Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I was raised a Roman Catholic,

via flickrhivemind

but every year that goes by, every day perhaps, I grow further and further away from those roots. Today I read that the Pope of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, has declared to nearly 180 diplomats from various countries that pride of place goes to the family, based on the marriage of a man and a woman, and then this is not a simple social convention, but rather the fundamental cell of every society. Consequently, policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of  humanity itself. As you might guess, this was the Pope's statement against gay marriage.

Gay marriage is a threat to humanity itself, he said.

I want to type that again for all of us Catholics, perhaps in a bigger type.

Gay marriage is a threat to humanity itself.

Here's my question -- and this is directed at those of you who still call yourself Catholic -- how do you not struggle being a part of a Church whose leader makes statements like these, a Church whose official dogma condemns a significant number of people to a position other than human? I have heard all the explanations of reveling in the beautiful traditions of the Catholic faith, of the spirituality that lies at the core, of the profound communities that center around the faith. I recognize and respect those explanations but really, really wonder if that's enough. I don't think it is enough. Of course, if you truly believe that homosexuality sets a person apart from the rest of humanity and that the very existence of the homosexual is a threat to humanity itself, then I understand but don't necessarily respect your position as Catholic. You clearly don't need to answer my question. 

But if you struggle with this or have reached a place of peace and acceptance about this, please let me know.

I am no longer a Roman Catholic, and I struggle to understand how anyone who believes in the sanctity of humanity, in love, in the primacy of the divine in all of us would remain one.


  1. Thank you for this. I have this same question. Same background. And I have friends who ARE devoted Catholics. This is something I do not understand. And I have almost tired of trying to understand it. Brilliant post. Thank you!

  2. Elizabeth....I am not Catholic but certainly know many. Likewise as I have gotten older I am less religious in the conformed state of attending church or practicing in my own home. I believe in a spiritual place I feel comfortable with but I am really unclear with this state as well.

    I have Evangelical relatives who are definitely anti-gay and I avoid getting into it with them but ask them to not post on my facebook when I or another friend whom are pro-gay share a link or message. That happened once and I was quite shocked as well as disappointed in them.

    And the pope is a dope, but so are many other religious leaders.

  3. I was raised a Catholic and my mother was a devoted Catholic her whole life. The way she came to terms with it is the Pope is only a man, chosen by a political process. There were many things she felt the Pope was wrong about and she didn't let them get between her and God.

  4. I thing GB's mother was a wise woman. I was raised Southern Baptist and my husband, Polish Catholic. Neither of us were very active in a church when we married and neither would agree as to a religion for future children. We are now Unitarians and are quite comfortable as such.


  5. I, too, was raised Roman Catholic and ended up leaving the church not because I wanted to but because at the tender age of 8, fully steeped in the ritual of the Church, my parents got a divorce and the priest asked our family not to return. We were not formally excommunicated, but unwelcome - even the children who presumably didn't have anything to do with the divorce (although we all blamed ourselves anyway). I was shamed and broken-hearted, but see it as a blessing now that I left a place so completely unable to see me as a human being.

    Over the years I have despaired at the lack of flexibility and forgiveness on the part of many religious communities, but I no longer struggle to be accepted as a part of any of them. Humanity is so much larger than dogma.

  6. I was raised Catholic too. I can't accept many of the Church's tenets. Love is love. One day, the Church will see its mistakes.

  7. As a recovering roman catholic, its things like this that reinforce why I ran screaming from the organization. The more I learned of it, the more it did not make sense and their "beliefs" just seem to be so far from what Christ was like. Sad.

  8. Was a member of a RC order for 8 years before leaving...some good people, too many drunks and pedo's, etc etc....I just posted this research on my facebook page amazing


    Verifies what you wrote completely!

  9. E,
    As someone who is both an active campaigner for gay rights and gay marriage AND a practicing, more or less devout Catholic, I feel that I am the perfect person to comment on this.
    I am definitely torn. But I choose to look not to the dogma of the old men in Rome, but to the loving acceptance offered by my parish priests at Blessed Sacrament in LA. Not to the king, but to the foot soldiers, who ultimately are the ones who make the church what it is.
    Blessed Sacrament has had an active, thriving Gay/Lesbian Ministry for the past 25 years. In fact, it was at BS that Cardinal Mahony first initiated the Gay/Lesbian Ministry for the Archdiocese of LA. And about a month ago, I sang at a mass celebrating their 25th anniversary. Thousands of people attended the mass, both gay and straight, and it was concelebrated by about 20 priests. About a year ago, the American bishops wrote a letter, which was released to all diocese across the nation, which addressed gay Catholics, and was a message of love, acceptance and affirmation. At that time, BS invited parents of gays to come up during a series of homilies and speak about their personal journeys and the importance of embracing their children's homosexuality, and letting their children be who they are.
    Clearly, there's a disconnect between the American Catholic church, and what's going on at the Vatican, but that's another issue altogether.

    I'm going to send you a letter written by my dear friend John,a gay man, who has been the cantor at Blessed S for almost 30 years.

  10. Hi, I am a new follower. I had to comment that I agree with everything you have said. It's funny that I just posted on my own blog something very similar to this based on a story I heard on NPR regarding the "persecution of religion". Anyway, great post! :)

  11. You know already my friend, that I am of course Catholic and the words that swirled around in my head to write as I was reading your post, prior to reading comments,I found written by GB's mom and by Gretchen. Said probably more concise and eloquently. So can I echo their statements without it being a cop out?

    To my core, with everything I am, and everything I have come to know in this life, I believe in the sanctity of ALL human beings. All. Irregardless of race, religion,sexual orientation and so on and so forth.But I am Catholic. And I am proud of it. Not proud of all that has gone on,certainly.

    But I am proud of the Catholic that I am.

  12. I duked this one out with my Very Catholic yoga teacher many times. And the patriarchal thing, as well. I asked her if she'd work for a business that didn't allow women to become bosses. "Of course not," she said.
    I do not understand how people can call themselves Catholic and disregard the message of the church, which in this case, is that homosexuality is a sin and a threat to humanity. There may well be Catholic churches which ignore this but then- are they really Catholic? And do they "love the sinner, hate the sin?" Or do they perform marriages for gay parishioners?
    I tell you, Elizabeth- people get the religion gene or they do not. If you don't have it, none of this stuff makes any sense and you just step out of it completely. If you have it, you just can't. You rationalize and you have "faith" and that's that.
    I'm not saying that either way is THE way. I'm just saying that it seems to me that some people have such a strong need to be a part of a religion that they will go against their very own most personal feelings and worship in that religion anyway.
    And to the rest of us- well, it looks like madness. Speaking quite personally, of course. Not for you. Let me make that very clear.

  13. I had to bow out of the Catholic Church for just such reasons. Marriage is for all.....period.

  14. oh gosh. I'm Italian, raised as Catholic of course... but I struggle completely with the same questions.

    It doesn't make sense.

    It's wrong.

  15. I have heard many people use the term "you can't fix stupid" and I don't truly believe that because most of the time people are not stupid, but rather unknowingly confused. But I am not so sure about the term "you can't fix bigots" because bigotry is really about something wrong with the bigot and not those they are bigoted against.

    Bigotry is the threat to humanity, its real and it's powerful. It was more evident in the days when you could see the hatred in a child's eyes as they slurred ugly words and demeanor taught by their elders.

    I hope he prays, gets his answer and back pedals because that comment came from a place of obvious denial. I have no doubt that those who are close to him can sense by his demeanor that something is off, way off. Because if he can pull off saying something like that without being visibly affected then he has no understanding of the powers that be or the forces and ways of divinity.

    I don't think we will ever realize (mostly because we cannot fathom) all of the damage we have done to people with a sexual orientation that is different, due to the fact that we didn't recognize the evil we are capable of when we don't understand and are, in a very scary way, confused.

  16. Elizabeth, I am not Catholic, but one cannot exist in this society without knowing about these and the other things -- the disturbing things about children, priests and the way it was covered up -- without forming an opinion. For those of my friends who remain devoted to the Catholic faith, I have sympathy and empathy, because it must be terribly, terribly hard. Stories like Gretchen's - an amazing, wonderful story -- seem way to few and far between. I don't know that I could overcome it.

  17. Thank you for all of your thoughtful comments. For those who separate their individual church community from the larger Catholic one, I wonder where you draw the line? Is it, indeed, the "love the sinner, hate the sin," kind of thing or is there a desire to just be completely separate from the orthodox faith and Church? And while I am heartened to hear of stories like Gretchen's above, I don't think the Church has made one iota of progress toward being inclusive of everyone in the more than two thousand years of its existence. If you read the article I cited from, the archbishop of New York City, Timothy Dolan, is about to be made a CARDINAL and he is one of the most vocal members of the church against gay marriage and homosexuality. I'm not sure the American Catholic community is any more "progressive" in an institutional sense than Rome.

  18. I don't believe our souls have a gender. We love whom we love.

  19. I too was raised catholic and so perhaps that is why the institutional church's narrowness and pettiness drives me to irrational anger - it seems like such a colossal moral failure on their part, such a distortion of the love and acceptance that seems to come with the whole "god so loved the world" story. somewhere along the line the catholic church moved from being the church of dorothy day to the church of- what? who? damned if i know. (catholic pun intended.)

  20. Elizabeth I understand your frustration. There are people of every relgion who are against gays or ethnic groups, etc, etc. but when a so called 'leader' of a religion proclaims such a statement--who does he think he is?
    It would serve humanity better if he taught people to love instead of hate, because that's what he's doing!
    I'm proud of the responses here, of people who stand up for what is right.

  21. I was raised Roman Catholic too, and for all the things I love still about it: ceremony, music, pattern, liturgy, I have never regretted leaving it. I remember thinking, as a teenager getting ready for Confirmation, "If this god of theirs is a god of love, he sure has a long list of all those who are unworthy of love." It seemed--seems, IS,--awfully un-God-like. Awfully human, and scared and small.

    I left the church when I was 14, and things like this make me deeply sad for the faith I wish I could love, but cannot. "God loves EVERYONE," Jonah said recently in a discussion about who knows what.

    Ugh and ugh, Pope Benedict. UGH.

  22. I remember studying Desiderius Erasmus and Martin Luther in college history classes. Erasmus avocated for reforming the Church from within and even as a young idealistic college student I admired his stance.

    I was raised Catholic, but have never practiced the religion as an adult. The Church was never a good fit for me, but I believe it is a valid spiritual path for many people.

  23. Do you think of yourself as an American? If you do, then, do you agree with everything that the leadership in America does? Or do you recognize that it evolves and changes, and that being 'American' is something that can, in truth, be individualized and shaped, as much as any other affiliation, with some connection to the overall group it is associated with?

    If I choose to consider myself a Roman Catholic, but I choose to bend and shape some of the tenants of Catholicism to suit my individual tastes, well, that's up to me. I can still call myself a Catholic, I can still do it proudly and I don't need to worry all that much about what the Pope says. Because the fact is that Popes come, and Popes go. Things the Popes say come, things the Popes say go.

    If I choose to call myself an American I do it very similarly. I live by a set of rules and laws, within certain boundaries, but I am not bound by everything. I can evolve within the confines of that 'system', shaping it and bending it to suit me as well. If my President says something I don't agree with, I don't need to worry about it so much. Presidents come. Presidents go. I don't judge my country on the actions of one man.

    I won't judge my religion on it either.

    Just as I won't judge a man and a man for doing the horizontal shuffle, no matter what my Church tells me I should or should not do, no matter what they THINK God thinks I should do.

    See, only God knows what I should do, and He ain't really saying one way or the other on the subject. Well, He is actually, but it's open for lots of interpretation, and sadly, we are fallible Humans who fuck it all up because we let our emotions and our faults and prejudices get in the way of living the way we are supposed to.

    But that's another subject entirely.

    Catholicism needs to change, don't get me wrong. It needs to evolve, if it wants to survive. That much I won't argue at all. If you struggle to understand why people of level headed thinking remain a part of it, why people like myself, after twenty years, return to it? Maybe I can help you with that struggle.

    'This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.'
    --John 15:12

    I figure maybe if enough of us try to live it, maybe it will rub off on the poor bastards enough to open their eyes.

  24. Oh and by the way, that pic looks like a giant reefer washed up on shore...WHY DO YOU TORMENT ME!?!?!?

    CAPTCHA word was 'blesses', I shit you not!

  25. Blogzilly: Your comment is interesting and persuasive to me at points, but I disagree with the America and country/Catholic and religion thing. To me, that's the same sort of argument Mitt Romney uses when he says "corporations are people." If you were going to use that analogy, then the Pope is the head of a dictatorship that relegates wonen to an inferior status and leaves homosexuals out of humanity altogether, and all those who stay, collude. I'd prefer a revolution at best and to be an ex-pat with zero association at the very least. But that's just me.

  26. It's cool, we can disagree. But I think maybe I mis-delivered my point or something, because it wasn't supposed to lead anybody to make that kind of leap. But that's what I get for trying to gel my thoughts in a comment box.

  27. I am a Catholic. Raised and still practicing, (but somewhat out of practice). I vehemently disagree with most of the church's political stands but separate the spirituality, and pagentry (which I love) from the politics. I believe the term is Cafeteria Catholic, picking and choosing what we want to follow. Those following the church's hard line, who are in the minority in America certainly, detest Cafeteria Catholics. But we are strong in number and quietly await our time to make changes.

    And, to quote Anna Quindlen (who is also a devout Catholic) "I didn't stop being an American when Ronald Reagan was president."

  28. The comments here are brilliant.
    I am lower case everything it seems.

  29. Elizabeth, sorry I'm late chiming in. I am not Catholic but am of Christian faith and am quite observant. I used to consider myself baptist but no longer assign myself to any denomination.

    My thing is this: Jesus was all about love. In fact, in my favorite scripture in the bible, Jesus tells the disciples:

    "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, that ye have love one for another."

    Hello? I already tell people that if Jesus has a major issue with Halloween costumes and people being in love, then I will have some 'splaining to do. I just can't allow myself to accept that Jesus would be down with forcing people to live in closets and misery. Or that He'd be cool with his followers publicly dogging all same-sex couples out. Not the Jesus I know.

    I have a feeling that Jesus is going to be real annoyed when He comes back. Kind of like when your mama leaves you to clean up the house or do the laundry and she comes back to find you building legos or make mudpies. Hello? This isn't what I asked you to do!

    Love one another.
    Remember the poor.
    Be humble.

    That's my denomination of Christianity right there. For real.

  30. Are you a fly on the wall in my house? My sentiments exactly. Thanks for making me feel it's ok to reject an institution that selectively rejects so many and lives by its twisted "do as I say, not as I do" mentality. Getting a lot easier to shed the weighty Catholic guilt.

  31. I totally get it. I am friends with a lovely, liberal, feminist woman who is Catholic. I can not understand her strong faith. I would have pegged her for a Unitarian! She believes Catholics embody the actual word--as in broad. I see a mysoginist culture, and as you point out, a homophobic one as well.

  32. Often I can't post comments Elizabeth but I have kept wanting to come in here because I watched when the Pope stood up in Mozambique and told thousands of people not to use contraceptives, not to protect themselves from HIV, not to prevent unwanted pregnancy and I thought of all the women struggling with hungry children and no way to control their bodies or destinies, no choice. I had the same question: why doesn't someone say this is monstrous? How can anyone defend this church?



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