Should the church take in Episcopalians who believe in injustice?

by Maureen Fiedler

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The Vatican has created a new "Ordinariate" for disaffected Episcopalians who come over to the Catholic church. Most of the disaffected Episcopalians are unhappy with the ordination of women as priests and bishops, the welcoming of openly gay/lesbian clergy and the blessing of same-sex unions. Many of them believe that such practices violate the basic teachings of Christianity.

As I read such stories, I understand all the ecclesial reasons for this move, and I'm happy that former Episcopal priests can remain married as they make the move. I just wish we'd extend the same right to our own Catholic priests.

And I have nothing against Episcopalians (or anyone) choosing to join the Catholic church. I think we need an open door.

But overall, I am troubled about this recent move. Generally speaking, the Episcopalians moving over are not disaffected by prayers or hymns or externals. They are uncomfortable with recent Episcopal practices that recognize and bless human equality. Are we violating a fundamental principle of justice when we welcome folks into the Catholic church because they are opposed to gender equality and/or do not accept people of different sexual orientations on an equal basis?

A sense of compassion would dictate helping them through their dilemma, but should the process validate their views?

Of course, current Catholic theology and practice accepts these views, which is unfortunate, but welcoming people who are fleeing practices of human equality is still troubling.

There was a time when many churches (including the Catholic church) supported slavery, but later recognized that it was sinful (in spite of the fact that the Bible accepts it as a fact of life). If we had lived in that age, and had not yet changed, would we have welcomed pro-slavery minions from another denomination because they were pro-slavery and were more comfortable in a church that accepted slavery?

I can hear some people objecting loudly ... this is not the same thing as slavery! It's not cruel to deny women or open gays and lesbians priestly ordination. We don't keep people in bondage or use the lash!

It's true that denying equality to women and LGBT folks is not physically cruel. There is no auction block or whipping or forced labor. But the underlying principle is the same: slavery (and segregation and much more) was a denial of the basic human equality of African-Americans. By the same token, refusing to ordain women or refusing to recognize the equal humanity of gays and lesbians is a denial of basic human equality to women and LGBT folks. And make no mistake about it -- both groups have paid dearly because of unequal treatment, a practice long approved by religious bodies.

And so I must ask: When we welcome people because they seek a place where their belief in inequality is accepted, are we not perpetuating and even blessing attitudes of injustice?

Maybe it's no worse than current Catholic teaching and practice, but this seems to underline the injustice of it all.

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