Questioning My Faith

I in no way want this article to be interpreted as Catholic-bashing, or putting down any friends or family who are practicing Catholics. I respect that they believe as they do.  These are MY issues with the Faith I was brought up in, but in truth cannot say I practice with any sort of fervor.  I guess you could say they are long standing issues – starting when I was little. There is much I don’t understand –  or can’t agree with – about the why’s and wherefores of Church doctrine and practice.

I remember as a kid being bored in church.  Same thing every Sunday – same words, same songs, same everything. I liked the ceremony, the candles, the incense, the pageantry. But come on – same script EVERY.SINGLE.WEEK.  As a kid, I was not interested – just didn’t get why we had to sit there and listen to the same things every week. “Because I said so.” just didn’t cut it – not that I would backtalk my parents, mind you. So I mostly “suffered” in silence. Catholicism by rote and recitation.  UGH!   Then we had to go to CCD every week.  Again, same stuff every week. Whats Mortal Sin vs Venial Sin?  OK, got that…. but we never, ever moved past that in any of the CCD classes I attended. Nobody ever explained anything else, and we honestly didn’t know what to ask – we just wanted to get the heck out of there. And, when my dad’s mom passed away, we kept getting her tithing envelopes from her/our parish/church – where her funeral was performed – for quite awhile after she was dead.   Weird.

Then I did something I should not have done.  In seventh grade we had to walk to the elementary school on Saturdays and take a school bus to the next town over for CCD classes.  So, I would walk to the school, scoot behind it to the playground and stay there until I saw the bus return a few hours later. Then I’d walk home.  Really Really REALLY a STUPID thing to do in hindsight. My parents certainly thought so when they found out 2 days before Confirmation that I had not been going to the classes.  Needless to say, I did not get confirmed – nor could I sit  down comfortably for several days – and I missed out on a months worth of TV and socializing on the phone. And justifiably so. (in retrospect and speaking as a parent now)

In high school, one of our long time family friends’ son (and a good friend of mine)  would come up on weekends occasionally to help out my dad with some of the heavier chores – and help me work on my car.  Tom’s mother (Aunt Lucille)  insisted he go to church so we’d go together on Saturday afternoon – but we’d always sit in the back and take off after the gospel was read – having heard that that was the most important part of the Mass and one could technically leave afterward. So we did.

As an adult,  I do find a soothing comfort in that sameness, and pageantry of the Mass.  I understand now why the structure is pretty much the same week to week. Also, a  co worker/ friend who once aspired to the priesthood finally explained the rosary prayers and the mysteries to me when I was in my thirties.   But there is much I do not understand.

The bible says it is ” better” for priests to not be married. But it does not expressly forbid it. One of the most committed, caring pastors I know (Lutheran) is married with several children and his entire family assists with his wonderful ministry.   Could not the Catholic Church attract many more faithful and committed people to the calling if they were in fact allowed to marry and have families?  A ministry life does not preclude having a family life and in fact may lend a deeper understanding of problems families run into. Which would provide better insight and an ability to counsel.   Hmmmm.

And then there’s the whole  “lets not let the women in” thing….. Just don’t get that AT ALL.  I know several women, my friend Kelly and my Aunt Jean in particular  – who would make Super Stupendous and Amazing Priests/Pastors.  Yet they are not allowed to do so.   I think they are pushed into lesser roles in the Church simply because of their gender.  Speaking for myself:  My female-ness does not make me less of a person, nor am I responsible for the sins of Eve. I wasn’t there and had nothing to do with any apple eating.   And this is the message I get from the church when I see that women are not allowed aspire to full ministry if they want to. Its sort of like saying that I’m responsible for the death and persecution of colonists during the Salem Witch Trials because I had an ancestor who lived in Salem at the time.  I’m not responsible for that, either.  Wasn’t there, had nothing to do with it. So I guess you could say I’m not on board with the concept of original sin either.  Don’t see why I should pay a price for something I did not do. With all the sin that we humans manage to create for ourselves, why must we start out burdened with someone else’s?

The Church is anti-gay.  OK I understand that the bible says its an abomination.  Truly 2000 years ago, it was. There was zero chance of the  relationship being fertile so you were wasting your genetic material in a same sex relationship.  Lifespans were so short back then that a person really did have an obligation to procreate – literally for the survival of the species.    Times have changed, but the Church has not evolved. Surrogacy, IVF, IUI and other fertility procedures can assist any family in having children if they so choose. (Adoption is also fine, but should not be the only option a couple has if they cannot conceive “naturally”) What a wonderful thing for any stable, committed couple who otherwise would have no chance of having a family of their own.  And if ANYONE tells me that children conceived in these methods have no souls I will reach through my computer monitor and punch them in the face…. jussayin.  So if that’s what you think, please keep that to yourself. Thanks.   I also had the honour of working on the AIDS quilt patch for Father Robert Arpin.  He wrote a book everyone should read: “Wonderfully, Fearfully Made”.  “Father Bob” was an openly gay priest. I worked with his Aunt for many years which is how I came to have the privilege of working on his quilt patch. His book raises much food for thought. I highly recommend it.

The Churches position on same sex marriage: UGH!  Marriage is not just a sacrament in the church nor is it solely the reason for procreation anymore.  The Catholic Church – to my current understanding -recognizes no reason for marriage other than for the procreation of children.  But – Marriage is a social institution also.  People marry today that want to have companionship and a legal standing with and for another person that they love.  This does not negatively impact any religious institution. (Any church has the right to decide what practices they will allow It has nothing to do with the state or society at large).  I do have the right not to subscribe to that,  however. Of course, I highly recommend marriage if one wants children.  A two parent family is best – raising children is quite difficult for a single parent. Not to mention costly to taxpayers. Why can’t the church recognize the duality of marriage as a sacrament AND as a social institution?.  If I am recalling my sociology and ancient history correctly the concept of marriage and family was initially set up to provide  a method of protection for children and companionship for adults. Set up to define roles and responsibilities, and make it easier to provide for those who could not yet provide for themselves.  Not really a religious element there as far as I can see, but definitely a social one.  In my opinion, nothing wrong with a dual definition of marriage.  And, it manages to be all inclusive.

Abortion:  Truth be told, I agree with the Church regarding its stand on abortion – up to a point.  The line is drawn for me when the Church says the issue is Black and White/All or Nothing.  I cannot support  policy that states an abortion cannot be performed for a woman who’s health is threatened by her pregnancy AND she wishes to terminate it. Women should not have to wait until their pregnancy imminently threatens their life to be able to get an abortion. (Fortunately Roe v Wade opened the door that says they don’t have to) I cannot support policy that states a woman must carry her rapist’s baby to term. Its not her fault she’s pregnant, why should she pay the price for someone else’s sin?.  Does the church realize the psychological damage they are forcing a woman to endure beyond the trauma of the rape itself?  There are always exceptions to any rule and these things should be decided on a case by case basis – if the woman chooses to discuss it with her priest- not by blanket, all or nothing medieval doctrine. In my mind, this completely anti abortion policy translates to  just another way for the Church to keep women out of power.

The Church should be a vibrant entity that evolves to support the needs of its flock whilst providing a moral compass for them.  That the Church refuses to step forward into the 21st century, acknowledge and institute true reform is a real stumbling block for me. They’re still shuffling abusive priests around to other parishes instead of dealing with them appropriately – or letting the law do so. The American Catholic Church is withering on the vine, unfortunately. Fewer and fewer young men called to the priesthood.  Wouldn’t it be great to open it up so that these men could marry – or even better allow women of faith to get on board too? I’d bet a whole slew of awesome people would aspire to the calling AND be great at it; reinvigorating the Church with new blood. (no pun intended)  I’m not saying throw the baby out with the bathwater; but I do think that an update needs to be done – and its long overdue.

As another example, years ago a family member gave birth to a stillborn daughter at 22 weeks gestation in a Catholic Hospital. The priest there refused to baptise the baby.  OK, I understand that the baby was born dead. But if the Church thinks that life begins at conception does not also “original sin”? So the Catholic Church essentially told this family that there is no chance of reuniting in the afterlife with their daughter because she was condemned to limbo simply by being born lifeless and not in a state of grace? Medieval thinking,and another example of Catholicism by rote. Is not the priests job also to minister to the comfort of the grieving parents?  Providing the comfort of a baptism -even a “meaningless” one – should have been the first priority of that priest, not dogmatically following a policy that provided no relief to the family left behind.  As Captain Kirk pondered in the Star Trek episode  “Who Mourns for Adonis”  – ” Would it have hurt us, I wonder, to have gathered a few laurel leaves?” I think not. My family priest at the time actually agreed with me on this one – at least on providing a baptism for the baby in order to comfort and support the family. And why can’t a baptism be performed in utero if life begins at conception and “original sin” needs to be gotten rid of?

So yeah, I guess you can call me a Cafeteria Catholic. It fits. Has a  “Catholicism for Dummies” been published? If so, I might need to read it.  I believe in much of what the Church says – the Trinity, Heaven and Hell, The Ten Commandments, The Resurrection. Don’t subscribe to the concept of “original sin”.  Don’t really get the whole  intercession thing – why can’t I confess any sins I might have directly to God?  Not sure that a virgin birth status is necessary for Jesus to be both human and Divine/The Son of God. Which hey –  if you think about it – if Mary did not have sexual intercourse to conceive Jesus then he had to have been conceived “unnaturally”.  Which negates the opinion that children conceived via non- sexual methods have no souls.  Because of course I believe Jesus had/has a soul.  Life, no matter how created, is imbued with that divine spark we call a soul. But mostly,  I do believe that whole  LOVE ONE ANOTHER thing.  Because if we truly do that – everything else falls into place, and falls into grace. Thanks for listening while I thought out loud.  Peace, out.

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19 thoughts on “Questioning My Faith

  1. Momma E., I truly enjoyed your thoughts! ^ o^ While I was reading when you were in ccd- I cringed from the ccd memories of my own. Unfortunately, the school that they were held at was in the middle of a few farm fields and the only close thing was a gas station and a fire department. But I completely agree about how the world has evolved whereas the church hasn’t based on being anti-gay, and sexist in it’s priests (fun fact: the show King of the Hill had an episode about a female priest and how she was scrutinized for being one by the other churches). 😛 As for Catholicism for Dummies… It’s surprisingly out there. http://www.walmart.com/ip/16634289?wmlspartner=wlpa&adid=22222222227000000000&wl0=&wl1=g&wl2=&wl3=21486607510&wl4=&wl5=pla&veh=sem

    Thanks for linking me!

    ~C

  2. Great Job, Momma E. I really enjoyed reading this, and your honesty in questioning some of the mores of the Catholic church. For me, I left the church well over 50 years ago as a late teen. Even then I could see the absolute hypocrisy of a supposedly loving god, who continuously preached about money, about how 90% of the world’s population were going to “hell”, and how gods whole message was one solely of pain and punishment.

    As I wrote in a post several months back, I lost faith in a god and a religion that abused an 8 year old girl as being a “heathen” and less than human, because she was not catholic.

    And the whole sex abuse thing? You may not be aware, but in your own hometown resides one of the most sexually abusive former priests in all of the catholic church. The church has already paid out over $70 million in restitution over the abuses of this one man, and his trials continue to this day.

    And I realize that there are bad people in every organization or group. I get that. What I don’t get is the efforts of the church to not only cover up these abuses for the last 6 decades, but their continuing efforts to discredit and attack its victims. And yes, even the Pope has been a key player in the protection of the priests and the church at the expense of the victims.

    There is an old saying that the problem with organized religion, is the organization. I completely get that. Religion today has become increasingly exclusive, increasingly moving away from “what would Jesus do” towards “what would OUR Jesus do.” In a time when the world is in desperate need of inclusiveness, of acceptance of our fellow man, religions are doing their best to become more exclusive, more limiting in their beliefs and membership.

    Thanks for the opportunity to speak my mind on this issue once again.

  3. Hope that you are enjoying my series on Ephesians. Being reared Baptists (not affiliated there for the past 30 years), I’m used to bypassing the church structure. I’m not interested in conversion, just personal enlightenment.
    Oscar

  4. Donna, I very much enjoyed reading your heartfelt and honest story of your faith. There is so much in here I agree with, to single something out would be a disservice to others. I did want to hit on a theme that is woven in your narrative. If a church wants to stay relevant and important in the lives of people it nurtures, it has to stay abreast of times. Look how long it took the church to switch from Latin Mass to Mass in the language of the audience. The Catholic Church has unfortunately become less relevant to many, in large part due to this issue, but also due to hiding the pedophilia in its midst for so long and with a longer understanding of what was happening than they admit to the public. I wrote about Mea Maxima Culpa, the documentary film, which will both break your heart and trust in the leaders of the church. What will keep the church going is its people, not its leaders. The church would be well served to remember that. Nicely done Momma E, BTG

    • Thanks! I’m hoping I can get some answers to my questions from someone who understands Catholicism and can explain things in a way that makes sense to me. I guess identifying myself as Christian, non denominational would make the most sense at this point.

    • The church needs to understand its people need not just parental authoritative leadership but compassionate understanding and a commitment to nurture and protect its constituents. I don’t currently see how the church can accomplish that without becoming more flexible and forward thinking. We aren’t living in the dark ages, nor are we ignorant.

      • Good points. I was watching a news report on how the American Catholic Church looks less to Rome for guidance since they are so out of touch with 21st century women and health issues, e.g. In my post on Mea Maxima Culpa, I note that the failure of church leadership discredits the efforts and faith of many priests, nuns and church members who earn their stripes everyday.

  5. I was not raised catholic and have basically no experience with the catholic faith so I can’t even offer a real outsiders perspective on what you believe. I know I left my own church for some of the same reasons above, even though we were congregationalists growing up.

    Basically, I just wanted to say that I appreciate the honesty and thoughtfulness of this post. It really struck a chord with me. You did it very eloquently, without bashing anybody, and you did so very bravely. What people believe will always interest me, especially when they can express it as well as you have here.

  6. There is religion and relationship….you got the religion part down. I pray the relationship part becomes real for you. More religions (the ritual, the man-made doctrine) has kept more people from a deep, loving relationship with Jesus. Curious, how can a priest be openly gay if he is celibrate? Just a redundant question.

    • Celibacy is just choosing not to engage in sexual activity. A person can be celibate and be gay or straight. He proclaimed his sexual orientation. But I have issues with the celibacy requirements also. Why does whether or not one has sex determine ones status as a servant of God? Speaks to the whole womens involvement thing too. Human nature being what it is, to require the denial of a basic biological drive paves the way for secrecy, denial and potential abuse. Fr Bob figured out he was gay in the monastery his parents sent him to as a teen. We all can surmise just how that came about…. Did his sexual orientation make him less of a good servant of God? I dont think so. I believe it made him more compassionate. I also don’t think denial, fasting, punishment, and guilting is conducive to having a loving relationship with God as I understand him to be. The truth of my religious experience lies somewhere in between The Inquisition and the Elysian Fields, I guess. I’m still figuring it out, hahaha. Can’t tell you how much I appreciate your good wishes and prayers. ❤ I wish there was someone knowledgable in the Catholic faith who I could speak with without "fear" of being condemned for questioning it.

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