~from NJ Star-Ledger
She grew up Roman Catholic, but like millions of others, Rebecca Ortelli came to disagree with church teachings on contraception, communion and priestly celibacy, among other things.
Many like-minded Catholics drift away from the church or join other denominations. But Ortelli, 57, wanted to maintain both her Catholic identity and her world view. And she didn't want to feel one was inconsistent with the other.
So 20 years ago she did what a small number of defiant Catholics are doing. She joined a church with many lifelong Catholics of similar views, a church that borrows heavily from Catholic rituals even though it's not part of a Catholic diocese.
"I don't think I should have to give up my Catholicism. That's part of who I am. It makes me who I choose to be," said Ortelli, whose church, in Nutley, is called The Inclusive Community. "I like some of the rituals that we have. They're important."
At The Inclusive Community, she and her husband, raised a Lutheran, receive communion each Sunday from former Catholic priests who are now married. The church will be one focus of a one-day conference called "Imagining New Ways of Being Catholic," starting today in Whippany.
The Inclusive Community meets in a small chapel of a Congregational church, has a $16,000 budget, and draws maybe 15 people most Sundays. In those ways, it is similar to most "underground" churches, said Kathleen Kautzer, a professor at Regis College in Weston, Mass., who will speak at the conference.
It's unclear how many similar "underground"
Kautzer estimated there are 200, speculating they probably attract far fewer than 1 percent of the 67 million American Catholics. That is a small number, considering polls show significant American opposition to church teachings on contraception, abortion, divorce, and priestly celibacy.
Still, in the aftermath of the clergy sex abuse scandal, these churches offer a different path than the one taken by most Catholic reformers, who have sought -- unsuccessfully, so far -- to change church rules and hierarchy.
Most members of these churches are "really liberal people who are divorced, gays, and feminists," Kautzer said, adding to the list a type of married couple most Catholics would find startling: former priests and former nuns.
"The reform movement is full of those couples," she said. "Their whole life was the church, and they left ... because they couldn't handle the conservative direction the church was going in. They said, 'This institution is not going to change in my lifetime, so what else can I do but to find a faith community where I feel comfortable?'"