So, now it’s time for me to get personal. I’ve had some friends who’ve read my blog ask me publicly and privately about my characterization of myself as a “former Catholic“. It’s not a story I’ve shared too freely, even with family and friends, because of all of the emotion it stirs up.
It turns out, like many other things in my life, I take my religion in moderation too. Not a great follower of organized religion, and not an atheist…….nope, I’m hopelessly agnostic.
I grew up in a Catholic family and as a young adult , I found a parish that kept me “in the fold” for many years. The parish priest was a cool dude. He wore sandals constantly. He spent all of his sermons talking about social justice and giving the poor a voice, in politics and society in general. Things I could really get behind.
He was one of the first, and only, whistle-blowers in the clergy sex abuse scandal in my part of the country. He didn’t seem overly concerned with birth control or homosexuality; he always said that Jesus didn’t talk about that stuff and neither would he and then he’d go right back to his social justice work. He made it possible for me to ignore the fact that I fundamentally disagreed with a lot of what my church told me I was supposed to believe. So, I stayed in my comfort zone, I rationalized away my doubts, and worse I condemned myself for having those doubts in the first place.
Then, I moved to Texas.
At first I thought that it would be easier to be Catholic here. Church is such a huge part of the culture and social life of Texans that I thought it would be a great way to get myself and my kids involved and I was looking forward to being a part of a vibrant parish. So I went out and found a huge parish, with a married priest (an Episcopalian priest who converted to Catholicism), and I thought that I had found the perfect place to continue my family’s religious traditions.
Well, not so much.
Not that it was a bad parish. From what I could see, the families are very involved in the life of the church and in volunteering and trying to live their faith. But this was not the easy breezy church I was used to. These folks take their Catechism very seriously, and I was often reminded that there are certain beliefs that go along with being a Catholic and if you don’t believe those things, you can’t really call yourself a Catholic.
Hmm. Food for thought there, but then again old habits die hard so I tried……I really, really tried to stay a part of the Church. Ultimately though, I had to be honest with myself and admit, that if I were to put a checkmark next to every Catholic or even mainstream Christian teaching I truly believed, there would be very few checkmarks.
So I left. With a lot of tears. With a lot of soul searching. With a measure of guilt. With a sense of being unmoored. And I started on a journey away from the faith I grew up with and into the faith I could actually claim as my own.
So I hope the words of e. e. cummings are true.
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.“
I feel like they’re true, and next time I’ll touch on where my journey has taken me so far and about the reaction of my family….which as you can tell from my title, was not what I’d hoped.