This time, we have chosen what another Catholic priest says about the Catholic Church. It's sincere, it's so deep and so 
amazing. Thank God we still have priests who have the courage to speak out the truth!

The Church I love

As a lifelong Catholic and priest for forty six years, I love being a member of the Catholic Church.

There is a great deal about being Catholics that delights and encourages me. I appreciate the fact that   the Catholic Church 
is rooted in humanity, through the Incarnation of Jesus and through his life, death and Resurrection. I find the sacraments 
and the Liturgy of the Church comforting. I find the full Catholic Social Teaching of our Church, rooted in the commitment 
of Jesus to the lowly, children and the poor. I am grateful that there is so much in the long history of our Church to keep 
us connected over centuries with saintly women and men who  have  gone before us and to so many different cultures throughout
the world.  I belong to a religious community of apostolic life, the Congregation of the Mission, that  is one of many 
religious congregations in the Church. I even see value in the organizational structure of  our Church that connects parish 
communities to dioceses and dioceses to national conferences and  national conferences to the universal Church. I see value
in clergy, religious and laity working together to promote the unfolding of God's reign in our world. I could go on with 
other positives about the Church that I love.

However, I am terribly saddened and even angry over some of the actions of the hierarchy, especially some bishops and popes,
in recent years. The leadership of our Church has just proclaimed a year of faith, wants to promote a new evangelization 
and has been speaking out for “religious freedom” for the Church. Those are worthy declarations and goals. Unfortunately, 
I experience the actions of our leadership leading to the opposite rather than bringing more faith filled people into the 
Church. Here are some specific examples. 

The bishops of the United States promoted a campaign this past summer before our national elections on “religious freedom.” 
They expressed a concern that our government is doing things to prevent religious freedom in our Catholic Church, specifically
regarding birth control and the definition of marriage. Certainly, religious freedom is a worth standing up for.  However, it
is just as worthy to grant “religious freedom” to the many Catholics and other people who have a different understanding of 
the legitimacy of birth control and the definition of marriage.  While making their stand on “religious freedom,” it was sad 
to hear and read of  bishops who were threatening Catholics with eternal damnation if they dared vote for someone who allowed 
birth control, allowed people to make their own choices about abortion and had a different understanding of civil marriage.

In the interests of religious freedom for all people, why could not the bishops forcefully declare what is our Catholic  
definition of marriage and what we expect of people who want their marriage to be accepted in the Catholic Church? In fact, 
that is the present position of the Catholic Church. Anyone who wishes to enter into a Catholic marriage must accept the Catholic
Church's understanding  of marriage. The Catholic Church does not accept the limited understanding of marriage that civil law in
the United States accepts and we have had no problems over the years with this approach.  If civil and state governments choose
to broaden their understanding of what constitutes a civil marriage to include members of the same gender, that is the right of
the government, generally after receiving the vote of the majority of the governed.  This marriage issue is  an excellent 
example of the value of keeping Church and State separate.  The State need not tell the Church  or any religious group what 
must be an acceptable religious  understanding of marriage and the Church need not tell the State what is their acceptable 
understanding of marriage.  This is how freedom ought to be exercised.

A most recent example of how the hierarchy of the Church says one thing and practices another is the way they have dealt with 
Fr. Roy Bourgeois, MM.  He has publicly come out in support of the ordination of women in the Catholic priesthood. The Vatican 
has declared this a topic that we ought not to even speak about, declaring it a defined teaching that women cannot be ordained
priests. Despite the fact that Catholic Biblical scholars and theologians have studied the matter and concluded that this is 
not so clear cut as the Vatican would like it to be, Popes and bishops have declared it so. Is this the  way to promote religious
freedom?   

The reality is that many Catholics, indeed many Catholic priests and probably even some Catholic bishops think this is a topic
worth continued discussion. Many would like to discuss this topic publicly and yet are afraid that they would be treated in the same way that Fr. Roy has been treated these past four years by Church hierarchy.  Fr. Roy chose to go public even to the point of participating in the ordination of a woman to the Catholic priesthood.  Because of that action, he was declared automatically excommunicated from the Church in 2008.  Since that time efforts were made to pressure his religious community, Maryknoll, to expel him from the community if he would not recant from his position on the ordination of women.  Fr. Roy said he could not recant because he would be going against his own informed conscience by doing so. Maryknoll did not choose to expel him. This October, the Vatican took matters into its own hands and expelled him on its own authority and informed the Maryknoll leadership, who in turn informed Fr. Roy that he was out. There is still some question about the authority of the Vatican to intervene in the life of a religious community and expel a member. However, the Vatican decided that it could do what it wanted because it is the highest authority in the Church. How do we reconcile this with the promotion of  religious freedom?

What makes this situation so striking is that the Vatican chooses to take such a strong and definitive stand on a matter of 
doctrine that is debatable in the eyes of many Catholics. At the same time, the Vatican has taken a much milder stand on a matter
of moral behavior of its members, namely in the matter of clergy and bishops involved in pedophilia cases over the years. It 
appears that one can go against serious moral teachings of the Church to the point of harming and in some cases destroying the
lives of other people and yet remain in full membership in the Church.  However, when one challenges some doctrinal teaching 
of the Church that is another matter.

How does this kind of behavior speak to people of faith in this year of faith?  How can this behavior help to promote a new
evangelization and bring more people into the Catholic Church?  How are young  and intelligent women of faith going to be kept
or welcomed into the Church when they are told that they are not even supposed to talk about the possibility of their sharing 
in the priesthood in the Church?  How are inquiring young men going to be welcomed into the Church and to pursue priesthood when
they are told that there are certain topics they cannot even talk about, such as ordination of women?

How are young married couples going to continue in or join the Catholic Church when they are told that the celibate hierarchy of
the Church knows more about what constitutes legitimate forms of family planning than they do? How are homosexual men and women
going to continue in or join the Church when they are told that the only way they can be Catholics is if they commit themselves
to celibacy for the rest of their lives, that there is no debating any other form of behavior for them? 

To conclude, what do these issues have to do with the Catholic Church, with Faith, with religious freedom and with a new 
evangelization? It appears to me and many I share with that there are many more fundamental issues of our Catholic Faith that 
we ought to focus on while leaving others open to debate and differing views.  We can promote our wonderful teaching on the
importance of religious freedom and the formation of conscience, while allowing individuals to exercise that freedom. We can
promote as strongly as we desire our wonderful teachings on the sacraments in the Church and still allow discussion on the 
possibility of extending the sacrament of Holy Orders to others besides celibate males. We can teach and continue to demand 
that all people who wish to marry in the Catholic Church accept our Catholic understanding of the sacrament of marriage while 
allowing civil governments the freedom to define civil marriage as the governed choose. In this way, we will truly be promoting
the Catholic Church in this year of faith and we will be showing others what we stand for as Catholics while not imposing our 
views on others, especially when there are even differences within our Church on many of these issues.  
Rev. Louis Arceneaux, C.M.

Regarding women's ordination one can see what happened in the Catholic Church in this link.

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