April 22, 2012

Pagan Puzzling over the Catholic Church

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It was supposed to have been my vacation and I spent far too much of it being infuriated by the Catholic Bishops.  And I’m not even Catholic.  But they remind me of the elders in my childhood churches and of Mitt Romney when in response to women wanting to be treated with respect in the Mormon Church was described as having the attitude, ‘Why do you have to stir things up? It has nothing to do with the church and women should be satisfied with what they have.”

Is that so?

The Bishops in the Catholic Church are trying to shut up the nuns because they “disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.”

There’s been enough ironic comment about that last bold faced lie. If only in an effort to calm down, I’ve been trying to think about why women stay in the Catholic Church when their perspectives, concerns, opinions, and obvious moral authority is treated so shamefully.  Why do women put up with it?

I often hear people say “I love the Catholic Church,” sometimes in the past tense but even so.  I’ve never heard anyone say, “I love the Protestant Church.”  Even the smarmiest of the denominations don’t have “I HEART the Baptist Church” bumper stickers.  At least not in the Pacific Northwest.  Protestants tend to say “I love the Lord,” which given my own peculiar theology sounds both smarmy and suspect.

I did what everyone does nowadays when they need to ask a technical question.  I googled “why do people love the Catholic church.”

There was the expected: Mary, the saints, christening gowns, incense, candles, midnight mass, Easter vigil, feast days, St. Joseph’s altars and the sacraments, the “outward sign of an inward grace:” baptism, confirmation, holy Eucharist, extreme unction, penance, holy orders, matrimony.  (I know these because I went to Late Nite Catechism eight times.) In other words, the kinds of cultural richness that made me envy my childhood Catholic friends when I had to sit in plain brown church pews and listen to men in their business suits drone on about sin.

Here’s where I am troubled:   The sacraments don’t apply to women as Persons.  They apply to people acting the role of women according to men’s approximations.  I expect women who “love the Catholic Church” scrape what they can for themselves from the sacraments. There’s a lot of richness and meaning that has not yet been overtaken by any sense of how much they are being screwed.

That rides tandem with another troubling reason people said they love the Catholic Church: One doesn’t have the burden of trying to interpret the Bible on one’s own. In other words, one doesn’t have to think, or to actively participate in one’s own life.  One doesn’t feel the need to revolt when women are treated unequally and their wisdom is disregarded and disrespected, when divorce is considered a sin, when the church’s stand on abortion beggars reason, when an old out-of-touch man and his minions tell them how to live, when priests seem to be disproportionately represented by pedophiles and when so many people passively disregard what the old men at the top say anyway.  Where exactly is the substance of this great traditional church?

Here is the most poignant reason someone gave for why they loved the Catholic Church:  I love the fact that this is the church that Christ started, and it truly can be traced back to him.

No, it can’t.



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