The Newark Archbishop recently stated that that the legalization of gay marriage is a threat to religious freedom and that Catholics who don’t believe the church’s teachings on gay marriage should not receive Communion. He seems to be using Communion as a weapon for keeping folks “in line”.  Does he really have to take things this far? What happened to Pope Benedict’s statement that the Gospel is to be proposed, never imposed? A legitimate question is how many folks will pay attention to him, and how many will simply follow their conscience wherever it takes them.

I wonder what this says for priests. Is he telling priests who do not accept the church’s position on same sex marriage should not celebrate Mass? If they do, what impact would this have on the archdiocese? If a statement like this came out from some higher level of church authority and priests obeyed it, what impact would it have on any diocese? If priests were ordered to publicly proclaim such and similar statements from the pulpit during Mass, what would the priests do whose conscience led them to think otherwise? This might be calling for some serious thinking. Not a few priests might find themselves between the proverbial rock and hard place.

Then there is the question of other traditions who do not share the Catholic interpretation. What about their religious freedom? Or does religious freedom belong only to the Roman Catholic Church?

I recall my own personal anger at hearing so many of the wonderful folks I have served with described as “intrinsically disordered”. Sez who? Jesus? I think not.

The Archbishop says he issued his letter because he feels there is a lack of clarity on the subject from other bishops. Maybe other bishops have a pastoral sense that helps them see the whole issue differently. Perhaps they have the privilege of knowing good folks who are being hurt and driven away by such pronouncements allegedly issued in the name of Jesus. These are good folks who are created in the image and likeness of God. Pope Benedict XVI said at his installation Mass, “Everyone of us is the consequence of a thought in the mind of God: everyone of us is important, every one of us is necessary, no one of us is an accident”. A number of the hierarchy, seeming to have an issue with this statement, also would seem to qualify it by saying, “and we will tell you how to cover up what we don’t like and what we are afraid of so you will not be a threat to our power”, or something like that. Where is Jesus in all this? My guess is that Jesus is with all who are hurt by the pronouncements and discriminatory statements, that he, too, is “intrinsically disordered”, since his lifestyle is a threat to those who would seek and abuse power in his name.

Many in church authority are issuing pronouncements like this and saying that persons in some of their devised categories are “intrinsically disordered”. Do they really believe what they are saying, or are they so eager for promotions that they will jump on the bandwagon and say whatever they think will get them to the next level? After all, there are only so many red hats. Jesus didn’t treat folks like that. He loved them as they were. He reached out to everybody with his Father’s love without laying any conditions on them.

The hierarchy as an institution seems to depend quite a bit on fear. Their style of ruling is based on threats and punishments, and it has great affect on many good folks who are conditioned to accept every statement without limit, and on many folks who see the hierarchy for what it is, and just ignore it and walk away. Not all of these are laity. And so there is polarization in the church. Jesus did not use fear. He didn’t need it. Everything he did was rooted in his Father’s love. He must have missed something, and the hierarchy were good enough to pick it up and make up for Jesus’ shortcomings. They seem to know much more than Jesus did.

Although, noticing the vehemence of some who are pontificating on the subject, one might wonder if there is something else going on here. To paraphrase Hamlet, “perhaps they do protest too much”. Do they feel threatened by these issues or by the folks they are judging? Does it bother them that Jesus reached out to everybody with his Father’s love? Do they fear a loss of their sense of power and control? Does the messiness of human nature and human relationships make them afraid? Isn’t everything of God? Isn’t grace real? Isn’t Jesus with us in everything? Aren’t we gifts to each other? Isn’t love supposed to be difficult and beautiful at the same time?

Maybe Cardinal Martini, may he rest in peace, was on to something about the institutional church: “The Church is tired; our culture has become old, our churches and our religious houses are big and empty, the bureaucratic apparatus of the church grows, our rites and our dress are pompous; the Church is 200 years behind the times.”

Many of the folks in the pews, and probably most of the folks who used to be in the pews, know this.

Just wondering   .   .   .

Just sayin   .   .   .