Wednesday, June 27, 2007

More Words on Property

Tobias Haller has summed up the California appellate decision yesterday, and its implications for the greater Church, in what I believe is a clear-eyed and morally rigorous statement.

This will doubtless pose an even greater challenge to the Diocese of San Joaquin in their deliberations over schism.

And it points to a central principle that I named in my last post, and one of which I am increasingly convinced:

As Christians in community, we are always allowed to exercise our right to leave, but never:
  • to leave and take the property with us (as though it were ours to begin with)
  • to leave and take back our gifts (they were gifts, after all)
  • to leave and force others to leave with us (essentially, a form of hostage taking which seems to me totally antithetical to the message of the Gospel)
  • to leave and blame someone else (that is, to deny our God-given agency and integrity)
And, to be clear, I am not celebrating this decision. Christians taking other Christians to court, as Paul has indeed written, makes us no better than the rest of the world, and demonstrates a profound failure of Christian community and charity, all very much to our shame. Setting blame aside, litigation is always a sad witness to human brokenness. Surely Jesus weeps.

To very loosely paraphrase C. S. Lewis, who was tackling the now seemingly more mundane disagreement over kneeling or standing during prayers:

Would that we were so concerned for our brothers and sisters, we would offer them the property as they depart. Would that those departing be so concerned for humility of conscience and the sisters and brothers who were staying that they would leave the property behind gladly.

And to be wistful for a moment, were that level of charity at work in our midst, perhaps the issue of departure and who "gets" the property wouldn't even be on the table.

It is Jesus who says in this coming Sunday's gospel: "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."

We must still learn to hear the expressions, "my church," "my gift," "my community" in a whole new Way.

Tobias calls all of us on the so-called "left" to a chastened and sober charity with these words:
I will not apply the various epithets of theft, poaching, &c., as I think the dissidents are honestly though mistakenly convinced of their proper ownership.
There is little else to add, except, of course this:

Pray for the Church.

1 comment:

KJ said...

Indeed. We would know that Christ is in the midst of the "discussion" if those leaving were willing to leave the property behind, and those staying, willing to give the property away.

I won't hold my breath! Ouch! Have I become cynical?