Monthly Archives: October 2014

Resisting from the Inside: Cardinal Burke and Why I Won’t Leave the Catholic Church

“No! Not again!” That was all I could say as I looked at my computer on Friday morning, reading Cardinal Raymond Burke’s words about same-sex marriage in a recent interview. Here is an excerpt:

“We wouldn’t, if it were another kind of relationship — something that was profoundly disordered and harmful — we wouldn’t expose our children to that relationship, to the direct experience of it. And neither should we do it in the context of a family member who not only suffers from same-sex attraction, but who has chosen to live out that attraction, to act upon it, committing acts which are always and everywhere wrong, evil.”

What do I say this time? I’m tired of making arguments that “this does not represent everyone in the Catholic Church.” I’m tired of telling people to just find parishes or communities that are more “progressive” and “do not share these views (while living in Boston, I have been fortunate to find such communities, but not everyone has).” I’m tired of quoting theologians. I’m tired of quoting the Gospel. Why? Because I think everyone is tired of hearing these same old defenses! Nothing I can say about Catholicism can take away the fact that sexism and homophobia are very prevalent realities in the church. Nothing I can say can take away the hurt that people feel over comments like those made by Cardinal Burke on Wednesday.

How do I defend my decision to not just leave the Catholic Church? I am not yet a mother, but I hope to be someday. While I am heterosexual, some very important people in my life identify as gay or lesbian- and these are people that I would want in my children’s lives from the very start- and this would not be for the sake of being “inclusive,” but rather simply because these are people that are smart, hard-working, funny, kind, and loving- qualities I want my children to have! What I want to shield my children from are comments like Cardinal Burke’s- I do not want them to see that even “holy men” can be cruel, I do not want them to see that sometimes when people are their truest selves, not everyone accepts them. As a Catholic who plans to remain such, I already have been struggling over what to I will tell my future daughter (if I have one) when she asks why there are no “girl priests.” How will I explain that its not allowed, that along with the modern media, the Catholic Church also will tell her that her body isn’t good enough, that it is not able to act “in persona Christi?” Furthermore, how will I show the people I care about that I really do reject the church’s teachings and statements regarding women, LGBTQ persons, and others who feel marginalized by the church? Am I not a hypocrite for remaining Catholic? Am I really resisting?

Then I happened to be reading God is New Each Moment, a series of interviews with Edward Schillebeeckx. Schillebeeckx, who died in 2009, was a Dominican priest who loved the church but was not afraid to criticize it, especially later in his life. When asked why he remains Catholic, he said “if all those who criticize the church leave it, the anti-biblical tendencies in the Church will simply be strengthened.” Using the example of Hans Kung,a Swiss theologian known for his rejection of papal infallibility, Schillebeeckx said, “What Rome would have liked most of all, I suspect, is that Hans Kung had become a Protestant…. But he continues as a Catholic and is a thorn in the flesh of the Catholic Church.”

While I certainly maintain that leaving the church is the right decision for many people, Schillebeeckx’s words reminded me that it is not the only way to resist. Resistance can come from within and in fact, resistance from within may at times prove even stronger. Cardinal Burke may not want to listen to the voices of LGBTQ Catholics and their allies. The pope may not want to hear women’s continuous calls for ordination. This does not mean we need to stop speaking! And as long as we keep speaking, the church is forced to acknowledge us, we are a “thorn in its side.” We are a constant reminder that there is an alternative, and although not everyone may want to help us bring it about, IT LIVES- it lives in the minds, and hopes, and dreams of the marginalized voices of the Catholic Church. Some ask, what good do small, progressive Catholic communities do? My answer, they do a lot. Simply by being present in the world, however small their presence may be, they say no to a vision of the Catholic Church that is exclusive of women, same-sex couples, divorced and remarried persons, and others. We may not have power to make formal rules like the magisterium does, but we do have the power to make words such as Cardinal Burke’s less powerful by saying “no” to their validity.