|I can laugh at this only because a relationship with another kind of priest forced me to deal with all the traditional Catholic character builders.|
The following is an edited article written by Michael O'Loughlin which makes a really important point about the power of relationship with in Roman Catholicism. I know in my own spiritual path, in the final analysis it's not the theology or sacramentality that keeps me keepin' on. It's the people and relationships I have made a long the way. They were the kind of relationships that brought the Gospel message alive for me and challenged me to really think about the difficulty in living the The Way. As time went on, I realized relationship in all it's facets was a critical concept to understand. It's a conceptual understanding Roman Catholicism needs to put back into it's spiritual equation.
Relationships and the Church: How to Create a Welcoming CatholicismMichael O'Loughlin - Huffington Post - 6/21/2011
A friend once remarked that every view of the church, whether colored with praise, criticism, admiration or disdain, is the articulation of a personal relationship with the person or persons who have come to represent church in an individual's life. He said that during his career as a Catholic priest, he spoke with countless numbers of people who trace back their love of the church to caring nuns or priests. Sadly, he also heard from those who spend years and lifetimes holding on to anger and resentment because of the unkind words or actions of others who represent the church to them.
Now consider for a moment the words and actions of two of America's most notable Catholic figures: New York's Archbishop Timothy Dolan used increasingly incendiary language to fight the legalization of same-sex marriage, and Boston's Archbishop Sean O'Malley directed his officials to postpone a Mass celebrating a theme of "All Are Welcome" at a parish that is home to many gay and lesbian Catholics....
......An archbishop's preaching easily personifies "church" to many people, and Dolan employed language that left some feeling abandoned, isolated, and hurt. When asked to comment on parishioners who walked out during the service, Dolan coolly responded, "We're used to that. People have been walking away from God's law. They even walked away from Jesus so we're kind of used to that." (Dolan's principle use of relationship is to the law. Jesus is second.)
In Boston, St. Cecilia's parish planned a Mass of welcome, set to coincide with the city's gay pride celebrations. When local right-wing bloggers found out, they launched a mean-spirited campaign to cancel the Mass. The chancery then directed the parish to postpone it. Parishioners, with the encouragement of their pastor, held a prayer service on the sidewalk in front of the church, reminding participants that all are welcome in Christ's church. O'Malley, who has tried valiantly though ineffectively to promote respect for gay and lesbian people while calling their actions sinful, used his office literally to shut a marginalized group of faithful Catholics out of the church and relegate them to the sidewalk.
Why are the words and actions of these two archbishops so troubling? If my friend is correct that personal relationships have an abundance of power in shaping one's views about the church, then there is trouble ahead for the Catholic church. Americans today have siblings, parents, friends and co-workers who are openly gay and lesbian. Christians are increasingly willing to live their lives fully and wholly, rather than hide their orientation to fit in at their churches.
Rightly or wrongly, Dolan and O'Malley, and others in positions of authority in any denomination, most easily personify church to the faithful.......
..........What is the antidote to this institutional downward spiral, where the church is viewed not as the defender of the weak and vulnerable, but as the enforcer of an antiquated morality? The hope lies in the truth that relationships hold unparalleled power in helping individuals find self-acceptance through God's radically unconditional love.......
For too many of our religious leaders, insisting our relationship to religious dogma and doctrine supersedes our relationship with people is the lazy way out. This is true even when this notion of doctrinely defined type of relating is aimed at our relationship with God. If God truly meant that we were to place relating to an intellectual defined construct of Him over our need to learn to love through relationship with each other, He would never have bothered to incarnate in the much more immediate human form of Jesus.
When God chose to become human and to relate to us as human, God chose to put his human creation on the more difficult relational path.
The real message in Archbishop Dolan and Cardinal O'Malley's actions is that our relationship to Catholic law is more important than our relationship to fellow members of the Body of Christ. This is precisely the opposite of what Jesus actually taught. What makes this attitude more unwelcoming for gays is that the Church's relationship towards them becomes defined by sin. Gays the are related to as sin, and because this is so, it doesn't matter to the official relationship if gays don't commit any of the sins by which the Church chooses to define them. Hate the sin, love the sinner is an impossible thing to do when sin defines both sides of this equation. Even in this constantly used facile statement, by definition we are relating to the sin because we are told to love the sinner. If we were going to be more generous this should state 'hate the sin, love the person'. No other class of Catholic is defined this way. No wonder gays have a tough time finding a healthy way to relate to the Church.
But gays are only one class of person the Church relates to in a legalistic rather than personal way. Women are another class. Women are 'ruled out' out of things far more than they are 'ruled into' things. The latest example being the Vatican decree that altar girls are not to serve at the Extraordinary form of the Mass. By any reasonable standard of relationship, the legal structure of the Church relates to women as 'less than' men.
It's no wonder our younger generations, who have grown up being taught to relate to people as people, are rejecting institutional Catholicism which still insists on relating to it's flock through rules and regulations.
The exact same process of relating via rules explains the hierarchy's usual method of dealing with abuse victims. The rules say priests are more important than laity, especially children, and so the Church has used every legal strategy imaginable to protect the more important 'class' of Catholic over the least important 'class' of Catholic. A truly authoritarian structure based in hierarchical definitions of importance never places much value on the 'least' of it's defined classes. Human dignity is parceled out according to the given food chain. It is never an intrinsic identity. It is an earned identity. This style of relationship is absolutely contradictory to the message and teachings of Jesus. He flipped the criteria on which we are to relate to each other. Even the very least of us, at least by worldly definition, are worthy of full human dignity, are worthy of being related to as full children of God, are fully human before we are anything else, and in fact come first in Jesus' relational scheme of things. As such no one belongs on the side walk looking in. We belong around the altar sharing in this truth. It may not be what most of us want to believe, but it's exactly what Jesus demands of us. For some of us this whole notion seems to be a cross to heavy to carry, and that is really sad.