Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sorry yet again, Momma

NOTE: This post contains graphic descriptions of my religious beliefs. It is not my intention to offend anyone or cast aspersions on anyone's faith, and I hope no one is. I admire you for doing your thing - whatever it is - and I just try to do mine.

My mother bore and raised five children, and one of them consistently attends - and believes in - the Catholic Mass. No matter what I try to tell her, I think she feels like a failure because of this.

I quit taking Communion in the spring of 2006. I was doing research and came across an article about the growing Catholic communities in Africa. One bishop, who had been recognized for his ministry by the Pope, held regular "condom burning ceremonies." This wasn't some crackpot report; this article is similar. Sitting in the library, surrounded by other students, I was suddenly so angry that it was hard to see. I literally got hot. I called my mother. I don't think she was happy with my decision to forgo Communion, but she tried to understand.

This wasn't the first time I'd struggled with religion. I almost didn't get confirmed (in 2002) because of the sex abuse scandals that seemed to increase by the day. But I took it seriously, and the sacrament was very meaningful for me. A lot has changed since then. I've made decisions that the Church regards as morally wrong. Since I'm not sorry for them - I refuse to be sorry for them - I don't go to Confession and I know I'm not in the state of grace necessary to participate in the Eucharist. I go to Mass when I'm home because it means something to my mother, but I no longer consider myself a practicing Catholic. It makes me sad, actually. I don't think the Church wants me.

Most recently, Pope Benedict's recent tour through several African countries got me heated again. Even knowing the Church's beliefs and positions on contraception and sexuality, I cannot understand why its leadership refuses to make an exception for Africa. Millions of people are dying of AIDS, and millions more will suffer as a result. Economies can't grow if the 20-to-40-year-old population is disabled or dead. Children can't be educated if they have to care for their parents or run a household. To me, lives trump theological objections to condoms.

So when Mom asked if I wanted to go to Mass last Sunday, I thought for a minute and said "No, I really don't." I said I would because she wanted me to, but she said that would be "hypocritical" on both our parts. Eventually we worked it out and I went, but I get the feeling she feels like she's failed. It's not her fault at all, though. We just have come to very different conclusions about the nature of things.


licketysplit said...

This is not easy stuff. I was raised LDS and had a conversation with my mom for the first time a couple days ago about my true feelings regarding the matter and that I have not taken the sacrament for over a year, and very rarely attend. It hurts me knowing that it hurts her, but I know I have to be true to my own beliefs- which I am not completely sure of myself...

Caitlin Dale said...

I actually agree with you about the condom issue.I mean some of the theological reasons for not using them do not sit well with me given that the Church does advocate NFP to plan/avoid conception...either way the people engaging in sex are actively trying to have sex and not conceive. So I mean... come on. I think abstinence is important to teach because it is the only way to avoid STDs but I also think safe sex should be taught as well. I think a bigger reason that The Church is anti-condom and birth control is that it can promote a society of "consequence -free" sex, and one in which sex is no longer special or "sacred". Which has happened. But I can see where you are coming from for sure, and I personally struggle with the birth control issue.
And...for what its worth, in my understanding, The Church will always want you. I think the question is... do you want The Church?
Any authentic search for Truth is blessed. ;)

Cammy said...

My situation (as usual!) is extremely similar. I was raised Catholic, and was extremely religious in high school, I was even a Eucharistic minister. I was Confirmed, and was extremely sincere in my commitment at the time. I have done pretty much a 180 in my "beliefs," though, starting around age 18. I do go to mass with my family at Christmas (as does my dad, who is not Catholic), but I no longer take Communion, and it's understood that I'm there to be with the family and not to worship. I know my mother is extremely disappointed, in her words "This is the one thing I didn't want you to think for yourself about," (which seems to be the basis of religion, I guess?).

I honestly miss church sometimes. I miss the comfort from the rituals, the feeling of belonging to a group, etc. I wish I could have church without the religion part.

I'm glad you were able to be open with your mom instead of doing what you think will make her happy. This is a touchy issue, but even if you two never come to agreement on it, there are so many important things to do/enjoy/focus on with our loved ones, it's not worth focusing on a few points of divergence. It sounds like you have a great attitude about the situation, please don't shoulder that burden of making your mom feel like a failure. I think that parents in this situation probably do feel disappointment, but there should also be some accomplishment in raising children with the confidence and critical thinking skills to come to their own conclusions.

Lisa said...


I don't know if I want it. I was so caught up in feeling rejected that I didn't think about it that way. Hmm.

Thanks for your perspective. It's good to know other people are having the same conversations with their parents.

Kristina said...

Although I wasn't raised Catholic, the fact that my family is Presbyterian to the core is quite important to me, to my upbringing, to my life experience in a way. My parents are active members in the church; my brothers and I (ALL of us) have lapsed.
Like Cammy, I miss it at times, especially when I wonder about and/or yearn for the idea of a community or reflect upon the lack of spirituality in my life.
But I've also tried on several occasions to find that community and it leaves me feeling so empty and bereft. So, I find meaning in other parts of my life and world.
One last note - a friend whom I know used to be very Catholic and isn't anymore. She hasn't baptized her children, and her mother actually respects HER more than her sister (whose children are baptized but never attend church) because she at least is not a hypocrite. It's an interesting perspective.

Sarah said...

"This is the one thing I didn't want you to think for yourself about," (which seems to be the basis of religion, I guess?).

Cammy, this is so funny!

Lisa, I think it is brave to be genuine about where you are at in terms of your faith (or lack thereof) rather than being a hypocrite and/or lying to your mom to make her happy. I have a faith that is very important to me, but I completely respect people who have arrived at a different conclusion based on actual research and thought. I think it is very respectable and commendable to think through these things, rather than just being a blind follower and/or someone who is too lazy to think through an issue so they just settle on a "yea/nay" answer.

If you decide that you miss having a belief, I might encourage you to check out certain Christian denominations (or non-denominations, really) that are active in AIDS and HIV prevention in Africa and care for the sick there, since that is a big issue for you. I'd encourage you out of my own happiness with my faith to not give up on God because of his followers. Everyone makes mistakes and it is so painful when those mistakes are made by church leaders, but God shares your distaste for those incidents too. However, I respect you as a thinker and person regardless of whatever you believe in terms to faith!

Tiger said...

I understand about the Catholic Church--my grandmother was a devout Catholic for much of her life, and then did an about-face, (after having a need to baptize me, as my parents had no plans too) and joined the United Church of Christ, which is very liberal. As for Africa, the church she (and my mother, and i) subsequently joined, is one that completely supports a school in Kenya.

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