If You Join the Club You Have to Play by the Rules: Andrew Sullivan and the Catholic Church

andrew sullivan

There is an interesting trend in American Christianity of people joining Christian churches and then objecting to what the churches believe. Gay Catholic Andrew Sullivan seems to think he can be a member of the Catholic church club and the club rules don’t apply to him and others like him.  In a post about a male Catholic teacher being fired for marrying his partner, Sullivan had this to say:

…What does it say about the twisted, absurd view of homosexual persons that the Catholic Church should demand that they divorce their spouses as a condition of working for a Catholic organization? It tells you so much. What the church is saying by this is that homosexuals should be punished for constructing stable, committed relationships of mutual care and support. If they stay single or have some kind of down-low commitment ceremony, all will be ignored…

…Go read the story and see if a school is insane for firing such dedicated professionals simply for committing to another human being for life. The Pope recently warned against treating a diverse society, and a diverse catholic community, with such hostility or misunderstanding that the church delivers a “vaccine against faith.” Here’s what I know. Eastside Catholic should be proud of itself for attracting such gifted teachers and for producing a young student body able to stand up for the marginalized and persecuted. It should be ashamed for the way it is treating all of them…

I too, am outraged over the firing of the school teacher. What I have a problem with is Christians who are “outraged’ when their church club follows the club rules. If I join a club, I am expected to follow the rules of the club. If the club grants one person dictatorial power over the club, say someone like the pope, then by joining the club I am agreeing with this one person having dictatorial power over the club. How can I express outrage over something I knew before I joined the club?

Liberal Catholics like Andrew Sullivan want to think that Pope Francis is a new and improved Pope. After all, look at all the wonderful pronouncements he has made since becoming Pope. However, I learned a long time ago that you don’t pay attention to what a person says, you pay attention to what they do. (have we not learned this with President Obama?) Yes, the Pope has said a lot of nice things about homosexuals and atheists. Woo-hoo, right?  But, has he changed ONE policy of the Catholic church? Of course not. Until Pope Francis actually issues an official edict about homosexuality, same-sex marriage, etc., no one should think for one moment that the Catholic church has changed.

Sullivan knows this, but he lives in a delusional world where people think power-hungry,  authoritarian churches clubs like the Catholic church will change if enough people express outrage. I admire Sullivan for voicing his outrage, but the real answer for people like him is for them to take their money and leave the club they are in and join a new club. And, above all, make sure they can abide by the club rules BEFORE they join the new club.

The Catholic church hasn’t changed but the American people have. The best thing that American Catholics can do is tell Pope Francis and the Roman Catholic church goodbye (and maybe give them the finger as they are leaving). They won’t do this, of course, because they believe there is only one true church, the Roman Catholic church, and to leave the church means purgatory or hell.

On a totally unrelated note, have you seen the Catholic TV ad featuring former Notre Dame coach, Lou Holtz? If not, enjoy! Please feel free to puke afterward.

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Comments (11)

  1. John Arthur

    Hi Bruce,

    “If you join the club you have to play by the rules”.

    The trouble is that most churches have crazy dogma as part of their rules: e.g. trinity, 2 natures of Christ in one person, virgin birth etc. To belong to the group, you must subscribe outwardly to the dogma of the particular church. If you differ, and wish to retain your integrity, you are left with no option but to resign or leave the group. Openly disagree and you will asked to leave or (if you try to remain) you will be expelled.

    John Arthur

    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      All churches are, at some level, fundamentalist. They require conformity. Even a liberal church wouldn’t stand for a member that said they worshiped Satan. :)

  2. sgl

    i never understood the logic of lobbying the catholic church to change their dogma. if they speak for god, then you’re essentially lobbying god to change his mind, and god’s supposedly the same yesterday as today, so it doesn’t seem like it would work very well. and if the church doesn’t speak for god, then what’s the point of going to a catholic church in the first place?

    (same logic applies to protestant churches, but most people will just switch to a new sect instead of lobbying for change i guess.)

    1. gimpi

      Actually, SGL, the Catholic Church has changed many times. They just seem to have a hard time admitting they have changed. For instance, they no longer believe they are required by God to arrest, torture and burn alive anyone who they consider a heretic. They accept the Sun-centered universe, the age of the earth, and the evolution of all life, including humans. They no longer support either racism or anti-semitism. I assume they will change their mind about marriage-equity eventually, and then try to pretend they never felt differently.

  3. ... Zoe ~

    Awoman! Thanks Bruce. The pope hasn’t changed one thing, not one thing. I guess everyone thinks that his words are changing doctrine. Not one bit.

    1. pgaikin

      At least Francis is saying these things. But he’s only been pope for a year so give him time. But there are powerful forces in the church lining up against him and given the Machiavellian nature of the Vatican and the church’s hierarchy he probably knows he can’t push too far too fast or he’d just sign his death warrant. I still think it’s possible Pope John Paul 1 may have been assassinated. But in words of Dylan “the wheels still in spin, ‘cause the times they are a changing.” By the way, I’m not RC or a Christian.

      1. Kat

        You make a good point gpaikin: at least he is saying these things. Maybe he hasn’t made any official changes, but his word will be taken by many Catholics as THE WORD, so he may begin to change minds, which is the beginning of things. If he can soften the Catholic church’s heart, guide them away from persecution and towards service, I won’t worry too much about Papal Bulls and changes in doctrine — as the Church changes, those things will eventually change as well. It’s not what you say you believe but how you act that makes you a force for good or evil.

      2. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

        Oh, I think he is a breath of fresh air but I can’t imagine the church changing on things like homosexuality, abortion, or women in the priesthood, without there being a huge uprising, especially in the West. Changing these things requires the Pope to admit that previous popes and the church were wrong! They have just finally got around to apologizing for their complicity with Nazi Germany, so maybe my great-great grandchildren might see real, lasting change in the Catholic church. :)

        I like what this Pope says but I want to see him put his words into effect.

  4. Troy

    I couldn’t agree with you more. The Catholic church is a lot like the Greek gods, whose power came from their worshipers (having the lightning bolt didn’t hurt either). Staying in the club gives them their power. Reminds me a bit of the old SNL sketch with Father Guido Sarducci, “become your own pope”.

  5. gimpi

    I live in Seattle, and I’ve been following this. In my opinion, the Catholic Church picked the wrong hill to die on. Mr. Sullivan and his husband will continue to gain support, and the Church will continue to lose members and money. At some point, they will have to back down or risk losing funding for the school. Seattle is a city pretty devoted to equal-rights and equal rites.

  6. Angiep

    The Lou Holtz ad really didn’t say anything. It just made the church sound pretty. Pretty nauseating, actually!


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