24 March 2010: Catholic Hypocrisy

Catholic Church should practice what Jesus teaches

“And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called unto him and said, ‘Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.’ ”

— Luke 18: 15-16
I’m thinking of two children that I do not know. The children — he and/or she — have now been marked, forbidden to enter not the kingdom of God but their local parochial school, not because of anything they have done, but for who their parents are or for what they do.

My literary/allegorical mind jumps to “The Scarlet Letter,” the classic story of Hester Prynne, a woman scorned and ostracized because she refuses to reveal the identity of the father of the child to whom she has given birth. The community tries to shame her, but she, instead, bears her ordeal nobly with courage and dignity.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story is also a tale of Little Pearl, the innocent babe born in a prison and held by her mother as she stood on the scaffold, who grows to be a precocious child, wise and insightful with a moral clarity beyond her elders. The Puritan community in which the story is set is austere, founded upon duty, obedience and strict adherence to the law. It is not a vibrant community, with neither heart nor soul.

The children ruminating through my mind, one in kindergarten and the other in preschool, have been aborted from their school by the church’s pastor and by extension the Archdiocese of Denver because the child’s parents are a lesbian couple.

How might Hawthorne capture it?

“No, you cannot come back,” says the good father, “because the adults raising you are living in the most grievous state of sin.”

“I don’t understand,” responds one. “My mother gave me life. She didn’t abort us, as you are now doing, and tells us that Jesus loves us and wants us to be near him.”

“Yes, that’s true — Jesus does love you — but it’s quite complex.”

The children gaze at the good father anticipating a more helpful explanation about why they will no longer be allowed to come to school with their little friends, the ones with whom they have fun playing games little kids love to play.

“Isn’t my mother showing her love by sending me to you to learn?” the other asks.

Unable to cut through the discerning child’s innocent logic, the good father says nothing.

The child continues, “If Jesus loves me no matter what and wants all children to come to him, then why can’t I come to his school with my friends and learn how to read and to add and subtract and learn more of what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount?”

Still, the good father says nothing, so the precocious children turn to go, but pause.

“Good Father,” asks the older, “can you tell me why it’s called ‘Holy Mother Church’ and you, ‘Father’?”

Ironically, the school is called Sacred Heart of Jesus. Perhaps it should be renamed the Cold Heart of Chaput School, as it apparently has little to do with the heart of Jesus and more about Archbishop Charles Chaput’s spiritual rigidity.

The news about the ostracized innocents exposes more hypocrisy within the organization, one obsessed with power and with covering up legions of abuses by its all-male clergy. Like the Puritan community of old, it is becoming more austere and cold, loveless and lifeless.

Jesus goes on to admonish, “Do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not steal, do not bear false witness, and honor thy father and thy mother.” (Luke 18:20) I wonder what percentage of any congregation taking communion has violated the first injunction and regularly eschews the others on a regular basis.

However, for fundamentalist Catholics, being gay or lesbian, about which Jesus never said anything, is the most grievous sin and another matter. And spare me the snarky shibboleth, “Love the sinner but hate the sin.” It’s one thing to target adults but quite another to target innocent and impressionable children. Jesus’ exhortation “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not” does seem inconvenient to fossilized churchmen.

So, what would Jesus say?

“Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.” (Luke 18:17)

There are those who believe I am destined for hell. That might be the case, but then, if so, apparently I’ll be far from alone.

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