A young Catholic shares his thoughts on the state of the church
Note: The following address was delivered by Joe Kruse at Catholics for Marriage Equality MN's August 15 event, "I Do! Believe in Marriage Equality."
My name is Joe Kruse. I am a Catholic Worker who lives in an intentional community/house of hospitality in South Minneapolis. I am also Catholic, born and raised. Several times, I have gone and come back to my faith tradition. I’ve been at times proud and at other times horribly embarrassed to call myself Catholic. But for the past three years I have consistently found an immense deal of comfort and motivation in my identity as a Catholic. I have found, at its roots, a set of ideas based on revolutionary love. I have found in its unique traditions, symbolism, and images a connection to my sense of home and family. As a result, I hope to call myself Catholic for a long time to come.
However, I am one of the few young, non-conservative Catholics I know. It seems that most American Catholics my age are usually socially conservative, especially when it comes to equal rights for LGBTQ people. The more inclusive Vatican II tradition that many older Catholics know, is not the message that my generations’ Catholics are hearing. Most Catholic institutions we were raised in seem to be joined at the hip with right-wing politics and fervent evangelism.
I fear that if we cannot change the face of Catholicism in our country, my generation will cease to claim the identity. American Catholicism will dwindle as a cultural force if it does not change its focus almost completely. Many Catholics I know are simply tired of even trying to change the hierarchy, the institution, the Catholic system. A rigid hierarchy composed almost exclusively of white, celibate men often seems too backward, too archaic to even attempt to change.
So people leave the Catholic Church. We see it happen all the time, especially among my peers. Maybe the Catholic Church in America will shrink, maybe it will disappear, maybe it won't. But here is one thing I know for sure: there are those that believe in a Catholicism founded on a deep love, a love meant to challenge us; there are those that believe in a non-violent, loving Jesus Christ. And I will never forget that this is what my tradition is built on. It's simple.
One of my three brothers is gay. I have seen him struggle with the church and our families connection to it. His pain runs deep and I will never truly know how the Catholic institutions have scarred him. But I do know that I love him, and that the Catholicism I believe says he is just as holy and human as me. Any structure that denies my brother the same beauty that I hope surrounds my marriage, I will work tirelessly to bring down. Catholics of Minnesota should be warned: if we don’t change the image of our Catholicism, the hearts and minds of tomorrow will be unable to call themselves Catholic. The world is changing, the world is becoming more open and loving, and American Catholicism needs to catch up. We have work to do.
See also the previous Sensus Fidelium posts:
For All the Children
Catholic Q&A on the Minnesota 'Marriage Amendment'
Image: Michael J. Bayly.