While participating in the "Occupy Wall Street" protests in lower Manhattan, I have begun to wonder what would happen if Catholics took this model and applied it to their passion for and grievances with their own church.
Imagine a group of Catholics whose deep care for the future of their church is matched by their sense of responsibility to name, protest and change what is intolerable about that church today: in the form of nonviolent physical occupation of spaces, in the form -- necessarily imperfect and unruly -- of democratic organization, in the form of continued open-ended articulations of visions of a different Catholic Church, without prematurely forcing the movement to take on a specific agenda. And yes, in the form of consciousness-raising and of direct action. This would be the Catholic version of the Arab Spring, to combat the long Catholic Winter.
What would the compelling love be for you that would make you consider joining such a movement? Would it be your hope for the church as a sacrament of God's salvation in the world here and now, your faith in the prophetic call of the Spirit that assures a permanently unfinished character to every church arrangement in the name of God's future alone, or would it be your love for the gift of your faith tradition to which you find yourself inseparably wedded for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health -- or something else?
What would be the last straw that would make you join such a movement? Would it be the episcopal malfeasance and coverup known as the sexual abuse crisis, would it be the steady disaffiliation, deconversion, and detachment of your family members or friends from the faith as church structures, teachings, and practices become steadily more incredible in contemporary society, or would it be the failure of the church to practice in its internal affairs the justice it preaches to the world -- or something else?
Or, like the "Occupy Wall Street" movement, would the precipitating awareness that would lead you to join such a movement simply be a recognition of the intractibilty of the near invisibility, in everyday church governance, of the overwhelming majority (all non-ordained persons) as compared to the small minority (the ordained)?
Looking at the world and the church in this moment, I would say that now may be some kind of privileged time for such action. Will Catholics take it up?