Inside NCR
This week's stories | Home Page
Issue Date:  April 21, 2006

From the Editor's Desk

Sinking into spring's beauty

It is that time of year in the Midwest when spring is running riot. The redbuds alone could push one into a swoon. The world, if only momentarily (keep the TV turned off, and the spell lasts longer), seems in a kinder, gentler mood.

Balm for the soul.

So calming, in fact, that I had a few kind words the other day for Sam, the dog. Sam is big, huge really, yellow and handsome as they come, docile as a doormat and willful as a 2-year-old being shushed in church. Sam doesn’t do anything he doesn’t want to do. Mostly he wants to lie down or pretend he’s catching chipmunks in the woodpile in the corner of our small yard. It used to be a woodpile. I’ve given up on it. Stack the wood and Sam explodes it the next minute. He never catches any chipmunks. He can’t see them scoot the second his paw comes off the deck and onto the grass. He’s blind. Which also complicates things. It’s tough taking him for a walk because he weaves around and you have to keep making sure he doesn’t bump his nose on a telephone pole. We’ve made an easy accommodation of each other and to show my love I regularly feed him pretzels from a bag, the sound of which can summon him from incredible distances, given his inclination to not move for almost anything.

I was contemplating Sam because I was drawn into the backyard the other day just to take in the sights and the smells: the lilacs, redbuds, the forsythia and Sam rolling on his back, as he hasn’t for months, in the newly green grass.

I hope that where you are the world has turned this way recently or will soon and that you will get a chance to sink into the beauty of a small corner of it.

~ ~ ~

It occurred to me in reading the story that in some Catholic circles, Episcopalians and other mainline or “old line” denominations are easy targets for criticism by those who think those denominations have compromised the Gospel, lost their rigor and given in to “liberal” trends of the secular culture. ( See story)

The conclusion that often quickly follows is that the falling numbers in those denominations are proof positive of God’s disfavor for any number of ills: from ordaining women and gays to not being rigorous enough in opposing abortion.

I wonder, however, if the matter might be viewed from another angle. I daresay that because I also know that many of those denominations were in the vanguard among religious groups in taking some of the most unpopular stands on some of the most difficult issues, from Vietnam, to racism, to U.S. involvement in brutal Latin American dictatorships, and so on. While often those views may have lacked a certain nuance and texture, the basic correctness of the positions was often borne out by history and by piles of human rights reports.

So now, often, the issue is gays and lesbians and whether and how much to tolerate them, whether to ordain them, whether to elect them bishops. Perhaps those denominations are paying a price for wrestling with difficult issues. Perhaps 50 years from now, official Catholic certitude about gays, for instance, will have moderated in the face of a greater understanding of that orientation. And perhaps, just maybe, our friends in other denominations will have great lessons for us in how a church learns to simply accompany those who are different and, as the story says, whose “manner of life” now “presents a challenge” to the wider church.

For the Episcopalians and others it has meant that delicate dance that occurs in any community between authority and charism, between those whose first instinct is to preserve and protect and those who see the community’s vitality in challenging and questioning. The tension is as old as the church itself.

-- Tom Roberts

National Catholic Reporter, April 21, 2006

This Week's Stories | Home Page | Top of Page
Copyright  © The National Catholic Reporter Publishing  Company, 115 E. Armour Blvd., Kansas City, MO   64111
All rights reserved.
TEL:  816-531-0538     FAX:  1-816-968-2280   Send comments about this Web site to: