Misinterpreting Welcome

Rhode Island’s bishop, Thomas Tobin, penned a commentary on Marty Haugen’s oft-vilified song, offering these conclusions about the quality being “misinterpreted and abused.” Let’s read:

????????????????????????????????When we say “all are welcome” it does not mean that someone can join our faith community without professing the faith we share; without accepting our fundamental tenets and teachings; without agreeing to support the mission of the Church – personally, spiritually and, yes, financially too.

I can’t really argue with much here, except that it sets the bar a bit low. Hang an asterisk on this one. Being a Catholic is not only about professing faith, but being an active disciple. Disciples do more than support the mission. They actively pursue the mission.

When we say “all are welcome” it does not mean that someone is entitled to work for the Church or fill a ministerial position while being publicly involved in an immoral relationship or activity that contradicts the fundamental principles and well-known teachings of the Church on matters of faith and morals.

The challenge here is that this standard is applied differently. It’s a relative thing. Until recently, bishops have been “entitled” regardless of the degree of immoral activity. Parish priests have a somewhat different standard, a bit lower, as many report. Often, lay people are hired to do a job, but if closer investigation turns up an irregular living situation, a silent “agreement” is voided and the person is turned out. For my interpretation, I fail to see the problem with relationship irregularities unrelated to assigned tasks. What if we just didn’t fire people?

When we say “all are welcome” it does not indicate that everyone is invited to march up in the Communion line to receive Holy Communion without being properly disposed. In practice that requires those who receive Holy Communion to be a member of the Church, be free of mortal sin, and intend to receive the Holy Eucharist with proper decorum, respect and reverence.

No asterisk here.

The point is that indeed, “all are welcome” to become part of our Catholic community and share in our services, programs and worship. But those words do not mean that we have no community identity – that we jettison all of our expectations, doctrines and disciplines simply to create an idyllic Mister-Rogers-like little neighborhood filled with tinkling pianos, butterflies and rainbows.

I suppose I have to hang something weightier than an asterisk on this caricature of a Christian minister and his approach to gentleness via television. We could do a lot worse than live in such a neighborhood.

The hard truth is, that while all are welcome, not everyone is suited for the Catholic community. If they cannot freely accept the faith and teachings of the Church, if their conscience or lifestyle leads them elsewhere, so be it. We will wish them well and pray that God accompanies them in their journey of faith.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, whose writing and speaking I admire, put it this way: “We should never be afraid of a smaller, lighter Church if her members are also more faithful, more zealous, more missionary and more committed to holiness. Losing people who are members of the Church in name only is an imaginary loss. In fact, it may be more honest for those who leave and healthier for those who stay.”

On the other hand, we should be very afraid of a smaller, lighter church whose members are more bitter, more hardened, more narcissistic, and more committed to running a personalized country club for like-minded scrooges. Even so, I wouldn’t want these folks ejected into the outer darkness. It may be healthier for them to get healed under the influence of those who understand mercy. And it keeps the rest of us from succumbing to the temptation to construct a Church that also looks more like us and our friends.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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16 Responses to Misinterpreting Welcome

  1. Liam says:

    Bp Tobin misremembers Mister Rogers and his neighborhood. Mister Rogers Neighborhood was *not* idyllic – indeed, Fred Rogers came up with ways for young people to engage difficult things they encountered. Would that we all were so gifted.

  2. Chris says:

    The problem with Bp Tobin’s position is that there is no Catholic doctrine against a same sex couple cementing their love publicly through a state same sex marriage ceremony. Neither is there any Catholic doctrine against a same sex couple living together in chaste love. Therefore there are no Catholic grounds to sack a couple simply because of this.

    God Bless

  3. Devin Rice says:

    I think Amoris Laetitia paragraph 297 adds something to the conversation. I have to wonder if Bishop Tobin has a different group of people in mind then say Cardinals Schonborn and Kasper. I feel +Tobin is addressing groups or individuals like Call To Action which publicly protest Church teaching and advocates doctrinal changes while the main thrust of AL deals with the faithful who are struggling with any number of church teachings but particularly the divorced and remarried. They are not publicly advocating change but seeking spiritual direction. Perhaps the Bishops are just talking past one another.

  4. Dick Martin says:

    The Catholic church has no place giving any advice to this subject. Catholic doctrine is full of practices that cloud any conclusion. Check out what God say’s in His word. You can conclude that it is an Abomination to God and He directly states all who do these things will end up in Hell. Exceptions: Only one– JESUS died in your place and has paid for your Sin. Confession can’t SAVE; Priests can’t SAVE; Masses can’t SAVE; Keeping the Law can’t SAVE; ( ONLY JESUS SAVES). SEEK Him today, tomorrow is to late.

    • Todd says:

      I might suggest that a non-Catholic has no place giving advice to the Catholic Church. Especially a person who so dramatically misinterprets in caricature what Catholics believe. I might also mirror your comments: reading the Bible doesn’t save, quoting the Bible online doesn’t save, cutting and pasting Bible quotes doesn’t save, trying to save other people doesn’t save, criticizing other Christians doesn’t save. Only the grace of Christ saves.

      The truth is that I will continue to give advice and cite other Catholics giving advice. Aside from hacking my site and shutting me down in committing a criminal act, there is nothing you or any non-Catholic can do about it. Are you still interested in having a reasonable discussion, brother to brother? Or do you prefer to usurp the role of the Last Judge and consign me to hell?

  5. Dick Martin says:

    But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.

    • Todd says:

      Okay. But who says that non-Catholics, or even Christians have cornered the market on spirituality? Also, the criticism you have levelled, if against spiritual Catholics, is judgment, but not quite right, right?

      • Liam says:

        ὁ δὲ πνευματικὸς ἀνακρίνει μὲν πάντα αὐτὸς δὲ ὑπ’ οὐδενὸς ἀνακρίνεται

        The Greek verb carries the sense of examining, evaluating, discerning, et cet. It can help to level-set to consider the original language and possible nuances of meaning, especially for English words that carry baggage not necessarily intended by the author in the original language. And from there to also consider, of course, all the usual aspects of interpretation, which you speak to periodically here at this blog.

      • Liam says:

        PS: And also consider that this blog is not primarily an apologetics or exigetical blog – for which there are places on the Internet where people interested in such things may frequent if they will.

        Any more than a blog about hunting or fishing would necessarily be about evolution of target prey…

  6. Dick Martin says:

    The Greek interpretation by Greek scholar Kenneth S. Wuest ,reads: The unregenerate man of the highest intellectual attainments does not grant access to the things of the spirit of God, for to him they are folly, and he is not able to come to know them because they are investigated in a spiritual realm. But the spiritual man investigates all things, but he himself is not being probed by anyone.

    • Todd says:

      Food for thought for any of my non-Catholic brothers and sisters inclined to probe at Catholics and misinterpret or pass lies about us, from Saint Paul:

      “We hear that some are conducting themselves among you in a
      disorderly way, by not keeping busy but minding the business of others.
      Such people we instruct and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly
      and to eat their own food.” (NAB, 2 Thessalonians 3:11-12)

  7. Dick Martin says:

    Not Interpreted correctly .. The true meaning ; since Catholics did not exist at this time of writing. should read ” We hear that some Catholics are conducting themselves among true believers in a disorderly way, by not keeping busy but minding the business of others. Such people we instruct and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and to eat their own food.” Disorderly way– “Traditions and doctrines” which contradicts God’s inspired bible. this is the reason of separation in the body of Christ today.

    • Todd says:

      No, I think Saint Paul has a bead on the human condition. I’m pretty much fine with evangelical Christians doing their thing and leaving other Christians to serve where they are called.

      By the way, Dick: may I ask why you persist in coming here? Are you attempting to convert any of my readers? Or me? Do you really think the insults are an effective tool to fulfill Christ’s mandate in Matthew 28:19-20?

      Bottom line: I think I can mirror your approach to your detriment, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me or other Catholics from presenting our path with Christ. Is that a good use of your time? Wouldn’t you prefer to testify as to the fruitfulness of your approach to the Gospel? Is this a Luke 9:49-50 moment? Is this just envy and bitterness, and not Gospel?

  8. Pingback: An Answer To A Question | Catholic Sensibility

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