A refreshing perspective on the Catholic church

Dateline: Sun 02 May 2010

For two weeks in a row now, the eminent op-ed columnist for the New York Times has done the heavy lifting for the Catholic church. Last Sunday, the NYT's Nicholas D. Kristof wore a piece, "A Church Mary Can Love," extolling the virtues of nuns and other feminist Catholics who are "beyond the Vatican" and "make the world better."

This came on the heels of Peggy Noonan's "declaration" in the Saturday/Sunday April 17 edition of the Wall Street Journal, when the former speechwriter for George Bush gave us a lesson in "How to Save the Catholic Church."

"The Vatican badly needs new blood -- a woman's touch," was her thesis.

That was enough for disgruntled Catholics such as myself to live upon for a long time -- a sliver of secular vindication or at least the sense that all is not lost amidst the terrible weight of the child sex abuse scandal. Then, as if to prove the point that the church really is viable, with robust pockets of health and true Christian charity, Kristof has followed up this week.

"Who Can Mock This Church?" he asks, citing his observation that there are indeed two Catholic churches: "the old-boys' club of the Vatican and the grassroots network of humble priests, nuns and laity in places like Sudan," where he currently lives and reports.

While praising aspects of the Vatican for its charitable efforts, including "some" exemplary bishops and cardinals, he says, "..overwhelmingly it's at the grassroots where I find the great soul of the Catholic church."

He then goes on to praise the work of one Father Michael Barton, a native of Indianapolis who grew up in the LIttle Flower parish on the Eastside. Now Father Barton works educating children and turning out high-performing scholars.

One more quote, and then I will quit:

"It may be easy at a New York cocktail party to sniff derisively at a church whose apex is male chauvinist, homophobic and so out of touch that it bars the use of condoms even to cure AIDS. But what about Father Michael Barton, a Catholic priest from Indianapolis?

"I met Father Michael in the remote village of Nyamlell, 150 miles from any paved road in southern Sudan. He runs four schools for children who would otherwise go without an education, and his graduation score (is) at the top of statewide exams."

If you harbor doubts or anger towards the church, you really need to consider the perspective Kristof (who is not a Catholic) offers...he also cites the living examples of others who serve the church selflessly and do the work Jesus did, without a lot of fanfare or secular recognition.

His words struck a chord with me, because, while I know that there are criminals in our ranks, I also know that many Catholics, both religious and lay people, serve humbly and make every effort to do good, and they succeed.

Kristof specializes in writing about the problems endured by the poor around the globe. His timing in these articles is like a balm for Catholics who are hurt, wounded and bleeding from the sins of our leaders.

Here is the link to Kristof's article -- and if you feel anti-Catholic, I challenge you to read it. For emphasis: this is not an excuse of the church's many failings, but merely an acknowledgement that all hope is not lost...



Art Fuggins [Member] said:

I think NYC will eat Goldy alive. He does not realize the buzz saw that he has walked into.............when he tries some of the simple crap that he pulled here, the citizens will take him to task.

2010-05-02 21:50:05

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

Ah, Ms. Ruthy! This piece does not vindicate the institutional Roman Catholic Church, which is beyond redemption.

It just shows that kind individuals of good will can do good works despite dubious denominational ties.

2010-05-02 22:24:03

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

As a protestant, I am not informed enough to comment on all of the major issues being debated now within the Catholic Church.

But I will share a personal experience.
A few years ago, I headed up a charitable campaign to help some local poor folks.

The Indianapolis metro area Catholic churches/organizations were BY FAR the most responsive and generous (compared to protestant and sectarian funding sources). I was tremendously impressed by the genuine concern and compassion from the Catholic church leaders I worked with during that time.

I agree with you, Ruth. I wouldn't think that all hope is lost....as long as there are people like these in the Catholic Church

2010-05-02 23:04:27

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Several years ago, I started working with Sandy Munroe, who ran the Christmas appeal here in town. CHristmas Service never asked any organized church for assistance.

But from day one, voluntarily, the two churches who came forward the most, were the two St. Lukes from the north side...Catholic and Methodist.

I worked at a makeshift office two days a week for Sandy, who was a wonderful fella. The Lukers poured in. I think there was notice in one of their Sunday bulletins, but other than that, little prodding, I'm told.

Far and away and least-demanding volunteers and donors. We would've been lost without them.

And one older lady from the Catholic St. Luke's struck me as righteous: she explained that her parent church had, well...she wasn't polite, she cursed: effed things up with "the priest thing," and she felt an obligation "to work for good things til I die" in her small corner of the world. As penance.

It takes a village.

2010-05-03 05:16:21

ruthholl [Member] said:

Wow. Good stories, all. Including Art's comment on Goldy.
You guys remember Lucious Newsome (sp?) He was the former Baptist black pastor who came to Indy and started out by helping the poor whites who lived in "the holler," which was the Cloverdale/Owen County area....anyhow, he begged food from Kroger etc. and he did very well, but he could never get the Baptists in town behind him. However, the Catholics at St. Luke (where the minks are) did support his mission, putting both money and mouth in the game.
Lucious became a Catholic as a result of witnessing that Gospel in action.
I have been so angry at the chuch...Ms. Cynical is correct, the institutional church is in a world of trouble.
But I found Kristof's perspective so refreshing...I often wonder what "ordinary" priests and nuns, who have never hurt a child, think of this mess; they are automatically targets of ire, guilt by association...
I also found it quite interesting that Father Barton hails from the heartland...that Little Flower is a pretty good place.
End of sermon.

2010-05-03 08:10:58

hendy [Member] said:

Anger is a sad motivator. With a lousy restaurant, you can vote with your dollars. With a lousy bunch of misogynist church leaders, you only get to schism or simply find what's right.

As an ex-Catholic, I have the knowledge that there are Catholics that toil within the constructs of the church, and do so not out of hopes for a ticket to heaven, but to use the framework to get things done: help the poor and needy, educate the young, contribute to communities, vote their conscious, and work for social change. I respect, deeply, their convictions. Mine are similar, but not within the constraints of an organization whose roots and current practice are more in fiefdom than in God. The church hierarchy doesn't learn, but its practitioners do well in spite of them. Sometimes.

2010-05-03 08:44:33

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Hendy is right. Every church administrative organization has its faults.

When you get out there and roll up your sleeves, you find what I've found: there are plenty of regular Christians (and I'm sure Muslims, Hindus and others too) who are ready to work, and do so at a certain mission only because their church pointed them there in the first place.

And those among us who need help, in Haiti or Red Bird Mission in Kentucky, don't care about the religious stripes of any helpers.

If we waited on Bishops to move mountains, we'd be Valley-Bound for Life.

Once you reach that level, in any church, you've got decades of baggage and chits to repay.

I've yet to meet a church leader who could match wlak with talk effectively, except Dr. Wheeler at CTS. Talk about a man willing to tilt at windmills.

2010-05-03 09:15:40

Marycatherine Barton [unverified] said:

My humble brother Father Michael made my parents very proud, deserves the recognition he receives, and has been faithful and stalwart in his mission to serve God as a Catholic priest, in Africa. I too have been blessed by all my many interactions with nuns and priests. It is very very terrible that there are some brothers, priests and nuns that have not been properly disciplined, for hurting children, but there are such failures in every religion.

2010-05-03 11:57:51

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

"It is very very terrible that there are some brothers, priests and nuns that have not been properly disciplined, for hurting children, but there are such failures in every religion."

Disciplined? Disciplined? They should be charged in criminal court, tried and (if convicted) thrown in jail! This is not a "failure" of an individual priest but an institutional coverup of massive numbers of incidents of obviously condoned criminal behavior! One would think the bishops themselves had been guilty of the same offenses. Oh, wait, .......

2010-05-03 12:10:47

kendra [unverified] said:

Ruth? Why the need to apologize for one more quote? It is your blog! Say what you think. We are blessed to read your views and insights.

2010-05-03 18:11:46

Ellen McKinney [unverified] said:

i have to agree with ms. cynical here. no religion should protect criminals to save face and keep the faithful faithful.

if a principal in an indiana public school knows that a teacher or an aide has slapped a child and doesn't report it, that principal can face legal action and possible jail time right along with the teacher when the truth gets out.

yet when a bishop or archbishop knows that a priest has molested a child (and often more than one), and merely "passes the trash" to another parish, rather than reporting the crime, that church official seemingly never faces punishment.

other states have similar laws, but does anyone know of a bishop or archbishop who has been prosecuted as an accessory after the fact to the crime of child molesting? (i refuse to call it pedophilia -- LOVE has nothing to do with it.)

i sympathize with ms. barton's point, but noncatholics would be less suspicious of the innocent nuns and priests if the hierarchy rooted out the criminals rather than shielding them.

and before someone points out that there are child molesters in all faiths, let me say that the same laws do and should apply to any religious organization. it's just that other denominations either have fewer molesters proportional to their numbers or that their hierarchies either aren't covering up crimes or haven't yet been caught doing so. (then again, the fact that protestant denominations allow their clergy to marry, and that most allow women in ministry, just might be relevant.)

2010-05-03 18:14:41

Marycatherine Barton [unverified] said:

Of course, all who abuse children should be prosecuted in a court of law.

2010-05-03 20:23:58

hendy [Member] said:

It's one symptom- a huge one-- of a church that is ill, this seeming avoidance. But that's what organized religion is about, copping to a 'higher authority'. You get to freely interpret what that phrase means, injecting your own personal prejudice, or fighting the battles of your ancestors over and over again.

2010-05-04 08:23:27

Marycatherine Barton [unverified] said:

And how about all the child abuse done by governments, paid for by us and said to be in our name, such as modern warfare on poorer countries (collateral damage) or sanctions that cause unbelievable agony for the youth. Did not Ms Albright, our first female secretary of state, say that the death of 500,000 Iraqi children, due to Clinton's sanctions, were "worth it".

You can listen to the Honorable Cynthia McKinney sharply questioning Rumsfeld about one of our contractors 'engaging' in child slavery, on youtube. Obama is still using the same company.

2010-05-04 16:50:12

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

Marycatherine: do not excuse the pedophilia of the male authority figures of the Roman Catholic Church by pointing to (pointless) warfare. One could respond by bringing up the Crusades and the Inquisition!

2010-05-04 19:50:54

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