A Question of Faith

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.

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About Alexandra

wife, lover, mother, sister, daughter, friend, teacher, blogger, scrap-booker, cross-stitcher, photographer, designer, multi-lingual speaker, dual-citizenship holder, world traveler, dreamer... hopeful, happy, blessed
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11 Responses to A Question of Faith

  1. Jenny says:

    Wow, that was a courageous blog post. That completely sucks you’ve had to go through all this. It reminded me of scenes out of the movie Chocolat, I guess having taken place in the French village culture. You should see it if you haven’t already. (I don’t mean to lessen your message by comparing it to a movie by the way, it just reminded me of it).

    • Alexandra says:

      Hey, I have seen that movie! I am not sure if this is a small French town thing or more a narrow-minded Catholic thing. My Friend tells me it is a French thing because it is not just priests who are this self-centered, but everybody in this country! Ha! I’ve been to mass at a neighbouring parish, also a small town, and we were more warmly received. Only, since it is not officially our parish I can’t have my son baptized there… I am just flabbergasted that the church claims to teach tolerance when they exhibit so very little of it. That they can permit themselves to be so arrogant when the church is going through such a shameful moment. And it is not like it’s the first time! I just can’t take it anymore. They act so high and mighty and think they are so damn perfect and they are so so not.

  2. Jenny says:

    I agree. It’s a power/ego thing, as with so many establishments, people, governments, societies, corporations, …. just human beings in general. Best to do your own thing and follow your own instincts. Can’t change them. Though it is tempting to bang ’em all over the head with a mallet!

  3. Thank you for your heartfelt post, Alexandra. I too have become totally disenchanted with the Catholic hierarchy. I still have emotional ties to the church, though, through my two aunts who are Catholic sisters (and are themselves disgusted with so much of what’s going on) and my memories of a trip to El Salvador and Guatemala and my exposure to Faith Based Communities and learning how grassroots church helped give people courage during the civil wars. The church will never disappear in the hearts of the people. This current chapter of the Organized Church must necessarily pass. Its flame will start to be extinguished with the lack of fresh air.

  4. ebodeux says:

    Thanks for an interesting post. I am not Catholic, but was married in an (abbreviated) Catholic ceremony, also in France. I was very impressed with the priest we met in France, and was surprised. This was in a smaller town as well. We were living in the US at the time, but had the religious wedding ceremony in France. Since we lived in the US, we attended the marriage prep classes (can’t recall the official name for them) in the US as well. At the time, we were in South Denver. I was not so impressed with them, and felt that locally, here, the Church representatives were more strict in their interpretations and less flexible than the French priest.

    In any case, I cannot identify with your story from an insider Catholic perspective per se, but I do think there is a problem with all followers of religion (and there are many, not just Catholics, of course) who think it is THEY who are important, rather than, as you say, God’s love, understanding and forgiveness. I just turn people off when they strike me like that.

    And, just as a person living in today’s world, I am really appalled at the reaction of the Catholic church to today’s revelations. Coincidentally, I heard a podcast today of the American radio show “This American Life” about an ex-priest who now helps to investigate/sue errant priests (who were abusive). His story was very interesting, but also discouraging. The ex-priest is of the opinion that this behavior has gone on for centuries within the Catholic Church (not just the Catholic Church does this, I am sure, but it had special power in European and Latin societies, and its hierarchy was tempted to abuse it). My comments are not a criticism of religion and belief in a higher being, but rather, as you say, of an organization that has gone wrong (power, any kind, encourages corruption). Thanks for your post.

    Eve
    http://www.bloggingonbilingualism.com

  5. Catherine says:

    Sorry you experienced a priest with a superior attitude. But why dump the faith because of one person…he’s just one person. Forget him. Continue to live as you have. Your faith is in your heart. Do we dump democracy because there are bad leaders in office?

    • Alexandra says:

      Tata, I am abandonning the church, not the faith, as I say, “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… ” and yes, I did leave a democracy and a culture because I wasn’t happy living in it…. =)

  6. Diane says:

    Sweet Alexandra, I have discovered that religion is a human aspect. Our faith, however is what we find deep within ourselves. It is the relationship we form with the Almighty. How we choose to deal with Him is strictly between He & me. As far as religious affiliations goes I feel like my weekly observances help me to stay grounded in my faith. It is a time for me to push out the pressures of the world and reconnect with my friend — my father — God. Religious affiliations whatever they may be are run, directed, and dictated by fallible human beings who may claim to be superior, or above us mere mortals but the reality is that only God himself is infallible, and we only, in the end, must answer to Him. You must decide if you are going to allow a mere man to get between you and your almighty Father. He has so much planned for you and your family. Do not allow some person to cloud or defame or even have you question what God has placed within your heart. Trust Him, and do what he guides you to do. That priest like so many, feel like they have the right to tell you how to lead your life or how you should bring up your children. In my opinion, God has already guided you to have the desire to baptize your son, listen to your heart and do what He has guided you to do.

    • Alexandra says:

      your words are exactly what I am feeling. I will manage my faith on my own, while waiting until I find a more open community in which to practice my faith. What is particularly irksome at this moment, as we prepare the baptism for Damien, is that I am just sick and repulsed about going to the meetings in this parish which also makes me feel like a hypocrite because I think the priest is full of crap…. I think I rather just read and say my own prayers without ‘the church’ commanding me what is right, wrong and proper… thanks for your encouraging words!

    • Alexandra says:

      your words are exactly what I am feeling. I will manage my faith on my own, while waiting until I find a more open community in which to practice my faith. What is particularly irksome at this moment, as we prepare the baptism for Damien, is that I am just sick and repulsed about going to the meetings in this parish which also makes me feel like a hypocrite because I think the priest is full of crap…. I think I rather just read and say my own prayers without ‘the church’ commanding me what is right, wrong and proper… thanks for your encouraging words!

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