Sunday, February 26, 2012

Still a Catholic?

We got into a discussion about church-going at my writers group meeting. Like Jean (scroll down 2 posts), my writer friends are comfortable calling themselves “cafeteria Catholics” and the Presbyterian-Lutheran talks about “Presbolutheranism.” Another self-description I heard is “free thinkers.”
Most of us continue going to church despite having grown past the childhood beliefs taught in church-talk. We do it because we have a spiritual orientation and Catholic services are “home.” Among my closest Catholic friends and acquaintances, what a priest, bishop, or pope says gets the same critical scrutiny as the words of a politician.

My son and daughter left the church during their last years in high school, and I never had any qualms about it because I could see that their spiritual journey didn’t require it. In fact, my respect for them and for other young people rises if they ask intelligent questions about religion and leave the Church.

But once in a while I meet parents who feel awful when their children stop embracing their childhood faith. An article in America reported the frustration of such parents. They said things like,
I believe I failed at raising an adult Catholic.
The author admitted,
All the parents in my decidedly nonscientific survey raised children who are kind, compassionate, generous and mindful of others and who exhibit a strong sense of justice.
Nevertheless she wrote,
I feel that we must have gone wrong, because although our children are good people, many of them do not go to church regularly. We feel we have fallen down on the job of raising the next generation of Catholics.
Unbelievable. How can they deny the evidence before their eyes?
A friend of hers raised three professionals serving underprivileged persons—a doctor, a teacher, and a lawyer—and reported,
Our children are very well adjusted, emotionally mature and have a depth of care and spiritual presence. . . . the church simply did not respond to what they were looking for . . . nothing about the lives they were leading.
So it is for other former Catholics—they comprise 10 percent of all Americans. In my conversations about religion, I find that people raised Catholic but out of the Church now think intelligently about spiritual matters. Maybe it’s just that I live in Minnesota, but the ones I meet do not convert to evangelical nonsense with its anti-condom, anti-gay fanaticism. They are more likely to end up Buddhists, Unitarians, or atheists.

I and some other Catholics who stay have pangs of guilt for participating in liturgies that proclaim nonsense we don’t believe. I assuage my conscience by scouring the language of sexism, taking out the Lords and Hes and Hims in the words we recite. The challenge of substituting words in songs to fit the melody gets to be fun.

On Monday, February 27, I was on Karen Tate’s Voices of the Sacred Feminine at 8:00 pm Central, to talk about how Christian language perpetuates male dominance and sex abuse. Listen in or read my "Sermon to Catholic Priests." We talked politics too.

March 7

A reader wrote that my blog is a relief from the rationale of the U.S. bishops and Rick Santorum. Similar comments come regularly. I write, not to convert those with opposite convictions, but to support those who feel dissonance with the dominant view and are relieved to see their feelings vindicated. The airwaves today teem with right-wing nonsense that gives some of us a headache.

Another reader sent me the news of a dissident group of Catholics in Madison, Wisconsin, where a bishop pushed his tyranny just too far.
When the priest hit “play,” Jenson walked out. . . .
She found a new religious home at Holy Wisdom Monastery, a former Roman Catholic monastery in the town of Westport, just outside Madison. Its Sunday service, offered by the sisters who live there, retains many elements of a traditional Catholic Mass but diverges in sometimes startling ways.
Women have traditionally been more religious than men, we’ve observed informally for many years. Now an interesting article in America magazine corroborates it and reports the same gender disparity among Protestants.
Without women, Christian churches would have not have taken over the Western world. What would the Catholic Church in the U.S. be without the women who staffed schools, hospitals, social service agencies, and parish offices of all kinds? And without the women in the pews? They have served as initiators and mainstays of social justice work. I believe women inhabited churches more because they did not operate as much in the outer world, which gave them more time for interior reflection, for relating to spiritual powers.

But the same article reports that young women no longer support religion more than men; in fact, they support it less.
Catholic women of Generation X (born between 1962 and 1980) barely equaled their male counterparts in regular Mass attendance and were significantly more likely than the men to profess heterodox opinions on women’s ordination, on the sinfulness of homosexual acts and premarital sex and on whether one could be a good Catholic without going to Mass.

More recent data (2002-8) from the annual General Social Survey indicate that the reduced religiosity of American Catholic women extends to the millennial generation (born between 1981 and 1995), as well. Millennial Catholic women are even more disaffected than Gen X women are.
Why? It makes sense to me. The two sets of facts—that women traditionally have been more religious and today are leaving Christian churches—form one consistent whole. The gender that valued spiritual matters highly in the past continues to do so. Today, more educated women study other religions and see alternative ways of being spiritual; they absorb ideas from around the globe and place their childhood faith in the context of alternative beliefs.
And they are aware of patriarchy’s malicious effects. A church hierarchy that treats women as inferiors and obsesses about sex is just asking for dissent from thoughtful women and men. Women, being the victims of religious discrimination and closer to matters of the body, would naturally dissent more.

The hierarchy’s concerns counter those of Jesus, according to theologian Richard McBrien, who has been writing for National Catholic Reporter for more than forty years.
In recent elections one would have thought that homosexuality and abortion were the new litmus tests of Christianity. . . .
Jesus is clearly much more concerned about issues of pride, injustice, hypocrisy, blindness, and what I have often called “The Three Ps” of power, prestige, and possessions, which are probably 95% of Jesus’ written teaching. . . .
We worry about what people are doing in bed much more than making sure everybody has a bed to begin with.
Since John Paul II ascended his papal throne in 1978, the Catholic Church, arguably the best indicator of where Christianity is headed, has been heading high-speed backward. It's missing a huge opportunity. With an infusion of wisdom from Eastern spirituality and reflections by scientists, ideas of the Holy are expanding.
We see that God is not an individual or a set of individuals separate from ALL THAT IS. It is in every thing and person and idea in all reality both visible and invisible, and it is not separate from any individual thing or concept or person, but it is also MORE than any individual thing or person or idea in any reality either visible and invisible. The mysterious origin or source of all is within all; It is the WITHIN of things; It is ISNESS or BEINGNESS. 

See how hard it is to explain this? This is why religious educators don’t bother talking about it. Heck, they don’t understand it themselves, and Church officials don’t get it either, but they go on imposing their ridiculous God-talk. They know that greater understanding among ordinary people will lead to less docile compliance in all church matters, and the prospect frightens them. The whole decaying structure might come crumbling down.

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