Monday, March 11, 2019

Staying. For Now.

So. I've spent the week doing a lot of things--visiting my editor in New York City, watching my daughter fence at the NCAA Regionals, walking and reading and learning about all sorts of new things, as I do every time I travel. I've also spent a lot of time thinking about religion and my place in the Catholic church.

If I left, I'd join the Episcopal church. I've always loved it. One of my best friends, growing up, was the daughter of an Episcopal priest in my hometown (the friend is also herself now an Episcopal priest, as well as a nun--yes, Episcopals have nuns--and my daughter's godmother, and still one of my dearest friends). I'll never forget Sunday mornings with Sarah and her sisters in the front pew of her father's church. The Episcopal Mass is very nearly the same as the Catholic Mass, except for small differences in translation, probably made a hundred years ago. Sarah and I would be giddy with exhaustion, having once again stayed up all night long, and I'd be reciting prayers and responses on autopilot, from memory, when suddenly I'd say one word and the entire congregation would say another. It was like hitting a speed bump fast. I'd jerk my head up, then start again, mumble, mumble, mumble, BUMP. Sarah's little sisters would be beside themselves with glee. Mumble mumble BUMP.

I loved being part of that household. I love worshiping with Sarah now. Her order prays several times a day, and when I'm visiting her I join them. I was at Sarah's ordination, and participated in her very first Mass. So for me this wouldn't be much of a leap.

There's a lovely Episcopal church in Bristol. I have many friends among the congregation and even before I wrote my blog post last week they've made it clear they'd welcome me there. So last week, for the first time, I really started to consider changing churches.

It filled me with grief.

I can't articulate why. I'm not really even very worried about why. I am upset and unhappy with my Church, and I am letting myself be unhappy.

Then the next day was Ash Wednesday. One of my Episcopal friends in my yoga class quietly told me what time the services were at Emmanuel. But somehow I still wanted to be at St. Anne's.

Ash Wednesday is one of my favorite religious days because it seems to really count for something. Catholics have all these holy days of obligation, only now some are obligated and some aren't---New Year's Day is a holy day of obligation unless it's too close to Sunday, or sometimes it is for one of my regular churches (diocese of Richmond) but not the other (diocese of Charlotte) which makes no sense, frankly. Catholics are all supposed to attend Mass on holy days of obligation. Ash Wednesday isn't one--but tons more people make the effort to get themselves to church. It feels important to do so.

So I went to Mass, the day after I wrote my angry blog post last week. I got to St. Anne's a titch late and the church was so full I had to sit in the choir loft. It felt like home, being there. It wasn't comfortable, but it felt like the place I should be.

I still have lots of things I want done differently in my Church. I'm still angry. I've been reading about what a lot of other Catholics have to say about this. One of my favorite columns is Steel Magnificat, over at A few days ago, the author, Mary Paluzzo, wrote a Lenten meditation on Christ as a victim of sexual abuse--not metaphorically, but actually. Actual Jesus sexually abused.

I found it powerful and good. Other readers were horrified. It's worth going back and looking at the original piece, and the comments, but what I want to share here is Mary's follow-up post. Why is it disturbing to think that Jesus may have been sexually abused? Because we're so used to blaming victims? Because we can't bear to talk about this problem?

The time has come to talk, of course. The perpetrators need to repent. The victims need to be heard. One of my friends asked me last week, did I think there would be a time when the Church needed to move on? Sure--and we are no where near that point. We have barely begun.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Catholics: Wanting Not Only the Truth but the Whole Truth, and Repentance

Yesterday the Catholic church made me angry. Today it's making me angry again. I'm trying to figure out exactly what I want to do about it. I've always thought that the best way to change an organization is to work within that organization. I'm not sure what kind of power, or responsibility, I have.

Yesterday it was the homily during Mass. (Bristol friends: I was at St. Bernadette's, near our mountain home in North Carolina. I have no idea what Fr. Chris said at St. Anne's. I'm not talking about anything he said or didn't say.) The priest,Fr. Gober, who I usually like, touched briefly--very briefly--on Catholic clergy who have committed sex crimes. He said something like bishops, even Cardinals, doing things that are immoral, even criminal, in nature--and then immediately segued into how other people are also sexually abusive, from all sorts of different religions, and also we as laypeople have to be sorry for our sins, too.

And I thought, for about the sixty-seventh time this year, they still don't get it. Priests don't get it. Bishops, Cardinals, the Pope--nope. Not getting it.

What if we discussed fidelity in marriage in that way.? "Honey, I know I was unfaithful, but lots of other people are unfaithful in their own marriages, too." Oddly enough, I don't think it would help. Nor would it help if your unfaithful spouse assured you that you also sometimes do bad things, like lose your temper or forget to take the garbage down.

Today I'm also angry because the pope just announced that, in a year, he's going to release documents about Pope Pius XII and his role in World War II. Now, why would I be angry about that? There's long been speculation about which side Pius really supported during the war. Did he appear to go along with the Nazis in some things because he was pro-Nazi, or a wimp, or as a smokescreen to hide acts of espionage? There has always been limited evidence on both sides. I've always wondered about this myself, since I'm interested in history. I saw an exhibit about Pope Pius XII at Yad Vasem, the holocaust museum in Israel, when I was there last year, and even it said the evidence was murky and inconclusive.

So why am I angry that the current pope is releasing documents about Pius? Because it means that the Church has had documents that they've been hiding for years. The Church--the official church, the men who run the Vatican--has known the truth all along. It feels exactly like the abuse cases. Secret files and cover-ups.

I'm still working out exactly what I need from my church for me to stay a member. It breaks my heart, but right now I'm not sure I can remain. So. For starters: I want to be told the truth. I don't want excuses. I want repentance--from Fr. Gober at St. Bernadette's, from Fr. Chris at St. Anne's, from every single priest still under Holy Orders. Real, spoken-from-the-pulpit, "Priests hurt children and were protected by a conspiracy of lies and coverups. As priests we bear part of the blame because we did not fight against this silence, this omission of truth. We are deeply sorry."  That's a starting point for what I want.

I don't believe either Fr. Gober or Fr. Chris have sexually abused children. But they are part of an institution that did, for years, and then lied about it, to their own people, for years. They bear clerical responsibility. I hope they come to understand that. I hope they apologize.

I'm not holding my breath. Like every other Catholic layperson, I've learned not to.