The People Speak Out

Local voices connecting globally

This is important: to get to know people, listen, expand the circle of ideas. The world is crisscrossed by roads that come closer together and move apart, but the important thing is that they lead towards the Good.  (Pope Francis)

Canon Law 212 calls upon the laity to speak up:

2 - The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires.

§3. - According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.

I was baptized at two weeks old, had very devout relatives ( a sister among them), and attended Catholic school up until college. Stayed a loyal Catholic through college and beyond, finally finding a wonderful church family at 40. It was a place that had been resurrected from years of neglect through the vision of a holy archbishop and a ” get it done” pastor who was a humble leader. This pastor was followed by an even humbler, holy shepherd and the parish grew and became a place of wonderful worship. I participated in many ministries and knew the entire staff. Attended years of classes that were offered to us, and learned many more insights into the person of Jesus. All of this was extraordinary

because this place was founded on the basis of ministry to the broken and marginalized. Lots of gays, lots of divorced, and, like me, lots of singles. There were homeless and very rich people there. I felt like it was truly the Body of Christ.

When the archbishop retired he was replaced with a militant by the rules anti gay guy who liked to be among the movers and the shakers. He replaced the pastor with a person of the same ilk. They got into public shaming of women at abortion clinics, total abandonment of all the great ecumenical work that had been done, championing Leave it to Beaver family life, trying to have more pre Vatican II type liturgies; in other words, the broken and the ones who did not fit the perfect pattern just were no longer welcome. There was no discussing anything. I wrote a letter to the archbishop once and pretty much got a condescending letter reminding me that he was the boss. This once vibrant parish is in total disarray and in a terrible financial hole. I lasted as long as I could, but I just could not take the patriarchal know it all attitude any longer. Everything was about them. The final straw was when the pastor lied about an important staff member whom I cared about deeply. I went to Mass one more time and just never went back. At that point the pews were mostly empty, anyway.

I really have no idea where another loving place is. I have no family, and I fit no mold. I had long been disenchanted with the Church, especially its preoccupation with sex. The oxymoronic stance of anti abortion anti birth control never made sense. Women are less than second class. Gold chalices are more important than homelessness. Despite tax exempt status the hierarchy promotes Republican candidates. One person in my acquaintance was told she committed a grave sin by voting for President Obama! The new language being used is abysmal. My gay friends have been called intrinsically disordered.

I stayed while I had a home. It is no more, and the warts I see in the Church are coming to the forefront. At 60 years old I am weary and can no longer defend the misogyny, homophobia, sex obsessed church. I want to be Jesus centered. I want compassion. I want to be accepted. I want a home, and the legalistic men in charge want power. I do not see this changing in my lifetime.

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Nothing happened to me personally. The churches narrow bigoted stand on LBGT, on the equality of women, on the cover up and the cover up of the sex scandal willing to put the church before vulnerable children, not speaking up on the environment and the poor until now and even at this moment there is skepticism over these issues among the ranks of the hierarchy put in place over the years. I also believe that all forms of worship should be equally respected no one has sole ownership of God if there even is one.

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I left because there was so much exclusion if you did not believe this, that or the other. What would bring me back is the whole lifting of barriers, equality in every sense, and not such a male dominated institution. The church has no right to dictate who goes to Communion or not – it is the Lord. You can kill someone and be forgiven, but to make a mistake in marriage (which I haven’t actually done) you are a criminal.

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It is with sadness that I have left the Catholic Church because it does not serve spiritual needs but rather operates to control and hold back. The whole thing came to a head when our new parish priest decided to banish the homeless who had found safety in the covered courtyard from nighttime attacks in the town and instead put large chains on the gates to prevent entrance. Previously, a seat was provided, hot drinks given and much distress prevented through access to friendship from the community. Previously, the assistant priest and deacon openly offered support and friendship to the homeless on the church premises. Not only that, the new priest decided dismiss the assistant saying he prefered to live alone, take away the deacon’s responsibilities to himself and to shut the church during the day to the prayerful church members, going against a tradition of an open door. He was heard to swear on the altar and seen to jump about in frustration, all the time declaring that he was our guide. When I tried to talk to him about his frequent angry outbursts he said he hoped he would never need to speak to me again – this was in front of the chair of our Parish Council.

I find that the arguments about this or that preference in the way Mass is said to be unceasing and often vitriolic between ordinary parishioners. Sides being taken against priests who are not Catholic -born, sides being taken against Liberal or Conservative and congregations full of women who are silent.
The problem of women in the church was highlighted to me by a young priest who happily declared to me that women are auxilary – I must say I found this perception, extended to women who ran the church office, kept the church clean, filled the pews, prayed unceasingly in religious orders, and did every type of task allowable both lay and religious, quite an insulting idea. This is not to say I have not met some great priests but sadly these, usually moderate,have either been driven to nervous exhaustion by fearful critics, derided and dismissed as not being the right sort because of their humanity, as is the case with our one time Bishop who was humbled by admitting to breaking his vow of celibacy. Or, set aside because of their deep spirituality which when translated into homily, most where unable to appreciate.

I really think this last is the saddest. How can a priest who truly wishes to follow Christ and commits to a deeply spiritual endeavour be so unable to find a place to lay his head in Mother Church. That simply is a contradiction. I take the closing of the door as a sign that the Church is hovering on the brink of closing itself to the winds of the Holy Spirit and at the moment certainly seems to have closed the door on its mission to bring about the Kingdom, satisfied with temporal concerns and matters of doctrine that Peter realised he must set aside in order to do the real work of enabling spiritual growth.

Christians outside the church are often entertained by our squabbles and unwillingness to come to terms with what is and often, it is possible to talk sensibly about spirituality with non-believers and people of other faiths. It is my view that the Church needs to look deeply into the causes of internal division and to come up with no more rules of governance that keep us for ever balanced on the edge of a true meeting with our own selves and of that with the Trinity but instead, truly open up the Church to horizons beyond Itself.

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Come ex Teologo cattolico, continuo a vivere nelle comunità cattoliche in quanto Battezzato (cresimato), e se è vero che esso è INDELEBILE, neanche il Papa può cancellarlo. Comunque sia, io sto sperimentando l’Ecumenismo.

VMR Chianese

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