I have been in turmoil, consumed with disappointment and anger for the past two days. Tuesday, during my meeting with the priest of our new parish for my youngest son’s baptism, my realizations were affirmed. I am losing my religion. I’ve heard enough, I’ve had enough!
The religion, the church, the parish, the pastor, the Vatican, the Pope, the institution – all fill me with apprehension and alarm, strike me with disgust and revulsion. Feelings I have had for several years now, feelings that deepen everyday, knowledge that is asserted ever more. I feel, more than ever that I am a true “cafetaria Catholic”, choosing myself what I will believe, which parts of the doctrine I want to follow, the way in which I will manifest my faith… I question the authenticity of this organization, the foundations of their establishment, their shameful actions and closed mentality, their brainwashing techniques, their arrogance and naive judgement, their inability to introspect and their incapability to be humble. They do not practice what they preach. I no longer want to be a part of it. Laws are made by men, Love is the only law of God. My trust, allegiance, commitement, dedication to the institution have wavered. I no longer feel welcome, I no longer welcome
advice suggestions commands on my faith and morals, the upbringing of my children, the managing of my family, the living of my life, from men who have no notion of how ridiculously closed minded and out of touch with reality they sound. I just won’t take it!
In my Catholic life, I have received 5 of the 7 sacrements (all but becoming a nun and receiving last rights at my death…), I have pilgramaged to the Holy Land and Rome, walked in Jesus’ footsteps, stood in the garden where he was betrayed, prayed where he was crucified – I have followed the traces of his disciples, stood were Peter and Paul were imprisoned before being martyred. Twice, I attended, in person, mass by Pope Jean Paul II (who delivered greater reassurance and emitted deeper understanding and open-mindedness than the buffoon we currently call Pope – since his election I have been so dissapointed with Pope Benedict XVI… feeling that the Church is going backwards after all the progress made…), our eldest son is baptized and we are in the process of having our second son baptized. Being Catholic isn’t just about receiving sacrements and attending mass. It is also living the Ten Commandments and living a life in God’s divine grace. I know I am not perfect and have much more to learn on my spiritual journey, but the way in which the priest questioned the depths of my faith with such arrogance was insulting. Now looking back, upon asking, my fidelity amazingly and suddenly retracted, so now the priest is right to question me faithfulness.
The ways of the Catholic church vary from country to country, are different from one culture to the next. For those who preach and teach the fundamentals, those who follow and practice the faith, the religion is interpreted differently in various locations.
I’ve lived in four different countries, on four different continents. I’ve gone to mass in four different languages. And while there are some evident consistencies in the religion, there are plenty of individual/ parish/ pastor interpretations. Some priests let us dunk the host in a chalice of wine during communion, some forbid it, and some don’t even propose wine during communion. Some priests do individual confessions, while others do group confession. Some priests have you prepare your son’s baptism three months in advance while others prepare you in three weeks. And these are only brief examples of three out of seven sacrements! With my travels, I’ve not only been able to see my own religion from a different perspective, but I’ve also had the priveledge of being exposed to other religions, other points of view, of being in a synagogue, a temple, a mosque in addition to being in a church. How dare the priest thus critisize me, make allusions with such arrogance and superiority that I am practicing my faith wrongly, inadequately. He should critisize his own kind before questioning me! From my experience, there seems to be several interpretations on the preperations of the sacrement of baptism! Who is he to tell me how to practice my faith! I am sure he has some reflecting of his own to do on his behaviour and faith, I suspect far from perfect.
Perhaps I am reacting too strongly. Perhaps it is only in this country where I now reside that the religion is always manifested in such a twisted way, closed, narrow-minded, unsympathetic and unreceptive. The priest would have done better to ‘get to know me better’ by asking me about my personal spiritual faith journey first to see ‘where I’m coming from’, rather than judge me and jump to conclusions! I.e. To have been more welcoming to a new parishoner in his congregation would have hurt no one! No wonder there is such a lack of church-goers, so few who wish to be ordained priest. The priests are too busy being superieur in their closed world to relate to us ‘commoners’, and abusing their positions. Any other priest would have been thrilled to learn that our family priest who married us, baptized my eldest son, married my brother, baptized my nephew, and administered last rites to my grandmother was making the trip over the Atlantic to baptize our youngest son. The priest I met Tuesday was indifferent, jealous, skeptical. His response and thoughts were the last straw for me. I will not be understanding, I will not make excuses to defend him, I will not take advice from someone so disagreable who has lived a life so out of touch with reality.
Before, I had a hint of hope entwined in my feelings of dissapointment and ideas of withdrawl, but now I know for sure. Enough is enough! It’s official, I am ending this 30+ year relationship, I am dumping the church. Sorry to let my family down. I will perform the ‘minimum duties’ until my son’s baptism July 31. Yes, I will go through the routines during mass, feign enthusiasm at the nearsighted interpretations of the Word of the Lord, forgo receiving communion, play Mrs. Barker* at the remaining two meetings of baptism preperations we must attend. I will give the opportunity to my son to choose later where to carry his faith, to be open-minded enough to question it. My prayers are in my heart, my spirituality is awake, the Holy Spirit is present within my being, I shall interprete on my own my faith in God, between the two of us without interference from hypocrites… Perhaps someday I will be fortunate enough to encounter a more tolerant, open-minded Catholic community like the ones I have been a part of in the past (FCC, Igreja Matriz) who will restore my faith in the church, but until then I will not be a practicing Catholic in the Anet Parish.
*reference to a character (that I once played) from The American Dream, a play by Edward Albee that attacks the substitution of artificial for real values in our society.