At the recent CTSA annual convention (Pittsburgh, June 6-9, 2019), the Sacraments & Liturgy topic session featured three papers grappling with suffering due to ecclesial and civic irresponsibility, probing how liturgical and ministerial polity can prove of help or hindrance to reform and recovery for individuals and social bodies. Here follow a précis of each presentation:
“The Body of Christ Given Up for the Ashamed: Rethinking Shame after the Sinking of the Ferry Sewol with Edward Schillebeeckx’s Sacramental Theology,” Min-Ah Cho, PhD (Emory University), Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies at Manhattan College. This paper focused on shame, a collective emotion experienced by many Koreans after the 2014 Sewol ferry disaster claimed 304 lives. While the tragedy triggered shame and additional traumas, it also pushed Koreans to recognize that all were responsible for society’s failed leadership and the suffering of the victims’ families. Based on Edward Schillebeeckx’s account of the Eucharistic fellowship of Jesus which led the ashamed disciples into conversion, Cho suggested the Eucharist serves as a symbol for a constructive process of transforming shame into remembrance of one’s own suffering in order to engage in solidarity with the suffering of others.
The other two papers were in response to the CTSA Board of Director’s Statement on Clerical Sexual Abuse which, acknowledging “both personal and structural failures in our ecclesial life,” called on the membership “to put our scholarly expertise to work to explore why what has happened in the church has happened” so as to contribute to efforts of prevention and reform:
“Clericalism in the Liturgy: False Sacrality, Clerical Hegemony, and Lay Passivity,” Bruce T. Morrill, S.J., PhD (Emory University), Edward A. Malloy Professor of Roman Catholic Studies, Vanderbilt University. Ordered ministries in service to the liturgy have origins in early Christian traditions and continue to be vital to ecclesial life. Yet in recent years charges of clericalism have been leveled against understandings and practices of not only ordained but also lay ministries (e.g., Redemptionis sacramentum, 2004). In addition to the rhetoric of clericalism , the ordinary magisterium has employed the language of abuse concerning improper execution of the church’s rites, most specifically, the Mass. Abuse, of course, is a powerful symbol. This presentation critically examined Vatican documents issued around the time that reporting and reaction to the abuse-and-cover-up exploded, evaluating how clericalism in the teaching and practice of liturgy has affected the crisis in the church. He concluded with a constructive theological correction drawing upon insights about (true) mysterion and (false) mystique by Thomas Pott (San’ Anselmo, Rome) and Susan Roll (St. Paul’s, Ottowa).
“Intra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus: A Liturgical Analysis of ‘Leaving the Church,’” David F. Turnbloom, PhD (Boston College), Assistant Professor of Theology, University of Portland. This paper argued that, in the context of moral injury inflicted by the Roman Catholic hierarchy, “leaving the Church” is a salvific ritual action. By inflicting physical trauma and moral injury on people, clerics have (1) corrupted the predisposition necessary to receive the sacraments effectively and (2) corrupted their own ability to embody the sacraments effectively. Within this context of moral injury, the sacramental life of the Church is not only made ineffective, it becomes a form of violence that jeopardizes those it touches. As such, insofar as “the Church” is identified with the sacramental life of the community, there is a real experience of “intra ecclesiam nulla salus.” The theological task entails careful questioning of widespread rhetoric valorizing the “courage to stay” by compassionately recognizing the sacramental sign those grappling with this decision are to a church in full crisis.