When Walking Alongside is Walking Out

Last weekend, my husband suggested that we try a Catholic Church in our neighborhood that we’d never been to before. Although we’ve both enjoyed attending a UCC Church for the past few months, I wondered how long it would be before one of us began feeling “homesick” for Catholicism (we started going to the UCC Church regularly with the new translation of the Mass).

At the “new Church,” we were treated to a homily on “What the Church says about homosexuality.” (You, too, can be treated to the convoluted homily here. It’s fascinating to hear the priest compare GLBTQ people to pedophiles at least twice while saying that we still must treat homosexuals with “respect.”) To his credit, he DID remember BOTH sides of the Catholic teaching, which is that homosexual people must be treated with compassion and respect, although I’ve never been able to figure out how lobbying to take away their rights is compassionate or respectful (and no, it’s NOT for “their own good” — these are grown-ups we’re talking about, people, who certainly don’t need US making or enforcing rules for them.)  (As another aside, our own Phillip Clark speaks to this duality with MUCH more eloquence than this priest does; make sure to watch for his essay about it in the upcoming book, Hungering and Thirsting for Justice, due out in September.)

No matter how many times I’ve heard the rhetoric about the “Church’s stance,” it just won’t roll off my back. I felt my disappointment and anger mount throughout the sermon, and I thought, “Well, we’ll never come back to THIS church.”

As soon as the sermon ended, my husband leaned close to me and whispered, “When do you want to leave?”

I was taken aback. Despite the fact that my mom often “threatens” to leave if a priest says this thing or that thing, she’s never actually done it. In our family, you didn’t leave church early — you ranted about it afterwards instead. So I said, “I just thought we’d stay until the end and not come back.”

He said, “I assumed that you’d want to leave.”

I waited a couple minutes, digesting all this. Then I said, “Do you mean it? Would you really leave with me?”

He said, “There are exceptions to every rule.” [a reference to the fact that both of us agree it’s not OK to leave church before the final song is finished.]

As we left the church and emerged into the sunny, still parking lot, I had a much different feeling in my heart than I usually experience after these types of services. Usually I felt anger, disappointment, and ultimately, despair that  this divisive, unloving message was STILL being embraced by religious leaders. But last Sunday, I felt a sense of freedom. I really COULD leave. And stronger than that, I felt gratitude.

I felt grateful that God had blessed me with someone who was willing to stand up and leave with me, despite a bit of self-conscious discomfort, despite  a few dirty looks. I thought, That’s what love really is — a willingness to walk with someone, yes — even if that means walking out with them. 

Ultimately, I think the fact that I could leave that service without feeling totally charged with negative energy far outweighed any “Catholic guilt” I may have harbored in my subconscious about leaving before the Eucharist. I think the absence of that negative energy does a lot more good for the world than fulfilling my duty to stay till the end of service, no matter what the cost to my psyche or my relationship with Catholicism.

Luckily, my husband isn’t the only one who reminds me I’m not alone. This blog and this community of progressive, thoughtful Catholics does, too. So do posts like this one, from an eloquent Evangelical who is fed up with the unholy union between Christianity and Bigotry. I definitely recommend reading it, especially if you listened to the earlier podcast and need to neutralize the sour taste it left in your soul.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized by Lacey Louwagie. Bookmark the permalink.

About Lacey Louwagie

I'm a feminist, a writer, an editor, and a seeker. I co-edited "Hungering and Thirsting for Justice: Real-Life Stories by Young Adult Catholics" (ACTA 2012) and authored "Where I First Met God" in "Unruly Catholic Women Writers II" (SUNY Press 2013). You can learn more about me at www.laceylouwagie.com.

8 thoughts on “When Walking Alongside is Walking Out

    • Jesus flouted purity and Sabbath regulations, raged his way through the Temple, and very pointedly contradicted the religious leaders of his time. Wouldn’t it have been more honest if he’d walked out of Judaism altogether, in that case? Yet Jesus spoke of himself not as abolishing the law or the prophets, but fulfilling them.

  1. On balance, I thought the homily was quite excellent. I get the impression you’d rather a) hear nothing on what the Church teaches on homosexuality (which you called ‘rhetoric’); or b) listen to someone only confirm what you already believe. As Chesterton once said, I don’t want a Church to only say what’s right when I’m right; I want a Church to say what’s right when I’m wrong. Which sort of Church do you want?

    Also, what’s unfortunate is that you decided to not receive the Eucharist, thus turning your back on Christ. How did that show Him any compassion or respect?

    • In answer to your question about what sort of Church I want: I want one that behaves more the way that Jesus behaved. I want one where all people feel welcome, and where people don’t feel they have to stifle certain aspects of themselves to be accepted, where people can be whole and embraced in all their beauty and their brokenness. I want a church were the leaders are not in denial about the connection between priests pushing against gay marriage and calling same-sex love “intrinsically disordered” and telling young GLBTQ people that they don’t EVER have the right to take part in one of God’s greatest gifts — committed, romantic love — and the high suicide rate amongst GLBTQ teens. The religious rhetoric — and with something as disconnected from anything Jesus ever said as this, I feel justified in calling in rhetoric — is literally killing teens. Because if you can’t feel safe in your church community, if you are told that God made you who you are, and that who you are is worthy of love, except NOT worthy of the lifelong, loving partnership open to your heterosexual counterparts, what is left for you? At a time when most young people are dreaming about all the possibilities their life might take, gay teens often only see one future: one of loneliness and condemnation. I want a church that doesn’t contribute to that vision of their future.

      You and I probably have different definitions of what it means to “turn your back on Christ,” which is fine. To me, turning my back on Christ is turning it on my fellow human beings, turning away from their pain, looking the other way when they face unjust discrimination and as such implicitly taking part in that discrimination. Christ is certainly in the Eucharist, just as He is in each and every one of God’s children.

      The value I place in the Eucharist and Christ’s presence in it is one of the reasons I left early; I would rather not receive the Eucharist while my heart was in a state of negativity, anger, and resentment toward the Church and the person dispensing the Eucharist that day. That’s not a call I would make for anyone else, but Jesus knows my heart and that’s all that really matters.

  2. Thelarryd sounds quite judgmental. The Church is the people of God, not just the hierarchical Ieaders–at least according to Church teaching. I appreciated your article, Lacey. First of all, it sounds like you consulted your conscience, which the Church also says ought never be neglected, and though difficult, you followed what felt right to you in term of honor and respect. You are fortunate to have a husband who will walk with you, rather
    than judge you, or dictate his wishes to you. Thanks for your thoughts,

  3. “these are grown-ups we’re talking about, people, who certainly don’t need US making or enforcing rules for them” but that is exactly what they are asking, they are asking us to change the definition of marriage for them, and enforce that view upon the Church.

    I think it was brave of this priest to stand up to so much of the culture the way he did here. Much like the Chesterton quote thelarryd cited, I think what you’re asking for from the Church is for your thoughts to be validated, I think the Church should be listened to open your mind and listen to the teachings and you will see that the Church truly makes sense.

  4. Pingback: Look Not on Our Sins « Young Adult Catholics

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