Due to the weather, some customers may experience late delivery of The Roanoke Times. We apologize for the delay.
Saturday, June 22, 2013
Correction: Catholics tithe an average 5 precent of their income to their parishes. The original commentary used an incorrect percentage.
Three years ago, I wrote an op-ed piece about the issues I have with the Roman Catholic Church. My pastor and many fellow parishioners supported that piece, and some said, “You wrote what we’re all thinking.” The issues, of course, will be no surprise. They included birth control, equality for gays, women’s ordination, optional celibacy and, last but far from least, pedophilia.
I did lose one friend because she felt I shouldn’t have washed the church’s dirty laundry in a public forum like The Roanoke Times. I deeply regret the loss — but not the piece. Dirty laundry calls for a good scrubbing. And if it is dirtied publicly, it should be scrubbed publicly.
Now comes our new pope, Francis, who disdains the title Francis I, and refuses the fancy robes, red Prada shoes, luxurious apartment and many more popey perks embraced by so many of his predecessors. Like the man whose name he took, St. Francis of Assisi (also known as Il Poverello), this pope is a humble man whose first priority is the poor of the world.
Meanwhile, he’s driving his Swiss Guard protectors crazy by jumping off the Popemobile to hug kids and embrace adults. He shocked some when, on Holy Thursday, he not only washed the feet of prisoners, but some of those feet belonged to women. And he shocked many even more when he declared that “even atheists can be saved.” What next? Gay marriage?
Well, no. But when the subject of same-sex marriage came up at a recent meeting with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Francis said he “hopes that they could collaborate on promoting . . . the stability of families founded on marriage.” Pretty ambiguous, but at least he wasn’t brandishing a flaming sword.
So what can we hope for? Well, I’ll settle for the pope coming down hard on pedophile priests and the hierarchy that protected them, and a cleanup of the Vatican. Those are both big jobs, and Francis is, after all, 76 years old.
Obviously, those other changes some of us hoped for won’t happen, so why stay in the church? As I mentioned in the previous op-ed piece, I believe in the faith of the church. And that faith requires us to live our lives as Christ lived his, loving, caring for, forgiving, feeding and healing others. That’s why, at the end of our liturgy, the deacon says, “The Mass is ended. Go in peace to live the Gospel by serving God’s people.”
There’s the Mass itself, with the Eucharist, the gift Christ left on his last full day on Earth, not to just remember him by, but to nourish us and help us to become more like him — to become Eucharist to others. How has the church done this?
Well, centuries ago, the church tackled education, once reserved for nobility, and pioneered it for the common man. In the U.S., the church educates 2.6 million students every day. If it didn’t, these same students would be educated in public schools at the cost of $18 billion in tax dollars. In secondary education, the church runs more than 230 colleges and universities in the U.S. alone, educating Catholics and non-Catholics alike. More and more of these people are serving in some of the highest offices in the land.
In Jesus’s day, there were no hospitals. The sick were huddled on the side of the road and the outskirts of town, usually abandoned by their families. The very essence of health care, according to “Rediscover Catholicism” by Edward Kelly, emerged through the church through its religious orders. Today, the church has a nonprofit health care system composed of 637 hospitals that treat one in five patients in the U.S. every day.
Catholic Charities, the second largest social services provider in the country, is surpassed only by the federal government in the number of people it feeds, houses, clothes, heals and educates worldwide. Some studies show that Catholics tithe only 5 percent of their income to their parishes, while most other denominations tithe 10 percent. That’s because Catholics are generous in the “second collection,” too, which supports not only Catholic Charities but many other vital humanitarian causes internationally.
The Greek-born Spanish artist El Greco wrote, “I said to the almond tree, ‘Sister, speak to me of God,’ and the almond tree blossomed.” Despite all its troubles, that’s what the Catholic Church has tried to do for more than 2,000 years. And I will stay.
Weather JournalMany very icy despite 'bust' claims