Friday, August 31, 2007

Liberal Toledo Catholic Parish in National News

Corpus Christi University Parish, on the University of Toledo campus, is featured in an article in the National Catholic Reporter today. The title of the article is, "Liberal Catholicism endures in pastoral church."
Here is a section of the article:

At least in the United States, many observers believe that a broad liberal instinct is firmly entrenched at the grass roots.

“I think the genie has been let out of the bottle, and there is no putting it back in,” said Richard Gaillardetz, a prominent lay theologian at the University of Toledo, Ohio, even though he conceded that “liberal Catholicism … no longer enjoys the ecclesiastical support to which many had become accustomed in the ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s.”

Gaillardetz argued that in the United States, liberal Catholicism is less an ideology than a “pastoral phenomenon … alive in parishes that have a flourishing catechumenate, vibrant liturgies, thoughtful and relevant preaching, and multiple lay ministerial opportunities,” as well as “in a growing number of intentional Christian communities that are determined to keep alive a vision of the church that they associate with Vatican II.”

Looking around, observers such as Gaillardetz say that the moderate-to-liberal camp probably represents a disproportionate share of the church’s ministerial workforce, meaning priests, deacons, religious, and laity, as well as the theological guild.

A priest I knew years ago said to me that the Catholic Church will split into two groups: conservative and liberal. He told me this 20 years ago. I think he is correct. It is already happening to the Episcopal Church with many fundamentalists joining the African Diocese.

Toledo's Bishop, Leonard Blair, is way to the right on the theological scale; he even removed all women who were in some pastoral positions when he became bishop. One can only guess what his next fundamentalist dictum will be.

Nonetheless, the liberal Catholic Church will endure, whether with or without the 'official' sanctioning of the papacy. Many married priests are already serving Catholic congregations 'in exile' throughout the country. Liberal Catholics have matured far faster than the average Catholic who is still stuck in the grade school religion class mentality. These Catholics are well read and understand both the history and the hypocrisy of the church over the years. They are fed up with hierarchical structure and antiquated church doctrine.

They know, for the most part, that the Gospels were not biographical sketches of the life of Jesus but rather a Jewish midrash story, embellishing the character of the man called Jesus. They believe in birth control and divorce, and think that the church has no business in one's bedroom. They almost always are people seeking peace through justice. They believe in women as priests and the marriage of priests. They are free-thinking adults who come to their own conclusions and do not need to be given a list of do's and don'ts by an all-male misogynistic church.

The only thing stopping the split is the fear of reprisal; after all, the Catholic Church has unleashed its mighty power on many people over the ages. Few fully-functioning priests wish to rile their local bishop with talk of liberalizing the church.
So, the liberal Catholic Church remains a church in the shadows, in exile for the time being. But not for long.

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