Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Fight or Flight?

Katelyn Sills, the Catholic high school student and blogger whose mother's complaint to Bishop Weigand resulted in the firing of a teachers (of two months tenure) for having worked as a Planned Parenthood "pro-choice escort" at an abortion clinic, has been expelled by Loretto Catholic Girls High School -- as far as anyone can tell, for the offense of having instigated a situation uncomfortable for the school administration.

There's a sense in which this is well within their rights. If it's like most other Catholic schools, they have a clause in their student code of conduct allowing them to expell students who do not live up to the ideals that define their community. And as far as anyone can tell, objecting to a Planned parenthood volunteer working at the school is against their ideals. The existence of 'Catholic' schools which in fact vigorously support ideals diametrically opposed to Catholic teaching is hardly news. However, this does remind me of the dilemma which, at various times and places, I and my parents before me have faced in trying to decide how to deal with Catholic parishes and schools to which we have belonged.

There seem to be pretty much two schools of thought as regards how to deal with one's parish or school. One is the "It's my parish, I'll stay and fix it" school, and the other is the "Life is too short, I'm going to a better parish" school.

As with most things, I take something of a via media stance, but leaning more in the "life is too short" direction. It's all very well to "stay and fight to make things better" but the fact is that if most people don't want things to be the way you think is better, you're setting yourself up for a lot of conflict without any real improvement. (Actually, with parish life, it's probably more a matter of: If 90% of the people really don't care, and the 10% who run everything disagree with you.)

On the other hand, you need to pick your battles. While I have no problem with leaving a parish where the priest likes to re-write the creed or the Eucharistic Prayer on the fly, leaving a parish because it doesn't use a communion rail or some such seems like an over obsession with detail.

I think the choice comes down to: is the parish or school close enough to what you would find acceptable that if you pitch in an help your suggestions stand some sort of chance of being acceptable to others in decision making roles? For example, my wife and I were involved with the RCIA team in out parish back in California. We had differences with some of the retirees who ran the program, but got along with others and with the sister who was over-all in charge. So we stuck it out, tried to quietly push things the direction we thought they should go (Let's actually read some scripture instead of passing out fliers summarizing it. Let's use the catechism to help answer questions rather than saying "Catholics have lots of opinions on that". Let's be conscious of the fact the Church has 2000 years of liturgy and theology behind it and not start every explanation with "back in the bad old days". Etc.) There were some candidates who clearly appreciated that we were one of the voices among the team (and who have remained friends of ours ever since) and others who really didn't care. I think sticking out the controversy and keeping our voice in the conversation was clearly the right thing to do.

In other cases, though, a school or parish is so far down the wrong track (or so uninterested in hearing conflicting opinions) that volunteering isn't an option: you're not wanted. (When my parents and I made a number of doctrinal complaints about how the confirmation program I had gone through worked -- the religious education staff and pastor simply refused to ever speak to us again. Certainly made me glad that I'd waited will after I was confirmed to complain.) At that point, why bother. If you're right and the practice/teaching really is dead wrong, it will probably die out on its own given some time.

I'm not a dedicated parish hopper, but I don't necessarily see there's a great virtue in attending the parish which one geographically belongs to. Indeed, given the easy of transportation, going to a more congenial local parish is probably a good way to alert the hierarchy to your opinions (assuming a significant number of people share them). And even if not, at least you'll belong to a parish which you pretty-much like, and in which you feel comfortable actively participating.

1 comment:

bearing said...

We struggled over whether leaving our old parish was the right thing to do. We left after we were instructed by the DRE to invite non-Catholic guests to communion; after we learned in a conversation with an RCIA "graduate" that they had never been offered a chance to receive the sacrament of Penance; and after a layperson delivered a homily, yes, right after the Gospel, on the topic of being Eucharistic Ministers and then handed out certificates to every adult in the congregation announcing that we were all EMs now.

We could have, I suppose, stayed and worked to increase reverence for the Eucharist and respect for actual doctrine.

In the end, we decided it would be safer for our kids' souls just to go somewhere else. We found a good, orthodox congregation. Maybe it was the easy way out. I don't know.

Our letter to the archbishop received a polite "no, it doesn't sound like there's a problem." I guess that means we're done.