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Time To Go

William Hemsley. No longer the baby!
(William Hemsley. No longer the baby! Source)

There's an old trick that seems to be hardwired into the brain of every child: When he doesn't get his way about this or that, he threatens to leave home. Possibly for the circus. I did this myself, once actually packing a bag before I was lured back by the irresistible draw of cookies and cartoons.

But when we become adults, as Paul wrote, we leave behind our childish ways. Or at least that's how it should be. Unfortunately, there are those who seem never to have grown out of the "It's my way or I'm hitting the road" trick. I refer, of course, to dissenting "Catholics".

There seems to be no end to the "injustices" that will - they say - lead to their departure from the Church. And yet, it never actually happens. Here they are, year after year, with the same complaints and the same threats. Indeed, it's a pretty fair rule that the more vocal and virulent the dissenter, the closer they are to the parish office. Heavens, in many places, they are the parish office.

So why do they stay? It's a good question. After all, there's an Episcopal church out there just waiting for them. It has everything they're agitating for: women priests; contraception; abortion; same-sex marriage; divorce; open communion; a social-justice commitment; inclusive language; few strictly held doctrinal requirements; and a pleasing, smells-and-bells liturgy (with quite good music, to boot).

Even Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson - the actively gay cleric whose ordination almost ripped his church in half - seems to agree. In the midst of condemning the Catholic Church's position on homosexual attractions as "vile" and "an act of violence that needs to be confronted," he also noted that Benedict XVI may turn out to be quite a boon for Episcopalians. "We are seeing so many Roman Catholics joining the church," he said.

Oh Gene, may it be so. (And by the way, mind your own business.)

Don't misunderstand me. I hate to see anyone leave the Catholic Church. I do, after all, believe this is the Church Christ founded at Pentecost. Nevertheless, heterodox Catholics have already abandoned the Church in all respects save formal membership. Now all that's left is to make the obvious official.

The truth is, a dissenting Catholic is little different from a liberal Protestant. They largely believe the same things, advocate the same causes, and worship in similar ways. Of course, at least the Protestants are honest in rejecting papal authority - not so for our wayward coreligionists who pay it lip service while ignoring its every exercise.

So let them have the integrity of their own convictions and head for the door. If they will not return to the Catholic Faith, if they will not relent in opposing it at every turn, let them go. May the lavender gates of the Episcopal church be flush with every bleating, complaining, rebellious, dissident Catholic who has ever taken over a parish, or ruined a seminary, or corrupted a once-proud religious order. Those who refuse to build can only destroy, and they have destroyed quite enough.

But I have another wish as well: May all of the faithful, struggling, orthodox Anglicans and Episcopalians, caught in a church that has abandoned historic Christianity - and them along with it - find their way to the ancient Church. There are many of them, and they are our true brothers and sisters.

Bishop Robinson is welcome to our dissenters. And we will welcome his.

Copyright 2005 Brian Saint-Paul.

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