A small c catholic
In speeches and columns over many years I have made the point that interfaith understanding is vital if there's to be any hope for world peace.
And America — a stunning amalgam of ethnic and religious traditions — can be a model for the world in this regard.
In fact, if the call of the 20th century for Americans was to work toward racial harmony, the call of the 21st century is to seek religious harmony in our increasingly pluralistic culture.
An old joke about us Presbyterians says that if we had been in charge of organizing the Last Supper it inevitably would have been called the Last Potluck Supper.
Catholics, in my experience, match Protestants’ love of eating meals together. But the reality is that neither group in the U.S. does very well when it comes to thinking about eating ethically.
Here's what know-nothing Protestants are tempted to say these days: "What's the deal with Catholics holding most of the seats on the U.S. Supreme Court? John Paul Stevens is the only Protestant left -- and if Elena Kagan joins the bench, the new court would have six Catholics and three Jews."
For almost a year now, I’ve been doing something in my Presbyterian church that Catholics don’t get (or have) to do.
I’ve been serving on a pastor nominating committee. Our job is to search for a new senior pastor and, when we’ve found one, recommend that our congregation vote to call him or her (yes, Presbyterians have been ordaining women since 1956 — and I even know that now-retired first ordained female.)
Ever since I began reading about the priest sexual abuse scandal years ago, I have wondered whether Protestants would have handled it any better than Catholics have.
I doubt it, although Protestant failures almost certainly would have been different from Catholic miscarriages.
Sometimes you have to pay attention to what’s missing, what’s not said.
In two recent commentaries about American Catholic bishops — one by Lisa Miller of Newsweek and one by John L. Allen Jr. of NCR — I enjoyed the helpful insights both brought to the subject but was more struck by what neither of them mentioned.
My inner John Calvin (sometimes I have to arm wrestle him into quietude) occasionally whispers this reminder to me: Faith is not about having all the answers. Rather, it’s about learning to live confidently with unresolved questions.
That’s the healthiest place to locate oneself on the theological spectrum because it allows -- indeed, encourages -- a lively conversation that can deepen one’s commitment to the faith community that provides a safe space in which asking hard questions is a normal way of proceeding.
A few years ago at my Presbyterian church, we tried a Sunday evening alternative worship service at which we served Holy Communion. It was a terrific idea that ultimately failed for reasons unrelated to weekly Eucharist.
But that experience reaffirmed for me my conviction that both Catholic and Protestant worship were out of balance. They still are.