We hear a lot about the radical right-wing Catholic anti-abortionists. They are the living expression of official Church dogma. But did you also know that the Catholic Church is anti-war and anti-death penalty. There are no public expressions of this dogma. Why? Part of the reason is that the right wing has taken over the Catholic Church, and left-wing Catholics have been bullied into submission. Not only do leftists not have a voice in the Church, they have been forced underground. What do I mean? Here in southern Illinois, the eastern wing of the greater St. Louis archdiocese (no small lot, Catholics make up about half of the area's seven million citizens), anti-war, pro-choice, humanist Catholics have been banned from gathering on church properties. I learned this from a friend named Mary, who is constantly trying to re-convert me. I am a Jesuit-educated, anti-Catholic, secular-progressive heretic, and she still clings to the old faith even though, like all disciples, she is a living contradiction.
Anyway, we had a conversation yesterday which went something like this:
ME: Whatever happened to the left-wing voice of the Church...you know the humanist movement that thrived after the proclamations of Vatican II?
MARY: I don't know. We used to meet in small groups in the basement of St. Clare's. But they banned the meetings a few years ago when they found out we were pro-choice.
ME: You mean they kicked you off church property?
MARY: Yeah, we started meeting in private homes, but they found out about that too and the priests started pressuring us to decease. We tried gathering at undisclosed locations, but it just became too much of a hassle.
ME: It's like Germany in the 1930s. Why do you want to remain a member of St. Goebbels' parish?
MARY: I still believe...I still have faith.
ME: Faith in what? That Father Pedophile will be tried, convicted and defrocked after raping his next 10-year-old? That's why the Church is anti-death penalty...its afraid priests will be fried for diddling altar boys.
(Note: Mary knows me and just shrugs and laughs at my irreverence.)
MARY: I believe we all have spirits that will live on beyond us.
ME: What the fuck does that have to do with organized fascism...err...religion?
MARY: We were both raised in the same traditions. You chose to fall away. I still believe in a just and loving God.
ME: I did not choose to fall away. The Jesuits made it perfectly clear to my young mind that intellect and faith are at odds with one another. And that there is no empirical evidence for the existence of God. You either leap the abyss from disbelief to belief...or you don't. But it has nothing to do with reason.
MARY: That's why when I get to heaven I'll have to pray for your soul to join me there.
ME: I don't think the big fella wants me there. I'll have too many damn questions for him.
MARY: Like what?
ME: Like why did He allow war, pestilence and evil to thrive...and that's just Dick Cheney.
MARY: You'll have all the answers.
ME: I don't think so. The right wingers will take over heaven, and we won't be allowed to hold our left-wing meetings there either.
MARY: You're a hopeless case.
ME: I know, but these are hard times. And in hard times, we left wingers cling to our First Amendment and our gun bans.