Last week was a terrible week for the queer performance artist, Tim Miller.
Miller, who has done several solo shows and conducts workshops for aspiring artists interested in self-narrative, was scheduled for a week-long residency at Villanova University in Philadelphia. But the Roman Catholic college through the president's office rescinded the offer to the critically-acclaimed and provocative performance artist. In a demonstration of double-speak, the university talked about Villanova being a "welcoming and inclusive" campus as they were saying, "No" to the Miller workshop. No worries; four other colleges in the area have banded together to host Miller, so that the students from Villanova as well as their own campuses may benefit from his knowledge and skills.
Last week, I also heard something highly troublesome to me about the local Roman Catholic high school. Apparently, it is not uncommon for the administration of the school to send a note home to the parents requesting permission for their student to leave campus on a field trip to the state Capitol. Not to watch democracy in its very messy action through floor debates in either chamber. No: the students were being taken out of school to protest abortion on the anniversary of the famous abortion rights case, Roe v. Wade.
And let's not forget that those on the right of the political spectrum have been launching a war on women! Not that this is solely the doing of the Roman Catholic Church, but certainly the church has been squealing loudly over the demand that their health institutions and RC employers shouldn't have to provide contraception to women. Goes against the teachings of the church, you see.
That would be the church that is on TV recruiting and reaching out to its disaffected population and imploring them to return to the church "that Jesus started."
So often, I find myself in conversation with people who are bitter about religion, or at least the institution of religion (i.e. the church). Often, the grumbling person is someone who was raised Roman Catholic. Women in particular tend to be more bitter toward their Roman Catholic upbringing. Sadly, they've reached a conclusion that all churches are the same, all are hypocritical, and all can--in a phrase--Go to Hell!
I understand this anger. Certainly, I have felt it at times in my own experience of the bumbling, stumbling, sometimes tactless treatment I have found in the Episcopal Church, too. To the Episcopal Church's credit, however, I see an institution that has shown an ability to recognize when it's about to slam face first into the ground, and makes an attempt to break its fall before it bloodies its nose too badly. They know they've made mistakes. They know they haven't always lived up to expectations. And most are willing to make an effort to improve. I don't see that from the Roman Church. And it seems that with the advent of more conservative forces moving into the Vatican, there's more digging in the heels and sticking to positions that the crafters of Vatican II had hoped to move beyond in an effort toward ecumenical harmony.
I feel sorry for those in Roman Catholicism in this country, especially the ones who have had to leave their church because its dogma drains them of all spiritual life. I am saddened that some have stretched this to a rejection of God. After all, if they have been raised with the belief that Jesus Christ himself founded this church, then where do they turn from there?
One day, I hope there will be a change in Roman Catholicism and that they will have another revolutionary growth spurt like Vatican II. I'm just not sure I will be alive to see it. Meanwhile... if you're an RC interested in a liturgical church, you might look for the ones with that shield and the Welcome sign out in front....