O Me of Little Faith

O Me of Little Faith

Anne Hathaway and the Catholic Church

Thanks to all the promotional appearances she has been making for her new film Love & Other Drugs with Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway has been all over the media for the last couple of weeks, from a gig hosting Saturday Night Live to an unclothed cover of Entertainment Weekly. In February, she and James Franco will co-host the Oscars.

I haven’t seen the movie, but I appreciate that, when she speaks, Hathaway comes across as smart and funny and more thoughtful than most celebrities known for being pretty. In all her appearances, however, you may have missed her radio interview on “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross on NPR (follow that link to listen to the interview).


During it, she talks about the importance of faith, growing up in the Catholic Church, and then her decision to leave the institutional church a few years ago.

Here’s the transcript of the full interview.

GROSS: I should mention, this is maybe a good place to talk about it,
that your brother is gay, and he got married in Canada. And I read that
your family left the Catholic Church when your brother came out because
the Catholic Church is so, like, anti-homosexual.

So was it a hard decision or just like a no-brainer to leave the church when your brother came out?

HATHAWAY: Well, it wasn’t really like we had a family discussion about
it. We didn’t sit around the dinner table and say, okay, this is the
decisive action we’re going to take now. It was more something we
realized we’d all done as individuals, and then it became something that
we’d done as a family.


And gosh, was it
difficult? You know, when it’s family and someone is excluding your
family, and someone is not accepting of your family, it does become a
bit of a no-brainer, doesnt it?

GROSS: So was it hard for you to leave the church? Was the church important to you before?

HATHAWAY: Faith is important to me. You know, being raised with one
faith and having to go out into the unknown and try to cobble together
another, that was hard. But I wasn’t really leaving something because I
realized I couldn’t have faith in this religion that would exclude
anyone, particularly my brother, for the way he’s born and for loving
someone. I mean, how do you exclude someone for love? That seems to be
the antithesis of what religion’s about.


by the way, you know, I [don’t] mean to Catholic Church-bash. I do understand
that for a lot of people, the religion provides a lot of peace and
direction. But I don’t know, if they could be accepting of women and of
gays, I think that the religion gets a lot of things right.

for me, I couldn’t lose myself in it. I couldn’t look to it for
guidance because it’s like I said, I don’t believe in this aspect.

We’ve discussed the connection between the Church’s stance on homosexuality and faith issues before, including a couple of specific posts about homosexual friends of mine who grew up in hostile church environments — one abandoned his childhood faith, the other eventually returned.

I’m curious what you make of Anne Hathaway’s reasoning and her family’s decision. This is a pretty powerful statement: “How do you exclude someone for love? That seems to be the antithesis of what religion’s about.”

Please discuss. And keep it civil.

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posted December 9, 2010 at 10:45 am

Thanks for pointing this out … The line that really speaks to me is this: “But I wasn’t really leaving something because I realized I couldn’t have faith in this religion that would exclude anyone … ”

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posted December 9, 2010 at 10:47 am

Comments on posts like this always tend to head in the directions we’d expect them to-
Aside from that- my thought when I read this is, well, she makes absolute sense- and seems to have thought this out. Her family didn’t approach the decision lightly, or storm out angry- they made a logical choice and Anne isn’t taking low blows. She’s saying it like it is.
Anne is quite articulate, and she fielded that question beautifully and with respect. For Anne, for her experience, for her personal journey, if I were her, that’s exactly where I would be. I couldn’t project any other worldviews on her expecting her to see from that point- plainly, she’s not there. And, as she pointed out, they’d been members of the Catholic Church, and known about the stance on women and gays etc, and lived with that (however uncomfortably)- but when it becomes a personal issue, a family issue- it isn’t so easily ignored and you’re forced to face it.
As a part of the messy and beautiful church- we DO drop this ball and polarize on an issue that needs a great dose of humanity, openess and humility from all sides.

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Ray Hollenbach

posted December 9, 2010 at 10:48 am

Love is inclusive. Love transcends rebellion and refuses to let the rebels go. Love believes all things, bears all things hopes all things. Love never fails. And we humans know very little of what love is. Gay or straight, we possess the understanding of children with respect to love. The challenge of Ms Hathaway’s statement is she is correct. But so are first-graders when they say the universe is “big.”
God’s love–his being, his character, is personification of love runs counter our grasp of love. We have mistaken emotion for love. We have mistaken physical attraction for love. We have mistaken commitment for love. All of us, regardless of our sexual orientation, should acknowledge that we are broken people in need of a new way to live. We should give up discussing the Church, religion, and even love until we sit at His feet and receive His love. I suspect then our arguments would be very different indeed.

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posted December 9, 2010 at 10:56 am

I love sisterly sentiments, and I’m not saying she shouldn’t have left the Catholic Church based on her convictions, but. . . if we’re just going to discuss her statement, “How do you exclude someone for love?” then I don’t think she’s being very logical at all.
The particular stand against homosexuality is not about love (that would be homolovity, wouldn’t it?); it is about sex. Our culture has morphed these two words into synonyms and I don’t believe that is accurate. I know plenty of people who have sex that don’t love each other. I also know people who love each other who don’t have sex. I think her particular analogy is flawed. (Although don’t tell her that, because I personally find her delightful in every other way!)
I am perfectly aware that there are a million nuances to this argument way beyond this single point, but I thought it was interesting. Go ahead, start yelling at me.

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posted December 9, 2010 at 10:59 am

Well, Anne Hathaway has certainly gone up a notch in my estimation. That was a well-reasoned, intelligent response to a hard and very personal question. It also doesn’t hurt that I agree with her on this. I’m struggling with whether to remain a Methodist over the same question. The Book of Discipline (Methodist handbook) says that we respect the rights of everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. Then, they won’t allow gay people to get married or be ordained. And, the Judicial Council recently affirmed that pastors can exclude gay people from membership. We are Christians, followers of Christ, and we exclude people from the means of grace? It makes me ashamed of to say I’m a member of the UMC.

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Charlie Chang

posted December 9, 2010 at 11:28 am

I get what she’s saying and I’m sure it would be hard to continue in Catholicism if their church family treated her brother like that.
I think they made the right decision because if you’re going to church for some guidance and encouragement and you don’t get that, then why continue to go to that particular church? But then at the same time I remember Matthew 18:15-17, so I don’t fault the church either.
I enjoy her honesty and she seems to have a good spirit about the whole thing, like not bitter against religion and is just moving on. I think that’s key, moving on and not dramatizing things in life.

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Ryan P

posted December 9, 2010 at 11:59 am

I respectfully disagree with Felicity (assuming I’m reading her correctly) that the church’s stance against homosexuality is solely about sex and not about love. The church is able to separate pre-marital heterosexual sex (which it is traditionally against) from heterosexual sex that happens between married couples who are, presumably, in love.
The church makes no such distinction for homosexuals. Even if a same-sex couple is in love and married, most churches are still, officially, against the relationship.
There is, too, at least in the Baptist churches I’ve been to (which, I understand, are traditionally more conservative than many other denominations) a bright line rule that homosexuality is the only unforgivable sin. In my church-going life, I’ve not heard a pastor say that a heterosexual couple that was having pre-marital sex would be unwelcome. I’ve heard plenty of pastors tell their congregations that gay and lesbian members would not be allowed in their churches.
The fact is that we’re all sinners in some way, and a whole lot of us don’t do much of anything to quit engaging in that sinful behavior. And despite that, the church welcomes us and loves us. I don’t personally believe that homosexuality is a sin, but knowing that the church does doesn’t change my opinion that, in general, they should be as accepting of that sin as they are of any other.

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Pianolady32/Muddled Mawkishness

posted December 9, 2010 at 12:38 pm

I love that statement. It’s what I’ve often thought but never knew how to put into those simple words. I have family members who are gay. I think that her statement accurately describes the way I feel. I can only make decisions for the way I speak and act and live. I am responsible for my own actions and words. I am not responsible for the actions or words of anyone else. Ultimately, this is an issue that should be between a person and God (if you believe in God or a god or whatever) and no one else should be involved. My gay family members are in good solid relationships with their loved ones. And it’s not my place to say whether or not they love their partners. How would I know that…beyond a shadow of a doubt, I mean? This is something that is between them. I don’t think I’m the one who should tell /anyone/ who they should marry, either. My “job”, as I see it and understand it from all I’ve been taught in scripture, is to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself’ (Luke 10:27-28). I love my family and I pray for them and I welcome them into my home and I’ll help them if they need it. To do any different would be completely abhorrent to me. I’ve thought for several years on this matter. It’s not something I just lightly considered. I know that there are many people of my acquaintance who would avoid me like the plague if they knew how I felt about this matter. I totally understand why she and her family would step away from a religion/congregation that seeks to degrade and shun a family member. I think I’d probably do the same if I was in her place. Bravo, Anne Hathaway!

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posted December 9, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Don’t really have an answer to this.
Frankly, the Bible teaches a lot of things i’m uncomfortable over. We no longer stone children for disobedience, and as far as i know, no church has ever promoted Jesus’ admonition to cut off your hand our gouge out your eye if it “offends” you. Where do we draw a line of what is appropriate for us to implement, and what we leave behind?
I’ve a brother who is gay. Both my husband and i are fully supportive of “domestic partnerships” with full rights and privileges of marriage. But to call it marriage? I have a harder time with that. I not comfortable in a church led by a gay priest. These are my feelings. I won’t apologize for them. I cannot change how i feel in my gut.
God, if we are honest, does a lot of things in the Bible which we are not comfortable with or about. In my view, God certainly does not hold any concept of “fairness” – at least the we most humans see it. Evangelicals (and other forms of Christians) say that if God were “fair” we’d all be headed for Hell, etc., etc. I don’t have any answers to these things and more. I think that is why those of us who doubt struggle so much.
I’m not someone who believes that God does a whole lot here. I mean, too many people say, “He didn’t save my son, daughter, granddaughter, etc.” He didn’t stop these folks from dying in a car crash, burning building, from cancer, heart attack, on & on. I know too many folks (my husband and i included) who desperately want to have a family, but cannot for a number of different reasons. God does not seem play a role where he literally provides. Too many Christians quote Jeremiah 29:11 (“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope”) out of context. And some of us feel distinctively “unblessed” when it comes to finding a life partner, or having children, or for a number of other issues.
But i am coming to a place where i realize that what i want or desire or think to be good does not follow what God will provide for me.
Remember: Old Testament promises were almost always made to the NATION of Israel, not to individuals, with some exceptions. The New Testament promises are generally that we will survive, not that we will be given our hearts’ desires. Most NT promises focus on the coming life, not for here and now.
Keeping all this in mind, there is a lot in the Bible i don’t like. It offends my senses as a person living in the reality of 2010. I don’t like that it excludes homosexuality as a viable lifestyle. I am accepting of folks, including my brother, who choose to live that way. I love them. But frankly, i am deeply concerned that they are making a choice for this life that will effect them long term. If i have any belief in the Bible, i can’t think otherwise. I don’t quite know what to think of the God who declared it so.
This is a really, really hard issue.

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posted December 9, 2010 at 1:26 pm

If we are to model the life of Jesus while he walked on the Earth, how can we exclude homosexuals? I believe Jesus would have welcomed homosexuals to worship with him. Attitudes such as this (and there are alot more…) are why people hate church.

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Jared Wilson

posted December 9, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Not an easy subject.
But doesn’t Jesus suggest that excluding someone for love in Matthew 18:16-18, and Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:11, 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 1 Timothy 1:20, and Titus 3:10 (among others)?
Not every verse their applies directly to every sin mentioned in the Scriptures, but the concept of exclusion of someone inside the church who commits themselves to sin is very present. This is not about condemnation or judgmentalism; the Bible does cast church discipline as an act of love: we love someone enough to make sure there are consequences for their unrepentance, in the hope it will spur them to repentance.
Of course this is all moot for those who would say something the Bible calls sin is not a sin, or what have you.

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Sharideth Smith

posted December 9, 2010 at 2:36 pm

i’m not sure there is global answer to this. a person can only be responsible for his/her own actions, reactions and moral compass. for me, when God says the greatest commandments are to love God and love others, i take that pretty seriously. especially since there are no qualifications on who “others” are.

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posted December 9, 2010 at 2:43 pm

There is a lot of things wrong with that statement. How Hathaway define Love, im sure its on the biblical definition. This is just another celebrity “i’m ok, you’re ok” theology. Im not Catholic but i am able to respect that the catholic church is taking a stand for what they believe is wrong and not biblical. More churches should do this instead of trying to please the masses and make the gospel of Jesus a PC (politically correct) message. If we are offended by the Gospel, good!, we are supposed to be because we are all depraved individuals. But that message doesnt gain you any popularity in the world today. So i guess Jesus and the church should also be accpeting of Anne Hathaway basically selling her body and posing nude on a popular magazine cover. How narrow minded of us to think that might be wrong also…

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Ryan P

posted December 9, 2010 at 2:51 pm

A decent point, Jared. I’m sure most of us are familiar with the concept of “tough love” and some of us may have experienced it or doled it out ourselves.
Where that falls apart for me, based on my personal experience, is that the churches I’m familiar with only single out homosexuality as the sin that requires shunning the sinner.

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Jared Wilson

posted December 9, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Ryan, I have never been a part of a church that singles out one sin over others, but I am positive they exist. One verse the church would do well to keep in mind when preaching against sin — which is something we’re commanded to do over and over again — is that judgment begins at the house of God.
Many voices in the institutional church will have a lot to answer for, and hypocrisy and self-righteousness will be the big stinkin’ tip of the big stinkin’ iceberg.

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posted December 9, 2010 at 4:57 pm

Yes, Ryan P, I’m with you on the absurdity of the church forgiving/overlooking some sins and not others.
I have recently been very challenged by the book WASHED AND WAITING by Wesley Hill. He identifies himself as a gay Christian and writes about his decision to abstain from a homosexual lifestyle. One of his points in the book is that the Christian gospel does make requirements of its adherents (most faiths do). He relates his own struggle with the struggles of overweight Christians and other believers who find themselves fighting against the carnal nature that Christianity looks to overcome. He calls it “struggling well.”
This is a multi-layered subject that deserves thoughtful, compassionate discussion.

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posted December 10, 2010 at 8:57 am

I know several people who are gay and are also active members of “the Church”. I don’t think the Church is any MORE against homosexuality than it is against any other sin. It’s just that there aren’t a lot of people who proudly declare their sin like many gay people do. To say the Church is “so anti-homosexual” is to leave out that the Church is also anti-murder, anti-adultery, anti-racist, anti-selfish, and anti-greedy, just to name a few. As for whether or not homosexuality is a sin, I strongly recommend Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West. It’s an overview of a series of talks given by Pope John Paul II, and not only does it discuss the Church’s view on homosexuality, but it also discusses many other aspects of the relationship between our physical selves and our spiritual relationship with God. I was surprised to learn what else the Church views as sinful and WHY it’s a sin. Excellent book.
As for Ms. Hathaway’s experiences with the Church, I find them disappointing. The majority of Catholics I know are loving people who try to focus on Christ and the commercial-grade lumber in their own eye before worrying about the splinter in others’ eyes. Unfortunately, there are sometimes bad apples that ruin the barrel, and the bad apples are usually the most outspoken. Personally, I don’t go to Church for the people in the pews, I go to church for the person on the Cross. To expect perfection from the Church is unrealistic: the Church is made up of people, and people are sinners.
Ms. Hathaway, I’ll say a prayer for you, your family, and the person who turned you away from the Church.

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posted December 13, 2010 at 10:07 am

Dustin, “…we are supposed to be because we are all depraved individuals.”
If this is how you want to think of yourself and others, and it may be biblical, I don’t want anything to do with it.

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