A book which has had a big influence on me recently was Richard Rohr’s Falling Upwards. Rohr, an American Franciscan has written many books on Spirituality. He is a ‘spiritual entrepreneur’ having started different communities and recently a Centre for Action & Contemplation. One of the themes he is very interested in is that of Male Spirituality. He is acutely aware of a modern male crisis, often linked to the search for a masculine identity. We know about the pressures and expectations that men and women face in their daily lives, its just that men arent very good at talking about it Recently looking at as sharp rise in Male Suicide rates, analysed and concluded that men are failing to cope, as well as keeping their problems hidden from others
Looking at the perennial issue of reform in the Church – it is important to note a sharp generational tension in the Catholic priesthood (at least what I perceive in the UK). The older guys – often the ‘formators’ – are confused about the younger guys who are entering. Those of us born since the 70’s were formed in postmodern age, where almost nothing has been stable or constant or certain, social attitudes have changed dramatically. The church has been trying to reform itself through the Second Vatican Council, the reception of which takes generations to ‘bed in’. Exacerbating this in the Catholic Church have been the recent years of public scandal over paedophilia and cover-up by the hierarchy. Now, at least in the UK these scandals are being revealed everywhere, BBC, even Football Clubs, so at least the Catholic Church is not being portrayed as the unique place for these terrible crimes.
Rohrs’ thesis is that the task in the first half of life is in ‘forming the container’…. creating our identity, building up our ego, leaving the nest, achieving things. Kids test their strength, and when they fall down, they have to pick themselves up, dust themselves down and get on with it. However most of us get to a point where we are secure enough in who we are that we realise that these things don’t matter so much any more – and we start falling upwards. This is chronological, we have to past through the first phase to get to the second – but we move at different paces…. often linked to suffering. So for instance, you could be in your 60’s but emotionally you are still a teenager, need your ego boost, need attention etc you are still in the first half of life. You can also be 16, caring for an ill parent, looking after your brothers and sisters as though you were their dad or mum, and you can be incredibly mature… already you may have reached Rohrs’ falling upward stage.
It may be that we have a generation of priest, seminarians and some bishops, a high percentage who have what we would call “father wounds,” which can take the form of an absent, emotionally unavailable, alcoholic, or even abusive father and often had no chance to do the task of the first half of life well. So now they want a tribe that is both superior and secure— the danger is a generation of seminarians and young clergy who are cognitively rigid and “risk adverse”; who want to circle the wagons around their imagined secure and superior group whilst the Pope is encouraging them to get out of the sacristy and not be frightened of making mistakes. This results in a form of clericalism – preoccupation with clothing, titles, perks, and externals of religion; and more complex things such as ecumenism, interfaith dialogue, and social justice are dead issues for them. None of us can dialogue with others until we can calmly and confidently hold our own identity.
An interesting thesis – fitting into to why some aspects of the Catholic blogosphere and media are obsessed with Amoris Letitia… and looking inwards…. talk about the reform of the reform rather than getting their hands dirty by sharing in the messiness and brokenness of all our lives. In a time of VUCA – Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity, it is tempting to pull up the drawbridge. Whereas we are called to deepen our faith, put out into the deep – and listen to Jesus saying ‘Do Not be Afraid for I am with you always’.