Proclaimers of certainties... Seekers afer truth...

We've been following Australian bishops Pat Power and Geoffrey Robinson in this space and the National Catholic Reporter has a piece on Robinson's new book, Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church: Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus. (That's the first reference to this book's subtitle that I've seen.) In a sidebar, reporter Penny Edman writes:
Bishop Geoffrey Robinson told NCR that he sees a fractured church with a major division between the “proclaimers of certainties and the seekers after truth,” with the proclaimers of certainties seeming to be in the favored position.

“This has left many people feeling a sense of alienation, of being marginalized, of no longer quite belonging to the church that had given them much of their sense of belonging, meaning and direction throughout their lives.

“In writing the book I became aware that I was writing a book for these people, that I was trying to tell them that there is a church for them and that it is fully in accord with the mind of Jesus. I was telling them that there are basic certainties, but there is also abundant room for search, for taking personal responsibility and growing through that process to become all we are capable of being, all God wants us to be.

“I became aware that it was important for many people that there should be a bishop saying these things. At moments I felt that the needs of these many people were so great that it is perhaps true that I have never been more of a shepherd, I have never been more justified in carrying around a pastoral staff, than I have in this.”

Bishop Robinson is not alone in finding himself ministering in a church composed of those who are comforted by certainties and those who feel constrained by them; those who believe they have found what they looked for and those who are still seeking; those who rest easy with the tradition and those who are made restless by it. Like the bishop, I recognize and accept the basic certainties of Catholic Christianity but I also walk with the seekers, with those who wonder when and where and how God's Spirit moves among us in our own times. Standing with and between such Catholics I see how those of certain faith perceive the seekers to be loose canons and how the seekers perceive the certain to be intransigent. The difference between the two is not the great gulf one side or the other (or both) may imagine. If at the heart of everyone's faith is God, revealed in Christ and present in the Spirit; if at the heart of faith is a desire to serve, heal and reconcile; if in the heart of faith is a thirst for truth and a hunger for justice: then we will all find common ground wide and strong enough to support our certainties and our questions.

The great danger is in caricaturing and thus distorting the faith life of those whose spiritual journey differs from our own. To borrow Bishop Robinson's phrase, there is abundant room for all who seek the certainty of God among us and all who are certain that God is ever to be found in the seeking.

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