It is a surprise to few, I can imagine, that 'church' and 'politics' often appear together.
I have never belonged to a parish that did not have 'politics'. I have often wondered why...even as I frequently found myself in the middle of the fray.
As Christians...I think any Christian, not just a Catholic Christian, we are to seek holiness. We do this by imitating Christ to the best of our abilities.
I suppose part of the issue is that we all have different abilities! Also, we do not have the benefit of Divine Nature...we've only been given a human one.
People all have their own ideas of how things should go. How should the Mass look? What should the music sound like? What does the choir wear? The altar servers? Boys? Girls? Albs? Cassocks? What should we serve after Mass? Do we serve anything? What do we do with children during Mass?
And so we begin the politics. Someone figures he or she has the ear of the pastor. Or perhaps one just figures they can influence the pastor in a preferred direction. A strong willed soul starts speaking for a group (often not enumerated!)...as it "WE want this...WE don't like that". Who are we?
Perhaps the busy people in the parish become clickish and don't really invite others to enter their ranks. Perhaps a particular minister is unnapproachable and kind of runs his or her own show.
I have a fantasy of a parish led by a strong, confident priest with lots of energy and lots of time on his hands (remember, I did say this was a fantasy) who can see that all the workers in the parish are trained in the philosophy of ministry, and then well trained in their particular ministry. Further in this fantasy are workers who wish to learn, and who respect authority....SCREECH!
Okay, perhaps I"m delusional. Authority? What authority?
Now we get into the area of abuses...
One of the wonderful things about the Catholic Church, particularly those of us who thrive on active parish work, is that we have authority to fall back on. The way I see it, the Vatican writes documents, the Bishops read them, adapt what they are permitted to adapt, pass the info on to the priests, who use this information and pass relevent parts on to the lay ministry. No, I"m not really delusional...really.
Here's the reality check...I've never seen this happen as it should. Currently, I volunteer in a small parish in a military 'diocese'. This diocese has somehow managed to entrench many practices which are not in accord with the expressed guidelines from on high. Wow. Talk of politics!
When you have members of such a diocese who educate themselves in writings from Rome, or even writings from the national group of Bishops (who, unfortunately are not always to be relied upon to enforce what Rome requires) in such a diocese or parish, you have a recipe for much anguish.
I am one who firmly believes that if there is any possible way to follow Vatican mandates, they should be followed. In a military environment, occasionally some things are not possible. But is a parish in a small city really a military environment? It's not "in theatre" or "in the field" even if we are affiliated with the military. So do the rubber rules given to the military really apply?
When once I enumerated some of the odd practices of our parish to an email group, I got a reply from someone in Boston who said even in her notorious city, what I related sounded very bad.
I have been accused at times of trying to push my 'opinion'. I will state categorically that my opinion, when it comes to Vatican mandates, does not matter. Neither does a given priest's opinion. This relieves us of much responsibility. We are told how things should be. All we need to do is to make it happen.
It is unfortunate, (now, this IS my opinion) that in liturgy, we don't have too many binding documents. This leaves a lot of room for creativity...and strife.
I suspect that under Pope Benedict XVI we will be given a little more guidance. Currently, the Pope is making his taste in liturgical music known. Some of us are cheering. But it's pretty hard to reverse 40 years of musical freedom. I"m not sure if it can even be reigned in. As much as I'd love to be singing it, I cannot envision a Mass in our parish being chanted in the Gregorian fashion. Understand please, I am not calling for a Tridentine (from the Council of Trent...priest facing the same way as the people) Mass. The current Mass done in a reverent fashion is wonderful too.
How many know that we laypeople are supposed to be able to recite or chant the Ordinary of the Mass (those parts which are the same from week to week) in Latin? Where do I get this information? From the Vatican II document Sacrosanctum Concilium! Yes, folks...Vatican 2.
Yet I grew up being told that Latin was forbidden in the diocese in which I lived.
People are people and where two or more get together, opinions will be in the midst. So where is room for Jesus, who promises to be there?
But I am absolutely certain that by following the instructions we do have, we are submitting to an authority, the Church, which is a good thing. We will also have a lot fewer arguments.
So, hierarchy, how about helping the laity out with this?