Two days ago, after I posted comments about journalist Tom Moran's recent response to Arcbishop John Myers re: the need for those supporting marriage equality to refrain from the Eucharist, I happened to read Brendan Walsh's statement in National Catholic Reporter about the de facto schism now breaking apart the Catholic church in the U.S. Moran notes that many American Catholics find ourselves "spiritual refugees" on a road crowded with many others fleeing the church that shaped our consciences, but whose leaders now attack and belie the very values they have taught us as they've formed our consciences.
Walsh's statement about the current de facto schism in American Catholicism moves along a similar line of logic. Walsh notes that he and his wife Willa Bickham have spent forty-four of their seventy years with the Viva Catholic Worker house in Baltimore, which they co-founded. Their lives are rooted in the sacramental life of the Catholic church.
But increasingly they find that the "blind power and greed of the hierarchy tarnishes and even buries" the truth and beauty they've found in the church and its sacramental life through their many years of living with and learning from the least among us. The Walshes understand why many fellow Catholics are now on the road of spiritual exile: these Catholics "have had it with clericalism, pomposity, aloofness, empty homilies and hypocrisy."
Many Catholics have had it, in particular, with the gay-bashing of the hierarchy, Walsh notes:
Additionally, more and more Catholics are appalled at the institution’s blatant maltreatment and contempt for U.S. women religious and for our gay sisters and brothers. The core of the Gospel is quite clear: We are all one, member for member. There is no justification for dividing people against each other because of gender, race, sexual preference or country of origin. Anyone who preaches or teaches these hatreds violates the two great commandments to love God and demonstrate that love with our neighbors every day.
And as I read this passage, I think that when the "pastoral" leaders of the Catholic church succeed in alienating Catholics of the quality of Brendan and Willa Walsh--people who have long put their lives on the front lines to put Catholic social teaching into action in areas of great social need--they'll have effectively gutted the American Catholic church. If (as appears very likely) the overt politicization of the Catholic church in Minnesota under its current "pastoral" leaders succeeds in passing an amendment banning marriage equality in that state, then the price the church's leaders will have paid for their "victory" will have been exceptionally high, as Catholic communities fragment and Catholics disenchanted with the hate-mongering walk away.
As one Catholic on the ground in Minnesota, Laura Kuntz, argues powerfully in a statement to which I linked a number of days ago . . . .
The photo of Brendan Walsh and Willa Bickham is by Frank Klein.