Sunday, January 11, 2015

I Have More Girlfriends Than You Do, Cardinal Burke

Cardinal Raymond Burke made news this week bemoaning the “feminization” of the Catholic Church, which he blamed for the fall-off in priestly vocations. Burke also blamed sexual identity politics for the priest abuse scandal.

Gosh and golly, Burke even picked on altar girls. Since 1983, when the Church began allowing girls to serve at the altar, fewer boys have chosen to become priests. Burke sees a direct causal relationship: “Young boys don’t want to do things with girls. It’s just natural. I think that this has contributed to a loss of priestly vocations.”

The cardinal, recently demoted by Pope Francis, made his comments in an interview with Matthew James Christoff, who heads a Catholic men’s ministry called the New Emangelization Project. The interview, or the reporting of it, suggested that the Catholic Church is being overrun by females.

“Apart from the priest, the sanctuary has become full of women,” Burke told Christoff. “The activities in the parish and even the liturgy have been influenced by women and have become so feminine in many places that men do not want to get involved.”

To which I say, with all due respect, Your Eminence, bunk.

This blog is based on my personal experience as a lay Catholic, admittedly male. As the primary “witness” in this space, I try to avoid ideology. This is not the space in which to find the best, latest thinking on gay marriage, immigration, global warming, or whatever hot-button political issue is roiling the Catholic blogosphere at this particular nanosecond.

So this is my experience:

I have become a fuller, happier man since becoming a Catholic in 2008. I have more real friends today than in all my 57 pre-Catholic years combined. These friends are almost entirely members of my parish, where I have found a spiritual home like no other.

Now here comes the punchline: The majority of these friends are female. If you want to find a causal relationship between my happiness and a preponderance of female friends, well then, have at it.

I choose to think that all of this is only a by-product of my faith.

I did not choose to have women friends because of sexual preference or identity politics. The wonderful group of females that I am privileged to call friends came to me directly from involvement in two or three small Catholic groups associated with our parish.

The first of these small groups is our local “school of community,” or cell, of the ecclesial organization Communion & Liberation. I used to be the “responsible” (leader) of this group, but other commitments forced me to move aside and eventually out of the group altogether. My friend Ellen is now the responsible—a fine leader in our local CL cell as she is in several other parish groups.

Other friends of mine taking part in this school of community are Carol Aug, Carol Am, Lorraine, Elizabeth, Vange, Pam, and Kathy. (Sorry if I forgot someone. I’ve been up since 3:30 and the caffeine is wearing off.)

Yeah, all of these CL-ers are women, although men were involved in the past, including Father B, Ferde, Paul, Neil, and myself. None of these males is active with our school of community now.

The second small-group involvement bringing women friends into my life is our church choir, where I sing with Vange as well as Sheila and Kathy, two other female friends of mine. I also enjoy singing with fellow basses Cal, Steve, and Charlie, just for the record. I am not a soprano.

The third involvement is one that I want to write about in more detail later, the best and most interesting of the three, but quite a private one and so I will not describe it here. In this weekly involvement, I see Carol Am, Ellen, Lorraine, Vange, and Sheila on a regular basis.

Also, just for the record, I have participated in and derived great meaning from men’s groups in the church.

Cardinal Burke does the Church no good talking the way he does, IMHO. And Pope Francis has done the Church great good by stretching the boundaries of a tent that was already the biggest in the world.

Let women participate, and let men if they are willing. The priesthood remains all-male, and I pray and expect that this will continue. Altar girls have little to do with it, so pick on someone your own size, CB.

For my own private part, I am proud of my friends and friendships. I am proud to be Catholic, and still a man for all that.

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