Archive | April, 2009

An open letter to the Catholic bishops

8 Apr

Dear Bishops:

First, forgive me for not knowing the proper title for your offices. After the papal “Your Holiness,” they run together in my memory.

I write to offer the insights of a sole Catholic who feels alienated from the Church. I can only assume my feelings are shared by others, since I have had some conversations with other Catholics who identify with my dismay.

Since the 1990s, the Church’s hierarchy in the U.S. (as well as in Rome) have said and done things that make me feel less and less welcome in the only church I have ever known. Statements from the hierarchy that have indicated that Catholics who vote for candidates like John Kerry or Barack Obama are somehow committing sin have hurt members of your flock. These statements have been most lately exemplified by the protests over the invitation by the University of Notre Dame to President Obama to speak at the University’s commencement.

These actions–and the judgmental character behind them–have served to push Catholics like me away from the Church. We have received the message that you do not want us in the parishes, despite the “welcome home” movement in my own diocese. Rather than fostering an atmosphere of inclusion and tolerance, you have created an environment where I cannot be certain I want my first born child (who will arrive this summer) to be baptized in the Church. It pains me deeply to write that and to acknowledge it is even a consideration. Ten years ago I would have thought these feeling to be impossible for me. I hope and pray that God will find a way to help me resolve these conflicts. But it seems that prayer may go unanswered.

I wish I did not feel like I was being pushed out of the Church. I wish I felt that I was still at home during Mass. And while I know that the rank and file pastors and associate pastors are often far more willing to celebrate common ground and to encourage people like me to continue to pray and let the Holy Spirit work, I feel like these good men are having their hands tied tighter and tighter.

My prayer for this Easter is that the Holy Spirit will move the Church’s leadership to be more pastoral and less judgmental, to be more welcoming of Catholics who follow their conscience and support candidates that may not agree with the Church on every issue, to be mindful that our common belief in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit is much greater than the things that separate us. I also pray that one day, I will feel at home again in the Church and can share the joy of celebrating the sacraments with my fellow parishioners and my family.