The Difference a Change of Filter Makes

Time for a little honesty! Time for true confession…

The investigation of our archbishop, John Neinstedt, for alleged same-sex dalliances leaves me so disillusioned and angry that I really had no desire to go to church yesterday. I’m really pissed off by his self-righteous arrogance and homophobic pomposity. It’s not as if his reputation didn’t precede him to the Twin Cities — just like a long festering boil, the infection is finally being lanced!

Out of force of habit or blind stubbornness I walked to the 9:30 Mass despite myself. It’s only a short distance from our house to Christ the King, hardly more than two blocks. Sunday of Fourth of July weekend is always one of the lowest attended services. Minnesotans are notorious for being “up North.” Still, parking spaces en route were quickly filling with family SUVs and elders arrived in a procession of vehicles giving front-door service.

Viewing this gathering congregation from the sidewalk just as it begins a gradual decent to the 51st Street entrance, something washed over me. My crankiness receded. My fixation relaxed. My heart softened. Screw the Archbishop! With the hard-won determination all survivors of abuse need to reclaim – and all Minneapolis-St Paul Catholics are surely victims of hierarchical abuse regardless of whatever John Neinstedt has done in his past life – who is he to hold power or retain control over our emotional lives or the full, free and mature practice of our faith!

Approaching the entrance along with familiar neighbors, well-scrubbed families and friendly congregants I physically felt an angry, cynical “filter” being lifted from my eyes and heart. Going to church felt like coming home – here is the church! If the Eucharist we come to share means anything, we are Christ’s real presence. This is the People of God I know, love, wish to serve and in which I hold my birthright!

We garden-variety Catholics have a long history of disregarding pious platitudes from remote hierarchs.  Tending a fussing child or paying the mortgage insulates us from  pontificating so heavenly minded it’s no earthly good. With my fixation filter lifted, I recognized that I was not going to church out of habit or obligation. I was going to church because of simple, sophisticated, mature, faithful folks whose faith is not their profession but the incarnational mess of our ordinary lives.

Every family, each person entering the doors of CTK on any given Sunday would balk at being called “exemplary” – but they are! Anyone who has been a parent has probably heard more confessions and ministered reconciliation more often than the typical pastor. Gathering here are those whose Baptism and Confirmation have become engrained — yes, becoming second nature, a matter of rote habit even.  If there is obligation, it is an obligation they have to themselves or one they pay their children.

It’s long past time for more than a little honesty in our church. We are in urgent need of changing the sieve that keeps secret the tragic truth poisoning our church family. Honest confessions are long overdue — and here in Minneapolis-St Paul we need more than just a change of filters!

The rank and file Catholic in the pews understands this far better than those for whom “church” has become a career and those blind guides who  presume they hold control by divine right.

How can we not gather to give thanks to a God who consistently seems to act and speak this truth!

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