Universal means Catholic, an example is Universalism, the teaching that all mankind will be saved. But first let’s look at the use of the word ‘liberal’ in the group of churches known as Liberal Catholic Movement. Liberal means free, as in liberty. Sometimes it means generous, as in using ketchup liberally on French-fries. We sometimes think the latter only relates to politics, but that is not the way we use it in the Universal Catholic Church. You can “lean to the right” in politics and still be a Universal Catholic. Liberal means free. We receive grace freely. When Jesus healed a man with palsy, He said: “Rise, your sins are forgiven.” There was no quizzing about the man’s past. What he had done in the past didn’t matter. There were no promises about doing prayers or penance in the future. The man was probably just an ordinary man: the Bible would have mentioned it otherwise.
Universal Catholics are married and divorced and single parents, gay and straight, rich and poor, alcoholics in recovery or otherwise, and all other shades in the tapestry of mankind. As we were welcomed at God’s table, we try to make space for all. When our Master Jesus was scolded in the Gospels, it was usually because he spent time with tax collectors, prostitutes and others shunned by society. He was once scolded because he whipped up a batch of wine so a party could continue. In short, the Bible is full of stories about Jesus hanging out with people involved in rough or “un-Christian” behavior.
Universal Catholics go to Confession, and it is good for the soul to do that. However, Absolution is not tied to penance or prayers. It is freely given: “Rise, your sins are forgiven.” Every Mass begins with a Confession said by all, followed by Absolution that is freely given. Our marching orders are to love God, to love ourselves, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Those three things are at the top of our To Do lists. Be free, and don’t sweat the small stuff. After love, it is all small stuff. All those orthodox rules and laws are the fine print.
St. Francis Universal Catholic Cathedral Chapel