In the 1960's I was enrolled in a parochial school in the mid-west. In the town in which I grew up there was a German Parish, an Italian Parish, a Polish parish, and an Irish parish. I belonged to the Irish parish. In our little Catholic world, it was considered a "mixed marriage" if a Polish Catholic married an Irish Catholic. I exaggerate but only slightly. All of this serves as a backdrop to what happened in the fifth grade. Sister introduced two new students to our little Irish school; they were two black girls. Everyone in the class was shocked, not because they were black but, because they were Baptists.
To us, the idea of a Baptist or, for that matter any protestant seemed exotic at best. Why would anyone chose to not be Catholic?!? I recall Sister telling our class that we had to respect other people and their beliefs especially when they differed from our own. She also pointed out that this was an opportunity for us to better understand our own faith as well. I think back to my Irish parish in that blue collar neighborhood and the good sisters who taught us some 45 years ago.
I ask myself: What happened to those values? When I arrived at my new parish this last Spring, the choir sang a beautiful hymn, "All are welcome here" as the choir sang, I thought to myself: are all truly welcome here? The hymn expressed the sentiments of the Second Vatican Council and the values imparted to us by the wonderful teaching order of Dominican Sisters. Values that respect those with different opinions, belief systems, backgrounds. That saw a differing idea not as a threat but, as an opportunity for charity, deeper understanding and personal growth. Sadly, the idea of openness which the Holy Spirit invited us to embrace through the Blessed John XXIII has been shelved in favor of control. For example, professors at the university level are not allowed to discuss the issue of ordination of women with their students.
The faithful are left with Church documents which present lofty ideals and Church governance which pays lip service to those ideals but, crushes anyone who dares to invoke them. In this, the contemporary Church resembles the eastern European satellite nations of the former Soviet Union. They had enlightened constitutions which were ignored by those in positions of power, or worse, quoted as a justification for their unchallengeable rule. The late Pope John Paul II said of the old Soviet empire, it was a rotted tree. I simply shook it and it fell. Naked power and fear can only impose control/order for so long. In the case of the hierarchy, they have cut themselves off from the body of the Church, the people of God. Most bishops opt to govern by fiat rather than engaging in meaningful dialogue with the faithful. The net result is an increasing number of Catholics who ignore the bishops on the questions such as artificial birth control. They question the wisdom, if not the motives, of the bishops in the wake of the Pedophilia Scandals. Catholics who question an endless appeal for funds while, given no voice in the application of those funds, and often, little or questionable accountability, are continually being asked for more and more money. Why, where is it going?
Like King Louis XVI who remained insulated at Versailles while the people rioted in Paris, our bishops remain insulated in a sort of private boys club, where they believe that if they say it then, it must be true. Like Louis, they are bewildered that the people don't simply obey.
- Boycott the Knights of Columbus
- A wedding sermon.
- An open letter to my parish community.
- Why was a college student in the car of drunken Archbishop-elect Cordileone at 12:26 AM, when Cordileone was arrested for a DUI?
- When the Church married Same-Sex couples.
- How It All began
- The Supreme Court’s Decisions and the New Mason-Dixon Line
- What the Vatican & American bishops DO NOT want you (and Politicians) to know.
- The Morality of Sex, gay & straight.
- San Francisco in archbishop Cordileone’s sight