Friday, April 13, 2012

In Catholic News: Seattle Parishes Resist, Dolan's Verdun Strategy with SNAP Bleeds Church White

As the week ends, items in Catholic news that have caught my eye recently:

1. In Washington state, where Catholic archbishop Peter Sartain and bishop Eusebio Elizondo have asked Catholic parishes to circulate a petition calling for a repeal of the recently enacted marriage equality in the state, some parishes are refusing to participate in the appeal effort.  Igor Volsky reports at Think Progress that Father Michael Ryan of St. James cathedral in Seattle has chosen not to circulate the petition in his parish because he judges that it could "prove hurtful and seriously divisive" to do so.

2. And at Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Joel Connelly indicates that two more parishes, St. Mary's and Christ Our Hope, have made the same decision not to circulate the petition.  In a letter to her parish, pastoral coordinator Patricia Wittman-Todd of St. Mary's notes, as does Fr. Ryan of St. James, that circulating the petition would undoubtedly prove hurtful and divisive to the parish community, but that the damage the petition could do would particularly affect gay or gender-questioning young people in the parish.

She notes, too, that the parish is the house of God and a home for everyone, and welcome and inclusion are among its core values.  And, finally, she points out that the Catholic tradition challenges each of us to form our consciences about issues with moral ramifications, including tax issues, capital punishment, services to the poor, and environmental laws.

As I read these statements, I wonder if Catholic parishes in areas in which the Catholic church has long held more clout, more political power, and more cultural dominance would show similar courage about standing up to bishops when bishops issue orders for parishes to engage in behavior that belies fundamental Catholic principles?  I tend to doubt that parishes in those areas of the country would do so--not quite so forthrightly.

It's easier for them to pretend that the gays just don't exist, aren't there, belong to some community other than the holy Catholic church community.  And it's easier for the powerful centrist media and intellectual commentariat of American Catholicism to behave that way, precisely because it's ensconced in those areas of the country in which the Catholic church has long held cultural and political dominance.

3. At Talk to Action, Frank Cocozzelli surveys the attempt of the leader of the U.S. Catholic bishops, Cardinal Dolan, to bleed the SNAP group white, a strategy akin to the German attrition strategy of Verdun in World War I.  Frank notes that attrition strategies often backfire, and it may be the church that ends up bleeding itself white through this strategy, as the Catholic laity come to see the "bully-effort" for what it is--a diversionary strategy designed to draw our attention from the way in which the hierarchy has covered up sexual abuse cases.

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