I was raised Catholic, so I am pretty much run by guilt and the power of “should.”
As I have grown older, I have grown in my spirituality and my beliefs. I think this is what we are supposed to do as humans. Somehow though, we end up getting these societal messages that once we reach about the age of 30 we should be “grown up” and our path should be fairly straightforward.
When I was younger, I was in love with being Catholic, but there were some things that I couldn’t wrap my head around. Little things like confession, or the infallibility of the Pope, made me keep asking questions. Somewhere in college, I realized that the Catholic church was the origin of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and I decided that I would accept what I could and let the rest ride.
My problem is I really can’t let things go. I just kept having questions that nagged at me:
“How do we know that Mary was still a virgin?” “Why wouldn’t the church support birth control in Africa of all places?” and “Why can’t we have women priests?”
As I continued to read and make sense of the world, I saw the abuse of power, the political influence, and the absence of women in leadership in the Catholic church throughout history. I started asking even more questions like:
“Who actually wrote the Bible and why do we take everything it says as truth?” and “How can we say that the Pope is infallible when the next Pope does something different?”
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the cultural rituals and traditions of Catholicism. There is a safety and a security within that consistent experience of mass: the same prayers, the same songs, the same routines.
I don’t know when I first referred to myself as a “cultural Catholic,” but it stuck. In the Jewish faith, people who recognize the importance of their Jewish heritage but are not devoutly practicing their faith are considered cultural Jews. I am a cultural Catholic. I love mass—the beauty, the routine, the pageantry of it. But, there are so many things about the Catholic church bureaucracy that I cannot blindly support or accept.
I believe in a higher power, but I no longer believe that higher power is Catholic.
I believe that the universe does provide and will make sure we are where we are meant to be, but I do not believe in a God that has a magic favor machine in the sky. I believe that prayer and meditation come forth from the same root, but I believe that meditation is about being open, and prayer is about asking for what we want or need.
The Catholic church has a wealth of history (pun intended). But, we have reached a level of cultural awareness that requires that it learns and grows as an organization. There is no amount of beauty or pageantry that can offset the sickening feeling that the church has been running a long con.
Here is what I have learned from years of believing: people have the power to make changes in historic ways—in government, in communities, and even in the Catholic church. People deserve a government that tells the truth. People deserve a church that supports their most vulnerable self. We cannot tolerate lies, deception, inequality, or abuse at the hands of leaders in any organization.
This is a call to action. I cannot make a difference in the Catholic church if I do not engage with more than my keyboard. I cannot impact government if I do not vote.
Life is a participation sport.
Pope Paul VI, who led the reform movement in the Catholic church with the Second Vatican Council in 1968, said:
“The church needs to reflect on herself. She needs to feel the throb of her own life. She must learn to know herself better, if she wishes to live her own proper vocation and to offer to the world her message of brotherhood and of salvation.”
The church does need to reflect on herself, but she should reflect more on the people she serves. The church, like other political organizations, should reflect the diversity of the people and the needs of those people, rather than holding onto a history of lies, abuse, and exclusivity.