Continuing Conflict in Boston

There's an discussion over at Sacramentum Minimum (formerly Exiled Catholic) on the recent events in Newton over Fr. Walter Cuenin's removal; just in yesterday, from the Boston Globe, is a report on two church musicians from St. Gabriel parish in Brighton, Mass., and their responses to a weekend sermon calling on Catholics to sign the Massachusetts petition against gay marriage. The organist walked out, and the cantor briefly spoke from her microphone against the petition. The latter was immediately fired, and the organist resigned in solidarity. One wishes that we had some good social scientific data to determine how that congregation, or lots of other congregations like it, are taking the recent R.C. push against same-sex marriage in the state. Are they more likely to be running out to help support the initiative, or are they likely to be more like the elderly woman described in the article as thanking Colleen Bryant, the cantor, for saying something? All I have is anecdotal evidence, which only goes so far...

Here in Massachusetts, the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry has been collecting signatures for a Roman Catholic Statement Supporting Marriage Equality to provide an alternate voice to the Massachusetts Catholic Conference. Past readers of this blog will know that I'm constitutionally (nice pun, eh!) wary about institutionalizing or absolutizing divisions within the Christian community in general and within my Catholic church in particular; the danger of polarization, of mutual demonization, and of forgetting our communion with people with whom we sometimes disagree looms large, but I think that this petition's tone and its rootedness in Catholic social teaching goes far in attempting to avoid that problem.


Fr. B said...

I hope you'll continue to keep us posted on the Massachusetts scene particularly with regard to the Church and gay related issues. The current streak of negative reports coming from the Boston area seem to indicate that the Archdiocese is free-falling. Living at a distance it's hard to tell whether this is an accurate reflection of the reality.
Fr. B

Celine said...

The CANTOR denounced the homily from the microphone? I'm all for opening up the concept of teaching authority, but not to cantors. Cantors do enough of spiritual and church-dividing damage with their odd musical decisions, obvious battles with the organist, wedding monopolies and operatic flourishes. Can you imagine if they began theological commentary, too? "Personally, I think the Old Testament God has nothing to do with MY God and was just a bad old God the good God liberated us from. Our Offetory Hymn will be 'O Healing River'."

My parents' pastor back home in a parish in Ontario (where there has been gay marriage for months without civil or religious warfare)found a way around divisive homiletics. He said the text of the Archbishop's statement was at the back of the Church for us to read and asked us if we believed our gay parishioners loved God and their children any less than the straight parishioners did.

Normally, I can't stand the guy, but that day I had to hand it to him. He made the straight parishioners contemplate that there were gays in the parish, he acknowledged the gay parishioners, and he avoided both slagging the archbishop and taking a divisive political stance.

Being a Catholic in Massachusetts scares the heck out of me. Really.

Nate said...

Normally, I can't stand the guy, but that day I had to hand it to him. He made the straight parishioners contemplate that there were gays in the parish, he acknowledged the gay parishioners, and he avoided both slagging the archbishop and taking a divisive political stance.

I'm not sure if this is to be considered commendable. We are in the boat we're in because no one is standing up to the bishops. Should we really be commending pastors for finding clever ways around standing up to the bishops?

BaptizedPagan said...

I'm not sure. I've been reading enough James Alison again lately that I'm finding more wisdom in being compassionate to our bishops, who are, to use Alison's words, just as bound up as we are in a lot of this mess regarding sexuality. So I think I have sympathy with the position of trying to find creative ways to actively help gay parishioners while not further weakening the authority of the bishops within our church. But that could just be my natural new england irish allergies to conflict coming through...

On the other hand, on behalf of my liturgical musician friends, I do want to make a small clearing of the throat on their behalf; yes, some of them are pills, but they're often more consistent in their contributions to the local church than most of their fellow parishioners... also, I think this was probably an extreme case where the faithful's right and duty to express their views may have justified speaking from the pulpit. Not having heard exactly what the pastor said, I'm not sure what response might have been called for; I think walking out silently, as the organist seems to have done, probably would have been more my speed if I judged that the sacramental statement of communion celebrated in the Eucharist was strained to the breaking point.

(Incidentally, I've only walked out of the Eucharist once in my life in response to a sermon...in Canada. St. Patrick's, the anglophone parish in downtown Montréal, to be precise. I happened to be in town during pride weekend, and, unlike Marie, Reine du Monde down the street where I ended up, the sermon never really looked at the scriptures of the day...

Celine said...

BP, I appreciate you defending your cantor friends. I have friends and family who are cantors and church organists, and I'm happy to say that they aren't pills and take seriously their role as ministers of music. But unfortunately, like the tyrannical lay ministers Andrew Greeley mentions, other cantors do think of themselves as para-clergy or perhaps "co-stars".

Now perhaps the cantor at St. Gabriel's was just so steamed she lost her head. However, the right place to sound off is not during Mass but after Mass in the doorway with the other steamed parishioners or better yet, in the priest's office.

As for advising bishops, that is what theologians are traditionally for. And I can't imagine the point of picketing bishops, etc. It's not like they're facing re-election. However, I suppose rioting has certainly been a traditional, if today unsual, Catholic response to unpopular bishops.

Meanwhile, I imagine a churchful of Brighton parishioners do not need a cantor to tell them not to sign a petition. No doubt they can make up their own mind, just as they probably have on the Pill, etc.

As a Canadian Catholic, I would like to say that, despite a lot of fuss beforehand, our government's recognition of civil marriage between people of the same sex has not brought down civilization as we knew it. There has not been a widespread persecution of religious communities. God has not sent lightning to burn down Parliament Hill. Tasteless weddings may have reached new depths--there are tales of barechested waitstaff in leopard-print trunks--but I doubt it. They were pretty tasteless before.

Civil marriage and religious marriage are two different entities. Meanwhile, a society that believes romantic love, not marital chastity and children, is the raison d'etre for marriage, is a society that implicitly accepts gay marriage.