Sunday, February 03, 2002

That's an interesting question, one that some of Andrew Sullivan's readers seem to be grappling with.

The answer is simple -- I am the Church. My wife and I are the Church. The other people who teach religion classes with me every Tuesday night are the Church. People we gather with and pray with are the Church. This is the simple fact that I think the clergy has conspired to make us forget over the years. When most people think of "the Catholic Church," they picture a bunch of guys in funny hats sitting around making arbitrary decisions. That's not the Church I know, and it's not the Church I try to pass on to the 7th graders in my Tuesday night religion class, and it's not the Church I plan to share with my children.

My Church includes friends of mine who have chosen to devote their lives to service, and will probably earn about a quarter of what they could. My Church includes people who live and work at a homeless shelter in the middle of St. Louis for battered women. My Church includes people who give loads of time and money to help the poor, and to end injustices like abortion and the death penalty.

The behavior of a few bisops doesn't change that. Yes, it makes us look bad. Yes, it sets us back a bit in our quest for justice. It must be especially damaging for the families of the children who were molested. But it doesn't change what we're about. Our leaders have let us down before, and they probably will again. But the Church will go on, and grow stronger.

What I pray for is that the laity will realize that they are as much the Church as those men in the funny hats, and that we are also responsible for where the Church is going. I think the Church has swung too far in letting bishops and cardinals represent the Church, instead of the faithful laity. Ultimately, these men falter, as all of us do, and if we've put all our eggs in their basket, we'll be devastated. But if we spread them around to all the good, faithful people in the world who are contantly trying to do their best and serve Christ, we won't be disappointed.
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