The March of Folly

The days of the secreted and persecuted church during the 2nd and 3rd centuries were long gone when the Roman Empire fell in the late 5th century. The Latin church found itself increasingly needed in secular affairs and seduced by them. By the Renaissance period of the 15th century, the millennium had long let loose the siren’s cry of secular power, national politics, and a host of other factors. This lead to the formation of the Papal States, the rise of a courtly Roman Curia comprised mainly of lay nobility, a complex means of funding the increasing “empire” of the Church, and a culture of corruption, moral laxity, and an obscuring of the lines between the holy and the secular. In the mix there were saintly popes and popes with, shall we say, other foci, aspirations, and intentions. The church was unknowingly on what the historian Barbara Tuchman would famously call “the march of folly.” The march reached its zenith in the last six popes before the Protestant Reformation(s). The folly of the papacy and the Roman Curia, pursuing secular goals at the expense of its spiritual mission, bewilderingly ignored the growing outrage and distrust of common people seeking some assurance of salvation – which they found in the theological focus of the Augustinian monk, Martin Luther. The papal/curial folly gave birth to the Reformation(s). The six popes highlighted over the next several weeks were the ones occupying the Chair of Peter in the 50 years preceding the Protestant Reformations that swept through Europe in the 16th century. They were the last pontiffs over a united western Christianity Continue reading

A final thought

This coming Sunday is the 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time in which we are reading the second part of the “Sermon on the Plains” that began in Luke 6:17

From David Lose: So after setting out his crazy – at least according to our experience in the world – vision for the Christian life, he does two things. First, he assails the logic of the kingdom of the world. How can we honor things we do out of our own self interest? Doing good to those who do good to us, loving those who love us, may be the norm, but it is essentially self-centered and nothing to be admired or emulated. And following in that pattern won’t move us beyond the violence-saturated and scarcity-driven history of the world. We have to find a new way forward.

Second, he offers the only motivation strong enough to withstand the pull of the culture to look out first and foremost for our own interests and invite us to take that new path. He point us, that is, to the very nature of God – the one who is merciful and loving even to those who don’t deserve it.

And that includes us.

The only thing that invites love that transcends self-interest, you see, is being loved. And the one thing that prompts mercy that is not self-serving is receiving mercy. So Jesus directs our attention to God, the one who abounds in compassion, mercy, love, and forgiveness.

And because that’s so hard for us to believe, Jesus ultimately won’t just talk about that love, he’ll show it, spreading his arms wide upon the cross to offer God’s loving embrace to each and all of us.