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Friday, March 18, 2005

On Hiatus

As some of you know, I'm on "hiatus" from the Catholic Church. I sincerely can't wait to rejoin it, but I won't as long as its current cadre of leaders insist on taking the Church in a direction I believe God Himself would renounce.

To wit, last year a bishop in St. Louis decided to withhold communion from church members who voted for candidates who cast votes supporting abortion or other issues with which the Church disagrees. While I can understand the Church wanting to advance their point of view, withholding communion is a hurtful, vengeful act.

First of all, it ignores the fact that America is a representative democracy. If a public office holder has polled his constituents and they feel a certain way about a topic, he or she ought to -- as a responsive and responsible office holder -- cast a vote reflective of that -- even if it contradicts what his or her religion would tell him or her and even if it is something with which he or she, personally, would disagree.

Secondly, punishing people for the votes they cast is ridiculous and unnecessarily spiteful. It is a form of heavy-handed manipulation. If we begin punishing the electorate for the actions of their specific representatives -- I hazard to think how any us will lead lives free from blame. Furthermore, what if a representative votes in accord with Catholic dictates on one issue but contrary to them on another? Should we start splitting the communion wafer into fractions? What if I am not aware of how my representative has voted? Am I specially damned if I accept communion when I, in fact, have a "heathen" for a Congressperson -- but I wasn't aware? It's a can of worms that ends up being completely ludicrous.

Thirdly, if the idea of communion is to improve someone's soul -- to bring us into "communion" with God and the idea of His and His son's sacrifice for us -- isn't it contradictory for Church leaders to withhold it from people who they feel should be more inspired by those ideas? Wouldn't it be more fitting for the leaders to insist that the congregants about whom they are most concerned should receive double communion -- instead of none at all?

Communion was never intended to be a reward for "toeing the party line."

Don't get me started about how the Catholic church leaders continue to misogynistically undervalue women, actively sanction prejudice and turn a blind eye (and ironically even rush to defend) to the transgressions of their own who are embroiled in pedophilia scandals.

Today I learned about another fine example the Church leaders are displaying:

A member of the Greater San Diego Business Association and owner of two gay bars has been denied a funeral at the University of San Diego and in any Catholic church or chapel in the Diocese of San Diego. John McCusker, 31, owner of Club Montage and Re:Bar, two local gay nightspots, died early March 13. McCusker suffered an apparent heart attack while at the Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort on vacation.

A 1996 graduate of USD, McCusker's family wanted to have the funeral service there, but was denied after church officials received information about him and his businesses.

Joyce Marieb, executive director of the Greater San Diego Business Association, called McCusker, "a great leader and the kind of guy that people love to see because he gives back and is very generous to the community."

"We all know what this is about," Marieb said, who knew McCusker for the past five and a half years. "They [the Catholic Church] claim they've buried other gay people and that it's because of the bar aspect."
A statement released earlier Thursday by Rodrigo Valdivia, chancellor for the Diocese of San Diego, explains the church's actions.

"The facts regarding the business activity of John McCusker were not known by church officials when arrangements were requested for his funeral. When these facts became known the bishop of San Diego concluded that to avoid public scandal Mr. McCusker can't be granted a funeral in a Catholic church or chapel in the Diocese of San Diego."

So what about McCusker would cause a public scandal?

"His business is adult entertainment, which is inconsistent with Catholic teaching" Valdivia said. "People would be scandalized that the church granted a funeral to a person who had this type of business activity."

There are too many contradictions and inconsistencies inherent in the action by the San Diego leaders to address them all. Isn't the Church's position that we are born to eternal life when we die and that our sins are washed away? Why is this man being punished in this manner, then -- don't those leaders believe what they preach? What other types of businesses are now subject to this new accord? Will businesses that exploit poor people or extol war also be excluded? I thought the Church advanced the idea of "hating the sin but loving the sinner." How does this action display any sense of compassion? Will the priests who have been convicted of sex crimes against children be disallowed a proper burial, or is pedophilia consistent with Catholic teaching?

I'm reminded of a bumper sticker I saw a few years ago that said, "Jesus, Save Me From Your Followers." Indeed.

And I'm reminded of the words attributed to God in the Bible: "Vengeance is mine, I will repay. If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

Again, this decision by Church leaders is a heavy-handed, arbitrary, manipulative action. My conscience tells me there are thieves in the den. I simply can't be a part of the Catholic Church until its leaders clean up their acts and start living lives inspired by God and by good -- and not by their own evil, misguided sense of morality and propriety.

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