity to challenge the status quo/sinful structures.
The USCCB has lost its focus on Structural Sin which is addressed in a variety of the tenets of Catholic Social Teachings (CST). USCCB is ignoring CST and instead focusing only on abortion.
The dangers of Structural Sin:
· We can’t readily recognize it – we need the victims to teach us how it affects them
· We benefit from it so we are disinclined to eradicate it
· We can become paralyzed by overwhelm in trying to live our lives without contributing to it
· Even Jesus couldn’t overturn problems with religious authority but we are called to carry on his work to bring the kin-dom of God to earth.
Sinful structures that we all participate in, to some degree, include the following.
Note that “participation” may include benefitting from sinful structures.
· Patriarchy found in the RCC and other institutionalized churches
· Racism, including redlining, GI bill restrictions, voter suppression laws
· Slavery and its ongoing effects
· Global capitalism
· Unfair trade, wages, and labor practices
What to do:
· Lawbreaking is usually required. John Lewis
· Communication helps, but it has to be two sided (Rebel Hearts film discussion)
· Before taking action, consider what affect your choice has on the marginalized
· Ask yourself: Who benefits? Who suffers?
· Avoid self-righteousness about actions of others because that leads to a new form of Structural Sin of judging and imposing your beliefs on others
· Practice discernment to hear the Spirit’s invitation
· Act on what breaks your heart – you can’t fix everything, but you do have impact on that which is in your midst
· Realize that everything is connected, and every moment is a choice. Each choice accumulates and the effects ripple outwards.
· Start where you are.
· Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plans for Americaby Nancy MacLean
· Nickle and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich
Eucharist is Jesus’ gift to all
It is Jesus’ table to which all are invited, even Judas
Lesson from the Road to Emmaus:
● It is in the breaking of the bread that our eyes are opened, our lives
transformed, we are enabled/energized to live our lives as followers
● Construing Eucharist as a reward that must be earned in contra
Jesus’ message of inclusivity
● Jesus was neither Catholic or Protestant, he was Jewish
● Withholding the Eucharist from one who sins differently from another
is taking the position of God and judging some sins as worse than
Having an open table (all are welcome to receive) removes another
obstacle to people’s return to communion with/community in Christ
God is everywhere always and as such is present in the elements before
consecration. The words of consecration do not bring God’s presence to a
place where it is not; rather the words of consecration intensify our
awareness of God’s presence.
Clerical show of power over exhibited in:
● Rigid control over “appropriateness” of elements (eg, gluten-free
● Holding your hands in the “correct” position
● Examination of voting record
● Judgment of “good standing”
Has misconstrued the message of Jesus’ servant leadership
Where do these rules/laws come from if not from Jesus’ example?