Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I've been mulling

around for quite some time, now, and due to the absence of my sons last week and the concomitant sense of being freed from routine, in general, I just didn't have the capacity or desire to write it down. What's been mulling are my thoughts regarding the ever-increasing scandal/tragedy in the Catholic Church and my own relationship to it. If I told you that I think about it a lot of the time, you might think me neurotic or that old fly to shit thing -- I've gotten into "trouble" before airing my views about the Catholic Church and there is a part of me hesitant to stir the pot once again. But then I read a little more in the paper; I read other people's blogs; I read fancy essays that air on NPR; I listen to my Catholic friends and my non-Catholic friends. And I feel compelled to join in, to discuss what my own feelings are. I have drawn about as far away from the Catholic Church during the last year as I ever have been and that has next to nothing to do with the pedophile scandals and more to do with feeling uncomfortable espousing traditions that I don't believe in. I've struggled to reconcile my admiration for the artistic traditions of the church, for its great mystics, the art and music and charitable works that have come out of it with its male hierarchy, its repression of homosexuality, women and more modern mores. The ongoing obduracy and conflicts regarding the pedophilia scandals are, for me, the impetus to really make some sort of break.

I guess that I should emphasize that all of this has nothing to do with my own feelings about spirituality and everything to do with my spirituality. Being Catholic is an identity that I haven't nor do I wear lightly. I always felt particularly resistant to the evangelical designs of my college friends, comfortable that my own religious tradition stretched back beyond my Italian grandmother into the deepest recesses of my southern Italian heritage. And while my mother's roots were not Catholic, she converted before I was born and my two sisters and I were raised Catholic, went to church through high school, made our First Holy Communions and then were confirmed as Roman Catholics. The Catholic community in my neighborhood is a beautiful one, in many respects, and I count many very good friends as part of it. They were much of the reason why I chose to put my two boys into Catholic school, and while I landed up pulling them out a couple of years ago, it wasn't because of the Catholicism. I wanted to give my boys tradition, and since The Husband isn't particularly religious in one way or another having been raised in the dry traditions of German Lutheranism, it seemed only natural that I would raise them Catholic. What I've found, though, since I've removed them from parochial school is that I have less and less reason to take them to church each Sunday. Without the admonition of the monsignor who felt very strictly that one could only get parishioner status in tuition by going to church regularly, I've let many, many Sundays go by without any church attendance at all.

It's a relief to feel those traditional ties loosen, but it makes me feel strange, too. I wanted a place for my boys that was rich in tradition and reverence. I used to think that I would give them something to rebel against later. I appreciate the importance of ritual and worship, but as my boys have grown up, it's gotten harder to talk the talk when I don't believe it, at all. I can't revere the Pope as the infallible leader of the Church, no matter how good or gentle or intellectual a man he might be. I can't honor a church that judges homosexuals as sinners or deviants and that judges women as less able to perform its highest duties than men or that clings to ancient traditions whose original purpose was to mollify the ignorant. I can't ask my children to attend a church whose leaders enter into politics, even to fight healthcare reform because of its "pro-life" stand. I just can't. And I can't pick and choose anymore, either, cafeteria style.

As my faith increases, my attachment to Catholicism wanes. I feel relief in this but also sadness. I feel not a little unmoored. I'll search for ways to instill beauty and honor and faith into my children but it probably won't be through Catholicism.

That's probably all I need to say.


  1. My children were raised with no religion at all and they found plenty to rebel about. Well, some did. Some never have.
    And you know? I think they are some of the most spiritually aware people I know, these children of mine.
    You're brave. It's hard to pull away from such a huge institution which promises and threatens so much.

  2. I'm probably more like your boys than like you. I grew up with parents that were pulling away and we went to church (catholic church) less and less. But when I think back on "my catholicism," I don't think of mass and the rites, I think of my Grandmother and my aunt. They were catholic women - but more than that they were (are) true Christians. And I think of myself as tied to them and their traditions - not the institution's. I guess I say all of this by way of giving you hope that you count for more to your boys than an earthly religious tradition. Thanks for sharing ......

  3. I get it. I have both kids in Catholic schools, love our neighborhood church/priest, and yet will not join The Church. There's much to love and much to leave. I don't think we really have to "be" something. The prophets and enlightened masters all say the same thing: love.

  4. I have an almost identical upbringing, and just can't, won't, either for all the same reasons.

    And yet, on holidays, I definitely feel like something is missing for me and my kids. Unmoored, yes.

  5. "As my faith increases, my attachment to Catholicism wanes." Well said. True for me too and I have to say, my connection to God is deeper for it.

  6. I can completely understand your point of view. My guess is that are contradictions in practice among all religions. For me, I'm working with "the Devil I know" concept. (There's got to be a better analogy than that. Sorry.)

    BTW, a few years back, I looked into Catholic Woman priesthood. Have you heard about them: http://www.romancatholicwomenpriests.org/

    P.S. -- my word verification is DIVIL!!!!



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