Thursday, May 31, 2012

Quote of the Day

. . . [T]here is a long-standing Catholic tradition of exercising a grumbling patience in relation to injustices within the church itself. This stands in stark contrast to the vigorous response of Catholic workers and activists to injustices in the wider community. Within the church there is a tendency to trust that the Spirit will work at its own pace and in its own time - usually slowly. It is an unusual and courageous priest or nun who stands up to address church authorities, crying; 'Hey, you can't do that!' in public. I imagine the reasons for this are complex: religious, ideological, political and probably often very personal.

Certainly to speak out may draw onerous sanctions, may threaten one's job security, housing security, financial security and social standing. One might be sacked and ousted, or shunted off to a disheartening gig in the middle of nowhere.

Many Catholics believe the old church is dying anyway and will eventually crumble into the mulch. But I fear our patience with that process can be a way of abnegating responsibility for the present, for the agonies, injustices and deaths being fostered by official church teachings and attitudes today. . . .

– Will Day
"Don't Tell the Cardinal"
Casey Weekly
May 28, 2012

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Why the Catholic Church in America is Divided

NOTE: The following commentary was first published May 25, 2012, on the website of the Association of Catholic Priests. The author, a Catholic woman from the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, shared with the editorial team of The Progressive Catholic Voice that the experiences she writes about in this piece "catalyzed me to the reform agenda."

One Catholic’s story:

More than 20 years ago, my beloved sister told us that she is lesbian. This sister is not a rebel. She is likeable, easy going, and had plenty of boyfriends. I don’t think that she wanted the label of being lesbian — she was out of touch for our family for two years before telling us. I was so happy that she accepted herself and I was proud of my family for our support of her. Later, I did Bible study on homosexuality, and became comfortable with being Christian and supporting responsible, loving gay relationships. Over the years, I became friends with other folks who are gay, and had the honor to serve some as clients.

During those years, I also found so much beauty in the Catholic church, in our loving, and welcoming parish, in our stand for the poor and marginalized. Sometimes, clients would joke with me about ‘Catholics and their good works.’ As a committed Catholic, I volunteered in my parish, educated my children in Catholic schools, was honored to spend time on the parish council, and learned to tithe to my church. As a professional woman, I was uncomfortable with the lack of progress on women’s ordination and the roll back of previously gender inclusive language and I was uncomfortable with the harsh language the church used to describe homosexuality. Despite this, the church was 70% good for me, and I compromised, thinking, ‘How can one ever get 1.2 billion Catholics to agree?’ and I loved being a part of a world-wide church.

Then, this spring, my parish began a campaign for the marriage amendment in our bulletins — I heard the first announcement at mass on Feb 12. Somehow, I had thought that this campaign would pass us by. I saw our pastor’s introduction of this advocacy, indicating that it regarded, ‘this important opportunity for Minnesota voters.’ As I reviewed the advocacy communications, one of my friend’s voices (a woman who is lesbian) rang in my head, ‘I don’t know how I’ll feel, what I’ll do, if this amendment passes’ and I could hear her hurt and worry. Between February 12 and the end of April, there were about 10 advocacy pieces, both direct and indirect. In May, there were more. This does not count the simultaneous ramp in communications on ‘all things marriage’

Throughout my 23 years at my parish, my husband, children and I had attended mass regularly, but starting with the amendment advocacy, I attended only intermittently, and my husband and I tried to figure out what to do next. We were so tied into our parish. Many of our friends go there and the parents of our children’s school friends. My husband I were Eucharistic ministers and our son played in the music ministry. I volunteered there for a charity I love, which supports abandoned children in South America. I realized that Catholicism was part of the fabric of our lives. It was passed onto me from my great, great grandmother, Johanna Burke, from Ireland, and to my husband, from his polish grandfather. But, I would look at the on-going advocacy communications and hear my friend’s voice in my head. I checked with other friends who are gay, and heard their feelings on the amendment, and the comment that most sticks with me is, ‘The amendment says to us we’re not ok.’

I expressed my views to my pastor in a letter. He thanked me for my heartfelt views, but indicated that the advocacy would continue. Over time, I came to know other parishioners in my situation. Several also expressed their concerns to our pastor. But the advocacy continued. We asked staff which parishioners were on the marriage amendment committee and they couldn’t share names. We asked if the meetings were open to others and were told they weren’t. Among these parishioners I’ve come to know is the mother of a gay son who says she feels beat up by this. Others who feel in pain are psychologists or health professionals, younger people, people who feel strongly about social justice, etc.

After much hesitation, this group of parishioners and I decided to attend the pro-amendment Archdiocesan session at our parish. We hoped to express our views, having felt that our voices had gone unheard. At the session, the facilitator indicated that there would be no verbal discussion, and questions were to be written down for answer by the speakers at the end.

The first speaker was a priest. He said that the church holds that homosexual acts are disordered, and that we are all broken. The implication was that gay folks who have an intimate relationship are acting in a broken way. He said that his greatest heroes are gay people who, ‘fall off the wagon’ then come to him saying, “Father, I want to try again.”

The next speaker was introduced as a “downtown attorney.” He went through the position of Minnesota for Marriage (the political group that advocates for the amendment). He listed the problems that he perceived with heterosexual marriage: divorce, cohabitation without marriage, etc., and then concluded that these problems will get worse if there is gay civil marriage. At the end of his talk, he cited seven to eight court cases which, I felt, were intended to create urgency among marriage amendment proponents for more action. Based on my knowledge of these cases, not all facts of each case were presented. The Archdiocesan representative wrapped up by asking attendees to have courage in pursuing marriage amendment advocacy.

After the session, I shared with the Archdiocesan representative, “what hurts the most is that the Archbishop knew, in rolling out this campaign, that there would be people like me — people who would get hurt — because these campaigns have been occurring throughout the country for over four years.” She expressed that the Archbishop cares about people like me and is praying for us every day. She explained that the Archbishop represents “the truth.”

It dawned on me, after talking with the Archdiocesan representative that the Archdiocesan leadership will not stop hurting people over this issue, or, I suppose, any issue where they feel they have “the truth.” I have come to believe that they simply do not have boundaries in place where they would say, “I really believe this, and want to promote it, but will not do so at the price of hurting others.”

After I left the Archdiocesan meeting, I also recognized that during the session, one group of parishioners, the marriage amendment committee members, were being encouraged by the Archdiocese to on-goingly hurt another group of parishioners. The first group may not know they are hurting the second group, but the Archdiocesan leadership knows. And, our parish leadership knows.

Along the way, I’ve also heard of courage in the Catholic church, of quite a number of parish priests in the Archdiocese “lying low” on the marriage amendment, or even writing or homilizing against the Archdiocesan actions, and of three retired priests who have directly come out against the amendment and said that gay Catholics and their families need allies. In addition, 80 former priests have also come out against the amendment.

It has been a journey to sort through what I think, overall. I do feel betrayed, at each level in the Catholic church, by my parish, by the Archdiocese, and by Rome. I have found my way to the local Catholic Coalition for Church Reform. I find these folks delightful, so learned in theology and church workings. And, so committed to the good they see in the Catholic church. In addition, the group from my parish and I have started actively volunteering with Minnesotans United for All Families; I suspect, that many of us would not have been as active in this initiative without the pain caused by our Archdiocese and parish. My husband and I have also been church hopping, close to our home, right here in the ‘burbs. At Lutheran churches we’ve heard thoughtful sermons, some by gifted female pastors, on tolerance, including regarding sexuality. At a Methodist church, the service was led by a talented young woman, and my neighbors told me that the church has a couple of active families led by lesbian couples.

Early in my journey, I talked with a rabbi, though I have found such good Catholic clergy since then. He advised me to find people like myself and not lose my relationship with God. While God and I have had a rocky time of it, I have found the rabbi’s words echoing back to me again and again, and I have been glad to hear them.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Did the Catholic Organizations Have to Sue Over the Health Care Mandate?

By E.J. Dionne Jr.

NOTE: This op-ed was first published May 21, 2012, by the Washington Post.

The federal lawsuits filed Monday by Catholic institutions against the contraception mandate under the health care law are not surprising, but they are unfortunate. The Bishops’ Conference and many — though not all — Catholic organizations are acting as if the Obama Administration had never backed down from its original, broad mandate and had never offered to negotiate.

But the administration, responding to a broadly united Catholic community, did offer a compromise and has since shown a willingness to try to accommodate many of the concerns of Catholic and other religious institutions. Now the Catholic community is split because many of us who initially backed the bishops cannot understand why they did not respond to the administration’s olive branch. Many bishops seem to want this fight.

There is certainly a case to pushing the administration to rewrite the definition of religious organizations under the health care regulations, but no reason to treat President Obama as an enemy of religious freedom. The bishops’ “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign is looking more and more like a direct intervention in this fall’s elections.

As my friends at Commonweal, the progressive Catholic magazine, noted in an important editorial: “This initiative is being launched during an election year in which one party has assumed the mantle of faith and charges the other with attacking religion. The bishops need to do much more to prevent their national campaign from becoming a not-very-covert rallying point for the Republican Party and its candidates. If that happens, it is the church and the cause of religious freedom that will suffer.” Commonweal said there is something “hyperbolic” about how the bishops are framing their campaign, and I see this lawsuit as one aspect of that.

It’s worth noting that the Catholic Health Association, which backed Obama’s compromise, has not joined this suit. Michael Rodgers, the CHA’s senior vice president for public affairs and advocacy, said in an interview that the CHA “was not made aware that the lawsuits were being filed now.” He added that the group is working with the administration to “broaden the exemption by broadening the definition of what a religious institution is.” I wish the bishops and others involved in these lawsuits had given the path of negotiation more time before going to court.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Here Comes Nobody

By Maureen Dowd

NOTE: This op-ed was first published May 19, 2012, in the New York Times.

I ALWAYS liked that the name of my religion was also an adjective meaning all-embracing.

I was a Catholic and I wanted to be catholic, someone engaged in a wide variety of things. As James Joyce wrote in Finnegans Wake: “Catholic means ‘Here comes everybody.’ ”

So it makes me sad to see the Catholic Church grow so uncatholic, intent on loyalty testing, mind control and heresy hunting. Rather than all-embracing, the church hierarchy has become all-constricting.

It was tough to top the bizarre inquisition of self-sacrificing American nuns pushed by the disgraced Cardinal Bernard Law. Law, the former head of the Boston archdiocese, fled to a plush refuge in Rome in 2002 after it came out that he protected priests who molested thousands of children.

But the craziness continued when an American priest, renowned for his TV commentary from Rome on popes and personal morality, admitted last week that he had fathered a child with a mistress.

The Rev. Thomas Williams belongs to the Legionaires of Christ, the order founded by the notorious Mexican priest Marcial Maciel Degollado, a pal of Pope John Paul II who died peppered with accusations that he sexually abused seminarians and fathered several children and abused some of them.

The latest kooky kerfuffle was sparked by the invitation to Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, to speak at a graduation ceremony at Georgetown University on Friday. The silver-haired former Kansas governor is a practicing Catholic with a husband and son who graduated from Georgetown. But because she fought to get a federal mandate for health insurance coverage of contraceptives and morning-after pills, including at Catholic schools and hospitals, Sebelius is on the hit list of a conservative Catholic group in Virginia, the Cardinal Newman Society, which militates to bar speakers at Catholic schools who support gay rights or abortion rights.

The Society for Truth and Justice, a fringe Christian anti-abortion group, compared Sebelius to Himmler, and protesters showed up on campus to yell at her for being, as one screamed, “a murderer.”

“Remember, Georgetown has no neo-Nazi clubs or skinhead clubs on campus, nor should they,” Bill Donohue, the Catholic League president, said on Fox News. “But they have two — two! — pro-abortion clubs at Georgetown University. Now they’re bringing in Kathleen Sebelius. They wouldn’t bring in an anti-Semite, nor should they. They wouldn’t bring in a racist, nor should they. But they’re bringing in a pro-abortion champion, and they shouldn’t.”

Washington’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl called the invitation “shocking” and upbraided the Georgetown president, John DeGioia. But DeGioia, who so elegantly defended the Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke against Rush Limbaugh’s nasty epithets, stood fast against dogmatic censorship.

Speaking to the graduates, Sebelius evoked J.F.K.’s speech asserting that religious bodies should not seek to impose their will through politics. She said that contentious debate is a strength of this country, adding that in some other places, “a leader delivers an edict and it goes into effect. There’s no debate, no criticism, no second-guessing.”

Just like the Vatican.

Twenty-eight years ago, weighing a run for president, Mario Cuomo gave a speech at Notre Dame in which he deftly tried to explain how officials could remain good Catholics while going against church dictums in shaping public policy.

“The American people need no course in philosophy or political science or church history to know that God should not be made into a celestial party chairman,” he said.

I called Cuomo to see if, as his son Andrew weighs running for president, he felt the church had grown less tolerant.

“If the church were my religion, I would have given it up a long time ago,” he said. “All the mad and crazy popes we’ve had through history, decapitating the husbands of women they’d taken. All the terrible things the church has done. Christ is my religion, the church is not.

“If they make the mistake of saying that a politician has to put the church before the Constitution on abortion or other issues, there will be no senators or presidents or any other Catholics in government. The church would be wiser to take the path laid out for us by Kennedy than the path laid out for us by Santorum.”

Absolute intolerance is always a sign of uncertainty and panic. Why do you have to hunt down everyone unless you’re weak? The church doesn’t seem to care if its members’ beliefs are based on faith or fear, conviction or coercion. But what is the quality of a belief that exists simply because it’s enforced?

“To be narrowing the discussion and instilling fear in people seems to be exactly the opposite of what’s called for these days,” says the noted religion writer Kenneth Briggs. “All this foot-stomping just diminishes the church’s credibility even more.”

This is America. We don’t hunt heresies here. We welcome them.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

80 Former Priests Oppose Marriage Amendment

A group of 80 former Minnesota Catholic priests spoke out May 17 against the proposed marriage amendment at a media event in Minneapolis. Representatives distributed a list of the 80 former priests, who, they emphasized, "collectively devoted more than 1,000 years of service to the Church."

Since active priests in the local archdiocese were strongly discouraged to engage in any public dissent on this issue, the former priests stated they were "free to express our opinions openly."

The spokesmen, all highly respected in church circles, explained that Catholics have a choice on this matter when they vote in November.

Paul Mohrbacher, a published novelist and playwright, said: "The amendment is called the 'Sanctity of Marriage' amendment. The name implies that we should be very afraid for the institution of marriage if it is defeated, sanctity has never been a property of the law." He concluded that "people of faith can be opposed in good conscience to this amendment."

John Estrem, the former rector of the St. Paul Cathedral, cited a striking example of how discrimination can harm gay Catholics. He said that "the church I know and love is about welcoming and inclusion. We live in a pluralistic society."

Ed Flahavan, a priest for 48 years, served on Governor's Task Force on Gay and Lesbian Minnesotans. He revealed that his homophobia quickly evaporated when he got to know some gay people. "For the life of me," he said, "I cannot see how same-sex marriage is in any way a threat to my happy marriage."

Following is the statement released by the group.

As former Catholic priests who collectively devoted more than 1,000 years of service to the Church, we strongly oppose the proposed marriage amendment to the Minnesota State Constitution. Free to express our opinions openly, we call on all people of good will to exercise their fundamental right to follow their consciences and to resist discrimination against any of God's children.

We encourage Minnesotans to base their vote on principles of justice and love. the proposed amendment, in violation of those principles, would deprive an individual of his or her right to marry the person he or she loves. Therefore, as former priests, we encourage all Minnesotans to vote "NO" on the marriage amendment.

Recommended Off-site Links:
Resigned Priest Ed Flahavan: I Have Heard the Arguments for the Marriage Amendment and I Find Them Wanting, Prejudicial and DestructiveSensus Fidelium (May 17, 2012).
Some MN Priests Split with Catholic Hierarchy Over Marriage Amendment – Sasha Aslanian (Minnesota Public Radio, May 17, 2012).
Conflicted Catholics: Consciences Wrestle with Church Actions on Marriage Amendment – Beth Hawkins (MinnPost, April 18, 2012).
Catholics Engaged in Gay Marriage Battle – Sasha Aslanian (Minnesota Public Radio News, May 14, 2012).
"This is the Living Word"Sensus Fidelium (March 28, 2012).
A Catholic Rationale for Opposing the "Marriage Amendment" – Michael Bayly (The Wild Reed, March 2, 2012).
The Minneapolis (and Online) Premiere of Catholics for Marriage Equality – Michael Bayly (The Wild Reed, October 17, 2011).
Archbishop Just One of Many Catholic Voices in Gay Marriage Debate – Michael Bayly (Sensus Fidelium, December 12, 2011).

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Quote of the Day

We must be honest and admit that there are only two remaining large systems in the world that are totally patriarchal in their style and in their leadership: Communist states and the Roman Catholic Church. Ours never looked quite as bad since we at least used the language of Jesus, the symbols of communion, humility, and service, and we men even dress in rather feminine robes. The Communist states make no display of humility themselves or respect for the feminine side of anything. But the real bottom lines in the Roman Church are becoming more and more apparent to thinking and spiritual people in the last decade or so. Despite the very clear reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960's, the Roman patriarchy, a closed system that allows no prophetic critique, and their branch appointed officers (bishops) are step by step rolling back both the spirit and the letter of the Vatican II reforms – while pretending and saying they are not. (Remember, if you can reject this Council, then you have the basis for rejecting the other 20 Councils of the Church too! The Pope and bishops had better be very careful!)

Deceit and supposed magnanimity are at the heart of all patriarchies, or otherwise their subjects would see what they are actually doing. North Koreans also believe their "Great Father" is protecting them, as did many Filipinos under Marcos, and Russians under their Tsars and Tsaritsas.

No group accepted the reforms and tried to renew itself following the Council like the American Sisters. Yes, they made their mistakes, and also enjoyed certain matriarchal benefits over the laity. Nevertheless, this cruel, humiliating, and intimidating attempt by the Roman Curia ("the place that cares for") to punish and control the American sisters is being seen for what it is, and what it is not: It IS male patriarchal control, hurt feelings because they are not that much in control any more, and it is certainly NOT anything like Jesus or the Gospel. Patriarchal systems normally engineer their own demise by such gross misuse of power. We all need to sincerely pray – and speak much needed Gospel to very worldly power.

– Richard Rohr, OFM
May 10, 2012

See also the previous PCV posts:
The Vatican's Latest Target in the War on Women: Nuns
LCWR: Why Are We Not Surprised?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

In Ireland, One Thousand People Attend Conference on Future of Catholic Church

By Patsy McGarry

NOTE: The following article was first published May 8 by the Irish Times.

Speakers showed the spirit of compassion
unleashed by Vatican II remains alive.

Two outstanding characteristics were immediately evident at the “Toward an Assembly of the Catholic Church” event in Dublin yesterday morning.

One was the unexpectedly large number there. The other was their age profile. One of the organizers, Fr Brendan Hoban, parish priest in Moygownagh, Co Mayo, and a member of the Association of Catholic Priests leadership team, seemed taken aback. They had expected 200, he said, but “there are in excess of 900”.

The number increased to well over 1,000 and, unusually for a day-long conference, continued to grow as the day progressed. The attendance was, Fr Hoban felt, “a huge statement” of the desire of Catholics for change. Many were priests, many were nuns, most were laity. Almost all were middle-aged and older. But then the average age of an Irish Catholic priest today is 64, while the age profile generally seemed an accurate reflection of those at any weekend Mass. They were broadly representative of Ireland’s practicing Catholics.

Even a couple of younger people who spoke during open sessions were an accurate representation in number and view of that increasingly strident, traditionalist element among young Irish Catholics today. Though there were also more liberally minded young Catholics there too. But, and typically, they were less assertive than their traditionalist peers and did not get the chance to speak.

Still, that is to digress from the spirit of yesterday’s event which was overwhelmingly of Vatican II, as articulated again and again by those forever loyal children of that great council.

Despite four decades of rowing ba ck by Rome it was evident from yesterday’s contributions that the 60s spirit of openness, inclusiveness and compassion unleashed by Pope John XXIII remains alive and well in the Irish Catholic Church.

Also striking was the passion with which contributors spoke. It was to be reminded once more that in the Ireland of today it is not to the young one looks for those grand old architects of change: courage, drive, commitment, or its great engine, anger. You look to the older generations.

It was to be reminded that the only real people revolution of recent years in Ireland was when the over-70s faced down Brian Lenihan over their medical cards in October 2008.

Of course age is itself a reason why people such as those at yesterday’s assembly are prepared to stand up and say they are not going to take it anymore. For the laity among, then life’s responsibilities have been discharged and there’s little to lose. For the priests and nuns present the attitude was one of “what more can they do to me”?

It is early days and there’s a long way to go, as Fr Hoban also said, but something was unleashed yesterday. Time will tell “what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born”?

Related Off-site Links:
Ireland Assembly of Religious and Laypeople Calls for Open Church, Re-evaluation – Michael Kelly (National Catholic Reporter, May 8, 2012).
Advancing the Spirit Beats Reforming the Reform – Colleen Kochivar-Baker (Enlightened Catholicism, May 8, 2012).

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Church Turmoil in Wisconsin

By Jack Nicas

NOTE: The following article was first published May 7 by the Wall Street Journal.

A Wisconsin bishop's rebuke of Roman Catholics who bristled at the conservative practices of their parish priests has become another example of tension among U.S. Catholics over tradition's role in the church.

The two priests are members of a Spanish group assigned two years ago to Platteville, a farming community 60 miles southwest of Madison. They have attracted new parishioners but driven away many others by banning females as altar servers, enforcing a dress code for Mass (no shorts or short skirts) and emphasizing doctrinal orthodoxy in their sermons.

Declining attendance and a drop-off in donations at St. Mary Catholic Church, the larger of Platteville's two parishes, since the priests' arrival has forced the parish to plan to close its 77-year old school.

Attendance and donations are also down, though slightly, at the city's other Catholic congregation, on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.

Last month, soon after the parish announced it planned to close its school, Bishop Robert Morlino issued a public letter. He wrote that after investigating allegations from parishioners that the priests aren't teaching according to the precepts of the church, he found that the faith is being taught in the proper manner, but "what remains are personal likes and dislikes, along with inflated rumors and gossip, some which may even rise to the level of calumnious inciting of hatred of your priests, the faith and myself." The bishop had earlier objected to the some church members' efforts to oust the priests, including seminars on protest-letter writing, leafleting of vehicles and gathering signatures on a petition door-to-door.

In last month's letter, he also asked parishioners to "reflect prayerfully" on texts he attached. Those included the Code of Canon Law, which empowers the bishop to censure parishioners and effectively ban them from receiving sacraments, such as Holy Communion, in a step known as an interdict.

Nicholas Cafardi, an expert on church law and dean emeritus of Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, said the bishop's warning was "rare." Bishop Morlino "is telling them, 'Let's not go down this road,'" he said.

The Platteville conflict is another flare-up in the Catholic Church's internal struggle between traditionalists and those who believe it must do more to adapt to the times. In Washington state recently, local priests bridled at taking part in a referendum drive endorsed by their archbishop to repeal a recent law legalizing same-sex marriage there.

Soon after the Spanish priests arrived, more than 400 of Platteville's roughly 900 Catholic parishioners signed a petition demanding their removal, though some area Catholics embraced them.

The Rev. Faustino Ruiz, one of the two Spanish priests in Platteville, said his more traditionalist beliefs are in line with a return to Catholicism's core values led by Pope Benedict XVI. "The Catholic Church is now in a time of crisis and confusion," he said, "and we have to restore the tradition of the Catholic Church in order to have our identity."

Father Ruiz and the other priest in Platteville are members of the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest, a group of several dozen traditionalist pastors from Murcia, Spain, that emphasizes traditional Catholic practices and concepts such as the importance of regular confession as a means of salvation.

The Madison diocese, which comprises 132 churches, employs eight of the society's pastors and at least nine consecrated women, who are similar to nuns, in eight churches, said diocese spokesman Brent King. The diocese has welcomed the society's members in part because it needs priests, Mr. King said.

Weekend attendance at St. Mary's is off by a third since 2009, just before the first priests arrived, said the diocese. Weekly donations have also fallen 45% to an average of $6,000.

Even before the priests came, the community's school-age population had been declining. The per-pupil costs of education at the school have nearly doubled in the past five years, said diocese spokesman Brent King, while tuition has gone up only slightly. The church had been making up the difference with donations, which peaked in the 2009-2010 school year at 75% of total school costs.

But last year, as donations began to fall, the parish subsidy to the school fell to 54% of costs. This year, the financial gap became too big.

"Because of the high parish subsidy of the school, and the decrease in parish offertory (whether as a matter of protest or because a family had left), the parish could simply no longer afford to subsidize the school's budget," Mr. King wrote in an email.

Some area Catholics approved of the message brought by the new priests. Gregory Merrick, 62 years old, began driving the 20 miles to St. Mary's when he heard the new priests were traditionalist. Catholicism "is first about the good news that we are saved, but that news is hooked irrevocably to the notion that we're sinners," he said. "Do we as Catholics want to conform to the church, or do we want the church to conform to us? I suggest the latter of those two possibilities is a disaster."

Retired teacher Rosemary Anderson, a former St. Mary's council member, left the church in February. She said the two priests, Father Ruiz and the Rev. John Del Priore, "are very conservative, very much their-way-or-the-highway," and that she believed their sermons emphasize confession and sin while lacking discussion of charity and embracing others.

Father Ruiz called that characterization "unfair" and said he and Father Del Priore preach and practice both salvation and charity.

The Rev. Steven Avella, a history professor at Marquette University in Milwaukee, said only two U.S. dioceses bar females as altar servers.

Friday, May 4, 2012

"Singing Our Hearts Out" for Marriage Equality

By Bev Bailey

My husband Bill and I spent much of last Saturday singing our hearts out. Catholics in support of marriage equality (which our local bishop opposes) were filmed singing a song about the pain homosexual children experience as they grow up and have to keep secret the truth of whom they love.

One of the men present said he was 30 years old when he came out to his parents. About five years later, his mother told him how sorry she was that he had had to bear this secret for 30 years, that he had not been comfortable enough to even share it with his parents. But that was the culture of society and our churches in the past. Unfortunately that is still the practice of many churches even today. Even today, children of same-sex unions are bullied in school. And think of all the young people that commit suicide because they are gay and their parents and others around them will not accept that fact. It is not a choice; it is not a mental condition; and no amount of therapy will change this. They have been created and loved by the same God that us heterosexual people believe in. Some say the Bible condemns homosexuality but it also okays slavery and the stoning of children. Is it possible that we don’t understand what the Bible is trying to tell us?

Please vote NO in November; talk about this issue with your friends; check out this website for coverage of today’s recording and other activities that are going on right now to defeat this hurtful amendment.

Many religious denominations are working for marriage equality. And watch for the release of today’s recording sometime in late summer.

Recommended Off-site Links:
"The Holy Spirit Descended On Them..." – Jim Smith (Sensus Fidelium, April 29, 2012).
Catholics for Marriage Equality MN