Later today, Oprah Winfrey will present the final episode of the epic 25-year run of her talk show. Whether you belong to the Oprah or the "Just Say Noprah" camp, it is difficult to deny that, for millions, Winfrey's program has been much more than a talk show. The devotion that she has inspired goes beyond her massive car and gift giveaways and her ability to attract the most powerful celebrities to her stage.
Grace on the Margins
Earlier this week, Jim Wallis and Sojourners magazine, upheld by many as the great, white, progressive hope of Protestant Evangelicalism, found themselves on the defense after rejecting a video ad from an organization called Believe Out Loud.
The ad, which can be seen on Youtube, shows a young boy walking up the aisle of a church flanked by two adults. As the threesome moves past the pews, children point at them and adults give them disapproving stares. When they reach the front of the church, the camera raises to show that the boy is accompanied by his two mothers. A clergyman looks at them from the sanctuary and announces, “Welcome, everyone.”
As the progressive Catholic world continues to lament the imminent expulsion of Fr. Roy Bourgeois from the Maryknoll community, Bishop Patricia Fresen stands as a quiet reminder that many Catholic women have already suffered a similar fate for publicly supporting women's ordination.
Of all of the celebrations that rang out after the death of Osama bin Laden was announced, the festivities that erupted on U.S. college campuses were particularly intriguing.
John Paul II’s imminent beatification has led both secular and religious media to make an old idea like sainthood new again.
For most of us, saints seem otherworldly, far removed from ordinary existence. We get images of a perfect, selfless saint or an ecstatic, medieval mystic with an oozing stigmata. They are angelic beings, far easier to pray to than relate to. It’s no wonder that Dorothy Day famously quipped “Don’t call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.”
I’ve had more than one Catholic who grew up either before or on the cusp of Vatican II tell me horror stories of how they were taught that Jesus died because of their sins.
This was a particularly heavy-handed way for priests and nuns to lay an even thicker coat of guilt on impressionable Catholic school children. Because they were sinners, Jesus had to suffer and die to redeem them. It was one rendering of the traditional theological interpretations of the crucifixion -- that Jesus had to die to fulfill the Scriptures and that his death atoned for the sins of the world.
One of my earliest memories of church is watching my mother being forced to abstain from the Eucharist during my First Holy Communion. The scene is still vivid for me.
I sat in the third pew, squirming in the frilly, miniature bridal gown and veil that we were required to wear. When I returned from my first taste of the host and sacramental wine, I turned around to watch my family receive communion.
He won a purple heart for his service in Vietnam. He lived and worked among the poor in Bolivia for five years. He has served nearly five years in federal prison for non-violent protests, calling attention to U.S. foreign policy in Latin America. And now Fr. Roy Bourgeois has been told that he no longer has a place in the community of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.
When I questioned my students at an area college class about their feelings on religious hierarchy, I received many of the same answers. They do not trust religious leadership. Why? Because they believe that religious leaders are not living out the morality they espouse.
Not only do these students believe that they do not need a mediator between themselves and God, many believe that the mediator may actually taint or obstruct their relationships with the holy.
If these same students tuned into Morley Safer’s interview with Archbishop Dolan on Sunday night, I wonder if any of their opinions might be amended.
This past Ash Wednesday, while most Catholics were being told to turn away from sin, the faithful in Philadelphia were informed that the hierarchy had, once again, failed to do so themselves. After reading the details of this latest fallout of the church’s sex abuse epidemic, I am starting to wonder if there is anything left to say. Even with so much already said, there is still one question that troubles me. Why are we, the Catholic laity, still letting the hierarchy get away with it?