, Gloucester, MA


December 1, 2010

Insights and Outbursts: Politics and the Catholic Church

"You must be the change you want to see in the world."

— Mahatma Gandhi

I read an article in the Oct. 22 issue of Commonweal Magazine by Notre Dame Law Professor Cathleen Kaveny called "Long Goodbye: Why some devout Catholics are leaving the Church."

It's the first time I've seen a Catholic magazine address the subject of Catholics who leave "as a matter of conscience."

Kaveny describes them as people who "see no hope of institutional reform" because clergy abuse is seen "as a problem of individual sinfulness, not of broader flaws in church teaching and practices ... From the perspective of these Catholics, doctrine and practice are not developing but withering.

"But why not stay and fight?" Kaveny writes. "First, because they think remaining appears to involve complicity in evil; second, because fighting appears to be futile; and, third, because they don't like what fighting is doing to them. The fight is diminishing their ability to hear the gospel and proclaim that good news. The fight is depriving them of the peace of Christ."

I also read "Catholics in Belgium Start Parishes of Their Own," by Doreen Carvajal in the Nov. 17 issue of the New York Times. It was about "a grass-roots movement that defies centuries of Roman Catholic Church doctrine by worshiping and sharing communion without a priest."

Carvajal tells of a service conducted by parishioners in Don Bosco parish, "one of about a dozen alternative Catholic churches ... in Dutch-speaking regions of Belgium and the Netherlands. They are an uneasy reaction to a combination of forces: a shortage of priests, the closing of churches, dissatisfaction with Vatican appointments of conservative bishops and... dismay over cover-ups of sexual abuse by priests."

Both articles gave me hope for the future of a church in which parishioners, outraged by crimes committed by priests and prelates, refuse to be denied the Eucharist because of a shortage of priests.

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