Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Losing my religion

As if I didn't have enough to do this summer now I have to add "get excommunicated" to my list.

When I lived in Colorado Springs I worked at the Cadet Chapel at the Air Force Academy.  It was a great job.  I had a lot of fun there and I really liked the people I worked with.  With one exception.  I called that exception Father Butthead.  Father Buttead was a catholic priest and a thoroughly unpleasant man.  He was arrogant, rude to everyone around him and always smelled like stale liquor and cigarettes.  One day he got mad at me and another girl I worked with for not doing something or other and he called us "lazy fat-asses".  That was pretty much the beginning of the end for me.
I was baptized into the catholic church when I was a baby.  It's what people in my family did back then.  Most of my family isn't even particularity religious; it was just done out of tradition.  Out of my 21 cousins I think only one of them was not baptized.

My family was not religious at all and we never went to church.  Aside from what little information I picked up here and there at funerals and weddings and the like, I never was never really taught about the religion I was baptized into.  That was fine with me, I never had any interest in any of it anyway.

Then I started working at the chapel and I started to become interested in religion and the catholic religion specifically.  One of my jobs was to stand near the doors during Sunday services and keep tourists from coming in and wandering around.  My favorite services to attend were the catholic services.  This started because I had a major crush on one of the cadets who served as an usher during the services but eventually I became genuinely interested in the services themselves.

I liked the ceremony, the rituals, the music.  I found the whole thing fascinating.  I mean, how did everyone just know when to say "And also with thee" at just the right time?  And when to stand and when to kneel and when to sit?  Amazing!  I enjoyed it so much that I even started to attend the services even on the occasional Sundays that I wasn't working.

If you had asked me what religion I was at that point I probably would have said I was catholic.  I liked feeling like I was part of the  mystery and majesty of it all.  For an 18 year old still trying to figure out her life and herself it seemed like a pretty good thing to be a part of.

Then Father Butthead came to work at the chapel.  He took over the Sunday services.  Every time I would see him speak Catholicism lost some of it's luster for me.  This was a man who was supposed to be leading people towards righteousness?  He spoke about kindness and compassion yet he could barely summon up common courtesy for his fellow man.  I know a lot of the parishioners really liked Father Butthead but he really changed my thinking about religion (Catholicism in particular) and not in a good way.

Now I don't want you to think that this was a case of one bad apple ruining the bunch.  This man did not shape my views on religion.  He just helped bring into focus for me some of the things that I doubtlessly would have figured out on my own anyway.  As I got older I started to really examine what I believed and why I believed it.  Or rather, what I didn't believe.  I also started to become more skeptical and look at things from a standpoint of logic rather than faith.

By the time I was 24 there had been some major changes in my life.  I was living in Minnesota, I was married, I had a baby.  If you had asked me then what religion I was would have said I wasn't any religion.  (Full disclosure - Jesse and I were married in a catholic church but it was only because I really liked the building and I sort of liked the idea of a big, traditional church wedding.  I am a hypocrite, I know.)  I didn't identify myself as catholic and I thought that since I never went to church I was no longer a member of that particular club.

Then, like every one else int he world, I started to hear about the child abuse that happened within the catholic church.  Hell, it didn't just happen, the church allowed it to happen.  Encouraged it even by doing nothing more to prevent it other than to shuffle the abusive priests around to new parishes every few years.  I became curious as to how a culture of violence (yes, violence) against children could become so entwined with the catholic religion.  The more I learned the more appalled I became with Catholicism.  I'm not going to post links to everything I've ever read here because you're smart people and you know how to google (and if you choose to google I hope you read information from all sides of the argument so that you can come an informed conclusion) but there is a wealth of information out there.  

The church is anti-woman - their stance on abortion and reproductive care in general is horrendous.  They're anti-family - they strongly oppose marriage equality.  They're anti-child - do I even need to explain this one?

All of this is bad but a few days ago I read an article that really pushed me over the edge. (Found here.)  I'll summarize for those of you that don't like to click links.  A nine year old girl in Brazil was found to be pregnant with twins.  Her step-father confessed to raping her.  The girls mother took her to get an abortion.  The church excommunicated the girl's mother and the doctors who performed the abortion  but not the rapist step-father.  Their reasoning? "Rape is a serious crime but a graver act than (rape) is abortion to eliminate an innocent life.” And how did the church expect a nine year old girl to carry and deliver twins?  By c-section of course.

Try to wrap your brain around that.  Try to fathom the lack of compassion and basic human decency that would allow the church to take that stance.  It's mind boggling.
I posted this article on facebook and in the ensuing discussion a friend pointed out something interesting.  She said that if you were baptized in a catholic church then the church will consider you a member pretty much forever.  So if, for example, an article were to come out saying "There are X-number of Catholics in Minnesota" guess who would be included in that number.  Yep, yours truly.    Even though I disagree with pretty much everything the church stands for, even though I never go to church or pay dues or whatever it is that church people do.

So I started looking into how to get taken off that list.  Turns out they don't make it easy.  You can't just call up and ask to be removed.  You actually have to be excommunicated.  And even that's kind of a hassle. You can't walk in and demand an excommunication.  You have to something off of their "Very, Very Naughty" list.  One of those things is to physically assault the pope.  I think he's a terrible man in charge of a terrible organization but I really don't see that happening.  I wonder if they'll let me out if I tell them that every time I drive by Planned Parenthood I make rude hand gestures to the protesters standing outside?

I'll figure something out.  Even if it's only on paper, I can't be a part of organization that fought to maintain a statute of limitations on sex crimes against children.  Maybe they'll let me out if Father Butthead calls and tells them what a fat-ass I am.

I realize that this is a sensitive subject.  My intention is not to offend anyone who is catholic even though the catholic church offends me.  I know some wonderful people who are catholic.  I do not think the problem lies with the individuals within the church, I think the institution as a whole is flawed.

Two years ago today Joseph was one of a kind and I added another chapter in his adoption story.
Four years ago today I had a weed problem.


Anonymous said...

I wonder if you can get excommunicated if you officially become part of a different religion? Like I was baptized Catholic and participated in all the Sacraments up to Confirmation, if I become Jewish will that pull my membership?

Anonymous said...

Oh Wow... I have been disillusioned with the Catholic Church for quite some time. But I think it is all organized religion, although the Catholics (of all the Christian religions) are the worst offenders against women and children. Other Christain religions allow women as ministers, thereby women do have some say in the direction the religion takes. Organized religion is about power, control, and guilt, plain and simple, which is the reason for all the rules. Excommunication is a form of "punishment" for breaking the rules (or course, it does have to be really bad, although you would be in good company, Galileo, Copernicus) My comment is why would anyone want to be bothered by disentangling themselves with the Catholic Church? It is their rules and you are not abiding by their rules anyway. So what, if they want to count you (us) in their inflated statistics. It's not putting any money in their coffers. And there are much more important things to be doing like raising your children to be loving, caring and helpful people (which you are doing a great job of by the way!) I consider myself to a recovering Catholic. If it makes the church feel beter, they can count me in their statistics and pretty much it means nothing to me anyway. (And if you haven't been attending Mass and participating in the sacraments, you probably are off their radar anyway.) My Mom always made the distinction between "man-made" rules and "God-made" rules. She used to say about attending Mass, not eating meat on Friday, all that stuff were man-made rules and didn't really matter (I agree). God made ones are basically based on love and respect for each other, which even Jesus said that greatest was to "love one another as yourself"...That I can agree with. So, just sort out what works for you, but I think it is important to separate the institutions from the "God Concept".. If we don't do that, that's where all the murkiness and hypocrisy comes into play. Okay, I am off my soapbox, now.

Love to all... Grandma Judy

shyestviolet said...

the bright spot in catholocism for all of us pseudo-catholics (this coming from a lutheran girl with a fascination for the catholic church): liberation theology. yep, I'm a cafeteria catholic without even BEING catholic.

Stefanie said...

I was brought up Catholic, but became disillusioned after my mother died in high school. It was also around the same time I started to hear about the pedophile priest issue. The church disgusts me. Another recent headline was the nun in California who was excommunicated for approving an abortion for a woman who was 11 weeks pregnant with severe health issues. Her doctors gave her a 0% chance of survival without the abortion. The nun approved the procedure and the mother lived. However, the bishop excommunicated the mother, the nun and everyone else involved at the hospital. Totally ridiculous! So this woman saved a woman's life and she was excommunicated, but these priests that molest children are just scolded and shuffled around? Seriously?

Anonymous said...

I did a little more research into the excommunication bit. It appears all that does is prevent you from receiving the sacraments. They still consider the excommunicated person to be a member of the church. This is from Wikipedia-Catholic Church Membership. There is a way to "formally withdraw your membership" , but you have to discuss the matter with a priest, and if successful, a notation will be placed with your baptism record, but you are still a baptized Catholic. If I understand their rules, once a Catholic, always a Catholic according to the Church. So, I think the easiest thing is to just ignore their rules altogether. Jen, I'll snail mail you the info I found. Good luck on your quest with the Catholic Church.
Love to all of you..... Grandma Judy

Ben said...

The Catholic Church in Brazil is kind of crazy like this. You'll see this kind of thing in places like Latin America and parts of Africa where a lot of the ultra-conservative leadership was put in place by the "Father Butthead" type old guard. Contrary to selective media reports, Pope Benedict has actually been doing more to clean out the molesters and other such offenders. There's a chance what happened in Brazil will be overturned eventually.

Stimey said...

Don't tell them you make rude gestures to protesters every time you PASS Planned Parenthood, tell them you make rude gestures every time you GO TO Planned Parenthood.

Or assault the pope. I'd love to see you on TV.

That story you wrote about is appalling. Good luck on your excommunication.