Father Cormac Rigby “Yes, it is true, the Lord has risen.” Exclusive is a Janus word, treacherous and mean. An exclusive development is an estate agent’s hint that riffraff will be excluded.
Exclusive makes a virtue out of keeping people out. In the period when Protestantism was fragmenting, the Plymouth Brethren suffered an even smaller breakaway group call “the exclusive Brethren”. I wouldn’t trust the word “exclusive” as a far as I could throw it.
There is always a temptation to exclude, to declare someone “untouchable” or to label someone “not one of us”. That temptation, I think, is the identifying characteristic of a sect. The “right” people are “in”; the rest, the majority, are “out”. Sects tend to be stronger the more exclusive and excluding they are.
And what is the opposite of “exclusive”? “Catholic”, I think.
Catholic means allembracing, welcoming, of interest or use to all, universal. I like belonging to the universal Church because of its inclusivity. Its teachings are not addressed to an incrowd but to everyone.
And I remember thinking how spot-on the late Patrick O’Donovan was when he spoke of John XXIII as a Pope of universal relevance, who put his arm around the shoulders of the world.
The Church is not membership by invitation only; it does not require a competitive examination, or an oath of loyalty, or special appointment. The great iconic symbol of the Catholic Church is not a closed door, admission by ticket only, but those great outreaching, allembracing, world-enfolding colonnades of Bernini, drawing all comers to the threshold of St Peter’s.
The Lord himself showed the way. A pair of disillusioned, depressed travellers on the road to Emmaus, escaping maybe. An arm round their shoulders; friendliness; instruction both mindextending and eye-opening. And in the breaking of the bread the recognition of who the unrecognised “stranger” really was.
Don’t become a holy huddle; don’t sneer at the inadequate perceptions of others; don’t judge.
Accompany, keep, console, stay to eat, explain, encourage.
If we exclude, we betray the Risen Lord. If we include we do as he did. Christ’s mission was not to be found an exclusive sect, but to identify with a Catholic Church.