The Pennsylvania Grand Jury’s 1300+ page report released last week on the the sexual abuse of 1000 minors by 300 predator Catholic priests over 7 decades has sent seismic waves through the Catholic Church.
AGMA should know. I’m a Catholic.
Or at least I was.
A regular at the 8:30 AM Sunday Mass, I skipped church the weekend and went to breakfast with Hubs. I don’t know if I can go back.
And AGMA goes to probably the most un-Catholic Catholic Church possible. We have a welcoming and diverse church with a large GLBTQ membership. We have people of all colors & nationalities from all over the city. Our wonderful priests preach the true gospel of Christ – one of love, forgiveness, welcome, and unity with our brothers and sisters of other faiths and in other lands.
Probably no surprise to anyone that AGMA goes to that kind of church.
I’m not a cradle Catholic. That’s my fatal flaw.
Or maybe my salvation.
AGMA was raised Lutheran. Which honestly is really close to Catholicism although I know both sides would vehemently disagree.
AGMA was disillusioned with the church when I saw my dad attend every Sunday, but then be a mysoginistic, hateful bigot the rest of the week. He would loved the MAGA crowd!
But looking back, it really wasn’t the church’s fault that my dad was a jerk.
After AGMA went away to college, I didn’t attend church again for 17 years. It’s not that I didn’t believe in God in those ensuing 17 years – it was just that felt that I didn’t need to go to church to have an authentic faith. Plus I liked sleeping in on Sunday mornings.
Yeah she did!
When my sons were young, AGMA decided it was time to haul their rears into church for some God learnin’. Not a big fan of the Lutheran Church, I wanted my kids to experience a looser, more open form of Christian worship. We ended up attending a Disciples of Christ church and it was great.
Hubs in the meantime, wasn’t interested. A self proclaimed agnostic, he was now the one sleeping in on Sunday mornings. My kids were jealous.
In 1992, a friend sponsored me on a retreat called The Walk to Emmaus. I will be forever grateful to her for that.
Administered by the Methodist Church, it’s an non-demonimational 3 day Christian retreat that’s intended to deepen a person’s walk with the Triune God. It’s a Protestant off-shoot of Cursillo which is a Catholic 3 day intensive spiritual retreat that originated in Spain in 1944
Every person on a Walk to Emmaus responds differently to the invitation God offers to go deeper with their Christian spirituality.
It rocked AGMA’s world.
And I’ve never been the same since. In a good way.
To make a very, way too long, story short, my Walk started me on a life spiritual journey that I could have never imagined.
AGMA went from the Disciples of Christ Church to a Christ of Christ church to an Assemblies of God church. Some folks spoke in tongues in the AoG church. Just like in the New Testament. Cool!
God was expanding my spiritual world and opening me up to the many ways that exist to experience a life in Christ.
But while I was going to the Assemblies of God church, I felt a pull towards the Catholic Church.
Huh? I know – interesting dichotomy…
AGMA liked that, unlike other denominations, the Catholic Church seemed to be a huge umbrella that all kinds of Christians fit underneath. Somehow it managed to hold the tension between conservative Catholic beliefs, progressive Catholic beliefs and everything in between.
A strong sense of social justice is one of the pillars of the Catholic Church. I liked that. In modern times, the Church has been leader in social justice movements and ministries.
And AGMA loved the idea of the Saints! Most were ordinary, flawed (some very flawed) individuals – both men and women – who allowed God to change their lives, and went on to do amazing things.
The writings of people like Thomas Merton, Richard Rohr, Dorthy Day, Henry Nouwen opened me up to a new understanding of Christianity expressed through the Catholic tradition.
The Catholic mystics. Amazing. People like Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, Hildegard of Bingen, Francis of Assisi, Catherine of Siena, Brother Lawrence and many others, both ancient and modern, who demonstrated that a life of contemplation and prayer can lead to direct encounters with the Divine.
I made some retreats to monasteries and convents, and came in contact with some of the most amazing people I’d ever met. Far from being ‘holier than thou’ retreatants from the secular world, they were funny, engaging, involved and some of the most intelligent people AGMA has ever come across.
The Nuns on a Bus rock!
I also acknowledged the ‘dark side’ of the Catholic Church. The violent past – The Crusades being just one example. The opulent wealth that has been a corrupting influence. The amoral selling of indulgences that lead Martin Luther to post the “95 Theses”. The whispers of sex scandals. The mysoginistic nature of priesthood and, yes, of the entire Church. The secretive hierarchy of the Church that is controlled by older white men obsessed with in staying in power.
Given the political nature of the Church hierarchy it’s a bit of a miracle that somebody like Francis got elected Pope. He’s the un-pope Pope. Sort of. We’ll see…
But in truth, every church has it’s dark side. No church or denomination is perfect.
With age & wisdom comes the realization that every coin has a light and a dark side.
So I became a member of the Catholic Church in 1999.
I’m surprised I’ve lasted nearly 10 years. It’s kind of a miracle I haven’t been kicked out.
But AGMA thinks I may be leaving before I’m served my walking papers.
(to be continued…)