Friday, March 12, 2010

A Reader Asks Why Do We Stay?

If the current climate in the Church says anything, it's that the gates of hell have prevailed for a long long time. It's time Catholics took Jesus out of the confines of the clerical tabernacle and reclaimed our baptismal rights by exercising our baptismal responsibilities----like adults.

One of the frequent questions asked by more conservative Catholics of progressives came up in the comments from the post before this one. Since it comes up so often, I took the time to answer it from my own perspective. I invite other readers to use the comments section to answer this question themselves for the anonymous reader who posed the question.

My answer was straight off the top of my head. I could have come up with something a little more cogent if I had taken more time. Sometimes though, one's first response is often their most truthful and best response.

Anonymous said...
I'm curious...if all of you are in such disagreement with the basics of Catholic Theology and Doctrine (and they are very clearly defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church), why continue to call yourselves Catholic? Why set out to redefine a faith rather than simply join a church that more accurately represents your point of view - Episcopalian for example?

colkoch said...
I can't answer your question for any other commenter, but I will answer it for myself.

I'm not looking for another club to join or a 'bar' where I can fit in and 'everyone knows my name'. That's way too simplistic and childish a solution.

The spiritual path is supposed to be a challenge to one's enculturated ego. Religions too often want the spiritual path to be an affirmation of their enculturated God. Jesus fought his own tradition on just those lines by challenging the assumptions behind the rules of Pharisaic Judaism. Ultimately He taught it's not about the rules, it's about the spirit behind the rules.

So I ask myself this question: What energy really benefits from the current Institutional absolutist emphasis on rules and doctrine? Who benefits from the current push to make those absolutist rules the law of the secular land? Who benefits from the political gay bashing and the cover up of clerical sexual abuse? Who benefits from forcing birth on poor women incapable of raising another child? Who benefits from denying birth control to over populated Catholic areas? Who really benefits?

The answer is the dark side of the energy equation. All of these absolutist doctrines, which seek to take choice away from people, foment human misery, exploitation, poverty, and greed. The spirit from which they operate is about control, domination, and fear of 'others'.

With baptism comes rights, but also responsibilities. My responsibility is not obedience to rules, but to freely live the Spirit and that Spirit is about loving like an adult, not obeying like a fearful child.

To follow Jesus means to slay the demons with in ourselves, but this also applies to His Church. To maintain obedient silence is to enable evil. What do you think the abuse crisis is all about? I would rather stand against the evil in my own Church than transfer to what you think is just another more congenial 'religious' club.

Perhaps that is how you wish Catholicism to be, or how you see religious observance, a club of sorts in which you feel comfortable and want others to be just like you. Unfortunately we are called to be just like Jesus, not like me, and not like you.


  1. I am not sure I have anything to add to what you have said, Colleen, although I certainly endorse it.
    I do not see why I should be forced to leave the rich theological and spiritual tradition that is Catholicism because of nitpicky rules-like Sunday obligation, fish on Friday-dress codes and such and ignore the essential-WHAT DID JESUS SAY ABOUT HOW WE SHOULD LIVE?

  2. I typed a long comment, but it got eaten! (The will of God.)

    Wonderful blog, Colleen!

    As I've said before, "Catholic" does not have to mean "Rome" - and there are many ways to serve God's Kingdom, which Paul reminds us is "ONE Lord, ONE Faith, ONE Baptism."

    God calls each of us individually. Not just through a hierarchy! And each of us is in conscience bound to listen for God's Word and God's Voice in our own life, in the middle of our own circumstances.

    Colleen is where she is called to be. Doing what she is called to do.

    God calls each of us in unique ways. We remain and serve. Or we are drawn deeply in whatever way and we still serve. Blessed be the Name of the Lord - and all his Paths are Holy.

  3. Conservative Catholics often pose questions, whether political or religious, in such childish and narrow terms of, 'then if you don't like it, why don't you just leave.' It is the question that they pose that contains their answer for you. It is more their answer for you than it really is a question of care or genuine concern for your well being or for their understanding. The question is from a lack of understanding in any depth.

    Yet, if you were in a marriage that you didn't like they would never say 'then if you don't like it, why don't you just leave." I think they might say for you to try to work it out together and pray for virtues to overcome divorce.

    Would they also say that if you did not like the current political atmosphere or mindset of the leading political party ruling the country that 'if you don't like it, then why don't you just leave the country and renounce your citizenship.'

    Baptism into the Catholic Church, coming from a family of Catholics who were monks, nuns, knights, ladies, sinners and saints alike is an indelible print of light & shadow within the soul that can not be extinguished as if one were capable of doing so. Such spirit does not die that is a part of the soul and its memory. I cannot erase or discard what is real and of which I am connected. I cannot change my dna, my nationality or my family ties which includes the Church. The dynamic in which Jesus and the Holy Spirit works is from eternity and immortality, not from a particular religion or country.

    All of this will go over the conservative's head.

    I like your answer Colleen. "Jesus fought his own tradition on just those lines by challenging the assumptions behind the rules of Pharisaic Judaism. Ultimately He taught it's not about the rules, it's about the spirit behind the rules."

    I am a Catholic and a Christian, but not a "Roman" Catholic. The spirit behind the "Roman" is the cause for conservatives and they have yet to see the differences that are not Christian about the "Roman" part. It is not advantageous for the RCC to judge against or vanquish what is truly Christian in its members. It would be advantageous for their Christian side if they sought for virtues and grace to love their neighbor instead of wishing they would just disappear or become a Pharisee.

  4. Well, those certainly are reasons to stay, I guess. Consistent with your blog, no doubt. I would have really been impressed if you wrote just two words: The Eucharist.

  5. I certainly would have liked too, but I respect the Church's right to deny my the Eucharist because of my views. I have learned there are other ways to receive the grace of Jesus and am content with that. Besides, Spiritual Communion is a traditional practice with in the Church.

  6. Elastico, It is getting harder and harder to say that only the RCC has the Eucharist. We know for sure that both the Orthodox and Old Catholic have the Eucharist. It is only a papal bull that claims that the Anglicans do not. The Catholic Church has admitted that most if not all of Luther's thesis were correct. What was the reason for excommunication for all those Northern European Bishops after Trent. The Orthodox show us that you can not excommunicate the Eucharist. I think that the Church tries to use the Eucharist as a hammer of discipline rather than to give all the Body and Blood of Christ. What about the Catholic social worker in St. Louis refused the Eucharist because she attended a woman's ordination? This is very suspicious conduct by Arch Bishop Burke. Many of us remain Catholic in spite of a very sinful and incompetent leadership. We believe it is our responsibility remain in our church and live through this leadership implosion.

    Pax, dennis

  7. I'm sure there are perfectly good reasons to stay, especially if you are, or you have family and/or close friends invested in the System. However, bear in mind that some are either kicked or pushed out. Not all leave due to carelessness or indifference. Many see an acceleration recently in the cult-like and toxic behavior by the leadership of Catholic - and Eastern Orthodox churches (though the E.O.'s almost always fly under the radar of public scrutiny, even the scrutiny of their own laity).

    God only knows every survivor of clergy/religious sexual abuse who are hurt and angry because their Faith, and/or Faith Community & sacraments were *stolen* from them by a predator, and even worse by that predator's enablers, AND the hand-wringing by-standers intent on protecting the institution, or the bishops, or the priests, or the parish from "those people" badgering them about victim's rights.

    3 years ago today, our only son committed suicide. He was a victim of clergy sexual abuse by a (now defrocked) O. priest, while he was a seminarian in the Orthodox Church in America. It was a parent's perfect storm of a religious nightmare. His mother and I expected we'd be unchurched Christians for the rest of our lives. But compassionate local Episcopalians reached out to us, and offered us refuge in their Anglo-Catholic parish. Do you think I give a tinker's damn what BXVI or the E.O. patriarch's think of the Anglican eucharist? 'God is not mocked', they really ought to be worried whether their own Eucharists are still valid!

    Blessings on you, Colleen. Memory Eternal, to our Eric!

  8. John, my sympathies for you and your wife on what must be a very trying day.

    I would like one day to be in a large Cathedral parish and ask the question of the entire congregation about how many suspected clerical abuse or actually knew of it. My guess is the answer would be far far more than just a few.

    All of us who have enabled this system by tolerating it have something to answer for. We are being given an opportunity to make a choice about how much longer we will tolerate it. I pray we don't all blow it.

  9. My family and I stay because we belong to an inner city, mostly Hispanic community. The incredible love and family support that my English speaking, suburban living kids see from the Hispanic community is well worth the drive into the city. So for me, it's the church on the local level, not the upper management (we have a good, liberal bishop). It's the small local community like Jesus had gathered around him. We also have the Catholic Workers at our parish who I believe TRULY live the gospel each day.

  10. ## I stay because although the Church is a "sewer running with blood and filth", it is also, and primarily, the holy & beloved Bride of Christ. And the victory of Christ over evil is already a fact - it has been for almost 2,000 years. Why leave, when one is already on the winning side ? But we are.

    Man is wicked, because man is fallen - so man in the Church is wicked, so we have abominations such as child molestation by the clergy.

    Evil won't be escaped by leaving the Church or Christianity - evil is in the heart of man - to escape it, we would have to leave ourselves.

  11. Thank you Colleen. BTW, our dear friend, "Grandmère Mimi" posted this: