I am Catholic.
When people ask me what religion I am, that is what I tell them. The truth is…I haven’t been a practicing Catholic in years.
I was raised Catholic. My parents weren’t religious, but they thought it was important that my brother and I have a solid religious background. Also…the public school where we lived was terrible. So I went to Catholic school and I was taught by priests and nuns. I had religion class every day. I read the Bible. I went to mass every week…and in high school I went twice a week. I was a member of the CYO and my friends and I would sometimes hang out at the rectory on the weekends. I believed in the Church and everything they taught me.
Then something happened…something really ugly and horrible. A priest that we’d all been very close to…and who had disappeared from our parish a few years before…was suddenly on the news. He was in jail for abusing a teenage boy. He’d been doing inappropriate things for a long time and the Church covered it up…moved him from parish to parish…didn’t get him the help he so clearly needed…and at least one kid has to live with those actions for the rest of his life.
That shook me and the foundations of my belief in the Church crumbled. I never lost my faith in God…but I no longer believed in the Church. That was about 17 years ago and since then, I haven’t voluntarily attended a Mass…weddings and funerals only.
But lately, I’ve found myself longing for Mass…longing to be a part of a church again. It’s something I’ve been struggling with…because I’ve developed many beliefs over the years…on things like gay marriage and a woman’s right to choose and divorce…that don’t quite mesh with the teachings of the Church. Doesn’t saying I’m a Catholic and then picking and choosing what I believe make me a hypocrite? A fake? A fraud?
Yes, I think it does. But that doesn’t make me want it any less.
So what is the answer…do I continue to shun the Church? Do I do what has been suggested to me and find a different religion that more closely matches my personal beliefs? Do I go back to the Church and pick and choose what I want to believe?
I don’t know the right answer, but today is Ash Wednesday and I’m going to spent the next weeks of Lent trying to figure it out. It seems a much better use of Lent that giving up chocolate or soda…especially since I can never really stick to those things anyway.