My World of Religion, Politics, Entertainment and Social Issues

If you are visiting my blog, expecting to see 'Toward a Progressive Catholic Church,' I have changed my title to reflect my wide assortment of interests. Having retired from my secular job, I hope to devote the rest of my life to my hobbies, ministries and perhaps a part-time job that makes good use of my communications skills. This blog will be designed to address my multi-faceted interests.

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Location: Rochester, New York, United States

I have an M.A. in Theology and an M.Div (Master of Divinity) from St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry. I am currently a media consultant and promoter of classical music. I am also certified as an officiant by the Federation of Christian Ministries for baptisms, weddings and funerals and minister independently of the Rochester Diocese. My life has encompassed many interesting paths: broadcasting, free-lance writing, video-production, music, ministry and a secular job in government. In addition to this blog, I have a YouTube site at www.youtube.com/priestray and I have a Facebook page.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Question of Being in Union with Rome

As tension in the Roman Catholic Church intensifies, I have been examining the question of what it means to be a Roman Catholic. More specifically, I have been challenged by conservative Catholics in recent weeks and have been repeatedly asked: "Are you in union with Rome?"

There is no debate about my being a Roman Catholic. I subscribe fully to the Creed and try to live out a sacramental life to its fullest. I attend Mass every Sunday, and am active in my parish as a lay minister. Yet, I continue to be challenged by divisive issues.

For the past several years, I have been openly challenging our hierarchy on far-reaching issues, whereby I have been advocating the following: 1.) ordination of married men; 2.) the welcoming back of priests who entered into marriage; 3.) ordination of women; 4.) full inclusion of gay and lesbians; 5.) abolishing the annulment process; 6.) liturgical reform; 7.) freedom of expression on Church policy matters. Many of my campaigns concerning these issues have been articulated either in writing or public forums. Therefore, I have essentially moved from private dissent to public dissent.

If being in union with Rome means following the practices of our faith, there is no question of my being a Roman Catholic. Yet, if being in union with Rome means subscribing to all the teachings of the Magisterium, I suppose my membership in the Roman Catholic Church is open to question.

I maintain my right as a Roman Catholic to challenge any teaching of the Magisterium that deviates in any way from the original mission of our Church. Furthermore, when the Magisterium chooses to remain silent when the faithful desire dialogue, my position is simply that it is the hierarchy that has fallen out of union.

When we examine our faith and practices, we always need to keep Christ as our focus and role model. The living Christ continues to be a model of inclusivity for us, inviting us to be a Church that embraces all, whether members be male, female, married, single, gay or straight.

In recent weeks, I have been accused by conservatives of trying to turn the pedophilia crisis into a celibacy issue. I continue to maintain that I certainly don't blame celibacy for pedophilia. However, an all-male, celibate environment may be an attractive secret society in which pedophiles can hide. Nevertheless, I have tried to distance the two issues, despite accusations I have received to the contrary. Although I try not to be accusatory, I have been very open of accusing conservatives within the hierarchy of turning the pedophilia crisis into an excuse for gay-bashing. Therefore, if any blame is to be placed, our hierarchy needs to examine its policy of pointing its finger at the most vulnerable in times of crisis.

Despite all the historical and theological arguments I continue to present in support of an inclusive priesthood, voices of opposition continue to remind me that I must follow the teachings of the Magisterium. In this regard, my consistent response has been that celibacy is neither a matter of doctrine or faith; it is rather a policy issue. Even the Council of Trent allowed for the change in this policy when circumstances required such change.

Another question I am consistently asked is: "How far are you willing to go?" Concerning the corresponding issues of celibacy and Holy Orders, I am willing to go the limit, even if it means ordination by a maverick bishop. (Any such bishop should feel free to contact me.) If we are to initiate change, we occasionally need to take a bold step, despite the looming threat of excommunication. Contrary to what some conservatives may think, my goal is not to sabotage the Church, but to make our Church more inclusive.

Several years ago, when I was a single person, members of my parish community submitted my name to my bishop, recommending me as a candidate for the priesthood. I was deeply honored that I was called forth by my community, much in the same way early priesthood candidates were chosen. So, I went through the interview process and was accepted into a discernment group for men over 40. However, along the way, I met and fell in love with Brenda. We were married in 1994, yet my call to ordination continues. I received an M.A. in Theology and an M.Div from St. Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry; yet the rule of mandatory celibacy stands in my way. Despite the voices of conservatives who would like to see me move on to another Church, I am staying and continuing to work for change.

While I don't presume to speak for the Holy Spirit, I like to think that the Third Person of the Trinity is with us as we try to build a better Church.

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