Letter from a very recent ex-Catholic

December 18, 2009 at 11:30 am | Posted in Massholes, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I have not been to a Catholic Mass in years.  For almost a decade, I have been disillusioned with a church so trenchantly mired in some confused past where women are irrelevant.

Even so, and, despite my vehement disagreement with the church on so many moral/social issues, I do still have a sentimental attachment to the literal practice of the religion itself.  If you grow up going to Sunday Mass, to CCD, its rituals, the cadence of the Mass, become utterly ingrained in your personal history. Every Catholic, everywhere in the world, is standing or kneeling or making the sign of the cross or muttering responses at the same time. I used to think that faith was, in fact, this collective power — the power of so many people following these ancient rituals.  On September 12, 2001, heartbroken and shocked, 3,000 miles away from our home base of New York City, my friend Shaf (who happened to be visiting me at the time in Los Angeles) and I went to morning Mass. It was the only thing we could think to do.

It has proven even more difficult for me to shake off my Irish-Catholic social identity. My mother’s family were old-school, Kennedy Catholics: Catholic grammar school, daily Mass. While the rumor is that my grandmother refused to take communion for awhile, supposedly because she was using birth control, my earliest memories of her include the crucifix hanging over her bed and, when we spent the night at her house, joining her kneeling at the bed to say our morning and evening prayers. I am also now a part of a Dorchester, Mass./B.C. High/Notre Dame-St. Mary’s family of nine children born in a span of 10 years. Tim says he used to tell his mother, “Mommy, when I grow up I want to be a priest so I never have to get married and leave you.”

My mother remembers the day she got over any lingering sentimentality towards the church.  Pope John Paul II gave a speech in Mexico City (or somewhere in Latin America) in which he railed against birth control. My mother decided that to tell a poor, overpopulated region not to practice birth control was the sin, and that the Pope was a sinner. She never set foot in a Catholic church or identified herself as a Catholic again.

I just had my moment: while reading the transcripts of the lawsuits alleging abuse of children by its priests that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., recently was forced to make public. (The church had spent seven years fighting the release of these documents in court, and was ready to take its case to the Supreme Court, but the Court turned down their request.) In these transcripts, then-bishop Edward Egan, later a cardinal and archbishop of New York, stated “It’s marvelous when you think of the hundreds and hundreds of priests and how very few have even been accused, and how very few have even come close to having anyone prove anything.” (Read the NYTimes’ article and excellent editorial.)

That’s it. I’m done.


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