A group of very progressive Roman Catholics in Portland, left to their own devices for too long and allowed to make up their own rules, is now bristling under a new pastor who is reminding them to which Church they belong.
St. Francis is one of the oldest churches in Portland. It has long been known as a bastion of progressive Catholic faith.
Parishioners have marched in the Portland Pride parade, fed and given shelter to people experiencing homelessness and worked to make the traditionally patriarchal institution more inclusive of women. For several years, a banner hung above the church steps that read “Immigrants & refugees welcome.
Now, the banner is missing. Vestments and one of several treasured photographs of the homeless community that had lined the walls of their parish had been piled in a trailer headed for the dump.
Many felt the new priest aimed to better align St. Francis with the archdiocese, who some feel is out of step with Catholics in Portland.
There is a lot of wrong to unpack in those paragraphs, beginning with the implication that helping the homeless is something that only “progressive” Catholics (which really isn’t a thing) would do.
I should also point out that this lengthy, unquestioning article was not written by a religion reporter, which many newspapers still employ. Its author is a news intern according to his Twitter bio.
It matters not that “some” feel the archdiocese is “out of step with the Catholics in Portland.” An archdiocese doesn’t exist to adapt to the whims and social mores of a particular region. The Church would cease to exist in a matter of years were that the case.
There is a lot of confusion among the parishioners of St. Francis:
The Roman Catholic Church is rooted in tradition and hierarchy. Jerry Harp, chair of St. Francis’ pastoral council, is struggling to understand how he relates to this structure of authority. It was this hierarchy that was roiling his parish.
Harp considers himself a devout Catholic. He starts every morning with mediation and prayer and prays the Hail Mary at least once a day. He tries to attend Mass every Sunday. When he was in his 20s, he said he wanted to follow every rule he could. Now he questions how those rules bring him closer to God.
The hierarchy that Harp struggles with traces itself all the way to St. Peter in the Roman Catholic Church. That’s actually one of the big selling points for those of us who don’t find ourselves roiled by it.
And talking to a Roman Catholic who is complaining about rules is like meeting a boxer who says he wants to keep fighting but doesn’t want to get hit anymore.
There is a lot to pick apart in this article but I’ll pluck out the one passage that made me want to slam my head against a wall then wrap up:
“Some would say ‘Well you have to relate to the authority structure by following them to the letter,'” Harp said. “Well how do you know that? It’s perfectly legitimate for other people to have other answers.”
Long-time parishioners knew the answer. They didn’t like being told how to worship.
This was their church.
I hate to keep picking on Jerry, but he is the one who wanted to say dumb things to a news intern.
To Jerry’s “…how do you know that?” question I respond: almost 2000 years of history.
Everything that follows his question in the above passage is absolutely insane when one considers this is about Roman Catholics.
No, Jerry, we don’t get to make up our own answers about the rules of the Church.
And it’s not “their church,” it’s the Church.
I will say with all of the politeness that I can muster here that if the parishioners don’t want to be told how to worship they have no business being Catholic.
That’s really what’s going on here.
But for a very (thankfully) brief faith crisis a couple of years ago which I chronicled here, I have been a practicing Roman Catholic my whole life. For twenty years I was a member of what many would say is the most “progressive” parish in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. I now attend traditional Latin Mass every week.
Across that broad spectrum, many things remain the same.
The truly devout Catholics I know find things like the hierarchy and being told how to worship as big selling points for the Church.
In fact, almost everything that the parishioners in the article are complaining about are reasons most of us are Catholic.
We are HUGE fans of the fact that the Church isn’t subject to our whims, which is what everyone in this article seems to want.
There are any number of feel-good Christian denominations where these people can find the progressivism and entertainment that they want, and they’re free to join them.
What they are not free to do, however, is attempt to give a local rewrite to the Catechism of the Catholic Church so that it has more of a Portland hippie vibe.
People who do a Code Pink-like protest during Mass (video below) have really lost touch with their faith.
Yes, I’ll say some prayers for them. Some Catholic prayers.
Which they’ll probably want to rewrite.Here’s the vid: