Imagine for a minute that it’s 1954, as segregationists faced Brown vs. the Board of Education, the Supreme Court case which mandated school de-segregation. And imagine that the Vatican, or the Catholic bishops, said to Protestant segregationists in the South, “You can come to our schools, to Catholic schools, and we’ll provide you with a home.” Most Catholics would have been outraged, I daresay. (And of course, precisely the opposite actually happened, as many Catholic bishops were outspoken against racial segregation, and integrated Catholic schools -- thank God).Let's pass over in silence the rather laughable attempt to claim moral equivalence between racism and faithfulness to the Magisterium regarding admission to Holy Orders and sexual activity outside the Sacrament of Matrimony. Much more to the point is this: in admitting these particular Anglicans into the Church, the Church is admitting people who actually believe what the Church herself has always taught. In other words, it isn't like a non-racist Church admitting new members who are racists; rather, it is a faithful Church admitting new members who are also faithful. I'll tell you where the outrage is: it's at the National Catholic Reporter.
But it’s a different story with gender segregation or sexual orientation. This is not a perfect analogy, granted. But the Vatican’s overtures to dissident Anglicans sound like those “imagined” 1950’s with a different twist. The Vatican is opening Catholic doors wide to Anglicans who believe in “segregation at the altar,” for women, and for openly gay/lesbian clergy.
Where is the outrage at this policy? I have heard some of it. I attended a small liturgy with friends this week, and they shared this sentiment: We have enough Catholics who have not come to terms with human equality and gospel equality… why would we go searching for more? We should welcome newcomers who wrestle with issues, yes… including these issues, … but why establish a policy that give special place to those with segregationist credentials?
"Not a perfect analogy." Duh. More like, not analogous in the least. Ironically, just as Fiedler and her ilk ask themselves questions like Why welcome people like this into the Church, I ask myself, Why do people like Fiedler stay in the Church? One possibility is that they seriously believe these teachings may change, hence the talk of "human equality" as though it is the least relevant to the question of admission of women to Holy Orders. To think this way is to be seriously out of touch with reality, but it was not an uncommon way to look at things forty years ago. Just as one might claim that dinosaurs are not really extinct but rather have evolved into birds, so, too, the dinosaurs of academia are still with us even in this more enlightened age. What they have evolved into, unfortunately, is nothing quite so beautiful as a songbird. Instead, they have become like shrill harpies, continually shrieking about the same range of dead-letter issues. A quick perusal of the entries in Fiedler's blog is sufficient to show that her understanding of Catholicism is not only seriously wrong, it is seriously outdated.
And yet. Imagine for a minute that it is 1954, and a group of segregationist Protestants from the south seek reconciliation with the Church. I can think of no reason to say to them, You cannot come home--people like you fill us with outrage. Rather we should say: your desire to come home is like that of the Prodigal Son! Do penance for your sins and come on home! Fiedler writes as though, by welcoming these Anglicans home, we are "giv[ing] special place to those with segregationist credentials", without even considering the possibility that those whom we welcome are coming to us with humble and contrite hearts. Of course, if you look at the world the way Fiedler does, assenting to Church teaching is orthogonal to being humble and contrite, since the Church teachings themselves just are the "segregationist credentials" that she bemoans. So for people like her it's a lose-lose proposition: the teachings on Holy Orders and Matrimony are not going to change, and the people who are welcomed home are going to be continually diluting the influence of the heretics of Loretto.