I like tradition. Tradition roots us as humans in a way that brings a deep sense of identity and belonging. It should be treasured and valued within religious practice.
Religious tradition is a most sensitive domain as it treads on deeply held beliefs and practices about God, worship, and what is means to belong to a religion. Religious traditions powerfully inform families and cultures.
That being said, the Roman Catholic Church has had a busy first quarter of 2012 under the auspices of protecting the traditions and “full teaching” of the Church. The actions taken through the official arm of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF) directed at religious groups in the United States and individuals in Ireland have been heavy-handed, counterproductive, and even repugnant. The language used to convey a sense of religious authority from the CDF has been denigrating to the institution of the Church. To be matter of fact, the recent edicts of the CDF in Ireland and the United States are not aimed at protecting tradition but instead at protecting the status quo and the institution.
Last week’s public scolding of members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious was lacking in respect for a group of women who are an on-going witness to the values of the Catholic Church. The CDF presented itself, not as an authoritative organ of the Vatican, but instead as a wholly out of touch group of ordained clergy with questionable motives; desperate come to mind after reading the text of the statement. Is this really about protecting tradition?
Here is the reality. If Jesus showed up today to speak at the Vatican, he might likely use a laptop for a PPT presentation. But irrespective of how worthy the content of his presentation and regardless of the quality of his loving messages, there would be a group of men who would oppose his message saying, “Tradition tells us that Jesus did not have a laptop. We cannot listen to this man. Throw him out.”
When “tradition” gets in the way of listening to Jesus we have a real problem.
Read Part II of “Jesus Did Not Have A Laptop” next week.