A Crisis of Faith

I would describe my mother’s faith as quiet. Yes, she went to church every Sunday (and even every weekday but I didn’t know that until I got older) but she never really did any kind of Catholic preaching other than making us go with her up until a certain age. When we got old enough to make our own decisions, she allowed us to find our own way and form our own habits with the church. It was clear what she wanted, but she never forced it on us.

Because of this freedom, I did find my way.  I was very active in our church youth group in high school and went to church on my own regularly until my senior year, when I started dating a Jewish boy with a proclivity for Sunday afternoon Dallas Cowboy football. He was more appealing to me than church at 18 and my mom quietly rolled her eyes in disapproval (only at skipping church. She loved the boy.) but never forced me to go. Then as an adult I returned, hopping from church to church until I found a parish I was comfortable in, one where I really felt the presence of God.

Growing up, when I would begin questioning my faith in the church (let’s be clear my Faith in God is not in question) my mom would always imply that the two did not have to go hand in hand. The Church could mess up because it was run by men, but that didn’t mean you shouldn’t believe God wasn’t still all around you and be ever-grateful for that. The way I understood it, the Church was a vehicle to get closer to God-not the thing you were supposed to believe in itself.

I recognize that’s my opinion, and there are plenty who I am certain will tell me otherwise. (I only get comments on posts about religion. Funny huh?) What I’ve always thought is that my faith in God can exist separately and thus isn’t strengthened or damaged by my belief in the Catholic Church and all it stands for.

That is how, up until now, I have continued to attend church, teach CCD and drag my kids to their sacrament classes every week. I also was able to find actual parishes that I loved enough to ignore the larger reasons to question The Church. I grew up in a beautiful, inclusive parish that cared much more about mission work and community than they did about people’s sexual preferences.Here in New Jersey, I’ve found a similar parish that preaches not “tolerance” but love. I liked this parish so much I started teaching young people so they could be part of it.

Recently, I’ve been questioning my membership in the Church. It seems the beliefs they espouse are growing farther and farther from my own and I wonder how I’m going to reconcile this when teaching my children.

I opened a sanctioned Catholic website one Sunday morning to look for a last minute lesson idea and there was a huge, above the fold post from the Bishops about the “Threat” of same-sex marriage and how it was our duty to try to stop it because it was dangerous to the Catholic Church.

Excuse me? THIS is what the Bishops need to be spending their time on? Fighting the rights of people that don’t even want to be part of their church? As a practicing member of it, I can say when two women or men that love each other want to get married, I feel no threat to my church. None. And it is difficult for me to understand how a God who tells us to love can also tell us to fight love, when it appears in a way that isn’t familiar or makes us uncomfortable.

That morning, I had a hard time sitting in my church listening to my favorite priest because the vision of that internet page was burned into my head. He was preaching about love and community and all I could think was, Sir, your leaders don’t agree.

What do I do now? I feel more and more like a hypocrite when I take my kids to church and pray silently that they don’t absorb everything. I want to raise them with a strong faith but right now I have little faith in the Church and I’m afraid that’s coming through. I want them to have the community but not some of the tenants.

I’ve been able to reconcile my disagreements in the past by utilizing a church and state mentality. I see what Catholics believe and accept that they act accordingly. But now, it’s time for my kids to learn how to behave and if I’m preaching the importance of church one minute and telling them to ignore what the Church is saying the next aren’t I only teaching them hypocrisy? It seems an easy call to make.

But there has been so much good. The Catholic Church has helped shape me. The members of my parishes have loved me and cared about me and wrapped my family and I up in their arms when we needed it most. I’ve buried two parents from a Catholic Church. I’ve married my love in a Catholic Church. Some of my greatest adolescent memories were as a member of a Catholic Church. I’ve had three babies baptized Catholic and one celebrate her first Holy Communion. I have a pretty strong attachment to the Virgin Mary,(passed down from my mother) who isn’t looked upon the same way as other religions. I love our Catholic belief in Communion and St. Francis and all the good we do and love we spread in the name of the Catholic Church. I love our songs and our rituals.  Culturally, we are Catholics. How could I consider leaving?

That is how I have felt over the years as I question. How could I leave? And until now, that feeling won out.  But that was when they just wanted to NOT marry people in their buildings or recognize homosexuality or birth control as an option. That was before I read something that implies they’re now in the business of going after people and stripping their rights. That was before they used words like evil when referring to our president. That was before videos like this. Really?

It is increasingly uncomfortable to be a part of an organization I so vehemently disagree with. I won’t even try to argue that they are wrong, that would be hypocritical. I don’t need them to see the way I see.  Believe what you want. I’m just not sure I can be part of it anymore nor do I know if I want to raise my children in it. How do I explain to them that something I believe so much is in direct disagreement with the place where we are supposed to feel God’s love? I don’t think I can because I don’t understand it myself.

It would have been one thing if I saw the Bishop letter as a news story, because the news loves to hate Catholics so I can take all that with a grain of salt.   I can even ignore it if it’s some rogue priest on You Tube with a venomous video.  What I can’t ignore is a direct message  from the leaders of the church that we are compelled to interfere with love that is absolutely no threat to us as a community. When has LOVE ever been a threat to anything?

I used to hear people say they couldn’t go to church because of all that the Catholic Church stood for. I never understood that before because somehow the events of The Church never interfered with my experience in church. Now they do and I’m sad and confused and quite frankly not sure where to go or what to do.

And now there is no mom to help.

 

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Comments

  1. Gail says

    Hi Cristie! Great post. You should read “The Faith Club:A Muslim, A Christian, A Jew– Three Women Search for Understanding” It really helped me come to grips with aspects in Judaism that I don’t agree with while still embracing the religion. It also helped me work through some stereotypes and biases I had about other religions and to see how beautiful different religions are. Hope you’re doing well! Gail xo

  2. says

    Wow — what are the odds that we would both write these posts at the same time and Ilina would know us both. Makes me feel better to know I’m not the only one — hope it helps you, too. Got lots of related comments to my post on Facebook and Twitter. I keep thinking one day the Catholic Church will wake up and realize all the believers who have been alienated by the politics. But it doesn’t seem it will happen anytime soon.

    If you want to see my version of what you wrote so well already, check out http://myconvertiblelife.blogspot.com/2012/03/my-lenten-sacrifice.html (w/ links to other posts) and http://myconvertiblelife.blogspot.com/2012/02/marital-threats-and-how-you-can-help.html.

    Want to try out being Episcopalian with me?

    • Cristie says

      Agreed. I read your posts and worry that we may be sharing a brain. Although sharing might explain so many of the forgetful things I do sometimes so that’s not so bad.

  3. says

    Girl, I hear you here. I love my church. Its not as ingrained as a heritage like yours. But I love it none the less. Anyhow, our church fails my children (in my opinion) too, and I treat it the same way I do when our teachers do. Most things I take the drama out of it, and talk about it. Although in your case, it is particularly tricky because I also believe we need the counsel of people wiser than us in our religions…

    Our school teachers went on strike and it has brought up some great discussions, in varying degrees of detail – I have an 11 yo and a 6, 7 yo’s. I hope, that if something like this came up, we could handle it in similar ways. When we figure out which way is ‘north’ we give the kids the details they can handle and still feel comfortable pointing the right way.

    • Cristie says

      I’m wondering if they’re not all the same in this Cathy. It seems the Catholic Church does it on a grand scale but I’ve heard more stories of church politics on smaller scales recently so perhaps I should open my eyes more to the fact that whatever man touches just may be flawed no matter what.

  4. Michael Ritz says

    Faith indicates that man is imperfect. Religions are created and run by man. Religions are therefore by the dictates of faith imperfect. Of course absurdity usually trumps logic.

  5. says

    So glad you wrote this post and so brave too. I was just talking about this very thing to a friend recently. In our area the Catholic Church discontinued funding to a program that helps and feeds the homeless because the director personally believes in gay rights and marriage and the right to abortion. These were not beliefs that she preached at all in her role as the director and it really made me mad because, when it comes down to it, who are we really hurting here and how Christian is that?? I also have a big problem with all these priests who have molested innocent boys and who are being protected by the church. They should be treated like all criminals and be banished from the church.

    Thanks for putting this out there because you are definitely not the only one having these thoughts!

    Anna

  6. Lindsay @lilloveandluck says

    I could have written this. I’m a born and raised New Orleans Catholic, with 9 years of Catholic schooling. My patents gave me the freedom to choose as well, and I strayed for a bit. When I was ready to come back, I ran into some opposition in that I didn’t feel right anywhere for a long time. But my mother always told me that Hod is in your heart, not in a building. I continued to search, finally settling on a church a few months before the birth of my first child. We attended from then until about six months ago, but then they made all of those changes and the part time priest that assists with the mass we can attend started to use the altar as his personal political stage. I just couldn’t handle it any more. I can blame my lack of attendance on interference with nap time or whatever else I’d like, but the truth is, I’m back to being in a place where I feel like an outsider because I believe that love is love no matter who it’s with, and a woman should control the rights to her own body. I thought my job was to spread His love, but I feel more and more like I’m being asked not to, and I’m not okay with that.

    Thank you for this.

    • Cristie says

      It’s hard when you still agree with many things (for me the actual religious piece) and have so much history. I still feel like an intruder in other places of worship. I hope something changes soon!