A reader writes:
In your coverage of the Montana couple denied communion, the age of the priest (27) is important to note. My husband and I (then in our late 20s and very devout) left the Church in 2006 when our retired priest was replaced by a young (and very conservative) one. Pope Benedict had just been elected, and a new (and also relatively young) bishop was appointed to our Diocese making conservative issues his priority. For years we had “hidden” in our little liberal church where we worked to end the death penalty and served in homeless shelters. When a priest would make the national news for denying communion or protesting an abortion clinic, we’d shake our heads and be thankful – that Church was not our Church. But all that came into question when our new priest arrived and the progressive values of our congregation started to wane.
As with their actions against the Nuns on the Bus, American bishops have been dismantling little liberal congregations like mine – and their best weapons are young, conservative priests.
We realized that the priests and nuns we had grown up with – Baby Boomers who started their careers with Vatican II – were all retiring and dying. Their messages of peace, acceptance and mercy and their commitment to good works for the poor were dying with them. Though young Americans are much more progressive on social issues like gay marriage, the young American men becoming priests now are decidedly not, and their influence as leaders in the Church will be felt for decades to come.
We couldn’t find another progressive parish to “hide” in and be the kind of Catholic you continue to be. I wonder if you are coming closer to the same realization we had in 2006 – that the Church you belong to is the same Church that has turned away Paul and Tom. And that one day – as these young priests rise to higher ranks – the Church will eventually turn you away as well.
I know where my reader is coming from. I thank God daily for the Jesuits.