Catholic Anarchy responds:

I can’t say I can’t relate to Rice’s frustrations with the Catholic Church and with her feeling that she is an “outsider.”

I do think the Googling God post is awfully presumptuous about Rice’s reasons for “quitting Christianity.” I’m not sure that the author can make the judgment that she has chosen to “go it alone” and to “horde [her] relationship with God for [herself],” or that she prefers “the ‘vertical’ relationship between God and self without the ‘horizontal’ relationship where one also relates to God in relationship with others” just because she has decided to “leave Christianity” while clinging to Christ. The “you’re in or you’re out” view of ecclesiology will no longer cut it. The boundaries of the church are fluid and we cannot limit it to “Christianity’s” often tired institutional forms, as important as they might be. Sounds to me like she has left “Christianity” but is still very much attached to the Body of Christ. May she find peace wherever she finds “church” to be.

I don’t think I’m saying that Anne is “in or out” and that’s it. Hardly and my open invitation to welcome her to any community I’m part of shows it.

Ironically, I think that’s exactly what Ms. Rice is saying!

“If you don’t agree with me I’m walking out” seems to be her attitude. Now granted we all have frustrations with our communities and I want to own my own failures in that regard. I’ve left parishes over the attitudes of pastors, the unwelcoming nature of parishioners and even because of a preference in liturgical style. However, I think to lump not just Catholicism but all of Christendom into one lump and saying that she’ll have nothing to do with them, is a bit much.

For me (and please note that I’m speaking for myself, and don’t know the mind of Ms. Rice, who I deeply respect), to leave my denomination alone would be like saying to every teacher I ever had that I am no longer willing to be part of the dialogue where we grappled with scripture, church teaching, ecclesiology, liturgy, theology, etc. I’d be poorer for not being in those conversations and poorer still for stopping now.

People can, and often do, help us change our minds, see our own shortcomings, see wisdom in their point of view and solidify our own convictions. Great theologians have had deep divisions over centuries but I don’t think too many of them simply picked up their toys and went home.

My friend Alex Swingle made a comment on Facebook that I found interesting as well:

Maybe her reasons should wake the church up from their slumber? As a Catholic I totally understand where she is coming from

A quick story to back up Alex here:

My friend’s mother is a staunch Catholic–not a conservative by any means but certainly a devoted Catholic. Her son in his young adult years stopped going to church. I doubt if he stopped believing in God, Jesus, the Real Presence, or any other tenant of the faith. But what he stopped doing was trying to fit into a community.

His mother prodded into this and he simply said that in his newfound hometown he couldn’t find a parish that spoke to him. He admitted to not looking too far afield. And that’s when mom uttered:

“Well you can’t be so passive! You have to speak up in a community and tell them that they aren’t meeting your needs. Or travel to another place where they will meet your spiritual needs. Why won’t you fight for your faith to be fed?”

Her son’s answer was something that I think the church should heed:

“Oh mom! I just don’t have that kind of time!”

This is why I often say that the quality of the welcome in parishes is clearly the most important element to pay attention to. There’s already enough division in the church, we don’t have to add to it. Pointing out divisions up front is an easy way to eliminate people from the community.

Now that doesn’t mean that we stop talking altogether about what divides us, or what might trouble us, or even where we think the church is “out of touch.” But we can do all of this with charity, even agreeing to disagree and then moving on but keeping the door open for future considerations to dialogue. Loving one another in community goes beyond divisions. Hanging in despite those divisions to me, is a sign that we are willing to love those who we don’t particularly like sometimes.

Isn’t that church? Isn’t that what Jesus would hope for? Or are we trying to set up über communities where we can point fingers at others who disagree.

Granted, others might have that attitude and may have been un-Christian towards Ms. Rice, and indeed, she may have good reasons for leaving everything behind. But that doesn’t stop me from feeling sad about it and hoping that she reconsiders. I would probably disagree with some of what Ms. Rice thinks about Christianity and she might disagree with some of my beliefs, but I’d always want her to sit in my pew and hold my hand during the Our Father and then offer a sign of peace to her afterwards.

We are one body, one body in Christ…and we do not stand alone.

Perhaps that is a lesson for us all?

0 thoughts on “More on Anne Rice leaving Christianity”
  1. I must say that I am a frequent reader of Michael Iafrate’s Catholic Anarchy blog and he is a most provocative thinker; I respect him greatly.

    That said, this is a complicated issue and I have been giving it some thought. There is something to what she is saying in terms of the “anti” sentiments of many. That said, I also think that there are other factors at work here.

    The issue for me is the rapidity and the force behind her change to and now away from church.

  2. Yes, but how often are those of us who speak up, who are brave enough to voice our very human struggles met with the jeers and sneers of all the little Lucifers dressed up as Catholics?

    After a while, we’re worn down. We’re emotionally and mentally and even physically worn down. I had to disassociate with all things institutionally Catholic because the sheer nastiness was making me physically sick.

    Anne Rice has had a lot on her plate — love her or hate her, she’s human — she’s one of us — and she put out some very honest, albeit poorly expressed, feelings.

    She lost her husband, her only child is gay, and it hasn’t been a good year for the Church, to say the least.

    Cut her some slack. And give God some credit for being able to speak to Anne Rice as an individual. The Catholic Church is not God. Individual Catholics are not God. The institution of the Catholic Church, as it exists today, is clearly NOT what Christ had in mind when He founded His Church — God gave us Christ to free us from that very sort of institutionalized, Pharisaic, legalistic form of organized religion.

    You know, Lucifer fell because of pride, because he needed to be held above the “other”, he needed to be loved more than the rest of God’s creation.

    The Catholic Church has become Lucifer, IMO, as have far too many Catholics.

    This insatiable need for some Catholics to find an “other” to be raised above, to be loved more than, to be considered more worthy than will be their ultimate downfall, and the Church’s, just as it was Lucifer’s.

    Anne’s statement doesn’t make me sad, but the reaction of a lot of Catholics does.

  3. Via Facebook:

    From: David Dawson

    Mike, you all haven’t been privy to how she acts. We were subject to some of her antics down here in Louisiana when she was in her prime. She is an over-reactionary. She always has been. I remember her not liking something the Saints owner, Tom Benson was doing, so she took out full page ads in the New Orleans paper condemning him. This is just who she is….someone who wants the world to see things her way and she will do whatever it takes to make one see her point. Her rant, if directed towards the Catholic church, and I am sure it was, is indicative of a person that has never read the Catechism of the Catholic church.

  4. @ N.

    I’m not opposed to cutting Anne some slack. What I am opposed to is how we easily let people leave and how easily some people can divest themselves of religious community.

    Anne at least TRIED to be part of things. How many give up because of news headlines that have less to do with their local community where they are fed than the hierarchy’s mistakes. Not that those aren’t important but your local pastor who perhaps has spoken to you deeply in his ministerial way, shouldn’t be made to bear the brunt of the mistakes of the Bishops and others.

    Anne’s reaction is an “all or nothing” mentality pitted against another “all or nothing” mentality.

  5. Except that local pastor is our only living, breathing conduit to the bishops.

    It’s not just that, it’s just the meanness — the Catholic Church seems to draw an inordinate number of just plain mean people. Maybe it’s the rules and the absolutism and certaintude, maybe there’s a personality type that needs to have to be right all the time, regardless of the wake of pain and suffering and doubt and confusion they leave behind them.

    I don’t know.

    All I know is, if I had a buck for every “Good riddance!” posted by some hoity-toity, holier-than-thou Catholic in any number of comboxes at any number of blogs discussing this event, I’d be able to pay for my kids’ grad school in cash.

    Someone is confused, maybe misguided, stressed, perhaps even not quite herself at the moment, and the Catholic response is “good riddance”?. C’mon!

    Everyone is so quick to blame this event (like it’s really any of their business – frankly, this sort of thing should always be personal and private, but her reversion to the Church was public, so I suppose she owes it those who buy her books to make this public, at least in her own mind) on bad catechesis, VII, Hollywood, liberals, etc., but the truth is more harm is done every single day by the sheer petty meanness too many sincere people are met with when they do struggle or do question.

    If it’s either shut up and give us your money, or good riddance to you, well, what do you think any sane, intelligent person is going to choose?

    Anyways, this is too emotional for me and I’m tired and I have to suck it up and deal on a six hour flight and I hate flying and don’t need the added stress of this stuff. It’s just not worth it in the end.

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