Maria Johnson suggested that those who attended her mastermind group at CNMC15, which I did, (in spite of the fact that I really wanted to run far away and hide until lunchtime) take on the challenge of answering, “Why do you remain Catholic?” which was asked by Elizabeth Scalia.
Why do I remain Catholic?
It’s one of those questions I’m always asking myself because there are plenty of reasons why I could (and probably should) walk away and never look back.
In fact I have walked away from the Church for at least a decade; actually looking back I wonder if I was ever “with” the Church until my 20s.
I’m a cradle Catholic but not a good one. I can’t even remember if I went to mass every Sunday growing up. I want to say yes, but I’m honestly not sure.
Regardless I went through the motions because I didn’t really understand any of it. There are a lot of people I could blame for that but I’m not going to, because what’s the point in doing that now.
In 5th grade I switched schools, to a Catholic school, and it all went downhill from there (to put in very nicely). It didn’t take me very long to figure out that if this was how Catholics acted I wanted no part of it.
In fact I went the extra mile and decided there was no God; because if God was in any way like anyone in my school I wanted none of that either.
Catholic schooling made me an atheist. I’m sure I’m not the only member of this group; however I may be one of the few that wondered back into the fold.
However I’m still not a fan of Catholic schooling, until the college and grad/post grad level. But that’s another post for another day.
So, why am I Catholic after being so severely scarred by Catholics (and the Catholic Church)?
The short answer is because I came to the realization that you can’t point out something that the Church can and should be doing better and just leave.
The first time I tried to change the Church I was in college (undergrad) and I decided I would focus all of my independent research on incorporating more art into catechesis. Because people just couldn’t wrap their minds around the idea that a Drama major would have even the slightest interest in theology and the Church.
It would’ve been easy to drop my research, maybe change my major and/or minor, and walk away from the Church (again).
In fact I was told to change my research, my major, and minor by several people (some of whom I respected highly and considered to be mentors) which could’ve caused me to walk away from the Church.
But I didn’t. In hindsight, I still can’t tell you if I was being stubborn or stupid or both.
I took a break from pursuing changing Catechesis as we know it, since 7 years of being a hardcore drama geek was slightly draining, and my (next, or real?) vocation fell into my lap.
After my latest surgery I had to pay attention to things I’d always struggled with but made due. The difference post-op was there was no “making do,” unless that meant never leaving the house, and even staying in home 24/7 required help.
Stairs and no ramp? Need to get someone to lift and carry me up the stairs, for example (and it really takes two people).
Where are the handicapped parking spaces? Are they clear of snow/debris/other cars?
The list goes on and on.
At some point a friend asked me if I was going to mass on Sunday. I told her “no” because parking was a pain and there was no place for me to be without being in everyone’s way during mass, of the subject of their pity stares and comments.
We talked about other options.
Going to another parish? It’s highly likely that I’d have the same issues just in a different location.
The Anointing of the Sick? A nice thought, but disability isn’t an illness that I need to get over. Yes, in this instance I was recovering but that wasn’t keeping me from attending mass, lack of basic access and a feeling of acceptance was. I wasn’t going to take up a ministers time just because I there wasn’t somewhere for me to sit safely during mass.
Eventually I went to the internet for answers (like most people do these days). I discovered that religious institutions, like the Catholic Church, are exempt from complying with the ADA.
However there were religious institutions that have complied with the ADA.
So why wasn’t/isn’t the Catholic Church one of them?
“Catholics are bad at tithing.”
“We don’t have the money.”
“We don’t have to comply with the ADA”
“We don’t have any disabled people who come to our church.”
“Complying with the ADA would destroy our building.”
“Catholics have the Anointing of the Sick for those who can’t attend mass.”
“We’re accessible; we just have a few stairs.”
“We have awareness services once a month.”
The list could go on and on.
Although these reasons appear to be completely valid reasons, and a true reality for a number of parishes, there are really just copouts to so many people with disabilities.
Attitudes need to change. The Catholic Church (as well as other faiths) needs to be more inclusive to the largest minority on the planet, because in the end everyone will suffer for it.
Why do I remain Catholic? Because nothing is perfect and no one is perfect and walking away because that’s the honest truth is just asinine, in my humble opinion. If you want change so badly then it’s a good idea to be part of that making that change, if not, sit down and shut up because you’re just complaining to hear yourself talk.