Why They Stay
“If you don't like the Catholic Church, ” the woman in the Donahue audience, by her own admission not Catholic, screamed at me, “why don't you stop being a priest and leave the Church?” 1
I had been criticizing what I took to be the insensitivity of some Catholic leaders to the importance of sex for healing the frictions and wounds of married life and perhaps renewing married love. I was taken aback by the intensity of her anger. Why did it matter so much to her that I had offered some relatively mild criticism? Why did such criticism seem to her to demand that I decamp from Catholicism and the priesthood?
I encounter such anger frequently: if the Church is not perfect, if I disagree with some of the things it does, why don't I get out? I can never quite figure out why the demand is made that the Church alone, of all institutions, must be perfect in order for one to remain attached to it. Perhaps such people want to apply to Catholics the same standard that a certain kind of reactionary Catholicism wishes to apply: you accept everything the pope says