Sister Margaret

Abbey of Gethsemani--Merton's Home for 27 Years c. JPM 2010 This is a link to an insightful editorial by Kristof in the New York Times on Sister Margaret.

Thomas Merton, who died over forty years ago, is right on target with his assessment of the church today:

It is true that the Lord in the Gospel speaks of His faithful as “sheep,” but that does not entitle us to assume that the liturgy is merely the organized bleating of irrational animals herded together by constraint and trained by an ingenious discipline until they carry out seemingly human actions which they are not capable of understanding. (Seasons of Celebration, 5) The patriarchs would love for us to act like bleating uneducated sheep!

. . .

There can be no question that the great crisis in the Church today is the crisis of authority brought on by the fact that the Church, as institution and organization, has in fact usurped the place of the Church as community of persons united in love and in Christ . . . Love is equated with obedience and conformity [pay, pray and OBEY] within the framework of an impersonal corporation. The Church is preached as a communion, but is run in fact as a collectivity, and even as a totalitarian collectivity. (Thomas P. McDonald, “An Interview with Thomas Merton,” Motive 28 (1967), p. 41. Cited in Anthony Padovano, The Human Journey, New York: Image Books, 1984, 48)

In the day in which Merton wrote this, Russia and the Communist countries were thought to be “totalitarian collectivities.” Harsh words but still very apropos for the institutional church today.We, with the bishops and priests, are the faithful. We cannot err in matters of belief. We have a responsibility to form our consciences and act accordingly. Sister Margaret did exactly that. It seems to me that a matter of belief is that Jesus came to establish inclusive communities of the faithful who are in unity but not constrained by uniformity. It is about bringing people in, welcoming them, not rejecting them and throwing them out. We cannot let the patriarchy turn us into a collectivity of bleating irrational animals who are incapable of thinking and forming consciences in accord with the teaching of Jesus the Christ.

Have the Pope and the American bishops never read the Catechism of the Catholic Church? Citing Lumen Gentium from Vatican II, the Catechism says:

“The whole body of the faithful. . . cannot err in matters of belief. This characteristic is shown in the supernatural appreciation of faith (sensus fidei) on the part of the whole people, when, from the bishops to the last of the faithful, they manifest a universal consent in matters of faith and morals.”

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