Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Losing Faith: My Catholic Issues
Faith, like ethnicity informs identity. Growing up Catholic in a neighborhood populated by Americans of Irish, Polish, French Canadian, and Italian descent we were likely to identify with our "nationality" as we called it then as well as with our religion. It was as a college student in Italy that I overheard a group of Italian students pointing to the group I was with and referring to us as "Quegli Americani" - "those Americans". They couldn't mean me, could they? Yes, in Italy, I am definitely an American.
The ethnic Americans that populated the neighborhoods where I grew up and the Catholic schools I attended may have celebrated holidays with different foods but they all shared the same religious traditions. Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation, Marriage, and Funeral Masses were life events, rites of passage, celebrated and shared with extended family and friends. They brought people together and were opportunities for the Church to dramatically intersect the lives of its communicants. More importantly, those making the passage were obligated to do so through the prescribed ritual, with the proper intent and preparation. Those who were not Catholic and those who had "fallen away" or who had been excommunicated, usually by virtue of divorce and remarriage "outside the church", always stood out. They did not belong to the club.
Catholicism is a strange mix. It is schizophrenic. It is a religion of service to the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, the indigent. As I knew it, it was compassionate and stood for social justice. It is John XXIII and Vatican II. It is also a religion of Dogma and Rules and Consequences. The Inquisition and its "modern" counterpart, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith are testimony to the Church's unwavering stubbornness and its unconscionable hubris . It can forgive and absolve the most heinous crime, yet cannot find compassion for the conscientious dissenter, the remarried, the homosexual. Those who struggle with their conscience and make difficult decisions often end up, not so much "Losing THE Faith", as just "Losing Faith".
The Faith began losing me in my adolescence.