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As Long as We Remember...

May 15, 2012


Roy Meachum

That was the headline above a full-page ad one week ago in The Washington Post. Several hundred years ago expressing such an idea publically would lead to the whipping stocks. Heresy against Rome would lead to necks cut by a sword – before the Reformation.


Annie Laurie Graylor and Dan Barker sign themselves as co-presidents of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. They would lose their heads in the eras before Martin Luther pinned his 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. There had been other protests to the Vatican before, led by John Wycliffe and Jan Huss.


Still earlier the Orthodox Church formed outside papal authority; in that instance the cause was celibacy. The curia found it uncomfortable that married priests did not instantly and unquestionably follow their orders. Being educated in Catholic boarding school, I learned the Vatican has an answer for all of the revolutions against its domination. In many instances, sex is the issue given.


New Market’s Grace Episcopal Church is my spiritual haven most Sundays; it belongs to the Anglican communion that the Holy Cross brothers taught was started by Henry VIII. My class was told he bolted from Rome because Pope Clement VI would not dissolve his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, the Spanish king’s sister. Royals had a few problems obtaining clerical divorces over the years, but Charles V was a temporal power to be reckoned with.


The May 8 advertisement tells readers: “The church that hasn’t persuaded to shun contraception now wants to use the force of secular law to deny birth control to non-Catholics.”


The full-page points out: “It’s a disgrace that U.S. health care reform is being held hostage to your church’s irrational opposition to medically prescribed contraception.” As my columns have pointed out, more than 90 percent of practicing Catholics employ birth control, including condoms.


The organization that abides continuing scandals of priests sexually abusing children deserves no sympathy. The bishops’ conference now attacks the Girl Scouts. The church fathers are afraid they’re losing control over lives. In the name of sexualization, they are at-odds with Doctors Without Frontiers, Oxfam and others.


Pope Benedict XVI has said all along he wants the membership smaller; he’s achieving his wishes quickly. Still knowing the circumstances, the appearance of the Post ad startles me. Of course, it brought rebuttal from the nun that handles the conference’s public relations. She misses the points entirely, since the brunt of her anger rests solely on the newspaper.


I’ve covered the Catholic Church crises since 1967, in Rome and Washington. At first, members’ demonstrations seemed akin to protests over the war in Vietnam. In the last few years, inward anger hurts sorely the institution. There are fewer religious to man the parapets. In New Orleans’ Holy Cross, the priests, brothers and nuns gradually vanished over the time. The surviving clergyman disappeared when Hurricane Rita struck. I wear the ring as a memento of things past.


Although I made peace with the Vatican and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, it pains me that the international Roman church dissolved the reason that the Protestants “protested” against. In reality, it’s no longer the strongest denomination; but then Christianity has much declined in my lifetime.


Misericordia, as we said when I kneeled in a pew in student days. “The heart hurts,” in translation from the Latin.


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