Thursday, August 5, 2010

Now It Can Be Told

I have thought long and hard about doing this post, but since I'm a full disclosure kind of guy*, I decided that not only will I do it, I have to do it. For little else has been on my mind of late. And up until now, there was some risk in being totally up-front about everything. That situation no longer obtains, as you will see.

Here's my spiritual/religious pedigree: Theist--Christian--Catholic. I've been this for all of my life. I've got 16 years of Catholic education. Except for a period of years when I was younger, I've been a church-going Catholic. And since 25 years ago, I've been a deacon in the Catholic church. That's an ordained position, not an honorary one. Had to study a long time to get there. Had to give up a sizeable chunk of my life during all those years in service to the church and the people in the church. I have considered it a blessing to be allowed to do this. A service, a give-back to God, who has given me everything. But now it's coming to an end. I requested to be retired from active ministry two days ago. I'm trying to get used to the idea that I won't be involved in direct church ministry any more . . . it's not easy.

But honestly, this was pretty much inevitable at some point, for if you know me or read me regularly, you know that I've had and have serious problems with the Catholic church for a long time. For a whole raft of reasons, obvious and not so obvious.

==>Like the horrendous, never-ending, globe-spanning sexual scandal that the Church has refused to address for years and years like the Christian institution it professes to be and instead handles the problem like a soulless multi-national corporation.

==>Like the all-male hierarchy which adamantly refuses to acknowledge the spiritual equality and sanctity of half of the human race.

==>Like the hypocrisy you can discover in every diocese, where taking care of the poor and helpless is the pulpit mantra and pleasures of materialism the pulpit's manna. Believe me when I tell you that for the vast majority of the Catholic clergy, problems such as how to pay the bills don't exist. And some of these guys live like potentates.

==>Like the steady, slow erosion of the Vatican II reforms and spirit which enlivened and inspired the best of us to want to serve God by serving the world's needs. Words like "collegiality" and "empowerment" actually seemed to mean something for a while. Not so much anymore. The dominant population in the Church today are conservative Catholics, people who were and are lukewarm with the Vatican II mentality in the Church at best and hate it at worst.

==>Like the incredible rigidity of doctrine and dogma which, to take but a single example, declares it sinful to prevent the birth of children, regardless of the family's circumstances, number of existing children, or psychological state . . . not to mention minor considerations such as global over-population and catastrophically-dwindling resources. Or that only men can be ordained or preach, when anybody who's been around the Church for very long knows it's the women who hold everything together and do the vast majority of the work.

I know this a totally one-sided presentation of the matter. And it's not really fair. There are millions of good Catholic people and the charitable works of the Church span the globe and bring solace and sustenance to the poor, bereft, and needy all over the world. So lest you think I'm just being bitter and overly critical, know that I don't bear any ill will towards all those "good Catholics" out there and their devotion to the Church.

But it is in the nature of the position I occupied in the institutional Church that I was embedded in the rigidly hierarchical apparatus that totally controls everything. The way this plays out in a parish is that one priest is pastor, and he is if not quite a god--that is reserved for bishops--then he's at least a Titan. Mind you, the parishioners, who financially support this guy and whole structure he comes from, have no say in who gets appointed pastor in their church. They are not consulted. Every so often, a new guy comes in and the old guy moves on. So what happens if the new guy that arrives is an emotionally-crippled authoritarian jerk? What kind of working relationship will he have with a deacon who's been ordained twice as long and who knows and understands nothing but collaborative ministry? How long do think it would take for the jerk and the deacon to clash? And how long do you think said deacon is going to hang around if he is stripped of his right to preach or to participate in liturgy? Well, dear friends, not long.

So I'm gone, and I won't be going back; but the jerk is not, nor are all those people it's been my blessing to serve. But God's in his heaven and all's right with the world.

*Which is a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, my feelings about things are hardly ever a mystery nor is what's on my mind. It's called honesty or transparency. On the other hand, my feelings about things are hardly ever a mystery nor is what's on my mind. It's called idiocy in certain situations and with certain people.
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