So, yeah…I’m a Catholic. I go to Church. I not only GO to Church, I cantor at the Saturday Mass at my Church, and have done so for a decade and a half now. I was a member of my parish’s pastoral council for 5 years and worked at the food pantry run by my parish for several years as well. I try to volunteer there for special events when I can, and I like to think that I’m pretty well-known (maybe even well-loved?) there.
I want to make this clear: I’m not doing this or telling you this to get any sort of recognition. I enjoy it, and the fact is, most people don’t really know about this side of me because it’s NOT something I exactly advertise. Most people who know me well are surprised that I’m a practicing Catholic. Most people who don’t even know me so well are surprised at that I’m a practicing Catholic.
I suppose I don’t exactly strike most folks as being exactly pious. I curse like a drunken sailor. I have, well…for lack of a better term, “sketchy” portions of my past. I have done things I’m not proud of and that I highly regret. I’ve also done things that I’m not proud of, but don’t really “regret” per se, because they taught me a lesson I needed to learn at that point in time. I don’t think I’m a bad person, but I also don’t really exude virtue.
And in many ways, I’m what some would call a “cafeteria Catholic.” I am for gay equality and gay marriage. I am for female ordination. I am for priests having the option to get married. I am for birth control (for the record, I am personally against abortion, but am not very vocal about it). My husband and I aren’t having kids (part of it is because it would be dangerous for me health-wise, part of it is because we don’t want them), and this is a bit of a no-no in the Church, as sex is for procreation, after all. I think that, in some cases, divorce is necessary and that people shouldn’t be “punished” for it. I don’t give a shit if you live together before you get married; my husband and I did just that, as a matter of fact, and it was a good thing for us. And I’m guilty of eating meat on Fridays during Lent.
I understand why so many people are angry with the Catholic Church, especially given the circumstances that have unfolded over the past decade or so. The way the child abuse scandal was handled was downright disgusting in every way, shape, and form. I will make no excuses for it. I will make no excuses for the popes, cardinals, bishops, and priests who protected child abusers—the lowest of all scum. So help me God, I would have no issues putting a bullet in the head of anyone who hurts a child, ESPECIALLY someone who sexually abuses a child. I understand not wanting to be a part of an organization that protected those who hurt children. I struggle with this every single day.
But my church—not the “Big Church,” but the “little” church I’m a part of –had nothing to do with that. We are a family. And I don’t believe in leaving your family or friends when times get tough. You do your best to work through it. You set an example. We welcome old, young, gay, straight, rich, poor, Black, White, Asian—you name it. Our church does what we can to imitate Christ (well, at least most of the time) and Christ did not exclude those who were different. And that’s what I like about my “little church.”
As for me, I may not radiate piety, but I like going to my church. I like leading the congregation in song. Music is my prayer. I am, by nature, an extremely anxious person, so it’s the one time I can be prayerful and peaceful. I love the people there and I like listening to the gospels and homilies. It’s not something I talk about very often, but these are good things for me. Sometimes that one hour of quiet helps put my chaotic existence into perspective.
Which is why it bothers me so much when people make fun of my beliefs. I cannot tell you how many times I get criticized, berated, and chastised for going to church. I want to make this clear: I do not mind people asking me about it, or saying they are surprised I go, or being taken aback when I say that I am/have been so involved in my parish. This does not bother me. But I have been in many social situations where people who I like to think know me somewhat well (and also know fully well that I am a practicing Catholic who attends Mass regularly), think it’s appropriate to either make fun of me for going to church/being involved, or, even worse, make fun of the Catholic faith.
I like to think that I am extremely open to the fact that not everyone is Catholic, and not everyone appreciates having Catholic evangelism thrown in their faces. This is why I generally do not talk about it unless I am asked. I am very open and accepting of other religions, faiths, and beliefs. So why does making fun of my religion, my faith or my beliefs make you feel better about yourself? The “priests-fucking-little-kids” jokes are getting old. Less than 4% of priests were even ACCUSED of abuse—a rate far, far lower than the remainder of the male population. It’s only because Catholicism is the largest denomination of the Christian faith (with the Christian faith being the largest in the world) that it got as much publicity as it did. The vast, vast, majority of priests are good men and wonderful human beings. Those are FACTS. To lump them all together because a handful of them committed abuse is like calling all Black people criminals because a handful of them committed crimes, or calling all gay people pedophiles because a tiny percentage of them have abused children, or labeling all Mexicans illegal because some of them hopped the border. It’s ignorant, and it makes you look like an intolerant shitbag.
Catholicism has its problems. I will be the FIRST to admit that. But to discount all the good the Church has done because a few disgusting individuals decided to get their jollies off diddling little kids is asinine. Agree or disagree with some of the Church’s tenets/doctrines—I’m fine with that. Let’s have a discussion about it. But to poke fun at a legitimate faith, and a legitimate part of many people’s lives just makes YOU look stupid and narrow-minded.
Accept the fact that faith is an important part of some people’s lives. It’s an important part of mine. If it isn’t an important part of yours, I’m cool with that. But frankly, I’m so sick and tired of people thinking it’s okay to mock someone else’s genuine and sincere beliefs. And this happens OFTEN. REALLY, REALLY OFTEN.
So the next time you think it’s okay to label an entire group of people just because a few of them did shitty things in an attempt to ruin the rest of the group, think twice. Faith is an especially touchy subject. Everyone’s faith—or lack thereof—is unique and special. And no one should infringe upon that. I believe in God. I am a Christian. I am a Catholic. I am a practicing Catholic. If you can’t handle that and find the need to mock me for it, you’re the one who should be ashamed…not me.