I dedicate the blogs for the remainder of this week to my Catholic brothers and sisters – whether you are still practicing, struggling, recovering or have “left” the church all together… this blog’s for you!
Starting my own religion??????
Yesterday, it was implied by a fellow commenter on the NCR site (National Catholic Reporter) that I had no right to comment on the topic of Catholic identity because I had “left the Church and started my own religion.” As anyone who really knows me and my aversion to anything political or wrapped in bureaucracy can attest, I have no intention, now or ever to start my own religion. I mean seriously, WHO would want to do that???? So, let’s just put that accusation to rest right now. I have not started my own religion, nor do I ever plan to. Simply the idea of it sends shivers down my spine! YUK!
Leaving the Catholic Church
Ok, this accusation may warrant a little discussion. While I am currently fasting from the Eucharist, I’m not sure I can really say that I have ceased being Catholic. One of the things I have observed is that no matter how much we protest, we cannot take the Catholic out of the Catholic. I think it is a matter of “once a Catholic, always a Catholic.” (In fact, I think there is even something in Canon Law that concurs with this….can any Canon Lawyers help me out here?) You can’t undo your Catholicness. Anne Rice, case-in point. Even at the time she proclaimed herself to be an “atheist”, you could just see her Catholicism oozing out of her through her writing. And even though she has made a recent public departure from the Church….the Catholicism still flows through her blood and is imbedded in her bones. Once a Catholic, always a Catholic
You Can’t Take the Good Parts Away from Me
And for the record, I would probably still be a practicing and active Catholic if it hadn’t been for some events over the past several years that have made me choose otherwise. In truth….I love being Catholic. I know this is a weird thing to admit, but I was one of the lucky ones. I LOVED my Catholic faith. I loved the formation I received in Catholic schools. For the most part, I had great respect and admiration for the priests, nuns and lay people who gave their lives in ministry to God. AND I LOVE the mass! I know, I’m totally weird! Even as a child, I loved going to mass on Sundays, on First Friday’s and on Holy Days. In the mass I found a place of mystery and peaceful repose that spoke to a deeper longing within. Beyond the mass, there are other things I love about being Catholic – the art and architecture, the wisdom of the Vatican II Council, the teachings on Social Justice, the rich history of mysticism and spiritual practices, the communion of saints – I mean really….who can’t love St. Francis, St. Bernadette, Teresa of Avila and Joan of Arc? I even appreciate the sacramental (some would suggest superstitious) practices – the wearing of amulets (religious medals), sprinkling holy water on things to bless them and purify them, novenas, the rosary, etc. etc. etc. Nobody else has these things…(except maybe the Pagans or Hindus and a few Tibetans – and yes, I will probably get in trouble for drawing these parallels!). So, in the end, I love the formation and experiences I received through my Catholic faith and nobody can take that away from me (even the Church).
A Catholic in Exile and The Things that Make me Sad
That being said, I am deeply saddened by the things that I have seen happening in “my” Church. The priest sex abuse scandal and the unchecked power, control and dysfunction that has caused this abomination. I am saddened to see the reforms of Vatican II (which had only just begun) get slowly stripped away. I am afraid of what they are doing to the mass and how it will soon be unrecognizable. I am saddened by the hard-line legalism that has infiltrated the Institution and its resulting culture of fear. Ultimately, it is this culture of fear that has caused me to become a “Catholic in Exile.” In the end, for me it is about Jesus’ message and nothing says it better than the Christmas Hymn, O Holy Night, specifically in what it says about Jesus. These are the words that I stand by and the words that drive my decisions about where to worship and where to share my own gifts in the world in service to God.
Truly he taught us to love one another,
His law is love and his gospel is peace.
Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother
and in his name all oppression shall cease.
Questions for my Catholic brothers and sisters:
What have you loved/do you love about your Catholic faith?
What are the things that cause you inner conflict?
How are you currently being called to live out your personal relationship with God/Jesus?
Authentic Freedom Ministries