Liberal Catholic Church In Houston? Is it possible?
July 16, 2011 10:20 AM   Subscribe

Just moved to Houston; my girlfriend is looking for a Catholic church with liberal leanings - is that even possible?

My girlfriend has been selected as the godmother of her newly-born nephew. The church where he is being baptized requires that she be a member in-good-standing and take some classes at a local church. We just moved to Houston and we're looking for a liberal-leaning Roman Catholic church. Does anyone with knowledge of the area have suggestions? Thanks!
posted by anonymous to Religion & Philosophy (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What part of Houston? It's a huge city, and she won't want to drive from Clear Lake to the Woodlands every week for class.
A couple of general principles, to start with: Paulists tend to be more liberal, and the Jesuits have a reputation of being liberal to the point of being renegades. Churches headed by a priest of one of those orders are frequently less conservative than diocesan priests' parishes. Also, checking out a church's website is a good way to get a sense of the congregation: do the ministries listed lean heavily towards the conservative end of the spectrum (adoration of the Eucharist, heavy-duty Respect Life involvement) or more liberal (social justice, such as prison ministries)?
Finally, Dignity Houston might be a good place to get started -- it's for GLBT Catholics & friends, and they have Mass every Saturday night. I would assume the priest and most of the members would have some of the best info about which parishes are liberal or at least non-offensive.
posted by katemonster at 10:48 AM on July 16, 2011

Check in with the University of Saint Thomas. They might have some resources. Not sure how liberal they are in general but it wouldn't be a bad place to start. And the university itself is a nicely accessible location in one of the nicer parts of Houston.
posted by Neofelis at 2:59 PM on July 16, 2011

The Newman Center at the University of Houston.
posted by minervous at 3:49 PM on July 16, 2011

I wouldn't so much look for a liberal Catholic church as I would a balanced catholic church. I find that the best churches are ones that accommodate a wide variety of people and make them feel at home. I find liberal ideologues just as annoying as conservative ideologues. Better to find a church that embraces the deeper truths that are beyond conservative and liberal and practices good welcoming hospitality.

Also depends where you are in Houston. It's a big place. If you're out west, St. John Vianney is a great parish. If you're central, St. Michael's or St. Vincent De Paul, if you're in the Bay Area, well I like St. Paul the Apostle, but St. Clare's is good too. (full disclosure -- I'm active at St. Paul's and quite biased). Also going to the co-cathedral downtown will ensure a panoramic cultural view of Catholicism. The pastor is a good friend of mine and, while I wouldn't say he's exactly liberal, he does place love of people over ideology and he has a sense of humor. He once told a group of engaged couples we were working with not to pressure non-catholic fiances to convert because "we have enough bitter Catholics as it is. Thank you."

If you are a young adult and are in Houston right now you can still catch a few of the "Cafe Catholica" series and meet a lot of like-minded Catholics in your peer group. Then you can find out what they think and maybe make a few friends as well.

Many blessings in your search. This Archdiocese is a pretty good and active one, There's a lot to take in.
posted by cross_impact at 5:11 PM on July 16, 2011

A good friend of mine (gay, very liberal) went to St. Clare's when he was still going to church regularly, and he really liked it. I think it's still his parish of choice when he feels like going to Mass.

St. John Vianney is also a good parish, but I wouldn't say it's liberal. (NB: I wouldn't call it particularly conservative, either -- they have a thriving second marriage ministry, if I recall correctly, for instance.) It's definitely big enough to accommodate a variety of views. I'm like cross_impact -- I prefer a church that doesn't lean too far in either direction -- but if you really want a church that leans in your direction, I don't know that St. John Vianney is it. I guess that might depend on what kind of liberal you are, too.
posted by devinemissk at 6:17 PM on July 16, 2011

You'll want to define liberal-leaning here, because Mother Church in America is a big, liberal tent. Do you mean purely in the (1) political sense? Or (2) liturgical? Or just a parish with (3) lots of social justice (homeless, immigrant, crisis pregnancy, etc.) initiatives going on?

You see (2) almost everywhere in Houston, with three, possibly four, exceptions. You will see (1) mostly in the inner-loop, mostly white and elderly/boomer parishes, and less so in the 'burbs or "ethnic" parishes (honestly, this is sort of retro, and has moved largely to Episcopalian parishes). (3) is going to be confined mostly to the inner-loop, closer to downtown, unless you mean just a St. Vincent de Paul charity-type food/clothing distribution outfit, which most of the suburban mega-parishes have.

So it only sort-of depends on where you are in Houston; honestly, this was Archbishop Fiorenza's diocese for a long, long time, and that man left a stamp: they're all liberal-leaning. He headed the USCCB several times in its liberal hey-days, when it was literally the Democratic Party at Prayer. Don't imagine that all the teachings of Christ are talked about all the time down here. If a priest disagrees with something official, or just wants to be agreeable to everyone, he simply won't bring it up from the pulpit, and will only focus on sort of "fluff" issues ("So, the Gospel today is Jesus being nice, because that's what's important, right?"). That's the state of 95% the Catholic Church in America since the 1960s. Most priests are go-long-to-get-along kind of guys. Notice that the only ones that get the press are the ones that oppose the dominant culture of abortion on demand, homosexual activism, etc. We don't have those here (though if you stumble across one, let me know!).

Just guessing based on popular areas to live, if you're living in the Heights, go to All Saints. If you live in Midtown/Montrose, go to St. Anne's. If you want a young, multicultural, healthy parish that is moderately orthodox with beautiful but non-traditional liturgy, but with an intellectual approach to the faith, try the near-downtown parish run by Dominicans, Holy Rosary.
posted by resurrexit at 8:49 AM on July 18, 2011

Also, Dignity Houston is not Catholic, so if you go there to get whatever certification is needed, it won't work for the parish where the baptism will be.
posted by resurrexit at 8:51 AM on July 18, 2011

Hey OP, please feel free to MeMail me. I grew up Catholic in Galveston with someone who recently worked for the Diocese of Galveston-Houston and would be keenly attuned to the type of community that you are looking for. She's a good, fun young woman who will know exactly where you should go to avoid being driven off again immediately.
posted by jph at 12:01 PM on July 18, 2011

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