I want to thank all of you who have contributed to my time of discernment this last week. I am sorry that I caught many of you by surprise with the very question “Should I keep going?” The question was asked not because there was severe doubt, and not to generate at big “love-fest” of affirmations, but to continue to recommit the use of this experience for God’s glory.
It is like I’m on a journey… ok, well, actually… I am on a journey. But my point is that on a journey, there is continual reassessment. I remember well the trips I had as a Boy Scout where the topography of the local landscape did not match the place we thought we were on the map. Unfortunately, the guides and guidebooks we have don’t always match the experiences we are having in our lives. That last sentence may be paradigmatic of the Christian experience, but we’ll get back to that another time. You have to take time to rectify the discrepancies between the guides and the lived experience, or even decide to take a side trip to a nearby waterfall. These are things that cannot be decided in advance. You need to be on a journey to make the decisions about the journey. That last sentence may be paradigmatic of the Christian experience, but we’ll get back to that at another time.
I have used Rome to reconnect with two of the most influential men who have shaped my understanding of the value of building relationships with people of different cultures (Fr. Carcar and Fr. Kiyenje). I have had to relook at what is working, and what is not working on this journey. Little things such as cleaning out dirt on the sensor of my camera, or figuring out how my international laptop data connect, website, and cell phone are being billed, are all details that have required adjustment.
There was also a small detail about visas that didn’t get straightened out until today. Around 5% of Americans have a U.S. passport. I am now one of the less than .01% that will have two U.S. passports. You are now one of the less than 1% of people in America (you are still part of that percentage if you are not an in American or an American) who even know that you can have two U.S. passports. I could not get a visa to go to Nigeria without going back to Washington D.C. After a lot of panic, we figured out with the U.S. State department a way to have a second passport in the U.S. which can acquire visas while I continue with the pilgrimage. It is all working out.
Needless to say, the overwhelming support and encouragement I have received publicly and privately are more than sufficient to continue the voyage. Just don’t everyone freak out on me again when I say “I’m in Brazil trying to figure out how to readjust the plan.” That is my next scheduled discernment period in 4 more months.
I also want to use this time to clarify a few things. Since I have been in Rome there were a few hundred thousand readers who were subjected to my story in the Chicago Tribune. It was a very positive story and I am extremely happy that the press in Chicago had a front page story that was something about the Catholic Church other than our human capacity for disappointment.
I do want to clarify two aspects of the article that may have sounded confusing. The Tribune printed the following:
“It means more than right for life for the unborn," Heimann said recently from somewhere between Oklahoma and Arizona. "Solidarity means when one member of the body suffers we all suffer. When one rejoices we all rejoice. That means I have to be concerned about my experience with genocide in Rwanda. I have to be concerned about the suppression of innocent Christians in China or Vietnam."
I did make this quote, but I want to be clear, my intentions in making the statement were not to dismiss the Church’s teaching on abortion. The point of this pilgrimage is to promote solidarity. This includes solidarity with the unborn. I would like to see my home country, and the world, never again have a single abortion, and for everyone to understand the value of human life. In my study, I have found that solidarity is the basis for all moral ethics. It is my OPINION that the rhetoric of the abortion debate in the United States is leading us to greater disunity rather than greater solidarity. My comments are therefore aimed at changing the rhetoric used, to one that is respectful of all human life, at all of its stages. It is wrong to dehumanize a person because of their embryonic state, whether that state is biological or sociological. Unfortunately, both sides of the abortion debate are often content to have their little tussle at the level of prenatal intelligence.
The second thing to clarify is a statement I made about other religions. The Tribune printed that I said:"It is hard enough just to live in this world. Who has time to fight over religious differences?"
I did make this quote. But please don’t take my comments to insinuate that I think Catholicism is wrong, or that I am relativistic. I believe there is plenty reason to stand up for the beliefs of my community, and even to try to demonstrate to others that the Catholic faith is the fulfillment of God’s promises. I just don’t feel the act of dehumanizing another person because of their religious beliefs is representative of the Catholic belief system, even if many of my fellow Catholics often act that way.
These two points being somewhat clarified, I also wanted to point out something important about these blogs. I am presenting my writings as a Catholic who is on pilgrimage. This means that I react to what I see, what I feel, and what I believe. What I write is an exploration of my faith, not doctrine or teaching, and should never be mistaken as such. I am a journeyman, a pilgrim. If you want doctrine, read the Catechism. If you want to explore the philosophical precepts of Church teaching and debate its implications, go to a theology class. If you have an inquiry about the Faith that needs clarification, seek out a bishop.
My writings are often quickly written in stream of consciousness and I don’t always have the time to thoroughly consult doctrine or assess all of their implications.
I also want to address some comments that have been made on the “comments” section of my blog. I do have the power to delete comments that I feel are inappropriate. I will do so as is necessary. Recently there are some comments which I have considered deleting because I feel they have not represented my own feelings about the Church. I have not deleted them, because I also consider others to be fellow pilgrims in this journey, exploring a life lived in Faith. I often challenge the Church and question it. I do so to grow in fuller communion with the Church, and to ground myself upon its most true foundations, not to eradicate its foundations. The Church should challenge those of us who are liberal, AND those of us who are conservative to live lives in greater conformity with the Prince of Peace, whom was so gentle, we describe him using in the words of Isaiah 42:3 “A bruised reed, he would not break.” If you are not challenged by the things I am writing, to both reform the Church, and conform to the Church, then read harder. It is a gift we have to share this experience together. The gifts of the Spirit are always meant to build up the Church.