This past Wednesday the class attended a symposium in which our professor spoke about the spiritual narratives of the LA Catholic Workers. His talk was really fascinating to me. It was so inspiring to hear about what these Catholics are doing for their community. They were grounded in their identities as Catholics but were living out a mission that many Catholics do not, and that is to serve thy neighbor. My Catholic high school really focused on social justice as a central theme in our religion classes. During my senior year, I took a class called Peace Studies and learned the importance of social justice in my religion. Lately however, I have been surrounded by Catholics who are more focused on the rituals and beliefs. It was so interesting to hear the words of some of these Catholic Workers, who believed that serving others was a crucial, if not the most important, part of being a Catholic. Their religion was centered around taking care of others and I think this is the direction the Catholic Church should be heading. The LA Catholic Workers are living their religion in a very bold way and hearing their stories of working for justice made me very proud to be a Catholic.
In 1965, there were 58,000 priests in the U.S. and in 2016 there were only 37,000. Catholic priests are in high demand and less men are wanting to become priests each year. Pope Francis has suggested that he would be open to thinking about allowing married men to become priests, especially in remote areas of the world. For example, the Amazon has only 1 priest for every 10,000 Catholics, so allowing married men to become priests would be extremely beneficial to these Catholic communities. It is unclear if this idea would extend to the United States if approved or if it would just extend to communities around the world that need it the most. Stephen Rossetti, a Catholic University of America Professor, says that Pope Francis would most likely not extend this to the West, but make an exception and allow it in remote countries as a merciful gesture.
The idea might anger some members of the Catholic Church because of the issue of celibacy. Celibacy is what separates Catholic priests from Protestant ones and Catholics view this as something special that their priests have. Pope Francis has said in the past that priests should be celibate, but he also said that it is not technically dogma so it is open to change. Massimo Faggioli, a Church historian at Villanova University, states that the idea of celibate priests is more institutional, financial, and cultural than it is theological.
This potential shift away from traditional rules in the Catholic Church may lead the Church to greater acceptance by secular culture and may make the Church more appealing to outsiders. It would allow more members of society to become leaders in the Church. Having married priests would also make them more relatable, which is likely to attract new members.
The article I read titled “Church of England Stance on Gay Marriage in Disarray After Vote” from NBC News discusses the conflict within the wider Anglican communion over their views on gay marriage since 2003. Liberal Anglican churches in the west (especially the Episcopal Church in the U.S.) and more conservative Anglican churches (mainly in Africa) have taken different stances on this issue. The Church of England specifically is now divided as well. In January, the House of Bishops issued a report stating that the Church of England would keep its teachings that marriage is between a man and a woman, but the church will also be welcoming and loving toward members of the LBGT community. The report also stated that the Church would no longer bless same-sex marriages. The House of Bishops is only one of 3 parts of the synod, or the Church’s legislature. Another part of the synod, the House of Clergy, voted against this report, so it could not be endorsed by the synod. The vote against the bishops’ carefully worded position on same-sex marriage has caused the synod’s stance to be a little murky.
In my congregation visit at an Anglican church, I had the chance to hear a little bit of the history of the conflicts in the Anglican communion over their stance on same-sex marriage and homosexuality in general. I find it interesting that such a large, established church is having so much conflict and confusion over choosing a stance on this topic. If the ruling legislature of the Church is not sure of their stance, then many of the 85 million members worldwide who probably adopt the Church’s stances as their own are probably very confused about it all. After hearing about all the different congregations that other students went to, I learned that many churches are more liberal and more inclusive than I had previously thought. It will be interesting to see how the Church of England resolves their conflict over this issue.
Many believe that Trump’s actions this weekend are an attempt to move the U.S. away from being a religiously free country and towards becoming a Christian country that is hostile to other religions. This opinion comes after the executive order signed by Trump banning refugees and citizens of seven majority Muslim countries from entering the U.S. This order also said that religious minorities (aka Christians) from these countries would be giving priority eventually for entering the U.S. This way, Trump is still looking out for people of his own religion, but being hostile towards everyone else. Today in class, we discussed McGuire’s categorization of religions, including the characteristic of many religions that believe their way is the only way. This can be seen in Trump’s first actions of his presidency. His actions reflect the attitude that Christianity is the only way and that people of other religions do not deserve to be in this country. If he continues to enact policies with this mindset, the U.S. will move towards becoming a theocratic country that is no longer religiously free.
This article from The Huffington Post discusses how Catholic Bishops have been big critics of the Affordable Care Act in the past but are now asking Congress to delay its repeal. Bishops in the past have said that they would rather go to jail than support Obamacare. They have been strongly opposed to it due to the fact that it includes coverage of abortion and a birth control mandate, requiring employers to include contraception in health coverage for employees. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has formally requested that Congress delay in repealing Obamacare before having a viable alternative plan. The Congressional Budget Office has found that even just a partial repeal of Obamacare would result in 18 million currently insured people left without insurance. The head of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, says, “Particularly for those who would otherwise be required to use limited resources to meet basic needs such as food and shelter rather than seek medical care, the introduction of great uncertainty at this time would prove particularly devastating,”. This opinion is not only held by U.S. Catholic Bishops, but by many Catholic nuns as well. I find it interesting that although they have opposed the Act in the past, they recognize that without the Act, millions will be uninsured and without access to healthcare and this is more concerning to them than their own agenda. The USCCB is putting the crucial needs of others above their own agenda, something not always common in politics.
I read an article from the Huffington Post titled “Incoming Congress Has A Bigger Christian Majority Than The American Public”. The article discusses the fact that the 115th Congress, sworn in a few weeks ago, is nearly 91% Christian (and disproportionately white and male). Representation of Protestants, Catholics, and Jews is greater than in the general public, but Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists are underrepresented. Religious “nones”, or people who do not affiliate with any religion, are also underrepresented in Congress. The misrepresentation and overall lack of religious diversity in our new Congress is concerning. Chaves mentions in Chapter 2 of American Religion that the United States is becoming increasingly more religiously diverse and is experiencing a long-term trend away from an overwhelmingly Protestant population. He also mentions that the number of Americans claiming a religion other than Christian or Jewish has doubled in the past 40 years, and the percentage of Americans that are Protestant has dropped by about 12%. The fact that our Congress is does not accurately reflect the United States’ religious diversity is disappointing. It will be interesting to see how this affects our nation’s religious minorities.