The Religion Issue
So I’m not sure if I’m Catholic anymore. I was baptized Catholic, confirmed Catholic, and have always contended that I would be married and buried Catholic. But lately, I’m questioning it, to the point that I can’t bring myself to say the Creed during mass. When I show up for mass, that is, because I rarely attend anymore. Mass feels spiritually empty to me.
I’ve stayed Catholic for several reasons: Being Catholic is more than a religion; it’s a culture. It’s an identity, and much like being a high school nerd or a fat kid, it’s hard to let go of it even when it no longer applies. It is the only major Christian church to venerate a woman (Mary). Vatican II has always given me hope that the Church can open itself to new insight. And many of the spiritual writers and leaders whom I admire are Catholic: Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, John Paul the Great. Because of people like these, I’ve always believed that Catholicism was good at its core .
Recently, the most significant reason for my staying Catholic has been its progressive social policies. With the exception of “life” issues (abortion, contraception, assisted death), the Catholic Church leans far to the left. In a political and social environment that labels liberals as unGodly and perverts Christianity for unholy gains, I thought it important to be an example of a progressive Christian.
But the list of reasons not to remain a Catholic are growing both in strength and length.
My biggest problem with remaining Catholic is the way it limits spirituality by declaring itself the one true and holy Church. I think (almost) all religions are true and holy* and that most religions---and spiritualities---are really different expressions of the same truths.
But my struggle extends beyond just labeling myself a Catholic to labeling myself a Christian. Because that also limits my spirituality. I have a real problem with limiting myself to one narrow view of God and one prophet and one spiritual guidebook.**
I also have some problems with the leadership of the Church. The Church still has not realized the full potential of Vatican II, and the chances for a Vatican III within my lifetime are slim to none. Furthermore, the upper echelons continue to reflect the pre-Vatican II Church: old, white, conservative European men. Spiritual leadership shouldn’t be closed off to anyone based on gender, race, or other superficial qualities. Nor should leadership be based on politics. The Catholic leadership has become as corrupt and bureaucratic as any secular body.
Then there’s my problems with the Church doctrine. Such as the ranking of sins (abortion is unforgivable, but murder can be forgiven). And the hypocrisy surrounding contraception (natural family planning is okay, but the pill isn’t).
Communion is another biggie for me, and it ties into what I’ve already written about limiting spirituality. Partaking in the communion is a beautiful ritual, and I don’t agree with shutting people out from that ritual just because they haven’t signed on to a particular doctrine.
I also have a problem on the small “c” church level with the parish’s attitude toward parishioners. The general attitude of parishes seems to be “Sit in your pew, sing quietly, and write a big check when we tell you to.” And that attitude leaves me feeling spiritually dead at mass.
So there’s where I’m at in a nutshell.***
*Or, at least, all theistic religions. I have problems with cults that label themselves as “religious groups” (for example, Scientology).
**Do I think there are false prophets and false gods? Yep. And often those false prophets are waving the flag of Christianity and perverting God into a false god. I think that humans, when they get in touch with their own divinity, can see through the false prophets.
***The original version of this was about three times as long.