Explaining doctrinal divides

inclusiveness largePeople keep asking me why I refer to Roman Catholics as "Roman" Catholics instead of just "Catholics." David Haldane's story from the Los Angeles Times is one good example of the many uses of the C-word.

Like Catholic priests everywhere, Bishop Peter Hickman dons a white tunic each Sunday to celebrate Mass in a sanctuary laden with incense and crosses.

Unlike most, he'll often have lunch with his wife and children afterward.

"Marriage promotes growth," says Hickman, 50, who has fathered five children, been married three times and divorced twice. "People who've never been married have a hard time knowing themselves."

Marriage and children aren't the only things separating Hickman from nearly all Roman Catholic clergy. The church he has pastored for more than 20 years, St. Matthew in Orange, operates much like any other Catholic church, and offers what appear to be the same sacraments. Yet it ordains female, married and openly gay priests, recognizes divorce, accepts birth control and premarital sex, blesses same-sex unions and, most important, rejects the authority of the pope.

Occupying cramped storefront quarters in a strip mall, Hickman and his church have become the center of the nation's largest coalition of liberal independent Catholic churches, the Ecumenical Catholic Communion.

This story is sort of a better-rendered version of the women's ordination story from last week. Which is not saying much. Both stories are about movements within or without Roman Catholicism where the basis of the division is doctrinal. And yet the story talks very, very little about doctrine. And it's not like the doctrinal divides raised in the story are complex or arcane.

The independent group supports premarital sex, for instance. Could we get just a little bit of an explanation on that one? How did that doctrinal divide form? And on what basis?

Also, I'm not sure I would have chosen that headline. In my mind, saying Faithful, Yet Not Traditional Catholics implies that we're talking about Roman Catholics. It also implies editorial favor. I'm sure the group members considers themselves faithful. I'm also sure that Roman Catholics consider them heretical. Should we really pick sides there?

The story has some nice, brief history about independent Catholic movements. It also quotes from a bunch of people who think this independent Catholic movement is great. And there's the one guy condemning their behavior. But that's all right since the story is really just about the independent movement rather than any sort of debate within the Roman Catholic church. It also has some nice, brief history about independent Catholic movements.

But the way the story ended went a bit too far, I think:

"We dream of a Catholic Church that's open to everyone," Hickman said in a recent Sunday sermon. The Roman Catholic hierarchy, he said, "betrays the Gospel they are called to preach. We pray they will be delivered from the demonic hold they have been caught up in."

All of which sounded just fine to Tony Bomkamp, a 52-year-old graduate of Mater Dei, a Roman Catholic high school in Santa Ana. "I like the inclusive aspect of this church," he said. "It's the perfect balance: still Catholic but with everyone invited. That resonates with me. It's what Jesus would have done."

Is it me or is this inclusiveness angle a bit overplayed in this story? I mean, at this point it might be nice to have someone from Rome representing the church's viewpoint. Or someone who points out that calling one group demonic while claiming to be open to everyone is a bit interesting. Or someone who can discuss whether Jesus' love of sinners included approving their sin?

By the way: That's an inclusiveness window from a Presbyterian church.

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