By Judy Hampel
NOTE: This op-ed was first published June 10, 2014 by the Cincinnati Enquirer.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati has been in the news lately for its new contracts, which have resulted in the resignation of beloved, respected archdiocesan teachers.
The issue has also brought to the fore the question many Catholics have been pondering the last few decades while women, LGBTQs and other minorities have gained social and political status in the secular world: How can Catholics justify our participation in the parish life of a church that discriminates against women and gays?
I grew up in local Catholic communities where priests, sisters, brothers, teachers and lay leaders were accessible and humble and kind. When my children where young, I took them to church regularly, and I hoped they would find the same solace and nostalgia as I did in our Catholic faith community.
But over the years, as the world has adopted a more inclusive and egalitarian attitude toward women, LGBTQs and other minorities, and as the church has lagged behind in incorporating these ideals, I have begun to feel less sure of my place in the Catholic community.
I'm uncomfortable with church doctrine that excludes women from the priesthood and calls LGBTQ lifestyles sinful. These attitudes perpetuate misogynist and homophobic ideals that marginalize minorities and make all women and LGBTQs vulnerable to self-hatred and social marginalization on a global scale. In the media, we witness daily violence and oppression toward women and gays – victims who have paid a steep price for the collective nostalgia Catholics enjoy.
My concerns are compounded by the fact that the church is involved in the formal education of so many children and adolescents, including my own, during their most formative years, putting them at risk of internalizing these misconceptions in ways that could lead to years of misery, self-loathing and prejudice.
I'm trying to describe a not-uncommon experience that leaves many Catholics straddling a thorny pew: Should we stay, and hope and wait for a new vision for our faith community, or should we leave in protest before we find ourselves counted among those who would perpetuate such a dark legacy for the sake of tradition? Until recently, many of us never even considered a third possibility: challenging these egregious teachings openly by voicing our concerns. There is a very real danger that, whether we leave or stay, we are perpetuating a dark regime as long as we are silent.
And historically, silent is what we have been. Catholic readers might remember when, in the 1990s, the issue of a female priesthood was coming to the fore and many of us began to hope that the church would finally abandon its two-millennial history of discriminating against women. Instead, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith decreed a moratorium on discussion of the issue and, with very few exceptions, we immediately and succinctly shut up.
It was not one of the church's shining moments.
It's time to make up for lost time. It's time for all Catholics and anyone else who will join us to collectively call to task all leaders and followers of any religion, sect or denomination that indulges in discriminatory doctrines and practices. Because, let's face it, one of the most compelling forces inhibiting universal justice is intolerance toward others, which is often perpetuated by religious archaisms.
And it's time for the Catholic Church and its leaders to acknowledge the elephant on the altar: It's time to hear from the pulpit that the church is aware that we need to re-examine old doctrines and encourage a fuller truth and justice and mercy and unconditional love and acceptance and equality toward all. It's time to bring to fruition the hope that the religious scales will tip toward justice, mercy and tolerance.
It is – and has been for a very long time – time to speak.
Judy Hampel is a parishioner at St. Vivian Church and lives in Finneytown.
NOTE: Catholics in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis have a unique opportunity to "speak up." For more information, click here.
See also the previous PCV posts:
Let Our Voices Be Heard
Paul Lakeland in Minneapolis
The Call of the Baptized: Be the Church, Live the Mission
Creating a Liberating Church (Part 1)
Creating a Liberating Church (Part 2)
Creating a Liberating Church (Part 3)