A priest replies to Anne Rice
"However, what she is proposing is, quite simply
, impossible. With complete coherence, Ms. Rice could withdraw from the Gandhi Society, even while maintaining her deep admiration for Gandhi, or she could resign from the Better Business Bureau, even while retaining a commitment to the ideals of that organization. But she can’t leave the church and still cling to Christ, precisely because the church is not a club or voluntary society, but rather Jesus’ own mystical body. When the risen Jesus addressed Saul, who was on his way to persecute the Christian community in Damascus, the Lord said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” In the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, we find Jesus’ great parable of the separation of the saved and the condemned on the last day. To the blessed, Jesus says, “whatsoever you did to the least of my people, you did it to me,” and to the damned he says, “whatsoever you neglected to do to the least of my people, you neglected to do it to me.” The followers of Jesus are related to their Lord as the members of a body are related to the head, for Christ and his church form together, not a society, but a living organism. To say, therefore, that one loves Christ but has given up on his church is precisely equivalent to saying “I love you, but I just can’t be around your body!”
To make this principle more concrete, consider the fact that Anne Rice came to know Christ through the densely-textured world of her New Orleans Catholicism: its art, music, liturgy, stories, and above all, its powerful spiritual personalities. More to it, she experienced the renewal of her faith through the mediation of the liturgy broadcast on EWTN. The point is that the church, with all of its flaws, remains, down through the ages, the vehicle which bears Jesus Christ to the world, just as our bodies, with all of their imperfections, remain the means by which our identities and personalities come to expression. You just can’t discover Christ or stay with him in abstraction from his body. I know that Church people, even of the highest rank, do and say lots of stupid things. I fully realize how deeply scandalous the recent behavior of some priests and bishops has been to millions of Catholics, and I completely acknowledge that certain of the church’s attitudes, behaviors, and statements over the centuries have been deeply harmful. Heck, John Paul II dedicated the last several years of his pontificate to apologizing for the ways that churchmen have caused harm, sometimes greviously, over the past two millennia. But yet, as St. Paul said, “we hold a treasure” in these fragile vessels, and the treasure is Jesus himself.
I’m convinced that it is Anne Rice’s love for Christ that has pushed her to make this move away from the church, but I fear that she is drifting toward the love of an abstract Jesus. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. This means that God entered into our grubby, imperfect world and made it his tabernacle. He continues to do so, precisely through the flawed, compromised, sometimes exasperating body of the church, and therefore the church is where the real Christ is found. Come back, Anne, we need you!"