To Kneel or Not to Kneel

There is one big issue in Huntington Beach, California at this time.

It involves a Catholic parish, the pastor and some--no, many--members of the parish congregation.

You call that 'flock' during the imperial-cum-colonization-cum-evagalization times, as if the allusion and metaphor to 'shepherding' suits the priest or the cleric or the monk or the pastor just fine.

As if a pastor knows how to shepherd, with the skills learned from some obscure seminary training, the obscure training coming from some obscure priests who trained in the ways of mediocrity and obscurity.

He has declared, this pastor, based on the directives of his church, that kneeling is a mortal sin when the priest, during the Mass, says you stand up and you do not stand but keeps on kneeling as you way of reverence. Never mind that kneeling is your way for the last three decades or so, even perhaps prior to Vatican II in '65.

The Los Angeles Times today carries an avalanche of letters, critical letters, denouncing letters, indicting letters, sermonizing letters--all from the laypeople who have reasons to see things otherwise other than following the same mossy mentality of their pastor who thinks it is an affront to his definition of 'sin' when his congregation keeps on kneeling when he says, 'Stand up, rise, praise God!'


This time, in these letters, the laypeople holding the fort to reason and religious sense.

Some are hitting hard the medievalism of what discipline is all about.

The rigor of rubric, for instance.

Or the regimentation of the mind in order to go through the rituals of faith the way pastors see these rituals as substantially the same as kneeling or standing.

The laypeople are asking for the accounting of priestly sins, mortal and venial, the pardonable and the unpardonable, the publicized and the covered-up.

And they are concerned about the church unable to look into the pedophile priests and yet too harsh on people kneeling or rising during some parts of the Mass.

Some said that they have been kneeling since forty years ago and now this instruction for them to rise and praise God and acclaim His Name as if kneeling has nothing to do with reverence and awe and recognition of the God who is the God of all life.

Standing up makes you more dignified, away from the vestiges of medieval thought which is the case with kneeling, so argued those who believe in the pastor and who believe in his right to send a letter to 40 or so parishioners to leave the parish if they do not want to stand when the priest says so during the Mass.

But those who see it this way, this need to go away from medievalism, fall flat into a circulus in probando and a case of petitio principii. Now if priests have forgotten their logic, they can just blog me and I will tell them: tsupi!

So this is the Catholic Church of America now: fractious, divided, sundered.

One part says X.

Another part says Y.

The trouble with clericalism as a mindset is that it cannot hold water any longer with today's great diffusion of human knowledge.

No one has the imprimatur of anything now.

No one has the power to stamp nihil obstat on anything without inviting discord, debate, dissension especially so when rules define substance--or substance is at the mercy of rules.

We thought the pharisees are gone.

But they have reincarnated, assumed new bodies, assumed new powers, assumed new authority in the hierarchical church.

The pharisees are back--and they use the 'law of law' to preach about love, if at all.

What about this whole theology of the New Testament completing the Old Testament narrative of salvation history in order to account the new law--the 'law of love'?

The heat is on.

And it is summer in these parts.

There has to be a way by which we can define the church in the context of a globalized injustice, war exportation, and the continued oppression of peoples in all continents.

The church doors have bloodstains in them and the church ought to atone for its sins so it can announce the redemption of the human spirit.

By all means, we need to go back to the church.

But we want one that is liberating because both human and divine.

Human, because it is one with people, and always so.

It is divine because this church is God and no other.

A. S. Agcaoili
Oxnard/Camarillo, Ventura County
June 3 & 4, 2006

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