I’m a lousy Catholic.
Two of my kids are celebrating three sacraments this year and I’ve got MAJOR attitude about the institution known as the Roman Catholic Church. Oh how I wish I felt otherwise. Would certainly make encouraging my kids in the sacramental preparation a whole lot easier.
If I thought I had my negative feelings under control, I was sorely mistaken. Just returned from enrolling my children in PSR (known as Parish School of Religion) formerly CCD. The moment I pulled into the church parking lot, Chip, my old friend, appeared on my shoulder.
My whole body tensed and I began silently muttering all the distasteful things about “the church.” First of all I was pissed off about the cost of PSR. Last year it was only $90 for three children; this year is was $190 for three children. No letter of explanation for the $100 increase. Could you imagine the gas company raising rates by $100 without explanation?
I was preparing for the response: “It was in the church bulletin,” which I would then read to mean: “If you and your family would care to attend church regularly, you’d be in the loop with such information.”
Recess at the day school was in session as I walked into the administration building and a couple of kids bumped into me, clearly oblivious to my presence. “The Catholic Schools are known for order and discipline. Puh-leeze,” I think to myself. “There’s another bill of goods I was sold in 1998.
When I walk into the office no one is present. “He-llo-oh?” I say, with a note of impatience.
A woman appears, apologizing for not having heard the door. I tell her I have a PSR registration (nevermind that it’s horribly late and last night was the parent meeting, which I did not attend).
“Can you tell me why the cost of PSR went up $100 for three children this year?” I ask, again with irritability in my tone.
She cannot and suggests I talk to Judy in the upstairs office.
So I march upstairs to see Judy, who is your typical church office worker with a very pleasant disposition and engaging smile. But I am not to be deterred. I’m irritated and I’d like her and everyone else within hearing distance to know this.
She tells me that I should talk with the head of PSR, a woman I know quite well. When I ask, she tells me that the parish had under-funded PSR for the past eight years! D’oh! The Catholic Church misappropriating money is almost a cliché. I think (but fortunately have the restraint not to express) that perhaps part of the problem is the diocesan CFO was using the weekly collection as his personal savings account.
The director gives me the breakdown on costs ($5 per class for teachers, textbooks) and then tells me that the cost breaks down to $2 and some change per week, much less than most folks pay for babysitting, only they get the Lord, too.
I’m still irritated.
“You need to let parents know the reason for such a jump in tuition,” I say.
Remarkable, she says with wide eyes, I’m the only parent to have complained. I’m shocked and I realize as I’m walking back to my car that I’ve got to get past my anger at “the church,” specifically my church.
I feel let down, cheated and fooled by the experience of the day school. Never once did anyone bother to ask why we were pulling our children from that bastion of academic mediocrity. Had they bothered, I’d have been glad to share the story. But apparently, we weren’t valued enough.
And that has me pissed off at “the church.”
I vented in a parish survey last summer. Apparently, my wording was strong enough to get the attention of the development director, who asked to meet with me. I did and told her I’d be glad to do more than complain, that I’d be willing to take action to make things better.
But I was told our pastor didn’t want to hear people’s complaints, he wanted to focus on making things better. That’s fine and dandy, but you’ve got people who can’t get past certain things because they’ve never been sufficiently aired.
And so we fester in our indignation and we find ourselves pulling farther and farther away from “the church” and we point to all its mistakes as evidence of our righteousness. “See! See! I told you they are bunch of buffoons who don’t know their head from a hole in the ground.”
But the only person it hurts is me. Because I can’t sit there on Sundays and feel any sense of peace or contentment in my faith. I’m filled with all the negative feelings about “the church” that have nothing — and yet everything — to do with my faith. “Hypocrites!” I think to myself and my anger overwhelms me nearly to tears.
I used to be so confident in my faith, but my distrust of the motives and inner workings of "the church" has rocked my faith. I know there are people from my church who occasionally read this blog. I hope for your sake that things are better there. Not everyone is treated equal in the eyes of “the church” and I find that clashes with my notions of what it means to be Catholic.
I called my friend to tell her that I'm afraid I won't be able to raise my boys with the same Catholic goodness that my parents raised me. She said maybe it's more important that we just raise good kids. Maybe...
She suggested we try another church, ironically closer than our current parish. It doesn’t have a PSR program, so we still have to engage with this church.
But we’re going to give it a try. Maybe that’s the answer to reconnecting with “the church.” Sacramental years have always been very nurturing spiritually for me. Maybe I’m just feeling badly for myself because that sense of spirituality is missing from my life right now.
I miss it and at this point I'm willing to go elsewhere to find it.