by Isabella R. Moyer
roman catholics vs roamin catholics
Two priests. Two homilies. Two different views of church.
Priest No. 1 stood in front of the crowded pews on a Christmas Eve and
made this announcement. For Roman Catholics the most important place
to be is inside the four walls of the church. Inside these four walls
is where we should focus our lives and our energy. Attending Sunday
mass is the sure sign of a good Catholic.
Priest No. 2 stood in front of a regular Sunday congregation, and reminded
us that we were to be Roamin’ Catholics. We are called to go beyond
the walls of the church; beyond the altar and tabernacle and into the
world. Our faith is not a Sunday morning activity. It is meant to be
a life choice, shared through our daily lives.
Recent news headlines reflect a church that is becoming
more and more Roman and less Roamin.’
The New Roman Missal is touted as a good and faithful rendition of Latin,
even while the English is embarrassingly bad.
Tridentine style vestments from the past are embraced by clergy who believe
that divine transcendence and right worship is best expressed in the
use of heavy, gold-laden, lace-trimmed liturgical garb and bejewelled
altar vessels. (See the YouTube Video by Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, The
Call of Beauty.)
A spirit of inquisition is blowing around the world. Theologians are
denounced. Questioning bishops are removed. The Leadership Conference
of Women Religious in the U.S. is accused of not putting enough time,
energy and resources into defending church doctrine. As I write this,
news has come out that the Vatican stripped the Pontifical Catholic University
of Peru of its right to continue calling itself a Catholic or pontifical
university. The university is well-known for its liberal and progressive
Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, Calif., has demanded that board
members of the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry, or
CALGM, sign an “oath of personal integrity” to Catholic teaching.
Bishop Paul S. Loverde is requiring a public oath of fidelity from all
catechists in the Arlington diocese, submitting “of will and intellect” to
all the teachings of their church leaders.
All of this is happening while the Synod of Bishops prepares to meet
and discuss the new evangelization. The primary goal of the new evangelization
is re-evangelization, to welcome back those who have left the church.
These recent news headlines are not helping their cause.
The new evangelization requires that we, as a church, spread out our
tent and become more inclusive and welcoming. It requires that we show
to others the deep joy that is found in the Gospel message of love of
God and neighbour.
Instead, our church is turning in on itself. Circling the wagons around
doctrinal and liturgical purity feeds the beast of clericalism, and the
righteous, judgmental mentality of those who support it. Barricades and
fear leave little space for open doors that invite minds and hearts to “come
What does it take to be a Roamin’ Catholic?
We need to truly fall in love with the person of Jesus and his Gospel
message, nurtured in a personal life of prayer and ongoing spiritual
formation. We can then be more confident in talking about our faith as
a relationship with a loving God, not just doctrine, rules and regulations.
This is evangelization.
As lay women and men, we are called to make the secular holy by incarnating
the Word of God in our everyday lives. The Gospel is more than a gloriously
bound book, solemnly processed with incense and resounding alleluias.
It is meant to be our manual for life. We need to take it out of the
church and into the streets.
We need to show to the world a church whose walls are malleable. The
world is not to be feared. When a church becomes a fortress, it not only
keeps others out. It can feel like a source of captivity rather than
freedom to those who are within its walls.
Being called beyond the walls of the church does not minimize the importance
of the liturgy and sacraments. As Catholics, we believe in the efficacious
grace of the sacraments. We need their healing, nourishing, energizing
and forgiving gifts given freely and generously. We need to gather as
a community of faith and prayer. But we gather in order to be sent.
We are all called to be roamin’ catholics. This is at the heart
of the new evangelization. It is time to unlock the tabernacles and truly
bring Jesus into the world.
Moyer is a Catholic blogger (http://catholicdialogue.com) who lives
with her husband David in Neepawa, MB. She is president of the International
Organization of Marianist Lay Communities, a canonically recognized,
private association of the faithful whose charism promotes a Marian model
of church that is inclusive, egalitarian, participatory and concerned
with social justice.