On March 12, the first Sunday of Lent, John Paul II will publicly ask the Lord’s forgiveness for past and present faults of the children of the Church. Interestingly, when I heard this I am really surprise how the Catholic top religious leader admittedly and reflective in behalf of his leadership to sin committed by the Catholic Church in the service of the so called universal Truth. I am Muslim by birth. The knowledge I have is that the Christianity is the religion of colonizer and land grabber.
I remember my teacher in Madrasha (it is a secular or religious school for the Muslim children) thought us that the Crusaders are the militant Christian who kills our ancestors and took our land. Bitterness and vengeance are the emotion that developed in my mind and heart. I describe before the Catholic Christian as evil, highly political, close-minded people, and western instrumental to the oppression of the Filipino Muslim. This view last until my family had a problem, my mother and I separated from my father. We fled together with my brothers from Mindanao to Manila.
New environment and community I encountered, it is a new world for me. First time here in Manila I am little bit struggle to be with the Christian community because they have a different lifestyle and world-view. The new environment helps me to cope and overcome my biases with the Catholic Church. Suppressing, how the priest talks with their parishioners, treat the non-Christian community, at least, in this Parish used to invite me to join with their Bible study group. I wonder from the first time because this transparochial community reaches me to know the Catholic faith.
Why I wonder? Because it is not the old style structure of the Catholic used to be. Times go on, I am became part of the community and it helps me a lot to deepened my spirituality and to discover the Gospel of Jesus Christ. After a long process of conversion now I need to study the faith that I received. While enrolling to the subject Ecclesiology, it helps me a lot to use the old formula: ‘see-judge-act. ’ As I go on my theological study my dilemma is how the Catholic Church became relevant to the contemporary context.
I came to the poor and marginalize family, I really known exactly how the poor think and act as he or she try to overcome their daily livings. Every day I always think why God allow this human misery and how the church response to this prevalent poverty. I have this struggle before that the church is has the divine characteristic so as a religious institution they only care for the heavenly things. Hence, this is the start for me to make analysis (See) on the characteristic and nature of my beloved Catholic Church. As I read the book of Fr. Lode, it reflect my inside sentiment why the church still reluctant to open the windows and doors to get rid of the gap between the church and the world. While reading his book entitled Doing Ecclesiology there is something happened to inside of me as a student of religion. Now I can assert my rights as part of the body of Christ. Before I thought that there are only group that the revelation of God reveals is given. With the help of the social sciences (sociologist, psychologist, feminist) and the modern critical theologians’ tools it helps me to analyze how the church failed to communicate and reach the people outside the church.
Even within the church leadership and parishioners (intra and extra problems that facing the church) they have a hard time to reconcile if they will only humble and to have a epistemological –break or paradigm of leadership and mentality. Another learning that I acquired in the subject is the second epistemological tool which we called, Judge. I am really enlightened on how the and what is the church Jesus Christ build. Using the deconstruction and reconstruction approach to this important theological issue it also deconstructs my belief and understanding on what and who is the real church of God.
As we discuss in the class it gives me a deeper understanding how it became hierarchal or pyramid leadership or government which I thought before it is God given or designed. However, thru the class it helps me to discover the original design or God’s intended leadership of God which is collegiality not totalitarian leadership. Consequently, it is widely that the Catholic Church has lost a whole generation of Catholics due to poor catechesis and sociological concerns. It should be a community of believers not a single man rule.
Interestingly, I learned the difference of charismatic leadership and hierarchical leadership should be the component of the church. Now, I value so much the Vatican II period and the documents after I understand the turning point of the church to have renewal to the commitment to the missionary works and to the relevance to the modern world. The three ecclesiological teaching of the Vatican II are the following; society, people of God, servant. However, the class explicitly discusses also the possibility of the turning toward to the old style or perspective what the church ought to be.
Also from our class I understand why some of the Catholic clerics can interpret the documents in the conservative ways. That’s why after I visit the Mindanao region they have still the Vatican I framework and amazingly, they still not following some documents or even reinterpreted it in their own conservative attitude and practices. Before I am really appreciate what the so called “Defenders of Faith,” on how they defend the Catholic belief and bluntly called for a radical apologetics response to non-Catholic believers.
But now I am become more dialogical and ecumenical in term how should a treat the non-Catholic community such as the Protestant, Anglican, Evangelicals, etc. This is what I appreciate to this subject. It deconstructs my dogmatic stance and fundamentalist tendency on my belief and doctrinal position. Aside from that, I discover that the office of Papacy is not biblical and it should be the assembly of the Charity. Lastly, the role of “Act. ” I learned that the center of evangelization is the BEC. Hence, people derive their deeper relationship with God and with their fellow believers thru this community.
Before I feel that the church is very supernatural to extend the church cannot response to the earthly condition of the people, particularly the poor. But after I join with the BEC and learned in from the book the value of it I am convince that this will the source for the Church renewal. Need-less-to-say, the formula of the book (Doing Ecclesiology) gives me a fresh, critical, and reflective understanding of the historical, social responsibility, and the imperative action of the both side of the body of Christ which is the important of participatory and democratic system inside of the Catholic Church nowadays.