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One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church

I’ve spent the morning sitting on my balcony reading student papers and enjoying the quiet. The church two blocks from me had been ringing its bells for about two minutes before I realized that it wasn’t noon, and wasn’t Sunday, and there wasn’t a Mass about to begin. The bells have now been ringing for about ten minutes, and should go on for another twenty: the Pope has died.

What I’m feeling now is nothing short of weird. I was no fan of this Pope, who I’d argue, as does jo(e), single-handedly set the Church back decades, and who made it impossible for me ever to make a full return to the faith of my childhood. Through his dogmatic (literally!) positions on birth control, on abortion, on women in the priesthood, on stem-cell research, on celibacy, and so many more issues, through his refusal to acknowledge the complexities of life in the twenty-first century, he made me feel that my relationship to the Church could never be more than partial, with qualifications and caveats and asterisks.

But there’s something in this moment — listening to the call of the church bells, knowing that a worldwide mourning has begun — that does remind me, deep in my blood, that I am and always will be a Catholic. Like it or not.

And there’s the slightest glimmer of hope. Hope for a return to the days of John XXIII. For a new beginning.

The “catholic” referred to in the Nicene Creed, quoted in my title, is the lower-case version, implying universalism rather than denomination. And perhaps today the upper-case version might have the opportunity to imply the same.


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