Sunday, February 15, 2009

Goodbye to Peter and Paul

The German film Goodbye to Lenin, a sensitive and humorous look at an end of an era, recently summoned to mind not the end of Communism, but the end of Christianity as I once knew it.

In the film, a committed East German Communist woman goes into a coma just as the Berlin Wall is falling in 1989. She wakes up during German reunification. Her doctor tells advises that she should be kept calm. The hitch: she thinks her beloved Honecker regime is still in power.

In my life, there was once a boy who once experienced ecstasy upon having the eucharist placed on his tongue, a young man who -- absent celibacy -- might have become a priest, an adult catechist who told quibbling pre-teens they would be excused from the Sunday Mass obligation if they found themselves literally in the bind of the guy on the classroom crucifix.

But, yes, that boy sinned, that young man doubted and that adult ultimately gave up a lifetime of pretending to be committed to what he wasn't. Committed Christians, like committed Communists, were always rare, indeed probably nonexistent.

At this thought I stumble upon the always aged Br. O'Connor, whom we boys called "the mummy" in the Irish Christian Brothers school I attended. He was unchanged in the 1990s, last I saw him.

If he lived through the recent years of shame and a Nazi pope, what did he think, after all those years of loyal service to his order, going from Ireland to Argentina to teach rich ranchers' sons? How did that life end up squaring with the man from Galilee? Was it a failure to watch a world turn its back on everything to which his life was devoted?

Fare well, Simon Peter and Paul of Tarsus! It was all for naught.


Anonymous said...

I don't know. Or I don't think so.

There are still elements that can live forever, forgiveness, mercy, (moral!)courage, etc. Even resurrection and the parables of pruning. There are many, many teachings that are eternal. & they continue to unexpected pop up in the small histories of people.


It is not just the person, but the whole of Christianity that is pruned and which goes through regrowth and renewal.

The church must shed all its mythology...or recognize it for what it is...a tool, perhaps, and put it in its proper place. It has to cease being an institution that relies only on past methods of piety & instruction. It has to cease being comparable, in its treatment of woman, to Hinduism, Islam, Orthodox Judaism and other religions.

The boat has to be rocked, that in which all the prelates sit....some can certainly be tossed overboard. I was digging through articles of a great-grand' who was an "eminent commander" of Knights Templar. Geeeeez. I shoulda let it remain buried. All these guys got their highs in in their supposed elevated standing. Our (at least mine, not your) church is the same. For centuries it has done one-upmanship with the royal houses and institutions such as the freemasons of Europe. It has to go back to 2nd and 3rd century christianity and know that everything since then is applied and Roman, not necessarily Christian.

In the meantime, I redefine my own life & live it according to principles as close as I can to JC. Is it authenic?

Who knows.

Is it really all for naught...that my mother bore 9 kids (& sweats us every day!) and that every other catholic lived according to their own time?

Probably not.

The pilgrimage that each has journeyed simply parallels the overall pilgrimage of the institution.

Anonymous said...

hmmm. my name is in the middle of the above comment & not at the end.


csaint22 said...

Fascinating topic. As always, C., love your images. And Ann, didn't know you could write so well after reading you all these years. You've been hiding your light lately.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, SaintC.

"years"? The hills have eyes...


Anonymous said...


The summarizing paragraph of a long article in today's NY Times (which probably has copies of it worldwide) by Rachel Donadio & Nicholas Kulish, "In Scandals Swirling Over the Vatican,...) cite Hubert Feichtlbauer "an author in Vienna who writes about church issues":

"The larger problem is the inability of the church leadership to come to terms with the modern world. [ ] The problem is a long-term one, and in no way is it solved."


Cecilieaux said...

I have some problem with RD's background reporting. She keeps saying that Vatican II absolved contemporary Jews of the killing of Jesus. Actually its said that Jews in general, then alive or now, cannot be charged.