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Scott wrote:

Hi, Everybody —

I have a problem that is causing me a lot of distress. I've written to you before, and was hoping you could help.

I'm attending a Catholic parish here in North Carolina. The people are wonderful and have been very good to me. I've been at this parish for over a year, but decided not to be confirmed this past Easter because of some reservations I have had.

My problem is this is a very liberal parish, specifically, in regards to the number of gays in the parish; I've met several.

I don't mean celibate, devout gays. I mean gays who are in same-sex relationships, or are single but sexually active. I joined the choir because I love to sing, and have since found out that most of the men in the choir are active gays. (As a side note, the choir director, who is a straight woman, lives with her lover but they're not married. This is common knowledge in the parish, and no one seems to care.) A couple of the men have hit on me, and everyone in the choir thinks it's funny. My roommate also joined the choir, and the choir director told me today that a lot of the members in the choir have been talking about us, wondering if we're "a couple." Of course, I'm not surprised. Most of the men on the choir are gay, so they probably just assume we are too.

The priest performed a gay "marriage" last year, right in the parish. I'm uncomfortable going to choir practice now, because the men talk about their sex lives and the gay clubs they visited over the previous weekend. I've heard a lot of nasty language, too. By the way, all the gay men that I've met were confirmed in the Church with the priest knowing full well that they were active, unrepentant gays.

No one seems to care, not even the RCIA director or the priest. I don't know what to do.
This parish is so gay that everyone just assumes that two good friends of the same sex, who are single, must automatically be gay. How twisted is that?

I don't even feel like I'm in a Church. I'm an ordained Protestant minister who decided to pursue the Catholic faith after two years of research into Church history, but now I'm wondering if I made a huge mistake.

  • Is this a common problem of the Catholic Church in America?

I feel downright harassed.

Help!

Scott

  { Is a gay culture a common problem among parishes in the Catholic Church in America? }

Mike replied:

Hi, Scott —

First, I applaud you for taken constructive actions on the issue.

No man can grow in holiness in the atmosphere you're in currently, and with the scandalous
"Judas examples" in your local parish. I believe it was a wise choice to hold off on Confirmation until you find a parish that:

  1. is loyal to the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, and
  2. has parishioners that are practicing Catholics.

You said:
I'm attending a Catholic parish here in North Carolina. The people are wonderful and have been very good to me.

With friends like those, who needs enemies : (

I would search the links below for other churches in your area. Stop by, and talk to various pastors and priests from different parishes. It may take a while to find a solid Church, but perseverance is the key. Look for parishes that have Eucharistic Adoration and Rosary devotions.

Note: If anyone wishes to find a diocesan web site they should try: Catholic Hierarchy

Secondly, if you feel the spirit calling you, I would see if I could make an appointment to talk to the bishop.  Tell the secretary your faith [journey|history], concerns and what you have encountered. The bishop should know about this situation.

Our previous Holy Father's admonition was "Be not afraid!"

I encourage you to do two things:

  • Keep a daily prayerful life — whatever that is for you.
  • Separate the Divinely protected Truth of the Church from Judas examples that are obviously present in your local parish: From:
    • the pastor, to
    • the director of the choir, to
    • its members.

For those interested, Scott has asked us these previous questions:

We'd be interested in hearing back from you and will be praying for you!

Hope this helps,

Mike

Eric replied:

Hi Scott,

That's a very tough position to be in. I'm not sure if you were an Evangelical, but I know how difficult it can be for Evangelical Protestants to adjust to the average Catholic parish, which is woefully inadequate for meeting the needs that Evangelicals are accustomed to in their churches. Your parish seems to be much worse than usual.

Don't be discouraged. Remember you are not joining for the fellowship or for the good sermons or what have you, but because it is the Mystical Body of Christ which possesses the fullness of Truth. It is not fellowship or good sermons that make a Church authentic: it's being in full communion with the one Body of Christ.

It's entirely apt to look at the history of Israel. Israel in the Old Testament *was* the one People of God, the Daughter of Zion, the firstborn son. They [The people of Israel] did not always live out this vocation: in fact, they usually didn't. There were periods when prophets lamented that they were the only ones faithful who were left.

  • Israel went through periods of rampant paganism and infidelity but did that nullify the promise of God?

No, it did not. They were *still* the People of God, the Chosen People, despite their infidelities, despite how far they went astray. The people of the Catholic Church have never gone as far astray as Israel did in its whoring after foreign gods. Even your parish it has not come to this. :-)

  • Is it pleasant? By no means!
  • Are you right to expect, and wish for fidelity in your parish? Absolutely!
  • Does its infidelity prove that the Catholic Church is not the Church God is calling you
    (and everyone else) to join? Certainly not.

The Church is a family, not an association of like-minded individuals.

This is, in part, why we have so many ignoble elements in the Church: perhaps we can't stand our brother, but he is, and remains, our brother, and so it has gone for generations. Protestants come and go from their churches, but Catholics tend to maintain their association to the Catholic Church even after they stop believing in its doctrines, even after they stop going to church, just as estranged members of the family are still members of the family. So this helps explain why Catholic parishes tend to be such a mixed bag, (though one would hope your parish was more thoroughly mixed than it is!)

Don't let your understandable visceral distaste for the nonsense in your parish deter you from the intellectual decision to join the Catholic Church, where you will receive much more grace than in those churches with excellent sermons and good fellowship.

I faced this question when I was deciding to return to the fullness of Catholicism from a detour in Evangelicalism. I decided that ugly or not, the Catholic Church is my mother and that's where
I belong.

Sorry for the length, but I hope this helps!

Eric

Mary Ann replied:

Dear Scott,

Confirmation is not done because of a particular parish. You are not being incorporated into that community, but fully initiated into the Body of Christ through the seal of the Spirit.

If the pastor is as knowing and allowing as you say, he obviously does not have the same concept of the faith as the faith that you would be confirmed in. That would make anyone uncomfortable.

For the short term, quit the choir, where the harassment seems to take place, and which is the near occasion of the greatest scandal to you. We are supposed to avoid near occasions of sin.

As for the community at large: I am assuming the people who are so wonderful are not in the choir? ... and they may be utterly ignorant. So you can, do as so many of us do in our church, which has been, in many parishes, hijacked — duck our heads and stay for the sacraments —
if there is no other alternative.

Your experience is not typical, though unfortunately it is not rare. For the longer term, I would say find another parish. You don't need, at this point, the aggravation of being an evangelist and table-over turner, and besides, the bishop may not be congenial to reform.

Bear in mind that what you are witnessing is not Catholic, but it definitely has a pedigree.
Reread the epistles of Jude and Second Peter.

Mary Ann

Fr. Francis replied:

Dear Scott,

I first would like to introduce myself. I am a Roman Catholic priest from the Archdiocese of Boston and a priest supporter of CPATS. I was forwarded your e-mail by Mike Humphrey and really felt drawn and inspired to respond.

My first comment Scott is praise God for the Lord putting such a love not only for the Lord Jesus Christ but His Bride the Church, our Mother, to have undertaken this journey. I am a grandson of a Baptist grandfather who made this journey, however, on top of it all, you are making an even greater step in being a minister of the Lord. I want to extend my hand to you as a brother in the Lord.

Scott, in reading your comments about the parish you have been involved with I was stunned. I am not going to say there are no parishes like that at all in the Church in the United States — sadly I am aware of a few, but I expected the Church in the South to be more conservative — like their Protestant brothers and sisters in their environs. I obviously was wrong.

Scott, what you have seen, witnessed, and sadly experienced, is not the norm. It certainly does not express Catholic Church teaching and practice, and it is not representative of the vast numbers of parishes in the United States. Sadly, in attempting to be "compassionate and pastoral" some Catholics, yes, sadly even a small minority of priests, have separated Truth from love.
As the Church of Ephesus was warned (Revelations 2:1-7): you cannot be "orthodox" without love. The Church in Thyatira (Revelations 2.18-29) was warned:

  • you cannot live in His love without living in the Truth
  • keeping His commandments and
  • not being led astray by those claiming to be more 'enlightened'.

Those who claim that what you do in the body does not matter; it is only the soul — the intention that counts are in error.

Scott, much like Abraham and Lot, you have already journeyed far, but I urge you to flee and don't even look back. There are other parishes, Catholic parishes in your area. Look deeper into the parish community and the celebration of the Eucharist—Mass there. This is what I would look for:

  • Is the word of God proclaimed? The [priest/homilist] might not be the
    greatest speaker; you might have done much better, but is Christ,
    and the new life of grace He desires to share with us, at the center?
  • Is the homily Christ-centered and faithful to the teachings of the Church?
  • What kind of catechesis goes on:
    • for the young?
    • for those entering the Church or
    • for the ongoing nourishment of the parish?
  • Is the celebration of the Eucharist real worship of the Father in Spirit and in Truth — 'oriented to the Father' through the Son's Death and Resurrection, in the power of the Spirit, and not centered on "us—the community"?
  • Is the worshipping community aware they are in the Presence of the Lord encountering the Risen Christ?
    They might not show this with much affect or emotion; It could be a deep awe as Elijah had before the "little breeze'.
  • Does the Community recognize its unity is in Christ (Baptism-sealed with the Spirit in Confirmation and expressed in the Eucharist), and not simply more of a surface community, happening to know each others' names?
  • If the parish has Eucharistic adoration, all the better! It is a great grace, but its absence is not necessarily a negative sign.  It might be an issue of the number of people available for Adoration.
  • Is the spiritual life-prayer encouraged?
  • Are there opportunities other then Mass for prayer:
    • prayer groups,
    • Rosary groups,
    • etc?
  • Is spiritual growth encouraged?
  • Is the parish community unabashedly in union with the Pope?

    We are Christ-centered, not Pope-centered, however the Pope is mentioned in the Eucharistic Prayer and should be mentioned, at least occasionally, in the Prayers of the Faithful. Finally, there should never be a dissenting voice from the pulpit about the
    Holy Father.
  • Look at the bulletin. What kind of sense of mission does the parish have?
    • to the youth,
    • elderly, and
    • poor etc.?

These things can give you a sense of whether or not the parish has a clear sense of mission.
Scott, this list is not all-encompassing. They are the ones that come to my mind as I write this e-mail to you. It is difficult for me, as a priest, to write this to you, a minister, but I need to do so.

Five hundred or so years ago, because of a new invention (the printing press) and the new explorations, (Columbus and America), the Middle Ages suddenly came to an end and a new era, filled with all sorts of possibilities, was born. The new age had a new way of looking at itself:

  • no longer Europe-centered because of Columbus
  • no longer earth-centered because of Copernicus, and
  • a new way of communicating (the printing press) changed the culture from oral to literary.

The whole of the West was in drastic change, and the Catholic Church went into the storm of change unprepared  despite the cries of saints (Saint Catherine of Genoa, Saint Bridget of Sweden, and the like) The Church needed reforming — needing to be called to its real identity and mission — yet the hierarchy was slow in responding.

The Protestant Reformation broke upon the Church, but instead of calling the Church to her real identity and mission, it spoke out not simply against the sins in the Church (saints were doing that!), but tried to get a "pure church" ... one just like the one found in the New Testament.
What happened was the fragmenting of the Church into what is now something like 30,000 denominations. The Catholic Reform began, in earnest, far too late. They shored up the identity of the Church and its mission, but in response to the "Protestant Reformers". Scott, between 1570 and 1960 both the Catholic Church and Protestant denominations identified themselves
"from each other" — based on how [they or we] were different.

Just as the Catholic Church was beginning to define herself in a way, not in opposition to Protestants, a vast cultural revolution took over in history. As five hundred years ago, we had a new way of looking at ourselves, today we have a new way, as a global village living on a relatively small blue ball in space and a new way of communicating: the computer and Internet!

We are moving (or already have) from the modern to post-modern age as are Judaism, Islam and the Church - Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant; moving through vast changes — fast! What you are witnessing is the fruit of the change. In change, some lose their focus and sense of gravity. Be not afraid! Keep on the journey you have begun. Remember the promise of Christ with Peter, that the gates of hell cannot prevail against us!

Your brother in Christ,

Father Francis

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