Saturday, February 25, 2006

And under the heading "Catholic Identify Theft"...

Another kind of Catholic: Breakaway groups reject Vatican teachings on issues such as priestly celibacy and divorce

I guess my question is this: are Roman Catholics facilitating "identity theft?"

Paul Veliyathil, a former Roman Catholic priest who leads weekly prayer and discussion for lapsed Roman Catholics in his Coral Springs home, spent 13 years as a priest in India, Canada and the United States before breaking with Roman Catholicism over a host of issues, ranging from the prohibition on birth control to the infallibility of the pope.

''I couldn't honestly teach some of the teachings of the church,'' said Veliyathil, who started holding meetings at a Lutheran church five years ago. ``Every time you put on the collar, you are a representative of the church, and it's a very difficult cognitive dissonance.''

I guess what confuses and saddens me the most is also what tears me apart — and, presumably, people who subscribe to the above —and that is, people really want to be Catholic.

The tragedy, in my opinion, is that they want to be "Catholic" on their own terms...not on those of Christ.

Bishop Villaire, who was raised Roman Catholic in Bay City, Mich., said he felt called to the priesthood at a young age. But shortly after being ordained in 1965, he started to feel uncomfortable with church teachings condemning divorce and birth control, he said.

His father, a grocer, and his mother, a beautician, had raised him to believe ''the customer is always right,'' he said. Denying communion to divorced Catholics made him uncomfortable, he said.

See, the thing is, we're not "customers." We're sheep. And sheep — as any shepherd will tell you — need leadership, guidance, direction.

(Otherwise, God wouldn't have invented sheep dogs!)

Here's where I think Roman Catholicism might want to shoulder some responsibility...and become a part of the solution.

At a recent Mass, [sic] Villaire led the congregation in a revised version of the Mass, administering [sic] communion and offering healing through a laying on of hands. Aside from subtle differences -- no one knelt during the service, and no references were made to the pope -- Villaire conducted a traditional Catholic liturgy.

I've been to Masses like this, or darn close to it.

And again:

The Rev. Ricardo Rivera, a former Roman Catholic seminarian who was ordained as a priest in the National Catholic Church last November, said he did not realize he was joining an independent Catholic movement when he first attended Mass at an independent Catholic church in Fort Lauderdale.

''The liturgy is the same, everything is the same,'' said Rivera, who joined the National Catholic church after moving to South Florida from Puerto Rico two years ago.

Rivera now serves as a priest at Santa Barbara Catholic Church, a Spanish-speaking independent Catholic parish in Little Havana with about 400 parishioners, many from Cuba and Central America. The simple, white church is adorned with large statues of the Virgin Mary and other saints. A wall of votive candles flickers in the back corner.

''It's confusing for some people,'' Rivera said. ``Most of the people that come to the church visiting, they are under the impression that we're Roman Catholics.''


There was a time when one could walk into a Roman Catholic Church and identify it unmistakably by the Mass offered. That is evidently not true today.

I wish you'd read the whole article and tell me what you think. And, please, pray for the Church.