Lent 2013

Flying the Coop

This Lent is an odd one. In no less than 600 years, the Catholic church is Pope-less. Pope Benedict XVI's resignation has raised radical questions about the nature of the papacy, transparency in the Church, the nature of divinity, and the institutionalization of forgiveness.

But it has also left the Church like a chicken with its head cut off, walking in strange but wonderful stumbles.  The body of the chicken - the millions of the faithful - is swaggering just fine, as the swirling significance of prayers and pedidos are the real corporal offering of Lent, not the chains, rings, smoke and mumblings of the papal hierarchy. 

As Lent continues on, this chicken-Church is walking away from the dogmatic theology of the clergy. In church, when priests bring up whatever papacy PR points they were given that week, you can hear the parish belt a mental sigh of, "Oh no you didn't." It strikes the wrong nerve of an electric wire relationship with power within the almost 70% of Catholics worldwide that are from post-colonial and developing countries. There, religion was a tool of social repression but was then syncretically transformed into a tool for personal relief. That strain has become the dominant one; Catholicism has become a deeply personal religion, and a dogmatic Rome that doesn't understand the Church itself. Whether or not the smoke is white or black matters little if the clergy fundamentally misunderstands the material needs and aspirations of its followers. For starters, birth control is an economic, and not just a theological, issue for most folks. And etc. Etc. etc.

Anachronism is a hipster exercise; it doesn't suffice as a philosophical justification for one of the world's largest religions. 

The Church should walk in the direction of its parishoners. The Portuguese slogan of this Lent is "Eis-me aqui" (Have me here, Lord), and it seems fittingly appropriate. Religious folks worldwide are waiting for Easter, but they're also waiting for change.