I Hope You Stay, But if You Leave the Church, Do Not Abandon Jesus

I Hope You Stay, But if You Leave the Church, Do Not Abandon Jesus February 14, 2020
Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Robert Cheaib https://www.flickr.com/photos/theologhia/

If you leave the Catholic Church, does a trap door open under your feet and drop you down a chute to flaming hell?

No. 

Is the Catholic Church a highway to heaven? 

Yes.

Is the Catholic Church the only way to find Jesus?

No. 

I recently published an article about Pope Francis’ decision to not allow married priests and women deacons. That article contained this paragraph,

“The women who thought that perhaps the female half of the human race would have a place in the Church that wasn’t at the back of the bus are bitter and disappointed. I think some of them will end up leaving the Church and ultimately abandon Christ and their own salvation because of it.” 

Evidently, that last sentence in the paragraph hurt already hurting people. These people felt that I was telling women who are on their last nerve with the Church that if they can’t take it anymore and leave, they will go to hell. 

These women are suffering because of the bishops’ studied indifference to the terrible misogyny of men in high places in this counry. They are scandalized and wounded by the way that the bishops just will not say that treating women like meat and committing sexual assault are sins. The bishops’ long history of actively supporting, enabling and even participating in the sexual abuse of children is additional proof — and not just to hurting women, but to any thinking person — that the bishops are seriously flawed in their moral reckoning. 

All Catholics have suffered because of the clergy sex abuse scandal. All women, including the self-hating women who back misogyny and support rapists, have been demeaned and endangered by the bishops’ indifference to misogyny and violence against women. The bishops have stood by with their shepherd’s crooks in their hands while powerful men abuse women and talk about them as objects and body parts. They have said nothing, done nothing, while one sexual predator after another has made his way to the halls of power in this nation. 

Recently, they even sent a coded message that, as Catholics, we must vote for a sexual predator and abuser of women. The internet mean Catholics have seized on this. They use it to batter other Catholics by telling them they will go to hell if they do not vote for a man who is a traitor to this country and a sexual predator who talks about women like they are a lower form of life. 

Meanwhile, the bishops do nothing to stop crazy-mean priests from going on the internet and acting as attack dogs for the extreme right wing.

This decision about women deacons was a real blow to a lot of women precisely beause they despair of ever being treated like actual human beings whose lives and purposes have the same autonomy and value as any human being. They wanted somebody at the table who would say, wait a minute, rape is not trivial, misogyny is an endemic, worldwide, historical form of persecution and discrimination that has destroyed countless lives throughout history. It is not trivial. To the contrary, it is the most imbedded and hardened cruelty human beings practice on one another. It is a curse from hell. 

No one thinks the bishops we have right now are going to say that. No one believes that the Church, as it is now, will ever take crimes of violence and persecution against women seriously. 

There are quite a number of women who have been so battered emotionally by their Church’s desertion of women for Trump that they are standing on the line, teetering on the brink, of walking out of the Church. A good number of them have horrific reasons for their feelings. 

They need affirmation of their humanity from their Church. They need to see their bishops crawl up out of whatever moral pit it is that allows them to trivialize sexual assault and misogyny and stand with the victims instead of the victimizers.

They need their bishops to be first-rate shepherds, not third-rate politicians. The bishops need to stop focusing so much on how Catholics vote and spend a bit of time ministering to their flocks, especially the women who have suffered so horribly from violence and misogyny.

If the Church is going to continue as a clerical boys’ club — and I believe it is — then that puts an enormous burden on the boys. They can’t act like a football team swapping jokes about gang rape. They’re going to have to act like priests. 

All of which brings me back to the reason I began this post in the first place. I wrote something that led women who are teetering on the brink of leaving the Church to think I was telling them they’d lose their salvation if they left. 

I didn’t intend to give that meaning at all. 

Here’s where I stand on that whole question. 

Despite the rant I just went through, I love the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church took me in and forgave me. The Catholic Church has loved me and accepted me and healed the wounds left in me by the sins I had committed. 

I know because I have experienced it that the graces of the sacraments are real. I know that Christ in the Eucharist is a living reality and that He will touch you and heal you when you partake of Him. 

I believe that the teachings of the Church are a roadway, a path, you can follow to get to heaven. 

The Church, for all its failings, will bring you to Jesus and show you how to get to heaven. That — not politics — is its mission. 

The Church has Jesus in it. But the Church does not contain or control Jesus. Jesus is wherever you are. 

He came to me when I was driving my car on the road to Enid Oklahoma. 

What I meant to say, what I was trying to express, is that I fear that a number of these women will leave the Church and drift away from Jesus until they end up abandoning Him too and that will cost them their salvation. 

There is only one empty tomb. There is only one way to salvation, and that Way is Jesus Christ. 

The Catholic Church was founded by Christ, and it offers the simplest and most sure way to get to heaven. I hope that you do not let the leaders of this Church drive you away by their indifference and hardness of heart. There is so much good here.  

I do not want women to leave the Catholic Church because of the Church’s indifference to sexual assault, rape and misogyny. But if they do leave, I want them to find another Christian community where they can live out their faith. 

Do not, ever, turn your back on Jesus. He understands your suffering. He understands your pain. He has felt it Himself. 

He was murdered by political priests who were indifferent to His suffering, in league with a cowardly politician. 

 I am sorry that what I wrote caused pain for my sisters in suffering. I will not leave the Catholic Church. But I’m not going to be silent and passive about clerics who support monsters. This clerical indifference to misogyny and violence against women is as wrong as anything I have ever seen.

I love the Catholic Church. I’m not leaving. I hope you stay, too. But if you leave, you will go with my love and prayers that your walk with Christ deepens and becomes even more fruitful for Him in your new Christian community.


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