I confess to priming Patrice, an old friend and the resident Catholic theologian here, for this. I have known here for many years, and she is what I would call a passionate and rebellious Catholic scholar, and hoping she would weigh in on my criticism of the Catholic Church in the wake of the treatment of high school senior Jessica Urbina, which I view as symptomatic of the Church as it is of the schools. As I expected, however, Patrice makes a strong case.
Here is her Comment of the Day on the post, The Humiliation of Jessica Urbina:
Well, you knew I was going to respond, right?
“The cruel treatment of Jessica is one more indication of the sorry state of the Catholic Church, which appears to be a fatal cesspool of hypocrisy, desperate public relations, and an integrity vacuum. There are two kinds of Catholics, it seems: those who profess the be devout followers of the Church but who discard and violate its doctrine and core principles whenever they seem too burdensome, unpopular or embarrassing, and those who blindly follow the dictates of the Church, no matter how clearly they have been proven wrong and wrongful by the accumulated experience and wisdom of civilization, because morality never changes.”
So, what am I? The feckless “Cafeteria Catholic” or the “Fundamentalist Catholic”? I really take exception to your gross generalizations about Catholics as being one or the other of your versions. Knowing me, Jack, how could you make such generalizations?
As a sometime student of Theology, I prefer to see myself as a Catholic who dissents in good conscience from certain teachings of the Church — not because they are “too burdensome, unpopular, or embarrassing,” but because I believe that there is more to be learned from the core teachings of Jesus than what we have thus far proclaimed. And for the record, I am saddened by what happened to Jessica. What the school did (notice I say school, not church) was not compassionate, kind, or tolerant.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states the following:
“A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself.”
The problematic part comes after that: “Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.” It’s kind of a Catch 22. Does the Church see a well-formed conscience as one that has been properly educated (indoctrinated?) in the “truths” that the Church has put forth, and therefore agrees with the Church on all matters? Maybe. I suspect that this conscience thing was intended to give courage to Catholics who would have to disobey their “Catholic conscience” to do something they were being encouraged or forced to do in the secular world that is against Church teachings. Thus, martyrs. Regardless, I stand by my educated conscience.
I hold up the subjects of my senior thesis, which was about dissent in the Church: Hans Küng and Charles Curran. Both censured for their dissent, but still voices in the wilderness. Look at Pierre Telhard de Chardin. Got into a lot of trouble for his writings, but somewhat “rehabilitated” in today’s world of theological thought.
With regard to Jessica, I see this as an educational system problem, because it might have happened at any school. The fact that it happened at a Catholic school makes it look like a Catholic problem, but I sense that you would find the same problem in schools in various places around the country, as well as other denominations which teach (yes, there are others) that homosexuality is wrong/forbidden/whatever. I’m sure I’m breaking one of your principles here, but really I do see this as an authoritarian school problem first and foremost. It’s also a self-expression issue.
I personally wish Jessica great success as she, no doubt, continues to break the barriers that keep her and others from being and expressing who they are.