One angry Catholic – Part 1

 

 

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Picture from an article by Jim Lewis dated August 19, 2018 in the publication Reading Eagle

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.

Yet.

But AGMA thinks I may be leaving before I’m served my walking papers.

(to be continued…)

13 thoughts on “One angry Catholic – Part 1

    • I was fortunate…my parents didn’t proselytize me at all We went to church on Sundays and that was the end of it. Nothing from church carried over into our home during the week. So I was free to come to my own conclusions without being forced. I think my 17 years of no particular religion helped as well. It allowed me to come to my faith from a more mature perspective.

      Yes – there is much evil done in the name of religion and by the “religious”. It stems from the human urge to scapegoat and blame “the other” while having a sense of divine authority. There is nothing Divine about it… They are the anthesis of the Divine.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Very true. It’s amazing how many horrible things they think God wants them to do in his name. As for me, I got the full dose of church AND being sent to a private Christian school. Luckily, after my parents divorced, that school,was out of the budget and church-attendance stopped. Although I did go to a Catholic Church once wi a friend….and promptly got asked never to come back because I fell into a giggling fit. 😄

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  1. You make we want to learn about the saints and mystics. I’m not very good with the Catholic teachings, even having grown up in that faith. When I go to church, I still go to a Catholic one. I like the ritual of the mass…it’s comforting. But for many years, I’ve found the non-welcoming nature of most Catholic churches I’ve tried a challenge to make me regularly attend. I’m looking froward to hear your comments in Part 2….

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    • So we moved from Atlanta to St. Louis for 18 months in 2010, I searched and searched for a welcoming, open Catholic Church like the one I left in Atlanta, but couldn’t find one that quite fit. Was glad to get back to it when we moved back. Which leads me to believe that it’s not the Church as a whole I love, but MY church in particular. Yes – the mystic and saints were/are wonderful, and I feel pretty confident in saying the they wouldn’t like what they would find today in the modern Catholic Church in the US.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The Catholic church has been a revolving door for me. 1st-8th grade I attended Catholic school. Masses were in Latin until I reached 7th grade. The Latin phrase “et-cum-spiri-2-2-O” I believed was a phone number. Vatican II transition when I was in 7th grade –no more Latin mass. No matter. The die was cast — I was always confused. Add to this, confusing messages at home. We were lapsed Catholics – did not attend regularly. No proseltyzing from parents, but I saw Mom pray novenas. And I had a Great Aunt who was a nun out east who taught Latin. She was great but it was a major relief to go to public high school where I could read lines from Walt Whitman like this: “Clear and sweet is my soul, and clear and sweet is all that is not my soul.” And now? Still have a hard time w/organized religions. Maybe I shall turn to reading Joseph Campbell’s The Masks of God.

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    • Okay, the phone number comment made me laugh out loud! My neighbors growing up were Catholic and they went to the Catholic school in our community. I was always a bit scared of the nuns in their severe black habits when I saw them walking near the school… Nuns now a days are so different! Oh, and I reconnected with those neighbor children and as adults, neither one attends the Catholic Church.

      It is truly a journey and you can’t get too caught up in the “containers” people try to put God into.

      I love the Jesuit priest Richard Rohr who believes that organized religion has it’s place in giving your faith a structure for growth in the beginning. He says (and I agree) that the problem is when people think the structure IS God and refuse to go beyond it into a deeper relationship and more freedom. He’s a pretty radical guy and one of the reasons I was attracted to the Church. Of course he has his detractors who want him excommunicated… Gotta love it!

      So who’s phone number did you think it was? 🙂

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      • Enjoying these threads.

        Regarding your question above on the Latin Mass and how I interpreted the phrase “Et-cum-spiri-220” as a phone number: I think I was hoping it was a party line (remember those?) and that I’d get through to some fun folks to escape what I interpreted as a kid as a bunch of stiffs sitting next to me (including my parents) in the wooden pews.

        Funny you mention Richard Rohr’s take on religion cuz I just heard his name mentioned this week. Makes sense to have a structure — a spiritual practice one returns to such as meditation — but confusing an organized group as God DOES strike me as dangerous. Carl Jung writes about that — love his book Memories, Dreams, Reflections where he talks about his spiritual journey. He was a fan of fairy tales (as am I). Though the Brothers Grim can be dark, they sure are fascinating. I love things that point to paradoxes. (And the Bible has some too — Jonah & the Whale are like a fairy tale).

        But I’d still like to find some weekly service where I feel I’d fit in. I can relate to the coldness in the Catholic Church — perhaps it started with the swat to my bum when I did not get to the kneeler on the nun’s cue to us during First Communion practice. I was always off in La-La Land.

        One last trauma from Catholic school — but it wasn’t mine, it was the poor nun who was our geography instructor: As Sister Mole (that’s what some rogue in the class named her), pulled down the rolled-up geography map up near the chalkboard — Voila! — a Playboy centerfold taped over North & South America appeared before our amazed eyes. Our graduating class was blamed for giving this nun a nervous breakdown. I have a feeling it was the boy who named her Sister Mole. Hope he does not end in Dante’s third circle of Hell.

        Anyway, AGMA — keep up with your thought-provoking posts. Best!

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  3. Good thought provoking stuff AGMA.

    I did all the church stuff when I was younger.

    Then over the years watched my Mother…(a bigger hypocrite you’ll never come across, probably of a similar vein to your father!) …she would behave dreadfully to everyone during the week, then pop off to church on a Sunday morning and come out all smiles full of her version of the Holy Spirit. I threw away the key and have never looked back!

    I have beliefs, but that’s between me and what I believe in.
    When I’m standing alone on a mountain top I certainly don’t need any priest to tell me where to look!
    Organised religion? Not for me anymore.

    Catch you soon.
    Dookes

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    • Organized (or organized) religion is not for you and many others these days Dookes! I think that’s why I’ve been a religious “gypsy”. I want to grow and learn, but can’t quite to commit to a specific dogma because I don’t believe God can be “contained and categorized” as so many try to do. We humans want so badly to be able to control everything around us and that desire to control extends to the Divine. But the Divine just laughs at us… I agree – seeing the glory of creation is experiencing the Divine. I have read your words Dookes and I hear God’s joy in creation ring through in them! Thanks for your very thought provoking comment as well!

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