I just returned from Mass, only the third visit back after a three-year absence. I go by myself now, as Dave has not been able to get past the hypocrisy of the Magisterium and both kids are grown and on their own. I left the Church willingly, in a self-righteous snit, when our Bishop refused my school faculty’s request to form a union. I was already exceptionally uneasy about the Church’s non-response to a growing abuse epidemic, and I have a visceral dislike of the current Pope (looks way too much like Simon Bar Sinister to be the Vicar of Christ, the holder of the Keys to the Kingdom, the successor to St. Peter, etc.)
So at the point where our Bishop, who preached the dignity of labor and the right of every working person to organize to protect his rights, chose to say, “Except YOU” to a tiny faculty in a rural county (while all schools in the metropolitan county next door were represented), I no longer felt welcome in the Church.
It was devastating. Anyone raised in the Catholic Church will verify this: the indoctrination runs very deep. “Catholic Guilt” is not just a punch line – it is very real. But more devastating than the guilt was the loss – the profound, soul-wrenching loss – of the source of my spirituality. To me, the Mass was a deep connection that led directly back through time to Jesus. The rituals that hadn’t changed much since the time of Constantine tunneled through Elizabethan England, through the morphing of the Mediaeval world from the many gods to the one, through the tortured silence of ritual practiced underground – literally – for fear of persecution. But with my decision to turn away and not look back came the opportunity to really explore, for the first time, the reasons for my faith in the first place. And it released me to examine my distrust in the system built around my faith. The journey was difficult.
At first, I felt free from shackles for the first time in my adult life. Despite never being a Can’t Miss Mass Catholic, I always identified myself as a Catholic. I might have missed several weeks in a row, but I knew I’d be going back soon. Not this time. I was too angry and disgusted. What a wonderful feeling, though – no more guilt!
Further, I was free to allow the logical, science-loving side of my brain to have free reign: if I did not practice a faith, did a faith even exist? In what? If there was no objective proof of a higher being, then one must conclude that the higher being does not exist. (That last one came with an honest-to-goodness thunderbolt. Of all the things I’d ever considered, the non-existence of God was not one of them.) Then I explored all the alternatives I could get my hands on: Hinduism, Wicca, Druidism, B’Hai. Through all of it, the Goddess in her many forms spoke to me…