Simone Weil courted baptism into the Catholic Church, but ultimately decided against it because she felt her vocation was to pursue truth.
OK, let’s reread that sentence. What?!
There is a practice in the Church of excluding people from the community when they push on accepted teachings, and Simone Weil felt that this practice offended the search for truth. Two words—“anathema sit,” representing the Church’s power to declare heresy—dissuaded her from accessing the Church’s sacraments. I respect the Church’s prerogative to assert its boundaries. The problem is, my own source of questioning the Church’s teachings has come from my prayer. I don’t know the full truth and I don’t know where I’ll land, but God is guiding my exploring the territory of Anathema Sit (despite my growing up as the model obedient child). This is being expressed in my fiction writing (my novel) and in some essay writing going towards a book.
My fear is actually related to my relationships. Many of the people in my broader context and some of my deepest friends live deeply invested in their Catholic faith; half of them hold progressive views themselves, but the other half takes pride in being faithful to the Church’s current teachings. I feel that when a fellow Catholic comes out as a progressive, this may be taken as a personal betrayal. “I thought we were in this together, as faithful members of a Church.” I’ve been assuming that once I venture beyond their values, I’ll be out.
This week I realized three things. First, I need to talk to my friends. Period. Our friendships will stay strong if I communicate with them. Second, it will be possible for me to hold the ground of claiming to be a deeply committed, invested Catholic while also holding progressive views, just like Dorothy Day did in her time. (I can go to daily Mass and explore the priesthood for women…the two truly go together, if you think about it.)
Third, I can focus on the faith in Christ and the statements of the Creed which bind me with the members of my Church.
In the early Church, St. Paul’s beloved communities were divided about how to deal with Gentile Christians, but St. Paul counseled them against allowing bitterness and division to poison their communion. I want to call for a fundamental change in how US Catholics understand membership in the Catholic Church (in the popular imagination). We aren’t Catholic because we ascribe to a moral code. We’re members of this body because of our faith. We believe that Christ became a human being. We believe in resurrection from the dead. We believe that God is with God’s people and that we can participate in Jesus’s reconciling all things in his own body.
I want to be a part of this reconciliation.