A short piece went up on the NY Times website last night in which the author describes her journey from a repressive Catholic upbringing, which seems to have ended in a falling away from the Church, to a rediscovery of her faith in the form of a progressive ”Catholic under protest.” I found myself sympathetic to much of the ”under protest” faith she describes, but I also winced at a few passages that seemed a bit to much like consumer religion:
I liked parishes that were racially and socio-economically diverse, houses of worship that were beautiful, the presence of women priests when I was lucky enough to encounter it. I had zero tolerance for folk masses, anti-abortion diatribes, ecclesiastical greed, rote reciters of scripture and congregants who refused to sing. (After all, as St. Augustine said, “singing is twice praying.”) When people in the pews were unkind to my generally well-mannered children, I crossed their church off my list. I preferred my homilists witty, lyrical and learned.
Passages like this seem to conflict with her “reform from within” attitude, as commended to her by one former nun:
One of the speakers was a former Catholic nun who left her order many years ago and is currently an Interfaith minister. She spoke of her work as a person of the cloth, her life as a lesbian, her 25 years with her beloved. The honorific “Reverend” precedes her name. She wears a Roman collar. That night, her address was filled with surprises, but only one aspect of her speech shocked me: her fervent recommendation that progressive Catholics remain in the Church — so as to be in a position to create change. She still worships in a Roman Catholic Church.
What is most concerning is that the church she loves does not seem to be the church that is:
I love the radical Catholic Church. I love that there are Roman Catholic bishops sticking their necks out to ordain women. That Catholic doctrine places mighty emphasis on the role of conscience in worship and creates fertile ground for conscientious dissent. I support dramatic change as energetically as I can. I withhold my cash from the bishops and hand my diocesan appeal tender to the Woman’s Ordination Conference and to SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests). I devote much time and talent to working in the Gay Ministry at my church. I recognize it is my obligation as a conscious, conscientious Catholic to discern — to know that the church no more belongs to the Vatican than it does to me. The power of the Church may rest with the College of Cardinals, but its glory rests with people like me.
Once I accepted that being Roman Catholic did not require that I be a papist — once I understood that it was possible to be simultaneously outraged by and in love with the Church — I saw the obstacles to being a practicing Catholic in a new way.
I worry that this kind of “Catholic under protest” is not one who really wants to embrace a flawed Church and seek to lovingly reform it as the Spirit guides the hearts of ALL the faithful, but rather, she seems to want to support para-church movements that are doing everything but breaking with the church. This, it seems, is not the most productive strategy for reform. Mostly, I worry that she is just not being honest about where the church is and the level of commitment to the larger Catholic community that is required to change it.