Two people are walking on a road. They were traveling away from Jerusalem back to their home town of Emmaus. First, it is obvious that these two people had been disciples of Jesus of Nazareth. Having experienced the pain of the last days and doubtful about the reports of the women, they were dejectedly walking home, back to a familiar place, back to their comfort zone.
One commentator refers to two men. Really? Could it have been a man and a woman, a married couple? Maybe, it was two gay men or two lesbian women. Whoever they were, we know that their hopes and dreams for something better had been shattered when the empire struck back and crucified the man they followed.
We all have the experience of waking away from shattered hopes and dreams. Many of us are now walking away from the church with our hopes and dreams for the reality of Vatican II having been crushed by forces in the ecclesiastical empire. There is no doubt in my mind that Roman curia, having been put in its rightful place by the spirit of Vatican II, charted a course to roll back the promises of Vatican II–freedom of conscience, solidarity, participation, and collegiality of all bishops with the pope. Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI steadily acted to erode the true meaning of Vatican II. I agree with Matthew Fox when he says that John Paul and Benedict are in schism when it comes to the teaching of Vatican II.
We are walking away sad and dejected. We had embraced Pope John XXIII and the culture of life—openness to the world with all its joys and miseries. We had dreamed of being the people of God actively involved in church. We had believed in a world where the promise of justice would trump petty personal pietism and ecclesiastical politics. We saw our life in church as the foundation cornerstone of a renewed spirit of Christianityworking in collaboration with all people of faith and no faith to bring about the Kin-dom of justice..
The demolition of Vatican II began with Pope Paul VI’s taking clerical celibacy and birth control off the conciliar table. He disenfranchised many married Catholics when he went against the majority of the commission he had stacked and issued his decree prohibiting artificial birth control. Then John Paul II, with the assistance of his faithful Rottweiler, fashioned an impermissible extension of papal infallibility—definitive doctrine—to preclude all and any discussion of justice for women in the church. An Australian bishop has been retired because he dared raise the issue of ordaining women. Maryknoll threw Roy Bourgeois under the bus after forty plus years of committed service because he advocates the same. With the shortage of priests leading to communities without Eucharist, the patriarchy reaffirmed celibacy. When Benedict seemed to waffle on the use of condoms for people with AIDS, the Curia once again tried to put the tooth paste back into the tube. Knowing about the sex abuse, John Paul and Cardinal Ratzinger failed to act to take decisive action to protect innocent children while they de-licensed or abused and/or excommunicated theologians—Kung, Rahner, Teillard de Chardin and Matt Fox to name but a few of the ninety one so “disciplined.” Denying our Vatican II right to worship in our vernacular, John Paul and Benedict crammed the New Roman Missal with its stilted Anglicized Latin down our throats. The patriarchy continues to circle the wagons to protect the good ole boy club with the beatification of John Paul while it refuses to beatify a martyr like Oscar Romero.
Vatican II is almost history. With heavy hearts and sad faces, we are on the road to Emmaus. Maybe we can picture ourselves walking with the Risen Christ. We lament what has happened over the last fifty years. We hear the Risen Christ explaining to us that we are church. We hear him telling us that he did not come to establish a patriarchy controlled by modern day Pharisees and scribes. He has come to set us free, not make us subservient to modern day chief priests—popes and bishops. He is giving us an inkling of renewed hope but night draws nigh. We want to know more about what he has to teach us about authentic church. We invite him to spend the evening and night with us. Maybe he can bring light into the darkness once again.
We gather around the table and he blesses and breaks bread and gives us to eat. He blesses a cup of wine and gives us to drink. Aha! Now we know. We are church. When we gather and share a meal, the Risen Christ with his promise of justice is present in our midst. Jesus tells us that where two or three are gathered. He never said gathered with a lawfully ordained priest. We all share in the priesthood of the Resurrected Christ and can celebrate Eucharist. It worked for the early church and it will work for us.
Heartened by the authentic teaching of the Risen Christ we walk back to Rome to proclaim the truth of Vatican II—we ARE the people of God.