Tuesday, January 27, 2009

When a friend becomes a fan of the Roman Catholic Church

For some reason, I have profiles on Facebook and MySpace. I really don't know why. It has been a way for people from my past to contact me, but the other day I realized something: almost none of these people know me anymore.

Chances are that if you met me before high school and haven't seen me since, you really don't know me anymore. I am not that person you knew in elementary or junior high.

If you met me in high school, I'm not sure you really know me all that well, either. My political leanings have changed, my willingness to take risks, my tastes in music (which expanded)...you'd have a lot of catching up to do if we met now.

If you knew me in college or after, you pretty much know me as I am today. I have matured, I've settled down, but I went through some radical philosophical changes around age 19 that solidifed at around age 21, and I haven't been the same since.

All of this intro brings me to the title of this entry. I went into Facebook the other day, and I found that one of my friends became a fan of the Roman Catholic Church.


I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church. I went to Catholic schools from K through 9, was an altar boy, read in church, and even wanted to become a priest at one point (just before puberty hit, in fact). I had doubts from at the age of eight at the latest, asking, "If God created everything, who created God?" I was told I had to accept on faith that this "God" character is eternal, and that I shouldn't question. Well, if I shouldn't question, why was curiosity so much a part of my nature? In any case, my questions were silenced, and I went along with the religion thing. I kept doubting myself, kept thinking that there just had to be proof out there of the existence of this deity, and that something must be wrong with me because everyone around me believed in this stuff. I did pray, but as I got older, as I became used to none of my prayers being answered--not one damned prayer--they began to start with "Jesus[/God], if you're there..." I was teased endlessly by my peers in Catholic school, and no matter how much I prayed for that to stop, or for me to have the strength to endure it, or for my life to change, it only stopped when I made the changes myself.

I can hear the apologists now: "Oh, you had it in yourself to change; that's why God didn't force it," or "Your prayers were all about you, and that's selfish." Yeah? Well explain why my Uncle Ronnie died at 36 when I prayed for his cancer to go away so my mom wouldn't have to see her younger brother suffer. Explain why my prayers for world peace were answered with more war. Explain...nah, forget it. If you're an apologist, you'll come up with some lame reason why my prayers weren't answered, or you'll tell me that they were, and I just wasn't paying attention, or you'll tell me that they will be, or you'll tell me, as the song goes, "Sometimes God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers." Gag.

Oh, and you know what I changed the most about myself? I tried very, very hard to show no outward signs that I am an intelligent person. I always stood out like a sore thumb in that regard. When I dumbed myself down superficially, I gained friends. Great change, huh? But it made my life more tolerable.

The bottom line is that I read the Bible more than most people have, in various versions, and what I got from it, at least the parts were Jesus was involved, was that faith could move mountains and prayers would be answered--even if someone had faith "as a grain of mustard seed." Well, I did have at least that much, and it never worked for me. Faith has never been useful in my life, so I discarded it eventually.

The first thing that made me turn from the Catholic Church in particular was confession. I hated confession, and the reason I hated confession was that I rarely did anything that could be considered sinful. I was a good kid--ask my parents! Still, when I told this to the nun who took us to confession for the first time, she told me to think hard, because everyone was a sinner, and I had to have done something. I went in and gave the priest a really lame excuse for a sin. He was probably laughing on the inside. The penance was a pittance.

What you don't want to do is tell a priest that you don't have anything to confess, that they're just making you go. I tried that, and the priest gave me a major penance for "lying". Damn it, I really was a good kid! I always tried to help people. Always. Still do. Unfortunately, that willingness to help sometimes comes off as arrogance; some people see me stepping in to help them as a comment on their capabilities or lack thereof, and feel insulted that I would think they would need help. That's another story, though. The bottom line is that if you're a Catholic, you are guilty until proven innocent, and even then, you're guilty. You're a sinner. No way around it.

Well, good riddance to my involvement with the Catholic Church. I'm still altruistic to a fault, and even though I have my moments that could be considered "sin" by you, I'll be the judge of that, not you. I am NOT one of your FANS!! I know my own flaws, and I am answerable to myself. I am my own worst critic, and I am a harsh one. I feel guilty if I hurt people because I have empathy, not because someone is threatening with eternal hellfire, pergatory, or any other bullshit you try to heap on people. I also feel good when I help people, because I know what it feels like to be helped--by other people, for motives having nothing to do with Catholic guilt.

Here's the thing: I probably wouldn't unload on the Catholic Church at all right now if it weren't for the pedophilia scandal. I know the caricature of the pedophile priest is a running joke right now, but what makes me mad is that the Catholic Church actively worked to cover up child rape. That's what it is. Let's not be so damned clinical about it. They were raping kids. Raping. These priests raped children, and the Catholic Church would sometimes move them from parish to parish, with no oversight regarding what sort of activities they would engage in at their new homes.

It's so insidious, I get nauseous writing about it. Before the pedophillia scandal, priests were well-respected and trusted, because they were "men of the cloth", doing the work of "the Lord" and such. Let's apply what happened with the Catholic Church to another institution where people are generally trusted with our kids: the education system. Image if you will that the same percentage of teachers were involved in child rape within our school systems. Now, imagine the school catching them, then simply relocating the offending teachers to other schools in other parts of the country, never turning them in to the authorities. First, it was just the teachers who were guilty; now, school administrators are complicit. Would you or would you not have their heads, figuratively speaking?

A lot of people left the Catholic Church after the pedophilia scandal, but they're still the largest sect in the United States, even after losing thirty-eight percent of their parishoners here. The Pope let priests get away with child rape, and people still attend Catholic mass. The Pope, his cardinals, and his bishops let priests get away with child rape, and people still tithe--still give ten percent of their earnings to the Church. The Church hierarchy let priests get away with child rape, and they are still in business.

I don't understand why anyone would want to be a fan. I am sure she has to be blissfully unaware of how much the Catholic Church knew about the pedophilia going on at the priest level, but I am not sure I'm comfortable having her name on my Facebook page anymore.

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