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Thursday, October 21, 2004

Struggling with the church

For many reasons I've struggled with my faith over the past few years. I am a born-and-raised Roman Catholic and (aside from my fours years in college) I've been a practicing Catholic all my life. But it's hard work. The personal, private side of my faith still sustains, but the communal practice—the "church"—has left me feeling raw. And that's not good, because celebration is a big part of the Catholic faith.

I find little cause to celebrate right now. And its largely due to the politization of Catholicism. Driving down Lake Road in Bay Village the other day I nearly veered off the road at the sight of a smattering of campaign signs that read: Catholics Against Kerry. What??!! Is this what our faith proclaims? That we are not FOR something (or someone) but AGAINST a fellow church member? And, gee, let me guess the ONE reason why?

My blood was boiling. How can you sit there in church on Sunday, send your children to Catholic School and profess to ascribe to God's all loving model and then throw a sign like that in your yard? Simply proclaiming your support of Bush/Cheney would suffice. Though I don't profess to have any hotline to heaven, I'm pretty sure Jesus would NOT approve of such slamming of individuals in his name. And what message does that send our children? That we are short-sighted enough to base our entire political belief—and our very important vote—on one issue, which really has little to do with the state of our country?

When it comes to issues involving the future well-being of our country, they are numerous and they are critical and they are being largely ignored in this election process. Life is not black and white and it's an ignorant viewpoint to base your decision on one issue. The wise voters will read varying viewpoints and make their own determination, not based on one issue, but based on their informed perceptions about who will do a better job of leading our nation.

Connie Schultz had an excellent column in today's Plain Dealer. She writes about Catholic women who are feeling hurt, betrayed and angry by their church. I can relate.

Connie writes:
"For weeks, Catholic women have written and called me, often anonymously … they want me to know their faith is important to them, that they attend church regularly and want to remain active in their parishes. But they also want to talk about how painful it is to sit in church these days because their wombs, and what they do with them, have become fodder for sermon after sermon meant to influence how Catholics will vote in this election."

As one woman told her: "It's not just what the priest says, it's all the propaganda that comes with it." I'm not sure if I believe the diocesan director of Pro-Life that these efforts are not directed by the diocese. I'd like to think that's true, but this is a diocese that has made it mandatory for volunteers at schools and churches to be fingerprinted if they spend more than four hours in the building. Seems to me the problems related to the sexual abuse scandal were largely (though not exclusively) at the hands of the clergy, not the parents who volunteer.

I know there are some who would say, "Leave if you don't like it." It's not as simple as just leaving, though I'm sure many are feeling forced out. My heart is eased and comforted by the rituals of the Catholic church. It's what I know and, for the most part, what I need. One of the greatest comforts is that both my mother and grandmother have shared similar feelings throughout their lives, sharing with me their own struggles with the church, not necessarily their faith.

Ask anyone who knows me and they'll tell you that I believe in God as an all loving and merciful being (that's my New Testament leaning). And I believe that it's the church's role to pray for the wisdom, guidance and leadership of ALL our political leaders, period. Not any specific one.

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