Thursday, November 26, 2009

My Catholic Post

Technically it would be 'My Catholicism Post', but it just sounded better to me that way. I wanted this post to be thoughtful and reasoned and in-depth, but then November crashed down on me, so it's just going to be... published.
My mother was raised by devout Catholic Polish parents. They didn't eat meat on Fridays, they went to Church every Sunday (via horse and wagon), my grandparents walked out of Poland across Europe and ended up in Saskatchewan, dropping a kid in practically every country along the way (judging how pissed off my grandfather was when he had his prostate removed after the age of eighty and then figured out what this now prevented him from doing, the profusion of kids might have been more due to his being determined to get action no matter what the hell else was going on and less due to their obeying the church's teaching on birth control, but still...).

So even though my mother married my father, who is Protestant in name only and about as far away from 'devout' or 'Catholic' as you can get, my sister and I weren't about to escape Catholic school, Catholic Church, or Catholic anything else. We were baptized, reconciled, confirmed and duly frightened out of our wits on a regular basis.

My mother says I'm lucky that I can choose not to go to Mass now without being racked by guilt, because she never could. But my mother took birth control pills. She says she had no problem filtering what the church said through her own conscience and reason and, well, figuratively telling the Church to go bugger itself (yeah, not literally, because she's still uncomfortable with gay marriage). What my mother doesn't really get is that, if I had stayed Catholic, I wouldn't have been able to take birth control pills. I was an anxious, guilt-ridden, tormented, depressive child, and the adult I've grown into -- well, let's just say there are no big surprises. Catholicism was the absolute worst thing for me to be subjected to as a child. It confirmed all my fears about what an unworthy, disappointing object of sin I was. My mother would frequently use the expression 'the road to hell is paved with good intentions' when I didn't follow through on something. Who the hell says that to a kid? What kid doesn't frequently not follow through on things? I would go to bed and spend hours praying to the Virgin Mary (ha!) to help me not be damned to hell.

When I went away to University, I still went to Mass for the first few years. At McMaster, there was an ecumenical service with a priest who actually put literary references into his sermons -- that totally kicked ass. But I was continually questioning a lot of the things I'd been taught about my religion, and the answers didn't add up a lot of the time. If I was fine with people being gay, wasn't willing to go around telling my premarital-sex-having friends they were going to hell, and not planning on having fifteen kids some day, how exactly was I still Catholic?

My son (who is not the oldest of fifteen) is much the same kind of child I was. He has anxiety issues, he broods on things, he works his poor stomach into knots over tiny, tiny things. There is no way in hell (or some other actually real place) that I would subject him to the same exacerbating influence to which I was subjected. I don't blame my mother, because she didn't know any better. I do, and if I did the same thing, it would verge on child abuse as far as I'm concerned. I was going for a walk with my neighbour (whose kids are in Catholic school) one night and I voiced these thoughts and she looked at me with a slightly horrified expression and said "well, you know, they've really toned a lot of it down these days, especially for the younger kids". Well, I'm glad to hear it, but if they had to tone it down, doesn't that mean there was something wrong in the first place? Doesn't that sort of challenge the whole immutable, written-in-stone, dictated-by-God thing?

One of my friends from Youth Encounter (cripes, don't even get me started) went to University, and the first Sunday he was walking down the hall and someone said "where are you going?" and he said "to Church" and they said "what for? There's no God". He was upset and freaked out, as if the fact had never occurred to him before. I still find the idea that there is no Prime Mover, no other reality and no afterlife as strange as the idea that there is. I think spirituality is fine. I think assuming a connection between humans, and between humans and the earth, is healthy. I don't think we should all live hedonistically and thoughtlessly. I just think we should help other people because we're all in this together, and not because we'll go to hell if we don't. And I'm not even going to go into the "I must kill you because you worship a different God" thing because I know you all have things to do.

I'm completely willing to answer my kids' questions about religion and take them to church if they want to go when they're older. But they will not be indoctrinated before they're old enough to think and examine and criticize the doctrines for themselves.

Now, since there has been nothing remotely amusing in this post, let me tell you about going to Chapters with my friend Collette last night. I picked up the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies book to show her, so she bought it, along with Sense and Sensibility with Sea Monsters. On the way out, there was an older woman behind us. Collette said to me "I want to read Pride and Prejudice first, do you want the Sea Monsters one?" I turned around to answer her, and the look on the woman's face was priceless.

2 comments:

Amber said...

This post actually WAS entertaining, at least for me. Especially this part:

"There is no way in hell (or some other actually real place) ..."

I was not raised in organized religion, because my father the hippie didn't believe in it. I think I'm glad, because like you I am plenty neurotic and self-flagellating enough as it is. These days, I am a Unitarian and it works for me, because I like to sit in uncomfortable chairs and sing pre-selected songs and eat digestive cookies in the basement. No joke. But I can't ascribe to Christianity, and I'm not looking to convert exactly, so this works for me.

NoisyBluebird said...

I was raised Catholic. I'm starting to find out though that it was a very loosey-goosey variety. My parents were not strict about the rules and we didn't discuss religion much. It was a basic 'try to follow the 10 commandments and love others as yourself' kind of idea. In fact when we did go to church every Sunday and the priest got a little heavy my parents just toned it down in the car ride home if we asked questions. We never talked about 'going to hell' and my mom took me to get birth control pills when I was 16. So I guess for me it was all in the presentation and to this day my spirituality has been sort of my 'moral compass'. I definitely think it has helped me more than hurt me and I am still thankful I have 'religion' in my life. I am starting to realize that not all Catholic raised people were allowed to have such a relaxed view of the religion and so I can completely understand why they would reject it. Good post Allison, I appreciated it.

Oh - and I will pray for your sins tonight and ask God to forgive you so we can meet in heaven. (haha)