“Not Less Than Everything”: A Brief Reaction
Catherine Wolff recalls living through the Second Vatican Council. Existing in her was a tangible sense of hope that things were changing; the “Church that seemed increasingly rigid and authoritarian even to faithful Catholics was reaching out to us and to the wider world.” Fifty years later, Wolff experiences the Council being “subverted by those who would nullify or thwart many of its reforms.”
Many Catholics today, she writes, have grave concerns: “Discouraging are the twin scandals of clergy sex abuse and malfeasance on the part of bishops covering it up. A lack of transparency and accountability on financial matters has led to a fresh series of scandals, reaching into the Vatican itself. In the Unites States, bishops are intervening in politics and public policy in ways that violate prudent boundaries while refusing to welcome women into full membership and leadership in the Church or to address the retrograde, even ignorant teachings on human sexuality…”
She experiences the Church as having undermined its ability to mediate faith, and she notes many contemplate leaving the Catholic Church. Remaining is difficult for her personally.
In Not Less Than Everything: Catholic Writers on Heroes of Conscience, her gaze turns to ‘saints’: “Most of us have our own unofficial list of saints: people whose unusual courage and grace we have witnessed; people whose stories have been reverently handed down.” It is this interplay — between me (the writer) and the saint impacting me — that gives Not Less Than Everything its distinct tone.
Wolff has drawn together a diverse collection of writers and each reflects upon an individual whose experiences have had some personal impact. Those saints around which each chapter is built, it is hoped, will have something to say to those Catholics today troubled by their Church. Many, it is suggested, faced situations not altogether different from persons today.
James Martin, S.J. finds in Not Less Than Everything a “timely reminder that, quite often in the Church, the excluded become the embraced, the silenced become the prophets, the excommunicated become the saints, and the stones that builders rejected become the cornerstones.”
Perhaps in connecting with saints such as these — saints evidencing the abiding presence of God; a presence capable of transforming the structures in which such saints exist —- those disillusioned resist the extinguishing of their own hopes for a Church better able to mediate the love of God.