Friday, July 30, 2010
Father Roy Bourgeios, a prominent
activist for social justice, gave a homily at a service in which ,
contrary to Catholic doctrine a woman was ordained as a priest. He was
excommunicated four months later.
Father Steven Kiesle asked to leave the
priesthood after his arrest for molesting children. His Bishop sent
letters to the Vatican recommending approval. Four years later, Cardinal
Ratzinger wrote back saying the issue needed careful consideration and
more time. After six years, Kiesle was defrocked.
David A. Sylvester in a thoughtful post at Tikkun Daily writes about why he stays in the Church, this despite his
full recognition of the horror of the comparison of the Church's
treatment of the two priests and his understanding of the checkered
history of the Church. His main lines of argument involve ways in which
liberal Catholics distance themselves from the leadership of the Church.
It is standard Catholic doctrine that Catholics must follow their
well-formed conscience even if it conflicts with those of Church
leaders. Moreover, he does not regard the Vatican as the Church; he
argues that the People of God are the Church. He believes Church leaders
should be confronted in a prophetic spirit of justice, not vengeance.
On the latter point, it may be easier for many
to do this outside the Church than inside. If one stays inside the
Church one is more likely to be angry at Church leaders because one
feels more attached. On the People of God point, ironically, Sylvester
provides the resources to take much of the liberal comfort out of
identifying with them rather than the Vatican. In developing an argument
for humility and understanding the forces working on Church leaders, he
observes that American Catholics are only 6% of the world's Catholics
and, of course, a hefty percentage of American Catholics are not
liberal. On the sexist issues associated with the women's ordination
issue or the issues associated with sexual orientation, from the
perspective of the liberal, the People of God are not much better than
the Vatican. Indeed, the People of God might be less likely to speak out
against the materialism, hedonism, and general limitations of
capitalism. On the other hand, the People of God would be less likely to
cover up sex abuse.
Sylvester also is moved by a more primitive argument. The conservatives would like me to go. I will not give them the satisfaction. No doubt many conservatives want the liberals to go; they would prefer a smaller more unified Church. There is a lot of "Go Back to Russia" sentiments among Catholic conservatives. But among others there is a desire for liberals to stay and for them to lead the best Catholic lives they can. I think this may animate the views of the Church leadership. On the other hand, there are material considerations as well. American Catholics provide needed material support for the mission of the Catholic Church. I do not think the Church leadership wants to lose that.