As a young boy I believed in Jesus. I believed in Santa Claus. I believed that my mother knew what was true and what was not. I believed that priests, nuns, and bishops were holy people who had a special connection to God.
I wanted to be a priest. I had dreams of becoming a martyr–there would be nothing more glorious than dying for one’s religion. I wanted to be a witness to the truth of the Catholic Church.
And then somewhere along the line I grew up. I read the Bible critically and found inconsistencies throughout. I reasoned and questioned, something the Catholic Church of my youth never appreciated. I listened to the condemnation of others by the Church and I noted the hypocrisy of the Church’s enormous wealth as contrasted with Jesus’ teachings to cast off one’s belongings and follow him, to give to the poor and feed the hungry. I have no patience with hypocrisy from powerful men. And so I left the Church.
My departure from the Catholic Church was not easy. It was like part of an extended family. There were brothers and sisters and the holy mother, Mary. Priests were fathers, the Pope was the Holy Father, and God was the father of all. For a boy whose own father had died of a heart attack when I was two years old I had many father figures in the Church. Like a teenager realizing his father is not a perfect hero it was difficult to come to the realization that those father figures were no more holy than me, that their answers were dogmatic and inflexible, and that unlike Jesus who welcomed prostitutes and others without judgment the hierarchy of the Church judged everyone’s worthiness and did not welcome all.
I lost my faith in the Church even before I came out, but coming out made it impossible to go back. I was not welcome. At one point in my 30’s I tried. I found a community of believers in Denver who were part of a nationwide LGBT Catholic group called Dignity that held onto their Catholic beliefs and who had mass said for them and received communion from sympathetic priests. There was certainly more true faith in that small group of believers than I had ever seen in parishes elsewhere. After all, they were believing in a faith that wouldn’t believe in them. But I couldn’t help but notice that we didn’t meet in a Catholic Church, as we weren’t welcome, and that the priests who served us did so in secret. The realization that while these people were filled with spirit and joy in their beliefs they were unwelcome in the arms of the Church caused me to give up trying to return to my religious upbringing.
It is said that “once a Catholic, always a Catholic” and there is truth to that in several ways. Many fallen-away Catholics will return to the fold after some time and those of us who don’t are so inculcated with Church doctrine and religious training that our lives are lived as if we are still part of the Church in many ways.
Yet because it is so much a part of my history and shaped who I am in so many ways it feels like a greater betrayal when I hear representatives of the Church do their best to make me feel less than worthy of their acceptance.
Today I happened upon a gathering called Capitol Rosary Rally 2012. It was called by Madison’s Bishop Morlino, a conservative man whose values contrast sharply with the historical Jesus. Morlino has pushed the Madison diocese in a very right-wing direction, much to the dismay of many of the churchgoers in the area. In Platteville there has been an incredible resistance to his placement of ultra-conservative priests there and he has more or less demanded that people stop complaining or they may face punishment, including the taking away of sacraments, the lifeblood of a true believer’s faith. In parishes around southern Wisconsin congregants walked out of a mass at which he forced priests to play a tape condemning the idea of marriage equality, among other things. There was a threat of punishment for any priest who did not follow his orders. He has angered many with his intractable views. This is also a man who was involved on a Board at the School of the Americas, a U. S. Army training ground for Latin American military leaders, many of whom have been involved in bloodthirsty actions and human rights abuses in their native countries. Jesus would more likely have been among those arrested protesting the school.
The event today was ostensibly a rosary circle against abortion. As it started the Bishop stood in front of the crowd at the State Capitol–not a cathedral–with dozens of people waving American flags, and stated that it was not a political rally, but a prayer rally. One of his toadies then took the microphone and talked about how they would be praying to end abortion and birth control–yes, ending birth control–and praying for the traditional family structure. Queers are not welcome in the Catholic Church. So clearly it was not a political rally as these are clearly not political issues, right?
I couldn’t stay. I wanted to take pictures and document it and any possible counter rally, but to hear representatives of the Church in which I was raised show again how unwelcome I really am in their midst was too much for me to bear. I had to leave.
I know I will never again be a part of the Church. I feel like a prodigal son who was not welcomed back home and who, in fact, was kicked out and told never to return. I have respect for people like my mother who are true believers in the core messages of the Church. I have respect for the teachings of the historical Jesus. But I cannot respect leaders like Bishop Morlino and the Pope whose fealty is to their own power and not to the God of their own religion. If there is any truth to the faith, then they are the moneylenders in the temple, they are the Pharisees, and they are the ones who worship the golden calf, the hypocrites who need to remove the beam from their own eyes before casting the mote out of the eyes of their followers.
Good article, Callen. I and others have been counter-protesting every week. It’s wrong to have a religious ceremony on the Capitol steps – it’s a violation of church and state. They can hold it in a church. It definitely is political. A couple of weeks ago the priest announced it had been a great week, that their own Paul Ryan had been nominated as VP. We booed, of course, and the police officer told us we should not. He said we are in the Capitol every day expressing our views.
A couple weeks they sang Battle Hymn of the Republic, and we sang the words to Solidarity Forever.
They have a very skewed view of things. They think birth control leads to abortion, when it really prevents abortion.
Pingback: What Do a Madison LGBT Leader and a Madison Cathlolic Blogger Have in Common? or My Conversatiion With the Blue Bird - Syte Reitz
The dialogue that we are having is encouraging; two people with considerably different views have been able to talk respectfully, weighing issues together, and respecting each other’s right to disagree. Our nation is in dire need of such civilized and respectful dialogue today.
I have no intention of proselytizing you; your blog came to my attention because of your initial harsh attitude towards leaders of my Church whom I respect, and whom I wished to defend. My goal was to suggest that Catholic Church leaders are as well meaning and devoted to their philosophy as you are to yours. You were gracious enough to admit that your opinions or actions are not always consistent or well reasoned; that is true of all human beings, including me. We are all guilty of some degree of apparent hypocrisy, unintentional as it might be. So when you see something you perceive as an inconsistency in the Catholic Church, in Bishop Morlino or in Pope Benedict, I hope to suggest that you cut them some slack, too, and presume their good will, as you do for me and for others.
Since you seem to be fair-minded, I will correct a few more misconceptions you seem to have about the Capitol Rosary Rally and about Madison’s Catholics.
Your assumption the Fortnight for Freedom rally was anything other than prayer rally is incorrect and unfair. You do not seem to realize that serious Catholics not only believe in prayer, they also RELY on prayer. We are very disturbed by the idea that President Obama feels that he can mandate anything he wants, contrary to the Constitution of the United States, forcing Catholics to do something that is against their religious beliefs. I was as the rally, I was there for the sole purpose of prayer, and so were many of my friends, fellow parishioners, and fellow Diocese of Madison Catholics.
I realize that it is hard for someone who does not pray regularly to understand the value of prayer, particularly the value of the rosary, and the added value of praying the rosary in groups. Catholics believe that battles can and have been won by prayer, and that miracles happen through prayer. That includes highly educated Madisonian Catholics. I know many who attended the rally, and there were numerous doctors, lawyers, UW professors, and my humble self, who has a Ph.D. in biochemistry and who did my post-doc at Princeton University. My husband, a UW Wisconsin Distinguished Professor who is giving a series of power lectures in engineering at Princeton University this week, and whose research was described in the Wisconsin State Journal yesterday, although not a Catholic, was there at the rally in support. To correct one myth that seems to be popular in Madison, there is little correlation between education and faith and belief in prayer. Some very highly educated people were at the rally to pray very seriously.
If the Capitol Rosary Rally had been for political purposes, the press would have been invited and signs and placards would have been used. You may be unaware that Catholics DO pray and process publicly and regularly, and that just a few weeks ago on the feast of Corpus Christi the downtown Catholic parishes had a Corpus Christi procession (which has been occurring every year for years) during which the Blessed Sacrament was carried to the Capitol building for prayer and blessings for our government. The downtown parishes also hold regular rosary marches during which the rosary is prayed while processing through Madison. Many Madisonians are sleeping on Sunday morning and miss these Sunday morning events. Madison’s press never covers these events. This Capitol Rosary Rally is just one more example of Catholics turning to God for help when they are in a tight spot.
For people who are more secular, who pray less or do not pray publicly, it is easy to assume that you know the motives of others. But, as our discussions here on your blog have revealed, we do NOT know each other’s thoughts and motives, and that is why respectful discussion is so useful to defuse resentment and correct presumptions.
If I can insert some humor here, I will soon have you liking and admiring Bishop Morlino and Pope Benedict!
You have made it clear that you disapprove institutions amassing property and wealth; that is one of your criticisms of the Catholic Church. However, that is a personal standard of yours, and is not a commonly held value. As long as human beings build monuments, paint paintings, and wear formal attire to show respect and high regard to government/education/the arts, it would be hypocrisy of sorts to deny the right of Catholics to show equal respect and regard for our God. If Catholic holdings were to be criticized, then the Taj Mahal, the White House, the Statue of Liberty, the Mall of the Americas, and the Smithsonian Museums should all be under equal attack. Incidentally, the historical Jesus DID worship at the Temple of Jerusalem, the most imposing religious monument of His time. So we cannot be sure that He would favor the Pope celebrating Mass in a tent.
The treasures of the Church are not simply piles of marble adorned with gold; they are holy gathering places, precious historical places, and places which could not be bulldozed and replaced without extravagant expense.
Precious Church art works are not just baubles representing cash; they represent a record of precious history and of ancestors whom we love. If nobody suggests selling Mount Rushmore or my great-grandmother’s portrait to feed the poor, they should not suggest the Church selling her artwork.
Your resentment over the almost-closing of the Multicultural Center again reflects the misinformation supplied to you by Madison’s media, which reports on Catholic matters with a double standard. How can Madison, which does NOT provide the equivalent of a Multicultural Center from Madison’s $500 million annual budget, criticize the Diocese of Madison, which DID maintain the Multicultural Center on a $4 million annual budget to serve all of Madison for many years, but struggled to maintain it after the recession hit? How can Madison, which prioritizes the building of Monona Centers, Overture Centers and public swimming pools over Multicultural Centers, criticize the Diocese of Madison?
Your resentment of the Church over its reluctance to welcome the organization “Dignity” is unrealistic as well. “Dignity” tries to dictate the rules of sexual morality to the Catholic Church. That’s like students dictating some alternate rules of mathematics to the professor. The Catholic Church DOES welcome “Courage International,” an organization for homosexuals which is the Catholic-Church sanctioned counterpart of “Dignity.” The Catholic Church does not welcome anybody, heterosexual or homosexual, who does not respect Catholic teaching. That is true of any human educational organization, secular or spiritual. Try telling our profs at UW what they must teach in their fields!
Another clarification: the Catholic Church does not ask Catholics to be submissive any more than any other human organization with rules. Remember, too, that membership is optional.
Finally, I think you read more into my wishing you peace of mind than was intended. It was meant to signal my good intentions towards you, akin to “shalom.”
Thanks for your time and for the space on your blog.
I welcome the opportunity to show Madisonians that Catholics are nice. Even their leaders are nice.
If you or anybody else wishes to discuss the faithful Catholic’s perspective on various issues, or to ask about other myths about Catholics, I welcome questions through the contact form on my blog at SyteReitz.com.
Shalom and God bless!
May we continue to strive towards not only respecting, but also liking those with whom we disagree.
Here were are again. I’m enjoying our communication. 🙂
I also believe that those on opposing sides of issues need to be willing to listen and to talk, to accept differences, and to treat each other with respect. I do my best to do that and I appreciate your willingness to engage in a respectul way as well.
With that said, you have probably noticed that I seem to show less respect for power/authority figures. They are public figures and are open to more criticism because their public pronouncements affect so many more people. For a Catholic to disagree with a bishop or the Pope there could be a big moral dillemma. To read my blog post and disagree doesn’t bring the same kind of ethical quandry. This is part of why I hold officials, church or government, to a higher level on my moral compass (and I understand it is my moral compass, not theirs, but I have to live my life by my conscience). I expect that Bishop Morlino is genuine in his beliefs and committed to others believing the same or he wouldn’t be in the position he has been placed, and I would not be surprised to find that he is a genuinely nice and well-meaning person. But that doesn’t excuse him from public scrutiny and it doesn’t shield him from those with differing opinions.
I must admit that I have a difficult time with authority figures in general, and Bishop Morlino seems to me to be more authoritarian than any other bishop in my memory (I’m 55). Threatening to withhold sacraments from parishioners who disagree with his placement of conservative priests in their parish does not seem like the way to win over the opposition. One of the issues I had with the Catholic Church even as a child was the intolerance for differing opinions. Others may be fine with that, but it is one of the reasons I left.
I don’t mean to be disrectful about this, but I must disagree with your assessment of the Rosary Rally as being religious and not political. Whlie the saying of a rosary is, of course, incredibly religious, the event was political. Choosing to hold it on the Capitol steps was a poltiical choice. It makes a statement. Calling it a rally seems to indicate political motivations, though I understand rallies can be any gathering of people. There were buttons and political signs there. I believe you may have said there weren’t but I have photos that I took of at least two. I would be surprised if you didn’t see as many American flags as I did. To me that is a political act, not a religious one. So the rally may have been primarily for prayer (although even you said it was prayer about Obama’s mandates), but it was also political. You cannot convince me otherwise on that given the evidence. I appreciate that you and many of your friends were there for the sole purpose of prayer, but others were not. Bishop Morlino specifically stated that the rally was not political, so there would be no speeches, but speeches are not all that define political action.
Now, there is one comment you made that I have to take exception to, and that is when you said, “I realize that it is hard for someon who does not pray regularly to undestand the value of prayer . . . ” Maybe you meant this generally and not specifically about me, but it felt like it was about me. So I have to tell you that just because I am no longer a Catholic or a Christian does not mean that I don’t pray. In fact, I do, a lot. I am not a religous person but I am a spiritual person who comes from a deep place of spirituality and compassion. If you have read any of my other blog posts you may get a feel for that. I believe in the power of prayer, positive energy, whatever you want to call it, and I believe that we pray to the same God, though we may have different perceptions of what that means. And don’t forget that about half of my life was spent as a Catholic–I am not ignorant of the Church and its teachings. I was an altar boy and as noted in my original post wanted to be a priest, and even thought about it as an adult, not just as a child.
I have to agree with you again about wasteful spending on opulent buildings. As noted before I did not appreciate the building of the Overture Center or Monona Terrace. If the Taj Mahal were proposed here I would oppose it and fight for the government to build an apartment building for homeless people instead of another monument to Madison’s elite. I believe that there is a social compact for us as a community to take care of the least of our brethren, and I believe that it is the duty of both religious institutions (especially ones that preach it) and of government. I would like to see churches and government work together to maintain things like the Multicultural Center. It may be a personal standard of mine but it is one I do believe in strongly and will work toward wherever possible.
Finally, I realize it is unrealistic to expect the Church to welcome Dignity, just as it is unrealistic to expect me or others like me to accept an organization like Courage International which would have me deny the fullness of my being. I’m willing to bet you will not agree with this, but I believe that like all others I was created in God’s image and that includes my sexuality and my expression of it. As a side note, while I had my wild youth (as most young men do) I have been in a committed, monogamous relationship for 21 years now, longer than most sacred marriages last these days.
And I do know that membership is optional–that is why I am no longer a member, as there are too many things with which I disagree.
I look forward to your next missive (I think). It feels like we are coming closer and closer to a good understanding and based on our few exchanges so far I do like you. Peace be with you also.
Yes, Callen. We’ve had a good chat and I’m beginning to like you too.
The ability to discuss important issues in a civilized and respectful manner is an essential tool for defusing resentments and towards finding fair solutions between those who disagree.
You explain that much of your disagreement with the Catholic Church stems from a dislike of authority figures, and a dislike for the lack of tolerance for differing opinions in the Catholic Church. That’s a common feeling towards authority. Particularly if one disagrees with the authority.
I feel that way towards President Obama and his recent exercise of authority. However, there are some differences between the Catholic Church and President Obama;
• the Church does not pretend to be a democracy
• membership in the Church is optional
• monetary contributions to the Church are voluntary; no incarceration for failure to pay
• the Church’s teachings are unchanging with each change of personnel
Our common frustrations with authority with which we disagree might help you appreciate our Catholic desperation over the “Contraception Mandate,” which is the subject of the Rosary Rally we have been discussing.
President Obama has just decreed (mandated) that Catholics must provide pills that kill unborn infants to their employees. For Catholics, this is a mortal sin. The President is demanding that they commit mortal sins. He is demanding that they do something new, which was never before required in our nation’s history.
• President Obama’s decree was not approved by American voters (in fact, most Americans oppose abortion, particularly federally funded abortion, which involves forcing all citizens to pay for the abortions of others).
• Congress did not vote on this decree; in fact, Stupak and his 11 Democrats practically killed the ObamaCare bill before President Obama promised them that ObamaCare would not include abortion.
• The ObamaCare bill was passed under false pretenses, and after passage, the President broke all of his promises.
Bottom line: Catholics are now ordered to perform what they believe to be murder.
The Amish and Muslims get an exemption from ObamaCare. Some Native Americans get other religious exemptions to federal laws on the killing of Eagles. Many people get religious exemptions – only, however, at President Obama’s discretion. And President Obama decides that Catholics get no exemption. No input from the American people, the legislature, from Catholic leaders, or from any religious leaders whatsoever, including the Jewish and Baptist leaders who jumped to testify before Congress on behalf of Catholics, defending their right to conscience, as guaranteed by the First Amendment.
That is what we are praying about. We are asking God to intervene.
I would like to suggest that Madison’s liberal media focus an equal amount of energy on President Obama’s abuse of authority as they do on the Catholic Church’s abuse of authority, and abandon the double standard.
Regarding whether the Rosary Rally was political, we can agree to disagree, but I will float a few more points: American flags are not political. Presence at the Capitol is not political. Otherwise, farmer’s markets, marathons, bicycle events, Taste of Madison, Wisconsin Capitol Gay Pride, Art on the Square, and Concerts on the Square would be political. Catholic groups have the same rights as any other groups to gather in our public places. We gathered in the evening, after business had been concluded at the Capitol and its doors were closed. We made no speeches, invited no media, and brought no vuvuzelas. To me, that’s not political.
President Obama’s tactics in his Contraception Mandate are wickedly clever. Knowing that Americans oppose federally funded abortion, he has diverted the discussion to something Americans approve of, contraception. Contraception is the Trojan Horse in which President Obama is delivering not only federally funded abortion, but also the right of American Presidents to decree mandates without consulting the American people, the legislature, or moral and ethical experts. So far, few have seen through his tactics, and many support his Contraception Mandate, which is actually a Presidential Power Mandate and a Federally Funded Abortion Mandate.
If President Obama succeeds in getting this mandate through, his power will be established. He can then proceed to any mandate at all. The One-Child Policy Mandate. The Jewish Delis Must Serve Pork Mandate. The President who follows Obama, if a radical conservative, could continue with the Let’s Incarcerate All LGBT People Mandate, and the All Citizens Must Contribute To A Religious Fund Mandate, etc. etc.
It is in the interest of ALL Americans to stop the issuance of mandates by Presidents, because the next President might not be one of your choosing.
What mandates would Romney favor, I wonder?
Callen, any chance you will be joining me in prayer at the next Capitol Rosary Rally, the way Jews and Baptists have recently joined Catholics in Alabama in prayer during the Fortnight for Freedom?
(Sorry I implied you might not pray!)
You jumped to conclusions, including misunderstanding the purpose of the rosary rally you “happened upon.” You also claim to know the mind of God (of Jesus).
You misrepresent the Catholic Church, as well as her teachings on the HHS Mandate, as well as on homosexuality. For those who are interested in a more accurate portrayal of the Capitol Rosary event, see http://sytereitz.com/2012/06/americans-pray-for-freedom-across-the-nation-or-fortnight-for-freedom-or-come-and-join-us/.
You may disagree with Catholic Church teaching, but don’t blame Bishop Morlino for doing his job well. Don’t single out one faithful Catholic with your attacks, when your disagreement is with the teachings of the entire Church, not with the leadership of one individual.
A number of common modern misrepresentations of Catholic teaching are discussed at my blog, http://SyteReitz.com; including discussion of homosexual issues.
Most Catholics would say that it is you, and not Bishop Morlino, who is the one who has departed from Christ’s teaching.
Do not attack the Church for your own change of heart and change of priorities. One day you may realize that the Church was a far wiser mother than you realized.
May you find the peace you are seeking.
Thank you for your mostly thoughtful response. I encourage others to explore the links you posted. I would like to clarify a couple of your errors and assumptions, though.
First, I’m not sure why you put “happened upon” in quotes. It’s as if you are making an assumption that I intended to be there when in fact I was at a coffee shop on State Street and noticed people gathering and was curious. I had heard something about it beforehand, but did not realize that’s what it was until I got there. So if you are thinking that I was lying and didnt’ “happen upon” the gathering and that’s why you put it in quotes you are presuming dishonesty and mistrust from the beginning, which isn’t very fair.
Second, I have no clue why you presume I think I know the mind of God. Nobody can, though plenty do say things that make it seem that they do, particularly God’s representatives on earth in the form of Popes and other religious leaders. I have never in my life pretended to even understand God, let alone presume to know what he/she/it may be thinking or desire. There is absolutely nothing in my post that indicates I think I know the mind of God. I have no clue where you got that idea. If you can point it out to me I’d welcome that.
Third, I disagree with the teachings of the church, but I even more strongly disagree with Morlino’s and the Pope’s interpretations of Church doctrine. So I am not singling him out or blaming him for the Church’s teachings. I blame him for his right-wing interpretations of doctrine. I would never have said the same about Bishop Cletus O’Donnell or other previous bishops, Pope Paul VI, or any of the previous Popes.
Fourth, I am at peace. Ask anyone who knows me. Just because I don’t believe what you believe or what I used to believe does not mean I am not at peace.
Thank you for your invitation to dialogue.
You misinterpret. “Happened upon” was in quotes for the simple reason that I was quoting from your text. There was no judgment involved regarding your intention to be at the Rosary rally. Your presumption of my mistrust was incorrect.
You question my presumption that you claim to know the mind of God. I concluded that you claim to know the mind of God because statements in your text indicate that you know what Jesus would think or say. For example, your statement “Bishop Morlino, a conservative man whose values contrast sharply with the historical Jesus” implies that you know the mind of the historical Jesus. The converse presumption could also be made – that Bishop Morlino’s values do not contrast with those of the historical Jesus, but reflect Jesus’ values better than your values do. It could also be presumed that Bishop Morlino would never call you and your friends “toadies.” (Calling the Bishop of Madison’s assistant a “toadie” is something that could generate distrust in a faithful Catholic.)
Your accusations against the Church betray a double standard. You clearly own a computer and a camera, have a website, sit in coffee shops, and appear to have no problem with Madison’s Capitol building. Why, then, do you apply a different standard of judgment to the Catholic Church? How can you accuse the Church of hypocrisy for enormous wealth, when you don’t accuse Madison of hypocrisy for the Capitol building, the Overture Center and Monona Terrace? Would you have the Pope living in and celebrating Mass in a tent while you sit in a coffee shop in beautiful downtown Madison, possibly using a MacBook Pro and an iPhone?
Your accusations are also inconsistent; you say you have no problem with Pope Paul VI and all the previous Popes and Bishops, yet you have a problem with Pope Benedict XVI and Bishop Morlino. Yet the teachings of the Catholic Church have not changed since Pope Paul VI, so how can you have no problem with him, but have a problem with Pope Benedict? What you call the “enormous wealth” of the Catholic Church has also not changed since Pope Paul VI.
In fact, the “wealth” of the Church consists of historically and religiously significant buildings and art treasures, which are an expense to maintain. As someone who is involved in the arts, and is the recipient of awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society, you should appreciate the historical and philosophical value of what the Catholic Church is preserving, and what every human institution and government strive to preserve for future generations.
You state that the Catholic Church does not welcome homosexuals. The Catholic Church does welcome people who are homosexual, under the same terms that she welcomes heterosexuals: she demands chaste behavior from both groups. The “sexual revolution” of the 1960’s has left both homosexuals and heterosexuals wounded and dysfunctional as a result of irresponsible sexual behavior. The rules of sexual behavior taught by the Catholic Church also have not changed since Pope Paul VI, of whom you approve.
Your text includes some very tender and beautiful descriptions of the Catholic Church, as well as some bitter statements about her present leadership. This is why I concluded that you are not at peace.
I would like to suggest that you are misinformed about the Catholic Church, which is routinely misrepresented by the media. As is Bishop Morlino by Madison’s media (understatement of the year)!
You should read your opposition’s arguments in greater depth before condemning them.
Many of these issues are addressed at my website, SyteReitz.com, which was actually established to clarify the logic and the reasoning behind my conservative reasoning. In Madison, with a few exceptions, there is a virtual media blackout on any form of conservative thought. I am not the best Catholic or conservative spokesman (Madison’s Cathedral Parish is a much better source – http://www.isthmuscatholic.org/ ), but many enjoy my casual, user-friendly approach to cultural issues.
Although I do not expect to win you over to a conservative philosophy, I do wish to invite you to presuming good will in the conservatives with whom you disagree. That would include not only me, but also Bishop Morlino and Pope Benedict.
Thank you for presuming good will in me, and inviting me to this dialogue.
I want to say up front that I appreciate individuals with faith. I gather from your writing that you are a faithful Catholic who is doing your best to live life the way your religion teaches you and I admire that. I love how strong my mother is in her faith and I know what comfort it has brought her throughout her life and even now in her old age. It is not for me, but if it gives others fulfillment and meaning that is wonderful.
My blog was created for me to speak my beliefs and my truth to the world. Nobody else has to read it or agree with it. It consists of my opinions (not always facts), usually well-reasoned, but perhaps occasionally misinformed. I try to accept corrections with graciousness, though I don’t necessarily always do that with differences of opinion, particularly political opinion. I try, though, to behave in a respectful manner to all those with whom I interact, though I’ll admit I am not always respectful of those in positions of power with whom I disagree or that I perceive as being hypocritical. I tend to get a little angrier with them, like Jesus with the moneylenders in the temple. Throughout my years I have had countless Christians (mostly born-again, not Roman Catholic) proselytize me and try to convince me that they are the ones who hold truth. I choose not to listen to them most of the time because almost all of them end up repeating the same things and I am honestly tired of recycled theological debates at this point in my life. So I have no intention or desire to go that route with you, but feel I do need to respond to certain aspects of your most recent comment.
First, I apologize if I misinterpreted the quotation marks, but it felt like mistrust to me. I may have been wrong about that, but those are the feelings that were brought up. It seems like an odd thing to quote and emphasize, so I hope you can understand why it made me feel that way.
I must state again with as much emphasis as I can that I have never claimed to act as if I know the mind of God (or Jesus, whom I don’t consider God even though you do). You drew conclusions about that, but once again there is nothing in my essay that makes that point or conveys that idea. The reason I specified the “historical Jesus” is that I was referring to the living historical person of Jesus the man. As I’m sure you know there are actually scant few quotes attributed to Jesus himself in the New Testament. Much of what is there is from the gospel writers. If you read Matthew 19:21 Jesus says that if people want to be perfect (or complete, depending on the Bible version) then they should sell all their possessions, give the money to the poor, and follow him. This is why I said that Bishop Morlino’s point-of-view does not match Jesus’, not because I was acting as if I had some special knowledge. So yes, I think the Pope living in a tent would be appropriate. It’s not realistic, but the point is that in my opinion the riches of the Church do not fit the teachings of the historical Jesus.
Comparing the Church’s wealth to the state owning the Capitol and the city owning the Overture Center is not the same. I was talking about the hypocrisy of a Church which purports to believe in Jesus’ teachings, such as Matthew 19:21 above, but accumulates massive wealth and property over a couple thousand years. First of all, the state does not ask its citizens to give up their wealth and become submissive to the state (though with the amount of taxation and the number of laws it sometimes feels like it, probably even more so from a conservative viewpoint). My problem is not with wealth or people owning computers or cameras or anything else, but hypocrisy. If I were running around lecturing people that they should give up all their belongings and donate the money to the poor but I lived in mansion, then you could make the comparison, but neither of those are true.
In addition the idea that I approve of the buildings you mentioned is another assumption that is wrong. I was against both the Overture Center and Monona Terrace when they were first considered because I saw them both as boondoggles and wastes of taxpayers’ money that could have been better spent in other ways. I love the Capitol building, but I have written about how much it pains me whenever I see the homeless in it or surrounding it and contemplate those people struggling to eat against the backdrop of the opulence of the Capitol. Expecting the state to give it up to feed, clothe, and house those people is as realistic as expecting the Pope to live in a tent. I’m not naïve enough to believe it could happen, but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe it should.
As a person who is involved in the arts I absolutely appreciate the aesthetic value of the church’s holdings. I just don’t necessarily believe that it is the right repository for such things and I don’t believe—for the reasons mentioned above—that the Church should own so much when there are so many starving people in the world. Please note, I am very well aware of Catholic Charities, missionary work, and other great works being done by the Church and by individual Catholics and I think that is awesome, though Bishop Morlino choosing to close the Catholic Multicultural Center is one of the things that makes me believe he does live contrary to Jesus’ teachings.
You are absolutely correct about the inconsistency of me not having an issue with previous popes and bishops. Perhaps I should have been more critical of them. The reason I wasn’t is because I remember them as people being concerned about the poor and about making the Church more inclusive, particularly Pope Paul VI through Vatican II. The reality that you pointed out to me is that those are merely cosmetic surface changes and that in fact they were ultimately representatives of a hierarchy in which I don’t believe.
I will not get into a debate about the gay issue. Like the tiresome theological debates noted at the beginning I have heard every argument there is against who I am. I understand the Church’s official position on gays and lesbians and disagree with it. I have heard the old “hate the sin and love the sinner” routine way too many times. The reality is that in my initial essay I described a very specific experience of feeling unwelcome in the Catholic Church. You may say the Church is welcoming, but I say I felt unwelcome. The bishop in Denver prohibited the Dignity group from meeting in Catholic churches and forbade priests from saying Mass for the group, even though he could have no way of knowing whether any of the members were or were not sexually active. It would be like presuming that teenagers shouldn’t receive Communion because they are at their sexual peak and so they must be having sex outside of marriage. It so happens that I was in a period of abstinence when this happened.
Finally, again, presuming anything about my state of peace when you don’t know me is just not appropriate. Yes, I have some bitterness toward the Church because its teachings hurt my growth as a human being. I have mostly let it go, but there are some times when something triggers the old resentments. In this case it was the bishop’s assistant at the rosary gathering and the hypocrisy of pretending it was not a political gathering—yes, it may have been primarily religious, but to deny it was political is simply to try to fool others.
They get a pass on paying taxes when they hold extremely valuable property, millions of dollars worth, and yet they want to hold church services at our secular Capitol. Will they welcome me to the steps of their churches to “teach the controversy” about organized religion?
‘Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lod, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’