Catholicism: Not a Big Tent but rather a loving fraternity – with rules.


The religion in which I was raised was not a Big Tent but rather a loving fraternity – with rules.

With a tent, all you have to do is lift the flap and come on in, no questions asked. The fraternity requires a bit of effort on your part, a willingness to accept the membership requirements. And unlike some clubs, those requirements are not up to a popular referendum.

Yes, Vatican II did open up the club’s windows and let some fresh air circulate through the musty rooms. It gave official recognition to what was already accepted, that women were valuable contributors to both the intellectual and spiritual life of the church.

It tried to bridge the sometimes formidable divide between priests and the people sitting in the pews, abolishing (sometimes unwisely) traditions that kept God’s children at an artificial distance from him. Included in that banishment was the use of Latin as the Mass vernacular, making services more accessible (but much less beautiful) than before.

And as one of the guinea pigs who spent her puberty post-Vatican II, I appreciated the more open discussions about sexuality that occurred in church and the schools. The other stuff – cloying and annoying guitar masses, the sign of peace (ever hear of germs?) and allowing us to actually hold the Eucharist in our hands (pass the Purell) – I could have done without.

But even these changes haven’t been enough for those crusading Catholics who believe their church isn’t user-friendly, and who have tried to make dissent from the hierarchy into its own special virtue.

Read more from Christine M. Flowers

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