Give me Back That Old Time Religion

Gary Macy, a historical theologian, has an article at National Catholic Reporter prompted by the Vatican “Visitation” to US women religious. Macy reminds us in this article that this very concept would have been unthinkable until fairly recently in church history.  Quoting just one example, he notes that

“The abbess (of Las Huelgas near Burgos in Spain) had the power to appoint parish priests for the countryside subject to the convent of Las Huelgas, some 64 villages. No bishop or delegate from the Holy See could perform a visitation of the churches or altars or curates or clerics or benefices under the care of the abbess. The abbess of Las Huelgas was even able to convene synods in her diocese and to make synodal constitutions and laws for both her religious and lay subjects.”

Trappings of the modern church?

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Previously, Macy has written about women’s active role in the priesthood of the early church. (Treasures from the Storeroom: Medieval Religions and the Eucharist) .While agreeing that this role was not the same as that of modern ordained priests, nor was that of their male peers in their own time. (I am grateful to The Wild Reed, once again, for drawing my attention to these two articles)

Exploring these ideas a little further, I came across another piece in the NCR which caught my attention: Under the Heading “A Map to the Future Church” , Tom Roberts writes about the ideas of Sr Christine Schenk on ways in which to renew the church.  Reading these, I was struck once again by how so much of the obvious way forward (dispense with compulsory celibacy, ordain women, accept homosexuality as natural, invigorate the laity and accept their participation in decision making and the appointment of bishops) are not radical new ideas at all, but simply return to the best traditions of the church.  (I do NOT say the “early” church, which brings suggestions of the first centuries of a small band struggling against a hostile Empire.  The practices to which I refer were part of the mainstream church for twelve centuries – for over half of Church history.)

All of this confirmed what I have long suspected.  Somewhat to my astonishment, I find that I am at heart a deeply conservative, traditional Catholic:  but not of that sham “tradition” which  emerged in the 19th century, and falsely claims to represent the historical “truth”.

My readers will know of my conviction that LGBT Catholics should be more aware of their respected place in Church history.  To find a more viable future for the church, so should we all better understand the truth of our past.

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