Thursday, June 26, 2014

cathedral-ic response

One of Mark Shea's readers inquired about Medjugorje and the apparent lack of authoritative declaration from Rome.  Shea's response hits all the right chords--Rome doesn't rush anything, look how look it took to declare certain Christological affirmations and then there's Trent, the not-so-speedy-response to the Protestant Reformation.  Shea couches all this with language about the Ents, the ancient-of-days, slow-moving tree-people from Tolkien's Middle Earth.  The Ents took their time--slow from the hobbits' perspective, but actually swift from their own--and when they did act, they did so decisively and turned the battle for the good.  Shea's conclusion:

Bottom line: when the Ents finally get past hooming and homming and finally speak, the bishops who referred the matter to them will be totally and completely vindicated.  The trick will be figuring out a way to break this to the honest and good people who have been lied to so that they listen to the Church  and do not, like victims of Stockholm Syndrome, identify with the crooks and liars who have snookered them with this fraud for thirty years.  It’s a pastoral issue, not a truth issue, that is primarily the problem here.

At some point the obligatory "I'm a Catholic blogger so here are my two cents on Tolkien" post will appear.  For now, though, Shea's use of the Ents as an analogy for "thinking with the Church" reminded me of European cathedrals, especially the Roman basilicas (this perhaps because those were the ones I saw first, thanks to a semester abroad in college).  The space, the sheer physical scale, and for Rome the physical and archeological connections to the ancient Roman past, and yet throughout a great attention to detail and personal expression (one example out of a gazillion:  Pope Leo XIII's tomb at St. John Lateran) are supposed to blow your mind.  The Barthians out there will kill me, but this is the one time when I understood Schleiermacher's "feeling of absolute dependence."  But in the bigness there's also all that detail and thus it takes time to digest it all.  Anybody's who's been on a pilgrimage tour to Rome (or Paris or London or Moscow or Prague or Madrid...etc) knows this point:  there's too much to see in one trip.  So you must return.

In like fashion, responses from the Roman authorities take time.  It's as if they, in responding to real pastoral crises as mentioned above as well as all-too-real theological crises, too, need  to construct a "cathedral" in their response.  By comparison, Protestant churches--which by style and theology benefit from a "quick response," or as I've said, a "sugar-high" spirituality (feels good for a short time, then comes the crash)--have the flash response but little depth or sustainability.  True, sometimes the cathedrals need work and restoration and, equally true, we pilgrims don't always understand every nook and cranny within, but the cathedral--space or response--is worth the wait.

No comments:

Post a Comment