Dear Mom and Dad,
I’m not Catholic anymore. I feel like I owe you an explanation, and I hope that if you’re somehow able to hear and react to me anymore, that you’ll understand.
Catholicism was a huge part of who you were. You worked so hard and sacrificed so much to send me to Catholic schools. You were so proud of me when I made my First Communion, and my Confirmation. Dad, I remember you leading us in the Rosary when we went on long trips. I remember going to Church every Sunday morning, and singing the hymns. Dad, I remember your deep voice booming a vibration I could actually feel, standing next to you.
Church was at the center of everything. Dad, I remember you being part of the men’s club of Ascension Parish – the Ascenders. And Mom, I remember you being president of the Mother’s club of our school.
All our friends were Catholic. All of them.
I wanted to be like you. I still want to be like you.
Until recently, I belonged to a great Catholic Church in Kansas City. The people there are great – wonderful, generous, admirable people. I even like the Priest – a sincere, thoughtful young man whom you both would love. I used to love going to the Masses there – I would kneel and I would sing the hymns and recite the same prayers that I used to recite while kneeling next to you. It felt so deep and so connected. I knew it echoed back to you kneeling next to your parents, and their parents, on back. it reached back into history, and I could participate in the beautiful church at Meyer and Holmes and it might as well be a church in Krakow or Tipperary generations ago.
But, mom and dad, I just don’t believe in the Church anymore. It doesn’t make any sense to me, and I don’t feel right anymore acting like it does. I can go through the motions and try to focus on just the stuff I like, but I feel like a hypocrite.
It’s so comfortable to act like it does still make sense. I miss my friends on Sunday mornings. I want to participate in parish festivals and fish fries. I like the camaraderie and the community. Like I said, it’s a great, great group of people.
But it’s a community that is based on a belief, a creed, that I cannot say in good faith.
I got pretty darned close to the Church. I’ve known Bishops, and I’ve participated in many meetings with them. I have heard them talk about the importance of the priesthood, and I’ve heard them talk about the importance of protecting children.
And I’ve seen them assert their superiority. I heard my Bishop claim that those of us who supported President Obama’s election should fear for our immortal souls. At the same time, he was willing to, at best, avoid investigating a pervert priest and allow him to have access to children. But he presumed to judge me.
Mom and Dad, the Church brought you so much richness and friendship. But, did you know that at the same time you were going to Mass every Sunday and tithing your salaries, the Church was actually castrating young men in the Netherlands who had homosexual leanings?
That’s what was really going on. At the same time, the Church was covering up rape of children in our parishes? Remember Fr. Christian, who hosted movies in the darkened cafeteria of Ascension School? He was raping children. He used those same hands to give us communion, and the Church helped hide his crimes. He never touched me, but a friend of mine was raped by a priest a few parishes over. All that was going on, while we were kneeling in the pews.
That’s all pretty obviously wrong, but the Church hurts others, in other ways. Someone we know and love was told that she could not get married in the Church because she was born with a birth defect that made her infertile. One of the most devout people I know was unable to get married in the Church because the man she married had been divorced, but they had not managed to get the prior marriage annulled in the Church. We didn’t go to her wedding, and you carried the cruelty a bit further by not even telling me it had happened. To you, the marriage hadn’t happened, because it wasn’t held in the Church. That is messed up, but you were doing what the Church expected of you.
I’m sick of it, and I can’t go along with it anymore. Fortunately, I was too weak of a Catholic to raise my children in the faith – I couldn’t make them profess a faith I was struggling with.
The Church does not represent good to me anymore.
It stands against gay marriage – not just in the passive way that it stands against divorced marriage or infertile marriage, but it is actually trying to stand in the way of allowing gay men and women from having marriages in their own churches, according to their own consciences. The thing is, Jesus didn’t preach against gays – in fact, he hung around 12 men and never saw fit to mention the topic. Hmmm. I honestly believe in my heart of hearts that the Church is clinging to a societal taboo that, someday, I hope, it will evolve to be deeply ashamed of, like the many other evils it has embraced.
Just like it is ashamed of its child rape now, but it just can’t quite get around to taking really seriously.
Dad, I remember how, when you were dying, you were planning to have a painful, long-shot surgery to extend your life for a few months at best, because you felt that failing to do so would amount to suicide, and bar you from heaven. I’m thankful that you died suddenly before that happened, and before you endured one last dose of massive pain for your understanding of what the Church expected.
And, Mom, much more positively, I remember how much comfort your faith brought you in your final months. You were ready to go see Dad and begin your afterlife, and you had no doubt that was the way it would be. That’s amazing faith, and I’m so glad you had it.
But I never really have. In my heart, I don’t think that all that stuff about heaven really goes on that way. I don’t necessarily believe that nothing happens; I just don’t know. But after 50 years of being pushed to believe that I will be with the Father God Almighty, etc., etc., it just hasn’t really grabbed me. And I wouldn’t bet my spiritual wealth on dubious propositions like the bread and wine really being flesh and blood, or that God, if there is one, is damning all those other religions to Hell, or that Mary really was a virgin, or that God will cure someone or change the result of a football game if enough of us pray a certain way. After 50 years of trying to believe all that stuff, I just don’t really believe it, and maybe it’s time to stop trying.
As far as theology goes, maybe (maybe not) there is some kind of energy afoot in the world that is beyond human understanding, but I don’t think that energy requires me to believe what a bunch of hypocritical, greedy old men want me to believe.
I know that I’m allowing my anger at the sons of bitches who control our Church to filter into my understanding of the whole shooting match. But, really, I look at how corrupt and just plain mean the Church itself is, despite the wonderful, kind, loving people who make up its congregations, convents and lower levels, and I don’t think that Jesus meant all that when he allegedly told Peter that he was a rock to build a Church on. If Jesus really wanted Peter to construct a power-hungry, wildly wealthy, secretive, strictly male and absolutely hierarchical international organization, he could have said that, but he didn’t.
Did you know that the Church is attacking nuns now, for spending too much time on social justice, and not enough time attacking people for abortion and homosexuality?
Mom, Dad – could you really support this? Too much time on social justice? Not enough focus on abortion and homosexuality? Would you really be a part of a group that thinks that way? It’s like they truly have never read the Bible. I have, and I know that Jesus would be listed as an enemy of this Church, after he ignored those issues to focus on social justice.
It’s crazy – absolutely insane, and I cannot take it anymore. I hope, if you were alive, you would join me in stepping aside from the writhing mess of hatred and hypocrisy that the Church has become. If you wouldn’t, I would understand, I suppose, because Catholicism was bred into your bones as you bred it into mine. It’s hard to step away from something that your parents, and their parents, and their parents believed so fervently, and that so many of your good friends continue to believe.
But I’m finished. I can’t take it anymore. I am not a Catholic. I’m truly sorry.