Deborah Rose-Milavec wrote this fine piece for Future Church which I will happily pass on. It is a direct repudiation of the bloodless “church of the little flock” which Benedict XV1 tried to foist on the Catholic people. This crabbed vision of a people set apart, of an island of holiness in a corrupt world was a non-starter from the beginning. In interviews which went back decades Ratzinger reiterated that the future of the Church will be smaller, maybe “a mustard seed where it will exist in small seemingly insignificant groups. These groups, of course, will be utterly loyal to anything which comes out of Rome.
Pope Francis at the recent synod told the bishops to stop obsessing over rigid doctrine .He has little patience for those clerics who would ‘indoctrinate’ it in dead stone to be hurled at others.” Ever the pastor who has his head above the sand Francis inveighed against a “scheduled faith” which can not adapt to new circumstances and in turn could leads to people’s suffering being ignored.
This narrow vision is the entithesis of Francis who is doing his best to embrace humanity in all its fallibility, a church of sinners, of fallible people who strive against many odds in the corrupt capitalist culture to do the right thing. Francis knows the truth of Kant’s famous observation that” Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.” So what. Francis identifies himself as a sinner. Mercy is his watchword.
In 1971 Karl Rahner saw what Josepf Ratzinger was up to with his “little flock” riff, the polar opposite to James Joyce’s definition of Catholicism as”Here comes everybody” and Jesus’ very own injunction to ignore the 99 and go seeking the lost one.
In a brilliant small book The Church of the Future written in 1971 after Vatican II, Karl Rahner had this to say about “the little flock”:
“When we speak of ourselves today as the beginning of a ‘little flock’, we first remove a misunderstanding. ‘Little flock’ does not mean a ghetto or a sect, since these are defined by a mentality: a mentality which the church can afford in the future even less than today. A sectarian or ghetto mentality is propagated among us — not under this label, but under the pretext that we are becoming Christ’s little flock which has to profess the folly of faith and of the cross. Any deviation must be fought with the utmost severity in the name of true faith and authentic Christianity.
“If we talk of the ‘little flock’ in order to defend our cosy traditionalism and stale pseudo-orthodoxy, in fear of the mentality of modern society; if we tacitly consent to the departure of restless, questioning people from the church so that we can return to our repose and orderly life, and everything becomes as it was before, we are propagating, not the attitude proper to Christ’s little flock, but a petty sectarian mentality. This is dangerous because it shows up, not under its true name but in an appeal to orthodoxy, church-loyalty and strict, Rome-dictated morality.”
this is Grandma Rose-Milavec’s piece:
Change comes painfully and slowly in this Church. Too slowly. As a mother of five and grandmother of eleven, I have very little patience with the snail’s pace of reform in my Church or for those doctrinal police, the pharisaical crop, who would like nothing better than to keep the people I love at bay in order to keep their world of who-is-in and who-is-out neat and clean.
We have lost a generation of young people, many who are my children and grandchildren, who will not be eating at our Eucharistic table and who will not find the nourishment of the Gospel in one of our local parishes because they are so turned off — not by some entrenched secularism and individualism — but by the hard, pasometimes cold hearts of the stors they meet in a Church that has wanted to be “smaller and purer” for far too long. I raised them to love, to nurture and to have open hearts. And that is what they do. And when they don’t see that love incarnated, modeled in the priest and people they meet in a parish, they stay away.
Tell them that LGBT people are “intrinsically disordered” and they will roll their eyes. They know better. Tell them that a divorced and remarried person can’t receive the sacraments and they won’t give you another look. Tell them that women can’t be priests or deacons or make important decisions in our church, and they will stay home on Sunday mornings, make a big breakfast, play with the kids and make their own world of love.
We can no longer afford to be the Church we have been.
Personal conscience and private confessions are not enough. While the don’t ask – don’t tell model of Church may have sufficed for my generation, it just doesn’t cut it with the next. The next generation is not biting their nails trying to think of how to get to Communion if they are divorced and civilly remarried, or LGBT and married. Somewhere deep down their instinct tells them that the Church doesn’t know God’s heart and doesn’t practice God’s love.