Thursday, September 16, 2010

Benedict and Me

So, lovely morning. Dropped the kids off at school and there was a new display complete with the Psalm text "I praise you because of the wonderful way you created me." Which struck me as rather cool and uplifting. I can't say I am into praising the Lord - I've never understood why the Lord would want praise from us anyway. "Ya-da, ya-da, ya-da" he's probably thinking. But I do very much like the implication that each and every child is wonderful. Not just the children either but us too.

Perhaps I should start every blog with a text from Psalms?

Or not. Though what with the Pope arriving on his state visit, it seems appropriate to bring God into the conversation.

I am a bad Catholic.(That'll be One Our Father and three Hail Mary's). I haven't been to mass for months. And months. I still, however, consider myself a Catholic - when you have been brought up with tales of bloody martyrdom and discrimination, it is impossible to do otherwise. All my children are baptised and the eldest has made his communion - I have in effect made a contract with my church and placed my children within it.

And make no mistake, the church needs me and women like me - Catholic matrons holding babes in their arms, and small children dressed like brides and grooms by the hand.

I should be bringing my children to mass every Sunday rain or shine. And I'm not - why is that? Partly it's been practicalities, three small children are impossible to keep quiet and still. Oh, and one of them has rugby - that's a really good horribly secular reason right there - let's hope God's a rugby fan then shall we?.

Part of me wants to attend mass every Sunday like my mother before me, like my grandmother before her. I want to sit in a holy place, and bow my head and find peace and serenity. I want that community back.

But I don't go, and that's a lot to do with that contract I signed. Because Catholic though I am, I find myself not wanting to look too closely at the small print drawn up by old illiberal men - at the Church's conservatism on homosexuality, contraception, and women priests.
As an educated, intelligent woman, am I supposed to believehomosexuality a sin?
Am I seriously supposed to pretend I don't have contraception stashed in my bedroom drawer?
Am I supposed not to mind the patriarchal nature of the church?
As for the record on child abuse scandal, the word "shame" doesn't begin to cover it. So here I am - the future of the Church. A woman of faith (fragile though it might be) but left unmoved by Benedict's arrival. The visit is supposed to have as its theme that "heart speaks unto heart". Attention has focussed on what he will have to say about atheism and secularism. This particular bad catholic is hoping Benedict might say something she wants to listen to, something that might even take her back to mass on a Sunday morning.


ramtops said...

when you have been brought up with tales of bloody martyrdom and discrimination, it is impossible to do otherwise.

It's not. I did 11 years before the mast in a convent boarding school, and I'm emerged not just lapsed, but simply not a Catholic. Thankfully.

Lou Archer said...

Being a lapsed lamb may I say that you have just written everything I've ever thought about Catholicism and me as a woman.

But my kids are still in a fantastic Catholic School... go figure? Guess the brain washing is for-EVER. Amen.

I like God, not religions....

Potty Mummy said...

Am struggling with the whole Catholic thing myself right now, as a one born and bred. Haven't been to mass since we moved out here (and yes, there is the option of doing so); I'm just not sure I'm ready to sign my older son up for his own indoctrination as he would need to make his First Communion this year. The jury's out for me... (and the clock is ticking)

Potty Mummy said...

Am struggling with the whole Catholic thing myself right now, as a one born and bred. Haven't been to mass since we moved out here (and yes, there is the option of doing so); I'm just not sure I'm ready to sign my older son up for his own indoctrination as he would need to make his First Communion this year. The jury's out for me... (and the clock is ticking)

billatbingley said...

I guess you could have opened up a whole can of worms here Judith! But you have spoken what I am sure many Catholics fear to admit.

Being brought up C of E I have not had to meet many of the difficulties the catholic faith has bestowed on its adherents.

Iota said...

Oh, haste thee to an Anglican church, where doctrine is woolly enough to suit everyone.

Over here, they call the Episcopal church (ie Anglican) "Catholic Lite". Ideal.

hausfrau said...

Being Anglican is rather less demanding as Iota reports - though that's not what I'd say if I was a proper CofE person of course - I don't think you can really lapse from something that feels so broad and includes just about anybody

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post. As a gay woman with very liberal politics I, too, have spent much time wrestling with my Catholic faith. Here are a few thoughts I've had over the years

(1) the Church, despite its huge flaws, offers an unparalleled expression of the beauty and mystery of the divine. This despite the many horrible characteristics of the Church, today and throughout the ages. In some ways I think that the Catholic church is everything that is beautiful and everything that is ugly.

(2) At the second Vatican Council the Holy Spirit was present and revealed to those present a number of truths. One of that was that WE ARE THE CHURCH. You and me and other Catholics who are critical of the current hierarchy -- the Church is mine and yours. What are we going to do with this responsibility? The hierarchy has told us that its not our church and that they get to call the shots, but that's not true. I dont know the answer here but we need to stop thinking like victims of the hierarchy and start taking ownership and authority ourselves.

(3) The Church is diverse. Despite all efforts to clamp down on dissenting priests, nuns, and laity we do not all march in lockstep with the Pope and the bishops. For every conservative cardinal there are 10 brilliant independent nuns and 10 liberal, gentle men of the cloth, and hundreds of people like you and I trying to preserve space for dissent, trying to push back the tide of Benedict et al and doing Gods work.

God bless us all.

Anonymous said...

There are many aspects of religion to which I choose not to understand, turning my back on other's faith and looking at the world through rose-tinted glasses. I know little about Catholicism, and not enough about the church, yet my opinions stretch to each individual having his own view; each one of us being given free will, even though it is plain to see that in some religions a dead end is continually imminent.

CJ xx

wife in the north said...

re ramtops: but how many years did you spend wanting to be a nun? (Six in my case.)
re Lou: maybe we should change it from the inside? It seems simpler not to - that's probably wrong.
re Potty Mummy: I figure you have to take into account the cultural side of things as well,
but you don't say whether you have any faith. If you have a little bit, then do it (and let them make their own mind up later). If you have nothing, then don't.

wife in the north said...

re iota: If I went into an Anglican church, I would shrivel and turn to ash - that is a known fact. (Oh and the Virgin Mary would weep.)

wife in the north said...

re anon: (1) like LIfe I suppose
(2) shriek, that means I would have to do something rather than just put my hand to my forehead, buckle slightly and winge. I'm busy. (sigh) Do I really have to join something? And try and change things? Can't I just blog about how unfair everything is? I have tea to cook y'know.
(3)good thought. I am not alone. That's always good to know.

Stay at home dad said...

Hello Wifey. My daughter is Catholic (nothing to do with me) and I've been trying to remind her of that the last couple of days when her reaction to the news headlines has been 'Oh no, not the pope again...'

merry weather said...

Our Anglican vicar, a parent, is far more inspiring than any priest I've known.
(Roman Catholic is probably engraved on my heart though.)

I think ultimately spirituality grows best where each person finds it. I've moved into my own version of the Catholic tradition personally. Perhaps that's a bit dodgy! Unwelcoming bits cut out. Thinking about it that means there's not much left really!

I'd pay good money to see you in conversation with Benedict wifey...

sunshine said...

Anonymous, another blog you would find very nourishing is Andrew Sullivan at the Atlantic Magazine, writing and living "The Daily Dish".

He is a dear man -- born English, genius, gay, HIV positive, and not too recently, married to Aaron!! His heart is in the Catholic Church, and the Church has rather broken it. He can't receive the sacrament, but can't bear to leave his beloved church. The molestation of young boys has particularly grieved him.

Try him -- he blogs a dozen or more times a day, and you will find out more about America's politics than anyone really wants to know. I have been addicted to Andrew for some years, now!

Metropolitan Mum said...

Me too, I am a born and bred Catholic. I think I started to distance myself from faith when I asked our Catholic teacher in school if the Catholic church wasn't after all, a sect. A huge one, but still a sect. She wasn't impressed.

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Hi WitN,

I went to a Catholic school and am not a Catholic although I think I have absorbed their line on guilt!

It's hard to know what to do with it. I try to absorb the best bits of all religions and ignore the bits I don't like.

I do believe in good and evil though. That is something I want to pass on to my children.

Very sorry I haven't passed by to comment earlier. Life eh? Hope you are well. Hadriana :)

Pam said...

I do not have a favourable opinion of the Catholic church for all of the reasons you talk about, and anyway I'm C of E. Surely the church should move with the times? History & tradition are only honorable if they themselves are honorable traits, right?
Whenever I think of Catholicism, I think of the Monty Python song from The Meaning of Life: Every sperm is sacred ....

ADDY said...

Religion and intellect do not go hand in hand; discuss.

Catherine said...

A lapsed Catholic, I can go to a party and find myself in deep conversation with another lc within minutes. It's a radar thing and also, incidently, how I met my new partner. There's no escaping it.

Despite all the difficult things about Catholicism and all the bad press about aberrant priests, I still find it magical. Give me the Latin Mass and incense anyday.

angie said...

calloo callay, you're back! delighted!!!

am also an LC and have found myself shouting at the telly during benny's visit, only to realise he couldn't hear me...damn his ungodlike ears...

Ivy Sabina said...

Oh wifey, I missed you - welcome back!
Have read your book in German (my mum gave it to me) and read your blog in english... don't stop please!
Keep blogging!
Greetings and best wishes from Hesse!

The Cardinal said...

I just stumbled across this blog post, and am now wagging my finger at you in a very stern fashion.

Some people might say your post is a well argued, balanced, and intelligent piece, but not me (cough).

Can I stop wagging my finger now? It really hurts.

Catherine from France said...

Just about Psalms and praises to the Lord, I just want to point out something I discovered after I told myself the same question as yours "why should the Lord need my praises???".
Actually, I found out that it is exactly the contrary : He doesn't need my praises, for He is Lord - which means above everything- and He is not selfish...It is me who need to praise him, this is part of what helps my personal relationship with Him to be rich and it keeps me at the right place. Right place being : I am the creature, and He is the creator, and I consciensly and fully recognise it when I praise Him. As said in the psalm you quoted, I am a wonderful creature - just as you are too :) - , but still a creature. This is a protected place, when you realise that your creator may take of your life just if you agree Him to do so!

Anonymous said...

I still find a great peace and serenity inside the Catholic church and I love the mass. I'm not sure what the historical Jesus would make of it all but I do relate to the figure of the Madonna and I often attend mass. I have investigated different faiths and I really believe wherever you find peace and a feeling of holiness whether it be in a church or under a tree so be it. Of course there is always conflict with a lot of the teachings but I try not to confuse the messenger with the message. xx

Unknown said...

Indeed. When you were raised in a family of practicing Catholics, you cannot imagine yourself not being one. Embracing another religion will seem complicated and confusing for you that you don't trouble yourself with it. Anyways, it's a joy seeing one's daughter in her first communion dress.