I was in a real parish this past weekend. I actually presided at three Masses. I was the supply priest since the pastor was on vacation. There was a big part of me that did not want to go.
This is the weekend that begins the bishops’ fortnight of rage. I did not know how I would react if there was a bulletin insert. Should I get a stack of bulletins and rip the things out? Should I announce at the time for the homily that I believe in gay marriage and was self excommunicating myself and walk out, leaving all these folks with their obligation unfulfilled? Well there was no bulletin insert. There was a letter from the local bishop decrying how Catholic religious freedom was being denied by the Health and Human Services Mandate. I read the bishop’s letter. Most of the focus was on the fact the bishops could not enforce their morality on others if they were getting federal money. The protest was: “It’s against our conscience”. Well, don’t take the money.
This raised a few questions for me. Many of the formerly Catholic hospitals in my area have merged with other hospitals, not Catholic even secular. They still bear the Catholic name in most instances. One question would be: “Aren't your sacred moral imperatives already compromised?”
The argument of the bishops goes on that their morals will compromised if their “catholic” adoption agencies are forced to place children with gay couples or cohabiting couples. I noticed that the bishops link gay couples with couples that seem like they are living in sin. Sinister bishops!
I have no problem with the Catholic Church if it needs to turn down federal money for their agencies if their moral ideals are offended. They can even close those adoption services. If the church wants to keep them open and preserve their faith ideals, let them do it with their own money. This is America not some Roman Catholic Fiefdom.
There was something that did impress me this weekend. It is the resiliency of the Catholic people. I observed lots of things today. I saw devotion. I saw it in the old people and the young people. There was a healthy vibrancy. Yet I knew I was sitting with a parish community like most other Catholic communities that have had to have seen and perhaps even been involved in the sexual abuse crisis. Now they are suffering through the clergy shortage crisis. I suspect this parish while resilient in many ways has been decimated.
Over the weekend I grew to like this place. I did not throw any kind of tantrum. When we prayed for married couples, I prayed quietly for the some of the gay married couples I know. I trust that the even the all powerful bishops can’t block sincere prayers. I was able to share something of myself over the weekend; and while I might be presumptuous, I like to think these folks, if they really knew more about me would not throw me out or deny my religious freedom.