Thursday, September 27, 2012

Droppings from the Catholic Birdcage: "I Used to Think We, My Church and I, Were about Love"

My first posting this morning spoke of the heart pain I experience right now as I see a church I chose in the 1960s because its welcome table appeared open to all--the Catholic church--mount a brutal attack on LGBT human beings designed quite specifically to communicate to me and mine that we are not welcome at the Catholic table.

I'm not the only one feeling the pain or experiencing the brutal shoving from the table, it seems.  In the following comment responding to a National Catholic Reporter report by Zoe Ryan about the battle of Catholic leaders in Minnesota to amend the state constitution to prohibit marriage equality, a local Catholic, Laura Kuntz, paints a bleak and painful picture of how the bishops have succeeded in dividing the church in which she grew up, and in driving people away from the table.

Kuntz is talking specifically about the decision of the Minnesota bishops to install "church captains" in parishes throughout the state to herd Catholic voters to the polls to vote for the amendment.  I've blogged about this noxious, highly political "church captains" nonsense twice in the past--here and here.  And here's what Kuntz has to say about the "church captains" structure and what the teams they've created in each parish have succeeded in accomplishing in the parish she and her family had attended for 23 years:

This article paints an innocuous picture of what is going on in Catholocism in Minnesota. There are not "450 church captains." Instead, strongly pro amendment parishioners have been authorized by the Archdiocese to take over local parish communications on the marriage amendment, creating division and pain. My parish, St. John Neumann, was previously a loving place, but its culture turned on a dime on Feb 12, 2012, when the pro marriage amendment committee began its advocacy. My husband and I attended St. John Neumann for 23 years. We sent our children to the parish school, and on to Catholic High Schools then Catholic Universities. We learned to tithe at that parish due to my involvement on the stewardship committee. We also gave to the Archdiocese, the missions, and the world through Catholic Relief. We no longer attend. Our son no longer plays sax in the music ministry. More heart-breaking than this are the age 70+ parishioners who had thought St. John Neumann was their final parish, who were deeply involved, who had hoped to rely on their church and the sacraments in their final years. These people have been torn from their church. I used to think we, my church and I, were about love. Now, I know that the church, at least right now, is about something else. And, I feel that no on is listening, that no one cares. These older parishioners (or any parishioners) SHOULD NOT be torn from their church. They SHOULD NOT be disrespected and discarded. Their church and parish should never, never, never have created an environment that was inhospitable for and disrespectful to them. I hope that the Catholic church gets what it wants out of its actions. It, and others, are certainly paying a price.

I'm not entirely sure what the reference to parishioners aged 70+ who have been shoved from the table means.  I assume Laura Kuntz is reporting that those the bishops and their "church captains" and "marriage amendment committees" have succeeded in making unwelcome include elderly parishioners--perhaps some of them gay, or perhaps people who have gay family members they refuse to betray.

The pain in her anguished comments is palpable.  It was palpable for my partner Steve as we just traveled in Minnesota, visiting his mother, aunts and uncles, and many cousins.  As he said, there's no point in even discussing these issues with some members of his family, since he knows full well that if their bishop and pastor tell them to vote for the amendment, they'll certainly do so.  

And so his sense of alienation from the most ardently Catholic members of his family, who have long since made plain their disdain for him and me, only deepens as he travels back to his home state at this time of turmoil and pain in the Catholic church in which he grew up, and which he loved throughout his years of growing up in Minnesota.

As Laura Kuntz says, there's a price to be paid when religious groups foment bigotry and discrimination.  Lives get broken and hearts get bruised when this happens.  And the insincere, dishonest claim that those acting hatred while talking pretend-love really do love those they're demeaning totally undermines the right of religious people behaving this way to preach about loving, inclusive communities.

Or about Jesus Christ, whose table was radically open to everyone, and to outcasts, in particular.

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