Archive for ‘Catholic Dilemma’

February 12, 2011

Patrick is Getting Particular (about some things)

The hell you say! Hasn’t he been particular for a long time? Like – maybe since birth? You know:

  • Coffee snob: Roasts his own coffee, buys green coffee beans, won’t drink coffee at most public places  because it doesn’t meet his standards.
  • Beer snob: Makes his own beer. Makes jokes about the popular brands, using words like “water”, “lite”, and “better off lighting a couple of dollars on fire”.
  • Scotch snob: Is in a scotch club. ‘Nuff said.
  • Music snob: Out of tune and off pitch is certainly not acceptable.

(okay – on over to first person, singular)

And that’s not all – there’s more. If we’ve worked together, you’ve probably noticed that I’m particular about the how – how things are written, how things are accomplished, how steps are followed.  How a scope of work is created, and what is included. What to tell a customer, a co-worker, a boss.

And if we’ve travelled together, shared a house, or been in a band, you’ll remember that I like things tidy, organized, neat. I have low tolerance for messy (even though I can certainly be a mess, don’t get me wrong). I like to show up early for important things that really have a fixed start time (like weddings, gigs, baseball games).

And if we’ve played music together, you’ll know that pitch matters. Knowing your gear matters. Memorizing your lyrics matter. Understanding how the freaking sound system works matters. Understanding how the lights work matters. Tempo matters. And helping load and unload the gear really matters.

(That all sounds terribly rigid, and in many circumstances  – it is. Pick up after yourself, okay? Don’t show up without the tools you need for the job. Don’t over-promise. Practice. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for mistakes, mind you. God knows – I’m a champ at mistake making – if they gave out medals for that, I’d have gold. But you get what I mean here, right? Making a mistake is different than not caring, than showing up un-prepared, than not caring to learn).

And yet – I’m also starting to become LESS particular about a lot of things, too. It’s almost like I’ve spent the first half of my life becoming particular, and in the 2nd half – shedding some of those things. (If the actuaries are right – I’m just past the middle – they think I’ll make it to 77.4, but I think I’ll beat that. Please don’t tell my life insurance company – I plan on them having to pay out in spades!)

For instance – my sense of faith and spirituality was quite particular. I grew up Catholic, and in an era and area largely devoid of some of the crappy things the Catholic church had to offer.

But in the last bunch of years – I’ve become much less particular about faith, religion, spirituality – (even if I discount the exceptionally bad behavior of the Catholic church in the last decade).

You may know what I mean – I used to love to play music at church, to understand the various theological jumping off points for this and that – and now – not so much. My metric has changed to a pretty simple one: Whatever your sense of spirituality, or your faith community – as long as it includes rather than excludes – live and be well. The rest no longer matters to me.

And I’m feeling less particular about people, too. Want to put ice in your single malt scotch? Water down your coffee? Guzzle a PBR? Get right to it – I may choose other things – but you certainly don’t have to.

And ditto for politics (at least in general). Provided you’re willing to start with details, are willing to look at more than a single data source – I don’t give a flip if you are conservative, liberal, or something else. I do care that we can have a conversation, that we can learn from each other, that we can disagree politely (but only after we’ve agreed to the facts, mind you. And we CAN agree to the facts. It might take some research and we might have to change our minds – but that’s a good thing).

S0 – we’ll see. Will I become more particular, or less? I can’t say for sure, but it will be fun finding out!

April 22, 2007

Maybe I Need To Give An Inch

I’ve been pretty frustrated with the Catholic Church for about a year and a half now. And about a year ago, I quit lending my talents – it felt too much like I was putting my stamp of approval on the whole thing, like I was a public representative of all of the things about the Catholic tradition that I don’t like.

(There aren’t that many, by the way. I happen to believe that gay people shouldn’t be ostracized. That women should have the same rights and privileges as men. That the clergy should be able to marry. That recent "updates" to the catholic liturgy are a power play and are counter productive).

So – after 25 years of every Sunday (sometimes twice and sometimes three times) showing up for church with my guitar, my mic stand and cables, a huge bag of music, and a varied assortment of musicians – I quit. Pretty abruptly, too, although it had been in motion for quite a while.

I was sorta surprised, and so was my family. I’m not a quitter, though – so while I stopped participating, I have been letter writing. So far, that hasn’t made much of a difference. It’s a bit funny – here I am, this decidedly not wealthy, not influential guy who took his guitar and went home and started writing letters. So it shouldn’t have surprised me that almost no one wrote back – but it did.

You see – after all of those years – I felt like I was a respected colleague in those circles. But the president of Seattle University didn’t write back. The folks at L’Arche did – but patted themselves on the back for a policy that sounds like "don’t ask, don’t tell" while I know perfectly well that women and gay people aren’t integrated or accepted. My former high school wrote back to say that they agree with me – and while that was nice – I can’t tell that they are doing anything.

And that’s the worst part. Most of my experience in the Catholic community has been excellent – particularly the Jesuit community. So I expect more. I expect dialogue. I expect reason. I expect standing up to the hierarchy. Most of all, I expected to be heard – and that doesn’t seem to be happening.

So – I don’t know about what is next. I’m thinking that my next step is to write again – but instead of asking what those Institutions are doing – I think I’ll ask about what those leaders are doing personally. It strikes me that personal change is much more possible – and I’d feel at least a bit relieved to know that some of those leaders were engaged in that dialogue.

February 11, 2007

They Keep On Asking

I received a note from Seattle University today, asking if I’d give them some cash. It’s funny – I’ve been chatting up by family and a few other people about this lately: I spent the last 20 years or so as perhaps the most committed Catholic I know. Not that I was a party line kind of guy – but I was at church every Sunday (sometimes two or three times on a weekend) with my guitar, I was up on the current theology and politics and so on.

And yet – in the past 18 months – my sense of integrity started to twitch. It was a combination of stupid rules (you gots to kneel, brother or stand – but only when we tell you!) and a sense of un-just behavior that tipped me over the edge. The current pope hasn’t helped – he’s probably a nice guy – but his idea of moving the church forward is more about moving the church back. Until I can stand up at church, with my guitar, and feel like my friends who are gay, divorced, former clergy, or women are receiving great treatment – I don’t really want to go back.

But I don’t want to go somewhere else, either – so – you can see the gap. It’s a bit like your first language – everyone has one. In the religious world – the catholic tradition is my first language, and I like most of it a lot. Lutheran tradition is great. So is the Jewish tradition, and a bit of the Baptist. And the Methodist. I bet there is a lot to like about a lot of the others, Christian or not.

But I don’t want any of those, I want the catholic tradition -but a better one. The one that I mostly experienced growing up, and in high school and at University, and at most of the churches where I have played. I want the emphasis to be on creating a community that is large, not small. Where the emphasis is on people, and not rules. Where justice matters more than doctrine. Where inequality is challenged, top to bottom. Where new is welcome and old is celebrated. Inclusion, not exclusion. Lately, my metric for the catholic church goes like this: If they are working to exclude rather than include (for any reason, almost) I don’t want a part of it.

It’s odd – because my sense of wonder at the world and my place in it hasn’t changed any – it’s just the public expression of that which has changed. I still believe in the goodness of the world, and the goodness of humans (despite how I feel when I commute in a car). And I believe that it is bigger than me – that it is more important than me – so – something or someone, somewhere, got it started. Jesus, God, Buddha, Mohammed – take your pick. The particular doesn’t concern me so much – just like kneeling or standing doesn’t. It’s an interesting place, and a little uncomfortable, too.

I wonder what will happen next.

December 17, 2006

If That Makes Me Gay, Fine

I wish I wrote that, I really do. I didn’t, Leonard Pitts did, and you can read it for yourself in most local newspapers. In a very short column, he’s summed up a good deal of what has me chapped about the Catholic Church, and pretty much any other agency that ascribes to a religious or faith tradition that wants to leave people out.
You can’t really have it both ways, he argues, and I agree. And the bitter irony, at lesat in my experience? MOST religious traditions didn’t START this way, they’ve ended up this way, if you get what I mean. They didn’t start with a sense of "how can we oppress gay people, or women, or those who look differently than we do" – they started with a simple understanding of the sacredness of all people. And the response to that sacredness is justice, not exclusion.
I know that all sounds pretty pie-in-the-sky, pretty "can’t we all just get along" and so on and so forth – but I believe it anyway. Mr. Pitts gets it right when talking about Vice President Cheney, who bats for the Republican team on all items save for gay marriage – because he loves his daughter – and she’s a lesbian.
Here’s the final few words from that article – and go back and read the whole thing – it will only take five minutes:
I believe in moral coherence. And Rule No. 1 is, you cannot assert your own humanity, then turn right around and deny someone else’s. If that makes me gay, fine. As my anonymous correspondent ably demonstrates, there are worse things to be. –LeonardPitts, Friday December 15th 2006
December 4, 2006

What do you say when someone asks if you go to church?

Had an interesting conversation with a co-worker today – they were checking out some assisted care facilities, and noticed that one is connected to (it seems, anyway) a very conservative local church. But the conversation started with "do you go to church?" and I found myself trying to compress the last two or three years’ of disaffection with the Catholic Church into one coherrent sentance.
I couldn’t – but maybe can do it by bullet point instead!
  • No I don’t go to church, but I used to.
  • I grew up Catholic, and was well educated by the Jesuits at my high school and university.
  • They taught me to stand up for the poor, for justice, for equality for all. And that faithfulness and intellectual rigor go hand in hand.
  • I’m frustrated because the local institutions are doing good work – but not working to change the larger church structure.
  • I don’t know what to do next.
That pretty well sums it up. Obviously, there are a lot of nuances and such, and a LOT of additional explaining and exploring – but that’s where it sits just now. Participating makes me feel complicit in a moderately dirty way (cover of up sexual abuse, poor treatment of gay people, poor treatment of women and divorced people, a return to a rigidness regarding worship services) in the things that I find contrary to my Jesuit upbringing.
In the meantime – I’ll keep thinking about it. Praying about it, too, I suppose. And asking a lot of questions!
November 27, 2006

Baptist, Catholic and Hmm

I had lunch today with a good friend of mine – he’s a fun combination of Baptist (he’s the pastor of a small church, among other things) and Jesuit educated – so when we caught up today (Bing’s for a burger) talk naturally turned to what the Catholic community is doing these days.
Turns out – not a lot that makes me happy. More insults from the Pope (why he felt he had to quote a 14th century somebody who insulted Muslims is beyond me) and more crappola from the US Catholic Bishops about gay people.
So – refreshing to talk to someone who is running a church who is actively trying to figure out what to do – his church is pretty on board with "open" and is close to "affirming" although it sounds like the"affirming" part is hard for some of the community – so they haven’t fully moved in that direction yet.
But here’s the deal – they are talking about it – which seems like the most important step. I’ve been trying to get almost anyone I know in teh locak Catholic commnity to do that, with no luck – maybe it’s time for me to start visting a local Baptist church!
November 15, 2006

At least they wrote back

My ongoing saga with several Catholic institutions continues – and one of them had the courtesy to write back, which was nice. It’s my high school, Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose, California. They sent a letter asking for a dontation, and I wrote back mentioning that I’m more than a little disappointed that they aren’t leading the charge towards inclusion for women, gay people, those who are divorced and so on – and I ‘ve been in email correspondende with one of the people in their fundraising team. He likely can’t do much to sway the course of that school, let alone the entire Catholic church – but – getting a response back helps!
October 21, 2006

Now my High School wants some cash!

Well – now that I’ve told Seattle University and L’Arche USA that unless they start treating women, gay people and divorced people better – they don’t get any of my cash. Now my high school (Bellarmine College Prep in San Jose) wants some – so I’ll just dust off one of those earlier letters and send along.
This is both fun and sad – the education I received from all of those places was terrific. But the irony is worse – they all taught me to stand up for equality, to think creatively and with intellectual rigor and so on – and those things, combined with recent church events (crummy stuff about the liturgy and the sexual abuse scandal) have all led e to believe that those communities could be doing better. A LOT better!
October 16, 2006

Still Chapped at the local Catholic Community

Back in February of 2006, I sent a letter to the president of Seattle University. I don’t know if friends is exactly the right word – but we’ve enjoyed warm relationship since I was a student, way back in the day.
In the intervening years – I donated to Seattle U, I volunteered, I worked for a local Catholic Parish and at an agency with a thinly veiled catholic identity. Lately, though – despite my affection for Seattle U and the catholic community – I’ve become increasingly dis-enchanted:
  • A total lack of transparency around sexual abuse was the start.
  • That was followed by an increasing awareness of how the institution of the church (but not always individual parishes, mind you) treat women, divorced people and gay people like, well, sinners.
  • And rounding third and heading to home? A bunch of silly rules about when to sit, stand, bow, hold hands, chant, sing, and other things during a typical catholic ceremony. Ick.
Today, I received a request for a donation – so I sent off a modifed note to Seattle U, letting them know that they’d have to make a change or two if they wanted to put me in the ranks of the donors. We’ll se – I didn’t receive any notes back from my first letter, so I’m not optimistic about this one – but it feels good to try!