Catholic Identity: Balancing Reason, Faith, and Power by Michele Dillon

By Michele Dillon

It's been good documented that American Catholics are usually Catholics on their lonesome phrases, or decide to stay Catholic whereas selectively embracing authentic Church doctrine. yet why do Catholics who disagree with authentic Church teachings on significant matters resembling homosexuality, women's ordination, or abortion, and are hence institutionally marginalized, decide to stay Catholic? Why do they remain, while the price of staying and being stigmatized would appear to be more than the advantages they may achieve from switching to spiritual teams whose doctrines could validate their ideals on those concerns? Michele Dillon, drawing upon in-depth interviews with Catholics who're brazenly homosexual or lesbian, advocates of women's ordination, and pro-choice, investigates why and the way pro-change Catholics proceed to stay actively concerned with the Church, regardless of their rejection of the Vatican's educating on sexuality and gender.

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According to Thomas Shannon, Duns Scotus believed that the categorical exclusion of women from being priests was so unfair that it could be comprehended only if understood as a direct command from Christ (1995a: 354). Despite official opposition to women priests in the early and medieval church, there is historical evidence suggesting that women continued to exercise authoritative roles within the church. Ladislaus Orsy (1996), a Jesuit professor of canon law, provides documentary evidence that from the thirteenth until the late nineteenth century, "lady abbesses" in Europe exercised "quasi-episcopal" jurisdiction in particular territories.

The vibrancy of "being Catholic" is empowered by the institutional and symbolic resources available to and creatively appropriated by participants in the tradition. Unless we consider the relatively autonomous interpretive authority of Catholics as producers of doctrinal meanings, we are hard pressed to make sense of their religious involvement. Religion as cultural production raises questions about the supplyside religious economy model currently dominating the sociology of religion. Roger Finke and Rodney Stark (1992), for example, argue that in a pluralistic religious economy, religious firms (denominations, sects) compete against one another to maximize the appeal of their "product" to distinct market segments.

The next three chapters use empirical findings from Dignity, WOC, and CFFC respondents. Chapter 5 presents ethnographic data from Dignity/Boston, in-depth interviews with select participants, and data from a survey of Dignity members to illustrate the routine community practices and tensions associated with enacting a reconstructed Catholic identity. I focus in particular on how gay and lesbian Catholics negotiate the specificity of their situational context while maintaining continuity with the church's more universal tradition.

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