jesus says

Does the Catholic Church Get to Decide Who’s Catholic?

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Often, the Catholic Church will argues the beliefs of its parishioners as “immutable.” That’s a nice sentiment, but it’s wholly unrealistic; beliefs can, in fact, change, and you are not born with religion. That’s different from homosexuality, which no reasonable person will argue is malleable. These two traits of a person — religion and sexuality — often clash, and the showdown between a Maryland Catholic church that welcomes gays and the top American leader of the Roman Catholic Church is just the latest (and grandest) example of such.

New Ways Ministry is the “gay-positive” church in Maryland that just received a veritable dear john a letter from Cardinal Francis E. George of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Vatican’s top leaders in the U.S., which wants New Ways to stop aligning itself with true Catholic teachings. Which begs the obvious question: Who freakin’ gets to decide who calls whom a Catholic?

It’s all because of New Ways’ support of gay marriage. Which has the progressive church and its supporters arguing it isn’t Cardinal George who gets to hand out the C-word. And it also has at least one guy demanding George feel “ashamed” for his stance. You thought politics were interesting? Religious politics FTW!

(Video via CBS 2 Chicago)

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  • Mike

    LIke it or not, the Catholic Church does get to decide who is Catholic. That’s part of the bargain.

  • romeo

    I saw the picture on this story and thought it was about Ru’s Drag Race.

    BTW: saw a bumper sticker just yesterday; it was lavender and said “Catholics for marriage equality.” Wonder if they park in the church parking lot on Sunday? LOL

  • dvlaries

    Benedict is seeming more and more the worst possible choice after John Paul II. Enlightened Catholics ignored John Paul II also when he focused on matters of the groin, but he was nevertheless enormously popular and could fill stadiums with plenty of young people, no matter what. Benedict has never projected any such warm, and can little afford to be even more doctrinaire than John Paul, and yet he is.

    Read Bill Keller at the New York Times on what’s wrong with the Catholic Church in these times, written at the height of the Boston abuse scandal in spring, 2002:

  • Angelo ventura

    I’ve decided I’m NOT catholic, nor do I want to be. As for Benedict’s sect, well, it’s his sect.

  • ktbisl32

    The Catholic Church does indeed get to decide whose Catholic and they get to use some strict censorship policies over those men and women who decide to be a part of their clergy. I don’t have so much of a problem with that as I do with the fact that here is this very informative, decently well-done news broadcast that ends with the one guy commentator saying “Yep, they condemn the sin not the sinner.” Ruined the whole thing for me.

  • D.B.

    Silly question — yes, the Catholic Church does get to decide who is a Catholic. That’s just how all organized religions work.

    But on the other hand, don’t automatically jump to conclusions about all Catholics — there’s often a wide gap between the Church’s official “teachings,” and the beliefs of regular Catholics, especially in America.

  • B

    No. 6 · D.B. “Silly question — yes, the Catholic Church does get to decide who is a Catholic. That’s just how all organized religions work.” … actually it is how the U.S Constitution works!
    The Catholic Church has every right to decide who is a Catholic and individuals have an equal right to accept or reject that decision and call themselves whatever they want.

    If you like the rituals but hate the management, you can even form your own church and clone the rituals but run things the way you like. All the Catholic Church can do about it is to scream “heretics” but they can’t legally stop you.

  • Terry

    Just a clarification on some of the language used in the headline: New Ways Ministry is not a church; it’s a Catholic organization dedicated to helping gay/lesbian Catholics keep involved with their church. In terms of the question of who decides who’s Catholic: it’s a ‘both/and.’ The individual’s informed conscience is primary, but so is the organizational connection–at some level, & however tenuous. New Ways serves as a bridge for lots of gay Catholics to the larger church, & their approach is cutting edge; but that rubs the homophobic and strict definers of the church’s moral teaching–much of which rests on some brilliant minds of men who lived in medieval times. It’s high time for the updating to happen, and who else but the guy at the top to call together the appropriate folks and have them hash it out. Don’t see that happening anytime soon.

  • Brian NYC

    Half of the Catholics I know don’t go to church and they don’t believe the anti-gay bs. Catholics are more of a club than a serious religion.

  • Fitz

    You know, I remember when Bush was president. I disapproved of everything he did. I felt he was as close to ‘evil’ as I had seen. Yet, I still considered myself an American. I believed in the wonderful things about America, about how it gave my family a chance, how it saved the world, etc… In fact, I felt it was Bush whose American-ish-ness was suspect, not mine. I wonder if Catholics don’t feel the same way about their management.

  • Brian NYC

    Catholics believe gay people are sinful, deviant and disordered. Why would anyone gay want to be a Catholic? Why join the club that has created all of our hardship? If you are gay and Catholic you have put “fairy tales” before LGBT equality. That’s fucking crazy. Really, it is.

  • Terry

    @Brian NYC

    No, Brian: Catholic teaching distinguishes between being gay (one’s orientation) & acting out gay (same sex relationships). It’s a tricky distinction, to be sure; but I’m sure that you’re up to it. The Catholic church also educates its pastoral ministers to care for GLBT person, & to oppose any/all forms of discrimination: did you know that, Brian? Let’s deal with truth here, as painful as it may be; & not the stuff of ‘fairy tales.’

  • Lukas P.

    @Terry: The so-called “pastoral counseling” is conducted not infrequently by persons without formal training in psychology or human sexuality. The purpose of that counseling is often to encourage the gay/lesbian Catholic to be sexually celibate.

    “Rejects” and “failures” of those sessions wash up at my office door at least a couple times a month. They typically feel ostracized, hated, and unforgiven by the Church, their family and many friends

    How therapeutic is *that*?

  • Terry

    @Lukas P. (or whomever this may be!)

    You’re posing as a clinician, & I know the difference between. I
    don’t condone reparative therapy; it causes grave harm. Yeah, there is a Catholic outreach that comes from that direction, which I don’t recommend. Gotta find a place that welcomes GLBT persons without judging where they are.

  • Lukas P.

    @Terry: I stopped reading at the “whomever this may be” and “posing” part.

  • Daniel

    There are two Catholic Churches – the Roman Catholic Church which considers the Pope to be top dog and the Old Catholic Church which is the original church that considers the Pope to be the Bishop of Rome rather than the Pope. A thousand years ago, the first Pope self-declared himself Pope and the Old Catholic Church is the major branch of Catholicism that told him to f*uck-off, no way you are “leader”.

    The Pope is like Christian version of the so-called “Supreme Leader” of Iran, or any other Islamic Republic or the “royal” family of Islamic nations – he’s self-appointed or appointed by elitest self-serving “top clerics” who are really just money-grubbing, power-mongering politicians using religion to control the flow of money from followers or from the sale of resources (like oil).

    Old Catholicism is the way different and vastly more advanced than Roman Catholicism. The media, particularly USA media, like to lump the two together for some bizarre ignorant reason, much like they lump all Islamic followers together as if Islam doesn’t have progressive, moderate, and rightwing followers just like other religions.

  • Terry

    How about everybody dealing here intelligently with issues, & with none of the drama? Can gays actually deal intelligently & without drama–rationally, logically, & allowing for feeling?
    Lol. Old Catholicism is a tiny, minority sect; get real!

  • Daniel

    Actually Old Catholicism is doing quite well. It is also important to note that the Roman Catholic Church always includes non-practicing members in reporting their numbers (and the vast majority are non-practicing). It’s the “Roman bloat” when talking membership. If you ever wonder why so-called “Roman Catholic” countries are so advanced on gay rights, it’s because most members are “non-practicing” (the polite way of saying they are now self-defining Christians and no longer Roman Catholics).

  • Lukas P.

    @Terry: Great advice! Perhaps you might share that with the “other” “Terry” who began post # 14 with an ungracious ad hominem attack?

    @Daniel: the “old Catholic” church isn’t just a tiny percentage of Catholics, but is also splintered. Even the Orthodox churches do not share many theological tenets. The Anglican church(es) are themselves torn by the issue of homosexual clergy and the topic of same-sex marriage trails right behind it.

  • Terry

    Daniel: get real, darlin’–you’re speaking in la-la land. ‘Sect’ means: tiny, barely surviving + soon gone.

  • Terry

    Lukas P.

    Apologies because I believed that the conversation was being manipulated by the powers that be herein. Sorry for my mistake.
    Still not altogether convinced, however, dear Lukas.

  • Lukas P.

    Terry: You’re not convinced of what? Please feel free to read my other posts to allay whatever doubts you may have been unable, so far, to articulate.

    Meanwhile I have unwatched Olympic events waiting on TiVo.

    Enough with the name-calling already. Cheap shots across the bow detract from whatever point you’re trying to make.

  • Terry

    @Lukas P.

    Please, just explain yourself fully: I await your revelation.

  • Mike

    No 7 , B.

    So in that case the Baptist Church is not an Organised Religion ?

    Or does it condone the Westboro mob?

  • Steve

    The R.C. Church in the USA is a “private club”, and as such has the right to decide its own membership requirements.

    But, if someone else wants to say “I am Catholic”, they also have a right to free speech.

    Perhaps the R.C. Church Club should issue membership cards.

    They could refrain from giving cards to those other people (the ones who say, “I am Catholic”, but who are not actually members). Then, when a R.C. person wants to be sure if another person really is a member of the club, they could ask to see the membership card.

    It’s either that, or a secret handshake.


  • Brian NYC

    It is with an incredible amount of joy that I get to see the Catholic Church self-destruct. For all the pain and suffering they have created for the LGBT Community they deserve nothing less than complete irrelevance.

    The number of serious Catholics is now below 50% and declining every year, while educated young people have completely abandoned this mythology. The sooner they are extinct (along with other ignorant beliefs) the better. Better for our community and better for all of humanity.

  • Jon

    We got a lot of room for all LGBT people in the Episcopal Church. Which will feel a lot like Catholic mass and traditions. Just we accept LGBT people for who they are, allow women to preach and don’t follow the Pope. Besides that it really is pretty much the same service.

  • MaxH

    Well, yes, the Roman Catholic Church gets to determine if you’re a “real” Catholic.

    They can’t determine if you’re a catholic Christian (note the little ‘c,’ which denotes ‘universal’, and usually, more liberal).

    Pretty much, if you don’t follow the Doctrine, then you’re not a Catholic. If the Pope determines you not fit to be a member of the Church on Earth, then you’re destined for the wailing and gnashing of teeth, etc, etc…

    Anyone can be a Christian. You just say “I believe in Jesus Christ” and boom, there you go. But if you want to be a member of the Catholic club, you have to abide by the rules (or the Catechism), or you aren’t a member.

  • romeo

    The “pope” business was borrowed from the Romans, like just about every other Catholic ritual. The emperor was considered the head of the official state religion and carried the title of pope in that capacity. The Catholic Church didn’t obliterate the old religion, it just co-opted it to easily convert the masses, then tried to destroy all historical knowledge of the past so they could complete the con job, but the Renaissance threw a wrench in that. The pre-Vatican II mass would have been very familiar to ancient Romans worshipping Apollo or Jupiter. Even Catholic historians are fairly frank about it. This is one of the reasons that Christianity as practiced has never jibed with the words of Jesus. The Catholic Church, with a few modifications, simply adopted the Roman power dynamic, rather than Jesus’s moderate and humane socialism. That’s why Christianity in the main remains more Roman than Christian, which is certainly true in America. Except, of course, that the Romans didn’t have any problem with us. And neither did Jesus for that matter.

    I’ve mentioned this before, maybe we should just go back to the subtlety and esthetic beauty of the old religion’s pantheon and mythos, but maybe add Jesus as a foil for the excesses of Mars and Dionysus. Makes sense to me. LOL

    Seriously, there is a small group here in America bringing back the original worship. The Air Force Academy had to give them a place to worship under the new freedom of religion regulations. Very interesting. Personally can’t decide if I want to be under the patronage of Apollo or Dionysus, but that decision was a big problem for the Romans and Greeks too!

  • B

    No. 24 · Mike wrote, “No 7 , B. So in that case the Baptist Church is not an Organised Religion ? Or does it condone the Westboro mob?”

    How does that have anything to do with what I posted, which was merely that regarding religion you can pretty much say what you want about what you are? The First Amendment doesn’t distinguish between organized and non-organized religions.

    So the Phelps Freaks have a legal right to call themselves Baptists and the others who call themselves Baptists can disown the Phelps Freaks, but can’t legally do anything to stop the freaks from claiming they are Baptists.

    If you want a good example, look at (which QUEERTY posted previously). It’s some wiseass pretending to be the first Asian member of the Westboro Baptist Church and ridiculing them by acting even crazier than they do. He has the same same legal rights regarding what he’s spouting as they do – the right to spew to one’s heart’s content. He can claim to be a member, they can claim he isn’t, and the rest of us can either decide whom to believe or simply laugh at the lot of them. My vote would be to claim the Asian guy’s a member – mostly because it might give Fred Phelps a heart attack given how outrageous the Asian guy was!

  • Flossie666

    what he said…
    Do you know that if you try to annul your Roman Catholic marriage
    on the grounds of homosexual adultery, it won’t be granted?
    Even the Greek Orthodox grant annulments if the wife catches her husband having gay sex (the coy oompaloompa is the most famous example).

  • Brian NYC

    @Jon: Acceptance jon? Is that it, just acceptance? We don’t need to be accepted – there is nothing wrong with us.

    Tell your Episcopalians to end the Christian belief/teaching that homosexuals are wrong. They haven’t done that yet. All the acceptance and rainbow flags doesn’t change that reality.

  • schlukitz

    No. 32 · Brian NYC

    Acceptance I hate that fucking word too. It sounds so conditional.

    “We know that you have a horrible sickness, but that’s ok…we accept you. Keep your distance from our children, however.

    Tolerance is another word I cannot stand…as in being put-up with. Grudging allowing your existence, even though you do not meet their standards.

    Despite the fact that you stink to holy hell,we’ll tolerate you. But, don’t sit too close to us in Church.

    Both denigrating terms make it sound like someone has put a gun to their heads and are forcing them to do it because after all is said and done, you are still WRONG.

    For my money, people who use these terms with LGBT people can stick both of them where the sun does not shine!

  • B

    No. 32 · Brian NYC wrote, “@Jon: Acceptance jon? Is that it, just acceptance? We don’t need to be accepted – there is nothing wrong with us.”

    Oh please. Jon is obviously using “acceptance” in the sense of
    “American Express accepted here”. The word can be used in a way that is not judgmental, but rather to distinguish one organization from others with different policies.

    If you are gay and into going to church, don’t you think you might want to know which ones will not treat you like a pariah so you don’t have to try one after the other until you find a reasonable one?

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