A Big Tent Church

I find it amazing that so many speak of the Catholic Church as narrow-minded or restrictive in its beliefs and practices.  My experience of the Church is so much the opposite. 

Catholicism is a Big Tent Church.

I have had direct or indirect experiences with the Catholic Church as found in Germany, Austria, Norway, Great Britian, Nigeria, Italy, China, Mexico, Canada and the United States.  I have taken part on two occasions in the gathering of the world’s government and Church leaders for one purpose– to celebrate the Church’s faith and sacraments.  There is no doubt that the Church is wider, higher, and more inclusive than any other human organization known to me.  It celebrates the diversity of culture, language, custom, tradition of peoples and nations. 

The only way I can figure out one can assert that the Catholic Church is narrow or small is if the one asserting this is limited in his or her experience and understanding of the Church.  This is easy to do in the United States, for most have yet to confront the diversity of experiences people in other parts of the world often experience on a daily basis.  We are such a big country that most live their entire lives in one cultural context, i.e., white Anglo America.  I am not blaming them.  It is the only thing available to them.  Perhaps the influx of Hispanic immigrants will change all of this for them.

Those who think of the Church as narrow and small actually may find if they study her well that their protest or dissent is a smallness and narrowness.  I would cite as example the ultra-conservative sect of the Society of St. Pius X and its offshoots, or the ultra-liberal groups such as Catholic for Choice.  The former protests the Church’s ecclesiology and authority; the latter the Church’s right to preach and teach on issues of morality.

Yes, Catholicism is a Big Tent Church.  Nations and other political bodies would do well to study her as an example of cultural diversity and organizational stability.  It is so human and yet so divine!

About Deacon Bob

Moderator: Deacon Bob Yerhot of the Diocese of Winona, Minnesota.
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4 Responses to A Big Tent Church

  1. Michael Young says:

    Many of the young believe that the Church is very ordinary and not much changes, we go to Mass on Sunday, say the same prayers, sit in the same pews (many do) and come back and do the same thing week in and week out. I know that is what many see and the young in particular don’t feel included in this type of ceremonial (as they see it) week after week. Many don’t believe in the true Body and Blood of Chirst and don’t appreciate the fullness of the Mass. Many seem to want more action, some would say entertainment for their service. They see the pope and Rome, if you will, (the Vatican) as a bunch of men that rule in an autocratic manner, out of touch with modern day needs of people.
    This is what I hear from some of the young people.

  2. karen querna says:

    this could be pandoras box -but from an American perspective I totally agree with you. IMHO I feel that the Catholic Church in America is forgiving and compassionate. one example – I have a dear friend who is Seventh Day Adventist, and I used to tease her that she would feel less guilty if she was Catholic. Her husband left her on Christmas day several years back and her minister told her she was not being a good enough wife. I really believe no one trained in our faith would say that.
    The best thing I feel also is our diversity, I have attended Mass around the world and felt connected no matter what the language.
    There are issues still we need to deal with – homosexuality is a huge one.(I am not taking about promiscuity) Women’s rights and the empowerment to be treated equally. Protection of the church and yet the church being totally open about its mistakes in the US. this is what will create an even stronger Church.
    This is what is needed to keep the tent up.

  3. admin says:

    I believe God gives parishes (with some exceptions I suspect) all the talent they need to thrive, if only the members would invest that talent in the local community rather than taking it elsewhere. To use economic terms, I believe we need to be a investor, and not a consumer Church.

    Somehow, as Church, we need to respond differently than in the past. People are longing for better preaching, better homilies that break open the Scriptures so as to be able to apply them to daily life. A big thrust throughout the country in formation programs, whether for the diaconate or the priesthood, is better preaching. People are also asking for better sense of connection to their deacons and priests. The clergy have to step up to the plate.

  4. admin says:

    Karen, thank you for the real life examples. I appreciate them.

    The Church is facing the issues you mention more openly than ever before, I think. Openess is strength, as you mention.

    I would encourage all of us to have the patience and courage to really read and learn about what the Church in fact believes and teaches about these issues, and get information from reliable sources and not just the secular media.

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