LA Congress: The Church Beautiful

I’ve spent the last 60 hours amidst the wild diversity that is the Catholic Church, and that is manifest so beautifully here at the annual Religious Education Congress. Five students from Santa Clara University have traveled here with me, and have been taking in all that the Congress has to offer: hundreds of sessions on Catholic life and ministry; and acres of Catholic exhibitors of books, art, kitsch, graduate schools, clothing, vestments, and religious life (one of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement was very effective at loading me up with enough posters and prayer cards for half the undergrads at Santa Clara--"Here!" he barked jovially as he shoved the goods into my hands, "You better take these, because I worked so hard to set all this up!"). On Friday, I gave a session about how Catholic college students relate faith to sexual decision-making. Nearly 700 people were there, and I am happy to say that perhaps half of them were students. My presentation, edging somewhat toward the didactic side, focused on recent studies that try to gauge the dynamics of sexual practice in adolescent and collegiate culture and relate those dynamics to the faith backgrounds students bring. There was a palpable energy, especially among the students, about the issues. And afterward, one well-known professor from a prominent Catholic university told me that in his view, the relation of faith and sex was the number one issue of concern about undergraduate life at his institution. On Saturday, I chaired a roundtable on Catholicism and homosexuality, the fourth such roundtable in four years here. Along with Charles O’Neill and Sr. Kathleen Bryant, RSC, I discussed Catholic spirituality as manifest in gay and lesbian ministries and lives. In particular, I talked about the spirituality of being an "ally" for LGBTQ+ Catholics. We had around 600-ish people, all extraordinarily attentive to the issues being discussed, and as has been true for the last several years at these sessions, they were in remarkably good and feisty spirits. I noticed this year an increase in the number of parents of lesbian and gay Catholics who spoke up during the discussion period and with whom I talked afterward. In all, quite satisfying sessions, though of course I replay them in my mind many times, and think about what could have gone differently or better. But also a real delight this weekend has been seeing my students get into this rich Catholic world. I had a long and leisurely dinner with them this evening to begin to unpack their experiences, and was surprised and gratified at how much a quick and deep immersion into this giant temporary Catholic camp has meant to them. Many of them see it as a significant plateau-point in their theological journey, especially as several of them are preparing to graduate as religion majors in a few months. I feel deeply fortunate to have this "event" on my calendar each year, because I know I will be conducted into hope for, and joy in, the Church. And that has indeed happened again this year. Tom Beaudoin Anaheim, California
Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
10 years 10 months ago
I am sure the conference was very nice, and that there was nothing uncomfortable about. Also, I am sure that some people are taking heat for it, but how do these issues translate into ministry within the GLBT Community? The question that often arises when I talk with Gay Catholics who want to work cooperatively with our Catholic Bishops is how can we minister to the GLBT Community if we cannot openly support GLBT Couples in magnanimous and faithful relationships, and their Social Justice issues? The Conference would still appear to be fixated on "Love the sinner, but not the sin". Further more, how can we address the matter of anti gay bullying in the Catholic schools if we cannot even mention the word homophobia? Or, how can you minister to be peoples spiritual needs and completely ignore their civil rights issues? We Catholics have a lot to speak about, but that can only happen in an environment that allows for gay self identification, and supportive look at the real problems that are affecting the GLBT communities that we claim to be ministering to. We must be able to honestly address the Church's teaching on the homosexual person, and the real affects this Teaching has had on the lives of so many GLBT Catholics? A National Catholic Conference that turns a blind eye to GLBT Social Justice needs, while a the same time claiming to preach tolerance for GLBT people is a ethical disconnect. Sincerely, Joe Murray Rainbow Sash Movement


The latest from america

Native American protestors hold hands with parishioner Nathanial Hall, right, during a group prayer outside the Catholic Diocese of Covington on Jan. 22, 2019, in Covington, Ky. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
The furor over a chance meeting between Catholic high school students and Native American protesters underscores the need to listen and learn from indigenous voices.
Marlene LangJanuary 23, 2019
The staggering parliamentary defeat for Prime Minister Theresa May, seen here leaving 10 Downing Street on Jan. 23, pushed the country even further from safe dry land. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
After the stunning defeat of Theresa May's exit deal, Scotland is looking anew at independence, and the U.K. government fears economic disaster.
David StewartJanuary 23, 2019
Michael Osborne, a film director, documents the damage from a mud slide next to his home in Los Angeles on Jan. 18, after three days of heavy rain. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
The conceit of California-as-disaster-movie is ridiculous. But maybe watching our fires and mudslides helps other states consider both their own fragility and their underlying strength.
Jim McDermottJanuary 23, 2019
A commitment to religious liberty demands that effort be devoted to resolving, rather than exacerbating, any real or apparent tension between religious obligation and civil duty.
The EditorsJanuary 23, 2019