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Tommy Carcetti

Tommy Carcetti's Journal
Tommy Carcetti's Journal
March 20, 2013

What people here who demand Catholics leave their church don't understand.

Please forgive me for bringing up the Catholic topic, but with the selection of the new Pope a little less than a week ago, I wanted to put in my two cents while there was still some newsworthiness about the story and before my thread gets locked and I am forced to post it in a forum that--face it--barely any of you would ever read.

But in many threads, I noticed a good amount of either non-Catholics or longtime former Catholics very angry at the church (for reasons usually justifable, I would add) demanding currently active Catholics on this board (which as we all know is comprised of Democrats, liberals and progressives) leave the church, or at least cease participating in the church or donating money towards church related causes. Usually, this is on the grounds of either the Church's atriocious (and sometimes criminal) handling of the well-publicized sex abuse scandal, or based on the generally conservative (at least socially conservative) outlook by a majority in the ranks of the Church's heirarchy.

Again, for the most part, the criticisms voiced are typically valid and well founded. But I do believe those persons demanding that us active Catholics who also call ourselves liberals or Democrats leave their Church in protest don't fully understand the context from where most Catholics are coming from. Especially in light of the reforms enacted after the Vatican II council, where lay persons were encouraged to take a more active in participating in the religion. (Contrary to what some might think, Vatican II was more than just about having masses said in the native tongue as opposed to in Latin; it was intended to change the entire outlook lay Catholics took towards their faith.)

Very few Catholics consider themselves Catholic because of the heirarchy. Very few of them have a close enough relationship with their bishop to voice their concerns to him. I suspect a good many of them might not even know the name of their bishop. And while the excessive majesty of the Vatican may be cool to look at (and I'll freely admit, watching live the announcement of the new Pope was really, really fucking cool to watch with all the pomp and circumstance surrounding it), it's not the selling point for the faith. And it may in fact be rather counterproductive due to its ridiculous excess.

But in the end, that glaring disconnect that the ordinary Catholic may have with the heirarchy is not that big a deal. Because most Catholics identify with their church on a very local level. They know their local pastor who they can approach on a regular basis. They get to see and converse with people that they know they will get to see on at least a weekly basis. And the local church will provide services to the community, valuable ones. My home parish in Maryland, for example: it ran a homeless shelter. It had a pre-school. It had a youth group. It had a community center, with a gym and a theater. You had CCD. With the litugy itself, you could be a lector. You could be a Eucharistic Minister. Just about any social event or group or activity imaginable, it provided. Yes, the masses on Sunday are what brought people together ultimately, but people found meaning in their faith beyond that one weekly hour with all these activities and groups.

The heirarchy? Most ordinary Catholics view it as necessary structure to keep the faith doctrine focused and organized, but that's about it.

So I'm telling you now, asking Catholics to leave their church is a non-starter. People generally have very positive feelings towards their local parishes and they are not going to want to leave them behind and scatter. My mother was very involved in our hometown parish, and when she moved out of state, she would tell you that leaving her parish was hands down the most difficult part of moving. Probably even more difficult than leaving our house where me and my sisters were raised. Whatever qualms a given Catholic might have with the actions of a member of the heirarchy, or a direction the heirarchy might take, is far overshadowed by their emotional tie to their local church. I'm sorry, but that's just how it is.

So why not then individual local parishes "secede" from the Church? That way, some might say, the social structure of the parish is kept intact but it is free from the control of the dysfunction of the heirarchy. Well, I hate to tell you, but that's not going to work, either. Besides the fact it would be incredibly burdensome to do logistically, having countless little splinter churches out there that run the risk of diluting the Catholic identity, especially when it comes to faith doctrine and matters of liturgy. People would quickly lose interest. Despite all its misgivings, the heirarchy does serve some useful function in creating a sense of cohesion, nothwithstanding all its other problems.

So what can be done? Well, members of individual churches need to capitalize on their sense of community. Not all churches have parish councils, but they ought to, to give a better voice to the layity. Individual Catholics need to come together and discuss some of the issues they know are important but for whatever reason the heirarchy is not keen on discussing, at least publically. And some sense of consensus should be brought forward from parish to parish and grievances should erred publically. So if enough parishoners want a better means to ensure abusive priests are not sheltered, that gets put forward. If parishoners want the bishops to consider ordination of married persons and women, that gets put forward. If parishoners wish the bishops to quit wasting their time on silly lawsuits over contraception coverage, that gets put forward. And so forth and so on. But really the only thing we are missing right now is a better voice from individual lay Catholics. If we find a way to better publicize the direction we want our Church to take, mark my words, the heiarchy will have no choice but to listen.

And it should also be noted that the individual parish priests--who deal with lay parishioners and ordinary matters on a daily basis--may actually be more receptive to new ideas than one might think. I could see as mere matter of practicality that a good number of priests would actually be fine with expanding the priesthood to women and married persons, for the simple reason that the current shortage of priests willing to take a vow of celibacy has created an overwhelming burden on the priests who are there to perform more and more services for their respective parishes. I would suspect they would think the more help, the merrier.

Pope Francis, the new pope, is a Jesuit. One thing you may not know about the Jesuits is that they are bound by a sense of duty where if they disagree with the position of the superior, they must speak up and say so. So let us active Catholics seize the opportunity of our new Jesuit Pope and do what the Jesuits do.

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