March 27, 2023
Catholic, but without the guilt. A priest discusses why the Episcopal church is often described as “Catholic-lite.” He speaks with Geth about being pro LGBTQIA+, marrying another priest, and going to therapy. He also opens up about having doubts and explains why it’s ok to keep questioning the faith.
364 — The Chill Priest
Chris [00:00:05] Hello to everybody who’s found their way here today, whether you grew up in it or not. It’s Beautiful Anonymous. One hour. One phone call. No names. No holds barred. Hi, everybody. Chris Gethard here. Wanted to let you know real quick, if you are in the New York City area, I am so humbly begging you, March 31st, April 1st, April 2nd, I’m recording my new special, A Father and the Sun, the Minetta Lane Theater, also known as the Audible Theater. ChrisGeth.com for tickets. I also want to thank everybody who’s been enjoying my new book, The Lonely Dad Conversations, so you can read on scribd or listen to the audiobook and get that for free right now try.scribd.com/gethard. Okay. This week’s episode. Trippy one. We get a call from a priest, an Episcopalian priest, a father, a reverend. We talk about it. We talk about what he prefers to be called. I will warn you ahead of time, we talk about what it’s like to be a person of the cloth during hard times, families lose people, families lose kids. We talk a lot about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. It’s really tough. But I’ll tell you what, in the same way that I was able to have a laid back conversation with a Jersey Italian grandma, I’m able to have a laid back conversation with an Episcopalian priest. It gets philosophical in a way a lot of them don’t. I keep thinking about this call and I have a feeling I’m going to be thinking about this one for a very long time. I hope you enjoy it, everybody.
Voicemail Robot [00:01:52] Thank you for calling Beautiful Anonymous. A beeping noise will indicate when you are on the show with the host.
Caller [00:01:59] Hello?
Chris [00:02:01] Hi.
Caller [00:02:02] No way! Chris?
Chris [00:02:04] It’s all happening. It’s all happening.
Caller [00:02:07] Oh, my Lord. Whoa! I can’t believe it. I was just getting ready to hang up, too.
Chris [00:02:14] I’m really glad you didn’t.
Caller [00:02:16] Oh, my God. I can’t believe this. This is so cool. So cool. How are you doing, man?
Chris [00:02:21] I’m good. I’m good. It’s snowing in Jersey, so it’s a little cold. And I tell you, my, my wife and kid both got sick, and I was in the Midwest doing standup shows, and it turns out it must have been in the period- he brought something home from school, and I wasn’t there in the days that it was contagious. Like I was gone for four days and I got really lucky.
Caller [00:02:48] Right.
Chris [00:02:48] So I am the lucky one amongst all parties. Now Cal has healed up very nicely. Hallie is still coughing a lot. So my, my heart’s bleeding for her.
Caller [00:02:58] Oh, I’m sorry.
Chris [00:02:58] Cuz she can’t get a good night’s sleep, which means I can’t get a good night’s sleep. But it’s not about me. And then so last night she woke up coughing, and she went to the spare bedroom. And then at 4:45 a.m., Cal woke me up because he wanted to snuggle, which is cute. And also can- there’s not- we don’t have words for everything, but there’s got to be some word that’s like, what is the combination of this is really adorable, but also might push me off the cliff of sanity? So that’s how I’m doing. How are you doing?
Caller [00:03:30] Kids are good at getting into that balance, aren’t they?
Chris [00:03:32] It’s we don’t quite have the terminology for it, but it’s a it’s joy. It’s amazing. It’s great. And also, I might be losing my grip on reality. I might actually be losing my grip.
Caller [00:03:43] Oh, no.
Chris [00:03:44] Yeah. I don’t know what the word is for that. We don’t have it yet. How are you?
Caller [00:03:48] That’s tough. I’m sorry. I’m, well I mean, other than other than, you know, nervous, excited and anxious all at the same time, I’m having a pretty, you know, I’m having a decent day today, kind of coming off a crappy weekend. You know, real, real tough weekend. But today, today’s good. I’m enjoying the snow, too. I’m not in Jersey, but we’re getting we’re getting a lot of that same storm you’re getting right now, so.
Chris [00:04:15] Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Well, sorry you had a bad weekend, and I’m glad, I’m glad things are bouncing back.
Caller [00:04:23] They’re, yeah it’s working on it. Think things are working on it. But, yeah, it was just was working… All right. So, yeah, so, so I was, I was working with a family or that that’s not really the right word, but I was, I was with a family and we had to do a funeral for them over the weekend for, for a newborn that they had.
Chris [00:04:48] Oh no.
Caller [00:04:49] So that was… Yeah, that was, that was a, wow. It’s just ridiculously horrible. I mean, there’s really no words to to really put that into into words. So.
Chris [00:05:00] Are you a funeral director?
Caller [00:05:03] No. So I am I’m trying to think of how exact- I am an Episcopal priest.
Chris [00:05:10] Oh, okay.
Caller [00:05:12] So I work, you know, so I work with families. And, you know, thankfully not a lot of those situations, but, you know, work with families, working, you know, to put together, you know, funerals and also get to do the happier things like like baptisms and weddings. But but yeah, so that’s what got me working, you know, that’s what had me with the with that family this weekend, just kind of… Trying to be with them, trying to walk through them the last couple of weeks and then, you know, then get to get to that point and and be with them be with them through the burial and and such. So.
Chris [00:05:49] That’s brutal. That’s brutal. How do you how do you… It’s a broad question. How do you do it?
Caller [00:05:58] I mean, it’s you know, it’s it’s one one step at a time, you know, just left foot, right foot, just trying to, you know, be with them and try to, you know, try to take them one step at a time as as, you know, one thing comes up and they ask a question about, you know, asking the doctors a question about what’s going on. And, you know, the next thing you do is you got to figure out, well, how are we going to respond to this? And you start to do that. And, you know, then the next question comes up and you you just kind of you just keep going slow with them, right, you know, right alongside them and let them ask the questions and and be they’re ready to to offer whatever whatever hope or whatever comfort you can while just you just always acknowledge how terrible it is. You know, you do that the whole time too. But you know, as for for them for for us, you know, we, you know, we, we, we, we look to something else. You know, we look to something, you know, to kind of we look to to something, you know, to the at the next step, we look to to some type of of some type of hope. Not that it’s not that it’s a cure all or a panacea or anything like that, but it’s just something to try and offer some some comfort that that there will be a time when when they get to know and be with their be with their little girl again someday, you know, someday in that next life.
Chris [00:07:36] I mean… I’m sure, I’m sure this is said 100 times over a weekend like that, but… I have to just on my end… even all religious aspects aside, but just in terms of being a companion to a family as they go through something like that, I do feel compelled to just say thank you because there are certain there are certain people in life… whose job is to step up in moments like that. And it’s not easy. And thanks for being one of those people that’s that’s there when when others in need need someone to stand by them.
Caller [00:08:19] Well, that’s you know, it’s it’s it’s it’s it’s what part of what comes with part of what comes with what I do. And so but you know I mean like like you said, I mean, so, so much of it so much of the the more meaningful stuff is, is like you said, is just trying to come alongside and be there with them and, you know, be that companion, be that companion in their grief. Even even as anything I’m feeling is just that that just that small fraction of whatever whatever they’re feeling and going through at that point.
Chris [00:08:52] I tell ya, I’m left thinking like, I don’t know how long you’ve been listening to Beautiful Anonymous, but when it started… it fell into this track where I was giving people a lot of advice and a lot of people were saying it was like therapy. And then my therapist stepped in- amongst the people who have listened forever, this is kind of an infamous thing is that my my therapist stepped in and was like, hey, a lot of training goes into being a therapist and you do not, you know, being someone’s therapist when you’re not training to do it, it’s it’s it’s not healthy. And ethically, there’s a lot to think about. So I’ve had to figure out how to make this show a lot more about being, you know, a provider of a platform and being a good listener.
Caller [00:09:35] Right.
Chris [00:09:36] But a priest is as much as anything else I can think of off the top of my head, that that is an occupation and a function that also walks that line where I think it’s much more valid that a priest is sometimes also someone’s de facto therapist. I might be wrong about that, but I wonder if you train in that or if that’s part of becoming an Episcopalian priest.
Caller [00:10:04] Yeah. So, I mean, the- so we are probably one of the main things that is sort of put in on you during kind of during our training, during seminary, is kind of like your therapist was saying, you are not a therapist. Do not be one. Do not pretend to be one. Do not think that you can be with folks through everything that a therapist is trained to do. And we don’t. And I mean, I certainly don’t try to do that, try to play that role. However, I mean, I also am with people in some of those, you know, some of those deepest, darkest, you know, saddest moments of their lives. And I’m not trying to give them the necessarily the the the emotional tools to get through. I’m I’m trying to help them know and come to understand where there is, you know, some ray of hope even in the midst of all of that.
Chris [00:11:11] There are some people with tough gigs in this world, and that is one of them. Being a ray of hope in the midst of unspeakable, unimaginable things. It puts a lot in perspective, puts a lot in perspective. We’re going to pause. We’ll get the commercials out of the way and we’ll be right back with more phone call. Thanks to all of our advertisers. Now, let’s get back to this phone call.
Caller [00:11:39] I’m trying to help them know and come to understand where there is, you know, some ray of hope even in the midst of all of that. But, you know, we don’t we don’t get into, I think any clergy person worth their salt is ready to say, in addition to meeting with me, I can talk about your spiritual needs, you need to go see a therapist. And I am I am a big believer in that. I see my therapist regularly and but I am not one. And I’m clear with people about that. I’ll talk. Like I said, I’ll talk to them about all their spiritual needs and questions. But when it comes to their to their the bulk of their mental health, they need to go see, I send them. They need to go see someone else, because that’s that’s not what I’m trying to do. That’s not what the bulk of my training has entailed.
Chris [00:12:35] I love that. I love that. And I love hearing that. And I love hearing that the spiritual life and someone’s mental health and someone’s physical health and someone’s sense of community, that all these things can cross over into a Venn diagram that feels healthy to me. Because I know I don’t want to go here too soon, but I’m sure I’m sure you see it coming. If you if you’ve listened to this show for a long time, I think a lot of people know that one of my defining characteristics. And you, okay, I have to talk to you about it. We’re going to get into it. We’ll come and go from it. Whatever. But I was raised Catholic and I think it’s fair to say that I was raised Catholic and I am out of touch with the Catholic Church. I’ve not been in a long time. But I look back and I go, What is Catholic confession except in some ways a prior generation’s less healthy substitute for therapy? I bet it was used by that for a lot of people. Right? And also, I was raised in a Catholic Church where the mentality was priests are the end all be all, and priests are this direct representative of God. And you don’t question a priest. And to hear you immediately say like, oh, no, I’m- I don’t have all the answers. And when I hear people going in certain directions, I go, here’s let’s go, let’s go ahead and see who is in your area and on your insurance plan to get you a therapist. I will just say, and I’m not trying to ask you to talk bad about any other Christian denomination. I will just say that sounds very healthy and some of the less healthy aspects of what, in my opinion, the less healthy aspects, let me say, of how I was raised with Catholic doctrine, I have to say I immediately find myself taking this deep breath in hearing you say that, because let’s also say, there’s a little bit of a joke amongst us who were raised Catholics and especially lapsed Catholics, a lot of lapsed Catholics become Episcopalians because Episcopalian is kind of viewed as like-.
Caller [00:14:39] Absolutely.
Chris [00:14:39] It’s kind of like chill Catholicism is what a lot of people say, right?
Caller [00:14:43] Catholic lite is the joke in the Episc- we we joke that it’s Catholic lite.
Chris [00:14:47] Talk to me about this. Talk to me about this.
Caller [00:14:50] Or the other, the other one is Catholic without the guilt.
Chris [00:14:54] There you go.
Caller [00:14:56] The way that we joke about, the way we joke and laugh about it sometimes, yeah.
Chris [00:15:00] And you can maintain, you have to maintain professionalism, courtesy, respect for all of your peers. I can make some jokes and say Catholic lite, Catholic without the guilt. Also Catholic without all the conflicted feelings about your church covering up sex abuse and supporting wars throughout history and all these things where you read about it and you go, Oh boy. But I’m sure you run into a lot of people like me, where I go, I do on some- because I’ll tell you this- and do Episcopalian priests still go by Father?
Caller [00:15:34] You know, it really varies from from from one to the next or kind of from one congregation to the next. I’ve been called everything from Father my first name, Reverend my first name, or I prefer I typically just go by my first name. But it comes down to usually it comes down to, for me at least, it comes down to I say, call me by my first name. If you feel that if you feel more comfortable using a title, please use Father.
Chris [00:16:02] My my instinct, as a kid who’s raised Catholic, I’m 42 years old and I have not regularly been to church in in decades. I’ve dabbled here and there from time to time, and my instinct is still Chris, you’re on the phone with a priest. You say, Father. You show that respect. It just starts kicking back in. This training from my youth. And since I don’t know your name, I might call you Father, if that’s okay, out of respect. But I’ll say I’m sure you run into other people just like me who are Irish Catholics, who aren’t comfortable with some of the Catholic Church’s history, who also feel like it’s becoming religious- Catholicism is Catholicism is bending conservative more than it certainly more than it did when I was a kid, in a way where politically I go that shouldn’t be a political organization. I don’t like that. But I’m also Irish Catholic, which means my grandfather, who I knew until he passed away when I was, you know, many years into life, I was in my late teens, early twenties, he was from Northern Ireland. Being Catholic meant something beyond religion there, too. So I have- I will tell you, I have thought about going to Episcopalian services to try to get back in touch with my faith. There is something about me going, but being Catholic means a little something to someone who knew his grandfather from County Armagh. There’s also a cultural thing about Catholicism and Protestantism there that I can’t get over, even though it doesn’t matter and no one cares except me in my own head. I’d love to hear your thoughts on all of this.
Caller [00:17:39] Well, I mean, especially I mean, especially throughout Ireland, I think that you’re I mean, the idea that your faith is as much your identity as anything else. I mean, it’s almost as much an identifier of who you are as your name in so many places there. And and I’m not going to pretend to know what those what that time was like, what those wars were, you know, all of that. I’m not going to pretend to know that. But I do know that it wasn’t just your faith. It was your identity in so many ways. It it really was. But, you know, I’m trying to remember some of the some of the other things that you were naming in there. But, you know, it’s- I think we’ve we’ve come to that point- and you don’t- don’t worry about it. You don’t have to call me Father. I’m not here as your priest and I’m not trying to make any I’m not trying to- I’m not here to convert other folks.
Chris [00:18:35] Not at all. But it’s it is a respect thing. I do.
Caller [00:18:39] Oh yeah.
Chris [00:18:39] I have conflicted feelings about religion, but I have a lot of respect at the same- I’m a respectful person at the end of the day. So that’s all I mean by it.
Caller [00:18:46] You know, it was it was funny, I was just last week I went to I met my I met my wife and daughter at at a Catholic school because we were going- one of my daughter’s friends was in a play there. And I had to go straight from straight from from from work. And so I’m standing there in my collar, you know, in my in my priest collar. And I wear the one that looks a lot like a Roman, like a Roman Catholic priest collar. And the number of people that, like, looked over at me and just said, Hi, Father. Hello, Father. It it, it was it was incredible just how many people did that. Probably five or six people in the maybe 10 minutes that I was standing there waiting for my wife and daughter to show up.
Chris [00:19:33] Yeah, you get it drilled into you. You get it drilled into you, that respect.
Caller [00:19:38] Yeah.
Chris [00:19:39] Is that is the Episcopalian Church, do they have like- have you felt in the past ten, 20 years, I’m sure they track this, do you get like a membership boom with lapsed Catholics who find their way towards Episcopalianism?
Caller [00:19:54] You know, like, like basically every church, every denomination out there, we’re, we’re shrinking. We’re like everybody. We are we’re going down in numbers. But I would say that, I mean, it would not surprise me. It’s been a long time since I’ve looked at actual numbers, but I’d say probably somewhere in that neighborhood. It wouldn’t surprise me if somewhere around half of people were not born in the Episcopal Church and came in from other places. You know, sometimes people come in from the Roman Catholic Church because, you know, they they have their particular issues or concerns with that. And they may come in, but sometimes people come in from other Christian denominations that, you know, that are less, you know, they want more of a sense of liturgy and, you know, kind of that sort of regular practice of prayer on a Sunday morning that, you know, looks and feels the same from one week to the next. And, you know, people come in seeking that. And, you know, the Episcopal Church ends up being kind of a middle ground for people from both ends, I guess you could say, in in some form.
Chris [00:21:07] I love it. So it’s kind of the chill- it’s kind of- if you are of a Christian domination that’s a little intense for whatever reason, wherever on the spectrum it ends, and you’re looking for something a little more chill, a lot of people find their way later in life to Episcopalianism, huh?
Caller [00:21:22] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s it’s it’s not uncommon for for for the folks that are there and sitting there in the pews on a Sunday morning, it’s not unusual for them to have come from any number of other of other Christian backgrounds. But, you know, even even beyond just whether they’re they were unchurched growing up or, you know, grew up with other faiths and other faith systems, they may come into the Episcopal Church. We will take anyone, just about, I think.
Chris [00:21:54] And how about you? Were you born into Episcopalianism?
Caller [00:21:57] I was. I was born and raised in- born and raised in the Episcopal Church. My parents still attend the the the the church that I was that I was baptized in. My parents are still members there. And there’s, you know, family has our name on a couple of things that we gave over the over the years. And but, you know, my wife- and so I’ll also say my wife is also a priest, an Episcopal priest.
Chris [00:22:26] Oh, that’s amazing.
Caller [00:22:26] But she grew up outside.
Chris [00:22:28] She did?
Caller [00:22:29] It is. It is pretty cool. But she grew up outside of the Episcopal Church, so…
Chris [00:22:34] Because that is another aspect.
Caller [00:22:36] We are-
Chris [00:22:37] Oh, go for it. No, please. Here you are. Here you are. Finish the thought, Father. I’m interrupting. I’m interrupting a priest. My grandma would be mortified.
Caller [00:22:43] I don’t. Yeah, I know. I might have to. I might have to offer you confession by the end of this. I don’t know.
Chris [00:22:48] Look at this. Look at this. You make a joke, but there is a little Catholic boy who lives inside me who just got scared.
Caller [00:22:55] I know, I know. I always told myself that I that I would allow myself one time to joke about that with you.
Chris [00:23:03] Good. Good. So you saw this coming. You knew if you called me that you were going to bring up some feelings. You knew this.
Caller [00:23:08] So, so, all right. So I have. I’ve been listening. I’ve been listening for years. I’ve been calling in for years. The second show that I listened to was, I can’t even remember. It was way, way back. The second show I ever listened to was it was a- there was a young woman who was a sex worker. I think she was like an online dominatrix or a sugar baby or something like that? It was something like that. And that was like the second episode.
Chris [00:23:39] Great.
Caller [00:23:40] I ever listened to on that one. And then I think a week and a half or something, two weeks after that, I was trying, you know, I was playing catch up at that point. I caught Whirlpool Galaxy, which was, you know, so far the other direction. So like, those are, those are so those are like two of my two of the ways I was introduced to your program here.
Chris [00:24:04] All right. That’s that’s a pretty good one two punch. It’s a pretty good one two punch.
Caller [00:24:08] Yeah. Yeah.
Chris [00:24:11] Now, you did- you mentioned that your wife is also an Episcopalian priest. I think that’s another thing that a lot of us lapsed Catholic- a lot of the lapsed Catholics sit here, and I’m one of them, who goes, Oh, what an amazing thing to hear that you can be married and that women can be priests. So right there in your own family, there are two aspects of it where I go- And again, look. I’m not asking you- the last thing I’m trying to do as a as someone with Irish Catholic roots is ask you to start throwing shade at- I’m not asking Protestants to throw shade at Catholics here. I mean, I come from, look, I come from a place where I’ve seen it. But I will say, there’s a word that I really hate. There’s a word that I really am against. But I also will just say… By allowing priests to have a normal life, you maybe get some situations where things aren’t so weird and hidden and, and hearing hearing about that I go, Oh, that’s what an amazing thing for you and your wife to both be priests. That- if you are both priests, do you ever have like work- are you at the same church I imagine? Do you ever have like we are?
Caller [00:25:29] No. Now we’re we’re at we’re a different congregations.
Chris [00:25:32] You are. How fascinating is that? Because in my mind, I’m like, I could see a situation where you’re.
Caller [00:25:37] She gets to be in charge. She’s the rector. Go ahead.
Chris [00:25:40] No, I was going to say it would be very funny to me if you had like workplace conflict as priests, even though you are also husband and wife, because it is also a job.
Caller [00:25:50] I would absolutely drive her nuts if if if I was working with her. I would absolutely drive her nuts. I yeah, I would not- we would not work well together. We do great married and as parents and all of that stuff. We would not do well, we would not do well working together.
Chris [00:26:11] Really? How come? Why would you drive her nuts?
Caller [00:26:13] Because I- my A.D.D., my procrastination, my, you know, just sort of we just work very, very differently. She she’s a much she’s a much more, more, more intense and more, you know, kind of focused, you know, when she gets into work, she’s much more focused. I am much more kind of scattered in the way I do things. We we just wouldn’t we just wouldn’t work well in that way.
Chris [00:26:43] Mm hmm. Mm hmm. So that’s good. A little separation there, but then you can still compare notes. See where things are- that’s, that’s an amazing thing.
Caller [00:26:52] And we do. Every once in a while, we’ll do that. Like, you know, we’ll be we’ll be stuck on a sermon or we’ll be stuck on, you know, some, you know, education program that we’re trying to come up with. And we’ll bounce ideas off once in a while. But really, for the most part, it’s more, you know, we don’t really we don’t mix at it as much. I think in some ways we just we like getting to come home and not talk, you know, not not try to figure it all out together, although we know we know we can if we if we need and want that. But most of the time it’s we’ll talk about the day, but we’re not we’re not trying to figure figure each other’s figure each other’s things out too much.
Chris [00:27:33] And I have to ask, um I’ll tell you, there’s one thing I miss, but I don’t miss getting up on Sundays. I don’t miss… You know, I certainly… I still read up a lot on the church. Like Pope Francis, there’s been a few things where I’m like, All right, okay, this feels like progress. And I find myself still feeling connected. I’ll tell you the one thing I really miss, and this is the thing that might make me someday step into an Episcopalian church, even if my little Irish Catholic grandma would roll over in her grave. Do you guys you still got the peace be with you? That’s the best part of the whole service, the peace be with you.
Caller [00:28:12] And also with you.
Chris [00:28:13] Aw, peace be with you. That’s the best part. For anybody who is not not raised in a religion that has this, there’s a section of the Catholic ceremony, and I imagine not just Episcopalian, but other Protestant ceremonies as well, denomination by denomination, where you just turn to your neighbor, you go, Peace be with you. And you shake their hand.
Caller [00:28:34] Yeah.
Chris [00:28:34] And then the person in front of you turns around and goes, Peace be with you. And it’s such a good feeling. That’s the thing I miss the most.
Caller [00:28:40] It is. And it’s and it’s it’s a it’s a nice greeting that you offer that you offer to each other. I mean, I’ve seen, I’ve seen congregations, like where I’m at, you know, it’s like you said, it’s the person next to you, the person in front, and the person behind is kind of what you get. I’ve been in congregations where it takes, you know, four or 5 minutes and people are walking all around and they’re giving hugs and things like that. It becomes almost a mini social hour for for a few minutes there. And then so it is it’s a nice little moment if you’re kind of making that switch from one part to the next part of the service there.
Chris [00:29:19] I miss that part. That’s the best part. I dare say, there is some part of me that’s hanging on to peace be with you and it shows up in this show. I’m not trying to be too melodramatic in saying this, but I would say the part of me that misses Peace Be with You is a big part of Beautiful Anonymous right there.
Caller [00:29:37] Well, it is. It’s, I mean, you know, in the service, you that’s exactly what you do. You are wishing and hoping for and desiring goodness for that person that you are greeting in that moment. And and you do. You bring a lot of that. You bring a lot of that that that hope to the callers. You bring a lot of that hope to the folks that are that are listening. And that’s, you know, that’s, I mean, look at the community that has sprung up around Beautiful Anonymous. And I mean, that’s because of, I mean, that in no small part is because of the way that you are genuinely desiring and hoping for and even working to create a sense of belonging, a sense of acceptance and welcome and generosity among among yourself and the callers and the folks who are listening.
Chris [00:30:31] Thank you so much. That means the world. And I just I just I like I miss that section where it’s like, I’m in here and I might be 11 years old and I’m gonna turn around and this person behind me is 26, but I’m going to look them in the eye, and I’m gonna take a little moment and I’m going to say, I hope you have a peaceful day. And they’re going to say it back to me. And then I’m gonna turn around and the person in front of me is going to be 80 years old, and I’m going to look them in the eye. And we’re going to take a moment to recognize you’re a human. I’m a human. We’re here in this building together. Let’s actually slow down and recognize each other one by one. And then that extends to when you’re walking through the neighborhood and you pass people on the street. Maybe it’s those same people and maybe it’s not. That is a beautiful thing. And I do miss that. I do miss that on Sundays.
Caller [00:31:16] And it brings it brings what is, you know, for for most of that time, it brings what is often sort of- and it brings what is often an individual kind of, you know, practice in there. Yes, we’re all in there together and we’re all doing the same thing, but for so much of the service, it is our own individual prayers in the midst of everybody else. But that part of the service creates and and makes that that human connection with the people, with the people around you.
Chris [00:31:49] I love it. I love it. And, you know, again, I can cast some aspersions. I will also say… I’m not a big fan of hypocrisy. Not many people are. And I do feel like, too, to have a church where, you know, to grow up in a church where I know for a fact there are people who don’t always feel welcome, where there’s people who actually feel persecuted to this day or unsafe, it can feel a little silly to look someone in the eye and say, Peace be with you. And you don’t know if that person is closeted. Or to say Peace be with you and you don’t know if that person is considering getting an abortion. And they’re, you know, it’s hard to be Catholic and be under a roof saying peace be with you while knowing that some of the things this organization has said and done throughout the years might create fear instead of peace. It’s one of my issues. And it’s one of the things that I also applaud the Episcopalian Church. Because in full disclosure, a member of my immediate family left Catholicism and goes to Episcopalian Church every Sunday. And I’m a little jealous. I walked away. He held on to it, and I’m a little jealous.
Caller [00:33:07] Well, I mean I mean, certainly certainly that hypocrisy is a part is a part of it. We have, you know, the Episcopal Church, we have it, too. We you know, we haven’t had it, I would say not to the extent that maybe the Roman Catholic Church has, but it’s there. We’ve had our you know, we have our own abuse scandals and issues and cover ups, too, to some extent. And and it’s there, too. And there’s no church that’s going to exist without that. And it’s horrible to think about. And it’s it’s it’s it hurts to recognize that that’s a part of something that that I am deeply devoted to. But I you know, my my hope is that we are trying to do better and trying to be better about those things. And and that when we do look to somebody else in the congregation and we make that offering of peace be with you, or we tell we stand up and we say all are welcome or everybody is welcome here in this place, that that even if we don’t always get it right all the time, that we are working really hard for the most part to get there and to figure out how we can, how we can do that, how we can be that for people.
Chris [00:34:27] It must it must be strange, too, because Episcopalians do have this image of like, that’s Catholic, right- that’s like Catholic lite, the little rock star church that’s like leaving behind all this stuff. And to go, Oh, even that can be used as- like to hear you say that the Episcopalian Church has its own problems and cover ups and people, to go- you sit here you go, Oh, maybe the reputation that this is the chill church, even that could be used as a smokescreen by people who want to manipulate it. I’ve never thought about that before.
Caller [00:34:54] Oh, sure. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean, and I’m not saying this to minimize anything, but there’s not a church that exists that doesn’t have some level of this in them, you know, somewhere in them. It’s it’s unfortunately part of what it is to be a human organization. And as much as the church is a spiritual place, it is also a- it is also run by humanity and run by humans. And so there’s not a church that doesn’t deal with this and doesn’t have it to some extent. We certainly hope that we are are not, you know, that we are not broad and major and significant perpetrators of any of it. But you’re not going to find a church that doesn’t have it somewhere.
Chris [00:35:40] Right. Right.
Caller [00:35:42] And I say and I do say that as an indictment, not as an excuse.
Chris [00:35:50] Loved that answer. Makes me trust this caller and makes me feel like I can open up even more. Which I will when we get back. Thank you to all the advertisers who help us bring this show to the world. Now, let’s finish off the phone call.
Caller [00:36:13] You’re not going to find a church that doesn’t have it somewhere.
Chris [00:36:16] Right. Right.
Caller [00:36:17] And I say and I do say that as an indictment, not as an excuse.
Chris [00:36:22] That’s totally fair. I mean, at the very least, you don’t have 2000 years of systemic cover up. But again, you’re not the one saying that. I’m the one. I’m the one mentioning that. I’m the one mentioning.
Caller [00:36:32] 500 some years of stuff, at least.
Chris [00:36:34] There you go. Only only- this is where we’re at- only 500 years. Only 500 years.
Caller [00:36:40] That’s right. That’s right. You know, and everybody likes to think that the that the Episcopal, I mean, we’re an Anglican, we’re the Anglican Church. We’re the Church of England in the United States. And I mean so many people look and say, oh, well, that was Henry the eighth. He just wanted. He just wanted a divorce.
Chris [00:36:55] Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Mm hmm. I saw. I saw a thing going around. It was a news story about a youth pastor who got busted for, um… I don’t know if it was child pornography or actual assault. But I saw it it was something that was moving around on social media of someone saying like, you can look up the number, the number of times this has happened, where it is someone who works in religion, look that up and then look up the number of times that it’s a drag performer. That’s zero. Why? You know, it’s the type of thing that- I don’t know exactly where I’m going with this, but point being, I applaud you for saying that all- there is an issue across the board with people using these positions of authority in religion to do some truly unforgivable things, because it is- we are also at a time where people say that it’s it’s drag performers that kids shouldn’t know about and it’s trans people in bathrooms. And you go, well, how come it’s so often religious people yelling about that when it is it is religious people who also need to do some inward looking for some of this reckoning as well? Why don’t why aren’t they as mad about that?
Caller [00:38:18] The easy and the easy answer is it’s easier to look outside than it is in. But, I mean, that’s that’s a little bit of it. But, you know, I do think, too, that that in some ways some of those loudest voices are not… Are not always indicative of where faith is in the US today. Certainly they are the loud voices and they are a significant portion of it. But I, you know, you know, maybe some of it is clouded because I’m in, you know, in a denomination that doesn’t engage in things that way. I mean, you know, we have gay and we have trans priests and, you know, we can be married and all kinds of things. But but so many times, those loudest voices are not always the they’re not the full picture. I guess I’ll leave it at that side. But there is a lot of other faithfully Christian people who are much more accepting and much more understanding and much more celebrating of folks in the LGBTQIA community. And so it becomes, you know, it becomes it becomes something where we end up being almost drowned out in some ways, I guess.
Chris [00:39:43] Yeah, it is. There’s all these megaphones now. There’s all these ways to amplify voices. And so many of those megaphones in the 21st century are monetized by what is the thing that will rattle the most chains and cause the most dismay?
Caller [00:40:02] Yeah.
Chris [00:40:03] And that’s really sad.
Caller [00:40:03] Yeah. What’s going to get the most views? What’s going to get, you know, what’s going to get the most viewership on, you know, on a channel? What’s going to get the most likes, that sort of stuff is- that’s- it is a it is a big piece of it.
Chris [00:40:16] Yeah. And it’s a shame because, I mean, it’s a shame for a thousand different reasons. But one of the things that’s really dangerous about that game is, you know, there are people, whether it’s a cable news network- and I’d say this, it’s going to sound like I’m talking about Fox News because everybody knows that I’m a lefty. It’s not. CNN is also just round the clock screaming and yelling, too. You know, MSNBC is also round the- it’s just which one do you agree with more as far as the screaming and yelling? You look at social media, you go, some of these things that exist to make money that therefore have a vested interest in making fringe things loud. And as you say, these are not… You know, the loudest voices are not always the ones that represent a huge percentage of popular thought. But you sit here and you go, it does two extraordinarily negative things, right? One, you hear maybe some religious leaders shouting things that are inflammatory and they get the megaphone and it makes someone like me who’s gone a little more agnostic at this point in my life go, Well, all religious people are crazy, which is not fair. That’s not fair in its own right right there. Secondly, it also allows those more fringe viewpoints to cast a net in which they have the potential to gain more momentum and become normalized and a little more mainstream, because somebody decided to make money off of something fringe. And you go, well, now someone impressionable has has come to think-
Caller [00:41:54] Has an opportunity to see it once and then to find more information and to go deeper and deeper into it.
Chris [00:41:59] And to go, I guess that’s normal. I guess that’s normal to, you know, and then the next thing you know, then the next thing you know, you’re like you go from being some a lonely kid trying to sort it out, trying to push through those few years of awkwardness there to you are marching alongside other proud boys in Charlottesville, Virginia, in the back of your mind going, how did it come to this? You know, I firmly believe that that’s happening all the time. Sad to see. Sad to see.
Caller [00:42:27] Yeah.
Chris [00:42:29] Were you and your wife already priests when you met or did you… become priests after your relationship developed?
Caller [00:42:37] We met. We met in seminary. Seminary where you train to be-.
Chris [00:42:43] Hot.
Caller [00:42:44] It’s graduate school where you train to become a priest, essentially.
Chris [00:42:45] Hot. I’m sorry I had to say it. I had to say it. Hot. That’s hot. No. It’s a joke. I have to make the joke, everybody. Seminary.
Caller [00:42:55] It was pretty good, though.
Chris [00:42:56] That’s awesome. So seminary for Protestants can just be like college where anybody of a certain age is going to be looking around. I love it.
Caller [00:43:06] It could be. It could be. I know. I know. I know. We know. We know of a couple of of clergy couples who have met who have met that way at different times.
Chris [00:43:18] That’s cool. That’s cool.
Caller [00:43:20] Yeah. So we met there and ended up we ended up being getting- we- our wedding ended up being there as well at the seminary where we met.
Chris [00:43:29] No way. That’s amazing.
Caller [00:43:31] Yeah. Yeah, it was. That was pretty cool. So like the, the chapel that we would go to every day for, you know, for prayers throughout the year, when we were ready to be married, that’s that was the same place. That was the same place that we went and had the wedding. Now, I was in my last year, she was in her first year of seminary when we met, so we were only there together for a year. But but it was yeah, that was that was the place where we ended up having the wedding.
Chris [00:44:00] Wow. And was one of the was the priest who performed the service like one of your mutual teachers?
Caller [00:44:05] Yes. We had two clergy couples do the wedding for us. So like, there were actually there were four priests that did the wedding for us because, you know, the more the merrier, I guess. But but yeah, there were two different clergy couples that did different parts of the ceremony.
Chris [00:44:22] That’s amazing.
Caller [00:44:25] It was pretty cool. It was pretty neat. And so and, you know, we’re and we’re still friends with- we still keep in touch with one of those, you know, one of those couples. And, you know, we you know, we catch up with them, you know, from time to time when when we’re able to to talk to them on the phone and such. We don’t live near there anymore. But but yeah, we we still keep in touch with them.
Chris [00:44:47] So if I someday go I talked I talked to this caller on Beautiful Anonymous. He seemed really kind really great. We talked a lot and I and it’s got my gears turning. Because every few years I go back to a Catholic service, and then I’m telling you, it’s like clockwork. I’ll go three times and something will hit the news and I’ll just be like, Oh, boy, oh, boy. Okay.
Caller [00:45:12] Yeah.
Chris [00:45:13] Every priest in Pennsylvania? Oh, I can’t do it anymore. You know, it’s just every time. So let’s say I go to an Episcopalian ceremony. It’s going to feel really familiar to me as a Catholic?
Caller [00:45:23] Very, very familiar. Yeah. There is going to be a couple of prayers that are, you know, specific prayers that are different. But in a lot of ways, it is going to look and feel like you are in in a Roman Catholic worship service.
Chris [00:45:39] To have to get baptized? Do I have to get confirmed again? Do I have to do all that stuff?
Caller [00:45:43] You don’t you don’t have to do either of those again. If you if you’ve been if you’ve been baptized, you are baptized. If you’ve been confirmed, you are already confirmed. If you wanted to get to that point, we could, you know, we could receive you sort of formally into the Episcopal Church. But, you know, you don’t have to go through you don’t have to go through that stuff again.
Chris [00:46:05] Okay.
Caller [00:46:06] Yeah.
Chris [00:46:06] Okay. Okay. I’ll consider it. I’m going to consider it heavily. Maybe the next time I have that urge to go to church, it’ll be Episcopalian instead of Catholic. Maybe. Maybe.
Caller [00:46:17] Could be. Could be.
Chris [00:46:18] Wow.
Caller [00:46:19] We would be lucky to have you, Chris.
Chris [00:46:21] Maybe someday, Father.
Caller [00:46:24] But you and you know what? If you’re going to be there, you’re going to be there when, when it’s time for you. You’re going to come back or be back or go back or however you want to think of it. It’s going to happen when it’s the time for you to be there. And if that happens, if it you know, if it happens soon, great. If it happens, you know, in 30 years, great. If it doesn’t happen in this world, that’s fine. You know, you’ll get there when you are supposed to get there.
Chris [00:46:53] Can I ask you a brutally honest question that feels sort of off limits or even silly to ask a priest? But I just want to be totally honest.
Caller [00:47:00] Ask it.
Chris [00:47:02] It’s something that I think about and.
Caller [00:47:04] You could ask anything. Go for it.
Chris [00:47:05] And I’m sure you’ve heard sillier or what would, however you want to phrase it in your time, but it’s an honest question. What if I have serious doubts about the factual, the idea of treating God and Jesus and miracles as factual? But I still miss that sense of community. I still miss that sense that my entire neighborhood showed up on Sunday and it meant that when I was a kid, if I fell down, you know, if I was at Colgate Park and I fell down and broke my arm, I knew I’d probably turn around and there would be some adult that I probably at least recognized from Sunday. I miss that side of it. But I can’t sit here and claim I just you know, I’m one of these people that I look, here I go I was raised in it. I sit here, I go, I you can tell, I can make jokes about it and I can express it. But I have anger that I was raised in a church where- I think I’ve mentioned this on the show- one of my childhood parish priests was named as a sex abuser. Like, it’s it’s dark. It’s dark. It will drive one away. And in fact, it will make me it will also make someone like me who’s a cynical person… who likes to question things and not take things at face value go, well, this whole thing is a scam. This whole thing’s a scam. And you hear a million stories like this. And if people like that are the people who want to be a part of it and who want to be authority figures in it, how could God be real? Because if you set up, if you’re all powerful and you’re letting people do things like that in your name and get away with it, it’s a scam that you are not correcting. So what’s the place in religion for someone like me who goes… The community aspect of it I do truly miss. The peace be with you, look at my neighbor in the eye, I miss. But I don’t know that Jesus turned water into wine. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel that that’s real again. You know?
Caller [00:49:00] Yeah. And there is. I mean, for, for the kind of evil that you that you are talking about here and the kind of evil that has been brought on so many other people, there is, there is no good and satisfactory answer. There really isn’t. And but at the same time, there is also, I mean, there is there are a lot of places where coming in, just looking for that sense of belonging, that sense of community, that sense of comfort that comes from from being around others in that place, and a place to come in to ask those questions. There’s a lot of places that offer that opportunity. You don’t have to walk in- the place where I’m at, you don’t have to walk in and subscribe to to every little detail and say that this is absolutely, unquestionably true and perfect and right. You know, we’ve been looking at this whole whole thing on forgiveness lately. And, you know, it’s you don’t have to have everything just right. You don’t have to have everything exactly, you know, exactly like the person next to you in lockstep with with the entire church. We have we have things that we offer and that we teach to folks. And they’re and we welcome and invite people to ask the questions and to challenge it even. And there is there’s a lot of space for that in some places for people to come in and to ask those questions and for people to come in and to be angry, to come in and to to be pissed off about about where that, you know, from earlier where that hypocrisy is, where folks have have have been absolutely, you know, 180 degrees against what the church has, you know, is supposed to be about. And and there are places where you can come and be and have that kind of anger and still be a part of the community. It’s if you’re going to be at- and I’m just speaking for for the congregation where I’m serving, but you don’t have to agree with everything. There’s a lot of people in those pews. Frankly, there’s a lot of people standing up front wearing the, you know, wearing the vestments, the funny shirts and the and the robes, that are questioning a lot of that same stuff.
Chris [00:51:33] I love I mean, I love your answer. It’s so kind and it makes me feel so good. But I do. I am finding myself giggling because when you say like, we don’t have to be in lockstep on every little detail. And I’m going, but what about, like me having, like, actual doubts about the divinity of Jesus Christ himself? Isn’t that like going like, isn’t that like I feel sort of like I’m like, I can’t I can’t walk into church just to shake my neighbor’s hands if I don’t even think if I doubt that. Like that, it’s- at a certain point you go, Well, if I’m going to go swim in a pool, there’s water in the pool, right? Like, there’s some basic things we got to be in agreement with here. Or is it even am I welcome even if I go, I’m not sure I believe in any of this, but I like hanging out. Is that okay?
Caller [00:52:16] It depends on what you’re what you’re looking for. I mean, there are there are people who come to church, who come to services where I’m at, who do not believe in some of those central basic things. And they participate. And, you know, they’ll come to our potlucks, they’ll come to our our formation programs, things like that. And they’ve got they’ve got questions about some of those big pieces, those big questions. Just because you walk in the door doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything. You can, I mean, it’s a place to come in to seek and to find answers and to ask questions to help you get, you know, to maybe help you get there. And some people do. Some people don’t. But you come in and and you become a part of the community and and you’re going to find you’re going to find, you know, your- you’re going to come to the way that you understand things. But you don’t have to agree before you even walk out the door. And heck, you don’t have to necessarily agree ten years after you walk in the door. If you’re there and you’re and you’re being open and questioning and and interested in the different answers and different responses, come and be a part of it.
Chris [00:53:29] It’s it’s funny. I mean, I’ve I want to be clear, too. I, I am assuming heavily you didn’t call with the intention of like, I’m going to go to bat for my church, but I’ve put you on the spot and asked you to a number of times. And I want you to know that I know I did that. And you, I want to thank you because you have you’ve been very open about who you are and how you came to be a priest. And but you’ve also allowed me to sort some stuff out along the way, and not always something that I think I think some some priests might not be comfortable having a stranger throw this at them, knowing that it’s in a public setting. And you’ve you’ve allowed me you’ve allowed me to throw a lot of stuff out there at you and it’s very admirable. And I thank you for it.
Caller [00:54:13] Look, if I’m being honest here, I mean, yes, I grew up, you know, like I said, I grew up, my parents still go to that same church. You know, I’ve been a part of it every day, every week of my life. When I was in high school, I’d I’d be falling asleep as an acolyte up at the front of the church because I was up late on Saturday. But I still went to church on Sundays. And, I mean, I’d be lying if I if I said that I do not have doubts that- I’d be lying if I said that there are times or that there are no times that I that I go through and don’t have any questions about things. I mean, it’s a I think it’s a part of faith, to, to wonder and to and to question and to keep exploring and trying to find answers. It’s, I mean, when you’re talking about- this is hard stuff. It’s stuff that goes beyond simple human reason. And, you know, and so it’s I think a lot of clergy, if they were being 100% honest, they would say that there are times that they have their own doubts and their own questions. Now, for me, it’s it’s a lot less frequently than than when I’m feeling, you know, fairly certain and confident in things. But I mean, look at this past weekend. That absolute shit that that family was dealing with. How can I not have a question in the midst of that, you know? It’s got to be it’s a part of things. It is a part of it’s a part of faith, I think, to ask and to wonder and to to question.
Chris [00:55:48] Yeah, that’s an amazing point. It’s an amazing point. And it’s probably, in a lot of ways, how could a family in the middle of that fully trust someone who, who didn’t have those questions in that moment? How could you feel any sense of humanity or connection from someone who didn’t, didn’t blink in the midst of that?
Caller [00:56:14] Right.
Chris [00:56:15] That’s really that’s powerful to think about, that maybe in some of the times when you’re most needed as a priest, it’s the times when it’s hardest to maintain faith in being a priest. And maybe that’s why there is value in having a priest around in those moments.
Caller [00:56:30] It’s it’s not, yeah. I mean, there have certainly, I mean, I look back and some of the worst moments that I’ve been privileged and honored to be invited into by a family, I mean, those are you know, we’re invited into all kinds of joyous things, but we are invited into also the darkest and most horrible moments of a lot of people’s lives, too. And, you know, to come in and and just, for me, at least, for for me to come in and to just spout off certainties would would not be helpful or frankly, I don’t think it would even be healthy for me to go in and to do that. And I think it would turn a lot more people off, to, to hear that a lot of times, I think.
Chris [00:57:18] I bet. I mean, it seems to me, like having someone like you around just having talked to you for 59 minutes, I go, seems like.
Caller [00:57:27] No!
Chris [00:57:30] Yeah, we only have a minute left, but I feel like-.
Caller [00:57:33] No! No!
Chris [00:57:33] You know, in a moment like that, it feels like you are the person who can remind someone, like the sun is going to come up tomorrow and a week from now and a month from now and a year from now. And that perspective, that has as much to do with faith as any parable or any Bible verse does at that second, I would have to imagine.
Caller [00:57:55] Right. I think it does. And a lot of my- the pastoral side of my ministry, I think lives into that, or at least I try to live into that as upfront as honestly as I can.
Chris [00:58:08] We just hit zero on the clock, Father, and I’m mad because.
Caller [00:58:12] Man, I’ve got so much more I wanted to talk about.
Chris [00:58:16] Wow.
Caller [00:58:17] I had more- I’m going to have to call back.
Chris [00:58:20] Please. We have to do a follow up. Maybe every Sunday we could do a follow up and you could allow me to cleanse my soul like this again. Because I gotta say…
Caller [00:58:30] I’ll dial the number and just let you listen in on the service. How about that? Every week.
Chris [00:58:35] See? You’re just going to convince me to start attending Episcopalian Church. I tell you, I’ve already looked up where the Episcopalian churches in my area are. It looks like there’s one. Let’s see. There’s it’s, it’s not even 10 minutes, nine minute drive from here.
Caller [00:58:49] I was gonna say, I can’t imagine we’re that far from you somewhere in Jersey like that.
Chris [00:58:52] And Jersey’s the most densely populated state. And though to get to the Episcopalian Church, I’ll probably drive passed two Catholic Churches, a synagogue, and a mosque in this state the way we’re all packed in together. But I have to thank you because I hope the people listening heard it. And I don’t even know if you felt it, but some of the things you allowed me to ask are things that I have been brooding about for a long time as far as my upbringing and my religion. And I don’t think I’ve ever actually.
Caller [00:59:20] And I’m sure that there are so many others that have that- have- that have similar, similar questions.
Chris [00:59:26] Maybe. But I think some things that I’ve said today they are the first time I’ve said them out loud and, and you had some answers that I felt were very reasonable and fair. And that you’ve given me a little more faith. I don’t know if I’ll step foot in a church again anytime soon, but at the very least, you’ve given me faith in the people behind religion, because that’s one of the big things that I think for a lot of us Catholics you give up on. You go, I don’t know about the religion, but the it’s hard to believe in the people.
Caller [00:59:56] That’s where a lot of it has happened to a lot of folks. Yeah.
Chris [01:00:00] But thank you. And thanks for comforting families in need. And thanks for being so open and honest today.
Caller [01:00:06] Thank you for asking the questions too, Chris. Thank you. But I got one one last thing before we go or I guess as we go. Chris, peace be with you.
Chris [01:00:20] Peace be with you. Peace be with you as well. Caller, thank you. When you just said peace be with you at the end, I choked up. I started getting tears. Kudos to you on that one caller. Thank you for everything you do. Show’s produced by Anita Flores. It’s engineered by Jared O’Connell. Our theme song is by Shellshag. Go to ChrisGeth.com if you want to know more about me. And hey, wherever you’re listening, you can hit subscribe, favorite, follow. I cannot stress to you, it helps the show so much if you just commit to that. You can find our merch at podswag.com. We’re talking shirts and things like that. And if you want your episodes ad free, you’re gonna want to go to Stitcher.com/premium. Use the code “stories”, you’ll get a free month trial. And hey, the number one thing you can do is if you like the show and you want the show to survive and keep going, share it with friends. Send them episodes you like. Talk about it with them. Word of mouth, that’s the thing that helps more than any other thing out there. So thank you so much in advance if you choose to spread word.