Today’s MaD Monday is personal.
A few months ago I wrote a post about my struggles with The Catholic Church and Marriage Equality. At the time, I felt my choice was to leave and find somewhere more in line with my beliefs to practice my faith. The problem is, there wasn’t such a place. Things have changed. Here is the story of what happened.
We are out there. We who disagree. We are baptizing our kids. We are confirming our kids. We are even teaching Catholic kids. We are out there and we disagree. We are the church. Why aren’t we louder? Why aren’t we speaking up about all that we think is wrong?
I am Catholic, but the messages that are coming from my church do no align with what I think Jesus teaches about human dignity. So why must I leave?
“I’m not sure Martin Luther would have left if he had a cell phone.”
That’s the line. The line that lightened the mood but changed the tone forever.
I attended the last meeting of my home-school CCD group. I haven’t gone to meetings for a few months because it seemed silly to go discuss what I was teaching when I wasn’t teaching anything. We were on a bit of a Catholic hiatus around here so there seemed no reason to go to CCD meetings.
But when the notice came about the last meeting for the year I felt compelled to attend. I say compelled because what was forcing me to that meeting was nothing conscious. It was a gut feeling that I have learned not to ignore.
On a basic level, I convinced myself that I was going because I didn’t want to just disappear. I liked the people I worked with in this group. I thought I owed them a goodbye. I figured I’d sit quietly as they discussed and then say goodbye for summer never to return again. That all changed when I arrived that night and found we were sitting down with our pastor-who NEVER comes to these meetings- but being our last night, he wanted to check in on our year. Fairly early in the conversation he asked if we had any struggles this year, anything personal that came up as a result of teaching our kids about the church.
Are you kidding?
One woman said she has trouble when her daughter said she, “learned somewhere else that only Catholics go to heaven”. He answered this dilemma beautifully, but I still thought, well that’s an easy one.
We were about to move forward when words came out of my mouth almost involuntarily.
“I think in examining further, in order to teach, I have struggled with communicating Catholic beliefs that I don’t agree with.”
That’s vague enough right?
Then our Director of Religious Ed. spoke up. She said, “Like what? Let’s get into this.”
So I purged, right there at the dark rectory table. I told them how I’ve struggled to attend anything-mass, class-whatever because I was questioning when “ignoring” became a larger sin then the hypocrisy I felt attending. I talked about the anger I felt and how it seemed incongruous to come in to teach Catechism when I was in such direct opposition to the church on something that felt huge. I didn’t want to share my beliefs for fear of getting myself, or worse, my church in trouble but I couldn’t stay silent anymore. I taught teenagers and preteens, they had questions and I wanted to answer.
I said it all and then I breathed. And waited for them to tell me I was wrong or explain away why I should just focus on what was right with the church and not let what was wrong bother me so.
You know what happened instead? They agreed. Our minister said we’re of like mind, she and I. So was most of the group for that matter. Our Pastor said he prays for the church to continue growing so they’re eventually in the right place. Then he told me to stand up.
Stand up? Me?
Perhaps, he said, you are feeling so strongly about this right now not because you are being called to leave, but instead to stay and change things. After all, he questioned, what would our church be without reformers?
I asked how. They answered. Continue doing what you’re doing, they said-teaching your kids to be Catholic AND believe in equality. Admit to them there are things that the Church believes that you do not and then be ok with that. Speak out. Speak up. This is your church and perhaps you are being called to make waves so that it gets on a better track.
I can honestly say that staying and fighting never occurred to me, until they pointed out that yes, this is my Church and I shouldn’t have to leave. Perhaps, if more of us stayed, and spoke up, things would be different.
So, for now, I’ll attend mass. I may even go back to teaching and I will still call myself Catholic-a Catholic who will continue to fight for marriage equality.
I’ll stay and I just may even shake things up a bit.
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.
Bo Toepfer says
there will always be things withing catholocsim that make us think!, agree or not good priest or not so good,. but what becomes so important is who started the church, and as the apostles had the holy spirt come upon them ( third person of the trinity) and go forth, ,They all died for what they believed, as for the episcable church started by a Physcopathic muderer,? who wanted a divorce! doesn’t sound like they person I want to follow! Lots of things Martin Lutrher did and said were perhaps not wrong as Evil has it way into many things,, but on his deadbead he asked for a priest!
Today they actor who plays Jake on Two and 1/2 men asked the world to shop watching the show because of its filth!, very strong words froma young man earning $300,000. per episode.. food for thought ! God Bless !
Rachel Hardwick says
Hi Christie – Matt and I were married in the Catholic Church and our kids were baptized in it. The older my daughter got, the harder it was to keep taking her. We told her every day of the week that she can be anything she wants to be but felt we were undoing the message on Sundy. We are now Episcopalian. The church we joined in Silver Spring was headed by a Black lesbian. I felt like I hit he run. I like that the Episcopal church is working to figure out these issues. Priests need to marry, sexual orientation needs to be respected, women need to be equal, and healthcare (ex. Condom distribution in Africa) needs to be supported. Someone once said to me that you disagree w your mother but you don’t leave her, and that was his message about the Catholic Church. I just felt like I had too many issues w the church to stay. It has been around for a gazillion years – are we gping to see change we need din our lifetimes? I love the church and it was he’d to leave. But I love the Episcopal church a lot too, probably even mitre than I loved the Catholic Church. Sigh. This is tough, especially when it involves the kids.
I’m right there with you and was all prepared to leave for the Episcopal Church until I had this conversation. It was hearing that there were people within the Catholic church that were working to figure it out that made me stay. When I realized that I didn’t have to do exactly as I was told by “The Bishops” and I had the freedom to speak out from within, it became more compelling to stay. There is so much about the Catholic Church that I love and that has helped shape me that I just couldn’t walk away. I’m not saying I never will, because like you, I doubt I’ll see real change in my lifetime, but just knowing there are committed people out there working to change it makes me want to stay-for now.
Whitney Wingerd says
Just wanted to comment before I forgot as I’m running out the door but Cristie, so many of the things you feel and question about the Catholic Church, I do too!! My kids are actually in Catholic school and even just last night we were having a discussion about marriage equality with our kids and how I and our family believes that differs from the Catholic beliefs.
It’s a struggle for sure, because we’re there and we’re involved in the community but then we’re preaching and teaching some things that are different at home.
I’ve made the decision to stay for a ton of reasons… some I can verbalize, some I can’t. But at the end of the day, I love the food for thought your post gives and what the director said… rather than leaving, to stay and fight. More later but wanted to let you know I’m Catholic, feel as you do and it’s really refreshing to hear it talked about and know I’m not alone in my feelings too!
Thanks Whitney. I think we are stronger in number than we realize. Perhaps we’re raising the generation who will make it all right.
Christie, Thank you for your heartfelt words this morning. I too have struggled with these issues (actually since Catholic High School.) We discuss religion in my house, but have not attended church for years. My kids have never gone to church regularly.
I have a gay uncle who has been in a committed relationship since I was 10. I have always viewed gay marriage as a civil rights issue and have grappled with this unfair concept for over 1/2 my life.
I also have issues with the Catholic Church standpoint on birth control and female priests. (its hard for me to justify being responsible in what I can provide for my family in the case of birth control being prohibited. In the case of male priests, its also hard for me to tell my daughter she can be anything she wants to be if she works hard and believes in herself… when some make gender a rule of admission. Unfortunately, I am fearful to be vocal in my community on these topics as I live in a part of the country that is not as open minded (SC), with a church that is much more conservative than where I grew up (MD). I praise your courage for being a cruisader on these topics. Our world changes and we as communities, schools, workplaces, churches must change with it. Thank you for your dedication and courage, Cindy
It’s funny Cindy, I too had trouble with the other issues too but never enough to think about leaving. And yet, it was this huge issue that I had trouble speaking out against. I had no trouble disagreeing with birth control! And I totally get just wanted to disengage because it can feel icky to be part of something you think is so wrong. But, there is, at least on the smaller parish level, something so right that I feel compelled to stay and fight for that. Thanks for chiming in. The more we talk about it-the closer we’ll be to the church we feel alright about.