Monday, July 18, 2011

Developing that "Renegade" persona

I discovered early on that theologians, and officials of Christian churches, frequently quoted passages from Aquinas in setting forth their teachings. This is especially true with moral issues, and has been since well before the Council of Trent (mid 15th century). It seemed to me however that I found different passages appeared to say slightly different things. When I began reading his Summa from page 1, skipping nothing, certain concepts like God, human nature and grace were clearly fundamental to his work as a whole. When I read later parts, in view of what he'd said earlier -- as this style was meant to be read, a very distinct picture emerged. My doctoral dissertation was forming now; I would provide a view of Moral Theology in Aquinas based very much on grace as a dimension of human nature itself -- human nature as re-created in and through Jesus the Christ. Grace, for Aquinas, was not a hypodermic needle to enable heroic moral acts and/or virtues, but the guidance, wisdom and strength of the Indwelling Spirit promised and sent by Jesus the Christ -- 3rd Person of the Trinity -- always available and accessible to human beings who seek that guidance, wisdom and strength.

This is in direct opposition to any number of brilliant theologians' views on grace, to say nothing of popes and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It also makes moral decisions a matter of seeking the good, not simply blind obedience to the rules. I was most certainly a renegade by this time!

Of course, by this time I was also extremely active with groups seeking significant reforms in the Roman Church, and with Women's Ordination Conference. I became -- and remain -- deeply involved with a church community truly pursued and persecuted by the Vatican. These dearly loved sisters and brothers eventually formed another independent Catholic church and, nearly 10 years later, members still increase daily. One co-pastor was the pastor (yes, a properly-ordained Catholic priest) of the earlier church, the other is a married woman ordained through the Old Catholic Church about 8 years ago. Several other women in the parish have since been ordained -- through the Old Catholic Church or the Roman Catholic Womenpriests organization -- and gone on to new, vital ministries and communities. Social justice has been a basic constituent to the community since its formation (and as the original community), and their city benefits from this daily. This is pursuing the good -- the ultimate moral goal for Aquinas.

The problem with becoming a Renegade is that one only becomes more deeply open to being a Renegade. I realize, for instance, that not every "Pauline" letter was authored by the apostle. Some (including the most damning towards women) were written pseudonymously by his disciples, and their disciples -- 2 generations removed from Paul himself. I relish the list of women towards the end of his letter to the Romans, which includes reference to Junia (female) as "prominent among the apostles." I'm at ease with Mary Magdalene as a prominent, and wealthy, woman rather than a prostitute; in fact, it's satisfying to realize that she was in fact an apostle -- defined among the Jews of Jesus' time as "one sent by the master for a specific task." (John 21: "Go, tell my disciples..." Jesus, the Master, sends Mary -- apostle -- to complete a specific task. Of course, I love knowing that the Eastern Church has always elevated her and celebrated her as "apostle to the apostles."

And so, Renegade that I am, I muse on life, God, faith, etc. with a viewpoint, and occasional conclusion, that can upset the religious apple carts of those around me. Some damn me, some thank me, some laugh and say "What took you so long?" But the musing continues...usually on very real and human complexities. And my husband and I enjoy my renegade-ness, the quality that sought -- with mischief and laughter -- to make a statement even with my car...which sports 2 women's ordination bumperstickers and a license plate that reads "WMNPST 1" (here in IL, in Wisc. it was "WMNPRST"). My husband loves being at the wheel when people wave, honk...even stop to talk to us about church reforms...I guess he's become a renegade too! :D

No comments:

Post a Comment