Recently I have been toying with the idea of returning to church. For those who are not long time readers of this blog, my relationship with God is good; my relationship with organized religion is complicated at best. I would say, without a trace of irony, that I am most certainly a sum of my parts or, more accurately, my experiences.
Searching for a new church home is hard for me, not just because it is a deeply personal decision that will likely shape very intimate details of my life, but because I have very specific criteria that must be met before I could even consider involving myself in active membership;
- must have substantial community outreach programs
- can't be a mega church
- must be not only accepting of the GLBQT community, but be a champion for equal rights
- must not subjugate women
- must be financially responsible
Yeah. Try and find that church ANYWHERE, let alone in the deep south. In Texas no less, home of the megachurch.
I was christened Catholic, as my father's side of the family was. I went to Catholic school for a significant portion of my life, up until my teenage years. However, I, too, was raised in a Southern Baptist church since that is where my mother chose to worship, as her mother did. I have long maintained that I never felt entirely comfortable in either place, always ashamed to realize that, even as a child, I believed in things that neither church would condone or support (divorce, women’s rights, etc.) As soon as I was on my own I stopped going to church, content to be loyal to my own personal constitution and separate from the stage show and foolishness that sometimes befell the churches I attended as a child.
But lately, I would say for the last year or so, I have wanted to go back. Much to my shock and surprise, when I have envisioned myself the prodigal redhead returning to someone's holy house, it has never been the raucous, dramatic Baptist churches where I spent most of my childhood. Instead, I always picture myself in an ornate cathedral, harkening back to the rituals of catechism that I still remember no matter how many years I am so removed from them.
It's shocking really, as a person who stands so starkly in contrast to many of the things that Catholicism mounts its very persona on.
Then of course came the scandals. Things like Catholic Charities in DC would discontinuing some social programs if gay marriage became law. I remember thinking to myself, how could a church of all places turn its back on the downtrodden because people outside of their church want to marry? Then, the increased lobbying in states like Georgia and Nebraska, supported by the Catholic Church that sought to further restrict access to abortions. And don't even get me started on the Stupak bullshit. (I am supposed to be ok with giving my tax dollars to support the death penalty which I don’t personally support, and churches who are supposed to be private entities but get public dollars to discriminate against people?) Most recently came the molestation scandals. I suppose it's not ok to "kill" a child because the mother wants an abortion, but it’s perfectly acceptable to molest that child once it's born and participate in the systematic cover up of the crime.
My pangs of desire to immerse myself in the quiet comfort of mass waned. I'd almost reconciled within myself that these issues, while far more rampant than can be considered coincidence, shouldn't be indicative as the entire religion as a whole.
And then came news of just how far up the cover ups went.
And how now, apparently pedophilia shouldn't be blamed on, oh, I dunno, pedophiles or even on forced celibacy, but rather, homosexuality.
(Or, Jews, for the long shot.)
Because when all else fails, blame the gays.
And just like that, I was cast out again, without ever having had the benefit of crossing the threshold. I am objective enough to recognize that such an issue, while prevalent, isn't the fault of Catholicism, any more than it is the fault of homosexuals. But I am less clear on how exactly to reconcile the fact that many of the highest occupants of power knowingly participated in the cover up of abuse against children. And now many of those same people seek to distract from that by slandering some of the people I hold nearest and dearest to me.
To say I am at a fork in the road would be disingenuous; there is no road ahead. But I can't go backwards. I am honestly at a loss of how to proceed and where to go. I have not stopped desiring a church to call home, but I cannot abide seeking my faith under such policies.
And I wonder, too, what kind of person am I to still feel kindred to a religion that has systematically abused and excuses the very groups that I am proud to call myself a part of?