Should liberals leave Catholic Church?
By Joan Vennochi, Globe Columnist | March 5, 2006
THE RED CARDINAL'S hat on its way to Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley sends a clear message to liberal Catholics who still hope the Catholic Church will shift their way: It isn't shifting.
Company men always reap their rewards. Cardinal Bernard Law got a basilica in Rome when the clergy sexual abuse scandal made Boston too inhospitable. O'Malley, another company man, gets elevated to cardinal for doing what the company ordered. O'Malley closed down parishes and is shutting down the vestiges of a liberal agenda in the Boston archdiocese.
Last week, seven members of the board of Catholic Charities of Boston announced their resignations. They were protesting the effort by Massachusetts bishops to prohibit gays from adopting children from their Catholic social service agencies. The seven who quit said the prohibition ''threatens the very essence of our Christian mission."
But the Roman Catholic Church, the institution seeking the prohibition, holds a drastically different view.
Church doctrine states that allowing children to be adopted by same-sex couples ''would actually mean doing violence to these children." Gay adoptions are ''gravely immoral."
If you agree with those principles, you are, according to the Vatican, a Catholic in good standing.
If you don't, you're not.
Liberals raised as Catholics refuse to accept this reality. We think we can be prochoice, pro-gay marriage , pro-gay adoption, and in favor of married and female priests and still call ourselves Catholic. The people who make the rules say we don't meet the criteria.
Every pronouncement from Pope Benedict XVI draws another line between official church doctrine and liberal ideology. When do liberals choose one side or the other?
Sue O'Connell, the copublisher of Bay Windows, New England's largest publication for lesbian and gay readers, believes it's time for liberal Catholics to take a stand -- just like board members did regarding their affiliation with Catholic Charities.
''I know a lot of Catholics, gay and straight," said O'Connell, a lesbian mother of a 5-year-old daughter. ''Everyone continues to go to church and act like their parish is not part of all of this -- the sexual scandal, the association to the Vatican and its stand on gay adoption. Everyone who believes that is in a state of denial."
''It's time to find a new path," she said.
O'Connell said the church is doing the expected -- enforcing its rules.
Catholics who don't agree with church doctrine are doing the unexpected -- sticking around where they are unwelcome, rather than moving on.
The stubborness is rooted in nostalgia, inertia, and arrogance. We cherish some memories, like the lacy white communion dress and the innocence of childhood confessions. Despite spotty attendance, we enjoy the ritual of Sunday Mass. We also believe our views are the enlightened ones and Rome's represent the neanderthal; eventually we will get a pope who understands that.
Liberals view the Catholic Charities controversy in Boston as a watershed moment, signaling a church hierarchy out of touch with ordinary Catholics. But the resignations in Boston, while laudable to fellow liberals, do not ruffle Rome nor Catholics who accept the rules. They are welcome. Just read the online posts to Catholic World News.
The local fervor to prevent gays from adopting children also shows that the sexual abuse scandal did not distract the church from the rules it cares most about. This week, the state attorney general's office scolded the archdiocese for failing to devise a system to keep track of abusive priests.
Conservative Catholics hold the power, not just in Rome but in the United States. When mobilized against abortion and gay marriage, they are a potent political force.
Catholics helped reelect George W. Bush. Survey results released last year by DemocracyCorps, the consulting group headed by James Carville, Stanley Greenberg, and Bob Shrum, showed that Bill Clinton carried the white Catholic vote by 7 points; Al Gore lost the white Catholic vote by 7 points; and John Kerry, a Catholic, lost the Catholic vote by 13 points. That is a 20 point swing, to the advantage of the GOP. It explains why Governor Mitt Romney, a probable Republican presidential candidate, would sympathize with Catholic bishops on the issue of gay adoption.
The church in Rome thinks in centuries, not in news cycles. It isn't budging.
Will liberals in America ever get the message?
Joan Vennochi's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company.
I don't quite know how I feel, as a liberal Catholic in the Boston area. My church has a GLBTA and a divorced Catholic's group, but apparently we are not in the norm.