Their Bad Mother

Their Bad Mother

The Church Of The Confused Mind

I posted yesterday, at my other site, about the child abuse scandal afflicting the Catholic Church. I said that the Church’s seeming unwillingness to accept full responsibility, not only for the abuse but for the covering up of the abuse and for protecting the priests that perpetrated the abuse, was rattling my faith in the the Church. Granted, that faith has been somewhat shaky for a very long time, but still: I have always identified as Catholic and have, in some corner of my soul, always assumed, however quietly, that once I had satisfied my own need for spiritual exploration, I would find my way back to the Church. And then full extent of the scandal was revealed – including the particularly disheartening allegations that Church, and even the future Pope, had covered up the extent of the abuse and protected the priests that were involved – and my faith in the Church fell, and if it didn’t shatter, it certainly cracked, badly.


So I wrote about it. I wrote about how under these circumstances, I simply couldn’t imagine going back to the Church. A day and a half later, I still feel that way. Mostly.

Some of the comments from faithful Catholics – Catholics who weren’t put off their faith by the scandal – moved me. The Church isn’t ‘The Church’, some of them said, it’s the people. You can have faith in that. Why not have faith in that?

That, I thought, was a very good question. As one of my fellow BlogHer contributing editors put it, the Catholic Church is something more than just a church or religious organization. It’s a community, and a culture, and one that is very, very old – much older than the United States or Canada. Being Catholic is, I’d say, more comparable to being Jewish than it is to being Episcopalian or Methodist. Catholics are part of a cultural community that is defined by more than just faith – there’s a culture and traditions and a sense of identity that extends far beyond attending Mass or participating in the Sacraments. So it is that I can have set aside the practices of the Catholic faith for so many years and still describe myself as Catholic. My parents are Catholic. The traditions and rituals of my family life were Catholic. I feel Catholic; even as my faith in the organization and hierarchy of the Church has weakened, I feel Catholic.


So how do I reconcile this with my spiritual discomfort? Is it possible to do so; is it necessary to do so? How does one hold onto to being Catholic while being critical – seriously, pointedly critical – of its leaders?

Or is it really the best option to just cut one’s losses – cultural, spiritual, and otherwise – and find another path to travel?


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Amy @ A Chase After Wind

posted April 8, 2010 at 2:50 pm

I also commented on your other post, I hope it isn’t overkill for me to comment over here too.
You have expressed the tremendous power of the Catholic culture and identity very well. I completely agree with you that being Catholic is more akin to being Jewish than being some flavor of Protestant. I have in fact used the very comparison myself while trying to explain it to non-Catholics.
So when I said in my other comment that I decided to leave the Catholic Church, that brief statement does not reveal what a soul-wrenching process that was. Nor does that reveal the fact that on a weekly, sometimes daily basis, there is a big part of me that wants to go back.
Here’s my firm belief, take it for what it is worth. Your relationship with the Lord is of the utmost importance, more important than ANY culture. So if to have a living relationship with God, you need to the leave Catholicism, then leave it! If your relationship with God is strongest within Catholicism, then stay. But whichever it is, don’t make an idol out of Catholicism.
And if you do have to leave, you don’t have to leave all those beautiful cultural aspects that build up your faith behind. Catholicism is part of a larger body – Christianity – with such diversity of heritage and culture. I still pray Catholic prayers, sing Catholic hymns, I still light the advent wreath and love the Stations of the Cross. But I had to find a church community where my relationship with the Lord was made real and living, and I couldn’t do that in a Catholic Church anymore. For me, I found it in a little neighborhood Presbyterian church, when before I wouldn’t have even known what a Presbyterian was! In every corner of the wider Body of Christ – Orthodox, Baptist, Mennonite, Anglican, etc….you can find real communities of faith (and real communities of death, sadly).
Love and light and peace and prayers in what I know at least in some small part is a painful, stumbling in the dark process.

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Catholic to the End

posted April 19, 2010 at 1:51 pm

The Catholic Church is not the problem. I could never leave the Catholic Church for any denominational church that split from the split of splits from splits from the Catholic church over all these years. Sure we have our problems. People in the Catholic Church are not perfect. We are all humans and we screw things up. The Catholic Church is having problems now, but hopefully we can work our way through this mess. Please don’t leave your church during this time of crisis. The Catholic Church was the first church, “The Church.” We need to pray more. Don’t give up.

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posted June 24, 2010 at 1:32 pm

I realize this is a late comment, but I’d like to add that faith in “the Church” will always be misplaced. As followers of God, we are a part of the Church, and as others have pointed out, this is what makes up the Church- people, individuals who profess their faith in Christ. There will always be sinners and problems in the Church. The Bible is full of stories and crises within the Church, just like things are today. But ultimately, and fortunately, as followers of Christ, we are called to have faith in God, not people. And God is not duplicitous or fallible.

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