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Whose Church?

April 2, 2010

The events of the last decade increasingly convince me that it is not people who are leaving the church; it is the church that is leaving the people. How can Benedict expect to bring sinners to God or dare write that gay relationships are the “destruction of God’s work,” when he cannot admit to the church’s own complicity in actual moral transgressions? It is truly a sad day when an institution designed to be a contemporaneous intermediary between humans and the divine is increasingly less relevant than the ancient texts at the center of the faith. The church’s mandarins see their future in a faith that is narrower and clings to the past. They couldn’t be more wrong.

This is from Tim Ferholz’s post on why he won’t be at Mass this Sunday on Easter. I share Ferholz’s sentiments, especially about why the scandals of the last few weeks feel so qualitatively different than other doctrinal failings of the Church. Perhaps this is especially hard for me because I am now working for the Church, and it is the first major scandal that has come to light since I became so recommitted to my Catholic faith.

A few weeks ago, a friend who has had very little exposure to Catholicism asked me this question: I thought Episcopals were pretty much liberal Catholics. So if you have so many problems with the Catholic Church, why don’t you become Episcopal? I sighed and smiled; this was not the first time I’d been asked this question, by others and myself.* At the time, this is what I told her: The Church is never going to change if everyone who is progressive leaves. Beyond that though, this is my community, my family, my identity. I am Catholic. I could go to an Episcopal Mass and receive spiritual and personal growth from the service, perhaps even more than I would from some Catholic Masses. But I still wouldn’t feel at home.

This answer was honest, but as I reflected on the question more later on, I realized there was another reason that I wouldn’t leave. To leave would be to admit to the conservatives: You’re right, I don’t belong here. To leave would be to say: This is your Church, not mine. This is the Church of Dorothy Day, of Oscar Romero, of Dorothy Stang and Richie Fernando. Theirs is the Church I want to join; theirs are the dreams I seek to help realize.

But now, I’m not so sure. Unlike Tim Ferholz, I will be at Mass on Sunday; in fact, as soon as I finish writing this I will be going to Good Friday services as well. And yesterday I paticipated in my favorite Mass of the year, the Washing of the Feet.

After Easter though… I’m not sure. At this point, I’m not sure the contemporary institutional Church is something I’m willing to fight for.

* For the record, I do not know nearly enough about Episcopals to make a definitive statement about their beliefs in comparison to Catholics’ beliefs. I recognize that the relationship between the two denominations are much more complex than just “liberal” vs. “conservative” but right now I don’t have the time (or knowledge!) to properly explain the differences.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 23, 2010 12:04 am

    “This is the Church of Dorothy Day, of Oscar Romero, of Dorothy Stang and Richie Fernando.”

    Lately I’ve been asking myself, what would Dorothy Day or Romero have to say right now? The sad thing is, I have a feeling that if they said what I’d hope they’d say, they might be excommunicated

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