Archive for March, 2009


Honest Catholic Observations–it’s just time.

I’m a cradle Catholic.  Catholic school-bred and a career in the church for 35 years.  I’m starting this blog because I have reached a point of anger and frustration that requires reflection and action.  It is prompted at this moment because of Pope Benedict’s statements about Aids and condom use upon arriving on the continent of Africa:  “You can’t resolve it with the distribution of condoms,” Benedict said, adding, “On the contrary, it increases the problem.” 

I understand the Catholic position on contraceptives completely and fully, and I don’t fault the Pontiff for entering into this dialogue on a continent ravished by this disease.  Had he challenged the population–especially Catholics–with the teaching of the church while demonstrating empathy and mercy for those afflicted, dying and orphaned, I would understand.  I would disagree and be frustrated and probably still question his authority in this matter.

But he lied.  There is not a scintilla of evidence that the widespread use of condoms increases the transmission of the Aids virus.  He is a brilliant, learned man with a staff that is completely capable of researching the current science of the pathology of HIV.  His lie condemns tens of thousands to death.

I will write more about this at another time.  I have other fish to fry–they have been crackling in the pan for years and it is time to plate the results.  Because I can’t get to every issue, I intend to use Catholic Comment to explore local and global issues with Holy Mother Church.   I welcome your comments.   I know some of you will find my words and thoughts and conclusions dead wrong, perhaps even heretical.  Fine.  I am 57 and I am at peace with my self and my God.  Where I can, I will provide links for your further exploration.

My immediate and most pressing issues:

I’m shocked that I’ve reached a point in my life where I worry that my active participation as a Catholic  is enabling, or supporting, injustice at both the parish and global levels.  I’ve often been the Catholic advising angry friends not to confuse the imperfect people running the church with the Body itself.  But I suddenly find myself challenged and so have become the recipient of my own advice.  And I don’t buy it.

It was difficult enough to endure the scandal and tragedy of the child abuse revelations.  “Those are individual priests.  They no more represent Catholics than murderers in US prisons represent Americans.”  But I think those years did have an impact on me that manifests itself today as a more pragmatic reaction to “church” actions.  For instance:

I was invited to a party in the basement of our church for a lifelong parishioner who has been an unpaid staff member in our parish for close to 40 years.  The birthday party was almost entirely very active congregation members who shared a pot luck, a bit of cake and some prayer.  Yet the parish “charged” the party $108, to which end a basket was passed.  I know all about insurance and archdiocesan policies and all that.   Despite, or because of those, an injustice was done to our community.

It’s a tiny thing.  Hardly worth the time to type it up, I suppose.  But it dripped into the same pan with Benedict’s awful statement in Africa, with the loss of our 5th youth minister in 7 years, with the refusal to give communion to Secratary Sebelius and the excommunication of doctors treating a 9 year old rape victim.  I can no longer hold myself distant from these injustices and dispassionatley claim my own innocence.

I have been arrested for civil disobedience in the service my own pacifist activism.  I have stood outside the gates of San Quinton Prison dozens of times over the years in prayerful protest of capital punishment, marched in protests and waved placards at rallies and been indicted and tried twice in federal court for refusal of induction during the Vietnam war.  And so much of my social justice work has been inspired by the church, by the life and teachings of the Christ, and through countless Catholic lay and religious members of my church.

So I have taken principled and risky stands.  But it is with my own church that I feel the need to step back and re-examine what it means to live a Christian life within religious community, including publicly questioning authority and pointing out iniquity.  And so I will, here.

My next post will cover Catholic Education in the US today.


March 2009
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