Skip to comments.A Curious Kind of Catholic - Boston's Paulist Center
Posted on 07/27/2004 5:38:42 AM PDT by Convert from ECUSA
A Curious Kind of Catholic A look inside John Kerry's preferred place of worship, the Paulist Center. It's where people who hate the Church go to church. by Jonathan V. Last 07/25/2004 2:55:00 PM Larger type view
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Boston CATHOLICS ARE USED TO having people protest outside their churches. Because Catholics are one of the last socially acceptable objects of bigotry, it seems as though activist groups are always showing up at their churches. Gay and women's rights groups make up the usual crowd, although these days it's common to find hecklers there to beat up on Catholics for the priest sex-abuse scandals. However, today may mark the first time a Catholic church has been picketed by anti-abortion protesters.
Dozens of such protesters were gathered on Park Street in front of the Paulist Center an hour before Sunday's 10:00 a.m. Mass. They strummed guitars, sang hymns, drew slogans on the sidewalk in chalk, and carried placards saying "Stop Killing My Generation" and "You CAN'T be Catholic & Pro-Abortion." Some of the protesters hailed from Operation Rescue, other were from the American Life League. All of them were respectful and cheery as they stood in the morning sunshine, down the block from the Massachusetts statehouse.
The reason for their protest is that the Paulist Center is John Kerry's home church.
KERRY'S CATHOLICISM has put him in a bizarre position. Kerry is Catholic. As such, he is, by his own proclamation, personally opposed to abortion. He does not allow this opposition to get in the way of supporting abortion rights as a matter of public policy. Nor do his personal convictions prevent him from vigorously courting the support of explicitly pro-abortion groups. "Abortion should be rare, but it should be safe and legal, and the government should stay out of the bedroom," Kerry said recently as he accepted the Planned Parenthood Action Fund's endorsement. According the Los Angeles Times, the assembled Planned Parenthood Crowd "whooped" and "chanted" their approval. The eagerness with which Kerry stumps for abortion suggests that putting aside his "personal" convictions does not cause him a heavy heart.
In response, the Catholic Church very nearly decided to take a stand. A small group of American bishops posited that public officials who enthusiastically flout Church teachings should be sanctioned. The proposed sanction was the denial of the Eucharist. After much soul-searching, the bishops decided, nearly unanimously, against a formal sanction, and left each diocese to decide for itself.
In Boston, Archbishop Sean O'Malley refused to single Kerry out, but instead put him on the honor system, saying that politicians who work against the teachings of the Church "shouldn't dare come to communion." So warned last spring, John Kerry came to the Paulist Center for Mass and took communion.
IF KERRY SEEMS UNTROUBLED by his decision to work against the teachings of the Church, the Paulist Center seems equally unperturbed about being put in the position of having to look the other way while he does it. The Paulist Center is a curious kind of Catholic church.
Built in 1970, the Paulist Center of Boston is as much a community center as a church. Founded by the Paulists (a religious order, like the Jesuits), it operates with the permission of the local bishop, but is financially independent from the Church. As such, the Paulist Center differs from traditional Catholic churches in both superficial and serious ways. (For instance, the Center is permitted to celebrate Mass, but may not perform marriages.)
The church itself is spare, consisting of a medium-sized auditorium built in the Federalist tradition. The ceiling is high and there are pews both on the ground floor and in the balcony. The altar in the front is tiny. Hanging in the space above it is the only artwork of note: a large, abstract sculpture of Christ, behind which hangs a tree trunk, in roughly the space of a cross.
There are no kneelers in the church and the atmosphere is decidedly casual. (Of the hundred or so people at Mass on Sunday morning, only two men wore coat and tie.) At times the Mass departs from the Catholic text. During the Nicene Creed, for example, the sections on believing in only "one Lord" ("We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God . . .") and only "one holy Catholic and apostolic Church" are excised from the prayer.
On the back of the Sunday bulletin, the Paulist Center carries ads, like all Catholic churches do. Where most Churches have ads from local florists, funeral homes, hotels, and restaurants, the Paulist Center carries ads for the Animal Rescue League and "Yoga of the Future." The biggest block of ads is from psychotherapists. More than a fifth of the ads in the Paulist Center bulletin are from "Jungian psychoanalysts" who offer counseling, "body psychotherapy," and even "dream interpretation."
THE JUNGIAN PSYCHOTHERAPISTS may be fishing in the right pond. The people who come to the Paulist Center aren't your typical Catholics. "The congregation is not geographical, but ideological, drawing people from as far as away as New Hampshire," Drew Deskur, the center's music director, recently told to the Associated Press.
The ideology which brings people to the Paulist Center is best explained by the Center's Mission Statement which declares, "Attentive to the Holy Spirit, we are a Catholic community that welcomes all, liberates the voice of each and goes forth to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ." (Before Mass, this Mission Statement is projected, in large type, onto the wall above the altar, on either side of the statue of Christ.) In their Vision Statement, the Center goes on to explain that they aspire to serve "those persons searching for a spiritual home and those who have been alienated from the Catholic Church."
The subtext here--with talk of liberating voices and welcoming people alienated from those other mean Catholic churches--is that the Paulist Center is Catholic, but not really: more Episcopal lite; or orthodox Unitarian.
The practical consequence of this attitude is that if John Kerry isn't the least bit conflicted about stumping for abortion and taking communion, the people at the Paulist Center are even less conflicted about giving him the Host.
Towards the end of Mass on Sunday, Father John Ardis (who will be giving the consecration at the Democratic convention on Thursday) made an announcement about the anti-abortion protesters on his front steps. Defiantly, he read the Center's Mission Statement. The parishioners burst into applause.
Which explains why John Kerry feels so comfortable at the Paulist Center. His fellow parishioners aren't gritting their teeth and looking away while he fights for abortion and defies the Catholic Church. They're cheering him on.
Jonathan V. Last is online editor of The Weekly Standard.
Is this the Weekly Standard or the Daily Standard. I am confused.
**A look inside John Kerry's preferred place of worship, the Paulist Center. It's where people who hate the Church go to church.**
Says a lot about CINO Kerry!
Once they start drawing lines, where would it stop? That's where they don't seem to want to go. In the meantime, you can almost do and believe anything you want unless you want unless it's the old mass.
If you want the old mass, you have to cross the Styx and bear the cross of excommunication.
Disobedience is worse than promoting murdering of the innocent.
That confused me as well. The URL said Weekley Standard, as did the blub about the author. Maybe the site combines both.
Ain't it the truth!
Maybe it's wheat and tares thinking on the part of our leaders. Lord knows Catholic apologists use that analogy often enough. We are all sinners, but we all know that weeds (which are stronger than tender plants) will ultimately choke the life out of everything in the field if they are allowed to grow unchecked.
As to kumbaya, I'm a little more moderate on that than most, so long as the essential teachings of the faith are not compromised and trampelled upon. When things come down to style and taste, there is room for both so long as they are canonically permissible. I guess my mental model for that attitude comes from the bible where the early Christians weren't hung up on forms of worship and music. They had yet to hammer that all out. I think the English underground masses must have been pretty plain, stripped down to all but the essentials the people missed most when they were taken away.
I agonize on what Jesus would have to say about it. The still small voice says, "What is that to you? Come, follow Me."
I empathize with people who fled the apostasy in the other churches and thought they had found peace and safety in the Catholic church, only to be tossed about again like a reed in the wind once again.
Blessed be God forever. Blessed it be His Holy Name.
Let us pray for all souls to be saved.
I could not agree with you more on that.
I can't fathom why the Paulist center and their ilk are not disciplined.
I can't either. We have books telling us to be not afraid whereas it appears they are very afraid. It's more than losing money and influence, but it is the rich and powerful dissident catholics who are a monstrous tail. Everywhere it swishes it whacks people upside the head right in the midst of the sanctuary. That tail seems to be wagging the men at the top because they don't want a showdown. I don't know what else it could be.
I liken it to parents who don't present a united front with their children. If dad won't let you go, get your mom to let you do it when he is out of town. Put him out of the loop but make him think he is still in charge. A united front of the bishops on key issues would really wake people up from their lethargy.
But I think they lost ground with the birth control issue which it would be nearly impossible to enforce with fairness. The people stood up and took notice. You can disagree on a major teaching. If you can disagree on that teaching, you can disagree with the other teachings to the point that anarchy and rebellion are the rule of the day.
That's a good way of looking at it.
"But I think they lost ground with the birth control issue which it would be nearly impossible to enforce with fairness. The people stood up and took notice. You can disagree on a major teaching. If you can disagree on that teaching, you can disagree with the other teachings to the point that anarchy and rebellion are the rule of the day."
Right! As many have said...all heresy begins below the belt. The main reason people reject the hard teachings and only focus on social work is because to accept the sexual teachings of Christ would mean we would have to change the way we lead our lives. People reject giving up their sins. It is that simple.
You know, I hesitated to bring up because that teaching is kind of a stumbling block for me. However, I try to look at as I think God might. How many souls have been strained out because people don't want to be subject to nature's laws any more?
Regardless of my personal difficulties, I and other thoughtful people are beginning to see the toll birth control has taken on western society, those with eyes to see, that is. We have truly sold our birthright for a mess of pottage, and will sooner than I like to think of assume minority status. Who woulda thunk it?
There may still be heaven for the faithful remnant, but the world is being won by cultures who are producing lots of kids. When I think and look at the first people on our shores, they produced large families who produced large families who peopled our nation. Sure, there were no other options for women, but they seemed to have been more content than women are today.
Just one generation ago, women found great contentment in raising their children. Their families and children were the center of most of their lives, and I can't see where they were the worse for it. They managed to be bright and interesting, too.
There is something wrong when so many of us have to take anti-depression medications (some other poster brought that up). I swear I doubt if any of the women in the neighborhood of my childhood had need for any of that. Not that there probably weren't problems from time to time. The ones there were were usually transient. Once in awhile, something really serious did overcome families. A lot of those married people seemed to really like and enjoy, and respect each other. Maybe I just thought that's how things were because that's how they needed to be. I never heard of any woman griping about the things women rail against today, and I know they must have had a lot of work and cares. But most of them wouldn't have thought to divorce their husbands because they liked and appreciated them. And their husbands were usually good to them and worked hard to provide for them. Nothing makes a man more manly than proudly taking care of his family.
I personally think we have created a monster where everybody feels like they have to perform, compete and earn lots of money to spend on stuff that they discard when it shows the least little wear. People used to have the same furniture and household goods from their early years. Most of my stuff from those years is long gone. I wish I had some of it back :-). But the poor kids now feel all that pressure to fulfill their parents' desires for them. We had that in my generation, too. I think it was the first then. Back in the twenties, most everybody expected their kids to grow up and have families of their own and not be these super-achievers.
I guess it's good for the economy to buy lots of stuff, but it isn't good for people. They are more concerned with what they are wearing while they are doing their thing than the thing they are doing in what they are wearing.
For many now, kids are something you have after you have everything else or unless you were careless when you were young because you bought into having sex before you were really ready and knew what the heck you were doing. Losing your virginity has become a rite of passage. Society has answers for all that though.
One of my biggest regrets is that I couldn't (at times) and didn't (due to my own desire to do things I liked to do) spend more quality and fun time with my children. Those years are difficult and stressful, but with the right attitude and priorities, what a joyful time that can be in a woman's life!
I almost hate to post this, but I will anyway because I put too much effort into it to toss it.
Thank you for a beautiful and thoughtful post. Your words are pure wisdom. They are hard for most of us to accept. We live in an upside down world. If you buck pop culture you are called intolerant or narrow minded.
Yes, virtues are seen as compulsions and vices are embraced rights. Yuk. One of the hardest things for me to accept is the idea that sin is not sin. It destroys all of us. Now, I am not perfect, but hopefully when I sin, I accept I did wrong and ask for forgiveness. Today, if some sin, they call it not a sin and demand you accept it. That makes it hard to lead a moral life and raise moral children.
We are at war, but even to use the word war would make most uncomfortable. Basically, we are encouraged to get along. The highest good today is to be nonjudgmental and accept every perversion as healthy and loving.
While I don't believe in obsession over sin, I do believe in periodic (maybe once a day) self-examination and repentance. It is hard to repent when you don't even know what is a sin to repent of.
Like others, I decided not to care what people do in the privacy of their bedrooms, but when they take it out of the bedroom and onto the political stage, I guess I have a right to care about it after all.
That makes it hard to lead a moral life and raise moral children.
Some people are raising wonderful, more-or-less moral children, but they have been conditioned to accept what was formerly unacceptable in society.
The highest good today is to be nonjudgmental and accept every perversion as healthy and loving.
So says the world. I have to hold my peace about a lot of things, but there are some things I cannot and will not put my stamp of approval on.
I don't get this nonjudgemental stuff either. When things affect my life, I have a right and duty to judge, if not the person, but the behavior, so I can avoid some of it. Nonjudgemetalism is just another way of silencing the opposition. St. Paul could be pretty judgemental at times. They had to be or the church would have been wiped out in one generation. None of this go along to get along for them.
I do try not to be nasty about people doing things that don't directly impact my life though. Besides it makes me grouchy.
After I shot off that last diatribe to you, I thought maybe farm wives were the hope of the world. They were pretty family-centered and wonderful cooks. But they are now out in the fields helping their husbands drive the machinery because farms don't support a family unless you take on a lot more land than you really need for yourself. I think Catholics still have an edge though on raising moral kids. At least buried in all that other trendy stuff, there are still guidelines about what constitutes sin.
We live in an upside down world
But the shift in emphasis from personal sin to social sin is confusing. Sin starts with the individual and ripples through society. I think it is a sin to throw stuff out your car window for old ladies to pick up, but I don't think you will find that in any catechism. It boils down to laziness, selfishness and arrogance thinking that the rest of the world will mop up after you. That's how I view personal and social sin. It starts at the personal level. Make a little effort to throw your stuff away when you get home. When the streets become the same as landfills, now that is the picture of social sin.
That's a change I've noticed. There's more trash going out car windows. That used to only happen on busy highways out east or somewhere else when I was on vacation. There were signs and fines. Now my street has become the same way and I have to pick up after all those thoughtless, careless people or forever look at their messes.
Now if I were Ann Coulter, I could have cut to the chase better on this subject. Most mothers don't have legs like hers though.
I know I'm in the wrong place since I disagree with this website wholeheartedly, but I have to bring the Truth to those who have not heard.
The Paulist Center does not change the Apostle's Creed. The church uses the Nicene Creed instead, as allowed by the GIRM.
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