Eden Prairie, Minnesota
November 15, 2013
Fr. Tim Rudolphi
6820 St. Patrick's Lane
Edina, MN 55439
Hello Fr. Rudolphi,
The other day I received your letter, the envelope stamped ‘SECOND NOTICE – PLEASE REPLY.’ And so I’m replying now. You’ve asked me to fill out a pledge card, committing myself to some giving level.
I’m somewhat reluctant to do so, as I remain a bit unclear as to whether I’m welcome as a member at St. Patrick’s. As you’re aware, I’m a polite atheist: I don’t proselytize within the church, try not to bother anyone, etc.—but I do generally bring a book or newspaper to Mass, to have something productive to do during the boring parts...but I try to be quiet.
I occasionally get involved in conversations with other parishioners—and I’ve noticed that people at the church are sometimes surprised to learn that an atheist is enrolled a member, among them.
If asked, I tell them that years ago I learned that some synagogue-participating Jews are simultaneously unapologetic atheists. They enjoy participating within their religious institutions for a variety of reasons and are generally welcome there.
It occurred to me that theirs was a good idea: There are aspects of church membership I enjoy. Since I had already been a member at St. Patrick’s for decades (while still ‘believing’ in Catholicism, to the extent one can), the church seemed the logical choice—and so I re-joined in 2007 or so. I try to attend Mass when I’ve got the time, at least once monthly, sometimes more.
When I talk openly with other parishioners, I sometimes encounter hostility. So I wish I had a better idea of what the church professes, with regard to the non-believer in its midst. Are we welcome or not?
The church sometimes takes stands I don’t approve of—and under your leadership St. Patrick’s makes it quite difficult for parishioners to complain or take action to change ill-considered policies. Parishioners are discouraged from meeting with each other to discuss your sermons or Church teachings, for example—and the church library bears a strong resemblance to its North Korean counterpart.
That said, I enjoy attending St. Patrick’s—and I believe the atheist has a constructive role to play, within our parish, since he approaches superstitious claims without bias and is willing to change his views when confronted with persuasive evidence to the contrary (thus far, nil, if you’re curious).
As always, Fr. Rudolphi, I welcome your feedback and always acknowledge your right to believe what you want, without any scintilla of coercion or bullying from me. I appeal to you solely ‘from one gentleman to another.’
All the best,