Friday, March 12, 2010

Colleen Kochivar-Baker on "Why We Stay"

At her blog Enlightened Catholicism, Colleen Kochivar-Baker recently responded to a reader who posed a question that those working for church reform are often confronted by:

If all of you are in such disagreement with the basics of Catholic Theology and Doctrine (and they are very clearly defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church), why continue to call yourselves Catholic? Why set out to redefine a faith rather than simply join a church that more accurately represents your point of view?

Following is Colleen’s response.


I can't answer your question for any other commenter, but I will answer it for myself.

I'm not looking for another club to join or a 'bar' where I can fit in and 'everyone knows my name'. That's way too simplistic and childish a solution.

The spiritual path is supposed to be a challenge to one's enculturated ego. Religions too often want the spiritual path to be an affirmation of their enculturated God. Jesus fought his own tradition on just those lines by challenging the assumptions behind the rules of Pharisaic Judaism. Ultimately He taught it's not about the rules, it's about the spirit behind the rules.

So I ask myself this question: What energy really benefits from the current Institutional absolutist emphasis on rules and doctrine? Who benefits from the current push to make those absolutist rules the law of the secular land? Who benefits from the political gay bashing and the cover up of clerical sexual abuse? Who benefits from forcing birth on poor women incapable of raising another child? Who benefits from denying birth control to over populated Catholic areas? Who really benefits?

The answer is the dark side of the energy equation. All of these absolutist doctrines, which seek to take choice away from people, foment human misery, exploitation, poverty, and greed. The spirit from which they operate is about control, domination, and fear of 'others'.

With baptism comes rights, but also responsibilities. My responsibility is not obedience to rules, but to freely live the Spirit and that Spirit is about loving like an adult, not obeying like a fearful child.

To follow Jesus means to slay the demons within ourselves, but this also applies to His Church. To maintain obedient silence is to enable evil. What do you think the abuse crisis is all about? I would rather stand against the evil in my own Church than transfer to what you think is just another more congenial 'religious' club.

Perhaps that is how you wish Catholicism to be, or how you see religious observance, a club of sorts in which you feel comfortable and want others to be just like you. Unfortunately we are called to be just like Jesus, not like me, and not like you.

Recommended Off-site Links:
Time to Go? - Michael Bayly (The Wild Reed, December 29, 2008).
Staying on Board - Michael Bayly (The Wild Reed, April 15, 2009).


  1. The real reason why she stays is that she wouldn't get her name in the paper if she was being a heretic in some other religion.

  2. What a beautiful, well-crafted response. I left the Catholic Church 10 years ago, not knowing there were people who were working within the church for these types of changes. Carry on, Colleen!