|Limestone cliff on the east coast of Osmussar, by Axiraa|
~Of all the stones of the archipelago, limestone has always been the best accomplice to metaphysics. W.H. Auden , who so loved the karst shires of the northern Pennines, adored limestone. What most moved him about it was the way it eroded. Limestone’s solubility in water means that any fault-lines in the original rock get slowly deepened by a process of soft liquid wear. In this way, the form into which limestone grows over time is determined by its first flaws. For Auden, this was a human as well as a geological quality—an acknowledgement that we are as defined by our faults as by our substance.~ —Robert Macfarlane, The Wild Places p. 173-4
I read this and found myself thinking about the Roman Catholic Church these days…Through scandal after scandal, illegality after illegality, poor judgements accumulating one after another… we are learning that the Church too is soluble; that which was seen as solid by many, is eroding according to our fault-lines.
The fault-line of misplaced pride and the devastating idea that some within the Church are above reproach or even criminal prosecution in order to save face, save money, or save the security of righteousness.
The fault-line of our humanity. Errors are made because we are human. Serious errors in judgment; errors in behaviour that civil law labels as illegal; Errors in the practice of our faith.
The fault-line of fear…fear of losing control, fear of humility, fear of pain, fear of truth…
And I ask myself…
For those who choose to stay, what will the shape of the land, this soluble rock we call the Roman Catholic Church, be that is left after this Erosion Age?
Where do my own fault-lines fit in with those of the Church?
Do I contribute to the fissuring by my apathy, my absence, my scorn—by some of my own poor judgments—and sever relationships either intentionally or as a result of my own choices?
Or, do I bring all that is jarring, moving in great sweeping tides, within me—sadness, anger, upset, commitment, faith, compassion, justice, reconciliation, humanity, Love…and say, How can I let this serve? How can I direct these waters so that something new is carved from the land that remains? Something new that is useful, beautiful, humble, human, real…that facilitates for Today, this centuries old way of worshiping God and believing in the fully human, completely divine, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus?
I have read about a gate at the Trappist Monastery of Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky…Arched over the iron door are two words— GOD ALONE. I find it helpful to remember that. Should this land we are on erode beyond current recognition—and it might—perhaps must…we are not without foundation.
NB… I write this as someone who has not been the victim of clergy sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church and I make no judgements about those for whom staying is too high a cost.