Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Roman Catholic priesthood and the ordination of women

I read an article this morning regarding a group protesting on behalf of the ordination of women at the Vatican. A few years ago I was having lunch with my niece who was in her last year of High School studies at the time. Amy announced to the table “The problem I have with the [Roman Catholic] Church is that they refuse to ordain women.” I put down my knife and fork, looked at my dear niece and said “The problem I have with the [Roman Catholic] Church is that they ordain men.” She smiled and laughed.

When I was assigned as the new pastor of St. Paul’s Church in Fresno I met with a group of women who were advocating for the ordination of women. I shared with them a story. The diocesan vocation director (the person who attempts to recruit new priests) asked all the clergy in our diocese to preach sermons to attract new recruits. A group of priests had gathered for a meal and someone asked us all a hypothetical question. If your nephew came to you and informed you that he wanted to become a priest, would you encourage or discourage him? Everyone present, old and young, said they would discourage their nephew from pursuing ordination to the priesthood.

The point here is simple. The Roman Catholic priesthood, as it currently exists needs radical reform. Let me review just a few issues. Retirement benefits should be protected by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Erisa). Most lay Catholics are unaware that their priest’s retirement program is not protected by law. In simple language what this means is that a person can serve as a priest for 20, 30, 40 years and be denied retirement by the bishop. Retirement for priests is considered “a gift” which may be granted, or withdrawn at the pleasure of bishop.
Is this just? Would you want such an arrangement for yourself? If you worked for a soul-less profit oriented corporation, you would be treated better. Oh, I forgot to mention in our diocese you may retire at 75, because the bishop is so “gracious” he will permit you to request “early” retirement at 70.

Salary should be raised. In our diocese priest receive an annual salary of $16,000.00, that figure is taken from my tax return. At this point many of you are thinking, but priests take vows of poverty. Wrong! Diocesan priests do not take such vows. Priests who are members of religious orders do take vows of poverty; however, the flip side to those vows is that the order/congregation assumes financial responsibility for its members. To be ordained a priest requires 4 years of undergraduate studies and 4 years of post graduate studies. Obviously, one does not enter the priesthood to become wealthy, but there is another point here. The Church’s financial policies towards priests have NOTHING to do with money. They are about control. By paying poverty level salaries to priest you effectively rob them of autonomy.

Why should lay Catholics care about this? If your priest cannot speak the truth from the pulpit, you are robbed of the truth. You too become a victim of manipulation by the bishop. The bishop in turn, is controlled and manipulated by the Curia (Vatican bureaucracy). Essentially, the whole Church becomes an organization who’s primary purpose is to manipulate and control individuals; rather than, proclaim the truth.

Celibacy should be restored as a gift from the Holy Spirit to those individuals called to monastic life. The Orthodox Church has preserved this practice of the early Church. In the Orthodox Church before a person is ordained they must either 1) marry or 2) join a monastic community. Their rationale for this practice is simply that no person may fruitfully engage in ministerial service without the support of a community of love. That community of love is either a spouse, or a monastic/religious community. In the western [Roman Catholic] Church, this ancient practice of the Church was discarded and celibacy was required by the pope of all who were ordained. Celibacy has nothing to do with sex, it is about institutional power and wealth. In fact bishops are aware that most priests “struggle” with celibacy.

Celibacy means you are not and will not marry. Bishops expect their priests to be discreet, as my own bishop said to a brother priest. “We all struggle with celibacy, please don’t say anything more. There are some things a bishop doesn’t want to know.” Wink, wink, be discreet. Stay out of the newspaper and the evening news. Celibacy means that a bishop may move priests, at will. If a priest was married moving the priest would mean moving the whole family. Celibacy gives Roman Catholic bishops much more power than their Orthodox or Episcopal counterparts. It also provides an inexpensive work force and the revenues generated by a priest in his career accrue to the institution and not to the priest’s spouse/family.

By speaking of these few issues, I have only begun to scratch the surface of what all of this means in the life of a Roman Catholic priest. An elderly monsignor once told me, “every day I have lunch and dinner alone with my cat. I ask myself, does this please God?” Think of the emotional costs of loneliness, isolation, powerlessness over your personal life and you will quickly understand why there is a “shortage” of priests. You will also begin to understand why, although I am in favor of ordination of women, I would not support the change until the Roman Catholic priesthood is reformed first.

The obvious way to force a reform of the priesthood is to eliminate mandatory celibacy. Priest would then be able to marry. They would have to be paid a just and living wage. Their retirements and other benefits would come into line with the employment norms of society. Priests would gain financial independence and the self-esteem and freedom of speech that accompanies such independence. Lay people would hear sermons from an individual who understands their practical lives, because he himself lives like them. Which was the very purpose of the diocesan priesthood in the first place.

I cannot tell you how many priests wish they could say the foregoing to their parishioners, but dare not. As one of my pastors, the late monsignor Patrick G. Daugherty once said to me privately, “the worse thing you can do is make the bishop frown!” My parents left everything and came to this country so that my brother and I would never have to fear a “knock on the door” never fear making “a commissar frown.” Reform the priesthood and ordain women as deacons, priests and bishops, then there will be no shortage of priests. We will have a healthy, honest and spiritual priesthood and Church.


Anonymous said...

Most priests I know are not worth more than the $16K a year you mention.

They are poor administrators, the have EMHCs do all of their sick visits, and they could not be held to normal "business" standards.

The clergy control vocations, and they pick some really dysfunctional men, as you are well aware. And prove.

It isn't about celibacy. It's about being professional and being held to a standard of performance.

Father Geoff said...

Dear Anonymous,

I think I will call you “John”, because it seems more human than “anonymous” and your comments remind me of the thinking of someone I know by that name.

First, I defy you to find any profession that requires an undergraduate degree and four years of post-graduate studies and only pays 16K per year. Your statement is out of touch with reality. As far as “most priests I know are not worth more than the 16K per year you mention.” Try this; write an ad for the newspaper listing the requirements for a priest.

These include counseling skills, e.g., suicide prevention, marriage and family counseling, counseling youth at risks, pedophilia victims, etc. You get the idea. Being on call for emergencies 5/6 days & nights per week getting up for hospital calls in the middle of the night. Grief counseling, assisting people with end of life issues, and bioethical questions regarding terminal care. Commentary on the scriptures (preaching), planning educational programs from K through adult education. Training and organizing parish ministers. Oh yes, and you must live at the office and all of this for the princely sum of 16 K per year. Do you still wonder why there is a shortage of priests?!?

You mention that most are poor administrators. It is interesting that you cite this as one of the principle hallmarks of a priest. Our degrees are in philosophy and theology, so if administration is deficient, it is because the hierarchy failed to value this skill. Interestingly, the late Bishop Fulton Sheen was a terrible administrator and yet one of the greatest preachers and pastors of the 20th century. My own bishop lauded my administrative skills. In my first parish, I double collections, in my second parish, I almost tripled them and the number of registered families soared from 650 to 1,650. Those enrolled in religious education climbed from 288 to over 1,000 in the last year of my pastorate at Holy Family.

Jesus said, “The laborer is worth his wage.” [Luke 10: 7] Besides ignoring Jesus, the bishops ignore themselves (or they are hypocrites) in their letter “Economic Justice for All” they speak of a just wage and yet they deny this to both their own clergy and lay personnel, while preaching to corporate America. They themselves; however, are paid huge stipends and gifts. I could go on, but you have inspired me to write another post John.

Joseph said...

Brilliant entry! I grew up knowing many wonderful priests who educated me, inspired me, befriended me. My spiritual advisor to this day is a priest in St. Louis, Missouri, my first home. I no longer live there, but whenever I go home I see him. He is one of the best homilists I know, a superb administrator, and dean of part of the archdiocese. He is one of the people who keeps me in the Church.

Your remarks reminded me of Michael Crosby's in his book, 'The Dysfunctional Church: Addiction and Codependency in the Family of Catholicism', in which he argues that the Church is akin to a dysfunctional family tortured by addictions to power and secrecy and filled with co-dependent people who maintain this destructive cycle. It was published in 1991, as you probably know. Hard to believe that the Church has still not awakened. When do you think we will? I like to think that we already are, slowly. A patient resurrection--but too patient for my taste.

I take it you are writing a book? Other people must have suggested this to you. And are you speaking? For Dignity? Call to Action? At colleges? Elsewhere? Your voice is so original and needs to be heard. Thanks for all of your posts!

Sebastian said...

Fr. Geoff,

Your comments are exactly right. The level of control that the bishop exerts over diocesan priests is excessive and unconscionable. This system has predictable effects:

1. It recruits, favors and retains the mediocre in many cases. Men who understand what it truly is like and who perceive themselves as having alternatives, leave.

2. It does not reward initiative. There is almost no incentive for doing well - certainly no economic incentive. In this environment, many begin to do the minimum. Others remain at a juvenile level and will adjust their work habits for a word of praise, or a more-or-less meaningless recognition. A priest friend spoke of the reaction when a diocese made a few priests "monsignors" (a title only, without any more power or money): "it is amazing what a group of grown men will do for the right to wear a little bit of purple trim on their clothes."

3. The job is too broad and the training too narrow. The typical priest is supposed to be an excellent preacher (but not be controversial), to be good at handling money, to be able to supervise a staff that may include 50 people, to recruit and work well with volunteers, to be a good counselor, to be skilled in crisis intervention, to be a scholar who can teach the tradition of Catholic belief and practice, etc. All this, with only one day off a week, no security in his residence or job, no real retirement plan, and no training for half of what he is supposed to do. In addition, he is evaluated, often harshly, by just about anyone (yes, you too anonymous), lives a public life, hasn't the support of a wife and children, and lives a life that is essentially a mystery to his brothers and sisters and parents, and his parishioners. Very few Catholics have any idea what a priest does between Sundays.

4. All this leads to high rates of depression and alcoholism, to dysfunctional behaviors, to warped psychological development, and to idiosyncratic behavior.

5. If the Church was confident in its system of recruiting, training and employing priests, it would willingly offer "golden parachutes" to those of us who felt the need to get out. But this is not the case. Many priests would love to leave. But at 50, 60, 70(!), feel they have no alternative but to stay. No retirement, no help with transitions, no home, no family, no possibility of picking up their 'ordinary' life where they left off.

Michael Dodd said...

Your exchange with your niece reminds me of one I had with some sisters a decade or two back. Although they were strong supporters of ordination of women, their community did not think that their own members ought to be ordained. The reason? They would be co-opted by the bishops and lose the flexibility to pursue the charism of the community, finding that they were (like many religious order clergy) forced into a ministerial slot to satisfy the perceived need of the bishop rather than the call of the poor and the Spirit.

Although I spent over thirty years in a religious community (which I loved and still love) and a quarter century as a priest, I am now an outsider through my own choice. So I speak from some experience but not as a prophet (that being someone who stays in and speaks out). But from my perspective, it seems that the church needs to rethink the entire ministerial model that focuses on a "privileged" (and therefore entangled) clerical class. I see the advantages of having ministers who have many options as to marital status and so on. It seems to me, however, that permitting the clergy to marry and ordaining women will be window-dressing when the church mainly needs new windows.

Praise to you, BTW, for staying in and speaking out.

bill guden said...

Father Geoff,
Having known many highly qualified and learned priests, I can state that the church's problems with recruitment today stem from celebicy, lack of financial security and, most of all, honesty and openness.
If the RCC would remove their diocesan priest's worries over financial security, celibacy (gay or straight....and therefore fixations on sex....and their unjust and unfair treatment by some bishops.....then I think that they would have a much more stable and satisfied clergy.
I have recently ended 70 years of faithful membership in and service to the RCC and joined the Episcopal church.

matt said...

and that M Div is a real door opener in the secular world... yea, that'll get you far...

by the way, we got zero training in business and financial management in the seminary--and i'm fresh from it. i had run a unit within a private company before joining up and had a staff of 12 and an annual budget of $2 million, which was seen by some formators as positive. Others said I was "tainted" by my understanding of how to work with people and budgets in the secular world. Formators who embrace the latter view perpetuate a raft of bad situations where one priest might drive a parish into the deep red and leave a mess for the next pastor to clear up. This is an unnecessary cycle in many parishes. There is very little common sense in seminary training these days.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Geoff,

Yes, a lot is asked from priests for their $16K a year. But it's a vocation, isn't it? A call from God?

I am really disappointed in the priests in my diocese. The only reason they would retain their jobs in a real business is that they work dirt cheap (well, there is room and board, too). I just don't see how the low wages for this vocation should be an excuse for poor performance.

I am glad that you had success as a priest. I am sorry that the experienced soured you so on the priesthood and the Church.

But, the incredible lack of vocations does not hinge on the wages. It hinges on the prestige and nobleness of the profession, which is at an all time low.

You can call me John.

Father Geoff said...

Dear John,

No, as I mentioned in my first response to you, wages are not the motivation for becoming a priest. Yes, it is a call from God. That is both a true and excellent point; however, God’s call does not constitute a justification for unjust treatment by their superiors. As marriage is a call from God, it does not constitute a justification for neglect, verbal/emotional/physical abuse, ingratitude or deprecation.

You made a statement in your previous comment “Most priests I know are not worth more than the $16K a year you mention.” If you were a diocesan bishop, that statement would be a grotesque example of ingratitude to the priests who have answered God’s call and a sin against the God who called them. In the country of my birth, there is one priest for every seven parishes. Priests have been subjected to abuse and privation by an ideological system that sought to destroy faith.

There is a passage in the Scripture that states, “If this had done to me by an enemy, I could have withstood it, but it was done by you my friend with whom I broke bread.” In this country, priests are serving under conditions required not by service and need, but imposed by ingratitude (such as you voiced) and greed. In this case, you test God by creating conditions that lead people to abandon active ministry, as an abusive spouse causes the abused spouse to abandon the marriage. After doing so, you invoke God’s call as a justification for your abuse and a vain effort to vindicate yourself.

If you were a bishop, my advice to you would be to review how you have and are treating people entrusted by God to your care. How have you encouraged their vocations? How have you uplifted their morale? Have you loved them as Christ commanded, as yourself? That may be the spiritual and emotional cause of your failure. Perhaps, you do love them as yourself, poorly. Perhaps you were wounded by parents or superiors who did not esteem you, or anticipate your needs and are now acting in like manner to those entrusted to you by God. Read again the words of Scripture that say, “Return good for evil, in this way you will show that you are children of God. God’s sun shines on both the just and wicked, God’s rain falls upon the good and wicked, etc.” Foster the virtues of mercy, generosity become the sort of Christian Luke mentions in 22: 25-27. One more thing, do this quickly because we only have now and if you are elderly, your time is short.

You may not believe this John, but I pray for you that you may come to the same peace and wholeness that I desire for myself. I wish we could have a quiet conversation someday we will if not in this life, then in the next.

Mareczku said...

You have really educated us here on this matter. Thank you Father Geoff.

Matthew said...

Wow. What an eye opener. I have not knowledge of the RC church being a cradle Episcopalian (with some time in ELCA Lutheranland too). But, I do love your blog. I don't know what Episcopal Churches pay across the board, but one I was a member of paid the rector nearly six figures -- 90K. In addition, there was a rectory on site as well. He and his family chose to live there for a few years and then bought their own house and so the church now rents out the rectory. He was worth every penny. And, believe me when we did the search for him (I was part of the search committee) the salary was good enough that we had a very deep pool of applicants and lots of choices. I do know that some Episcopal Churches only pay a pittance and so they don't get very good candidates. But the salary is not set by the bishop anyway. The bishop gets veto power over who the parish hires (someone who can be obedient to him or her). But, they don't select salary.

Марко Фризия said...

The el-cheapo salary of priests sends the message that what priests do for people (at significant moments in their lives) is something of little value. This is very sad.

Michael said...

I'm currently discerning a vocation with the Jesuits, but I've also considered diocesan priesthood.

This entry is really making me wonder what life as a priest is really like. I've heard several priests talk about feelings of loneliness, but I've never heard them talk about salary.

I'll have to ask my pastor about that during one of our little chats...

Dan said...

I really appreciate priests. I'm wondering, what happens with Mass stipends?

Father Geoff said...

Dear Dan,

As regards Mass stipends, in my Diocese the stipend is set by the bishop. The Mass stipend goes to the priest who offers the Mass. The stipend is $5.00 per Mass. The bishop allows parishes to ask for $10.00 per Mass.
Priest may only receive one Mass stipend per day. Additional Mass stipends must be donated to the Diocesan priestly retirement account.

Father Geoff said...

Dear Michael,

I'll pray for you as you discern God's call. As I stated in my post, no one goes into the priesthood to become wealthy. However, if you become a diocesan priest you are responsible for your own finances and retirement.

I met a religious brother who was an only child. When his elderly parents died they left their entire estate to their son's religious order, thinking they will take care of our son.

Several years later, the son decided to leave religious life. The order gave him nothing from his parent's estate. He ended up working for minimum wage as a store clerk. To date, he has no health insurance.

St. Augustine said: Pray as if all depends on God, but act if all depends on you.

Paul Douglas said...

Excellent article! I had no idea that life was so precarious for diocesan priests who might be tempted to stand up to their bishops or church hierarchy. Not to sound unkind, but how any thinking woman or gay man could stay in the roman (or the mormon, or the southern baptist) church is beyond fathoming. This misogyny isn't going to go away anytime in the next century as far as I can see.

Sebastian said...

The financial situation of a priest - whether diocesan or religious - is a means of control. Priests are generally well provided for. We don't have to worry about being fired if we toe the line. We have a place to live, food, and an income that is not large but which is sufficient. But we are dependent. If, like Fr. Geoff, we create a fuss or act in conscience against the wishes of the bishop or religious superior in a significant matter, all the security we have will be stripped away from us.

How many priests would leave if they could? I don't know, but there must be thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, in the US. Becoming a priest is, of course, a decision of faith that has perpetual consequences spiritually and ontologically. Priesthood is forever.

However, must active ministry be forever? And if there is a departure from active ministry, whether initiated by the priest or by his bishop or religious superior, the priest (or religious lay brother or sister, ought to be financially secure. This doesn't require much, really, when compared to corporate standards. Just give the priest, brother or sister, lifetime health insurance coverage, a pension if he is of retirement age, assistance with transitions, job training if he needs it, and for heaven's sake do not take actions that keep him from getting a job - even a job with the Church if it comes to that.

But in the Church, these are radical suggestions because they strike at the heart of the institutional control upon which bishops depend. Priests are pawns, moved at the will of the bishop, kept tethered by the bishop's purse strings, and cowed into submission. Do you want to know what a priest really thinks? You are unlikely to find out. Priests have been trained to be circumspect, and to hide their own opinions in order to be voices for the Church.

Joe said...

"St. Augustine said: Pray as if all depends on God, but act if all depends on you."

I think it's not Augustine but Ignatius of Loyola; some say the text should read: Pray as if all depends on you, but act if all depends on God.

Your mention of mass stipends raises a very troubling question. If priests are so poorly paid that these perks would almost double their wages, then is there not a great danger that daily Mass is just a routine sustained only because of this financial consideration?

Father Geoff said...

Dear Joe,

In my Diocese the suggested Mass stipend was $5.00, this amount was changed to $10.00 in the late 1990's, if memory serves me.

An elderly priest told me that when he was ordained in 1960 the Mass stipend then was $5.00 He went on to say in those days you could go to a very nice restaurant and have a complete meal, tax & tip included for $5.00

The point here Joe is that the hierarchy's financial policies (priest salaries, etc) have nothing to do with money and everything to do with control. Specifically, to make the priest an economic slave and force him to speak and act as the (Arch)bishop wants him to.

Other stipends, Quinceaneras ($250.00 plus), funerals ($150.00 +/-) vary from diocese to diocese.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused...Is this "Geoff Farrow" truly a Roman Catholic priest or one of another faith? I question this based on how he see's the vocation of the priesthood and the reason for the Church.

I thought the priesthood was a calling, that Jesus Christ started the Church for the salvation of souls...why all this complaining?

I don't remember Blessed Mother Teresa complaining about anything--she only loved. Her service and her calling was to love. No one should become or desire to become a priest, deacon, brother or sister if their mission is anything other than to love and live a live of love because where there is love there is no labor. I don't think any of the saints labored in their pain while complaining that they were low paid or didn't have this or didn't have that...The marytrs suffered to the point of death.

Aren't we supposed to be followers of Christ?

If Geoff is truly a priest, I'm wondering how he's serving as a priest. Is he not doing certain tasks because he is underpaid? I.e. only saying one Mass a month? visiting one sick patient a month?

If one is looking to the priesthood as a job rather than a vocation, that person is looking at the wrong place....

Isn't the priest supposed to be Christ like? I don't remember reading in scriptures that Christ every made the same complaints as this so-called priest.

How about the saints? Even the modern-day saints...Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, St. Father Damain--the leper colony priest, etc..

This so-called Roman Catholic Preist sounds fishy... A Catholic priest would not know the definition of vocation, the priesthood and the reason for it, as well as the reason the Church began, especailly after that formation and education.

It just seems awkward that a so-called priest would complain about how much he is paid...those who are married need to be able to claim the same, especailly home-makers.

Some buddies who are married to women who were sweet beauties at the time and who are now the most unbearable, lazy, overweight, spendy and grumpy women I've ever met should be able to complain. Some have, some split after their beauties became biggies, but others continue to stay... And interestingly, those guys, seem more Catholic than this so-called Catholic priest. Haven't heard a complaint from their mouths (although they are going through some tough times), but sounds like this so-called priest is full of them. Will pray for you, sir.

Father Geoff said...

Dear Anonymous,

Edgar Allen Poe once quipped “The best place to hide something is in an obvious place, since no one would ever think of looking for it there.”

Having said that, perhaps your mistake can be forgiven, since the obvious point is that if today priest’s salaries were raised to just levels I personally would not benefit from such a raise. Let me repeat that for you, I personally would profit ZERO from a pay raise for priests today.

As regards your invocation of the selfless sacrifices made by countless saints and martyrs, you are correct. These are heroic and selfless acts of love. There is an adage in spirituality “The Evangelical counsels [poverty, chastity & obedience] freely embraced may be a pathway to sanctity; but when imposed they constitute tyranny.” Incidentally, Diocesan priests do not take vows of poverty. Even so, a Jesuit priest dryly observed, “we [Jesuits] take the vow [of poverty] but you guys [diocesan priests] live it.”

I know of a brother priest who went to his bishop for grocery money, so that he could eat, and was denied. The bishop’s response was “If I do it for your, I’d have to do it for everyone.” Another priest was forced to groom pets in order to supplement his income. Another priest was unable to pay the co-pay on his Diocesan dental insurance and had to forego needed dental work.

Jesus’ comment on a just salary was “The laborer is worth his wage.” [Luke 10:7]

As regards your comments about my vocation and the state of my soul, I recall the words of Saint Teresa of Avila:

“May God be as merciful in judging you, as you have been in judging me.”

God bless you,

Father Geoff

Anonymous said...

I don't mind telling anyone I'm a priest who bailed out early. After 7 years of cleaning up financial and other-type messes in parishes, I decided it was time to do something else.

So I went back to school, got another dgree and now work in a fulfilling job that pays me for what I do.

As far as I am concerned the pay is only one-half of the issue, the other issue is how the laity treats you as an indentured slave!

When you walk into a parish every single person sitting in that Church has their own idea of what a priest is and should do...within two weeks you have angered half the population (you don't wear your collar all the time, you take a day off...why in the world would you need that?, can't teach in school today because of a funeral, you make some necessary changes, etc. etc.) Suddenly you get nothing but attitude and nastiness from people and you don't even know why.

As far as I am concerned, being a priest is being in a "no-win' siutation. The Catholic Laity have become big whiners and complainers and priests are the tennis balls that they whack back and forth with savage glee! I'm glad to be gone from it and could not possibly recommend/encourage the life to anyone!

Roger Grant said...

Father Geoff,

Thank you for your honesty and openness. I grew up Catholic; went to Catholic schools and then seminary for 7 years. I really wanted to be a priest to serve people and bring them closer to God. You are right to say that the priesthood and even the Church needs reform! I left the seminary after third theology (went to Mundelein in Chicago). I studied for Joliet and we suffered the effects of the abuse scandals with several of our priests being accused.

Ultimately, I left because of celibacy. I am married now and a father, but I still work in parish ministry as a professional lay minister, however, I am becoming more disillusioned by the arrogance and hypocrisy of our bishops and the Vatican. I am currently finishing my M.Div at a progressive graduate school of theology in Chicago. I want to be a chaplain and I am also considering the Episcopal Church after reading Alberto Cutie's book.

I admire your courage and willingness to speak out and to speak the truth, which our bishops refuse to do! They do not speak for me anymore and neither does the Pope and his homophobic autocrats who reside in the luxurious Vatican palace. They are very un-Christlike in their attitude toward women, gays/lesbians, divorced/remarried, etc. I am anxious to get out of this dysfunctional institution.

God Bless You and may the Spirit of Truth lead you and inspire you!