April 26, 2005

Why I Am Still A Catholic

By Suzanne Camino

Gay marriage? I'm all for it. Women priests? We need them desperately. Married clergy? It's time. Just war? Oxymoronic, from a Christian perspective.

And yet here I am, in the wake of the sexual abuse scandals, in the shadow of politicians denied the body of Christ for their political stands, with the knowledge that some of my weekly tithe is being used to promote legislation that denies civil rights to homosexuals, recommitting to the Catholic faith of my childhood and to the Catholic Church itself, with its looming, maddening, dangerous flaws. A gay friend, not Catholic, asks politely a question that boils down to 'How could you?'

What's the deal? Why not find a nice, progressive Episcopal church where my young daughter would see women in leadership roles and where I could support the ongoing realization of the civil and human rights issues close to my heart?

Blame Pope John XXIII. He opened the first session of Vatican II on Oct. 11, 1962. The modern church and I were born in the same week. 'Let's open the windows,' Pope John famously said, and as I grew I watched the windows fly open and I took for granted the fresh air blowing in. I watched my young, devout parents embrace the new Mass, the new music, and the new architecture that focused on community, on inclusiveness, on the participation of the laity.

I went to catechism classes where they told me that being Catholic was about serving the poor and seeing Jesus in every suffering person. 'If you want peace, work for justice,' were the oft-quoted words of Pope Paul VI, the pope we prayed for and listened to while I was in elementary and junior high school. [...]

I didn't move away from the church; the church moved away from itself, and damned if I am going to let it get away. As one of the nuns at my new parish told me, following a frustrating series of decisions by the church hierarchy, 'Just because they're in charge doesn't mean it isn't our church too.' Amen, sister.


My catechism classes were one factors that lead me to my liberalism.


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