09 November 2008

How the Church Wounds its Members

Consider now the Gospel of our Lord. As he was about to be betrayed he said to his disciples:

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. - John 13:34,35

But the Church has grown beyond little groups of people who met secretly in each other's houses. Back then love was real, person-to-person, because people really can love each other. Now the Church is a vast entity, composed of people who do not and cannot know each other. As such the Church members can love each other only in the abstract. The Church on earth is a corporate entity, and as I wrote earlier, corporate entities are incapable of love.

And so we have the paradox of the Church's successful growth from a threatened and insurgent movement to a triumphant organization whose global scope has shaped the arc of world history. It has grown into an entity that, as a whole, simply cannot fulfill its greatest commandment, the commandment by which all disciples of Christ should be distinguished - "that ye have love one to another." The Church can't do it as a whole.

As a whole, the Church does not have a limbic system to feel or express love. In that it is less like a mammal and more like a reptile. Or rather a serpent. The serpent rewards those whom it finds useful and at best discards those whom it finds threatening. One has only to remember what the Church once did to those deemed heretics for one example. Or the way it still tries to cow into silence survivors of sexual abuse by clergy for another.

Are we then to declare defeat by our own triumph and disband the Church, either by group decision, or by individually walking away? I think not. There is hope in the great commandment. Jesus did not say that the whole should love the part. He did not give an impossible commandment. He said "ye have love one to another."

What if the Church would recognize, in all humility, that it cannot fulfill the great commandment as a whole, and would therefore delegate the responsibility to individuals? What if, when dealing with an abuse survivor, the Bishop were under orders from the Church that he "should do what is truly loving toward this person, in the place of Christ and of His Church?"

You see, the money settlements are only a surrogate, a way of forcing the Serpent to attend to these matters. To the survivors they are just signals that the survivors have been heard. To the Serpent they are just a way of containing the damage that can be done by what have become "foreign bodies" who have enlisted the power of the State to help them.

But if instead of damage control, the Church were bent on delegating individuals to "have love one to another," the healing might begin.

And a new-yet-old way of reorganizing and revitalizing the Church might be invented.

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