In the first half of this piece, I’m paying a special tribute to those who love others without condition which gives a foundation to the second half. The second half will be story about two Catholic Deacons. Many Christians have experienced being political refugees because they are looking for the Love of Christ, not a mean and angry god.
Christians in particular, people of faith, and especially Church leadership show that God is either a God of love, mercy, and patience or a God of control, abuse, and judgement. One side shows that God wants others to conform, suppress their identity as human beings, and sacrifice their earthly lives, minds, and bodies through endangerment for the “hope of eternal glory” OR become the unique person God created us to be, live authentically, and choose life. At this point in my life journey at 51 years of age after a lifetime of running from some abusive leadership, I am still learning to model after those I wish to become, a person who loves and accepts others without condition because each person is uniquely created in God’s Image, like the disabled and learning-diverse students I serve on my caseload.
However, I say this with the intent of boundaries because there are indeed limits. For me personally, I feel the Catholic Church gives me more freedom in my faith as a Christian than any faith body ever has, believe it or not. Here is the reason. There are the teachings of the Institutional Catholic Church, doctrine which has been developed over centuries, and the Primacy of the Catholic conscience. I am actually allowed to step over doctrine when there is a serious moral decision to make, especially when the decision involves the lives, death, and human dignity of myself and others, especially in my own family. In short, I am allowed to weigh the moral consequences on each side of a dilemma to come to a decision about my life, the lives of my family, and how I interact with others when it involves their lives and human dignity. Sadly, there are those in the Catholic Right who don’t want Catholics to know about Catholic Social Teaching and The Double Effect where these tenets are taught because they want to “save souls” at the ultimate cost of endangering and abusing others, including other Catholics, and those in broader secular society through forceful political power. A loving God would never demand the endangerment of human life and human dignity with the chance of achieving salvation. He doesn’t work like that, and this is not what the Catholic Church teaches. Since the Sanctity of Life and the Dignity of the Human Person are core and central to the life of Catholics and the Teachings of the Catholic faith, the devastating affects of tightly controlling and abusing others in hope of “saving their souls” are exposing the oppressors and liberating those they have oppressed.
So with the above in mind, here is the Tale of Two Catholic Deacons, Deacon A and B, and the Political Refugee (me).
There once were two Catholic Deacons, one named Deacon A who judged, condemned, didn’t listen, didn’t value individual families, shut up, shut down, and controlled other Catholics through a Sacramental Obstacle Course and “Spiritual Direction.” This was also the spirit of his parish and leadership. In order to protect my life during COVID, I fled with my family to a predominantly Hispanic Catholic Church. This is where I met the Beloved Deacon B and where we worship today.
Deacon B loved/loves without condition, listened (s), accepted (s) individuals as-they-were, and didn’t (doesn’t) make any judgement without fully knowing the circumstances of the person and family. He followed (s) the spirit of his faith community and diocesan leadership. Deacon A in the previous parish condemned even the idea of voting for Joe Biden while Deacon B gave me the human dignity to decide for myself based on a well-formed Catholic conscience. I even asked if he knew faithful Catholic families who were both Democrat and Republican, and he undoubtedly agreed. He even told me about the life and death issues of both political sides and encouraged me to make my best decision. Since Deacon B serves in a predominantly Hispanic Catholic community, most of them are Democrats who he respects and serves. Deacon A judged and condemned anyone who voted Democrat, even parents of disabled children who vote for their children’s lives.
Deacon A told me the COVID vaccine was “Intrinsically Evil” while Deacon B followed the guidance of His Bishop and Pope Francis to vaccinate for the Common Good and encouraged (not forced) other Catholics to do so. Even the Vatican administered the vaccine. Deacon A tried to restrict me from seeking the vaccine, even though he knew that I have Parkinson’s Disease and work with medically fragile children. He knew it would endanger my life and the lives of my students if I didn’t seek the vaccine. Yet, he called himself “prolife” and tried to hinder me from it.
Deacon A in the previous parish encouraged me to enforce a Catholic doctrine on an adult child whose doctor and medical consensus deemed the practice dangerous. The practice has been widely discredited by the vast majority of medical professionals in a particular area of medicine because it triples the risk of suicide which I told him. He could have cared less and didn’t listen that the practice would indeed endanger my child’s life. Deacon B said to follow the doctor’s orders and protect my child’s life, even if it meant stepping over some Catholic Teaching to do so. He told me that the Sanctity of Life takes priority in the Catholic Church, and this includes lives outside the womb, especially my own child.
So who shows the love of Christ, Deacon A or Deacon B? Who would the oppressed be attracted to, Deacon A or Deacon B? Do we attract with love or hate?” Jesus attracted with love period.
As I continue to write about experiences like this, know that the good far outweighs the bad in the Christian faith and in the Catholic Church. We just need to find the right place with the right people. Look for the Love of Christ, those who set the captives free.