Sunday, November 7, 2010

The "Dumbing Down" of the Roman Catholic Church

By Rev. Robert W. Caruso

Note: The following article by Robert Caruso was published in the November issue of the Minneapolis newspaper Southside Pride. Robert is a partnered gay man and an ordained priest in the Old Catholic Church. He serves as pastor to Cornerstone Old Catholic Community.

The Roman Catholic Church has always been controversial on social issues. In recent years the Roman leadership has spiraled further and further into a more aggressive absolutist, monarchical and judgmental kind of leadership that distinctly and genuinely has embraced a power that is neither pastoral nor loving.

Minnesota's Roman Catholic Archbishop Neinstedt has singled out a persecuted minority group to demonize and bully. As a gay man in a relationship for close to 14 years, and as an ordained Old Catholic priest, I feel compelled to say something for the sake of the Catholic Church and the GLBT community here in the Twin Cities. Let me be clear that I love the Church and believe that the Second Vatican Council was Spirit-driven in a most dynamic way. But I believe the Roman Catholic leadership in Minnesota has imposed extreme injustices on Catholic gay and lesbian persons as well as on progressive Catholics in general.

It is indeed dangerous for us to remain silent or wait for better days within the Catholic Church when such horrible psychological abuse is inflicted upon gay and lesbian persons who merely seek to fully live their lives in harmony and peace with others. It is no longer acceptable to be "bi-partisan" or "non-controversial" on this issue when such psychological abuse from Archbishop Neinstedt is apparent and unapologetic.

The conciliatory renewal that was to occur in the post-Vatican II Roman Catholic Church has gone stagnant. The pastoral constitution of "Gaudium et Spes" ("Joy and Hope") has all but been ignored by Pope Benedict and more locally by Archbishop Neinstedt. It is clear that the church's fidelity to persons having a God-given gift of freedom of conscience is a very scary idea for men like them because complex social moral issues such as same-sex marriage indeed require something more than calculated vagaries of fear and manipulation. Dialogue needs to happen, and this can only occur among persons with free consciences. Moreover, Vatican II explicitly proclaims that bishops are called to "direct the energies" of the church "towards its common good" in a manner that is pastoral in character and "not in a mechanical or despotic fashion." (GS, Ch. 4, sec. 74)

The recent political actions of Archbishop Neinstedt, the mailing of 400,000 DVDs in opposition to the civil rights movement of same-sex marriage, are grotesque, to say the least. Neinstedt's DVD message is but one example among others of what many Catholics and non-Catholics believe is the systematic "dumbing down" of the Roman Catholic Church. The message contained in the DVD was neither theological nor intelligent, but deceptively political in singling out gay and lesbian persons.

I will no longer participate in the "dumbing down" of the Catholic Church I grew up with and love. We are the church of Ireaneus, Tertullian and Gregory of Nyssa; we are a church that cherishes a pastorally reasonable and coherent tradition! We are a Christian tradition that is comprised primarily of eucharistic table communities where worship reminds us that we live in an ordered creation that moves Christians to love in generosity and nonviolence. The Roman Catholic leadership has clearly ostracized Catholic gay and lesbian persons from the eucharistic table! It is time to celebrate our Catholic faith apart from the Roman Catholic leadership — it is time for us progressive Catholics to form eucharistic table communities as a "counter-structure" from the Roman leadership.

The spirit of Vatican II is not dead, but alive in those of us who seek to fully live our lives as the People of God, regardless of sexual orientation.

That is to say, the spirit of Vatican II continues to move beyond the denominational borders of Roman Catholicism! Our hope, our joy is our coming together as a eucharistic community where the tradition of the church is not "dumbed down," but enriched and transformed in the communion of the Spirit!

Recommended Off-site Links:
Understanding the Old Catholic Church (Part 1)
Understanding the Old Catholic Church (Part 2)
Understanding the Old Catholic Church (Part 3)
The Old Catholic Church: Catholicism Beyond Rome - An interview with Robert Caruso.


  1. The Roman Catholic church joins in the dumbing down of America. In the recent past such prejudice and underhanded action as the DVDs sent out were the province of the fundamentalist movement in America. Now it has reached the Roman Catholic church, and how profoundly unsetting that is. Not being Roman Catholic, it does not have quite the same effect on me as it does to those to whom it brings sadness as well as just anger. But nonetheless I mourn that another great institution has so fundamentally (no pun intended) lost its way.

  2. Resume Blog 4 is up. It's clear we are in transition.

  3. " -- the spirit of Vatican II continues to move beyond the denominational borders of Roman Catholicism!" Resume Blog 5 is up. The spirit moves way beyond.

  4. "Let me be clear that I love the Church and believe that the Second Vatican Council was Spirit-driven in a most dynamic way."
    People & Planet Resume Blog 6 is up.