Where Does a Good Lutheran Catholic Eat?

I’ve been blogging for three years, and make it a point not to respond directly to comments. But so many people think I’m “anti-Catholic,” I need to address this issue. (I have been writing all day…on a roll, finishing Madrid before diving into Basque Country. But I want to organize and share my thoughts on this.)

For years, my travels have caused me to think about organized religion. (When I got my history degree at the UW, one of my favorite classes was “History of the Christian Church.”) And for years, I’ve believed that anyone who enjoys getting close to God should pack their spirituality along with them in their travels. For two decades, I walked the tightrope of being a Christian tour guide wanting to facilitate spiritual growth among the religious ones in my secular groups without offending those who didn’t have a faith.

One of my favorite tour guiding challenges was to organize “back door fellowships” on Sunday mornings, with an open, sharing atmosphere where spiritual people — from conservative Catholics to Buddhists to tree-huggers to Methodists to curious European bus drivers who’ve never seen this on a tour — would enjoy the chance to share spiritual ideas stimulated by their travels. We’d learn a few things about our bus-mates that would normally never come out in the everyday chit-chat of a tour social scene. I’d routinely get well over half the group to attend, and it was always a rewarding hour spent together. And we rejoined the group without having created a divide between us and those who choose sleep over worship that Sunday morning on the Rhine (or wherever).

My most political travel educational experiences have been as a participant in Center for Global Education tours put on by the Lutheran Augsburg College in Minneapolis. Through these, I developed the same Christian passion for “sanctity of life” that anti-abortionists have. But I defined “life” as something much broader than a fetus — rather, I kept a special focus on how structural poverty denies innocent people (precious children of God) the fulfilling life their Creator envisioned for them here on earth.

Most of the Central American staffers for CFGE were Catholics. I learned that many Catholics doing the Lord’s work in Central America are excommunicated for their “social and economic justice” politics, and they just keep on keepin’ on. I was inspired by their belief that part of their vow of obedience to the church was disobedience to the Church. (I draw a huge distinction between little-c church and big-C Church.) While many angry atheists hate God because of bad things the big-C Church has done, I cut God a little slack in that regard, knowing that Church government is made of people — as feeble-minded and plagued with greed, power, and corruption as political and business leaders can be.

Because I work observations about religion into my travel writing, I anger a lot of people unintentionally. I actually had death threats against me before a lecture in San Diego a few years ago from a fundamentalist Muslim group because I wrote that many parents throughout Islam were naming their children Saddam and Osama. The angry Muslims took my point very wrong. My point was that good people can celebrate courageous people in their culture standing up to empire (much like many good people supported Geronimo and Lenin and Spartacus and, of course, Jesus). Brutal and corrupt a dictator as Saddam may have been, to people who have a different perspective, he symbolized taking back control of natural resources from the USA. (I believe that, more than his meanness, was his downfall. There are lots of mean dictators with longevity…but not many who violate US claims to their natural resources.)

So, those San Diego Muslims thought I was insulting Islam, when I was actually explaining to ethnocentric Americans how someone so universally despised in our country could have a local following — and how good people might even name their children after him. (San Diego provided me with a police escort for my visit…and I gave the lecture without being hurt. It was kind of exciting.)

In a similar way, I can write things that some Catholics love and others hate at the same time. So, to all those who say, “Rick, stop picking on the Catholic Church, don’t disparage the Catholic Church, lay off the Catholic Church, don’t be so anti-Catholic” — let me say this: I believe Christian churches offer Christians spiritual nourishment. Like different ethnic restaurants can offer the same quality nourishment with entirely different menus, I think different denominations can serve different congregations. Spiritually, I love to “eat Lutheran.” While some would say only Baptists or Catholics or Latin-speaking Catholics or hat-wearing Wisconsin Synod Lutheran women will go to heaven, all of that seems kind of small-minded to me (and, I imagine, to God). If you want to feed your faith…just eat and eat where you like the menu. It occurs to me that “ecumenism” is one of my favorite words. I love to think it, do it, even say it. Ecumenism.

I consider myself a Lutheran Catholic (as Martin Luther would). My beautiful wife is Roman Catholic through and through. For years she was on the worship board of the Lutheran church in our little town, contributing her rich Catholic heritage to our worship style and making my church, Trinity Lutheran, a better place. I can’t ever remember wanting anything so bad as for our daughter Jackie to be accepted to Georgetown University so her mind could be nourished and shaped by Jesuit higher education and professors. Our son, Andy, has had a great four years at Notre Dame (a Holy Cross Catholic school).

Yes, my brother-in-law, John Jenkins, is the president of the University of Notre Dame. I have a tremendous respect for him — personally, intellectually and spiritually. He is an inspiration in every way. And we differ in our style of Christianity. Ten years ago, when I was writing the script for a Lutheran (ELCA) video designed to tell the story of Martin Luther and the Reformation (which we filmed in Germany), I asked Father John for help (because I strove to make a balanced script and didn’t want to offend Catholics with our history). John and I worked on it. But, finally (and wisely), John said, “For the good of our relationship, I need to end this collaboration.”

(The video was an exciting project — eventually it was sent to all 11,000 ELCA churches, and is used to tell the story of the Lutheran Church to all those congregations. It’s on YouTube and available with four other shows I’ve done with the ELCA on a “Faithful Travel” DVD at our website. Until my Iran show, it was about the toughest scriptwriting challenge I’ve had.)

But back to my brother-in-law, Father John. Today Notre Dame is embroiled in a controversy because they’ve invited President Obama to speak at the graduation ceremony. Conservative Catholics who can’t accept a leader who differs from them on the abortion issue are trying to stop the event. (They’re even pestering Father John’s dear mother.) That 95 percent of the seniors on campus want Obama to give the talk doesn’t matter to them. Some people just “know” what’s right, and can’t accept people who differ.

This is not the first controversy that Father John has confronted, and it won’t be his last. He is a principled Catholic leader making sure Notre Dame is right up there with its secular competitors as one of the nation’s leading universities. And he will not be bullied by people who think they have a lock on the definition of sanctity of life. I believe in the sanctity of life. Father John Jenkins believes in the sanctity of life. And the people threatening to stop supporting Notre Dame because Obama is coming to South Bend do, too. The idea in this country is that no one gets to be the boss of what everyone else thinks. I like it that way.

Am I anti-Catholic? Some would think so. I choose to be Lutheran — it’s just so right for me. The woman I love is a Catholic. I’ve sent both of our children to Catholic schools. I don’t hesitate to say when I believe the Church (big-C) is wrong. I love what the Catholic Church has done in supporting people in Central America. I don’t like what the Catholic Church has done (past or present) in Spain. Do I hold it (and religious wars, and pedophiles, and witch burnings, and the other things that make people really angry about Church) against God? Nope. And when I’m hungry, I’m glad there’s a good place to eat nearby — and people willing to cook.


72 Replies to “Where Does a Good Lutheran Catholic Eat?”

  1. I was able to participate in one of Rick’s “back door fellowships” 16 years ago on a tour to Turkey. It was truly a wonderful sharing experience. One thing I always remember is Mehli, our guide, marveling at the fact that people in America come from so many different Christian denominations and we could get together and have a meaningful and worshipful discussion.

  2. Well said. I completely respect your opinion. From one who is also married to a Catholic with a different religious perspective than mine. I believe if everyone would just practice more religious tolerance, we’d be far better off. Looking forward to your next post!

  3. Rick, another great blog entry. I am a Latter-day Saint, but I find wonderful examples of faith, obedience, joy in Catholic history. I have often felt the sting of bigotry from others who have also chosen to follow Jesus Christ (as well as those who are agnostic or even atheist). No group has a corner on bad examples of living their religion. I am pained when people make broad statements about the evils of the Catholic Church (or even my own) because I know they are ignorant of its beauty. It is like someone who rejects the beauty of the Grand Canyon because they are looking down a single, dark crevice and then claim the canyon is an ugly place. Perspective is needed and not the shortsighted judgment of one who as not lifted up their head to see. Conversely, we all do ourselves a dis-service if we demand that no criticism be spoken or allowed. I know better than most the shortcomings of organized religion; speaking about those things at the proper time and in the right context is appropriate, acceptable, and encouraged. Let’s just remember that lifting up our eyes, searching for the light, provides a much better perspective than keeping our eyes cast down focusing on the darker parts of the great churches of the world. As far as Notre Dame goes, I think there are some things that are so important, so sacred, that we draw lines and state under no circumstance is it acceptable. That is a conclusion drawn after much study, contemplation, and prayer. Defining the priority is not an easy thing…what is the priority in keeping the invitation to Obama open? Is it the right one? A definition of Life to include the most helpless and dependent is an expansion of the definition, not a limitation. Focusing only on that Life that is relatively independent of others is exclusionary; let’s be careful about what is more open minded and what is not.

  4. Rick pedophiles come in all shapes sizes and religions. I would say there are probably more youth minister pedophiles from “the Christian” religions than the Catholic religion. Probably even more teachers than you would ever imagine. The Puritans burned the witches in Salem and there was no Lutheran or Protestant religion during the Crusades so duh- but who started it the Muslims and you just never seem to trash the muslims-they are held in high esteem by you. Anyway that said I found your blog to be the most heartfelt and down to earth I have read yet which I appreciate. If you could keep it real like this you might win back some of the fans you have so alienated over time. I hate discussing religion with anyone as much as politics.

  5. While many angry atheists hate God because of bad things… Ummm… Rick… Atheists don’t believe there IS a god, so it doesn’t make sense to say they hate him/her/it. Maybe you were just poetically trying to say atheists are upset with the Church. Thanks for your posting. I wish more people were open-minded as you are. Ken (Victoria)

  6. Rick, thank you again for explaining your views on a highly charged issue in such an intelligent and thorough way. It becomes more obvious every day that one of the reasons I so enjoy traveling with your books is that the point of view from which they stem is so broad-minded and well-informed!

  7. Amen to that! And good for you for responding. I respect that as much as I respect you for refraining from responding in the past because you seem to understand that everyone is entitled to their own opinion — even if they themselves don’t understand that. If I’m to believe what my parent always told me and what countless other parents have told their children, we should respect other people’s points of view, even if we don’t agree with them. How perfectly bland this world would be if we all saw eye to eye on everything. I’ve never found your descriptions and perceptions of the experiences you’ve had or your take on information and points of view that others have shared with you to be offensive or anti-Catholic or a challenge to my way of life. Sometimes I agree whole-heartedly, other times I completely disagree with you. But I always learn something — if not about the topic about which you write, then, at the very least, about me and how I react to what you share. If I cannot be comfortable with someone sharing their perceptions about something I believe in (be it religion, politics, travel skills or whatever), then I must be pretty insecure in my faith in my own beliefs. If my faith is strong, then nothing can shake that loose. And if it challenges me to rearrange my perspective or to incorporate new ideas, then I take it as a learning experience. So, thanks, Rick, for being the consumate teacher — in travel and in other things.

  8. As a Catholic myself I was very much put off by your last post and it was the first time I ever contemplated stopping reading your post and I’ve been a loyal guide book buyer and show watcher for years and years now. I would suggest that when you are being critical of the church that you clarify that you mean big C (I see that has been added in now) to be clear; your last post came off as disprespetful to the religion and to those of us that follow the religion. This post does help to clarify your feelings and I appreciate you taking time out to do it because while I don’t mind getting travel help from someone with totally different politics from mine the thought that you didn’t respect my religion was just too much so thanks for taking the time to clarify.

  9. Rick, much thanks for this terrific, detailed, to the point view of how the spirit moves you toward truth. I will show this blog to several church friends who are minded clearly to talk toward religious conscensis, in civil and respectful terms. Just as life works best by talking, listening, and thinking, so does our travel life in terms of etbd philosphy. Keep up the fine discourse.

  10. Another wonderful post and I hope that it helps boost some more tolerance in this blog. It just seems so odd that someone’s religion would be such a big issue nowadays. I guess the 30 Years War is still going on! I was raised in a fairly generic protestant church in Ohio. So when I go to the magnificent cathedrals in Europe and see all those relics, I have to admit to being a bit put off by it. I mean, I’m just not used to this stuff. However, I just let myself detach from the intellectual arguments in my head and appreciate the beauty of the art. I also let myself appreciate that so many people over the centuries have built, consecrated and worshipped with great sincerity those cathedrals and relics. That sincerity and faith is enough to make any place sacred and I try to appreciate that as well. As always, thanks for your hard work on our behalf and keep on blogging!

  11. As an Augsburg College student, thank you for mentioning Augsburg’s amazing CGE program, which plenty of non-religious students join as well. I had no idea you were involved with CGE until now! Very neat. Though, I have to offer a correction: Augsburg College is in Minneapolis, MN–not St. Paul (though it is our neighboring city).

  12. Rick I am also roman catholic and I think what I am reading into what you wrote is that you take issue with some of the decision of previous or maybe eventhe present catholic leaders and not the religion itself. Just as we all have at some point taken issue with some leaders of the united states and not the united states itself. Personally I like the structure and tradition of the Catholic religion (and would not mind going back to the Latin in mass if truth be told) and the Lutheran religion is too loosy goosey for me so as you said to each their own.I can understand why alumni would be upset about having Obama speak as his ideology on life issues such as abortion and stem cell research are in direct conflict with the church’s teachings. But it is only one day out of 365 so whatever. Pedophils are hiding in plain sight everywhere. In my neighborhood which is upper middle class and there are over 25 in a 10 mile radius, so the Church has no lock on that. Youth ministers are constantly being exposed and as the other poster said teachers as well. Good post on your part.

  13. Maybe the San Diego Muslims could have just protested your comments in a more peaceful manner and not included death threats.

  14. Rick writes: “Some people just “know” what’s right, and can’t accept people who differ.” Look in the mirror Rick – this applies directly to you.

  15. Your brother in law in the churches eyes is a hypocrite.Religion is not and should not be easy.Rules apply ,not free thinking.

  16. Regarding the comment about atheists, my ex-husband was an atheist when we met. We divorced because he is gay and therein lies the tale of his “conversion” to atheism. He had been raised in a fundamentalist, conservative Friends church and from an early age knew that he was gay. He prayed to God to make him straight and when He didn’t, my ex decided that there was no God. Having been raised on intolerance, he could not believe there could be any tolerance found in any church (big or little c). At the time we met he was still fighting his natural inclinations and still railing against God and religion, but obviously I didn’t know the true reason for this attitude. I just loved him and did my best to show him through my family that tolerance can and does exist. We are protestant and my sister married a Catholic and my brother married a Jew. Our protestantism varies throughout the family with some being Methodist, some Presbyterian, some Episcopalian and some fundamentalist Baptist. I even attended a Lutheran kindergarten, but it left a bad taste in my mouth for that particular flavor. The best fit for me has been the church of my Grandpa–the Unitarian Universalist church. When my husband finally came out to me and all was revealed and explained, the fact that my family still loved and accepted him was a revelation. While he doesn’t subscribe to a particular belief, he has at least graduated from atheist to agnostic. All because of the examples of tolerance and love he was shown by one family. He and I remain friends to this day and I am very happy that he is in a long-term committed relationship that God-willing will become a legally recognized one. Incidentally, I find it ironic that folks jump on Rick as being intolerant when he makes observations about some of the negative aspects of the Catholic church and then turn around and show their intolerance for Muslims.

  17. Another great post Rick! For the life of me, I can not understand why some people get so upset over your posts. I appreciate your point of view coming from your experience in life. For me Church is all about the history and tradition since I am not a believer. I was raised in a culture where Lutheran church is all around you and part of your life even though going to church every week is not the norm there. Here I think people do it because someone figured out to add food to the mix and it became a social event just like for some odd reason here food is part of watching sports. In Finland religion is nothing controvercial because almost everyone belongs in the same church. I bet it is one of the few countries left with actual state church. Religion is taught at school, everyone is christened as babies, goes to confirmation school in their teens so you can do the wine and the bread after (usually it is a camp for a week), gets married in church. We pay a one percent tax to belong to the church levied at the same time with your income tax. We even have elections to elect people to the church council. Since I live in the US, I can not participate in any of this but if I lived there, it would be part of my life. Two years ago I had my daughter christened there. She was not an infant anylonger but I wanted to do it because it is part of my heritage and tradition. It was a beautiful ceremony all in English because at the time my daughter did not speak much Finnish yet. Now that we go there every summer, I have made it a priority to teach her Finnish. You are what you are depending how you were raised. I clearly understand your way of looking at life and your take on what people do in their cultures and way of life which includes their religion. Rick, keep on traveling! I enjoy your blog and never get offended by it.

  18. Spiritually, I love to “eat Lutheran- Gastronomically, I’m glad you’re more Unitarian, or your books would be far less interesting to read. Regarding the “controversy” of Obama at Notre Dame- as an old Domer, I’ve seen these things come and go over the years, whether the speaker offended the political right or left. They are quickly forgotten afterwards. Does anyone remember the “controversy” over candidate Clinton visiting in 1992? I didn’t think so… Let them argue about Obama (they need SOMETHING to do in South Bend over the long winters!), they’ll find some equally unimportant matter to debate once his visit is over. Hope the weather down is Spain is less rainy than up here in Belgium.

  19. Great post, although I’m sorry you thought it was necessary. Rather than ecumenism, I think about diversity. Looking at the universe it’s clear that diversity is a fundamental value – just think about all those different galaxies. I can’t understand why someone would think that, with all the billions of people in the world, there would only be one way to be spiritual. What’s important is that you’re on a spiritual path, not which path works for you. I make the church/Church distinction as spirituality/organized religion. It seems almost the first thing that happens after a great spiritual teacher dies is that regular people get together, create a “church” and start messing up the message. I can’t imagine what Jesus would think if he came back and saw St. Peter’s, or what the Buddha would think of Mahayana Buddhism, with it’s “extra” buddhas and bodhisattvas. But the real problems come when one group insists that everyone else has to believe, or at least behave, according to their precepts. And I could do without the proselytizers, too! BTW, the UK still has an established church, and prayer and religious ed. in schools, but that seems to be turning out a lot of atheists/agnostics rather than believers!

  20. Nothing could be less helpful to travelers than an argument about religion. More useful is the knowledge that travel lifts your spirits but pickpockets lift your wallet faster than you can think,”OMG did I put it somewhere else!?” RS lead guides walk a tightrope between keeping buddies alert, and making us so paranoid we can’t enjoy the trip (that cookie nun looks suspicious to me). After traveling to many countries and knowing several victims (one stranded in Portugal in only his swim trunks!), I offer the following: no wallets – always use a money belt; purses should be anchored to women with a ball and chain – the top of the purse zipped closed – and it should never be out of your sight (like it is when slung over the back of your restaurant chair.) Use the safe at your hotel. Do not leave valuables in your rental car trunk. Rental license plates say “rob me!” During a trip we’re all occasionally tired, distracted or even as tipsy as wheelbarrows. That’s when lightning strikes trusting Lutherans, Catholics, Buddists, etc. After all, we are where the money is – and pickpockets have to eat too. No doubt they put some of your money into the poor box at church. Bill K—-SC

  21. Man, this has been a fun read!! A lot of drama for the last couple of posts. ANyways, I think that anyone who relies on any religion or institution to save them is lost. I say this as someone who is an evengelical Christian. Faith is what saves you. And everything from that is a result of faith. Institutions, even religious ones, don’t save you. If you look at the NT, there was no Church. The church was a group of people gathered together in community in worship, prayer, encouragement, and growth. Even looking at the OT, God did not want his people to have a king. He wanted to lead them. I don’t think religious institutions are as vital as people think. I say this as someone who goes to church every week and gives regularly out of faith. Every church and religion has flaws. Faith and love are what matter. Much of that is found, developed, nourished in churches. But in and of themselves, Churches are not the answer. I side with Rick that the Catholic Church as an institution has missed the point in so many different ways. The same is true of many Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists, etc Churches as well. The Church in its purpose is good. As an institution of religion, they all fall short. To God, the church is the people not the religion. So it was in the OT, so it is now.

  22. In response to Michael’s post: “While it may seem that way, it’s because the one thing an attitude of tolerance cannot tolerate is intolerance.” What you are really saying is the one thing an attitude of tolerance cannot tolerate is intolerance towards a position that is not agreeable. There is no moral high ground for those expressing tolerance yet in actuality putting conditions on their tolerance. Your either totally tolerant or your not – there is no grey area here.

  23. Your (sic) either totally tolerant or your not – there is no grey area here. Wrong. Consider: Step 1: Tolerate the intolerant. Step 2: The intolerant take power. Step 3: No more toleration. For the tolerant to condone intolerance is to commit (intellectual, spiritual, moral) suicide. In this context I always find it sadly ironic that the Puritans, fleeing to America because of religious persecution, promptly instituted – religious persecution! I am more than happy to accord you freedom of belief (I really don’t care what you believe, so long as you keep it to yourself and it doesn’t hurt anyone), but only if you accord me the same freedom.

  24. From a “Presbyterian-eating” Christian, I say ‘Bravo’, Rick. Well, put. I’m just happy the Presbyterians don’t incorporate haggis into the Lord’s Supper! Scotch, on the other hand, would be a nice addition. *Only KIDDING!* :) Keep up the good work, Christian and secular.

  25. Great post, Rick! Your eloquence will keep you from being in a pickle. Shakespeare’s The Tempest (Act 5, scene 1) I teach Art History and appreciate your take on things. Would you please inform me of the name and artist of the Renaissance painting containing a pickle in the far end of the landscape? I was cooking for my family of 13 and missed that detail. I am a pro-life Lutheran who eats with Episcopalians and Catholics as often as possible for their fine musical offerings. My scholars relish studying Holbein’s The Ambassadors with its anamorphic vanitas skull and comforting crucifix at the top left corner. Many thought-provoking discussions regarding the Reformation have centered around our study of this painting. From the broken lute string to the navigational instruments from the Age of Discovery, it seems clear that paradoxes will always divulge themselves where religious matters are concerned. Children do not feel that they “know” what’s right, so their inquisitive minds are open and sharp.

  26. I have been reading your books, watching your TV programs and listening to your radio programs, for years. Prior to a trip to Germany a couple of years ago, my wife and I purchased your Luther and Faithful Traveler DVD. I am a life long Catholic, with a grade school through college Catholic education. I have never detected the smallest hint of anti-Catholic attitudes on your part. I am sorry others think that they have discovered such attitudes on your part. Those attitudes just are not there. Keep up the good work.

  27. Loved the article! As one of those “hat-wearing Wisconsin Synod Lutherans” I appreciate your willingness to share your faith. My husband and I never miss your show. I’m a trip planning fanatic and devour your books. Keep up the good work.

  28. Putting one’s faith aside for a moment, just standing on the inside/outside or in the towers of some of the greatest cathedrals of Europe is ‘awesome’ and ‘inspiring’! Think of the history, talent, artwork, dedication, (yes, manipulation of the folks), engineering-without modern 20th & 21st century equiptment. There are so many examples…Notre Dame,Paris; Cologne, Germany, Vatican, a few of the more famous …but then every city and town had a central location, which became the heartbeat of all activity for that region. On our travels we occasionally find that one outdoor cafe in the area to grab a beverage, sit back, watch the people and imagine ourselves in a particular time frame centuries ago.

  29. Cani, Please understand that tolerance does not require agreement. If you disagree with Rick’s views on the Church, I will tolerate that opinion. But I will also rebut it. The difference is that I will not call people names such as “anti-Catholic” to smear an innocent person. Civil discourse is all that tolerance requires. Nothing more.

  30. This is a great post. As a Lutheran myself I understand your views. Our church is one of tolerance and broadmindedness. I know that has not always been the case, especially in certain synods of our church. I am of the same synod that you are, so I,too, have been taught to respect others points of view. As for the “c” issue. we are taught to view the church with a small one. The word catholic means universal, we refer to the “C” as the Roman Catholic Church. Each time I am in a Cathedral in Europe (St. Gallen, Switzerland this past week) I always feel the presence of God and the spirit of those who have worshipped Him there.

  31. The “c” issue should be one of fairness. Other’s are just as or even more sensative. Why is the “c” always remembered foremost and extra? Why is does the “c” have so-called sensatives that are so in-tuned to? What makes the “c” so special above the rest? I’ve had it with the “c” preferential treatment. VERY HURTFUL!!!!!

  32. A small correction Rick – Atheists don’t hate your god. They’d have to believe in him/her to do that! Keep on keepin’ on though! You’re doing really good things over there and back at home – and they have nothing to do with what religion you practice.

  33. Perhaps rather than thinking about religion in the US and Europe in terms of Protestant and Catholic options, it would be more interesting and fruitful to grapple with the reality of living in a post-Christendom context. Documents like “Ut unum sint” and the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification suggest to me that the pressing issues facing the church are no long ther quarrels of the sixteenth century. The more pressing question is whether Christianity of any strip can offer Europeans or Americans a fulfilling and convincing vision of reality.

  34. Well, as an athiest, I don’t hate an imaginary being. But I do hate that an imaginary being is used by most religions/religious people to persecute other religions or people. btw, being critical is not being racist or anti-Semitic. Unfortunately, some groups equate criticism to those two words in order to hide their own racist and anti-Semitic actions. Finally, Rick, just keep on being yourself. I like the process you use to discover what works for you. Unfortunately, too many people say they are for the truth and ignore testing the process they used -for integrity- on the way to their truth.

  35. Rick, your comments about ecumenism reminded me of the sermon that our (Episcopal) rector preached a couple weeks ago at the Great Vigil Service (Easter eve). We had just had a baptism, and he talked about going to Israel a few years ago and taking part in inter-denominational baptisms in the Jordan river. He described baptizing by immersion, while the Orthodox believers sprinkled with water, and, very fittingly, the Assemblies of God members just dove right in the water. His point was that the forms of worship and sacraments may be different, but the real, vital thing is that all of those people followed Jesus. His story really summed up to me the meaning of the universal, or catholic (small ‘c’) Church.

  36. c or l favorites, uncalled for and very hurtful!!!!! You’re MEAN with no consideration to fans that have been badly hurt!!!!! Done nothing to deserve that. Goodbye!!!!!

  37. Rick, I too am a Lutheran (ELCA) and my wife is a devout Catholic (converted). While do not agree with you politically I believe everyone has the right to express their opinion. Religion has always and will always make someone angry, just as politics do. We have taken 2 of your tours and have enjoyed them very much. Ferdi and Rolinka were awsome on both tours. I believe Rolinka has discussed the assistance she has given my wife in finding relatives. Thanks, and hope to take a tour soon.

  38. Rick, This is the first time I have read your travel blog and am hooked. I just read your blog “Where does a good Lutheran Catholic Eat?” As life long domers, with children who are juniors in the Rome program, you hit home! The controversy surrounding our President at the Graduation ceremony, I find appalling. I did not vote for the president and do not agree on his tactics, however, he is our president and it has been a tradition for the sitting president to speak at the commencement. The ability to have different beliefs is what makes our country great. We just returned from Rome at spring break and all the Italians wanted to talk about President Obama. They find our time to be exciting because their political systems is so different. Keep writing, traveling and I will keep reading!

  39. Your comment about Obama and Notre Dame misstates the primary objection. It is not that he is speaking at the school, but rather that he is being “honored” at the graduation. Let him come and debate the issue at a forum, not be honored at the graduation.

  40. from Mary Ann Glendon’s letter to your brother in law: “First, as a longtime consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I could not help but be dismayed by the news that Notre Dame also planned to award the president an honorary degree. This, as you must know, was in disregard of the U.S. bishops’ express request of 2004 that Catholic institutions “should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles” and that such persons “should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” That request, which in no way seeks to control or interfere with an institution’s freedom to invite and engage in serious debate with whomever it wishes, seems to me so reasonable that I am at a loss to understand why a Catholic university should disrespect it.”http://www.zenit.org/article-25728?l=english

  41. Rick thanks so much for this very personal, well written and courageous entry. I think it took a lot of courage to write this and to share something so personal is pretty astounding. This is all a very vital (or should be) part of travel. I try to go to church when I travel at least once. And I like to tease my athiest German friends about all the (paid) religious holidays they get off from work when they are not believers. but guess what, they came to visit me this month and attended church with me to experience an important part of my life, my culture. like the hokey pokey “that’s what it’s all about”

  42. Dear Rick, My greatest and most profound discovery, as a new Rick Steve’s fan, is not a travelogue, but your spiritual journey, Rick. And I approach your web and information with a hightened appreciation. Traveling has always been a wonderful adventure in learning about ALL of God’s people, the awe of his planet and the inventiveness of man and his progress thru spiritual grace. I say more power to you Rick!! If you read this, I am taking my children and their children to Le Marche, where their ancestors were born and gifted us a fantastic gene pool. I am almost a vigorous 80, and this will be my second to last journey and it has to be very very special; The children choice this rather than any inheritance and I am honored to give them a memory of LA Dolce Vita I have been on line for weeks, days, hours and am still not settled on a place. We are a motley crew of professores, artists, cooks, photographers. We would prefer to be in the countryside, but near music festivals classis and jazz and even horses for treking. A very Italian exchange. Our dates are July 16-Aug 16…09! Gratefully and hoping for a quick reply so I can sleep again, MArilyn Mc <

  43. Cathy_ Your words are very wise….listen up everyone to how tolerance evolves for those who are intolerant. HOw about the early days of Hitler as the pacified tolerant world stood by watching? Tolerance must come from strength and moral conviction and watchfulness of the intent of the intolerant. Good thinking, Cathy Marilyn MC

  44. Rick Re your Saddam comments: You need to inform yourself more thoroughly about his rise to power. The CIA created him. Initially his Ba’ath party was supported by the CIA as an anti-communist tool and later as a counterbalance to Iran’s regional ambitions. Rumsfeld, Bush Sr., et al were instrumental in carrying out this policy. When he went too far the US govt. was forced to act. Your tax dollars, too, helped support all of this sordid mess. Your holier than thou pronouncements are difficult to accept. As you know, speaking before thinking is an oft noted failing of Americans.

  45. As a life-long Lutheran, whenever I’m involved in an ecumenical discussion, I love to toss in one of my favorite quotes – “Jesus was a Jew, Martin Luther was a Roman Catholic.”

  46. Mr. Steves: Perhaps a new cause you should take up is the the systematic removal of Judensau still unfortunately adorning choice cathedrals and churches mainly throughout Germany. Just put them in one place maybe (for some redeeming purpose that currently escapes me), instead of leaving these artifacts of hatred in and around places of worship. Just an opinion. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judensau

  47. Hi Rick! First I want to tell you, I love your show. Secondly, I am a DEVOUT Roman Catholic, and I LOVE my Church. I believe it has the FULL menu. Thirdly, I am descended from Lutherans. My ancestors arrived in Hoboken, NJ in the early 1860’s. The “German Evangelical Church” where my great-grandparents met ,in Confirmation class, still stands. So, I LOVE Lutherans. And I LOVE LIFE. Rick, maybe you could do a show in and about Hoboken?

  48. Thank you so much, Rick! One of the best posts ever! There are those who feel threatened by differing opinions and those whose faith only grows from seeing the beautiful diversity of this world.

  49. I want to second Bernie’s comment above. It was the “honor” being accorded President Obama to which practicing Roman Catholics object. How does a Catholic institution give honor to the most anti-life president ever? And, Rick, you do sound very anti-Catholic, even anti-religion, in many of your blogs, which is why I, usually, no longer read themn.

  50. Meg, first of all, no one can or does speak for all “practicing Catholics”. Certainly not that attention-craving wacko Bill Donahue. I applaud Notre Dame for honoring President Obama. And nice job to Rick’s brother-in-law, Father Jenkins, for framing the issue so eloquently on Sunday at the commencement exercise. I am a Catholic, and while I don’t share the President’s views on abortion, on substantially ALL other “life” issues (unjust war, capital punishment, the care of the poor, stem cell research, economic justice), I am mostly in agreement with him. How dare right wing Catholics attempt to limit the discussion of “life” issues to only abortion, while conveniently ignoring other life issues which don’t fit the right-wing agenda.

  51. Eric there is someone who can speak for all “practicing Catholic”-if we mean by those who follow the teachings of the faith- it is the Pope and the Bishops in union with him. That is the point of being a Catholic. Christ gave the authority to Peter and the apostles. A Catholic believes that the Pope and the bishops in union with him throughout the centuries is guided by Christ to reveal the deposit of faith-Christ’s will. Does not mean the Church is perfect-Peter was not. But it is the belief that in critical matters of faith and morals the Church has an authority given to her by Christ. You can decide not to believe in this-free country, but then why are you calling yourself a Catholic in my opinion. The US Conference of Bishops, those who have authority on such matters, instructed that public figures and others should not receive “honor” from Catholic institutions if they are not in alignment with Catholic teaching. Thus, that is why the Harvard Prof refused to participate in the ceremony-her choice. Capital punishment involves people who have been convicted of terrible crimes, the unborn have no voice. Having said that, Notre Dame is an independent institution, so ultimately ND can do what it wants. Further, this is the US Conference and no formal declaration was made by the Vatican on the matter, I believe. Nonetheless, you either give deference to the Bishops and their office or you do not. This is not a debate between ” conservative ” and ” liberal” catholics. If you do not defer to the Bishops, then I am not certain why one is Catholic, in my opinion. Notice I said defer, not blindly follow. ND could have just not given the degree. They did. ND chose to be more of an academic “free thinking” secular University than a by the book Catholic one, at least on this event anyway-that is all, and again from what I can see ND can do that.

  52. Having said that, one could say that the Conference of Bishops is overstepping here. ND is not supporting the pro-choice position. Is giving an honor degree really communicating acceptance if not support for the pro-choice position? In fact, one can argue the invite gave attention for pro-life position to gain air time for its position. Bottom line,I do not see any excommunications here. But you wonder if many Catholics understand the purpose and nature of apostolic succession.

  53. Rick, Thank you for sharing, and your views are thoughtful and helpful. One way to understand Roman Catholicism in general, and Spainish Catholicism in particular when referencing Protestants, and the image of the Catholic Church is to study the Leynda Negra, or Black Legend. Witch burnings were much more common in Protestant territories than where the Inquisition operated. The Inquisition acutally saved lives from such burnings, usually considering witchcraft as a delusion and superstitious. I disagree that all the Catholic Church has done in Spain is bad. Again, there was no reformation in Spain because the Church there cleaned up her act in the previous century, with the help of the Inquisition. Finally, the tragedy of the Spanish Civil War is a complex issue that will vex historians for generations to come. That the Catholic Church sided with Franco is not something the cheer. However, the Church did side with the faction that would allow it to exist. The Roman Catholic Church as an institution has done great things and some not-so great things. The same can be said about the Protestant Churches. But dialogue, like travel, can be eye-opening. I salute the work of Rick Steves!

  54. Rick: I think you may have missed the point concerning the Notre Dame controversy. This has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with “conservative Catholics who can’t accept a leader who differs from them on the abortion issue..” It is that the CATHOLIC CHURCH’s official teaching is that abortion is wrong, and the official policy of the United States Conference of Catholic bishops is that politicians who advocate legal abortion should not be given a platform to espouse their pro-abortion views in a CATHOLIC university. Notre Dame is bound to abide by that policy IF it wants to continue to be considered a CATHOLIC university. Period. There really is no such thing as a “conservative” Catholic; there is ONE Catholic teaching on the abortion issue, as well as a host of other issues. There are “practicing” Catholics, who attend Mass and attempt to follow Church teaching, and there are Catholics who do not follow Church teaching.

  55. Mr Steves, you said: I developed the same Christian passion for "sanctity of life" that anti-abortionists have. But I defined "life" as something much broader than a fetus [INVALID] rather, I kept a special focus on how structural poverty denies innocent people (precious children of God) the fulfilling life their Creator envisioned for them here on earth. Why didn't you also mention that you serve on the Honorary Council of the National Abortion Rights Action League? Or that you contributed your European tour as an auction prize to benefit NARAL? Anti-Catholic? Maybe not. Anti-life, yes.

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