I went to funeral last week at a Protestant church of unknown (to me) denomination. The building looks like a modern office. Its interior, too, is fitted out like a modern office, in the latest style. Here is a photo of the actual building.
The sanctuary is a literal theatre, with a stage and three big screens mounted behind it, a metal podium, several microphones, lots of stage lighting in the ceiling, and theatre seating for the congregation. I didn't see ANY of the usual markers of Christianity. No cross, no altar, no Bible, no stained glass, no hymnals, no candles, no sacred art, nothing like that. The pastor looked like she might have been an editor at Vogue Magazine—a tall woman in a tailored black suit and high heels with long, lush, Breck Girl hair. Kind of like this, but with glasses, plus a few more years and pounds.
So it was weird for me.
Here's the point I want to make, though. The "sanctuary", as they called it, took up only a small percentage of the church building. The rest was evidently for all manner of other communal purposes: ministries, meetings, gatherings, functions. It was enviable.
I don't know about you, but we don't have anything like that in our parish. We have the main church (which is beautiful, thank God), where large masses are said, and the basement chapel for daily mass or smaller masses. That's pretty much it for communal spaces.
There's rectory with the parish office, and an attached school, too, which is entirely in the charge of the principal nun, who was appointed by the bishop. It's her domain, not ours. And then there's a secondary cinderblock building comprised of offices, a second gym, and a few basement classrooms, all of which spaces are extensions of the school and/or the parish office. No one can get into them without a key pass. Nor can anyone volunteer for any ministry in our parish without first getting fingerprinted, undergoing a criminal background check, and attending an abuse awareness seminar. I know because I served as an assistant catechist for a few years. To spend a couple of hours a week volunteering in an Atrium that had been put together by parish volunteers, I had to be fingerprinted. I had to have a criminal background check. I had to prove that I had attended an hours-long seminar on child abuse. Then, every week, I'd have to enter the premises by buzzing at the school door and announcing myself into an intercom. Then I had to go to a computer to type in my name and purpose for being there, so I could have a name tag printed to wear at all times. Then I'd have to go to the religious education office to obtain a key pass to wear around my neck, so that I could then tramp across the parking lot to get into the other building.
Picture a marriage where the wife has to get her husband's permission to make a withdrawal from their common bank account. (To make the analogy even more apt, imagine that the bank account is filled with money she has earned through her job. The husband lives off her salary.) And she has to explain and justify to him her plan for using the money before he signs off on it. Or picture a home where all the doors are always locked, and the husband keeps the keys. To use one of the rooms (say she wants to have some friends over for coffee), the wife has to get his permission. She has to explain why she wants to use the room; she has to provide him with a list of the names and numbers of all the prospective guests, so he can do background checks on them first.
It's disgusting. It's abusive. And it's the status quo in much of the Catholic Church.
Please don't defend it by reminding me that these measures are necessary because of the zero tolerance abuse policies that were established in the wake of the clerical sex scandals. That would be like saying that since a number of parents (never mind that it's ninety percent men) have been found to have abused their children, it's now necessary for husbands to police their wives more strictly, as a preventative measure.
You don't have a marriage without mutual deference and co-responsiblity. Nor can you have family life without a family home.