Catholicism: Are You In or Out?

Just put up my latest post over at Young Adult Catholics, which comes out of a brain that’s gotten a little mushy from a day of intense thinking and discussing. It’s about a topic that I’ve covered before — mainly this idea that we should have to deny certain parts of our identities to embrace others. I just don’t buy it.


5 Responses to Catholicism: Are You In or Out?

  1. G says:

    I see this question as similar to the perennial debate over grammar policing. There’s a spectrum varying from laxness/inclusiveness to rigidity/exclusiveness. The people nearer the former end sometimes see their position as the ‘creative’ engine of language/religion, fostering its ‘evolution’ by introducing text-speak into the dictionary, in the case of language; or by advocating women priests in the case of religion. The people nearer the latter end, the sticklers, see themselves as the guardians who stop the whole thing becoming chaotic and meaningless.

    I think it’s fairly obvious that there has to be an intelligent balance of both. There’s a disturbing hint, I find, that it’s truly impossible to individually find the ‘right’ balance–I think, and I hate to say things like this, it probably does come down to personal preference, and that the end result is worked out collectively and organically, despite the illusions of some sticklers that there is a ‘right’ answer to everything.

    But my question to you is: if your views and feelings diverge so much from it, why be a part of it? Do you only want to change or shift the religion in this one area or in many?

    • Hi, G. I addressed this issue somewhat on the Young Adult Catholics blog, here:

      I agree with you that it’s not possible for any one person to achieve this perfect balance between tradition and progress, both of which are crucial to maintaining integrity. That’s why a church, a community, is necessary. In response to your question about where I want to “shift” Catholicism, it’s really only around their divisive teachings on sexuality: their non-affirmation of the rights of GLBTQ people, their denial of leadership roles for women in the Church, and their delusion that they can control women’s reproductive lives (i.e., by banning contraceptive use.) Unfortunately, these are issues that the Church hierarchy is very vocal about, harshly policing deviants in a way that they don’t police deviants in other areas (such as those who support Capital Punishment). My dream is to push the church toward focusing on preaching a Gospel of love and inclusion and social justice, not policing people’s sex lives and dictating appropriate gender roles.

      • G says:

        Although not a Christian, I responded to your use of the term ‘Gospel’. It’s my (patchy) understanding that the Gospels preach a message I can really get behind, most of all, “I am the light that shines over all things. I am everything. From me all came forth, and to me all return. Split a piece of wood, and I am there. Lift a stone, and you will find me there.”

        For me, the Jesus of the Gospels is a mystic similar to Meister Eckhart and Madame Guyon–he is inviting you to find God within as he has done. He is not setting himself up as a unique individual with authority over all; rather, he is pointing to the ultimate source of authority, life and love, that is normally covered over by small-minded concern for the individual self, and its self-limiting perspective of life.

        I can certainly see the value in being part of a tradition. It’s often forgotten how vital church groups were to the civil rights struggle in the US. Tradition can move mountains when it gives people cohesion, comfort, hope and conviction. This is especially appealing in the present climate of uncertainty and nihilism.

        But I can’t see myself ever accepting, in my heart, a given, external authority. This is not because I am completely anti-authoritarian. It is because I naturally confer a kind of ‘authority’ to those whom I respect in one way or another. I feel this is right and natural. But if I go to my priest I have to respect him on the basis of his position, his vestments. And many of my peers will want to exile me if I question the authority of some passage in the holy Book. The Church seems to behave like a self-interested political entity, and it seems therefore entirely reasonable to expect that the individuals who make up that authoritative body are also self-interested political animals.

        Despite all this, if I had to bet, I would guess that your wishes for the church will gradually be realised–if humans don’t wipe themselves out first. 🙂 I think that although political and selfish drives are deeply rooted in human nature, the drive to find true love and meaning is eternal and will always reassert itself in any self-aware being.

        So I hope after all this my suggestion to you doesn’t sound twee: your ‘basement’ is in yourself and is yourself: “I Am that I Am”.

        I’m not familiar with the UCC; I live in the UK. I see how some American churches are so full of life, scholarship and singing, and I think in many cases they do more good than bad, and that it is worthwhile to try to make them the best vehicles possible.

  2. G says:

    Um, hello again. Because you didn’t reply, I’m now worrying that my direct question was read as hostile, which wasn’t the intent or the feeling behind it at all. I’m genuinely interested in your answer, but I understand if you’re simply too busy, or if it’s the type of question you don’t want to engage publicly.

    (Actually, if it’s the latter, you might not want to publish this comment. Oh Well…)

    • Hi, G. I didn’t interpret your question as hostile, but answering it is complicated. As such, it’s mainly been a “time” issue. But I did intend to answer, and I think I’m going to address it in depth in this week’s post. Stay tuned.

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