Those who dissent from teachings of the Catholic Church periodically take their organized protests public and often vilify Church hierarchy for not changing with the times to accommodate cultural trends. But one unasked question in news reports covering these angry protestors is…..why do they stay?

That’s the question that most fascinates me. Whether the cause is women’s ordination, homosexuality and gay marriage, abortion ‘rights’ or some other social moral issue, they agitate for change in doctrine, accusing church leaders of discrimination, homophobia, bigotry, and other violations of human rights. They could just as easily leave and join a church of like-minded individuals, but they stay.

They do get more attention protesting outside a big Catholic cathedral than they would happily attending some other denomination’s church.

“[The protesters] were chanting ‘Holy Name, Holy Shame.’ Or they were screaming at the faithful entering the church, ‘Stop funding the bigots!’ The chanting could be heard in the sanctuary and choir loft. Many of them were holding signs advocating for the separation of church and state. I was listening to several protesters give interviews and I heard them say that they were targeting Holy Name Cathedral because it is their perception that gay marriage would be mostly obtainable but for the political influence of the Catholic Church.”

So if the Church is so irrelevant and behind the times, it’s a wonder they don’t just disregard it and move on.

“I was working with a handful of people to engage the protesters in dialogue about the Church’s position on marriage….”

…which is exactly what Church faithful and spokespersons should be doing. This kind of event provides an opportunity for dialogue and clarity, especially on the positives of church teaching about human dignity, and not the negatives of ‘thou shall not…’ A learning moment is missed when someone says ‘that’s just the way it is, like it or not, we don’t get to make up our own teachings, and they will never change.’

Why those teachings have gone unchanged over the millennia of cultural drifts and redefinitions of human rights and life itself is what so bothers dissenters. And probably, what ultimately keeps them from drifting away. As Dr. James Hitchcock has noted, repeatedly, over the years.

“We do live in a pluralistic society, which means that Catholics dissatisfied with their Church have an endless menu of other groups to choose from. As far as I can see, dissidents remain in the Church mainly because of a kind of stubborn sense of “ownership” — ‘It’s my church, and no one is going to drive me out.’….”

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....